Melakhim Bet Chapter 11
When Ataliah, mother of Ahazia the King of Yehuda, discovers that her son is dead, she promptly acts to seize power for herself. She has the entire royal line exterminated, ostensibly including many of her own children and grandchildren, and rules as queen. However, one son of Ahaziah, named Yehoash, is saved by his aunt and hidden in the Holy Temple where he is raised and educated by the Kohanim.
When Yehoash nears the age of seven, Yehoyada the Kohen summons key officers and soldiers of the royal guard (assumedly loyal to the House of David and not to Ataliah) and reveals his plan to overthrow Queen Ataliah and replace her with King Yehoash, who should rightfully inherit the throne. A vow of allegiance is sworn to him and security detail is assigned to protect him while the dramatic events unfold. Yehoyada provides the captains of the guard and their troops with weapons and shields that originally belonged to King David and had been stored in the Temple.
A coronation is held inside the Bet HaMiqdash and the sounds of celebration come to Ataliah’s attention. She arrives at the Temple, witnesses the coronation ceremony underway, and correctly concludes that a revolution has been declared and her life is in danger. Ataliah is killed, although care is taken to ensure that she is not executed on Temple grounds.
Yehoyada gathers the people together, has them recommit themselves to their historic calling as the nation of Hashem, and secures their official acceptance of Yehoash as the new king. Then his men enter the House of Baal, destroy it and smash its graven images. The chief priest of the Baal, Matan, is also executed. Officers are appointed to oversee the Bet Hamiqdash, which had been severely neglected. Yehoash moves from the Temple to the royal palace, assumes leadership of the nation and presides over a period of relative peace and tranquility in Jerusalem.
This chapter presents to us a fascinating contrast between the two “houses” built by Shelomo – the house of the king and the House of Hashem. The initial vision of the relationship between these two edifices, as we learned in the beginning of the Book of Melakhim, was for the Bet Hamiqdash to be the focal point of the kingdom and for the monarchy to play a supporting role, promoting the values of Torah and knowledge of Hashem.
Over time, the two institutions grew apart, with the Temple occupying its own “religious” sphere and the king primarily focusing on the practical, political affairs of the kingdom. This explains why no effort was made to put a stop to the unauthorized “bamot” or individual altars – they flourished out of neglect, because the king did not embrace his role as “steward” of the Bet Hamiqdash, responsible for safeguarding its exclusivity as the place of divine worship.
The bifurcation of the two great houses reaches its pinnacle in our chapter, where they are not only separate from one another but divided against each other; finally, the personnel of the Bet Hamiqdash, representing the spirit of the Jewish people and devotion to the Torah, overthrow the wicked, pagan regime of Ataliah (which, itself, evolved out of the evil regime that preceded it) and replace her with a monarch that they themselves have raised, imbuing him with a proper perspective and providing him with a thorough religious education.
The hope, of course, was that this bold political move would save the nation from oblivion and reestablish the Kingdom of Yehuda and the Bet Hamiqdash on a firm foundation of Torah and holiness. Symbolic overtones of this dream are found in the fact that Yehoyada armed the guards and soldiers with the equipment of King David himself, the man who best embodied the proper relationship between secular and sacred, political and prophetic, human power and service of Hashem.
The fact that the revolt is followed immediately by the elimination of idolatry from the land testifies to the religious motives that inspired this rebellion and determined its aim. It is also noteworthy that Yehoyada insisted on receiving the assent and support of the community before tearing down the House of the Baal; the religious revival had to be a reflection of a change in the orientation, attitudes and direction of the nation, not just a change in the structure of leadership.