Who was King Joash in the Bible?

There are two biblical kings named Joash (or Jehoash) and the dates of their respective reigns overlap by two years. Joash the king of Judah reigned from 835—796 BC and Joash the king of Israel reigned from 798—782 BC.

King Joash of Judah was orphaned as a baby, because it was during the time that King Jehu of Israel killed King Joram of Israel. Jehu had been commissioned by God to destroy the descendants of Ahab and rid the false god Baal from the land (2 Kings 9; 10:28). Ahaziah the king of Judah, and Joash's father, was with Joram so he was also killed. While Ahaziah was not a blood relative of Ahab and Jezebel, he was related to them by marriage and also did evil in God's sight (2 Kings 8:27). With the king dead, Athaliah, mother of Ahaziah, seized power and killed all of the known royal heirs, but she missed one—her grandson Joash (2 Kings 11:1).

Joash was a baby at the time and he and his nurse were rescued and hidden by Jehosheba, daughter of King Joram (2 Kings 11:1–3). They were hidden in the temple, and during the seventh year of Joash's life, the priest Jehoiada revealed him to the captains of the guard and made an agreement for the protection of the temple and the king. Joash was anointed king of Judah at the young age of seven years old (2 Kings 11:4–12). When he was anointed king, the people of Judah rejoiced, Athaliah was killed, and the temple of Baal was destroyed (2 Kings 11:13–21).

King Joash ruled in Judah for forty years, and while Jehoiada the priest was alive instructing him, Joash "did what was right in the eyes of the LORD" (2 Kings 12:1–2). The Bible mostly discusses Joash's financial dealings as king. He commissioned repairs to the temple of the Lord (2 Kings 12:4–16). He gave money and gifts, including artifacts from the temple, to stop King Hazael of Syria from attacking (2 Kings 12:17–18).

Joash made one big mistake during his early years—he didn't destroy all the places where people could worship idols: "Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away; the people continued to sacrifice and make offerings on the high places" (2 Kings 12:3). This left a door open to evil, and tragically, after Jehoiada died, Joash listened to wicked influences in his place. He brought back idol worship to Judah and refused to listen to God's prophets who came to bring him warnings (2 Chronicles 24:17–19). Zechariah, son of the priest Jehoiada, brought the word of the Lord to Joash, but even still, Joash did not listen and had Zechariah killed (2 Chronicles 24:19–22). This blatant disregard for a man whose father had saved Joash did not go unnoticed. When the Syrians attacked, Joash was severely wounded and his servants assassinated him: "When they had departed from him, leaving him severely wounded, his servants conspired against him because of the blood of the son of Jehoiada the priest, and killed him on his bed. So he died, and they buried him in the city of David, but they did not bury him in the tombs of the kings" (2 Chronicles 24:25). Joash's son Amaziah then became king.

During the thirty-seventh year of Joash of Judah's reign, King Joash of Israel began his reign, so they overlapped by about two years until Amaziah was made king of Judah. After King Amaziah battled the Edomites, he tried to instigate a war against Joash of Israel, but Joash tried to dissuade him from entering into an unnecessary fight (2 Kings 14:7–10). Amaziah's pride got in the way and he still attacked Israel, but ended up defeated by King Joash. The defeat of Judah was credited to them seeking after false gods (2 Chronicles 25:20).

The same King Hazael of Syria oppressed Joash of Israel, but the Lord showed mercy to Israel and did not allow them to be overcome. When he found out that the prophet Elisha was dying, Joash visited the prophet to seek help and guidance for the military in Israel (2 Kings 13:14). Elisha gave Joash the instruction to shoot arrows out of an open window to symbolize his defeat of the Syrians. Joash shot three arrows and stopped, which caused Elisha to become angry with him for not shooting more arrows: "Then the man of God was angry with him and said, 'You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times'" (2 Kings 13:19). When Hazael's son Ben-hadad became king, Joash defeated him three times (2 Kings 13:24–25).

Unfortunately, throughout his sixteen-year reign, King Joash of Israel "did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin, but he walked in them" (2 Kings 13:11). Where he had a chance to turn things around as a leader, he did nothing beyond maintaining the spiritual unhealth he had inherited. Joash's son Jeroboam II succeeded him as king (2 Kings 14:16).

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