The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
2 Chronicles 23
2 Chronicles 22
1. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem [comp. chap. 2 Chronicles 21:11, 2 Chronicles 21:13] made Ahaziah his youngest son king in his stead: for the band of men that came with the Arabians to the camp had slain all the eldest [some of the mixed host that came and encamped against Jerusalem with the Arabs had slain all the captive princes, otherwise the people would probably have sought to ransom the eldest, and would then have made him king (compare chap. 2 Chronicles 21:17; Judges 8:18 seq.; 1 Samuel 15:32)]. So Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah reigned.
2. Forty and two years [this number is impossible, since Ahaziah"s father, Jehoram, was but forty when he died (chap. 2 Chronicles 21:5, 2 Chronicles 21:20). We (Speaker"s Commentary) must read22for42, and thus bring the passage into agreement with 2 Kings 8:26] old was Ahaziah when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother"s name also was Athaliah, the daughter of Omri [i.e. the grand-daughter (comp. chap. 2 Chronicles 21:6).]
3. He also walked [like his father, Hebrews, too, walked in the way of the house of Ahab. There is a reference to chap. 2 Kings 21:6, 2 Kings 21:13] in the ways of the house of Ahab: for his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly.
4. Wherefore he did evil in the sight of the Lord like the house of Ahab: for they were his counsellors [the influence of his mother Athaliah and her brother, Jehoram of Israel, seems to be especially intended (see 2 Chronicles 22:1, 2 Chronicles 22:3, 2 Chronicles 22:5)] after the death of his father to his destruction.
5. He walked also after [in] their counsel [he became a close partner in the politics of his ally, and joined in his expedition against the Syrians], and went with Jehoram the son of Ahab king of Israel to war against Hazael king of Syria at Ramoth-gilead: and the Syrians smote Joram.
6. And he returned to be healed in Jezreel because of the wounds which were given him at Ramah, when he fought with Hazael king of Syria. And Azariah the son of Jehoram king of Judah went down to see Jehoram the son of Ahab at Jezreel, because he was sick.
7. And the destruction [down-treading] of Ahaziah was of God [lit. And from God came the down-treading of Ahaziah, so that he went to Joram] by coming to Joram: for when he was come, he went out with Jehoram against [rather, unto] Jehu the son of Nimshi [i.e. grandson. Jehu was son of Jehoshaphat, son of Nimshi ( 2 Kings 9:2)], whom the Lord had anointed [comp. 1 Kings 19:16; 2 Kings 9:1-10] to cut off the house of Ahab.
8. And it came to pass, that, when Jehu was executing judgment upon the house of Ahab [the Hebrew phrase strictly means "to plead with," or "argue a case with" (comp. 1 Samuel 12:7)], and found the princes of Judah, and the sons of the brethren of Ahaziah [comp. 2 Kings 10:12-14, where the details are given], that ministered [were in attendance on] to Ahaziah, he slew them.
Ahaziah and Athaliah
"For his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly" ( 2 Chronicles 22:3).
WHAT heart can read these words without being sad with ineffable woe! Ahaziah reigned wickedly; forty and two years old was he when he began to reign; he had a brief reign in Jerusalem, only one year long; "he also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab": why? "for his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly." There must be a mistranslation. All nature is offended by this tremendous affront. Can we not find some other word for "mother"? Any other word will do better; even "father" would not be so objectionable. The one word that cannot be tolerated here is the word that is found, namely, "mother"! We might close the Bible here, and say the book that contains this statement was never inspired. But we cannot do so. Then the word "counsellor" is so full of plan, premeditation, arrangement; the mother was a schoolmistress, with one pupil, and she suggested, invented, culminated ends, whispered, threw out hints, advised bad policies; told him when he was halting because the course was evil to "go on!" Napoleon said, "They that rock the cradle rule the world." To have a cradle rocked by such a mother as Athaliah surely were enough to be foredoomed to endless misery! How sweetly the narrative would have read had it proceeded on the lines of nature!—for his mother was his counsellor to do bravely. Surely the word "wickedly" is a misprint, traceable to some careless copyist! His mother was his counsellor to do wisely, patiently, hopefully,—these would have been womanly words, words most motherly, the very words with which we build home and church and heaven. But the word is "wickedly," and we must regard it in its literal significance. What are mothers doing now? They could be God"s foremost ministers. No man can pray like a woman; no man has the art of eloquence as a woman has it; no one can come into life so silently, quietly, blessingly as woman—mother, sister. If women would preach surely the world would listen. They ought to preach; they know the secret of love, they have the answer to the Cross, they can solve in some degree the enigma of sacrifice. This is the very reason of the horribleness of the text. If woman had been otherwise, then the word "wickedly" would not have read with such a sense of irony and moral collision as it does in this instance. It is because woman can be so heavenly that she can be so low, and wicked, and bad; it is because she can be so like a saviour that she can be such an engine and agent of ruin.
