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t, than in hus it common; ficulties in self
won : whereas now they were fain to make woeful shifts, living under a lord that had better fortune and courage in murdering his master that had put him in trust, than in defending his people from their cruel enemies. Thus it commonly falls out, that they who can find all manner of difficulties in sery. ing him to whom nothing is difficult, are, instead of the ease and pleasure to themselves propounded by contrary courses, overwhelmed with the troubles which they sought toavoid; and therein by God whom they first forsook, forsaken, and left unto the wretched labours of their own blind wisdom, wherein they had reposed all their confidence.
Of Athaliah's government. THESE calamities falling upon Israel, kept Athaliah safe on that side, giving her leisure to look to things at home; as having little to do abroad, unless it were so that she held some correspondency with Hazael, pretending therein to imitate her husband's grand. father king Asa, who had done the like. And some probability that she did so, may be gathered out of that which is recorded of her doings. For we find, that this " wicked Athaliah and her children broke up the house of God; and all things that were dedicated for the house of the Lord, did they bestow • upon Baalim." Such a sacrilege, though it proceeded from a desire to set out her own idolatry, with such pomp as might make it the more glorious in the people's eyes, was not likely to want some fair pretext of necessity of the state so requiring : in which case others before her had made bold with that holy place, and her next successor was fain to do the like, being thereunto forced by Hazael, who perhaps was delighted with the taste of that which was formerly thence extracted for his sake,
1 2 Chron. xxiv, 7,
Under this impious government of Athaliah, the devotions of the priests and Levites was very notable, and served (no doubt) very much to retain the people in the religion taught by God himself, howsoever the queen's proceedings advanced the contrary. For the poverty of that sacred tribe of Levi must needs have been exceeding great at this time; all their lands and possessions in the ten tribes being utterly lost, the oblations and other perquisites, by which they lived, being now very few, and small, and the store laid up in better times under godly kings, being all taken away by shameful robbery. Yet they upheld in all this misery the service of God, and the daily sacrifice, keeping daily their courses, and performing obedience to the high priest, no less than in those days wherein their entertainment was far better.
Of the preservation of Joash. Jehoiada then occupied the priesthood, an honourable, wise, and religious man. To his careful. ness it may be ascribed, that the state of the church was in some slender sort upheld in those unhappy times. His wife was Jehoshabeth, who was daughter of king Jehoram, and sister to Ahaziah, a godly lady and virtuous, whose piety makes it seem that Athaliah was not her mother, though her access to the court argue the contrary; but her discreet carriage might more easily procure her welcome to her own father's house, than the education under such a mother could have permitted her to be such as she was. By her care Joash the young prince that reigned soon after, was conveyed out of the nursery, when Athaliah destroyed all the king's children, and was carried secretly into the temple, where as secretly he was brought up. How it came to pass, that this young child was not hunted out, when his body was missing;
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nor any great reckoning (for ought that we find) made of his escape, I will not stand to examine ; for it was not good in policy, that the people should hear say, that one of the children had avoided that cruel blow; it might have made them hearken after innovations, and so be the less conformable to the present government. So Joash was delivered out of that slaughter, he and his nurse being gone no man could tell whither, and might be thought peradventure to be cast away, as having no other guard than a poor woman that gave him suck, who foolishly doubting that she herself should have been slain, was fled away with him into some desolate place, where it was like enough that he and she should perish. In such cases, flatterers, or men desirous of reward, easily coin such tales, and rather swear them to be true in their own knowledge, than they will lose the thanks due to their joyful tidings.
(1.) IVhether Joash may be thought likely to have been the son
of Ahaziah. Now concerning this Joash', whose son he was, it is a thing of much difficulty to affirm, and bath caused much controversy among writers. The places of scripture, which call him the son of Ahaziah, seem plain enough. How any figure of the Hebrew language might give the title of son unto him, in regard that he was his successor, I neither by myself can find, nor can by any help of authors learn how to an. swer the difficulties appearing in the contrary opinions of them, that think him to have been, or not, the natural son of Ahaziah. For whereas it is said, that the house of Abaziah was not able to retain the • kingdom, a' some do inter that this Joash was not properly called his son, but was the next of his kin
1 Kings xi. 2. 2 Chron. xxii. 11. 2 2 Chron. xxii, .
be to fear, that ad no interas to fall into t/
dred, and therefore succeeded him, as a son in the inheritance of his father. And hereunto the murder committed by Athaliah, doth very well agree. For she, perceiving that the kingdom was to fall into their hands, in whom she had no interest, might easily find cause to fear, that the tyranny exercised by her husband, at her instigation, upon so many noble houses, would now be revenged upon herself. The ruin of her idolatrous religion might in this case terrify both her and her minions; the sentence of the law rewarding that offence with death, and the tragedy of Jezebel teaching her what might happen to another queen. All this had little concerned her, if her own grandchild had been heir to the crown; for she that had power enough to make herself queen, could with more ease, and less envy, have taken upon her the office of a protector, by which authority she might have done her pleasure, and been the more both obeyed by others, and secure of her own estate, as not wanting an heir. Wherefore it was not needful, that she should be so unnatural as to destroy the child of her own son, of whose life she might have made greater use, than she could of his death; whereas indeed the love of grand-mothers to their nephews, is little less than that of mothers to their children.
This argument is very strong; for it may seem incredible, that all natural affection should be cast "aside, when as neither necessity urgeth, nor any commodity thereby gotten requireth it; yea when all human policy doth teach one the same, which nature without reason would have persuaded.
(2.) That Joash did not descend from Nathan. But (as it is more easy to find a difficulty in that which is related, than to shew how it might have otherwise been,) the pedigree of this Joash is, by them which think him not the son of Ahaziah, set down in such sort that it may very justly be suspected, They say that he descended from Nathan the son of David, and not from Solomon; to which purpose they bring a history, (I know not whence,) of two families of the race of David, saying that the line of Solomon held the kingdom, with this condition, that if at any time it failed, the family of Nathan should succeed it. Concerning this Nathan, the son of David, there are that would have him to be Nathan the prophet, who (as they think) was by David a. dopted. And of this opinion was Origen, as also St. Augustine sometime was; but afterwards he revoked it as was meet : for this Nathan is reckoned a. mong the sons of David, by Bathshua the daughter of Ammiel}, and therefore could not be the prophet. Gregory Nazianzene, (as I find him cited by Peter Martyr,) and after him Erasmus, and Faber Stapulensis, have likewise held the same of Joash, deriving him from Nathan. But Nathan, and those other brethren of Solomon by the same mother, are thought, upon good likelihoods, to have been the children of Uriah the Hittite; and so are they accounted by suns dry of the fathers, and by Lyra, and Abulensis, who follow the Hebrew expositors of that place in the first of Chronicles. The words of Solomon, calling himself the only begotten of his mother, do approve this exposition; for we read of no more than two sons which Bathshua or Bathsheba did bear unto David, whereof the one, begotten in adultery, died an infant, and Solomon only of her children by the king did live. So that the rest must needs have been the children of Uriah, and are thought to have been David's only by adoption, Wherefore if Joash had not been the son of Ahaziah, then must that pedigree have been false, wherein St. Matthew deriveth him lineally from Solomon ; yea, then had not our blessed Saviour issued from the loins of Da. vid, according to the flesh, but had only been of his line by courtesy of the nation, and form of law, as