Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Fall of Athaliah, and the Coronation and Reign of Joash - 2 Chronicles 23-24
After Joash had been kept in hiding for six years, the high priest Jehoiada came to the resolution to make an end of the tyranny of Athaliah, and to raise the young prince to the throne. The carrying out of this resolution is narrated in 2 Chron 23, and thereafter in 2 Chron 24. All that is important as to the reign of Joash is communicated.
2 Chronicles 23:1
Joash raised to the throne, and Athaliah slain. - In 2 Kings 11:4-20 we have another account of these events, in which the matter is in several points more briefly narrated, and apparently differently represented. According to both narratives, the thing was undertaken and carried out by the high priest Jehoiada; but according to 2 Kings 11, the high priest would appear to have mainly availed himself of the co-operation of the royal body-guard in the execution of his plan, while according to the Chronicle it is the Levites and the heads of the fathers'-houses who are made use of. Thereupon De Wette, Movers, Thenius, and Bertheau consequently maintain that the author of the Chronicle, proceeding on the view that the high priest, the chief of so many priests and Levites, would not have recourse to the assistance of the royal body-guard, has altered the statements in the second book of Kings accordingly, and wishes to represent the matter in a different way. But this assertion can be made with an appearance of truth only on the presupposition, already repeatedly shown to be erroneous, that the author of the Chronicle has made the account in 2 Kings 11 the basis of his narrative, and designedly altered it, and can scarcely be upheld even by the incorrect interpretation of various words. That 2 Kings 11 is not the source from which our account has been derived, nor the basis on which it is founded, is manifest from the very first verses of the chronicler's narrative, where the names of the five princes over hundreds, with whose co-operation Jehoiada elaborated his plan and carried it into execution, are individually enumerated; while in 2 Kings 11, where the preparations for the accomplishment of the work are very briefly treated of, they will be sought for in vain. But if, on the contrary, the two accounts be recognised to be extracts confining themselves to the main points, excerpted from a more detailed narrative of the event from different points of view, the discrepancies may be at once reconciled. Instead of the short statement, Kg2 11:4, that the high priest Jehoiada ordered the centurions of the royal body-guard to come to him in the temple (ויּבא...יקּח), made a covenant with them, caused them to swear, and showed them the king's son, we read in the Chronicle (Ch2 23:1-3), that the high priest Jehoiada took five centurions, whose names are stated with historical exactitude, into covenant with him, i.e., sent for them and made a covenant with them, and that these men then went throughout Judah, and summoned the Levites from all the cities of Judah, and the heads of the fathers'-houses of Israel, to Jerusalem; whereupon Jehoiada with the whole assembly made a covenant with the king in the house of God, and Jehoiada said to the people, "The king's son shall be king, as Jahve hath said of the sons of David." That this more expanded narrative can without difficulty be reconciled with the summary statement in Kg2 11:4, is perfectly manifest. By various devices, however, Berth. tries to bring out some discrepancies. In the first place, in the words, "Jehoiada sent and brought the princes of hundreds" (Kg2 11:4), he presses the שׁלח, which is not found in the Chronicle, translates it by "he sent out," and interprets it with Ch2 23:2 of the Chronicle; in the second, he takes כּל־הקּהל in Ch2 23:3 of the Chronicle to mean "the whole congregation," whereas it denotes only the assembly of the men named in Ch2 23:1 and Ch2 23:2; and, thirdly, he opposes the expression, "they made a covenant with the king" (Ch2 23:3, Chron.), to the statement (Kg2 11:2) that Jehoiada made a covenant to the princes, by making this latter statement mean that Jehoiada made a covenant with the princes, but not with the king, as if this covenant concerning the coronation of Joash as king might not be called, by a shorter mode of expression, a covenant with the king, especially when the declaration, "the son of the king shall reign," follows immediately.
