Ken Totton, Cambridge, England
2 Kings 8. 25-29; 9. 16ff.;
2 Chronicles 22. 1-9
Accession to the throne
Jehoshaphat’s ill-advised marriage alliance with the house of Omri brought bitter results, 2 Chr. 18. 1. Athaliah, the queen mother, became dominant in Judah, indirectly through her youngest son Ahaziah,1 and later directly as queen, 22. 10. Perhaps this is why the inhabitants of Jerusalem are mentioned by the chronicler. They helped secure the transfer of power realizing that Judah had been reduced to a very weak state, v. 1. Worse was to come.
Thus, in 841 BC, Ahaziah came to the throne at the age of twenty-two, 2 Kgs. 8. 26, and he reigned only one year. His name means ‘Jehovah sustains’, but a God-honouring name is no guarantee of right conduct. In fact, after the briefest of reigns the inspired summary is, ‘He also walked in the way of the house of Ahab and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as the house of Ahab had done’, v. 27 ESV. A dreadful evaluation indeed! How solemn the brevity of this king’s reign!
Whilst individuals are accountable to God for their own actions, Rom. 14. 12, we may note that the young king inherited an evil legacy from his father Jehoram, and, shockingly, was encouraged in wrongdoing by his infamous mother Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab, 2 Chr. 22. 3. Ominously, it is to the apostate northern kingdom that he looked for counsel. ‘Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals”’, 1 Cor. 15. 33 ESV. Predictably, he soon joined Joram, king of Israel, in an ill-fated campaign against Hazael, king of Syria, vv. 5, 6. God’s clarion call to separation is clear, Rev. 18. 4; if we consort with those under His judgement, we must expect to suffer their plagues.
Jehu, son of Nimshi, was the divinely-appointed executor of judgement to recompense the wickedness of Ahab and Jezebel. The sword of the bloodthirsty Jehu does not spare, and the hapless King Ahaziah is discovered in Samaria and slain.2 Whilst Jehu had no specific remit to kill the king of Judah, the fact was that Ahaziah was a son of Athaliah and had followed in the ways of Ahab. Nevertheless, the chronicler sees the sovereign hand of God in the manner of Ahaziah’s downfall. Apparently God intervened in judgement to prevent deeper apostasy, cp. 1 Cor. 11. 30. Thus, after a one-year reign the kingdom is reduced to complete impotence, 2 Chr. 22. 9.
Jehoshaphat’s misguided marriage alliance with the northern kingdom is a classic example of an unequal yoke. Scripture is crystal clear, ‘Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?’ 2 Cor. 6. 14. In the history of Ahaziah and Athaliah we see that it carried disastrous consequences for several generations. As believers we must exercise special care in choosing our close friends and companions.
Perhaps these narratives of the kings of Israel and Judah may seem remote from our present concerns. Yet the Lord addresses the church at Thyatira in terms highly reminiscent of the fate of Ahaziah, Rev. 2. 20-23. In that church there was one who corresponded to the Jezebel of the Old Testament – an influential woman who advocated accommodation with paganism and idolatry. Business life in Thyatira was dominated by powerful trade guilds and it is likely that she suggested that Christians could compromise their separation by association with these guilds. Their links to idol temples meant that temptations would inevitably arise at such venues.3 The same Lord who executed comprehensive retribution on the house of Ahab through Jehu4 threatens the same on ‘Jezebel’ and those Thyatirans who are ‘her children’. We are thus warned that compromise with modern forms of idolatry and immorality still incurs the condemnation of the Lord.
Notwithstanding Ahaziah’s wretched record as a king, as a grandson of Jehoshaphat he is treated with dignity in his death. Regardless of the performance of individuals entrusted with sacred functions, there is due respect attaching to the role they discharge. King Saul behaved despicably, yet David would not put forth his hand against the ‘the Lord’s anointed’. We, too, need to be God-fearing in our attitudes towards fellow-servants in assembly life.
- Also referred to as Jehoahaz, 2 Chr. 21. 17; 25. 23, a transposition of the component parts of his name. Ahaziah, king of Judah, is not to be confused with Ahaziah, the eighth king of Israel and son of Ahab and Jezebel, 1 Kgs. 22. 51 – 2 Kgs. 1. 18.
- ‘The final movements of Ahaziah are difficult to trace but may perhaps be reconstructed as follows: he fled south from Jezreel so as to hide in Samaria. He was brought to Jehu, who fatally wounded him near Ibleam (between Jezreel and Samaria); he fled by chariot northwest to Megiddo, where he died (2 Kgs. 9. 27); and his body was carried by Ahaziah’s servants to Jerusalem (9. 28), where they buried him’. Expositor’s Bible Commentary, pg. 508.
- For further helpful background see Colin J. Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia, pp. 108-121.
- 2 Kgs. 10. 7.