Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
4 Kings (2 Kings) 11:1
The Government of Athaliah (cf. Ch2 22:10-12). After the death of Ahaziah of Judah, his mother Athaliah, a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel (see at Kg2 8:18 and Kg2 8:26), seized upon the government, by putting to death all the king's descendants with the exception of Joash, a son of Ahaziah of only a year old, who had been secretly carried off from the midst of the royal children, who were put to death, by Jehosheba, his father's sister, the wife of the high priest Jehoiada, and was first of all hidden with his nurse in the bed-chamber, and afterwards kept concealed from Athaliah for six years in the high priest's house. The ו before ראתה is no doubt original, the subject, Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah, being placed at the head absolutely, and a circumstantial clause introduced with וראתה: "Athaliah, when she saw that, etc., rose up." המּמלכה כּל־זרע, all the royal seed, i.e., all the sons and relations of Ahaziah, who could put in any claim to succeed to the throne. At the same time there were hardly any other direct descendants of the royal family in existence beside the sons of Ahaziah, since the elder brothers of Ahaziah had been carried away by the Arabs and put to death, and the rest of the closer blood-relations of the male sex had been slain by Jehu (see at Kg2 10:13). - Jehosheba (יהושׁבע, in the Chronicles יהושׁבעת), the wife of the high priest Jehoiada (Ch2 22:11), was a daughter of king Joram and a sister of Ahaziah, but she was most likely not a daughter of Athaliah, as this worshipper of Baal would hardly have allowed her own daughter to marry the high priest, but had been born to Joram by a wife of the second rank. ממותים (Chethb), generally a substantive, mortes (Jer 16:4; Eze 28:8), here an adjective: slain or set apart for death. The Keri מוּמתים is the participle Hophal, as in Ch2 22:11. הם בּחדר is to be taken in connection with תּגנב: she stole him (took him away secretly) from the rest of the king's sons, who were about to be put to death, into the chamber of the beds, i.e., not the children's bed-room, but a room in the palace where the beds (mattresses and counterpanes) were kept, for which in the East there is a special room that is not used as a dwelling-room (see Chardin in Harm. Beobb. iii. p. 357). This was the place in which at first it was easiest to conceal the child and its nurse. ויּסתּרוּ, "they (Jehosheba and the nurse) concealed him," is not to be altered into ותּסתּירהוּ after the Chronicles, as Thenius maintains. The masculine is used in the place of the feminine, as is frequently the case. Afterwards he was concealed with her (with Jehosheba) in the house of Jehovah, i.e., in the home of the high-priest in one of the buildings of the court of the temple.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 11:4
Dethronement of Athaliah and Coronation of Joash (compare the account in 2 Chron 23, which is more elaborate in several points).
(Note: In both accounts we have only short extracts preserved from a common and more complete original, the extracts having been made quite independently of one another and upon different plans. Hence the apparent discrepancies, which have arisen partly from the incompleteness of the two abridged accounts, and partly from the different points of view from which the extracts were made, but which contain no irreconcilable contradictions. The assertion of De Wette, which has been repeated by Thenius and Bertheau, that the chronicler distorted the true state of the case to favour the Levites, rests upon a misinterpretation of our account, based upon arbitrary assumptions, as I have already shown in my apologetischer Versuch ber die Chronik (p. 361ff.).)
In the seventh year of Athaliah's reign, Jehoiada sent for the captains of the king's body-guard to come to him into the temple, and concluded a covenant with them, making them swear and showing them the king's son, namely, to dethrone the tyrant Athaliah and set the king's son upon the throne. המּאיות שׂרי, centuriones, military commanders of the executioners and runners, i.e., of the royal body-guard. The Chethb מאיות may be explained from the fact that מאה is abridged from מאיה (vid., Ewald, 267, d.). On ורצים כּרי = והפּלתי הכּרתי (Kg1 1:38) see the Comm. on Sa2 8:18; and on ל as a periphrasis of the genitive, see Ewald, 292, a. In Ch2 23:1-3 the chronicler not only gives the names of these captains, but relates still more minutely that they went about in the land and summoned the Levites and heads of families in Israel to Jerusalem, probably under the pretext of a festal celebration; whereupon Jehoiada concluded a covenant with the persons assembled, to ensure their assistance in the execution of his plan.
