JOASH (Heb. יוֹאָשׁ ,יְהוֹאָשׁ; "yhwh has given"), son of Ahaziah, king of Judah (835–798 b.c.e.). Joash ascended the throne in the seventh year of the reign of Jehu, king of Israel (ii Kings 12:2), and ruled until the second year of the reign of Joash (Jehoash) of Israel (ibid., 14:1). According to ii Kings 11, he was the youngest of the sons of *Ahaziah. After the death of Ahaziah, the king's mother *Athaliah had all his sons murdered; but the infant Joash was saved by Jehosheba, sister of Ahaziah and wife of *Jehoiada, the high priest (ii Chron. 22:11). Joash was hidden in the Temple for six years; in the seventh year Jehoiada plotted against Athaliah, then regent, to have him crowned. He was supported in this carefully planned plot by the captains, the messengers, and the citizens. Athaliah was killed, and Joash was appointed in the Temple in a festive ceremony. (The first mention of the decisive role of the citizens (*am ha-areẓ) in the choice of the kings appears in this connection.)
The ceremony seems to have been in the nature of a renewal of the dynasty (cf. the display of King David's armament emblems and spear, ii Kings 11:10; ii Chron. 23:9). Accordingly, it was augmented by a joint covenant between the king and the people, in which the royal privileges and responsibilities were reestablished, and by a covenant between God, the king, and the people against the worship of Baal, which marked the beginning of religious reform in Judah. The city was cleansed of the Tyrian cult, which had taken root during Jehoram's reign and flourished during Athaliah's reign, and Mattan, the priest of Baal, was killed. It is not known if the "high places" in Judah were destroyed, but it is clear that the Temple in Jerusalem and the priesthood headed by Jehoiada gained in importance and achieved decisive influence in national affairs for the first time in the history of Judah. Later, the Temple was repaired (ii Kings 12:7–17; ii Chron. 24:4–14 is a later version with variations in details); the work was completed in the 23rd year of Joash's reign. (The role of the king in building and maintaining temples figures prominently in ancient royal inscriptions from Egypt and Mesopotamia.) In that same year Hazael, king of Aram, attacked Israel, reached Aphek in the Sharon Plain and *Gath, and prepared to attack Jerusalem. Joash was forced to yield to Hazael; and according to ii Kings 12:19, he gave him all the gold that was found in the treasuries of the Temple and the palace, and all the votive gifts that the preceding kings had dedicated to the Temple. After this surrender, Judah entered a period of political decline. The Philistines attacked the western boundaries of Judah, and Edom attacked it from the south. (Evidently, the prophecy of Amos 1:6 refers to these events.) After the death of Jehoiada during the last years of Joash's reign, the king came into conflict with the priests. As a climax to this quarrel, according to the late narrative in ii Chronicles 24, Joash commanded that Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, be stoned in the Temple courtyard. ii Chronicles 24:23–24 also relates that one year later the Arameans attacked and despoiled Judah "and destroyed all the princes of the people from among the people, and sent all the spoil of them unto the king of Damascus." However, the credibility of this story is very doubtful. Joash died a violent death in a conspiracy, the circumstances of which are unknown and which seems to have gained considerable support. His murderers – Jozakar (var. Jozabad), the son of Shimeath and Jehozabad, the son of Shomer (ii Kings 12:21–22 [but cf. ii Chronicles 24:26]) – were apparently high state officials (i.e., royal "servants"). It is of significance that they were not punished immediately. Only when *Amaziah, son of Joash, felt that he was firm on his throne did he put to death the murderers of his father. Years later, however, he too was killed in a court conspiracy (ii Kings 14:19). According to ii Kings 12:1 Joash reigned 40 years. But, to judge from other chronological evidence in ii Kings, his reign could not have exceeded 37 or 38 years. It is still debated whether Athaliah's 6 (or 7) year usurpation of the Davidic dynasty was retroactively included by Joash in his regnal years (i.e., Joash's first regnal year was regarded in his official reckoning as his seventh). However, the synchronisms between the contemporary kings of Israel and Judah make it clear that the editor of the chronological framework of the Book of Kings regarded Athaliah's regency as an independent reign, not counting it within Joash's "40" years. Na'aman argued that the account of the temple repairs (ii Kings 12) was probably based on a royal inscription. An unprovenanced tablet purporting to be the very inscription hypothesized by Na'aman, and widely publicized in the media in 2003, was shown to be a forgery (Cross).
Bright, Hist, 234, 236–7; H. Tadmor, in H.H. Ben-Sasson (ed.), Toledot Am-Yisrael bi-Ymei Kedem, 1 (1969), 125–6; S. Mowinckel, Acta Orientalia, 10 (1932), 236; B. Maisler (Mazar), in Sefer Assaf (1953), 351–6; idem, in: jpos, 21 (1948), 125–6; Torrey, in: jnes, 3 (1943), 30; Oppenheim, ibid., 6 (1947), 117–8; W. Rudolph, in: Festschrift… A. Bertholet (1950), 473–8; S. Yeivin, in: Tarbiz, 12 (1940/41), 242–6; H.L. Ginsberg, in: Fourth World Congress of Jewish Studies, 1 (1967), 91–93; idem, in: jbl, 80 (1961), 339–47; H. Tadmor, in: em, 4 (1962), 281ff. add. bibliography: M. Cogan and H. Tadmor, ii Kings (AB; 1988), 135–41; N. Na'aman, in: vt, 48 (1998), 333–49; F. Cross, in: iej, 53 (2003), 119–23.
[Hayim Tadmor /
S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]