Joash was a Biblical king of Israel and Judah. He is known to be one of the most influential kings in the Bible, having reigned over the Israelite nation for 40 years. While popularly known as the son of King Jehoiada, little else is known about the man himself. The Bible mentions Joash in 2 Kings 11–14 and in 2 Chronicles 22–24. The written record of his reign recounts his repair of the Temple at Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 24) and his personal piety in supporting both the cult of YHWH and the restoration of temple worship.
According to the Hebrew bible, Joash was the thirteenth king of Judah, appointed by Jehoiada the high priest. He was the son of Jehoiada’s daughter, who was a priest of the Aaronites (2 Chronicles 24:1). As a child, Joash was hidden by his grandfather for six years in the Temple courts before being brought out to replace the deposed Queen Athalia in the throne (2 Kings 11:1–3).
In his reign, Joash formed alliances with Amaziah, king of the Kingdom of Israel, and with the Edomites (2 Kings 14:14). Joash shared a similar positive religious devotion to that of his grandfather, which was focused on the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem. He managed to accumulate significant riches, some of which he offered to repair the temple of the Lord. As a result of his commitment to God, the Lord granted him a long and prosperous reign.
Joash is a beloved figure in the Bible. For one, he restored the temple walls and the other artifacts that had been lost or destroyed in the past. He was credited for his devout faith to YHWH which was expressed by continual offerings. Furthermore, he extended support to the Jewish people both through his religious edicts and also through his protection of the people from their enemies (2 Chronicles 24:17-22). Joash was remembered by the people for his public support of the temple cult, and he was seen as an embodiment of true piety. One of the most noteworthy deeds of his reign was the provision of an abundance of oil to the temple of Lord and rejoicing with musical instruments as part of a grandiose offering.
Joash made two major mistakes during his reign, which ultimately led to the undoing of his kingdom and the eventual overthrow of his dynasty. The first was his lack of policy continuity with his grandfather and great-grandfather’s foreign policy, which contributed to the weakening of Judaism’s political influence within the region. In particular, he made an alliance with Amaziah, king of the Kingdom of Israel, which was seen by some as turning his back on King David’s earlier decision to never form an alliance with a foreign nation. The second mistake was his neglect of proper temple maintenance, which led to a decline in priests and Levites. This lack of proper religious care resulted in much of the ritualistic ceremonies associated with the temple being neglected, resulting in the growing discontent of the masses and ultimately to the downfall of his people.
His reign and his cultic policy brought great religious significance to Israel. He was recognized as a king who was intent on restoring the religious observances of YHWH to their proper place. He helped preserved the religious practices of the people by promoting the worship of YHWH and restoring temples and other cultic artifacts that had been lost or destroyed.
Joash is also known for his strong support of the cult of YHWH. He repaired the Holy Temple, commemorated YHWH’s festivals and maintained regular offerings (2 Chronicles 24:13-15). In addition, Joash also marched with warriors to battle against enemies of the Israelite kingdom (2 Chronicles 24:17-18), and his policies had a pronounced effect on the traditional practices of Yahwism.
Joash also encouraged proselytizing and opened the temple for Gentiles and people of the dispersion. He freed Hebrew slaves, provided the resources needed to repair the walls of Jerusalem and destroyed the altars of foreign gods (2 Chronicles 25:14-15). Moreover, he revised the law so that slaves were attended to according to the Law of Moses (2 Chronicles 15:14-15).
Legacy and Impact
Joash’s impact on the religious life of the Israelite nation remains substantial today. His commitment to maintaining religious and cultic observances, as well as his support of proselytizing, laid the basis for the enduring faith of the people. His reverence for the God of Israel was widely known and highly acknowledged by the masses. From his longevity of life, to the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem, Joash left a lasting legacy.
“Joash was truly among the great figures of biblical history,” says professor of religion, Andrew Scott. “His influence and impact helped create the religious identity of the Jewish people that still resonates today.”
Jeffrey K. Salkin, also a professor of religion, adds: “In his time, Joash emphasized the need for proper care and observance of what distinguished Israelites from other nations. He helped create an Israelite nation ready to live in accordance with the precepts of their faith.”
The legacy of Joash is significant in the Bible and to this day he stands as an example of dedication, piety, and religious devotion. He provided years of prosperity and spiritual edification to Israel and his accomplishments still resonate in Jewish tradition.
Relationship With Prophets
Though Joash had a strong faith in the Lord, his relationship with the prophets of the time is more complicated. In particular, the prophet Jeremiah was critical of Joash for not adhering to the commandments of the Lord without wavering. Jeremiah accused Joash of not providing the resources and attention necessary for the temple to be established properly. On the other hand, the prophet Zechariah praises Joash for his restoration of the temple and his good stewardship of the kingdom.
Recent studies suggest that Joash had an ongoing dialogue with the temple prophets, including Jeremiah. They often criticized him for his insincere practices, lack of devotion and inadequate commitment to the temple cult. This led to rising tensions between the monarchy and the temple establishment and threatened the unity of the nation.
Joash was also accused of ignoring the Levites and their claims of maltreatment by his predecessors. It is believed that the continuous antagonism between the King and the prophets significantly contributed to the decline in Joash’s authority and status. This, in addition to the numerous foreign alliances that Joash forged, weakened the nation’s reputation, leading to its eventual destruction.
The End of an Era
While considered a successful king in Judean history, Joash’s reign was relatively short and fragile. By the end of his reign, the kingdom was on the brink of destruction and the royal family was no longer held in high esteem. After the death of Joash, the nation experienced a period of decline and civil strife that lasted until the ascension of King Josiah.
Following the death of Joash, the assassination of his son, Amaziah, plunged Judah into a period of civil unrest. This destabilization created a vacuum in the government which led to the rise of the Babylonian Empire and its eventual conquest of the kingdom. Thus, the death of Joash marked the end of an era for the nation.
Furthermore, after Joash’s death, Judah suffered from a decrease in religious observance and the old cults began to resurface. This dire state of religious observance was recognized by the prophets and eventually led to the revivification of Judaism by King Josiah.
Joash was a beloved king of Judah, who made a lasting impression not only on the Israelite nation, but on religious life in general. He reigned during an important period in which religious practices were beginning to take hold in Israel. Through his dedication to YHWH and protection of the people of Israel, he is remembered as a positive force in the story of Judaism. His dedication to maintaining the honored traditions of Judaism resonates even today, many centuries after his death.