2 Chronicles 23:4
The case is similar with the contradictions in the account of the carrying out of the arrangements agreed upon. In Bertheau's view, this is the state of the case: According to Kg2 11:5-8, the one part of the body-guard, which on Sabbath mounted guard in the royal palace, were to divide themselves into three bands: one third was to keep the guard of the royal house, which was certainly in the neighbourhood of the main entrance; the second third was to stand at the gate Sur, probably a side-gate of the palace; the third was to stand behind the door of the runners. The other part of the body-guard, on the other hand - all those who were relieved on the Sabbath - were to occupy the temple, so as to defend the young king. But according to the representation of the Chronicle, (1) the priests and the Levites were to divide themselves into three parts: the first third, those of the priests and Levites, who entered upon their duties on the Sabbath, were to be watchers of the thresholds (cf. on Ch1 9:19.), i.e., were to mount guard in the temple as usual; the second third was to be in the house of the king (i.e., where the first third was to keep watch, according to 2 Kings); the third was to be at the gate Jesod. Then (2) the whole people were to stand in the courts of the temple, and, according to Ch2 23:6, were to observe the ordinance of Jahve (Ch2 13:11), by which they were forbidden to enter the temple. From this Bertheau then concludes: "The guarding of the house of Jahve for the protection of the king (Kg2 11:7) has here become a יהוה משׁמרת." But in opposition to this, we have to remark that in Kg2 11:5-8 is it not said that the royal body-guard was to be posted as guards in the royal palace and in the temple; that is only a conclusion from the fact that Jehoiada conferred on the matter with the המּאות שׂרי of the executioners and runners, i.e., of the royal satellites, and instructed these centurions, that those entering upon the service on Sabbath were to keep watch in three divisions, and those retiring from the service in two divisions, in the following places, which are then more accurately designated. The one division of those entering upon the service were to stand, according to 2 Kings, by the gate Sur; according to the Chronicle, by the gate Jesod. The second, according to 2 Kings, was to keep the guard of the king's house; according to the Chronicle, it was to be in or by the king's house. The third was, according to 2 Kings, to be by (in) the gate behind the runners, and to keep the guard of the house Massach; according to the Chronicle, they were to serve as watchers of the thresholds. If, as is acknowledged by all, the gate סוּר is identical with the gate היסוד, - although it can neither be ascertained whether the difference in name has resulted merely from an orthographical error, or rests upon a double designation of one gate; nor yet can it be pointed out what the position of this gate, which is nowhere else mentioned, was, - then the Chronicle and 2 Kings agree as to the posts which were to occupy this door. The position also of the third part, המּלך בּבית (Chron.), will not be different from that of the third part, to which was committed the guarding of the king's house (Kings). The place where this third part took up its position is not exactly pointed out in either narrative, yet the statement, "to keep the watch of the house (temple) for warding off" (Kings), agrees with the appointment "to be guards of the thresholds" (Chron.), since the guarding of the thresholds has no other aim than to prevent unauthorized persons from entering. Now, since the young king, not merely according to the Chron., but also according to Kg2 11:4, - where we are told that Jehoiada showed the son of the king to the chief men whom he had summoned to the house of Jahve, - was in the temple, and only after his coronation and Athaliah's death was led solemnly into the royal palace, we might take the king's house, the guard of which the one third of those entering upon the service were to keep (Kg2 11:7), to be the temple building in which the young king was, and interpret המּלך בּבית in accordance with that idea. In that case, there would be no reference to the settling of guards in the palace; and that view would seem to be favoured by the circumstance that the other third part of those entering upon their service on the Sabbath were to post themselves at the gate, behind the runners, and keep the guard of the house מסּח. That מסּח is not a nom. propr., but appellat., from נסח, to ward off, signifying warding off, is unanimously acknowledged by modern commentators; only Thenius would alter מסּח into וּנסח, "and shall ward off." Gesenius, on the contrary, in his Thesaurus, takes the word to be a substantive, cum משׁמרת per appositionem conjunctum, in the signification, the guard for warding off, and translates, et vos agetis custodiam templi ad depellendum sc. populum (to ward off). If this interpretation be correct, then these words also do not treat of a palace guard; and to take הבּית to signify the temple is so evidently suggested by the context, according to which the high priest conducted the whole transaction in the temple, that we must have better grounds for referring the words to the royal palace than the mere presumption that, because the high priest discussed the plan with the captains of the royal body-guard, it must be the occupation of the royal palace which is spoken of.