Jehoiada then communicated to those initiated into the plan the necessary instructions for carrying it out, assigning them the places which they were to occupy. "The third part of you that come on the Sabbath (i.e., mount guard) shall keep the guard of the king's house (ושׁמרי is a corruption of ושׁמרוּ), and the third part shall be at the gate Sur, and the third part at the gate behind the runners, and (ye) shall keep guard over the house for defence; and the two parts of you, (namely) all who depart on the Sabbath, shall keep the guard of the house of Jehovah for the king; and ye shall surround the king round about, every one with his weapons in his hand; and whoever presses into the ranks shall be slain, and shall be with the king when he goes out and in," i.e., in all his steps. The words השּׁבּת בּאי השּׁבּ and השּׁבּת יצאי, "those coming and those going out on the Sabbath," denote the divisions of the watch, those who performed duty on the Sabbath and those who were relieved on the Sabbath; not the military guard at the palace however, but the temple-guard, which consisted of Levites. For David had divided the priests and Levites into classes, every one of which had to perform service for a week and was relieved on the Sabbath: compare 1 Chron 23-26 with Josephus (Ant. vii. 14, 7), who expressly says that every one of the twenty-four classes of priests had to attend to the worship of God "for eight days, from Sabbath to Sabbath," also with Luk 1:5. On the other hand, we do not know that there was any similar division and obligation to serve in connection with the royal body-guard or with the army. The current opinion, that by those who come on the Sabbath and those who go out on the Sabbath we are to understand the king's halberdiers or the guard of the palace, is therefore proved to be unfounded and untenable. And if there could be any doubt on the matter, it would be removed by Kg2 11:7 and Kg2 11:10. According to Kg2 11:7, two parts of those who went away (were relieved) on the Sabbath were to undertake the guarding of the house of Jehovah about the king, i.e., to keep guard over that room in the temple where the king then was. Could Jehoiada have used the royal body-guard, that was being relieved from guarding the palace, for such a purpose as this? Who can imagine that this is a credible thing? According to Kg2 11:10, Jehoiada gave to the captains over a hundred the weapons of king David, which were in the house of Jehovah. Did the palace-guard then return without weapons? In Ch2 23:4, "those coming on the Sabbath" are correctly described as the priests and Levites coming on the Sabbath, i.e., the priests and Levites who entered upon their week's duty at the temple on the Sabbath. According to this explanation of the words, which is the only one that can be grammatically sustained, the facts were as follows: "When Jehoiada had initiated the captains of the royal halberdiers, and with their help the heads of families of the people generally, into his plan of raising the youthful Joash to the throne and dethroning Athaliah, he determined to carry out the affair chiefly with the help of the priests and Levites who entered upon their duty in the temple on the Sabbath, and of those who left or were relived at the same time, and entrusted the command over these men to the captains of the royal halberdiers, that they might occupy the approaches to the temple with the priests and Levites under their command, so as to prevent the approach of any military from the king's palace and protect the youthful king. These captains had come to the temple without weapons, to avoid attracting attention. Jehoiada therefore gave them the weapons of king David that were kept in the temple.
