Athaliah’s Reign and the High Cost of “Well-Intentioned” Disobedience

Photo by  Kyle Glenn  on  Unsplash

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

We are told in 2 Chronicles 18:1 (almost in passing) that King Jehoshaphat “made a marriage alliance with Ahab.”  This may have been a well-intentioned attempt at peace between Judah and Israel (see 1 Kings 22:44). If so, we will soon see that “well-intentioned” moves don’t always prove wise--especially when they are forbidden by God.

Jehoshaphat joins his eldest son, Jehoram, to Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. In family origin, as well as in religious practice, Athaliah--the granddaughter of Ethbaal of the Sidonians--was very much a “foreign” woman in Judah. Ignoring Exodus 34:15-16’s injunction against such marriages, Jehoshaphat weds his successor to Athaliah and the new queen begins to incite her husband to sin; 2 Chronicles 21:6 states: “[Jehoram] walked in the way of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab did (for Ahab’s daughter was his wife).” Was Athaliah a guide in the king’s decision to murder his brothers and some princes of the house of Israel (2 Chronicles 21:1-4)? Perhaps she was. We may be uncertain of her role in these deaths, but of the murder of Jehoram’s children and grandchildren, we can be sure. Indeed, Jehoshaphat’s “well-intentioned disobedience” pays a high price.

King Jehoram rules Judah for eight years and dies, leaving the crown to his son Ahaziah, who also dies within a year (2 Chronicles 22:1-9). “When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she rose and destroyed all the royal offspring” (2 Chronicles 22:10-12). Athaliah  kills all possible successors (including her own grandchildren!) and maintains the crown for six long years. God’s promise to give David an offspring and a lasting kingdom seemed overthrown (2 Samuel 7:16). Jehoshaphat would have been shocked to see his “peaceful alliance” trun so deadly.

But what can stand against God’s Word? Unbeknownst to Athaliah, the Lord preserves the life of young Joash (son of Ahaziah) and her reign comes to a sudden and violent end (2 Chronicles 23:1-15). God rescues His chosen deliverer from the murderous decree of Pharaoh in Exodus 2:1-10, and He does the same with Joash. Years later, Herod will seek to maintain his throne by slaughtering the sons of Israel (Matthew 2:16-17). Here too, God will secure the life of His anointed one, Jesus lives to save--not just Israel--you and me. He sits now as the Son of David whose kingdom never ends (Luke 1:32-33).

Sisters, our best and most sincere “well-intentioned” plans can prove “sincerely wrong.” But the word of the Lord stands forever (Psalm 119:89). If so, “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).  

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