But quite apart from the Chronicle, even the further account of the matter in 2 Kings 11 is unfavourable to the placing of guards in the royal palace. According to Ch2 23:9, the captains did exactly as Jehoiada commanded. They took each of them their men - those coming on the Sabbath, and those departing - and went to the priest Jehoiada, who gave them David's weapons out of the house of God (Ch2 23:10), and the satellites stationed themselves in the court of the temple, and there the king was crowned. The unambiguous statement, Ch2 23:9, that the captains, each with his men - i.e., those coming on Sabbath (entering upon the service), and those departing - came to the high priest in the temple, and there took up their position in the court, decisively excludes the idea that "those coming on the Sabbath" had occupied the guard-posts in the royal palace, and demands that the divisions mentioned in Ch2 23:5 and Ch2 23:6 should be posted at different parts and gates of the temple. That one third part had assigned to it a place behind the gate of the runners is not at all inconsistent with the above idea; for even if the gate behind the runners be identical with the gate of the runners (Kg2 11:19), it by no means follows from that that it was a gate of the palace, and not of the outer court of the temple. In accordance with this view, then, Kg2 11:5, Kg2 11:6 do not treat of an occupation of the royal palace, but of a provision for the security of the temple by the posting of guards. It is, moreover, against the supposition that the entrances to the palace were occupied by guards, that Athaliah, when she heard from her palace the noise of the people in the temple, came immediately into the temple, and was dragged forth and slain by the captains there in command. For what purpose can they have placed guards by the palace gates, if they did not desire to put any hindrance in the way of the queen's going forth into the temple? The hypotheses of Thenius, that it was done to keep away those who were devoted to Athaliah, to make themselves masters of the palace, and to hinder Athaliah from taking any measures in opposition to them, and to guard the place of the throne, are nothing but expedients resulting from embarrassment. If there was no intention to put any hindrance in the way of the queen leaving the palace, there could have been none to prevent her taking opposing measures. For the rest, the result obtained by careful consideration of the account in 2 Kings 11, that in Ch2 23:5, Ch2 23:6 an occupation by guards, not of the royal palace, but of the temple, is spoken of, does not stand or fall with the supposition that המּלך בּית was the dwelling of the young king in the temple building, and not the palace. The expression המּלך בּית משׁמרת שׁמר, to guard the guard of the king's house, i.e., to have regard to whatever is to be regarded in reference to the king's house, is so indefinite and elastic, that it may have been used of a post which watched from the outer court of the temple what was going on in the palace, which was over against the temple. With this also the corresponding המּלך בּבית, in the short account of the distribution of the guards given by the chronicler (Ch2 23:5), may be reconciled, if we translate it "at the house of the king," and call to mind that, according to Kg2 16:18 and Kg1 10:5, there was a special approach from the palace to the temple for the king, which this division may have had to guard. But notwithstanding the guarding of this way, Athaliah could come from the palace into the court of the temple by another way, or perhaps the guards were less watchful at their posts during the solemnity of the young king's coronation.