With regard to the distribution of the different posts, the fact that two-thirds are spoken of first of all in Kg2 11:5, Kg2 11:6, and then two parts in Kg2 11:7, occasions no difficulty. For the two-thirds mentioned in Kg2 11:5, Kg2 11:6 were those who came on the Sabbath, whereas the "two divisions" (היּדות שׁתּי) referred to in Kg2 11:7 were all who went away on the Sabbath. Consequently the priests and Levites, who came on the Sabbath and entered upon the week's service, were divided into three sections; and those who should have been relieved, but were detained, into two. Probably the number of those who came this time to perform service at the temple was much larger than usual, as the priests were initiated into Jehoiada's secret; so that it was possible to make three divisions of those who arrived, whereas those who were about to depart could only be formed into two. The three divisions of those who were entering upon duty are also distinctly mentioned in the Chronicles; whereas, instead of the two divisions of those who were relieved, "all the people" are spoken of. The description of the different posts which were assigned to these several companies causes some difficulty. In general, so much is clearly indicated in Kg2 11:7 and Kg2 11:8, that the two divisions of those who were relieved on the Sabbath were to keep guard over the young king in the house of Jehovah, and therefore to remain in the inner spaces of the temple-court for his protection; whereas the three divisions of those who were entering upon duty were charged with the occupation of the external approaches to the temple. One-third was to "keep watch over the king's house," i.e., to observe whatever had to be observed in relation to the king's palace; not to occupy the king's palace, or to keep guard in the citadel at the palace gate (Thenius), but to keep watch towards the royal palace, i.e., to post themselves so that no one could force a way into the temple, with which the indefinite המּלך בּבית in the Chronicles harmonizes, if we only translate it "against (at) the king's house." The idea that the palace was guarded is precluded not only by Kg2 11:13, according to which Athaliah came out of the palace to the people to the house of Jehovah, which she would not have been able to do if the palace had been guarded, but also by the circumstance that, according to Kg2 11:19, the chief men were in the temple with the whole of the (assembled) people, and did not go out of the house of Jehovah into the king's house till after the anointing of Joash and the death of Athaliah. The other third was to station itself at the gate Sur (סוּר), or, according to the Chronicles, Yesod (יסוד), foundation-gate. There is no doubt as to the identity of the gate Sur and the gate Yesod; only we cannot decide whether one of these names has simply sprung from a copyist's error, or whether the gate had two different names. The name יסוד שׁער, foundation-gate, suggests a gate in the outer court of the temple, at the hollow of either the Tyropoeon or the Kedron; for the context precludes our thinking of a palace gate. The third division was to be posted "at the gate behind the runners;" or, as it is stated in Kg2 11:19, "at the gate of the runners." It is very evident from Kg2 11:19 that this gate led from the temple-court to the royal palace upon Zion, and was therefore on the western side of the court of the temple. This also follows from Kg2 11:4 of the Chronicles, according to which this division was to act as "doorkeepers of the thresholds" (הסּפּים לשׁערי), i.e., to keep guard at the gate of the thresholds. For we may safely infer, from a comparison with Ch1 9:19, that הסּפּים were the thresholds of the ascent to the temple. The last clause, "and shall keep guard over the house for defence," refers to all three divisions, and serves to define with greater precision the object for which they were stationed there. מסּח is not a proper name (lxx, Luther, and others), but an appellative in the sense of defence or resistance, from נסח, depellere. The meaning is, that they were to guard the house, to keep off the people, and not to let any of the party of Athaliah force a way into the temple. - In Kg2 11:7, הש יצאי כּל is an explanatory apposition to בּכם ot היּדות וּשׁתּי, "and the two parts in (of) you," namely, all who go out on the Sabbath, i.e., are relieved from duty. Their task, to observe the watch of the house of Jehovah with regard to the king, is more precisely defined in Kg2 11:8 as signifying, that they were to surround the king with weapons in their hands, and slay every one who attempted to force a way into their ranks. וּבבאו בּצאתו, i.e., in all his undertakings, or in all his steps; ובוא צאת being applied to the actions and pursuits of a man, as in Deu 28:6; Deu 31:2, etc. (see the Comm. on Num 27:17). Thenius has explained this incorrectly: "in his going out of the temple and entering into the palace."
