Forty women: 34. Athaliah

Athaliah had royal blood running in her veins. Her grandfather had been king in Israel. Her son was king in Judah. She had been queen consort and a queen mother. And now, there is no king, left. Only children who could not possibly rule a country.

“Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family.” (2 Kings 11:1)

Why should she not be queen? She is the most experienced, the most qualified, the best suited.

Why should she not trample over those who stand in her way?

Her grandchildren, that is to say. Her own grandchildren, who you might think ought to be delighted in and played with and perhaps even a little spoiled by Athaliah.

Who instead are murdered by her.

For six years she clings onto power. It can’t have been easy. Any number of people must have had their eye on her throne. But I daresay she had something of a reputation for coldblooded ruthlessness, given how she’d risen to power.

Whatever her reputation, it did not inspire loyalty. When finally the moment came for the true king to take his place, all Athaliah’s shouts of ‘Treason’ and her histrionic ripping of her clothes did not inspire one person to stand up in her defence. Not one person tried to argue her case nor to protect her from being taken and executed.

Athaliah chose to live by the sword, and so Athaliah died by the sword.

“So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been put to death with the sword at the king’s house.” (2 Kings 11:20)

It never needed to be that way. Her grandson was just a year old when his father died. He would have needed some trustworthy older person to rule as regent on his behalf. Athaliah could have been that person. She could had all the power she wanted. She could have had the strongest influence over Judah’s next ruler. But she was greedy. She wanted it all.

And then she lost it all.