Usually on Mothers' Day we talk a lot about how mothers are hardworking, wise, loving, etc., etc., and many of them are all those things. However, there are exceptions. One thing we notice is that unconventional and dysfunctional mothers are often the children of less than textbook families themselves. One example of this is a lady that was the subject of a daily Bible reading last week; the thorn in a bouquet of great Godly mothers. (Note: the first part of this story is not a commonly told Sunday School story.)
One of the things we know about the northern kingdom of Israel after the split with Judah after Solomon's death is that the northern kingdom had no record of Godly kings or stable dynasties. The most dramatic of the northern ruling families is that of Omri, in the ninth century BC, about a hundred years after Solomon. Omri's son Ahab married Jezebel, a daughter of a king of Tyre in Lebanon, who was an aggressive Baal worshiper and an enemy of the God of Israel. Ahab had a daughter named Athaliah, who married King Jehoram of the southern kingdom of Judah, who had all his brothers killed when he became king, and was accused by Elijah the prophet of leading the people of Judah away from God and serving the idols of his in-laws. All of his sons but the youngest were killed by raiders from outside, and so the only remaining heir to the throne of David, Ahaziah of Judah, became king when Jehoram died at the age of 40, and the queen mother Athaliah was the power behind the throne. Ahaziah was soon killed by Jehu, the northern general who had also killed Ahab, Jezebel and their pagan entourage. When Athaliah heard that her son was dead, she had all his remaining family (her own grandsons and whoever else she could find) killed and took power herself, the only reigning queen in the history of either kingdom.
However—God had promised that the Davidic line would survive. She missed a daughter who was married to the High Priest at the Temple, and the youngest grandson (Joash) who was rescued by his aunt, hidden and raised in the Temple until he was seven years old. The story of the High Priest organizing a bodyguard and coronation for Joash is a good Sunday School story, and also how he organized a collection box to repair and renovate the Temple. All’s well that ends well, and King Joash was one of the Godly kings—but it was a close one.
The Bible is nothing if not honest. It pulls no punches describing the bad deeds of Ahab and Jezebel, and the bad judgment of King Jehoram of Judah. Elijah asked the same question that occurs to us: what was he thinking to marry into that family? Yes, Omri had been successful politically and economically, but at what cost? Sin is not only a roaring lion, but it has fierce cubs as well. I haven’t tried to count how many people died violently in those times but it is a whole bunch. We’ve talked a lot about legacies in the past few months, but we need to remember that legacies are not only powerful for good, but can be powerful for evil as well.
2 Kings 11; 2 Chronicles 21-22