Joash’ government clearly shows two parts. These two parts show the opposite situation. Both parts show that Joash has no independent relationship with the LORD, but is influenced by advisers in his direct environment. The first part of his reign (verses 1-16) is characterized by the influence of a good counselor, Jehoiada (verses 2,14). Then he does what is right in the eyes of the LORD. The second part of his reign (verses 17-27) is characterized by the bad influence of the princes of Judah (verse 17).
1 - 3 Joash King of Judah
1 Joash [was] seven years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name [was] Zibiah from Beersheba. 2 Joash did what was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest. 3 Jehoiada took two wives for him, and he became the father of sons and daughters.
Joash is still very young when he becomes king, he is only seven years old (verse 1). The duration of his reign is forty years. The chronicler mentions his mother’s name: Zibiah, which means ‘gazelle’. He also mentions the place where she comes from: Beersheba, which is situated southerly. Zibiah will certainly have supported her son in advice and deed during the first years of his reign. But the biggest influence on the reign of Joash has Jehoiada. Joash does, as long as he is under the good guidance of Jehoiada, what is right in the sight of the LORD (verse 2).
Even when it comes to Joash’ marriage, Jehoiada arranges everything (verse 3). Jehoiada takes two women for him. This is the custom of the time, but it is not the original plan of God Who already established monogamous marriage at creation. The motif of Jehoiada with the two wives is not wrong. He wants the royal line to continue. That happens, because Joash conceives sons and daughters with his wives.
4 - 11 Joash Wants to Restore the Temple
4 Now it came about after this that Joash decided to restore the house of the LORD. 5 He gathered the priests and Levites and said to them, “Go out to the cities of Judah and collect money from all Israel to repair the house of your God annually, and you shall do the matter quickly.” But the Levites did not act quickly. 6 So the king summoned Jehoiada the chief [priest] and said to him, “Why have you not required the Levites to bring in from Judah and from Jerusalem the levy [fixed by] Moses the servant of the LORD on the congregation of Israel for the tent of the testimony?” 7 For the sons of the wicked Athaliah had broken into the house of God and even used the holy things of the house of the LORD for the Baals. 8 So the king commanded, and they made a chest and set it outside by the gate of the house of the LORD. 9 They made a proclamation in Judah and Jerusalem to bring to the LORD the levy [fixed by] Moses the servant of God on Israel in the wilderness. 10 All the officers and all the people rejoiced and brought in their levies and dropped [them] into the chest until they had finished. 11 It came about whenever the chest was brought in to the king’s officer by the Levites, and when they saw that there was much money, then the king’s scribe and the chief priest’s officer would come, empty the chest, take it, and return it to its place. Thus they did daily and collected much money.
It is nice to read that Joash’ heart goes out to the house of the LORD already in his younger years (verse 4). He lived in it for six years and knows the house from the inside like no other. The impressions a child gains up to the age of six largely determine his further development. In the course of time, God’s house has decayed and Joash wants to restore it, that is to say restore it to its original state.
We can learn from this for the local church where we must also have an eye for decay. This decay can take place by the creeping in of individuals and teachings or worldliness that weaken the functioning of the church. We can think, for example, of a weakening of fellowship with each other, of a change in the behavior of believers through conforming to this world, of an adaptation of the doctrine of God’s Word to what the members of the church like to hear, of the introduction of worldly elements into the church.
Joash orders the priests and the Levites to go and collect money in the cities of Judah and in all Israel (verse 5). He wants to use this money to restore the house of “your God”. By speaking of “your God”, he points out to priests and the Levites the responsibility they have towards God. They owe it to God because they must perform the priesthood and Levite service for Him in His house. Joash also wants them to do quickly what he said.
However, we read that the Levites do not act quickly. One reason may be that they are not really involved in the temple service with their hearts. It is possible that their interest in it has weakened over the years. We will not commit ourselves to God’s house, to us the church of God, if this house does not have the deep interest of our hearts. We will not even do it if others remind us of our responsibilities.
