II Kings 12

For my weekly quiet time this week, I studied II Kings 12.  Joash has become the king of Judah, and the text states that he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as long as the priest Jehoiada was alive instructing him.  You’d think that Joash’s righteousness was based on Jehoiada’s tutelage and good example.

But the Bible isn’t always predictable.  Right after its assessment of Joash’s reign, the text goes on to discuss Joash’s attempt to repair the temple.  II Chronicles 24:7 states that Queen Athaliah had broken up the house of God and used some of its holy objects for the worship of the Baalim.  At the very least, the temple had suffered from neglect.  And so Joash orders the priests to collect money for the repair of the temple.  The money was to come from three sources: (1.) the census tax that Exodus 30:11-16 prescribes for the benefit of the sanctuary; (2.) the silver that the Israelites were to pay for their own redemption, in accordance with the law in Leviticus 27:1-8; and (3.) voluntary donations.

But, for some reason, the priests aren’t doing their job, and Joash is disappointed, as he wonders what is taking them so long.  Joash’s righteousness was dependant upon Jehoiada?  Then how come Joash is the one who has to light a fire under the behinds of Jehoiada and the other priests?

II Kings 12 and II Chronicles 24 are silent about why the priests were dragging their feet.  But people have speculated about what the problem was.  One explanation is that the priests couldn’t support the repair of the temple and themselves at the same time, and so, when Joash set up a contribution box outside of the temple, he was doing the priests a favor by absolving them of the responsibility to fund the temple’s repair from their own income.  Preacher Chuck Smith’s explanation is that the priests were pocketing the donations, as if they were corrupt.  But I doubt that the text is promoting that sort of view, for II Kings 12:15 stresses the honesty of those who had to pay the workers in the repair: they were so honest that Joash didn’t feel he needed to take an account of them.

Some just say that people can drag their feet: that’s what happens in bureaucracies!  So maybe there isn’t a profound reason that the priests were taking so long to repair the temple.  And then there’s Josephus’ explanation in Antiquities 9:161ff.:  the priests didn’t want to collect contributions from the Israelites, for they feared that the Israelites wouldn’t give to them.  But they had underestimated the Israelites’ sense of duty, generosity, and zeal for God, for, when Joash had a contribution box set up, the Israelites gave quite a bit!

A lot of times, even godly people can be so pre-occupied with stuff in life, that they can neglect what is truly important: their relationship with God.  Haggai criticizes the Israelites returning from exile for this: they came back to the Promised Land and started building their houses and planting their fields, and yet they were neglecting the temple of God. 

Also, timidity can hold us back.  I can beat myself up with this concept, and I don’t want to do that, but here’s something to note: the priests were timid about asking the Israelites for money, when the Israelites were all too eager to give!  It doesn’t hurt to ask.  And it’s also good to give others an opportunity to serve God.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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