Definitions

Athaliah

Athaliah

[ath-uh-lahy-uh]
Athaliah. 1 The only queen to occupy the throne of Judah, daughter of Ahab of Israel, wife of Jehoram 2 of Judah, and mother of Ahaziah 2 of Judah, whom she succeeded. She had the males of the royal family murdered, but her stepdaughter Jehosheba hid away a baby son of Ahaziah. Some years later, Jehosheba and her husband Jehoiada 1 effected a coup in favor of this baby, Jehoash 2. Athaliah they killed. These events are the subject of Racine's Athalie. 2 Benjamite. 3 Father of one who returned with Ezra.

Athaliah or Athalie (Hebrew: ʻĂṯalyâ (עֲתַלְיָה), "God is exalted") was the queen of Judah during the reign of King Jehoram, and later became sole ruler of Judah for five years. William F. Albright has dated her reign to 842 BC – 837 BC, while E. R. Thiele offers the dates 841 BC – 835 BC. Athaliah was the daughter of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel of Israel; her marriage to Jehoram sealed a treaty between Israel and Judah.

Jehoram, a descendant of King David, actively promoted the worship of Yahweh in his country, but he tolerated Athaliah's worship of Baal. After Jehoram's death, their son Ahaziah became Judah's king with Athaliah acting as queen mother. She used her power in that role to establish the worship of Baal in Judah after Ahaziah was killed in a state visit to Israel along with the then-king of Israel, also named Jehoram, who was Athaliah's brother. Jehu assassinated them both in Yahweh's name and had Athaliah's entire extended family in Israel murdered.

Athaliah, as queen of Judah, tried to have all possible successors to David executed; one, however,a grandson of hers named Jehoash was rescued from the purge by Jehosheba, Ahaziah's sister, and was raised in secret by the priest Jehoiada. Six years later, Athaliah was surprised when Jehoiada revealed Jehoash and proclaimed him king of Judah. She rushed to stop this rebellion, but was captured and executed.

Though the Bible presents her as a negative character, not to be emulated, "Athaliah" is attested, though infrequently, as a female first name in contemporary Israel.

French tragedian Jean Racine wrote a 1691 play about this Biblical queen, entitled Athalie.

The musician and composer Handel composed a 1733 oratorio based on her life, called Athalia, calling her a "Baalite Queen of Judah Daughter of Jezebel." Baal was the fertility god of the Canaanites, whom the ancient Israelites often fell into worshipping in the Old Testament.



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Sources

  • II Paralipomenon 22:1-23:15
  • Josheph, Antiquitates iudaicae viii-ix
  • Hebrew Bible - her story of her actions are told in 2 Kings 8:16 – 11:16
  • Virginia Brown's translation of Giovanni Boccaccio’s Famous Women, pp. 102-106; Harvard University Press 2001; ISBN 0-674-01130-9
  • Athalia, by Handel; The New Oxford Annotated Bible, third edition (2001), page 582.

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