King Ahaziah of Judah found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time when Jehu carried out his coup in the northern kingdom. Jehu killed Ahaziah just after killing King Joram (Jehoram) of Israel at Jezreel (2 Kings 9:1–29). Scripture does not tell us much about Ahaziah’s reign except that he continued the idolatry of his father, King Jehoram of Judah (not the same Jehoram of Judah; 2 Kings 8:25–27; see vv. 16–19; 2 Chron. 21). It is not surprising that Ahaziah was an idolater, that he walked in the ways of the house of King Ahab of Israel. After all, Ahaziah’s mother was the daughter of Ahab, a woman named Athaliah (2 Kings 8:18, 26). That, in turn, made King Jehoram of Israel, son of Ahab, Ahaziah’s uncle (2 Chron. 22:5). King Jehoshaphat, the father of King Joram (Jehoram) of Judah, made an ill-conceived marriage alliance with Ahab when he had his son marry Ahab’s daughter Athaliah, for it gave an opportunity to Jehoshaphat’s son Joram and his grandson Ahaziah, successive kings of Judah, to fall into idolatry.
Today’s passage shows the additional rotten fruit of Joram of Judah’s marriage to Athaliah. After the death of her son Ahaziah, Athaliah did not support the ascension of anyone else in the royal family of Judah but instead “destroyed all the royal family,” who were her relatives by marriage (2 Kings 11:1). However, some of this family escaped Athaliah’s purge. Jehosheba, daughter of King Joram of Judah and the sister of King Ahaziah, rescued Ahaziah’s infant son Joash, hiding him and his nurse in the temple complex (vv. 2–3). Jehosheba (whose name could also be spelled Jehoshabeath) was able to do this because she was the wife of Jehoiada the priest (2 Chron. 22:11) and would have had living quarters in the outer precincts of Solomon’s temple. Joash’s quick-thinking aunt saved him from his murderous grandmother, and thus the messianic line was preserved. Of course, the invisible hand of God’s providence was behind all of this, preserving David’s royal line but doing so via the ordinary means of a loving aunt.
Joash was hidden away for six years. Then, the faithful priest Jehoiada, Joash’s uncle, anointed him king. He was the rightful heir to the throne, not the wicked queen mother Athaliah who ruled until Joash was anointed. Right after Joash’s anointing, Jehoiada had Athaliah executed and the land of Judah cleansed of Baal worship. A day of reformation had arrived (2 Kings 11:4–20).