Updated: Oct 31, 2019
Athaliah wasn't your run of the mill average Grandma spoiling and doting on her grandchildren. She was evil!
Queen Athaliah was one of the twenty rulers of Judah from about 930 BC to 586 BC. There was Rehoboam (bad), Abijah (bad), Asa (good for most of his reign, but ended badly as recorded in 2 Chronicles 16), Jehoshaphat (good), Jehoram (bad), Ahaziah (bad), and then Queen Athaliah who was bad. ...
You can read about the kings and queen in 1 and 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. They are pretty fascinating to read. As you are reading these books know that it jumps between the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah and can get very confusing. In one chapter it will tell you about the king of Israel and in the next chapter or even the same chapter it will tell you about the king of Judah who ruled at the same time period. Best to have a chart handy to see what kingdom the person they are talking about ruled.
Athaliah was the mother of King Ahaziah. So let's back up and look at him. Go to 2 Kings 8:24-29.
Note "Israel" is the Northern Kingdom and "Judah" is the Southern Kingdom at this point in history.
Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he became king and he only reigned for one year in Jerusalem. But note that it mentions Athaliah in verse 26. It tells us she is the granddaughter of Omri, king of Israel. Why is this important? Because all of the kings of Israel were bad kings. It gives us a glimpse of how she was raised.
[What can be confusing is there are two kings named Ahaziah - one who ruled Israel and one who ruled Judah. The king Ahaziah of Israel dies in 2 Kings 1:17. I'm talking here about Ahaziah, king of Judah, who ruled a little later.]
Ahaziah did evil in the sight of the LORD. Ahaziah gets assassinated by Jehu. See 2 Kings 9:27.
Now we come to Athaliah in 2 Kings 11 and 2 Chronicles 22.
Background of Athaliah: She was the granddaughter of Omri and the daughter of Ahab, kings of Israel. Both really evil kings. You may remember that Ahab was married to Jezebel. While we know Ahab was her father, we aren't sure that Jezebel was her mother. Queen Jezebel of Israel is considered by many to be the most evil woman in the Bible. And if she wasn't Athaliah's mother, Athaliah was raised with her around and still had to be influenced by her.
Athaliah was married to Jehoram who was a very bad king of Judah. Their marriage was a union of political peace between Israel and Judah. Athaliah was from Israel and she married the king of Judah. Jehoram was a bad dude as he had his six brothers killed so he could become king. He did evil in the sight of the LORD. When Jehoram dies, the son of Jehoram and Athaliah, Ahaziah, becomes the king of Judah.
Don't miss the point I'm trying to make by giving you all this background! These were some really bad people. Evil people. Generation after generation of pond-scummers.
When Athaliah's son, King Ahaziah, is killed she rises and up and has all of the royal offspring killed! She has her grand babies killed. Oh how horrible! But she misses one of them. Ahaziah's sister hides Joash (Jehoash) in a bedroom. Then takes him to the house of the LORD.
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Queen Athaliah seized the throne by having everyone killed who might have been able to claim it. Not a nice woman.
She introduced the worship of Baal. The people of Judah were supposed to be God's people. They were supposed to be the people who only worshipped Him and to be an example to the world. They were supposed to influence the world and boy did they. But sadly not in a good way.
Evil Queen Athaliah ruled for six years while her grandson was hidden away in the temple.
Finally Jehoiada the priest anointed Joash as king of Judah. Queen Athaliah hears about it and goes to the temple. She cries, "Treason! Treason!" The priest orders Queen Athaliah be put to death with the sword. And they kill her.
The priest Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD and the king and the people that they would be the LORD'S people. (2 Kings 11:17) Yeah!
The people of the land rejoiced and Jerusalem was quiet.
Joash was just seven years old when he became king of Judah. He reigned for forty years.
Joash (Jehoash) did right in the sight of the LORD all his days in which Jehoiada the priest instructed him. (2 Kings 12:2)
But after Jehoiada dies, Joash listens to others and abandons the house of the LORD, the God of their fathers. He served the Asherim and the idols. God's wrath is provoked. God sends them prophets to warn them, but Joash and the people would not listen. Not only won't they listen, they stone and kill Jehoiada's son in the court of the temple. It doesn't end well for Joash as recorded in 2 Chronicles 24. God versus Joash - of course God wins.
Yep, Queen Athaliah was a really bad grandma and queen. She got hers. And don't you think a grandmother who has her grandchildren slaughtered ought to get it?
Boring? Nope. Read it.
The bigger picture: I am always amazed by people talking about the wrath of God and saying things like, "How could a loving God...?" Over and over it is recorded the evil things the people of Judah did. God would send them prophet after prophet who would tell them to turn from their evil ways. Over and over they would ignore the warnings. God is slow to anger. Really, He is! God warns. But when He becomes angry, His wrath is terrifying. God's people sinned greatly. They turned from Him and chose to worship idols. They showed no love or compassion on others. They were repeatedly warned. On a rare occasion they would turn back to God briefly only to slide back into their evil ways. Their fate is on their heads because of their choices. I just don't know how more loving and fair God could have been to them before He judged them. I view God's wrath as something they deserved.
And in the even bigger picture, zooming out more: I deserve God's wrath because of the sins I commit. But because I believe Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for my sin and I believe in Him as my Savior and Lord, I am promised that I am delivered from the wrath to come. My gratitude brings me to my knees.
And don't miss the biggest picture: God is slow to anger and mighty to save. But we need to accept His free gift. The choice is ours.