The execution of these plans. The high priest gave the captains "the spears and shields (שׁלטים: see at Sa2 8:7) which (belonged) to king David, that were in the house of Jehovah," i.e., the weapons which David had presented to the sanctuary as dedicatory offerings. Instead of החנית we ought probably to read החניתת (cf. Mic 4:3; Isa 2:4), after the החניתים of the Chronicles, since the collective force of הנית is very improbable in prose, and a ת might easily drop out through a copyist's error. Jehoiada gave the captains weapons from the temple, because, as has been already observed, they had come unarmed, and not, as Thenius imagines, to provide them with old and sacred weapons instead of their ordinary ones. In Kg2 11:11 the position of all the divisions is given in a comprehensive manner, for the purpose of appending the further course of the affair, namely, the coronation of the king. "Thus the halberdiers stood, every one with his weapons in his hand, from the right wing of the house to the left wing, towards the altar (of burnt-offering) and the (temple-) house, round about the king," i.e., to cover the king on all sides. For it is evident that we are not to understand סביב על־המּלך as signifying the encircling of the king, from the statement in Kg2 11:12, according to which Jehoiada did not bring out the king's son till after the men had taken up their positions. The use of הרצים, to signify the captains with the armed priests and Levites put under their command for this purpose, is an uncommon one, but it may be explained from the fact that רצים had retained the general meaning of royal halberdiers; and the priests and Levites under the command of the captains of the royal body-guard by this very act discharged the duty of the royal body-guard itself. The chronicler has used the indefinite expression כּל-haa`aam, the whole of the people assembled in the temple-court.
After the approaches to the temple had all been occupied in this manner, Jehoiada brought out the king's son from his home in the temple; or, he brought him forth, set the crown upon him, and handed him the testimony, i.e., the book of the law, as the rule of his life and action as king, according to the precept in Deu 17:18-19. ואת־העדוּת is connected with את־הנּזר עליו יתּן, because עליו יתּן has the general meaning "delivered to him, handed him," and does not specially affirm the putting on of the crown. ימליכוּ, they made him king. The subject is the persons present, through, as a matter of course, the anointing was performed by Jehoiada and the priests, as the Chronicles expressly affirm. Clapping the hands was a sign of joyful acclamation, like the cry, "Long live the king" (cf. Kg1 1:39).
Death of Athaliah. - Kg2 11:13, Kg2 11:14. As soon as Athaliah heard the loud rejoicing of the people, she came to the people into the temple, and when she saw the youthful king in his standing-place surrounded by the princes, the trumpeters, and the whole of the people, rejoicing and blowing the trumpets, she rent her clothes with horror, and cried out, Conspiracy, conspiracy! העם הרצין does not mean the people running together, but the original reading in the text was probably והעם הרצין, the people and the halberdiers, and the Vav dropped out through an oversight of the copyist. By הרצין we are to understand the captains of the halberdiers with the armed Levites, as in Kg2 11:11; and העם is the people who had assembled besides (cf. Kg2 11:19). In the Chronicles המּלך והמהללים הרצים is in apposition to העם: the noise of the people, the halberdiers, and those who praised the king. The עמּוּד, upon which the king stood, was not a pillar, but an elevated standing-place (suggestus) for the king at the eastern gate of the inner court (בּמּבוא, Ch2 23:13 compared with Eze 46:2), when he visited the temple on festive occasions (cf. Kg2 23:3), and it was most probably identical with the brazen scaffold (כּיּור) mentioned in Ch2 6:13, which would serve to explain כּמּשׁפּט, "according to the right" (Angl. V. "as the manner was"). השּׂרים are not merely the captains mentioned in Kg2 11:4, Kg2 11:9, and Kg2 11:10, but these together with the rest of the assembled heads of the nation (האבות ראשׁי, Ch2 13:2). החצצרות, the trumpets, the trumpeters. The reference is to the Levitical musicians mentioned in Ch1 13:8; Ch1 15:24, etc.; for they are distinguished from וגו כּל־העם, "all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing the trumpets," i.e., not all the military men of the land who were present in Jerusalem (Thenius), but the mass of the people present in the temple (Bertheau).
Jehoiada then commanded the captains החיל פּקדי, those placed over the army, i.e., the armed men of the Levites, to lead out Athaliah between the ranks, and to slay every one who followed her, i.e., who took her part (המת, inf. abs. instead of imperative); for, as is added supplementarily in explanation of this command, the priest had (previously) said: "Let her not be slain in the house of Jehovah." The temple was not to be defiled with the blood of the usurper and murderess.
