One of the most quoted verses of the Torah is found in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 30:19 – “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving The Lord, your God, heeding His voice, and holding fast to Him. For that will mean life for you…….”
In this context, it is not difficult to understand what God is telling His people and what is meant by the biblical meanings of blessing and curse – blessing is abundant life and curse is death. We understand here that death may encompass physical termination, or death may encompass spiritual demise. Either way, disregard and disobedience of God’s ways and directives equals death; but tragically, not just for one generation, but to the third and fourth generations of one’s descendants. (see Numbers 14:28).
This is what the Bible refers to as GENERATIONAL CURSES. The term “behaviorally dysfunction” may be a contemporary way of looking at what the bible refers to as a generational curse. Scripture reminds us, through story narrative, that EVERY FAMILY struggles with this phenomenon. In other words, there are no perfect families. The genealogy of Jesus is evidence of this.
In the story of Queen Athaliah, a woman of firsts – the first and only female monarch to rule the nation of Judah; we find a fascinating history of generational curses which are set up through the house of King Ahab, a royal descendant of David. The Davidic kingdom was filled with blessings and curses. Many of the kings and this particular queen, Athaliah, were given great power, privilege, and status; but, misused their authority and leadership to the demise of themselves and their descendants. Through them, we can see ourselves – the decisions that can guide us on the right relationship with God and community, or the decisions that ultimately destroy our futures and the futures of our children and their children.
Queen Athaliah’s life is a cautionary tale – one of great potential to rule with compassion, grace, intelligence, authority, and strength; but tragically, this queen was set up for failure from the very beginning because of the generational curses upon the house of Ahab.
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2 Chronicles, Chapters 22 &23 (audio bible) – KEEP YOUR BIBLES OPEN
In the Game of Thrones of Scripture, Athaliah is the ONLY reigning queen of either Judah or Israel. This incredible accomplishment, must be considered against the backdrop of 37 kings of either the United Kingdom, Judah & Israel; whereby, Queen Athaliah is the only woman. This is an astonishing feat in itself; however, to consider Queen Athaliah reigned for six straight years, when many of the kings only reigned for a year or two, indicates to us a capable, powerful, dominant, and intelligent monarch. There was no other Israelite or Judean woman who became queen again until the Second Temple era when Salome Alexandra reigned in 76-77; however, she is not recorded in biblical history (the Christian canon).
The story of Athaliah with its intrigue, murder, upheavals, coups, politics, and seamy state of affairs, reads like the contemporary series of Game of Thrones, except that this story is not a fictional account. Through Queen Athaliah, a major figure in the book of 2 Chronicles, the political climate of 9th century B.C.E., shows us the contrast between good and evil intentions and actions – with Queen Athaliah being portrayed in Scripture as a wicked woman and queen.
Her story starts with confusion, as Scripture presents two different accounts of her birth. The biblical text calls her either the daughter of King Omri (2 Chronicles, 22:2) or the daughter of King Ahab (2 Kings 8:18). The confusion with her parentage lies in the term, “daughter,” which often in Hebrew is used informally. A daughter in the Omride context could technically mean granddaughter, and the bible is unclear as to the solid meaning of the term. Most scholars support King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, as the parents of Athaliah because it is clear from scripture that she grew up in the house of Ahab. The influence of this parentage is obvious because many of the personality traits of this couple are evident in Queen Athaliah’s behaviors and actions.
THE CAST OF CHARACTERS
Ahab – The seventh king of Israel, son and successor of King Omri, husband of Queen Jezebel – probably father of Queen Athaliah.
Ahaziah – A King of Judah – Son of Athaliah and Jehoram
<strong>Athaliah – Queen-wife Regent of King Jehoram, probable daughter of King Aham & Queen Jezebel, mother to King Ahaziah
Jehosheba – daughter to King Jehoram, sister to King Ahaziah, wife of priest Jehoiada,</strong> step daughter to Queen Athaliah
Jehoiada – prominent priest of Judah, husband to Princess Jehoiada, brother-in-law to King Ahaziah
King Jehoram</strong> – King of Judah, husband to Queen Athaliah, father to King Ahaziah, son of King Jehoshaphat
Queen Jezebel – non Israelite princess, daughter of the King of Sidon, Ethbaal, probable mother of Queen Athaliah
We enter Athaliah’s story at the time of her marriage to King Jehoram of Judah. Their alliance was a political marriage, formed to ease the tensions between the two kingdoms. While political issues may have been solved for a time, Athaliah brought with her the negative influences of her family line. As we know, both King Ahab and Queen Jezebel were Baal/Asherah worshippers, and they absolutely refused to worship God (Yahweh). Instead of worshipping the God of Israel, they bowed down to idols and cultic gods such as Baal and Asherah. The denial of Yahweh as God in the kingdom of Judah was apostasy and the Bible marks both of her parents as evil and wicked. Athaliah marries King Jehoram of Judah and brings the worship of false gods with her. King Jehoram, son of King Jehoshaphat of Judah, was considered a godly king until he married Athaliah.
“He [Jehoram] walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab; for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife; and he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord. (2 Kings 8:18; 2 Chronicles 21:6)
THE CURSE BEGINS
The first curse obvious in Athaliah’s story is the ungodly partnership between her father, King Ahab and her mother, Queen Jezebel. Through their examples, Athaliah modeled the worship of false gods. For this queen, appropriate leadership and authority rested in the worship of Yahweh; yet, Athaliah decides to chose false gods over the God of Israel.
