It is hard to imagine a grandmother being much worse than Athaliah, willing to kill her grandchildren and gain power for herself. Israel’s sovereigns and royal families were genuinely messed up. To me, it is fascinating to see the Israelites record in such detail their shameful history instead of only the events of which they can be proud. For one, we don’t have access to as much ancient history as we would like, so it is amazing to get this much detail of events that happened over 2500 years ago about any nation. Secondly, most recorded histories during this time in history by other nations rarely cast negative light on their own people and their own histories. Yet 1 & 2 Kings is a lengthy record of embarrassing family narratives like with the family of Ahab and the dangerous Athaliah.
Though I have said it before, it bears repeating: the Bible is very human, meaning honest and thus, authentic. If you think the stories of Israel’s royalty unusual, just read up on the monarchs of England in the 16th and 17th centuries. Or you could read about the French royalty in different eras, and even some of the great Chinese dynasties to find similar dysfunction.
The difference between Israel and all other nations is their high and unique calling. As Israel fails to live up to this calling, we readers are privileged to read their story and ponder how these lives invite us to live up to our high calling as Christ followers during our few days. May we desire our lives’ stories be more like that of Joash than Athaliah.