And not less groundless is the assertion that the priest Jehoiada availed himself in the execution of his plan, according to 2 Kings 11, mainly of the co-operation of the royal body-guard, according to the Chronicle mainly of that of the Levites; or that the chronicler, as Thenius expresses it, "has made the body-guards of 2 Kings into Levites, in order to diver to the priesthood the honour which belonged to the Praetorians." The המּאות שׂרי, mentioned by name in the Chronicle, with whom Jehoiada discussed his plan, and who had command of the guards when it was carried out, are not called Levites, and may consequently have been captains of the executioners and runners, i.e., of the royal body-guard, as they are designated in Kg2 11:4. But the men who occupied the various posts are called in both texts השּׁבּת בּאי (Kg2 11:5; Ch2 23:4): in Kg2 11:7 and Kg2 11:9, the corresponding השּׁבּת יצאי is added; while in the Chronicle the השׁבת באי are expressly called Levites, the words וללויּם לכּהנים being added. But we know from Luk 1:5, compared with 1 Chron 24, that the priests and Levites performed the service in the temple in courses from one Sabbath to another, while we have no record of any such arrangement as to the service of the Praetorians; so that we must understand the words "coming on the Sabbath" (entering upon the service), and "going on the Sabbath" (those relieved from it), of the Levites in the first place. Had it been intended that by these words in 2 Kings 11 we should understand Praetorians, it must necessarily have been clearly said. From the words spoken to the centurions of the body-guard, "the third part of you," etc., it does not follow at all as a matter of course that they were so, any more than from the fact that in Kg2 11:11, the posts set are called הרצים, the runners = satellites. If we suppose that in this extraordinary case the Levitic temple servants were placed under the command of centurions of the royal body-guard, who were in league with the high priest, the designation of the men they commanded by the name רצים, satellites, is fully explained; the men having been previously more accurately described as those who were entering upon and being relieved from service on the Sabbath. In this way I have explained the matter in my apologet. Versuch ber die Chron. S. 362ff., but this explanation of it has neither been regarded nor confuted by Thenius and Bertheau. Even the mention of כּרי and רצים along with the captains and the whole people, in Kg2 11:19, is not inconsistent with it; for we may without difficulty suppose, as has been said in my commentary on that verse, that the royal body-guard, immediately after the slaughter of Athaliah, went over to the young king just crowned, in order that they, along with the remainder of the people who were assembled in the court, might lead him thence to the royal palace. There is only one statement in the two texts which can scarcely be reconciled with this conjecture, - namely, the mention of the רצים and of the people in the temple before Athaliah was slain (Ch2 23:12 and Kg2 11:13 Kings), since it follows from that that runners or satellites belonging to the body-guard were either posted, or had assembled with the others, in the court of the temple. To meet this statement, we must suppose that the centurions of the body-guard employed not merely the Levitic temple guard, but also some of the royal satellites, upon whose fidelity they could rely, to occupy the posts mentioned in Kg2 11:5-7 and Ch2 23:4, Ch2 23:5 ; so that the company under the command of the centurions who occupied the various posts in the temple consisted partly of Levitic temple guards, and partly of royal body-guards. But even on this view, the suspicion that the chronicler has mentioned the Levites instead of the body-guard is shown to be groundless and unjust, since the רצים also are mentioned in the Chronicle.
According to this exposition, the true relation between the account in the Chronicle and that in the book of Kings would seem to be something like this: Both accounts mention merely the main points of the proceedings, - the author of the book of Kings emphasizing the part played in the affair by the royal body-guard; the author of the Chronicle, on the other hand, emphasizing that played by the Levites: so that both accounts mutually supplement each other, and only when taken together give a full view of the circumstances. We have still to make the following remarks on the narrative of the Chronicle in detail. The statement (Kg2 11:5) that all those relived on the Sabbath were to keep guard of the house of Jahve, in reference to the king, in two divisions, is in Ch2 23:5, thus generalized: "all the people were in the courts of the house of Jahve." כּל־העם is all the people except the before-mentioned bodies of men with their captains, and comprehends not only the remainder of the people mentioned in Kg2 11:13 and Kg2 11:19, who came to the temple without any special invitation, but also the body of guards who were relieved from service on Sabbath. This is clear from Ch2 23:8 of the Chronicle, where we have the supplementary remark, that those departing on the Sabbath also, as well as those coming, did what Jehoiada commanded. In addition to this, in Ch2 23:6 this further command of Jehoiada is communicated: Let no one enter the house of Jahve (יהוה בּית is the temple building, i.e., the holy place and the most holy, as distinguished from the courts), save the priests, and they that minister of the Levites, i.e., of those Levites who perform the service, who are consecrated thereto; but all the people shall keep the watch of the Lord, i.e., keep what is to be observed in reference to Jahve, i.e., here, to keep without the limits appointed in the law to the people in drawing near to the sanctuaries. The whole verse, therefore, contains only an elucidation of the command that all the people were to remain in the courts, and not to press farther into the sanctuary.
