If you want to think of a name for the worst mother in biblical history, you could do far worse than think of the exmaple of the wicked Athaliah. In fact, Athaliah is a good name to give someone who attacks their own offspring to preserve their power and authority, like the Dowager Empress Cixi of China’s Manchu Dynasty. And yet as wicked and selfish as Queen Athaliah was, she was overthrown in large part thanks to the help of the Sons of Korah. However, you will only know that they helped if you read the account in 2 Chronicles. In 2 Kings 11 the account talks about Athaliah being overthrown by the captains of the hundreds, the elite warriors of the Kingdom of Judah, under the leadership of the priest Jehoiada. However, it is only in 2 Chronicles 23 that we learn that those elite warriors were in fact the holy warriors of the Levites, including the gatekeepers. When one takes that fact and combines it with the fact that the sons of Korah were among the gatekeepers of the Temple (see 1 Chronicles 9), one can then uncover that the Sons of Korah were among the holy warriors who overthrew the tyrant Athaliah.
The Reign of the Wicked Athaliah
Why did this wicked Queen Athaliah have to die in a revolt? Because she was a murderous mother who sought to destroy the righteous line of David. Athaliah, acting in vengeance against Jehu, who destroyed the House of Ahab by the word of God, sought to engage in a “quid pro quo” by attacking the House of David. 2 Chronicles 22:10-12 gives the account as follows: “No when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal heirs of the house of Judah. But Jeohoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him away from among the king’s sons who were being murdered, and put him and his nurse in a bedroom. So Jehoshabeath, the daughter of King Jehoram, the wife of Jehoiada the priest (for she was the sister of King Ahaziah), hid him from Athaliah so that she did not kill him. And he was hidden with them in the house of God for six years, while Athaliah reigned over the land.
Let us understand this account and its significance. A godly sister of the wicked King Azariah protects her nephew from her mother, making him a “hidden prince” in the Temple of God, safe from her mother’s violence, while her wicked mother is reigning over the land and trying to destroy as many royal heirs as possible. What motivates a mother to attack her children? Surely such a thing must be inspired by Satan’s demons, who wish to destroy the loving bonds between parents and children, by inspiring parents to act wickedly and attack their offspring. Such behavior is lamentably common in our world today, and some parents even try to justify their unnatural acts by saying that they act in love, even though they act in anger and in sin. Given the lack of proper love of parents towards their children in this world, the account of Athaliah and her fate is chillingly relevant.
The Sons of Korah Guard The Legitimate King
In 2 Chronicles 23:1-11 we read about how Jeohoida the priest organized the holy warriors of the Levites (including the Sons of Korah who were among the gatekeepers) in order to proclaim Joash (or Jehoash) as the legitimate king of Judah. In doing so, Jehoaida and the Levites acted bravely in risking their lives for righteousness against a cruel and wicked queen who was not afraid to kill in order to preserve her ill-gotten gains. This act of bravery was immense, and yet God blessed it, seeking to judge the wickedness of that queen on her own head.
2 Chronicles 23:1-11 reads as follows: “In the seventh year Jehoaida strengthened himself, and made a covenant with tte captains of hundreds: Azariah the son of Jehoram, Ishmael the son of Jehonan, Azariah the son of Obed, Maaseiah the son of Adaiah and Elishaphat the son of Zichi. And they went throughout Judah and gathered the Levites from all the cities of Judah, and the chief fathers of Israel, and they came to Jerusalem. Then all the assembly made a covenant with the king in the house of God. And he said to them, “Behold, the king’s son shall reign as the Lord has said of the sons of David. This is what you shall do: One-third of you entering on the Sabbath, of the priests and the Levites, shall be keeping watch over the doors; one-third shall be at the king’s house; and one-third at the Gate of the Foundation. All the people shall be in the courts of the House of the Lord. But let no one come into the house of the Lord except the priests and those of the Levites who serve. They may go in, for they are holy; but all the people shall keep the watch of the Lord. And the Levites shall suround the king on all sides, every man with his weapons in his hand; and whoever comes into the house, let him be put to death. You are to be with the king when he comes in and when he goes out.” So the Levites and all Judah did according to all that Jehoaida the priest commanded. And each men took his men who were to be on duty on the Sabbath, with those who were going off duty on the Sabbath; for Jehoaida had not dismissed the divisions. And Jehoaida the priest gave to the captains of hundreds the spears and the large and small shields which had belonged to King David, that were in the temple of God. Then he set out all the people, every man with his weapon in his hand, from the right side of the temple to the left side of the temple, along by the altar and by the temple, all around the king. And they brought out the king’s son, put the crown on him, gave him the Testimony, and made him king. Then Jehoaida and his sons anointed him, and said, “Long live the king!”
This is a dramatic account. For one, Jehoaida shows himself to be a shrewd military strategist, as well as a godly priest. He gathers his troops as Levites from both Judah and Israel (most of the Sons of Korah were from Israel, let us remember, in the areas of Ephraim and Manasseh, west of the Jordan) and just north of Jerusalem. Having gathered his troops, under the guise of religious ceremonies, he then uses the temple (which is being ignored by the heathen Athaliah, who didn’t believe it was necessary or important to go to the House of God, unfortunately for her) as the base of his righteous conspiracy. He even goes to the lengths of using the temple weapons to arm the Levites to defend the legitimate king against the murderous usurper. Jehoaida went above and beyond the normal obligations of a priest in defending his covenant with God and God’s covenant with the House of David.
