Athaliah was the queen of Judah notorious for murdering her grandchildren(2 Kings 8:26; 2 Chr. 22; 2 Chr. 23:13-21; 2 Chr. 24:7). Her name means taken away of the Lord, or Jehovah has afflicted. Note the special significance—that of being afflicted of (or by) the Lord.
When young Athaliah asked for moral advice of her parents, she inquired of murderers. When she first listened to her mother’s prayers, she heard her pray to the Baal god. When she went to worship with her mother she went to the groves of idolatry. When the prophets of God were discussed at Athaliah’s house, they were spoken of with disgust and mockery. When they talked about dreams and aspirations, they spoke of material riches and power—the earthly things Baal represented. Young Athaliah’s teaching was not about the great victories of Jehovah or his people, and her prayers were not addressed to the Father in Heaven. In fact, the folks who lived in Athaliah’s house were so involved in the pursuit of power and promotion of self, that the little girl likely had little religious instruction at all.
Some doubt that Jezebel was the actual mother of Athaliah. Ahab had three children: Ahaziah, Jehoram, and Athaliah, but were they all born to Jezebel? We see that Jezebel was Jehoram’s mother, and that Athaliah was Ahab’s daughter, but does this prove that Jezebel was Athaliah’s mother? Since we have no evidence that Ahab had another wife, we must look to the genealogy of Ahab and his children (1 Kings 22:40; 2 Kings 3:1-2; 2 Kings 8:26; 2 Kings 8:16; 2 Kings 8:18; 2 Kings 8:26; 2 Kings 8:25).
And when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed the entire seed royal. 2 But Jehosheba, the daughter of king Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him from among the king’s sons which were slain; and they hid him, even him and his nurse, in the bedchamber from Athaliah, so that he was not slain (2 Kings 11:1-2).
Notice Athaliah’s family connections. She was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, and thus half Israelite and half Phoenician. She personified all the evil of her infamous parents and transfused the poison of idolatry into Jerusalem’s veins. We might not know what all Athaliah did to supplant the true worship of God if it were not for what we learn in 2 Kings, chapter 23.
And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel (2 Kings 23:4).
We learned that Athaliah was the granddaughter of Omri, 6th king of Israel (1 Kings 16:30-31), who fought to sit on a throne he didn’t inherit (1 Kings 16:22). Finally we learn that Athaliah married Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat (2 Kings 8:18-19; 2 Chr. 21:6-13). Of this union Ahaziah was born. With such a mother as his wicked counselor, he walked in the ways of godless Ahab (2 Chr. 22:3; 2 Chr. 22:10-12).
After reigning for eight years Jehoram died, of an incurable disease (2 Chr. 21:18-20). While he reigned, Athaliah, who had the stronger self-determination of the two, dominated him. Athaliah inherited from her evil mother the strength of will and fanatical devotion to the worship of Baal and eventually led Judah into idolatry. Her son Ahaziah only reigned for a year. Wounded in battle by Jehu, he fled to Megiddo, where he died. His wicked mother (2 Chr. 24:7) became covetous of the throne, but the sons of Ahaziah (her own grandsons) stood in her way. Because of her worship of Baal, it seemed nothing to her to kill young children. With fanatical ambition she seized the opportunity and massacred all the legal heirs—or so she thought. This merciless, cruel-hearted woman sought to eliminate the last trace of the House of David through which the promised Messiah was to come (2 Kings 8:19). Behind her heinous crime to destroy the seed royal we can see the work of Satan (2 Kings 11:1). When a bad woman bent on destruction was used by Satan, she became doubly dangerous (2 Kings 11:1-16; 2 Chr. 22:10-12; 2 Chr. 23:1-15).
Unknown to Athaliah, as she set out to massacre all her grandsons, Jehosheba, wife of Jehoiada the high priest, and sister of Ahaziah, had hidden the youngest. Jehosheba and Jehoiada hid Joash until he was seven years old (2 Kings 11:2; 2 Chr. 22:11). Jehoiada’s plan was to restore the throne to the rightful heir and to crown Joash (Jehoash) when the opportune moment came. His intent was to declare the remaining son of Ahaziah the lawful king of Judah (2 Kings 11:21; 2 Kings 12:1-21; 2 Chr. 24). Athaliah came into the Temple as the coronation of Joash took place, and rending her robe, she cried: “Treason! Treason!”
To save the temple from being defiled with her evil blood, the guards slew her just outside the temple door. The horses trampled over her body where she lay dead at the gates. In her miserable death Athaliah still bore a resemblance to her mother Jezebel, who was abandoned to the dogs. Athaliah was left in a horse-path, to be trampled upon. Like her mother she died a queen, but without the love of her people or the blessing of God. She had shoved the whole nation into idolatry. She trampled on all faith. She violated all morality.