Who was Jehoahaz?
Jehoahaz was the son of Jehu, and 11th king of Israel. He is stated to have reigned 17 years.
1. Chronology of Reign
Josephus was already aware ( Ant. , IX, viii, 5) of the chronological difficulty involved in the cross-references in 2 Kings 13:1 and 2 Kings 13:10 , the former of which states that Jehoahaz began to reign in the 23rd year of Jehoash of Jerusalem, and reigned 17 years; while the latter gives him a successor in Jehoash's 37th year, or 14 years later. Josephus alters the figure of 2 Kings 13:1 to 21; and, to meet the same difficulty, the Septuagint (Aldine edition) changes 37 to 39 in 2 Kings 13:10 .
The difficulty may be met by supposing that Jehoahaz was associated with his father Jehu for several years in the government of the country before the death of the latter, and that these years were counted as a part of his reign. This view has in its favor the fact that Jehu was an old man when he died, and may have been incapacitated for the full discharge of administrative duties before the end came. The accession of Jehoahaz as sole ruler may be dated about 825 bc.
2. Low Condition of the Kingdom
When Jehoahaz came to the throne, he found a discouraged and humiliated people. The territory beyond Jordan, embracing 2 1/2 tribes, or one-fourth of the whole kingdom, had been lost in warfare with the Syrian king, Hazael (2 Kings 10:32 , 2 Kings 10:33 ). A heavy annual subsidy was still payable to Assyria, as by his father Jehu. The neighboring kingdom of Judah was still unfriendly to any member of the house of Jehu. Elisha the prophet, though then in the zenith of his influence, does not seem to have done anything toward the stability of Jehu's throne.
3. Israel and Syria
Specially did Israel suffer during this reign from the continuance of the hostility of Damascus (2 Kings 13:3 , 2 Kings 13:4 , 2 Kings 13:22 ). Hazael had been selected, together with Jehu, as the instrument by which the idolatry of Israel was to be punished (1 Kings 19:16 ). Later the instruments of vengeance fell out. On Jehu's death, the pressure from the east on Hazael was greatly relieved.
The great conqueror, Shalmaneser II, had died, and his son Samsi-Ramman IV had to meet a revolt within the empire, and was busy with expeditions against Babylon and Media during the 12 years of his reign (824-812 bc). During these years, the kingdoms of the seaboard of the Mediterranean were unmolested. They coincide with the years of Jehoahaz, and explain the freedom which Hazael had to harass the dominions of that king.
4. The Elisha Episodes
Particulars of the several campaigns in which the troops of Damascus harassed Israel are not given. The life of Elisha extended through the 3 reigns of Jehoram (12 years), Jehu (28 years) and Jehoahaz (12 or 13 years), into the reign of Joash (2 Kings 13:1 ). It is therefore probable that in the memorabilia of his life in 2 Ki 4 through 8, now one and now another king of Israel should figure, and that some of the episodes there recorded belong to the reign of Jehoahaz. There are evidences that strict chronological order is not observed in the narrative of Elisha, e.g. Gehazi appears in waiting on the king of Israel in 2 Kings 8:5 , after the account of his leprosy in 2 Kings 5:27 .
The terrible siege of Samaria in 2 Ki 7 is generally referred to the reign of Jehoram; but no atmosphere is so suitable to it as that of the reign of Jehoahaz, in one of the later years of whom it may have occurred. The statement in 2 Kings 13:7 that "the king of Syria destroyed them, and made them like the dust in threshing," and the statistics there given of the depleted army of Jehoahaz, would correspond with the state of things that siege implies. In this case the Ben-hadad of 2 Kings 6:24 would be the son of Hazael ( 2 Kings 13:3 ).
5. His Idolatry
Jehoahaz, like his father, maintained the calf-worship in Bethel and Dan, and revived also the cult of the Asherah, a form of Canaanitish idolatry introduced by Ahab (1 Kings 16:33 ). It centered round a sacred tree or pole, and was probably connected with phallic worship (compare 1 K 2 Kings 15:13 , where Maacah, mother of Asa, is said to have "made an abominable image for an Asherah" in Jerusalem).
6. Partial Reform
The close of this dark reign, however, is brightened by a partial reform. In his distress, we are told, "Jehoahaz besought Yahweh, and Yahweh hearkened unto him" (2 Kings 13:4 ). If the siege of Samaria in 2 Ki 6 belongs to his reign, we might connect this with his wearing "sackcloth within upon his flesh" (2 Kings 6:30 ) - an act of humiliation only accidentally discovered by the rending of his garments. 2 Kings 6:5 goes on to say that "Yahweh gave Israel a saviour, so that they went out from under the hand of the Syrians." The "saviour" may refer to Joash, under whom the deliverance began ( 2 Kings 13:25 ), or to Jeroboam II, of whom it is declared that by him God "saved" Israel (2 Kings 14:27 ). Others take it to refer to Ramman-nirari III, king of Assyria, whose conquest of Damascus made possible the victories of these kings. See JEHOASH .
(2) A king of Judah, son and successor of Josiah; reigned three months and was deposed, 608 bc. Called "Shallum" in Jeremiah 22:11 ; compare 1 Chronicles 3:15 . The story of his reign is told in 2 Kings 23:30-35 , and in a briefer account in 2 Chronicles 36:1-3 . The historian o 2 Kings characterizes his reign as evil; 2 Ch passes no verdict upon him. On the death of his father in battle, which threw the realm into confusion, he, though a younger son (compare 2 Kings 23:31 with 2 Kings 23:36 ; 1 Chronicles 3:15 makes him the fourth son of Josiah), was raised to the throne by "the people of the land," the same who had secured the accession to his father; see under JOSIAH . Perhaps, as upholders of the sterling old Davidic idea, which his father had carried out so well, they saw in him a better hope for its integrity than in his elder brother Jehoiakim (Eliakim), whose tyrannical tendencies may already have been too apparent. The prophets also seem to have set store by him, if we may judge by the sympathetic mentions of him in Jeremiah 22:11 and Ezekiel 1:3 , Ezekiel 1:4 . His career was too short, however, to make any marked impression on the history of Judah.
Josiah's ill-advised meddling with the designs of Pharaoh-necoh (see under JOSIAH ) had had, in fact, the ill effect of plunging Judah again into the vortex of oriental politics, from which it had long been comparatively free. The Egyptian king immediately concluded that so presumptuous a state must not be left in his rear unpunished. Arrived at Riblah on his Mesopotamian expedition, he put Jehoahaz in bonds, and later carried him prisoner to Egypt, where he died; raised his brother Jehoiakim to the throne as a vassal king; and imposed on the realm a fine of a hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold. So the fortunes of the Judean state, so soon after Josiah's good reign, began their melancholy change for the worse.
(3) In 2 Chronicles 21:17 ; 2 Chronicles 25:23 = AHAZIAH , king of Judah (which see) (2 Kings 8:25 ; 2 Chronicles 22:1 ).
IBSE, "Abner" (in the public domain) with minor edits.