Thursday, July 10, 2008

Joash Rebuilds the Temple: 2 Kings 11-12

This post is part of a revolutionary Bible commentary by the Church of the Orange Sky.

In the aftermath of Elisha's meddling, a clever priest named Jehoiada - acting without any direct and explicit inspiration from God, according to the narrative - is able to piece together an order in Judah. As a result of Elisha's and Jeru's murders, Ahaziah's mother Athaliah was able to control the kingdom - and kill most of the rest of the royal family, for good measure. Her daughter Jehosheba manages to save one of Ahaziah's sons named Joash, and hide him away with the help of the priesthood.

I don't know where the priests go for most of these stories, but the author of Kings seems considerably more sympathetic to them than to the kings. Eventually Jehoiada manages to negotiate control of most of the army; with them standing watch, he brings out Joash and proclaims him king of Judah. Athaliah realizes she's been betrayed but it's too late: Jehoiada has her killed. He also has the Baal priests killed.

Because the temple is falling into disrepair, Joash invents the building fund, consisting of free will donations to be used to "repair whatever damage is found in the temple." Unfortunately, most of the priests have less integrity than Jehoiada, and after 23 years (you'd think Joash wouldn't have waited nearly so long to check up on the fund), they admit they've been taking the money and spending it elsewhere. So Joash the tinkerer also invents the collection box: a "chest" with a hole bored into it which will hold all the money. Only the high priest and the royal secretary may count the money in the box, and they have to do it together - an interesting merging of church and state in order to prevent corruption. The work finally gets finished. Unfortunately, no sooner has the temple been redecorated than the Arameans invade Judah and Joash has to raid the temple for "sacred objects" to give to the Arameans to prevent them from sacking the city. Shortly after this embarrassing defeat, his officials assasinate him while traveling on a road outside town.

Even though God remains silent, king Joash seems half-decent, as far as kings go. This might be because he was only seven when he was crowned, and therefore grew up under the influence of the priest Jehoiada - after all, the book of Kings is considerably more sympathetic to the priesthood than to the monarchy. Joash is a proper Jewish king but pemits religious tolerance - that is, he lets the "high places" remain intact so that the peple can offer sacrifices.