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Well actually my real question is, why didn’t Johoiada and the other priests use the money to repair the temple. Were they not supposed to? Were the priests using the money for personal means? Was that allowed since the money was denoted for repairs?

Here is the passage I am referring to:

“Jehoash said to the priests, “All the money of the holy things that is brought into the house of the Lord, the money for which each man is assessed—the money from the assessment of persons—and the money that a man’s heart prompts him to bring into the house of the Lord, let the priests take, each from his donor, and let them repair the house wherever any need of repairs is discovered.” But by the twenty-third year of King Jehoash, the priests had made no repairs on the house. Therefore King Jehoash summoned Jehoiada the priest and the other priests and said to them, “Why are you not repairing the house? Now therefore take no more money from your donors, but hand it over for the repair of the house.”” ‭‭2 Kings‬ ‭12‬:‭4‬-‭7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

https://bible.com/bible/59/2ki.12.4-7.ESV

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The relationship between Joash (also called Jehoash) and the priesthood, was an especially complicated one. I suggest that the priests lost trust in him because he had begun to adopt some of Athaliah's policies. Moreover, based on 2 Chron. 24:7, they probably blamed him for failing to protect the Temple and held him responsible for costly items stolen from the Temple by his relatives. They made the repairs only when Joash provided enough money to replace the Temple furnishings, in addition to making the repairs.

The Background

Joash, although he was a royal son, had been raised by in the Temple after having been benevolently kidnapped by his aunt and the high priest Jehoiada at the beginning of the reign of Joash's grandmother, Queen Athaliah. After six years, Jehoiada mustered his military allies and declared the seven-year-old Joash to be the rightful ruler, also orchestrating the murder of the child's grandmother (2 Kings 11). Joash followed Jehoiada's lead during the remaining years of his childhood but established independence as an adolescent or adult. One way he did so was by tolerating unauthorized worship, which no doubt strained the relationship with the priests of Yahweh. He also seems to have turned a blind eye to a robbery of the Temple by a faction associated with his Athaliah (see below).

Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him. But the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense in the high places. (2 Kings 12)

The Theft

We are not told exactly when Joash ordered the repairs to be made, but it we can speculate with good reason that his support of sacrifices at the high places caused the priests serious concern. 2 Chronicles 24:7 adds that:

The [other] children of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken into the house of God and had even used all the dedicated things of the house of the Lord for the Baals.

I suggest that the placement of this verse, immediately after Joash's questioning of the priests, implies that the break-in was the reason why the repairs had not been made. It was certainly a major blow the Temple. The priests would have felt that Joash failed in his duty to protect the Temple. No doubt they also needed money to replace the holy vessels and silver and golden ornaments that had be stolen. Indeed, it is immediately after Joash provided the funds that the repairs were made and the costly ornaments were replaced.

So the king gave command, and they made a chest and set it outside the gate of the house of the Lord... So those who were engaged in the work labored, and the repairing went forward at their hands, and they restored the house of God to its proper condition and strengthened it. When they had finished, they brought the rest of the silver to the king and Jehoiada, and with it were made utensils for the house of the Lord, utensils for the service and for the burnt offerings, and ladles, and vessels of gold and silver. They offered burnt offerings in the house of the Lord regularly all the days of Jehoiada.

The Bible does not report the conversation but I suggest that the priests told the king they would repair the Temple if and when he provided the funds not only for the repairs but for the replacement of the costly ornaments his relatives stole and dedicated to Baal.

This scenario is necessarily speculative, but it is clear that tensions between priesthood and the king form the background of this drama. These tensions resulted from the complicated relationship between Joash and the high priest who raised him but also brought about his grandmother Athaliah's death. The stress reach a climax by the theft of Temple furnishing by Joash's relatives.


Note: commentators are divided as to whether the "children [lit. sons] of Athaliah" refers to her own sons or to people devoted to her legacy.

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We are not told the specific reason(s) that the priests did not do as the king requested, and repair the temple. So we cannot be certain of the answer. However, here are some plausible reasons:

  • the money collected as recorded in 2 Kings 12:4 would normally be used to support the priests themselves - it was their normal income and thus little or nothing could be diverted to repairs. That is, it was only when King Joash created a separate money stream that money for repairs became available.
  • the priests were priests - expert and trained in running the temple and its services. They did not understand construction and how to manage builders and carpenters, etc. I note that it was only when construction supervisors were appointed and given charge of the repair work, then progress was made (2 Kings 11, 12)
  • the priests were lazy or dilatory and did not initiate the work - this is unlikely because they wanted the repair work to begin.

Benson offers these comments on V6 -

2 Kings 12:6-8. In the three and twentieth year of Jehoash, the priests had not repaired, &c. — They were both dilatory and careless in collecting the money, 2 Chronicles 24:5; and did not bring in what they had gathered to begin the work, whereupon the king revoked his former order, and intrusted other men, as it here follows, with this work. Thus are things seldom done well that are committed to the care of many.

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