Joash calls Jehoiada to account. He accuses him of negligence. Jehoiada, according to Joash, has been negligent in ensuring that the Levites “bring in … the levy [fixed by] Moses the servant of the LORD” (verse 6; Exo 30:16). It remains to be seen whether this reproach is justified. What Joash wants is commendable. But the way in which he has worked raises questions. He has not sent the Levites with an appeal to Moses. All he has told them is that they need to collect money to restore the house of God. A heart that is not fully involved in a work for the Lord will not quickly be tempted to ask others to give for that work.
That his accusation may not be justified can also be inferred from the silence of the spiritual-minded Jehoiada. There is no defense to the criticism. This is not weakness or admitting that the saying is true, but rather speaks of spiritual strength. Silence on unjustified accusations often says more than speaking. We also see this silence with the Lord Jesus in all the accusations made against Him.
Joash says why the house of the LORD has ended up in a state that necessitates restoration (verse 7). It is Athaliah’s fault. She is the embodiment of wickedness. Political power exercised for its own sake will always see service to God as an abhorrent matter. That power will do everything in its power to destroy the service to God. Such an evil power is not only about neglecting the church, but it will attack the church and take away all that is valuable for the service to God.
An evil power dictates that “the holy things of the house of the LORD” will be used “for the Baals”. We see this, for example, in the popular interpretation of the suffering of Christ, of which a Dutch Christian broadcasting is making a spectacle disgusting to faith (The Passion). The same goes for the Matthäus-Passion where the members of the cabinet go because it is so impressively performed. Heart and conscience remain completely off the hook. Thus the holy things that stand in God’s house, the church, central, are thrown like pearls before swine (Mt 7:6). The tearing consequences for the church need not be guessed, for they are perceptible to anyone who has enlightened eyes of the heart.
Then Joash starts a new action for the collection of money (verse 8). On his command a chest is made which is placed “outside by the gate of the house of the LORD”. Then, this time with an appeal to the levy of Moses, a proclamation is made in Judah and Jerusalem to bring the money (verse 9). The response to this proclamation is very different from last time. All leaders and all people are happy to contribute to the restoration of the temple (verse 10). They all like to give and keep giving until the restoration work is completed.
The chest is supervised by the Levites (verse 11). Whenever there is much money in the chest, they take it to the king’s officer. The scribe of the king and the chief priest’s officer empty the chest. A representative of the king and a representative of the high priest are involved. The testimony of two persons confirms a matter (2Cor 13:1). It is important to be able to account reliably for the money collected (2Cor 8:20-21).
This is also about the combination of king and priest. There is a close relationship and cooperation between the two. We also see this with the Lord Jesus, the true King-Priest (Zec 6:13). After the money is taken out of the chest in this responsible way, the chest is taken up again and put back in place at the temple. In this way money is collected in abundance.
12 - 14 The Restoration of the Temple
12 The king and Jehoiada gave it to those who did the work of the service of the house of the LORD; and they hired masons and carpenters to restore the house of the LORD, and also workers in iron and bronze to repair the house of the LORD. 13 So the workmen labored, and the repair work progressed in their hands, and they restored the house of God according to its specifications and strengthened it. 14 When they had finished, they brought the rest of the money before the king and Jehoiada; and it was made into utensils for the house of the LORD, utensils for the service and the burnt offering, and pans and utensils of gold and silver. And they offered burnt offerings in the house of the LORD continually all the days of Jehoiada.
The king and Jehoiada – here again we see the close connection between king and priest – make the money available to those who do the restoration work (verse 12). The money is used to hire workers. Masons, carpenters, workers in iron and bronze are needed to restore the house of the LORD. They work closely together, while everyone does what their capacities are.
