Thursday, February 02, 2023

2 Kings 11:21-12:21

2 Kings 11:21—12:21 (NIV)✞: Joash Repairs the Temple


I snuck the last verse of Chapter 11 in with Chapter 12 because it felt like it belonged more here than there:

Joash was seven years old when he began to reign.

2 Kings 11:21 (NIV)✞

This post is about the reign of Joash in Judah, but mostly it’s about his rebuilding of the Temple of the LORD. (The fact that the Temple needs to be rebuilt in the first place says something about the rulers who came before Joash, since they let it fall into such disrepair.) He reigns for 40 years and the author(s) treat him as a good king.

Of course, he’s not a perfect king, because no kings ever are:

2 Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him. 3 The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.

2 Kings 12:2–3 (NIV)✞

But hey, he’s better than most1!

Unfortunately his Temple rebuilding project gets off to a poor start. It’s implied by the text that Joash begins the project early on in his reign—maybe even immediately—by asking the priests to set aside the money being gathered at the Temple so it can be used for the rebuilding effort. But twenty-three years go by and the priests still haven’t repaired it, so he decides he needs to change his approach!

He tells them to stop collecting money for the repairs and has Jehoiada the priest set up a chest in the Temple for people to put their money in—I get the implication that it was locked off in a way the other priests couldn’t get at the money inside—and any time it would get too full the royal secretary and the High Priest would empty it, count it, and hand it over to the workmen to use in their repair work.

In fact, we’re given some detail on who’s using the money for what:

13 The money brought into the temple was not spent for making silver basins, wick trimmers, sprinkling bowls, trumpets or any other articles of gold or silver for the temple of the LORD; 14 it was paid to the workers, who used it to repair the temple. 15 They did not require an accounting from those to whom they gave the money to pay the workers, because they acted with complete honesty. 16 The money from the guilt offerings and sin offerings was not brought into the temple of the LORD; it belonged to the priests.

2 Kings 12:13–16 (NIV)✞

As is often the case, the author(s) also give an anecdote from the king’s reign; in this case, an attack on Jerusalem from Aram, for which Joash needs to empty the Temple of treasures to pay tribute to the king of Aram to make him go away.

Joash’s reign ends with him being assassinated, after which his son Amaziah becomes king of Judah.


My first thought on this passage is that I couldn’t initially tell if Jehoiada was the High/Chief Priest or just a priest. The passage almost seemed to go out of its way not to call him the High Priest, consistently calling him “Jehoiada the priest” (but not the High Priest), and then in verse 10✞ talking about the High Priest collecting the money – but not using his name! I had to do some research on this, and found a verse in 2 Chronicles 24:6 (NIV)✞ which calls him “Jehoiada the chief,” so… I guess he’s the High/Chief Priest but for some reason—which might be totally benign, or might not—the author(s) of Kings decided not to use that title when referring to him by name…

Regardless of that, I’m not actually sure whether the priests were negligent in ignoring the Temple repair work or if they just weren’t the right people to whom the task should have been assigned. When I read the text it doesn’t seem contentious to my eye:

6 But by the twenty-third year of King Joash the priests still had not repaired the temple. 7 Therefore King Joash summoned Jehoiada the priest and the other priests and asked them, “Why aren’t you repairing the damage done to the temple? Take no more money from your treasurers, but hand it over for repairing the temple.” 8 The priests agreed that they would not collect any more money from the people and that they would not repair the temple themselves.

2 Kings 12:6–8 (NIV)✞, emphasis added

I know we can’t get a lot of nuance from the text, but it doesn’t seem to be a heated exchange; no argument is recorded from the priests. The ESV Study Bible has a different take, however:

2 Kings 12:7–12 hand it over. Joash’s initial plan was to leave the matter to the priests themselves (vv. 4–5). But this plan fails because, it is implied, the priests are not eager to spend good money on mere buildings, even though they are well provided for through the normal sacrificial system (v. 16; cf. Num. 5:5–10). Joash himself therefore takes control of the project, ensuring that the income goes directly to the workmen appointed to supervise the work.

ESV Study Bible

The thing is, I don’t see in the text where they get their “implication” about the priests not being eager to “spend good money on mere buildings.” As usual I’m not saying they’re wrong, I just don’t know where they got this implication from. I quickly scanned the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 24:4–22 (NIV)✞ and, although the text says that the Levites don’t “act quickly,” there’s still not an implication that they were in any way against the project.

At the end of the passage we see that the kingdom of Judah has fallen from its former glory. Here’s another quote from the ESV Study Bible referring to the attack on Jerusalem from Aram (keeping in mind that the nation being called “Aram” in the NIV is called “Syria” in the ESV):

2 Kings 12:17–18 took all the sacred gifts. The theme of affliction continues: Judah, too, is oppressed by Hazael king of Syria (cf. 10:32–33 for his assault on Israel), as he turns east from the Philistine city of Gath to attack Jerusalem. This presupposes that Hazael could move at will through Israelite territory to the north, so that the campaign is best dated during the reign of Jehu’s son Jehoahaz (c. 815–799 B.C.), who fared even worse than his father at the hands of Syria (13:1–7, 22–23). Like Asa, Joash knows no Solomonic peace during his rule, and tribute flows north from Israel to Syria, instead of south from Syria to Israel (cf. 1 Kings 15:18–24). Both Asa and Joash in fact empty the treasuries of the house of the LORD and of the king’s house. Long past are those days when the king of Israel had “rest on every side” (1 Kings 5:4). Much later, Hag. 2:7–8 (see notes there) foretold that one day the nations would bring their wealth to the temple.

ESV Study Bible


  • Interestingly, the book of Chronicles presents a more mixed account of Joash, which is only hinted st here: in 2 Chronicles 24 (NIV)✞ we read of him abandoning God at the end of his life. As soon as the priest Jehoiada dies, Joash seems to backslide.

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