Read the Passage (NRSV)    Find more resources related to this passage  Print

2 Kings 11:1-20 – “King” Athaliah


Athaliah, the only female to sit on the throne of either Israel or Judah, attempts to bring the Davidic line to an end.


When Jehu also killed Ahaziah of Judah in his purge of the north, Athaliah, Ahaziah's mother and the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, seized power and became the only female to sit upon the throne of either Israel or Judah. Like Jehu in the north she ruthlessly had all the members of the royal family executed. She is frequently accused of Baal worship, even attempting to introduce the worship of Baal into the Jerusalem cult, though there is no basis for this judgment in Kings (but see 2 Chronicles 22:3-4, which intimates that Ahaziah's "evil" [Baal worship] came from his mother). The editors do not recognize her "kingship" and omit her from the structural matrix resulting from the synchronized regnal formulas of the kings of Judah and Israel. Her "reign" was considered illegitimate because she was not of Davidic descent, not because she was female.

Her actions would have eliminated the line of David, had Joash, a very young son of Ahaziah, not been secreted away by Jehosheba, his aunt. When the child was seven, Jehoiada the priest enlisted the temple guard to overthrow Athaliah and preserve Davidic rule. His dramatic coup begins by informing the captains of the situation and whereabouts of Joash (v. 4). Next he lays out a complicated, if not confusing, plan to protect the boy (vv. 5-9). Finally, Jehoiada himself officially carries out the coronation of the new king, complete with a "covenant" (evidently a royal symbol emblematic of kingship) and the acclamation, "Long live the king!" (vv.10-12). The chapter ends with Athaliah's execution outside the temple and an agreement between the "people of the land" (influential landowners), the young king, and God, stating "that they should be the LORD's people" (v. 17). This is unusual and not found in other descriptions of royal accession.

2 Kings 11:1-20

Athaliah Reigns over Judah

11Now when Athaliah, Ahaziah’s mother, saw that her son was dead, she set about to destroy all the royal family. 2But Jehosheba, King Joram’s daughter, Ahaziah’s sister, took Joash son of Ahaziah, and stole him away from among the king’s children who were about to be killed; she put* him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus she* hid him from Athaliah, so that he was not killed; 3he remained with her for six years, hidden in the house of the Lord, while Athaliah reigned over the land.

Jehoiada Anoints the Child Joash

But in the seventh year Jehoiada summoned the captains of the Carites and of the guards and had them come to him in the house of the Lord. He made a covenant with them and put them under oath in the house of the Lord; then he showed them the king’s son. 5He commanded them, ‘This is what you are to do: one-third of you, those who go off duty on the sabbath and guard the king’s house 6(another third being at the gate Sur and a third at the gate behind the guards), shall guard the palace; 7and your two divisions that come on duty in force on the sabbath and guard the house of the Lord * 8shall surround the king, each with weapons in hand; and whoever approaches the ranks is to be killed. Be with the king in his comings and goings.’

The captains did according to all that the priest Jehoiada commanded; each brought his men who were to go off duty on the sabbath, with those who were to come on duty on the sabbath, and came to the priest Jehoiada. 10The priest delivered to the captains the spears and shields that had been King David’s, which were in the house of the Lord; 11the guards stood, every man with his weapons in his hand, from the south side of the house to the north side of the house, around the altar and the house, to guard the king on every side. 12Then he brought out the king’s son, put the crown on him, and gave him the covenant;* they proclaimed him king, and anointed him; they clapped their hands and shouted, ‘Long live the king!’

Death of Athaliah

13 When Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people, she went into the house of the Lord to the people; 14when she looked, there was the king standing by the pillar, according to custom, with the captains and the trumpeters beside the king, and all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets. Athaliah tore her clothes and cried, ‘Treason! Treason!’ 15Then the priest Jehoiada commanded the captains who were set over the army, ‘Bring her out between the ranks, and kill with the sword anyone who follows her.’ For the priest said, ‘Let her not be killed in the house of the Lord.’ 16So they laid hands on her; she went through the horses’ entrance to the king’s house, and there she was put to death.

17 Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and people, that they should be the Lord’s people; also between the king and the people. 18Then all the people of the land went to the house of Baal, and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they killed Mattan, the priest of Baal, before the altars. The priest posted guards over the house of the Lord. 19He took the captains, the Carites, the guards, and all the people of the land; then they brought the king down from the house of the Lord, marching through the gate of the guards to the king’s house. He took his seat on the throne of the kings. 20So all the people of the land rejoiced; and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been killed with the sword at the king’s house.

Related Passages