The Lord Jesus, as the King-Priest, is busy giving us the means to build His house. The different workers who did the repair work point to the different tasks that believers have in building God’s house. Masons we can see as a picture of evangelists. They bring living stones into the house of God. Carpenters work with wood. They give structure to God’s house. In them we can see a picture of teachers. The workers in iron represent shepherds. They ensure that the believers remain well connected. The workers in bronze are busy with bronze. Bronze is a picture of God’s righteousness. Workers in bronze can be seen as a picture of believers who help others to live in accordance with God’s righteousness.
All these workers work with what is given to them by the king and Jehoiada (verse 13). It is nice to read that the repair work is progressing in their hands. The goal is to restore the house of God to its original state. To be able to work in this way, the workers must know what the original state is. Bringing God’s house back to its original state also means that the house will be strengthened.
This also applies to all work that is done for the church. The blueprint of the church, and its local expression, is in the Word of God. We must consult God’s Word when we work on the building of God’s house. For us, working on God’s house means showing fellow believers their position in Christ (Col 1:28-29) and that they are firmly established in Him (2Cor 1:21; Col 2:6-7).
After the repair work on the temple there appears to be money left (verse 14). That money is brought to the king and Jehoiada. Joash, probably on the advice of Jehoiada, makes all kinds of utensils out of it that can be used for the service in the temple. As a result, as long as Jehoiada lives, “they offered burnt offerings in the house of the LORD continually”. Here we find the great goal of the restoration of God’s house: offering burnt offerings.
The restoration of God’s house with the result of offering burnt offerings suggests to us that the service of worship is once again central in the church. That is not programmed worship with song and music led by a worship leader, but worship led by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit wants to direct the heart of every member of the church to the Lord Jesus Who is the true burnt offering for God.
The burnt offering is the sacrifice that is for God in its entirety (Lev 1:9,13). God desires that the believers come as a church with burnt offerings. Jehoiada is a picture of the Lord Jesus Who is the “great priest over the house of God” (Heb 10:21). Through Him we may approach God in the sanctuary to bring our sacrifices (Heb 10:19-22).
15 - 16 The Death of Jehoiada
15 Now when Jehoiada reached a ripe old age he died; he was one hundred and thirty years old at his death. 16 They buried him in the city of David among the kings, because he had done well in Israel and to God and His house.
Jehoiada’s life comes to an end. He does not die from a disease or an accident, but from old age (verse 15). He has reached the advanced age of one hundred and thirty years. Until his old age he was active in serving God and His house (verse 16). His service has been a blessing to Israel. He, who was a priest, behaved royally at the same time. Therefore he is “buried … among the kings”. That they bury him there is proof of the respect of Joash and the people for him.
How are we known to the believers with whom we form a local church? Can be said of us that we have done good in the church? Good deeds must be done in the first place for God. He sees our whole life. Is that directed toward Him? Directly connected to this is doing good with regard to His house, that is the church, that are His own. Doing good to His house means that we behave in His house according to the standards He has given for it in His Word (1Tim 3:15).
17 - 18 Joash Falls to Idolatry
17 But after the death of Jehoiada the officials of Judah came and bowed down to the king, and the king listened to them. 18 They abandoned the house of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols; so wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their guilt.
After each revival, lukewarmness follows. We see that here too. When the inspirer Jehoiada has died, Joash deviates from the way of the LORD. Jehoiada’s influence has been decisive for his actions. Now that he has lost his grip and compass with Jehoiada’s death, he is rudderless. Unfortunately, he has no personal contact with the LORD. Joash walked more through the faith of Jehoiada than through his own faith. We can make an application for ourselves of this with regard to our children. If we do not teach them to live with the Lord in an independent relationship with Him, they will – if they have to stand on their own two feet – turn their backs on the Lord.
Through the death of Jehoiada, a spiritual vacuum has been created with Joash. That void is filled by the officials of Judah (verse 17). They come to him and bow hypocritically down before him. They don’t want to help him to continue reigning according to God’s will, but they want to serve their own interests. Joash listens to their flattery. The king and the officials, who had just been busy restoring the temple, leave the LORD and His house and start to serve the idols (verse 18). Perhaps the officials have talked to him and said that the old service of the LORD is not sufficient and that serving “the Asherim and the idols” gives a much better feeling. Joash began, so to speak, by the Spirit, but ends up by the flesh (Gal 3:3).