2 Chronicles 23:7
"And the Levites shall compass the king round about, each with his weapons in his hand." The Levites are the bodies of guards mentioned in Ch2 23:4, Ch2 23:5. If we keep that in view, then the following words, "every one who cometh into the house shall be put to death," say the same as the words, "every one who cometh within the ranks" (Kg2 11:8). A contradiction arises only if we misinterpret הקּיפוּ, and understand it of the forming of a circle around the king; whereas הקּיפוּ, like הקּפתּם (Kings), is to be understood, according to the context, of the setting of the guards both at the temple gate and in the courts, so that whoever entered the court of the temple came within the ranks of the guards thus placed.
2 Chronicles 23:8
The account of the occupation of the temple thus arranged agrees with Kg2 11:9-11. Instead of המּאות שׂרי (Kings), in Ch2 23:8 are very fittingly named "the Levites (as in Ch2 23:5) and all Judah," viz., in its chiefs, since the high priest had assured himself of the support of the heads of the fathers'-houses of Israel (Ch2 23:2). Further, to the statement that those who were departing from the service also took part in the affair, it is added, "for Jehoiada had not dismissed the courses." המּחלקות are the divisions which, according to the arrangement made by David (1 Chron 24-26), had charge of the temple service at that time. To the captains Jehoiada gave the spears and shields which had been presented to the temple by David as offerings, because they had come into the temple without weapons; see on Kg2 11:10. ויּעמד, "and he caused the whole people to take position," is connected formally with ויּתּן, Ch2 23:9; while in Kg2 11:11, we have simply ויּעמדוּ.
2 Chronicles 23:11
The coronation of Joash, as in Kg2 11:12. The subject of ויּוציאוּ and ויּתּנוּ is those present, while in ויּוציא and ויּתּן (Kings), Jehoiada as leader of the whole is referred to. In the Chronicle, Jehoiada and his sons, i.e., the high priest with the priests assisting him, are expressly named as subject to ימליכוּ and ויּמשׁצהוּ, where in Kings also the plural is used; while, on the contrary, "the clapping of the hands" as a sign of joyful acclamation (Kings) is omitted, as being unimportant.
2 Chronicles 23:12
Slaughter of Athaliah, as in Kg2 11:13-16. In Ch2 23:13 of the Chronicle, the statement that the assembled people played on instruments is expanded by the addition, "and singing with instruments of song, and proclaiming aloud to praise," i.e., and praising. ויּוצא, Ch2 23:14, is an orthographical error for ויצו (Kings).
2 Chronicles 23:16
The renewal of the covenant, extirpation of Baal-worship, and the solemn entry of the king into his palace, as in Kg2 11:17-20, and already commented on in that place. The remark as to the renewal of the covenant is in Ch2 23:16 (Chron.) somewhat more brief than in Kg2 11:17; and בּינו, between himself, the same as between himself, the high priest, as representative of Jehovah. In Kg2 11:17, the matter is more clearly expressed. In Kg2 11:18., the statement, "the priest set overseers over the house of Jahve," is expanded by the addition of the words, "by means of the Levitic priests whom David had distributed for the house of Jahve to offer sacrifices;...and he placed doorkeepers at the doors of the house of Jahve," etc. The meaning is: Jehoiada again introduced the old arrangement of the public worship in the temple as David had settled it, it having either fallen into decay or wholly ceased under the rule of the idolatrous Athaliah. As to the remainder, see on Kg2 11:19 and Kg2 11:20.