Heroes and Villains Explored – Athaliah
The person we are going to look at in this study, is Athaliah. You can read about her in 2 Kings 11 and 2 Chronicles 22-23. The judges have long gone, and the nation of Israel had become a monarchy under Saul, David and Solomon. Yet soon after Solomon died, the nation splits into north and south – Israel and Judah.
An Evil Scheming Woman
As we have just read, Athaliah was, by all accounts, a terrible woman. The tribes in the kingdom of Israel, tried to lure the kingdom of Judah’s tribes into a trap, and prepared it for the Babylonian exile. Athaliah was to cause Judah’s moral life to decay. Athaliah was the daughter of that horrible couple Ahab and Jezebel. She somehow inherited all the evil of her wicked parents. Jezebel had brought poison from Sidon and injected it into the life of Israel. Now Athaliah was to give some of that same poison into the life of Jerusalem.
Nothing permits us to think that Judah ever tried to be a good influence upon Israel. But we have good reasons to know that a king of the House of David, so far from choosing to ally himself with God’s prophet in the crucial conflict between Ahab and Elijah, chose instead to ally himself with Ahab. He permitted Joram, the crown prince, to marry Jezebel’s daughter Athaliah.
Had Jerusalem not already departed from the service of God, the coming of Athaliah and the Baal priests would have caused a holy and violent reaction in Jerusalem. But no such reaction came, and the opposite happened. Athaliah became the ruler of Israel the moment she became Queen. Her every gesture was obeyed immediately.
In order to carry out her plans she exercised her reckless power at will. The Temple of Jehovah was virtually closed. Beautiful Baal temples were built everywhere in Jerusalem at her command. Mattan served as the high priest of Baal. Such innovations changed the life of Jerusalem. Worldliness soon prevailed and the last remnant of the fear of the Lord seemed to leave the walls of Jerusalem. So intriguing and persistent was this woman’s designs, that she intentionally sought to give her motives to her son. She hoped that he and his family after him would continue to Baal-ize Jerusalem. Thus she planned that Baal worship would become firmly established in Israel. Had she succeeded in her plans, Jerusalem could not have hoped to escape that curse. But the Lord called Jehu. He destroyed Ahab’s generation in Israel and put Athaliah’s son, Ahaziah, to death. That catastrophe however, did not stop Athaliah from her evil plans. As the situation was, another of Joram’s sons, one not trained by her, would succeed to the throne. This was a circumstance which indeed temporarily paused Athaliah’s evil plans. But she soon made short work of that by commanding that all Joram’s sons be killed. Had that command been fulfilled, David’s generation would have terminated. Athaliah knew that as a queen she could marry a foreign prince. Thus she would make the worship of Baal an eternal thing for Israel.
The Lord Knows Best
The Lord knows better however, and He stopped her progress. By a miracle, the little Joash was rescued from the massacre. Later, the high priest Jehoida seized the courage to publicly crown him king. When Athaliah on that occasion, profaned the temple, he had the captains seize her, drag her out and kill her. Therefore her plans were destroyed. The Messiah was born from Jesse’s generation, from David’s family line. David’s house was not destroyed. But that does not make Athaliah a less evil person. Her evil passion and arrogance induced her to deliberately poison a people with the worship of false gods. She was so wicked that when anything threatened to stop the progress of her wicked plans, she did not hesitate to destroy it, including God’s plan in the royal line. Athaliah, not a person to follow in any way.
Lessons to Learn
One of the main lessons we can learn from Athaliah, is that her style of leadership is a god-less style of leadership. She made all the decisions based on her own wicked judgement and the counsel of those equally wicked. She abused power for the sake of power, Athaliah made decisions based on hatred, idolatry and vengeance. When you make decisions, what do you base them on? Do you make a decision based on praying to God our Father and asking Him for guidance? Do you read His written Word, the Bible, to see what guidance you can glean from there? Is there any form of hatred in your life? By hatred, that includes thinking wrongly and badly of others. Is there any form of idolatry in your life? By idolatry, that includes anything or anyone that displaces Jesus Christ from the centre of your life? As for your ambitions, have you submitted them to God and to your Christian friends for counsel and guidance? In all those things – hatred, idolatry and pride, Athaliah exceeded and paid the ultimate penalty. Not even she, however, could stop God’s plan of salvation – Jesus Christ, from the line of King David. This Jesus, for those who follow Him, where ever you may work or live, is to be our role model. This Jesus who, existing in the form of God, didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men (Philippians 2v6). Leadership and life based on servanthood & submission to God and others, modelled on that greatest of servants, Jesus Christ. Go and do likewise.