God’s answer to the deviation of Joash and the people does not fail. The people are guilty before Him. Because of this guilt God’s pleasure no longer rests on Judah and Jerusalem, but now there comes wrath upon them.
19 - 22 Joash Kills the Prophet of God
19 Yet He sent prophets to them to bring them back to the LORD; though they testified against them, they would not listen. 20 Then the Spirit of God came on Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest; and he stood above the people and said to them, “Thus God has said, ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD and do not prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, He has also forsaken you.’” 21 So they conspired against him and at the command of the king they stoned him to death in the court of the house of the LORD. 22 Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness which his father Jehoiada had shown him, but he murdered his son. And as he died he said, “May the LORD see and avenge!”
Before God actually makes them feel His wrath, which rests on them, He first sends them prophets in His grace (verse 19; cf. Jer 7:25). Through His prophets He wants to call them to return to Him. They warn of the consequences if the people persist in their deviation from Him. Unfortunately Joash don’t listen.
One of the prophets is specially mentioned (verse 20). It is Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada. Zechariah is going to stand on an elevation to be better heard by the people (cf. Neh 8:5). That is why he also stands as a loner against the people. He is a true Antipas – meaning ‘against all’ –, who also testified as a loner and just like Zechariah had to pay with death for his testimony (Rev 2:13).
Zechariah presents to the people their sins without fuss. He tells them that their idolatry will not bring them the prosperity they expect. Their actions have no blessing because they have forsaken the LORD and He has had to forsake them. They are now on their way without Him. So how could there be prosperity for them?
Joash even gives the command to kill the man who brings him the words of God with stones (verse 21; Heb 11:37). Here a holy man (a priest and prophet) is killed in a holy place (the temple) with a holy message (a word of God) as if he were a blasphemer. How far have the king and his people deviated from the LORD.
Joash places himself in line with the wicked Ahab who also had a righteous man, Naboth, stoned (1Kgs 21:8-13). Zechariah is stoned in the court of the house of the LORD to which Joash has been so dedicated the first part of his reign. The place of worship is smeared with blood.
God’s Spirit clearly indicates that this stoning is not only a crime but also an act of the greatest ingratitude (verse 22a; cf. Jdg 8:35). The favor that Zechariah’s father, Jehoiada, has bestowed on him is gone from his memory.
If we forget to be thankful for all that the Lord has given us in our brothers and sisters, we may become their murderers spiritually if they point out our failures. Ungratefulness is one of the characteristics of the last days, that is the time in which we live (2Tim 3:1-3). It is a time when the Word of God is ignored by many.
When Zechariah dies, he calls that the LORD will avenge (verse 22b). This call for revenge fits the Old Testament. This call will also sound after the rapture of the church (Rev 6:9-11). In our time the believer fits a call for grace and forgiveness for his persecutors and those who torture them (Acts 7:59-60a).
In His speech against the Pharisees, the Lord Jesus refers to the murder of Zechariah (Mt 23:34-35; Lk 11:51). In that speech, He mentions the first and last murder of believers in the Old Testament as the beginning and the end of a long series of bloodshed of the righteous. The first murder is that of Abel, the last one is that of Zechariah. It is true that Zechariah is the last believer to be murdered in the Old Testament. We must remember that the book of Chronicles in the Hebrew Bible is the last book of the Bible and not, as in our Bibles, the book of Malachi.
23 - 24 Judgment Executed on Joash
23 Now it happened at the turn of the year that the army of the Arameans came up against him; and they came to Judah and Jerusalem, destroyed all the officials of the people from among the people, and sent all their spoil to the king of Damascus. 24 Indeed the army of the Arameans came with a small number of men; yet the LORD delivered a very great army into their hands, because they had forsaken the LORD, the God of their fathers. Thus they executed judgment on Joash.
