Queen Atalyah and the revolt against her

Melcahim 2 Chapter 11

1.      Ataliah kills all of the descendants of Achaziah, except for one who manages to escape:

  • Ataliah kills all of the descendants of Achaziah: Ataliah, who was the mother of Achaziah, saw that her son was dead [and desired to lead the monarchy herself], so she rose and destroyed all those of royal descent [i.e. all of the children of Achaziah].
  • Yehosheva hides one of the sons of Achaziah: Yehosheva, who was King Yoram’s daughter and Achaziah’s sister, saved Yoash the son of Achaziah from among all the slain children of the king. She hid him and his wetnurse [who was the wife of the high priest[1]] in the bedchamber [which was in the attic of the holy of holies of the temple[2]]. They concealed him from Ataliah, and thus he was not slain. Yoash was in hiding with his wetnurse in the temple of God for six years, during the period that Ataliah was ruling over the land.

2.      Yehoyada arranges a revolt against Ataliah who is killed:

  • A meeting is called with the nation’s military leaders and ministers: In the seventh year of reign of Ataliah, Yehoyada [the high priest] called upon the nation’s leaders, ministers, and mighty warriors [and Kohanim and Levites[3], to gather for a secret meeting]. He brought them into the temple and made a pact with them [that they will not reveal to anyone what he’s about to tell them, and that they support him in coordinating Yoash as King[4]]. He then showed them the king’s son who was in hiding in the temple.
  • Yehoyada instructs the priests to guard Yoash: Yehoyada instructed the Kohanim and Levites as follows to guard Yoash. “A third of you [Kohanim and Levites[5]] of those who come on Shabbos for your Temple shift are to keep guard of the king’s palace [so that nobody kill him[6]], and you must guard it very well without taking your mind off of it. A third of you are to stand guard by the Sur gate, and a third of you in the Ratzim gate [which is in the Azarah of the Temple[7]]. The two thirds of you [who are guarding by the Sur and Ratzim gate in the entrance shift of Kohanim and Levites] as well as all those who are by the leaving shift on Shabbos, shall keep watch of the Temple, to guard the king. You shall surround the king, each one with his weapons in his hand to protect him. Anyone who comes past the ranks shall be put to death, and you shall be with the king whenever he goes out and comes in.” The officers did exactly as Yehoyada the priest had instructed them, and each one took his men, both the shift coming in on Shabbos and the shift leaving on Shabbos, and they arrived to Yehoyada the priest. Yehoyada gave the officers spears and shields that had belonged to King David, which were in the Temple. The men stood guard with their weapons in their hand, from the right end of the Temple to the left end of the Temple, in front of the altar, surrounding the king.
  • Yoash is crowned king: They brought out the king’s son, Yoash, and placed the crown on his head and gave him the special Torah scroll of the king, and they proclaimed him as king and anointed him. They clapped their hands and said, “Long live the king!”
  • Ataliah arrives at the Temple to check out the commotion: Ataliah heard a commotion of people who were running coming from the temple, and so she decided to come to the temple to see what was going on. She saw that a new king had been appointed and was standing by the special area designated for kings in the temple, and the officers and the trumpet blowers were standing before the king. Everyone there was rejoicing and sounding the trumpets. When Ataliah saw all this, she tore her garments and proclaimed that a rebellion has begun against her.
  • Ataliah is taken and killed: Yehoyada, the priest, instructed the military leaders to take Ataliah out of the temple into the house of the king in order so she not be killed there, and that anyone who comes to help her should be slain by the sword. So, they made space for her to leave the temple and she entered the king’s palace through the horses’ entrance and she was executed there.

3.      The king is reinstated to his position and the new order that ensued:

  • A pact of loyalty: Yehoyada enacted a pact between Hashem and the king and the nation, and between the king and the people, that they be loyal to each other.
  • The people destroy the Baal: The people came to the temple of the Baal and tore it down. They destroyed its altars and sculptures. Mattan, who was the priest of the Baal, was slain in front of the altar.
  • Reinstating the shifts at the temple: After the above events, Yehoyada the priest reinstated the shifts of priests in the temple, [as was done prior to the days of Atalia, and became nullified due to her [8]].
  • The king is reinstated onto his throne in his palace: The officers, ministers, and military leaders together with all the people brought the king down from the temple to the king’s palace, and he sat on the throne of the kings.
  • The nation rejoices: The people of the land rejoiced, and the city settled back down to its peaceful state. As stated earlier, Ataliah had been put to death in the king’s palace.


[1] Metzudos Dovid 11:3

[2] Rashi 11:2

[3] See Metzudos Dovid 11:4; Rashi 11:5

[4] See Rashi 11:4

[5] Rashi 11:5

[6] Rashi 11:5

[7] Rashi 11:5

[8] Rashi 11:18

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