Athaliah (Hebrew ʻAṯalyā (עֲתַלְיָה), YHWH is exalted) (927-r. 884-878BC according to Ussher or 883-r. 841-835BC according to Thiele) was a princess of the House of Omri and a vicereine and queen in the Southern Kingdom. She was the only woman ever to occupy the throne of either kingdom in her own right. She is also remembered for introducing Baalism to the Southern Kingdom and for trying to destroy the House of David and seize power in the Southern Kingdom, until a High Priest and his wife would defeat her.
Athaliah was presumably born in 927 BC or 883 BC, to Ahab and Jezebel during the four years of civil war during which Omri was fighting for control of the Northern Kingdom. (The Chronicler calls her "daughter of Omri"; he probably means "granddaughter.")
When she was nine, her father became king of the Northern Kingdom on Omri's death. Jezebel came from Tyre, in Phoenician country (known as "The Levant" today), where Baalism had lately become prominent. Jezebel introduced this false religion to the Northern Kingdom. That she also introduced it to her daughter as well as to her sons is only reasonable to assume.
When Athaliah was twenty, she married Jehoram, son of King Jehoshaphat of the Southern Kingdom, to seal a treaty between Jehoshaphat and her father. She bore him at least one son, Ahaziah, who at the age of twenty-two would reign alone in the Southern Kingdom.
Controversy on the Age of Ahaziah
This last might explain an anomalous verse by the Chronicler, in which he seems to state that Ahaziah was 42 years old when he began to reign. In fact, Ahaziah was not 42 years of age, but Athaliah was.
Career of Jehoram
Toward the end of the reign of Jehoshaphat, Jehoram became viceroy of the Southern Kingdom—and immediately after Jehoshaphat died, Jehoram murdered all his brothers and several minor princes. Whether Athaliah incited him to do this or merely learned from his example, the Bible does not make clear. In any case, the Bible clearly credits her with (or, perhaps more properly, blames her for) introducing the worship of Baal to the Southern Kingdom, as her mother Jezebel had done in the Northern.
Athaliah survived the Philistine-Arabian raid that destroyed much of the rest of the royal family, as did her son Ahaziah. She watched as her husband suffered a severe gastrointestinal disease, and also watched her husband's death and the coronation of her son.
In 884 BC (or 841 BC), General Jehu seized the Northern Kingdom and systematically destroyed all of Athaliah's extended family in that kingdom. Jehu also killed her son Ahaziah and several other minor princes of the House of David. Athaliah, when she heard this, proceeded to kill as many members of the royal family as she could hunt down. But she missed one key member: her grandson Joash. Princess Jehosheba (an aunt of Joash) took him away from the palace, and she and her husband Jehoiada (who was High Priest) raised the boy for six years, during which time Athaliah ruled in the land. Apparently Athaliah did not even realize that Joash was alive, not unsurprising given he was being raised in the home of the High Priest of the true God she did not serve; if she did see him she may well have presumed it was the High Priest's own child and not a member of the royal family.Then in the seventh (and last) year of her reign, she heard a loud noise of celebration and music coming from the Temple of Jerusalem. She entered the temple and saw something that must have horrified her: here was a seven-year-old boy, wearing a crown, and clearly identified as Joash, son of Ahaziah, with High Priest Jehoiada and a large company of Levites by his side. In uncontrollable fury, she tore her royal robes and cried,
Treason! Treason! II_Chronicles 23:13
Kestner comments that the Bible nowhere criticized Athaliah for being a woman reigning in her own right, but rather for her wicked deeds, first in introducing Baalism to the kingdom and then in trying to exterminate the entire royal family.
- James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed., Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003 (ISBN 0890513600), pghh. 503, 511, 528, 532, 536, 537
- Leon J. Wood, A Survey of Israel's History, rev. ed. David O'Brien, Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1986 (ISBN 031034770X), pp. 295-296
- Konig, George. "Athaliah, Queen of Judah." About Bible Prophecy, 2007. Retrieved June 11, 2007.
- Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 503
- II_Chronicles 22:2
- II_Chronicles 21:6
- Authors unknown. "Athaliah." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., 2007. Retrieved June 11, 2007.
- Authors unknown. "Entry for Athaliah." WebBible Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 11, 2007.
- II_Kings 11:1-16
- II_Chronicles 22:10-12
- II_Chronicles 23:13-14
- Kestner, Jackie. "Entry for Athaliah." Alabaster Jars Ministry. Retrieved June 11, 2007.
- Southern Kingdom
- Northern Kingdom
- Biblical chronology dispute