Athaliah must have her fate, and it shall be appropriate. The Bible does not shrink from stating the whole case in its reality.
"And all the people of the land rejoiced: and the city was quiet, after that they had slain Athaliah with the sword" ( 2 Chronicles 23:21).
Blessed be God for the sword when it is wielded by the hands of justice and virtue! People will not endure beyond a given point. Every queen is the subject of her own people. The nation may have a solitary monarch, but the monarch has a multitudinous sovereign. This woman ruled amongst the people viciously, selfishly, without regard to patriotic instinct or patriotic right; and, having filled the cup of her wickedness, the people arose, and Athaliah was slain with the sword; and then all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet This is hard reading! We must read it, because we wish to know the whole contents of the Bible: otherwise we would willingly have brought all these pages together, torn them out with a violent hand, and forgotten the story. But the Bible must be revered for its fearlessless, for a frankness that keeps back nothing; it is a book that is not afraid to show human nature to itself, and that so reveals human nature to itself as to prove that it comprehends it, and cannot be deceived by the most cunning attempt at deception. The land rejoiced when a woman was slain! What the land then must have endured whilst she lived and ruled! The joy after death is the measure of sorrow before it. "And the city was quiet" after a woman was slain! How much mischief can be wrought by one soul! "One sinner destroyeth much good." When the ruler goes wrong, the nation will either go wrong after him, or will stand up in self-defence; and under a consciousness of true dignity, and under a sense of what is due to God, will revenge the wrong, redeem and reclaim that which is past. Here again how beautifully might the text have read:—And all the people of the land rejoiced: and the city was quiet, because Athaliah was recovered, spared, continued in high office and influence. Is it possible that a time may come when people will rejoice that we are dead? Will some pulpits be more honoured by emptiness than by occupancy? Will some businesses have a chance to recover their character when the principals are dead, but not so long as those principals initiate and conduct the policy of the house? Is it possible that a throne may be a fountain of mischief? Questions such as these, penetrating, unsparing, we should thrust into ourselves, that they may work first painfully and then curatively.
Is there no explanation given of all this rejoicing over the death of Athaliah? The explanation is given in chapter 2 Chronicles 24:7—"that wicked woman." This is an alliteration which the grammarian might detest, the rhetorician avoid as a vice in eloquence, but which the moralist must look at with a sense of ineffable shame. "Wicked woman"—it is impossible! It ought to be an affront to the very genius of creation; say dark sun, say waterless sea, say flowerless summer, and the irony might be tolerated, for it might be only a discord in words: but "wicked woman" indicates a possibility that makes all hell easy of belief. This is the moral explanation of the physical disaster. Athaliah was slain with the sword—cry, Murder, then! Arrest the homicide, the regicide! But wait; you know not all; the explanatory word is found in the context—"that wicked woman."
Was there no brightness in all this history? There is indeed one quiet line. "But Jehoiada waxed old and was full of days when he died; an hundred and thirty years old was he when he died. And they buried him in the city of David "—we have already seen one king buried there—"among the kings." Thus he had a double blessing of sepulture. Was it because he was royal? No. Because he was mighty in war? No. Because he was sagacious in policy? No. Why, then, this double honour? Why this accumulating benediction? Hear the sweet words—"Because he had done good in Israel, both toward God and toward his house." Then lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and let the saint pass in! He seems to be a native of the skies.
