Another Strong Woman Who We Never Hear About.
Do you know the story of Jehosheba? She’s another strong woman, whose story is included in the Bible, but who we rarely hear about. I discovered her as part of my read-through the Bible, and she pops up in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. She is considered to be so important, the writers couldn’t even get her name right!
The story is as follows: The Jews are basically split into two nations – Israel and Judah. This is after King David, and both nations have their own kings, some of whom follow God and some who decide to include other gods too, as a way of keeping their options open. One of the kings in Jerusalem, Ahaziah, has just been killed. (The names make this story very confusing, as they all – to Western minds – seem very similar. But try to keep track.) His mother, Athalia (see what I mean?) decides that she will now rule Judah, so she starts to kill the whole royal family.
Whilst they are being killed, Jehosheba* hears what’s happening, and goes to where her baby nephew Joash is. (He’s a son of the recently dead king.) She whisks away Joash and his nurse, and hides them in a bedroom, so they aren’t slaughtered with everyone else. (I’m not sure why no one noticed he was missing. Perhaps in the frenzy, no one was keeping track of corpses. Or maybe they did realise he wasn’t there, but couldn’t find him, and he remained a mystery, like the princes in the tower at The Tower of London.)
Now, although Jehosheba’s actions only manage one verse in Chronicles, if you think about what she did, it was amazingly brave. Imagine the scene. There was a powerful person, killing anyone who might challenge her ability to rule, and Jehosheba defies her, to do what is right. She wouldn’t have had much time, she must have acted fairly instinctively, risking her own life to do what she believed was right. Even today, nations have leaders who are blatantly doing the wrong thing. It’s not easy to decide to risk all and continue to behave correctly.
So who is Jehosheba? We’re not even sure of her name, as sometimes she’s called Jehoshabeath. She was the daughter of a king, and sister to Ahaziah. She was also married to a priest, which is interesting, because after he was rescued, Joash lived secretly in the temple, guarded by the priests. Did Jehosheba suggest to her husband that he should arrange this? We aren’t told – but in those days, the man was the ruler of his wife, so it’s unlikely they would record that, even if it happened. Women of every era are usually very good at persuading their husbands, so I suspect she did.
The story continues with Joash being kept safe until he was about 7, when he was made king. He was then a good king, and ruled well – until he was older, and went bad. But it wouldn’t have happened unless Jehosheba had acted when she did. Another strong woman.
*As I’m sure you know, the Bible is a collection of ancient manuscripts. They’re not arranged chronologically, and so it can be a little confusing if you start at the beginning and read through. The books of Kings were written to give an historical account, and show the order of events for that period. The books of Chronicles were written at the same time, and record the same events, but add some commentary. (There were other books written at the same time, which are about the prophets of the time.) In Chronicles, she is called Jehoshabeath. In Kings, Jehosheba. No idea why.