But the Sons of Korah and the remainder of the priests and Levites whom God called as holy warriors did an awesome work as well. Their willingness to be the shield of the king in the face of the armed forces of Athaliah was remarkable and deserving of high praise. For we must not forget that those who are called by God are not called to be pacifists, not called to rely on others to defend them, but they are called by God to defend themselves against the evil ones. The Levites put themselves in harm’s way as God’s holy soldiers called to do battle against evil. Sometimes that battle is to be done spiritually, and sometimes it is to be done physically. Wherever the “front” of the warfare, though, true servants of God do not shrink from their obligations to act in a godly fashion and stand firm against the forces of evil.
The Sons of Korah Execute The Tyrannical Queen
After having done their duty to protect the legitimate king Joash from the murderous hostility of his grandmother, the wicked Athaliah, the Sons of Korah (among others) due a further necessary, if unpleasant duty, in ridding the world of both the wicked Queen Athaliah as well as the false priest of Baal Mattan. We read about this death sentence upon the unworthy queen and her false religious minions in 2 Chronicles 23:12-21, along with even further involvement by the Sons of Korah: “Now when Athaliah heard the noise of the people running and praising the king, she came to the people in the temple of the Lord. When she looked, there was the king standing by his pillar at the entrance; and all the leaders and the trumpeters were by the king. All the people of the land were rejoicing and blowing trumpets, also the singers with musical instruments and those who led in praise. So Athaliah tore her clothes and said, “Treason! Treason!” And Jehoaida the priest brought out the captains of hundreds who were set over the army, and said to them, “Take her outside under guard, and slay with the sword whoever follows her.” For the priest had said, “Do not kill her in the house of the Lord.” So they seized her; and she went by way of the entrance of the Horse Gate into the king’s house, and they killed her there. Then Jehoaida made a covenant between himself, the people and the king, that they should be the Lord’s people. And all the people went to the temple of Baal, and tore it down. They broke in pieces its altars and images, and killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. Also Jehoaida appointed oversight of the house of the Lord to the priests, the Levites, whom David had assigned in the house of the Lord, to offer the burnt offerings of the Lord, as it is written in the Law of Moses, with rejoicing and with singing, as it was established by David. And he set the gatekeepers at the gates of the house of the Lord, so that no one who was in any way unclean should enter. Then he took the captains of hundreds, the nobles, the governors of the people, and all the people of the land, and brought the king down from the house of the Lord; and they went through the Upper Gate to the king’s house, and set the king on the throne of the kingdom. So all the people of the land rejoiced; and the city was quiet, for they had slain Athaliah with the sword.”
The Sons of Korah were not only gatekeepers and soldiers, given a divine charge by God to protect the House of God from intruders, but were also musicians and singers who praised the Lord through the psalms. In both of these duties the Sons of Korah served to give a warning to Athaliah that her time as the usurping queen was at an end, a warning she refused to heed, as well as to execute God’s judgment upon her unworthy head. She cried out “Treason!” because it was her (false) belief that her positions and title and rank made it impossible for her to be judged for her sins. She thought she had the power and authority to do with her family whatever she wanted, not respecting the law of God or the fact that it was the son (in this case, her grandson) who was to reign, and not her. Her actions to attack her offspring rather than protect them brought upon her the capital judgment of God executed by Jehoaida the godly priest through the spears of the righteous and holy warriors of the Sons of Korah, all set to the praise and musical abilities of other Sons of Korah. Let us profit by the example.
Lessons From The Actions of the Sons of Korah in 2 Chronicles 22 and 23
Let us, in conclusion, examine some of the lessons we can learn from the actions of the Sons of Korah (and other priests and Levites) from 2 Chronicles 23. For one, we learn that the requirement to be a holy warrior of God is not merely a spiritual task but also (at times) a physical one. We need to be prepared to fight evil wherever we find it: within ourselves, within our families, within our churches, within our nations, and within our world. We must first make ourselves right with God, though, before we can do His will in whatever front we must defend righteousness or attack evil. We cannot, as Athaliah did, confuse our positions and ranks (even that of “mother”) with the right to do what we want, or especially to attack the chosen offspring of God. Once Jehoshabeath, the daughter of Athaliah, made the difficult decision of protecting her nephew from her mother’s murderous hostility, a battle between the forces of God and the satanic forces represented by Athaliah was inevitable. It took seven years, but eventually justice was served.
The role of the Sons of Korah in this story is not the starring role, but rather an important supporting role that can inspire us. Very few of us are the commanding generals in the spiritual warfare we wage as believers. Most of us are foot soldiers, or at best “captains” of a few or (if we are very lucky) hundreds. And yet the Sons of Korah served as gatekeepers protecting the righteous king and ensuring that only those who were godly and obedient to His law entered, as musicians singing praises to the newly established young king, and as holy warriors executing God’s judgment on a wicked mother who sought to destroy her offspring in order to attack God’s plan. The Sons of Korah therefore serve as an excellent example for us in whatever aspect of spiritual warfare we find ourselves in. For sometimes the warfare begins at home.