"And he [Jehu] sought Ahaziah: and they caught him (for he was hid [now he was hiding] in Samaria), and brought him to Jehu: and when they had slain him, they buried him: Because, said they, he is the son of Jehoshaphat, who sought the Lord with all his heart. So the house of Ahaziah had no power to keep still the kingdom [lit. And the house of Ahaziah had none to retain strength for kingship (= capable of assuming sovereignty)]." ( 2 Chronicles 22:9)
"Because." Who can tell to what he is indebted for his advantages? Who knows how the past helps the present? Who can altogether analyse and Revelation -combine the chemistry of life? We may not exclude the action of sentiment from the processes of life. The world would be poorer could all its tears be forgotten; the flower looks the lovelier for the dew which besprinkles it. So with life; soldiers become greater men than ever when they begin to sigh because of some thought of other days and brighter times and cherished memories. Men can hardly prepare themselves against the invasion of that gracious assailant, Memory. How the old village starts up again, and the church spire, and the little schoolhouse, and home where childhood spent its sunny lot; and what monitions, and tender words, and sacred charges to be men in life"s continual fray; and the book that was given, and the prayer that was offered, and the touch that amounted to lay ordination: how all these spectral lines combine, reappear, and Revelation -combine, and shape themselves into church, and temple, and altar, and house, a singular form indicative of the mystery of life"s processes. Think of a man owing a grave to his father"s memory! Think of people putting themselves to the trouble of digging a grave in which to bury a hated corpse because the father was a religious Prayer of Manasseh, "who sought the Lord with all his heart." Who knows what blessings he is receiving to-day because of something that happened half a century ago? Yet men say, What has the future done for us? The future is doing everything for us. Posterity is our unconscious benefactor. Or, What has the past done for us? It has made the present. The present is not an empty vessel, it is a full goblet: the past furnished your library, made your house possible, gave you peace, bought your liberty with the gold of blood, made it possible for you to sit still and sneer at heroic history. Who has not received attention in some form or other because of what the father was, or the mother? We have been invited to hospitality because our father was kind to the poor; prodigals have been able to borrow money on the strength of what the father was in the town to which the intended victim belonged. Such is the action of life. What is the great lesson to us? It is to make friends of seven, yea, and to include an eighth in our benefactions, for we cannot tell what shall be on the earth. You are giving now your time, strength, money, influence to good causes: fifty years after some grandchild of yours may be blessed because of what you are doing this day. You take notice of some poor child in the day-school, you tell him that one day he will be a Prayer of Manasseh, you give him some little coin, valueless to you, but the seed of a fortune to him; he will never forget the kind word, the generous Acts, the pleasant look, and mayhap when he has grown to be a giant he may help some descendant of yours across a thoroughfare, or through a forest, or over a difficult pass in life. Lay up for yourselves riches where moth and dust doth not corrupt, where thieves cannot break through and steal. Be good, generous, true, sympathetic, and your grandchildren may come in for your blessing. But if you are rough, cynical, heartless, a perfect genius in sneering criticism, God pity you and yours!
Almighty God, we cannot understand this life of. ours: things are not what they seem to be: we cannot see enough of it to judge according to wise judgment. Yet we would live one day at a time; we would live by faith and not by sight; we would trust in the living God, who would have all men to be saved. Prevent us in thy great mercy from trying to know thee, and understand thee, and explain thee to ourselves or to others; it is enough to feel thee, to know thee in the heart, to know that our love is going out after thee in great pure flames of desire. Thus would we live the upward life, thus would we fix our eyes upon heaven, and evermore rise from earth and time and sense and all imprisonment into the glorious liberty of fellowship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; then shall we know more of thy government by knowing less of its framework; we shall know that God is love: that what we know not now we shall know hereafter, that by-and-by all pain and discipline and sorrow and loss shall be made clear to us, and we shall say at the cross of Christ, The Lord hath ruled well his household, yea, the Lord hath done all things well, glory eternal be to his name. We thank thee for all love which men have towards one another, for all philanthropy and neighbourliness and charity; we bless thee for every solicitude that makes our heart ache with the beginning of truest joy; when we see the distress and wickedness and need of our fellow-men may we always consider our own condition wisely, and let the eagle that has built his nest in the highest rock remember how the wind can tear it, and the lightning can burn it: thus may we know that we have nothing that we have not received, and that whatever height is possible to us is as nothing compared with the infinite height of heaven. Keep us humble, true, sincere, lowly, sympathetic: thus may we live the Christ-life; thus may we represent the cross. Amen.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 23". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25