Normally, the responsibility of a Jewish priest consisted of receiving the sacrifices and offerings from the people and offering them in the temple before God. They also took care of the maintenance and security of the temple, which was the one and only authorized place of ceremonial worship for the Jews. The priest Jehoiada went far beyond the call of duty. He took the fate of his nation upon his shoulders and proactively changed the course of world history from disaster to recovery. Here’s how he did it.
Jehoiada was certainly respected for his great age. Since he lived to be 130 years old, it follows that he was born in the reign of Solomon and saw the moral decline of Judah during seven rulers. Now, when Athaliah made herself queen, she assassinated the heirs to the throne to prevent any contest to her power. Jehoiada’s wife, however, was in the palace because she was a sister of the king who had just died. Seizing the opportunity, she rescued one of the late king’s sons, Joash, and brought him to her husband to be hidden within the busy activities of Solomon’s temple. For six years, Jehoiada risked his life to keep the heir apparent safe from a regime that would have killed him on sight.
Queen Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, became the champion of Baal worship in the southern kingdom, the same year that Jehu began wiping out Baal worship in the northern kingdom. Jehoiada had to watch helplessly as the priests of Baal repurposed the holy utensils from Solomon’s temple for use in the temple of Baal. These rituals of Baal worship, which were pleasing to human nature, were practiced in many nations, while the knowledge of the Creator God depended upon the sanctity of just one temple, which was the responsibility of the priests at Jerusalem. The spiritual fate of the entire world was at stake. The world needed a holy temple to understand a holy God.
After waiting for six years during Athaliah’s rule, Jehoiada finally led a coup to restore the covenant-based government, which was similar to constitutional governments today. Although it could have been a bloodbath, Jehoiada organized it so well that only two people died, as far as we know: Athaliah, who had murdered most of the royal heirs, and the priest of Baal. This is certainly a tribute to Jehoiada’s wise preparations.
Jehoiada poured his life into mentoring two people that we know about: the king Joash and his own son Zedekiah. He was Joash’s advisor for at least thirty years, but after his death, Joash listened to the Princes of Judah and returned to Baal. Joash abandoned his upbringing as soon as his advisor was gone. Zedekiah, on the other hand, remained true to his father and spoke against the worship of Baal. As a result, Joash had Jehoiada’s son stoned to death by the people. The king, the princes, and the people turned against God and killed an innocent man. This was a tragic failure in spite of the exemplary leadership of Jehoiada.
References: 2 Kings 11:1-12:21, 2 Chronicles 22:10:27