Biblical Personalities: Yoash
“They bowed to the King (II Chronicles 24:17).” They said to him, “You are a deity, for otherwise you could not have spent six years hidden in the Holy of Holies, where the high priest enters but once a year, and even then all pray for his safe exit. If you are not a deity, you would not have survived.” And he accepted their argument (Tanchumah, Va’eira16).
Yoash was ungrateful, as it is written, “Yoash did not remember the kindness that Yehoiada had done to him, but slew his son (II Chronicles 24:22).” (Mechilta Beshalach, Amalek 1)
Yoash sought to bring an image into the Temple, Zechariah (the prophet, son of Yehoiadah) stood at the entrance and declared, “Before you bring it in, you will have to kill me.” Thereupon, Yoash rose and children (Midrash Shir Hashirim 3:2).
He killed Zechariah son of Yehoiadah House of God and sprinkled his blood on the wall (Midrash Aggadah, Bamidbar 30:15).
Athaliah wiped out every member of King David’s family except for this one child who was hidden by Yehoiadah and his wife in the Holy of Holies. Still a child, he was publicly anointed as the new King, and wore the special crown that had become the symbol of the authority of David’s descendants, for only those of the House of David were able to wear this heavy crown (Zohar 1:110 B).
How does one survive becoming King at six years old without becoming arrogant? How does one survive living in the Holy of Holies for six years without beginning to believe in his having special powers?
The midrash answers: Gratitude.
Yoash, unfortunately had none. He was willing to murder a prophet of God, but even worse, the son of the very people who protected him for so long. He had no sense of gratitude. He had no protection against arrogance.
Yoash probably convinced himself that it was a privilege for Yehoiadah and his wife to care for him for so long. He felt that he owed them nothing. They should have been honored by their great privilege of caring for him.
Does his eventual behavior indicate that when he repaired and rededicated the Temple, his intentions were not truly for the glory of God, but rather for a building, one he probably saw as, not God’s, but his building.
Athaliah was not the biggest threat to Yoash. Lack of gratitude, was.