Do you like kids?
I know we are meant to. Women are supposed to be clucky over babies and stick paintings to our fridges. (Could be a tree, a hippo, or Aunty Ruth… who knows!) And I know we are meant to rush to lead Sunday school – or crèche. And some of us do.
Some of you, I’m certain, are reading this with a great weight on your heart; that the child you long for has not arrived and the whole subject overwhelms you with anger, pain and sorrow.
Others probably feel about as maternal as – well, a not very maternal thing! Listening to a friend’s child on the phone has us wondering how much this call is going to cost. And mother’s day… hmm…
One of the students I worked with (in her 20’s) kindly got me a bunch of daffodils in the ‘mother’s day flower give away’ at church (you know it!). I didn’t quite know what to do – I’m CLEARLY not old enough to be her mother! But women and children, motherhood, it’s complicated.
This woman might help, but I’m willing to bet you’ve never heard of her!
2 Kings 11:1-3
“Now when Athalia, Ahaziah’s mother, saw that her son was dead, she set out to destroy the royal family. But Jehosheba, King Joram’s daughter, Ahaziah’s sister, took Joash son of Ahaziah, and stole him away from the king’s children who were about to be killed; She put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus she hid him from Athalia, so that he was not killed; he remained with her six years, hidden in the house of the Lord, while Athalia reigned over the land.”
My point exactly...
Times of intrigue, political machinations, war, murder, and assassination.
It’s a particularly violent period of Old Testament history. The nation of Israel had been ripped apart a hundred years before and in broad brush strokes the 10 northern tribes (now called Israel) had pretty much abandoned God in favour of Ba-al (A Canaanite god). The 2 southern tribes (now called Judah) who had stayed loyal to the House of David were marginally better, still having God’s temple and priests. However by the time of our story the kings of both nations had formed an alliance in the face of common enemies which included marrying their offspring to each other and so the lines of who had power where, were getting a bit blurry and Ba-al worship was infecting Judah too.
The family tree of our girl is a bit tricky (took me a while to work out anyway) it looks like this…
This isn’t all the family members – just the ones that play a part in our story. Clearly there is a real lack of creative baby naming which doesn’t help us unravel events, and to complicate things, although Jehosheba has the same father as King Ahaziah of Judah it seems that they had different mothers. (Bear in mind that ever since David, kings had collected wives!)
When Ahaziah of Judah is killed in battle his mother, Queen Athalia, daughter of Jezebel, decides she fancies a crack at the throne of Judah and in the power vacuum after her son’s death decides to wipe out the rest of the royals (the line of David) so that she can become undisputed queen. Like her mother, she worships Ba-al.
Enter our girl, Jehosheba.
Who will rule Judah?
Who will defend them from enemy nations?
What is going to happen to the line of David – God’s anointed?
Will people be allowed to worship God at all now Athalia is in charge?
Honestly – what can she do?
She takes one baby along with his nurse and hides them from the queen. She saves his life.
Do we think she regretted not being able to save more of the royal children? I bet she did.
It reminds me of Schindler who helped smuggle Jewish children out of Europe under Nazi occupation. He saved hundreds but died wishing he could have saved more from the death camps. I bet Jehosheba would have loved to save more of her brother’s kids – but in the crisis, as soldiers were rampaging through the royal palace slaughtering people, she somehow smuggled one little one away – and hid him.
What if he’d cried and the soldiers had heard?
What if they’d got caught? It seems unlikely that Athlalia would show mercy to her stepdaughter. (Mercy doesn’t seem to be one of her major gifts!)
Have you seen the film ‘The Sound of Music’? When they are hiding from the Nazi’s in the graveyard? Trying to keep the terrified children quiet?
Now imagine your own family are after you, not enemy soldiers.
That is a long time to keep a child – and an heir at that – a secret. The temple servants, priests and guards must have been in on it; a secret society committed to the preservation of the House of David, God’s anointed. If Athalia had heard she would surely have some to destroy a rival to the throne she had stolen. This was a desperate time and a huge secret and Jehosheba, carried that secret; having initiated it – not under her husbands instructions, but of her own volition. Not just to save a baby, but to save the house of David, to save the worship of God, to save His people and nation.