God’s response to the call of his dying servant Zechariah for revenge is soon. At the turn of the year, the army of the Arameans or Syrians comes up against Joash (verse 23; cf. 2Sam 11:1). Syria’s army even penetrates so far that they enter Jerusalem and destroy all the officials of the people. Thereby the people have become rudderless. The spoils that the Syrians rob on their campaign are sent to their lord, the king of Damascus.
The Syrians are supreme in their fight against Judah and Jerusalem. That is not because they are so numerous. On the contrary, they only have a small army (verse 24). Yet they achieve great successes because the LORD fights against His people. He shows Himself the adversary of His people because they have forsaken Him.
Previous kings – Abijah, Asa and Jehoshaphat – were not defeated, although Judah was facing a mighty army (2Chr 13:3; 14:11; 20:20). Here with Joash, however, the LORD gives the victory to Syria that “with a small number of men” has come against a mighty Judah. A mighty Judah is defeated by a small army, because the LORD gives them into the hand of their enemies (Lev 26:17a). Serving or forsaking the LORD is such a serious matter, that all military numbers are completely meaningless.
The Syrians are the disciplinary rod in God’s hand to execute “judgment on Joash”. The word for ‘executed judgment’ is also used for the judgments that have come concerning Egypt to persuade Pharaoh to release God’s people from Egypt (Exo 6:5; 7:4; 12:12; Num 33:4). This shows the seriousness of the discipline that the LORD brings over the leaders of His people. He brings here the judgments with which He has struck ungodly Egypt over His people.
25 - 27 The Death of Joash
25 When they had departed from him (for they left him very sick), his own servants conspired against him because of the blood of the son of Jehoiada the priest, and murdered him on his bed. So he died, and they buried him in the city of David, but they did not bury him in the tombs of the kings. 26 Now these are those who conspired against him: Zabad the son of Shimeath the Ammonitess, and Jehozabad the son of Shimrith the Moabitess. 27 As to his sons and the many oracles against him and the rebuilding of the house of God, behold, they are written in the treatise of the Book of the Kings. Then Amaziah his son became king in his place.
The judgments were not only executed on the people, their leaders and their possessions, but also on Joash personally (verse 25). When the enemies depart, they leave Joash “very sick”, a sickness that is probably the result of serious injuries inflicted on him. With this the measure of God’s discipline over him is not yet full. Two servants conspire against him and kill him, lying powerless on his sickbed. Joash is buried in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings, an honor he has given Jehoiada (verse 16).
The reason given for Joash’ murder is “because of the blood of the son of Jehoiada the priest”. It seems that of Jehoiada’s sons Joash did not only kill Zechariah, but also other sons. The reason given does not mean that this has led the two killers to act. It means that God in His governmental ways allows the murder as a retaliation for the blood that Joash shed. The two men will be justly punished for their crime (2Chr 25:3).
The names of the servants and their origins are mentioned (verse 26). They are two sons of foreign, although Israel-related, women. The Ammonites and Moabites are descendants of Lot (Gen 19:30-38), the nephew of Abraham. They have always been hostile to God’s people. That Joash has accepted them as servants may be the consequence of serving their gods. Those who fall into the idolatry always bring elements into their home that are hostile to them and are out of their ruin.
The chronicler ends his description of Joash’ life with a reference to some things “written in the treatise of the Book of the Kings” (verse 27). This book has not been preserved for us. What it says is about his sons, possibly who they are and how he dealt with them. It also concerns “the many oracles against him”. One might think of the judgment prophecies of the LORD that are spoken against him. The last reference is to “the rebuilding of the house of God”, In which we can nevertheless note a certain appreciation for what Joash has done for God’s house.
Joash’ life may have had a tragic course and a tragic end, but God’s faithfulness remains. The son of Joash, Amaziah, becomes king instead of Joash, so God still keeps a lamp burning for David’s house. The light is not yet extinguished.