Against stupidity the very gods themselves contend in vain. — Friedrich Schiller

Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber




Joash King of Judah

The new king, Joash, was only seven years old, so the high priest ruled in his stead, and under his wise management, "all the people of the land rejoiced." It now seemed that with two such kings as Joash and Jehu, the kingdoms of Judah and Israel must long prosper; but, as we shall see, their happiness soon came to an end.

Jehu was the first to relax his efforts to reform his people, and when he too finally sank into idolatry, he was made to suffer for his sins by the King of Syria, who invaded his realm. When Jehu died, he was succeeded by his son Jehoahaz. This king also sinned, and for this reason he was forced to fight against Syria throughout his reign of seventeen years.

During this time, the kingdom of Judah prospered under the rule of Joash. Advised by the high priest, this king not only destroyed all the idols, but he undertook to repair the temple, and to make new vessels for it to replace those which Athaliah had taken for the service of Baal. All the people were asked to give money for this purpose, and, so that none should know how much each man gave, the king made the first money chest, which was placed at the gate of the temple. There was a slit in the cover of this box, which was opened every day, when the money was counted and given over to the man who had charge of the repairs.

Joash reigned forty years, and as long as he kept the religion of his fathers, the kingdom prospered; but when he began to worship idols, trouble came. Zechariah, his foster brother, who was now high priest, once scolded Joash for worshiping idols. This reproof made the king so angry that he had the priest stoned to death, although he had once loved him dearly.

In punishment for this crime, the Lord now allowed the King of Syria to come into Jerusalem, and carry away the treasures of the palace and temple. The enemy caused much suffering to the people of Judah, who were angry at Joash for bringing them such misfortune. Some of them even forgot that he was their king, and allowed his own servants to murder him after the Syrians were gone.

Joash was succeeded by his son Amaziah, who, on the whole, was a just king. He punished the men who had murdered his father, but spared their families. This was a very unusual act of mercy at that time; for generally when a man did wrong his family suffered too.

When about to make war against the Edomites, Amaziah hired some Israelite soldiers, so as to make his army larger. But a prophet warned him not to keep them; so he sent these men away, and, with only his own troops, defeated the enemy and took their capital.

But although Amaziah had obeyed the prophet once, he soon disobeyed him by offering up a sacrifice to the principal idol of the Edomites. Because he did this, he had much trouble, and finally fell into the hands of the King of Israel, who was named Joash, like Amaziah’s father.

Joash of Israel not only took Amaziah prisoner, but marched into Jerusalem through a breach in the wall. Then, when he had taken all the treasures from the temple and palace, he allowed Amaziah to continue reigning, which he did for the next fifteen years. At the end of that time, his people had learned to hate him so greatly that they killed him after he had fled in terror from his capital.

Meanwhile, after the death of Jehu, the kingdom of Israel had been governed by Jehoahaz and the Joash who took Jerusalem, as we have just seen. Hearing that Elisha was very ill, this king once went to visit him. When he saw that the prophet was about to die, he began to weep bitterly; but Elisha paid no attention to his tears, and told him to take his bow and arrows.

Laying his dying hand upon Joash’s hand, Elisha bade him shoot an arrow out of the window. Then, after the king had struck the ground three times with an arrow, the prophet told him that he would win as many victories over the Syrians. This prophecy came true, and it was only after he had won several cities that Joash died, and his son Jeroboam II. began to reign over the ten tribes.

This Jeroboam was the thirteenth king of Israel, and during his long reign of forty-one years, his people were very happy. He won for them all the land east of the Jordan which was in the hands of the Syrians, and even went to attack the great city Damascus.