The Murder of ZechariahBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Yoash was hidden as a baby, so he was only seven years old when he assumed the throne. He remained righteous so long as his mentor Yehoyada was alive.
King Yoash decided to repair the Temple, which was long overdue. He told the priests and Levites to go fundraise the necessary capital to make the repairs. Despite the king’s command, they did not respond. Yoash called Yehoyada and asked why his instructions had not been carried out. (Apparently, they expected that the necessary funds would be brought to the Temple, as had been the case in the past.) So the king had them put a chest for donations by the entrance to the Temple; the people happily filled it up. They would empty the chest daily and when they had collected enough, they hired workmen to fix things up.
When the work was completed, they took the surplus gold and silver they had collected and turned it into vessels for the Temple. Yehoyada lived to a ripe old age (130 – far older than was common in those days!) and was buried in a royal plot for restoring the dynasty. (This was not inappropriate since, as the son-in-law of King Yehoram, he actually was a member of the royal family.)
After Yehoyada’s death, things started to go downhill. Yoash allowed himself to be worshiped, and the leaders of the people also served idols. This didn’t please G-d, Who sent prophets to straighten the people out, but they wouldn’t listen.
A priest named Zechariah was Divinely inspired to rebuke the people. The people didn’t care for that, so they stoned him to death in the Temple. This was not a spontaneous crime of passion; it was premeditated murder at the king’s command. This was especially heinous since Zechariah was the son of Yoash’ mentor, Yehoyada. Zechariah’s last words were that G-d would require an accounting for his murder. (We see the ramifications of this in Talmud Gittin, page 57b. Zechariah’s blood seethed for two-and-a-half centuries, until the Temple was invaded by the Babylonian general Nevuzaradan.)
About a year later, the army of Aram invaded. They destroyed the leadership of Judah and sent the spoils of war back to Damsacus. Even though the Aramite forces were small, G-d permitted them to prevail since the Jews had forsaken Him. They assaulted Yoash and left him broken. Some of his servants took advantage of his weakened state to get even with Yoash for what he did to Zechariah. They killed the once-righteous king, who was buried without honors.
The chapter ends by telling us that we can find out more about the reign of Yoash in the Midrash on the Book of Kings. Yoash was succeeded by his son, Amatzyahu.