Jehoiada was an important priest and leader in Judah during the days of the divided kingdom. He played a pivotal role in protecting and mentoring the young king Joash after the wicked queen Athaliah tried to destroy the royal line of David. Jehoiada helped restore proper worship in the temple and guided Judah to tear down pagan altars.
He made a covenant between God, the king, and the people to be faithful to the Lord. Though he started strong, in his old age Jehoiada failed to stop the people from returning to idolatry. Nevertheless, Jehoiada is remembered as a righteous high priest who preserved the dynasty of David and the worship of Yahweh during dark times.
- Jehoiada courageously protected Joash from queen Athaliah’s massacre and hid him in the temple for six years.
- He led the high priests in a successful coup to overthrow Athaliah and place the 7-year-old Joash on the throne.
- As high priest, he guided Joash and the people to renew their covenant with God and refurbish the temple.
- He instructed Joash to destroy the altars and idols of Baal worship that Athaliah had erected.
- In his old age, Jehoiada failed to stop the leaders of Judah from returning to idolatry.
Jehoiada’s Family Background
The Bible first mentions Jehoiada in 2 Kings 11 during the reign of wicked queen Athaliah. However, 1 Chronicles 18 gives us more background on his family line. Jehoiada was the son of Benaiah, who was one of King David’s mighty men (2 Samuel 23:20-23). Benaiah served as captain of David’s bodyguard and later became commander of Solomon’s army (1 Kings 1:8; 1 Kings 4:4). He was a valiant warrior known for his brave exploits, including defeating two of Moab’s best warriors and a lion. Jehoiada followed in his father’s footsteps not as a soldier, but as a leader and man of courage and conviction.
Protecting Young Joash from Athaliah’s Massacre
After the death of Ahaziah, king of Judah, his mother Athaliah seized the throne and tried to destroy all potential claimants from the royal line of David. However, Jehoiada courageously hid Ahaziah’s infant son Joash for six years, protecting him from being killed (2 Kings 11:1-3). As a priest descended from Aaron, Jehoiada had special access to the temple quarters where he and his wife Jehosheba concealed the child, unknown to Athaliah (2 Chronicles 22:11).
But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him away from among the king’s sons who were being murdered; and they hid him and his nurse in the bedroom, from Athaliah, so that he was not killed. So he was hidden with her in the house of the Lord for six years, while Athaliah reigned over the land. (2 Kings 11:2-3 NKJV)
This took great courage, as being discovered would have meant certain death for Joash and likely Jehoiada and his family as well. But he was willing to risk everything to preserve the royal line of David and protect the legitimate heir to the throne of Judah from the murderous usurper Athaliah.
Organizing the Overthrow of Athaliah in a Temple Coup
When Joash was seven years old, Jehoiada devised a plan to overthrow Athaliah and place Joash on the throne. He made a pact with the captains of the Carites (royal bodyguards) and palace guards to support Joash as the true king (2 Kings 11:4). At a carefully planned time, Jehoiada presented Joash to the commanders and Levites at the temple and anointed him as king. They clapped their hands and shouted “Long live the king!” (2 Kings 11:12).
When Athaliah heard the commotion, she rushed to the temple courts but saw the newly crowned boy king surrounded by Jehoiada and armed guards. Jehoiada ordered her taken out of the temple grounds and executed for her treason and massacre of the royal heirs (2 Kings 11:13-16). In this way, Jehoiada led a successful coup through careful planning and strong leadership to transition power to the rightful Davidic king. He was able to restore the throne to the godly line of Judah’s kings and end Athaliah’s six-year ungodly, murderous reign.
Guiding Young King Joash in Righteous Reforms
As high priest, Jehoiada now became the young king’s mentor and advisor. He guided Joash to make a covenant before the Lord to follow the Lord and obey His laws (2 Kings 11:17). Jehoiada also directed Joash to destroy the temple of Baal that Athaliah had erected. The king ordered the Baal priests executed and the pagan temple torn down (2 Kings 11:18). Jehoiada commanded the priests and Levites to resume offering sacrifices in the temple of the Lord, restoring the proper worship that had ceased under Athaliah (2 Chronicles 23:18).
When Joash was old enough to assume leadership, he listened to Jehoiada’s instructions to repair the temple of the Lord which had fallen into disrepair (2 Kings 12:2). The priests collected funds from the people to pay skilled stonemasons and carpenters to restore the temple. Jehoiada oversaw this important project to revitalize worship at the Lord’s house (2 Kings 12:4-16). He guided King Joash in righteous reforms and obedience to God’s ways in the early years of his reign.
Failure to Stop Idolatry in His Old Age
Toward the end of his priesthood, however, Jehoiada failed to stop the leaders of Judah from returning to idolatrous practices. After he died at the ripe old age of 130, the officials of Judah abandoned the temple and worshiped pagan idols and Asherah poles again (2 Chronicles 24:15-18). God sent prophets to warn them, but they refused to listen. The prophet Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, rebuked the people for forsaking God, but they stoned him to death in the temple courts.
King Joash also changed course and endorsed idolatry after Jehoiada died. So while Jehoiada had wonderful early influence as mentor and high priest, in his elderly years he was unable to prevent the people from backsliding into sinful rebellion against God. Perhaps he lacked the strength and authority in old age to restrain the wickedness. Nevertheless, the Bible makes clear that the guilt for Judah’s idolatry lay with the faithless leaders and people, not with Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24:17-22).
Jehoiada’s Legacy as a Godly High Priest
Despite his inability to stop idolatry late in life, Jehoiada is remembered as one of the most righteous high priests over the temple in Jerusalem. During most of his priesthood he walked in holiness and integrity before the Lord (2 Chronicles 24:16). Jehoiada showed great courage in hiding Joash from Athaliah’s murderous rampage for six years. He spearheaded the successful overthrow of Athaliah’s illegitimate reign. Jehoiada anointed Joash as the rightful king and guided him to covenant faithfulness to God early on. He led the restoration of temple worship and repairs to God’s house.
The Bible says Jehoiada “had done good in Israel, both toward God and His house” (2 Chronicles 24:16). Though he failed to restrain idolatry in his waning years, overall Jehoiada was exemplary in his devotion to the Lord and service in the temple. His preservation of the Davidic dynasty and defeat of Baal worship left a lasting mark on Judah’s history. When Jehoiada died, he “was buried in the City of David among the kings, because he had done good in Israel, both toward God and His house” (2 Chronicles 24:16). This honorable burial showed the people’s high esteem for this courageous high priest who sought to lead Judah in faithfulness to the one true God.
Conclusion: Key Lessons from Jehoiada’s Life
Jehoiada’s bold leadership provides some important lessons for Christians today:
- Have courage to stand for righteousness, even when evil reigns and it requires great risk.
- Do everything possible to protect the innocent from harm.
- Lead people back to loyal covenant relationship with God.
- Restore passionate worship and service in God’s house.
- With age comes potential loss of influence; therefore, mentor faithful successors.
- Blame for apostasy falls on unfaithful people, not aging leaders.
Jehoiada imperfectly but valiantly upheld the worship of Yahweh at a pivotal time in Judah’s history. May his example inspire us to stand for truth, nurture spiritual renewal, and point people back to covenant faithfulness with our great God.