Thus they made way for her on both sides, or, according to the correct explanation given by the Chaldee, ידים להּ ישׂימוּ, they formed lines (Spalier, fences) and escorted her back, and she came by the way of the horses' entrance into the palace, and was there put to death. הסּוּסים מבוא is explained in the Chronicles by הסּוּסים שׁער מבוא, entrance of the horse-gate. The entrance for the horses, i.e., the way which led to the royal mews, is not to be identified with the horse-gate mentioned in Neh 3:28; for this was a gate in the city wall, whereas the road from the temple to the royal mews, which were no doubt near the palace, was inside the wall.
Renewal of the covenant, extermination of the worship of Baal, and entrance of the king into the palace. - Kg2 11:17. After Jehoash was crowned and Athaliah put to death, Jehoiada concluded the covenant (1) between Jehovah on the one hand and the king and people on the other, and (2) between the king and the people. The former was simply a renewal of the covenant which the Lord had made with Israel through Moses (Ex 24), whereby the king and the people bound themselves ליהוה לעם להיות, i.e., to live as the people of the Lord, or to keep His law (cf. Deu 4:20; Deu 27:9-10), and was based upon the "testimony" handed to the king. This covenant naturally led to the covenant between the king and the people, whereby the king bound himself to rule his people according to the law of the Lord, and the people vowed that they would be obedient and subject to the king as the ruler appointed by the Lord (cf. Sa2 5:3). The renewal of the covenant with the Lord was necessary, because under the former kings the people had fallen away from the Lord and served Baal. The immediate consequence of the renewal of the covenant, therefore, was the extermination of the worship of Baal, which is mentioned at once in Kg2 11:18, although its proper place in order of time is after Kg2 11:18. All the people (הארץ כּל־עם, as in Kg2 11:14) went to the temple of Baal, threw down his altars, broke his images (the columns of Baal and Astarte) rightly, i.e., completely (היטב as in Deu 9:21), and slew the priest Mattan, probably the chief priest of Baal, before his altars. That the temple of Baal stood within the limits of the sanctuary, i.e., of the temple of Jehovah (Thenius), cannot be shown to be probable either from Ch2 24:7 or from the last clause of this verse. (For Ch2 24:7 see the fuller remarks on Kg2 12:5.) The words "and the priest set overseers over the house of Jehovah" do not affirm that Jehoiada created the office of overseer over the temple for the purpose of guarding against a fresh desecration of the temple by idolatry (Thenius), but simply that he appointed overseers over the temple, namely, priests and Levites entrusted with the duty of watching over the performance of worship according to the precepts of the law, as is more minutely described in Kg2 11:18, Kg2 11:19.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 11:19
And he took the captains, and they brought the king down out of the house of Jehovah, etc. The word יקּח is not to be pressed, but simply affirms that Jehoiada entrusted the persons named with the duty of conducting the king into his palace. Beside the captains over a hundred (see at Kg2 11:4) there are mentioned והרצים הכּרי, i.e., the royal halberdiers (the body-guard), who had passed over to the new king immediately after the fall of Athaliah and now followed their captains, and הארץ כּל־עם, all the rest of the people assembled. Instead of the halberdiers there are mentioned in the Chronicles בּעם המּושׁלים האדּירים, the nobles and lords in the nation-a completion implied in the facts themselves, since Jehoiada had drawn the heads of the nation into his plan, and on the other hand the express allusion to the body-guard might be omitted as of inferior importance. We cannot infer from ירידוּ that the bridge between Moriah and Zion was not yet in existence, as Thenius supposes, but simply that the bridge was lower than the temple-courts. Instead of הרצים שׁער, the gate of the runners (i.e., of the halberdiers), we find in the Chronicles העליון שׁער, the upper gate, which appears to have been a gate of the temple, according to Kg2 15:35 and Ch2 27:3. The statement that they came by the way of the runners' gate into the house of the king is not at variance with this, for it may be understood as meaning that it was by the halberdiers' gate of the temple that the entry into the palace was carried out. - In Kg2 11:20 this account is concluded with the general remark that all the people rejoiced, sc. at the coronation of Joash, and the city was quiet, when they slew Athaliah with the sword. This is the way, so far as the sense is concerned, in which the last two clauses are to be connected.