Ultimately her husband called the people to overthrow Athalia and crown little Joash king (which they did) and Jehosheba is mentioned no more. That doesn’t negate the significance of what she did.
Here’s a thought. That child in your life – be it your own or not – who are they destined to be and what might your part be in that? Who might they become? What might they achieve?
I hope that they are not under a death sentence as little Joash was, but perhaps what we can learn from this princess is that protecting the little ones is part of what we are about.
Personally I don’t have children, but my brother does, I also have 2 Goddaughters and a bzillion other wee ones in my life courtesy of my friends. It is tempting to go ‘not my problem’ (particularly when they are being monstrous!) but we all need children, one way or another, be they ours or not. As women we should be grieved by the suffering of children. Something should make us want to help them when they need it. That something is of God.
E.g. Deut 32.18/ Job 28.29/ Isa 66.13/ Hos 11.3-4
There are ‘motherly’ metaphors for God, we don’t often use them in the church but they are there. Jesus uses the metaphor of a mother hen longing to gather her chicks! (Matt 23.37) And motherliness isn’t just gentle and tender – it is fierce and protective, like a lioness protecting her cubs! Jehosheba showed her lioness side to defend a child that was not hers. I hope I would do the same, I hope I’d roar to protect a child in need.
When we see organizations like ‘mothers against gun crime’ or women battling to take back the estates they live on from gangs. When we hear stories of women who protect their children from violence or foster those who everyone else has given up on – these are Jehoshebas. There are other examples in the Bible. The Egyptian midwives who defied Pharaoh and refused to murder newborn Hebrew babies in Exodus; Pharaoh’s own daughter who adopted a Hebrew baby in the face of her father’s hatred. (Ex 1)
This is a quality in women as old as humanity. God put it there. Women don’t have a monopoly though. Think about Joseph, who risked his reputation, his dignity, even his life to protect Mary and her child – he walked in the tradition of Jehosheba!
Here’s another thought to ponder.
Some women long for children and get them, some aren’t that fussed, some are desperate to have a family yet never do give birth.
They are God’s – he just asks us to steward them for him for a while. To start them off the best way we know. Our society is very individualistic. The ‘nuclear family’ may be the ideal, but many women are struggling to cope. Extended family can be miles, even countries away. Aunties and grandmas are not always just round the corner to help out. Many women feel they must be super-mums and do it all themselves.
Well – Perhaps there are women beyond your biological family who could be involved in loving your kids and helping to bring them up? Perhaps the women you know with kids would like some help – not just babysitting then they’re asleep, but taking them to the park, doing puzzles with them, being an older friend they can talk to about things they couldn’t possibly tell their mum!
Not to off-load responsibility but to include the singles, the widows, the childless in the church – to function like the family of God, not just the ‘nuclear’ family. Surely the more godly role models your kids have the better?
Jehosheba saved her nephew. We don’t know if she had her own kids or not, but she clearly took an active part in his little life after that. She inspires me to do the same, but I also want to put out a plea to the mums. We don’t want to replace you but some of us would like to love your kids too!
Fostering? Adoption? Sponsorship? There are lots of ways to defend the rights of children. I know he’s not a woman but that’s what Jamie Oliver did – roaring about the food we feed our children at school.
Child prostitution; Neglect; Exploitation by advertisers; The sexualization of little girls in ‘mini adult’ outfits (even thongs!); Bullying; Violence; Child slavery and sweatshops; Homelessness; Abuse of every kind.
When they are in danger, be they ours or not, be they in the UK, India or a Brazilian slum, let’s roar over the little ones. Let’s take risks to protect them.
It’s part of who God made us!
© Ruth Perrin 2009. Last revised on 9 December 2009
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Cloud of Witnesses is a series of Bible studies on the men and women of scripture. You'll find everyone from Gideon and Andrew through to Tamar and Tabitha.
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Ruth Perrin, the author, is on staff at King's Church Durham and holds an MA in Theology and Ministry.
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