The matriarchs, patriarchs, priests, prophets, kings, judges, and warriors of Scripture were chosen by divine plan to lead the nation of Israel at different points in her history. While there are certainly vulnerabilities, sinfulness, improper decisions and behaviors from relationships between Sarah and Abraham; Rebecca and Isaac; Rachel, Leah, and Jacob, David and his wives, and so forth; the biblical principle of “ma’aseh avot siman le-banim,” means the deeds of the ancestors serve as a model for the descendants. This is operative in the Bible and still applies in the present age in which we must live. Ancient Jewish leaders displayed strengths and weaknesses, deep emotions, and errors in judgment; yet ultimately, they exemplified strong faith in God and humanity. The tragedy of Queen Athaliah’s life is that she did not. And, most tragically, because she was not taught to love and respect God, she could not teach her own child to do the same.
THE GENERATIONAL CURSE CONTINUES
“The people of Jerusalem made Ahaziah [Queen Athaliah’s son], Jehoram’s youngest son, king in his place, since the raiders, who came with the Arabs into the camp, killed all the older sons. So Ahaziah, son of Jehoram king of Judah, began to reign. Ahaziah was twenty-two years old, when he became king of Judah, and reigned in Jerusalem one year. His mother’s name was Athaliah, a granddaughter of Omri. He too followed the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother encouraged him to act wickedly. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as the house of Ahab had done, for after his father’s death, they became his advisers, to his undoing.” Chronicles 22 1-4.
When King Ahaziah dies, Queen Athaliah’s thirst for power explodes into fury, rage, and violence. She proceeds to secure the throne by killing her own grandchildren:
“When Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family of the house of Judah. But Jehosheba (daughter of King Jehoram/sister to Ahaziah/stepdaughter to Athaliah) took Joash (son of Ahaziah) and stole him away from the royal princes who were about to be murdered and put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Because Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram (wife of the priest Jehoiada) was Ahaziah’s sister, she hid the child from Athaliah, so she could not kill him. He remained hidden with them at the temple of God for six years while Athaliah ruled the land.” 2 Chronicles 22: 10-12
EGO – EDGING GOD OUT
The phrase, “and did which was evil in the sight of the Lord,” occurs repeatedly in the books of Chronicles. Scripture implies this behavior, which is opposite of God’s desire, is deliberate and repetitive. In Athaliah’s case, her malignant narcissism, ego, and inability to take self-inventory, allowed evil behavior to thrive. She begins her reign of terror, misleading her son through evil counsel; but, as her narcissism grows out of control, she convinces herself that she must hold on to the throne by “any means necessary.” Athaliah teaches us, by negative example, how lack of self-control, narcissism, and generational curses are connected. Her mother Jezebel kills the prophets of the Lord to hold onto royal power, and Athaliah, her daughter, trumps her mother by killing her own grandchildren to maintain the throne.
Definition of Narcissism – “An inordinate fascination with one’s self; excessive self-love, self-centeredness, vanity.”
GOD SHALL HAVE GOD’S WAY
For as horrific as Athaliah’s story is, amazingly God uses another woman of royal descent to save the Davidic kingdom. This story teaches us that a woman with power and position is never the problem – it is how one uses the power and position that ultimately matters. The line of King David, eventually leading to Messiah Jesus, is redeemed through love. Jehosheba, sister of Ahaziah, wife of Jehoiada, and stepdaughter to Athaliah, acts against the queen’s actions with courage, compassion, and intelligence. She hides Joash, Athaliah’s last grandson until the time is right. This allows the Levites, the high priests, and the warriors who worshipped Yahweh (underground) to make effective plans to dethrone Athaliah. They manage to maneuver a coup and take the throne from the wicked Queen. Athaliah, unaware of the coup, shows herself prematurely, as her grandson is crowned king. She rents her clothes, cries out in horror, and is taken from the Temple to be assassinated. Her life is ended in violence, similar to her mother, Jezebel. Her reign of terror ends and Athaliah is forever known in Scripture, as the only woman who ruled in Judah; but tragically with evil intentions.
A cautionary word from minority scholarship is the fact that Athaliah’s murderous actions may have resulted from fear, when her son Ahaziah is killed. Cut off from her family’s power base in Israel, and from any means of escape in Judah, she preserves her life via murder. While this murderous rampage may have meaning, certainly judgment results and Athaliah sows the seeds for her own downfall.
Questions for discussion and consideration:
How does power and privilege often set us up for terrible consequences?
Interestingly, Princess Jehosheba, was raised in the house of Athaliah. She is the one who breaks the generational curse (while she is not a legitimate heir). How do you think generational curses are broken?
What do you think are the keys to balancing intelligence, accomplishment, strength, dominance, power and privilege?
Queen Athaliah is one of the most accomplished women of Scripture. What does her story teach us, as accomplished women?
“I believe the root of all evil is abuse of power.” – Patricia Cornwell
“For by the grace given me, I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather, think of yourself with sober judgment.” – Romans 12:3
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself; but, thinking of yourself less. – C.S. Lewis
OUR SENDING PRAYER
O Lamb of God, who showed us by example, the gifts of humility and kindness,
Assist us, O Jesus, not to seek our own glory, but Yours.
Help me to listen to my neighbor and avoid the praise which involves my ego.
Let me, as a pure light, reflect Your glory instead,
And never claim as my own what is Your sole property.
In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.
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