Being a monarch, ruler, or member of a royal family does not mean that that person is automatically good or wise. Thus, you will now hear about a period in Jewish history of about twenty-six hundred years ago, when there was much trouble for the Jews, because their rulers were neither good nor wise. It was rulers such as these that eventually brought about the destruction of Jerusalem.

There was great unrest in the Land of Judea, for the wicked and idolatrous queen Athaliah sat on the throne. She was the daughter of the equally wicked Ahab and infamous Jezebel who had disgraced the throne of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

Athaliah was the widow of the evil king Joram who had ascended the throne of Judea at the age of thirty-two, when his father King Jehoshaphat died.

Until his father's death, Joram had appeared to be pious and just, but immediately after, Athaliah began to use her bad influence on her weak husband. She followed her mother Jezebel's evil example, of bringing false priests, and idols, into the holy city of Jerusalem. In her eager desire to throw over and destroy the House of David, she ordered the murder of Joram's six brothers and some of the most noble blood of Judea, persuading the king, her husband, that they could be a threat to his throne. Joram was a willing tool in her hands. He erected temples in honor of Baal and Ashtarte, the Canaanite gods, and invited the Jews of Jerusalem to worship these idols.

Joram, however, came to the bad end he deserved. He caught an incurable disease, and, after two horrible years of suffering, he died. The people could not forgive or forget his evil rule. They refused to bury him in the traditional resting-place of the House of David, and did not even give him the funeral honors due a monarch.

After Joram's death, the throne was taken over by his youngest son Ahaziah, the only surviving child of the royal family.

Ahaziah proved to be just as weak a ruler as his father, and he was completely influenced by his strong-willed evil mother Athaliah. He too, encouraged all forms of idolatry, and tried to destroy the old faith in the one and only G‑d that was deeply rooted in the hearts of the common people. However, his reign was short-lived, lasting only one year. He had been visiting his uncle, King Jehoram of Israel, brother of his mother, when a revolt broke out there. Jehoram's general Jehu appeared, killing Jehoram and his whole household, wiping out the entire dynasty of the wicked Ahab. An arrow from Jehu's bow ended the life of Ahaziah too.

When Athaliah heard of her son's murder, she was determined that no one from the House of David should be heir to the throne of Judea. She ordered all members of the House of David to be killed, and established herself as Ruler of Judea. She had an iron will, and succeeded in keeping down all attempts at revolt by the true believers in G‑d. She controlled all important phases in public life. She put her own men in key positions everywhere, and they often interfered with, or prevented, the services in the Beth Hamikdosh.

Athaliah felt her position completely secure, believing that there was no one left of the royal line of David; but she was wrong. Jehosheba, a sister of Ahaziah and the wife of the High Priest Jehoiada, succeeded in saving the one-year-old baby of Ahaziah, Joash. She brought him to her husband in the Beth Hamikdosh where they kept him in hiding.

For six years Athaliah ruled as a dictator, dealing roughly with the believers in G‑d, while the pious High Priest Jehoiada nursed the secret hope of restoring the throne to the rightful heir of the House of David.

When little Joash was seven years old, Jehoiada decided that the time had come to liberate Judea from the foreign and wicked woman who had desecrated the throne of Judea, and to re-instate the legal heir to the throne, the young crown prince Joash.

Jehoiada planned carefully. He gathered many priests and Levites in the Beth Hamikdosh, as if to celebrate the holy service. Trusted groups took up their positions at all the exits of the Sanctuary and around the porches of the palace. Then the High Priest led forth the young Joash, presented him to the assembly and proclaimed him king.

Great was their joy as they cried out enthusiastically: "Long live the king!" Their cries and trumpet blasts brought the startled and bewildered Athaliah hurrying to see what was going on. When her horrified glance beheld the crowned child standing on the elevated place reserved for the King of Judea, Athaliah screamed "Treason! Treason!" But her cries found no sympathetic ears. She was led out of the Sanctuary and killed at the nearby palace gates, so that the holy place should not be soiled with her wicked blood. Thus died the last member of Ahab's house, the daughter of Jezebel, who had caused so much trouble and brought so much evil to both Jewish kingdoms of Israel and Judea.

Meanwhile, the young King Joash, being a mere child of seven years, was being brought up under the wise guidance of his pious uncle Jehoiada. The masses of the people were happy to be free from the cruelty and idolatry of Athaliah's reign, and overjoyed to find a member of the House of David alive and proclaimed king. Joash showed eagerness to follow his uncle's guidance, and restore the glory of the House of G‑d. Joash put up a large chest at the entrance to the Beth Hamikdosh, asking the people to throw in their contributions, so that the Sanctuary which had been despoiled and damaged by Athaliah, could be speedily repaired. The people readily responded, and the chest was soon filled to the brim. The Beth Hamikdosh was then repaired.

As long as Jehoiada lived, those who had been the followers of Athaliah kept out of sight, waiting for their chance of returning to their former gay and G‑dless life. Their opportunity came when the High Priest Jehoiada, at the age of one-hundred and thirty, died, and the young king was on his own.

This was the signal for Athaliah's scheming followers, the so-called aristocracy, to come out from their underground activities. The young and inexperienced monarch was led astray by the glamor of their lawless ways. He abandoned the pure worship of G‑d, and joined them in their worship of the idol-the Baal.

The G‑d-fearing Jews, inspired by the priests and the prophets, were shocked and indignant at the change in Joash. They hurried to Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, who was now their spiritual leader, appealing to him to see what could be done. However, the clique of courtiers cared nothing for the people's indignation. In fact they managed to persuade Joash that he should get rid of Zechariah and not be troubled by him any further. The ungrateful king, Joash, who had been saved by Zechariah's father, was now guilty of an unpardonable sin. He ordered his men to go to the Beth Hamikdosh where Zachariah was boldly denouncing the idolatry of the king and his followers, and had him stoned to death right there in that holy place.

This last deed aroused the deepest indignation and horror in the hearts of the people, but Joash, under the bad influence of his clique, disregarded the people and went so far as to kill the rest of his benefactor's children.

But Joash, too, finally got the punishment he had earned. Hazael, king of Syria, invaded Judea and occupied the whole country as far as Jerusalem. His soldiers killed and looted wherever they went, leaving a trail of destruction behind them. Joash was forced to pay Hazael heavily in gold and silver. He emptied the treasuries of the Beth Hamikdosh to bribe Hazael to return to his country.

Meanwhile, the wrath of the people reached its climax. Thus, when Joash fell ill, his servants jumped at the opportunity to conspire against him. They killed him, putting an end to the life of the king who had so bitterly disappointed them.