Joash's Escape

Athaliah felt secure in her position, believing that the royal line of David was extinct. But she was wrong. When she had ordered the massacre of all the male members of the royal House of David, Jehosheba, a sister of King Ahaziah and the wife of the High Priest Jehoiada, succeeded in saving the one-year-old son of Ahaziah, Joash. She brought him to her husband in the Holy Temple and kept him there in hiding.

Joash Proclaimed King

For six years Athaliah ruled uncontrolled, dealing roughly with the believers in G‑d, while Jehoiada, the pious and wise High Priest, nursed in his heart the secret flames of hope for the future that centered around the last member of David's dynasty. Jehoiada had many friends and followers, who, like himself, had remained faithful to the pure worship of G‑d, and who longed to avenge the blood 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 woman who had so desecrated the throne of Judea, and to reinstate the legal heir to the throne, the only descendant of David—the young crown prince Joash.

The coup was carefully planned. Jehoiada gathered many priests and Levites in the Temple as if to celebrate the usual service. Trusted groups took up their positions at all the exits of the Temple and around the porches of the palace. Then the High Priest led forth the young Joash, placed him before the assembly, and proclaimed him king amid the joyful acclamations of the people who greeted their rightful monarch with the cry of "Long live the king!" The jubilations and trumpet blasts startled the unsuspecting queen. From her palace she hastened forth to look into the court of the Temple, and presently she beheld the crowned child standing on the elevated place reserved for the King of Judea. Athaliah screamed, "Treason, treason!" but her cries were of no avail. She was led out of the Temple and killed near the palace gates, in order that the holy place would 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 evil in both Jewish kingdoms.

The Return to G‑d:

The masses of the people of Judea were happy to be delivered from Athaliah's cruel reign, and they were overjoyed to hear that a member of the royal House of David was alive and proclaimed king. Their sympathies were whole-heartedly with the young monarch, and their wrath turned against the representatives and carriers of the foreign culture and creed. The temples of the Baal and Ashtarte were torn down, and Mattan, the chief priest of Baal, was slain before his idols.

Repair of the Temple

Meanwhile the young King Joash, being a mere child of seven years, grew up under the wise guidance of his uncle, the High Priest Jehoiada. Joash was pious and G‑d-fearing, and he was eager to restore the glory of the Holy Temple. Taking advantage of the high spirit and enthusiasm of the people, the king started a large drive for a Reconstruction Fund for the Temple, which Athaliah had despoiled and damaged. Joash put up a large chest in the Holy Temple and asked the people coming for the usual service to throw their contributions into the chest. The chest was soon filled to the brim and contained enough money for the repairs of the Holy Temple.

The High Priest Jehoiada died at the age of one-hundred and thirty, and the young king was on his own.

As long as the High Priest lived, the aristocracy which had been installed and fostered by Athaliah, had tried to keep out of the public eye, waiting for the right moment to come back and reestablish their former influence. The death of Jehoiada was their signal for leaving the underground. The young and inexperienced monarch was easily led astray by the scheming nobles. Soon the king abandoned the pure worship of G‑d and began to indulge in the service of the Baal and the glamour of an unbridled life.

Zachariah's Death

The broad masses, led and inspired by the priests and prophets, viewed their king's evil life with open disapproval.

However the clique of courtiers did not care for the people's voice and the indignation of the priests. Joash, too, was unimpressed by the popular indignation, and he did his best to suppress all signs of the brewing revolt. In order to nip the revolt in the bud, his advisers persuaded him to get rid of Zachariah, the son of Jehoiada the priest, who was the spiritual leader of the G‑d-fearing Jews. Standing before the people in the Temple, Zachariah was boldly denouncing the idolatry of the king and his followers, when he was stoned to death in the very Temple. The ungrateful king, who had been saved by Zachariah's father, was guilty of an unpardonable sin in causing the death of a priest and prophet in the Holy Temple. This last deed aroused the indignation of the people to its greatest height, but Joash, dominated by his aristocratic clique, disregarded the people and went so far as to kill the rest of his benefactor's children.

Joash's Death

The punishment Zachariah had predicted soon overtook Joash. Hazael, the King of Syria, invaded Judea and occupied the entire country as far as the very gates of Jerusalem. His soldiers killed and looted wherever they went, and left a trail of destruction in their path. Joash had to pay Hazael much gold and silver, taken from the treasures of the Temple, in order to make him return to his own country. Meanwhile, the wrath of the people had reached its climax. When the king fell ill, he was killed as the result of a conspiracy among his servants, which had the support of the people. Joash was succeeded by his son Amaziah.