The English word “providence” is a transliteration of the Latin word providens, which means “to see before”. There is no equivalent word in the Hebrew, but we do have a similar word in the Greek—prognosko, which signifies “to know beforehand”. This seeing before or foreknowledge is an attribute of God by which He is able to determine the end from the beginning and will ensure that His counsel stands (Isa 46:10). Man often seeks to put in place an alternative set of circumstances, but despite these many intrigues the counsel of Yahweh stands firm (Psa 33:10–11; Prov 19:21).

This gives us a great assurance that God is able to perform what He has promised, even when we may see events moving in the opposite direction. God has said that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5-6). The marvel of His providence in days of old only serves to reinforce this wonderful pledge to us today.

Yahweh’s Promise to David

Because of David’s love for Yahweh and his desire to build a temple befitting the majesty of Yahweh’s presence in Israel, God made with David the celebrated promise recorded in 2 Samuel 7. Central to this promise was the pledge that David’s seed would continue on his throne after his death, and that eventually there would be a special son, who would be known as the Son of God—“I will be his father, and he shall be my son” (2 Sam 7: 14). In addition to this, God later promised to leave David a light always before Him in Jerusalem (1 Kgs 11: 36).

These words would have set in motion a whole new series of angelic activities. The family of David is now placed under a more intense scrutiny to ensure that the seed royal is preserved, firstly in Jerusalem, and then right down to the time of the first century 1000 years away. Imagine the supervision needed to ensure continuity of the royal line. In the north there was no such promise and as a result the whole nation was plagued by self-destruction.

The challenge to the angels, if we can describe it in that way, was to select the right son for the throne at the right time and to preserve the royal seed even though some of these kings were unworthy of this kind of protection. How it would have grieved the elohim to work with an Ahaz as opposed to a Hezekiah, yet their work had been marked out and they faithfully ensured that every detail was attended to.

Solomon—The Typical Seed

In Solomon’s time we have a wonderful example of how providence worked in the very midst of David’s house. When Solomon was chosen by God to rule the kingdom, the decision was challenged by another of David’s sons—Adonijah. David would always have a light in Jerusalem, but which light would it be?

In addition to this, another branch of the family was being groomed outside the line of Solomon to eventually produce Messiah himself—the line through Nathan, son of David (Luke 3:31).

Thus we can see the extent of the angelic activity involved in bringing to pass God’s promise to David. One line of angels would have been working within the immediate timeframe of royal succession, the other with a very long term view in preparing the Son of God.

One of the marvellous things about the providence of God is the way in which He selects the most unlikely people to forward His purpose. When David was appraised of Adonijah’s attempt to usurp Solomon, he instructed Benaiah the son of Jehoiada to take with him the Cherethites and Pelethites, who were under his command (2 Sam 8:18), Zadok the priest and Solomon himself down to Gihon and to anoint him there as king.

Benaiah is described as a mighty man, and was over the king’s guard (2 Sam 23:23), which also Josephus mentions (Ant 7.14.4). It is obvious that this “guard” was comprised of the Cherethites and Pelethites, who were at the personal disposal of David, and acted much like the Praetorian Guard for the Emperors of Rome in later years.

Apparently these people were Gentiles, and possibly Philistines who were converted to the truth. They returned with David after his exile in Philistia. How had this been brought about? Had angels searched the lands adjacent to Judah, to find a group of people amongst the uncircumcised who could respond to David’s charisma, and become committed to the hope of Israel?

It gives us some insight into the way Yahweh carries out His counsels. These people went with David into exile when his son Absalom usurped the throne (2 Sam 15:18), and were intensely loyal to him. In many respects, they showed more faith in Yahweh’s promise to David than did the majority of Israel. As we shall see in a moment this faith and trust was used by Yahweh many generations later to preserve the seed of David.

Jehoram, the Son of Jehoshaphat

Amongst Judah’s most evil kings was Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat. We have this Divine summary of his reign: “he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab: for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife: and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of Yahweh” (2 Chron 21:6).

After Jehoshaphat’s death, Jehoram removed all opposition by slaying his brothers and the principal leaders of the nation (2 Chron 21:4). Doubtless this was motivated by his intentions to turn the nation away from Yahweh to the worship of Baal, through the persuasive influence of his evil wife Athaliah.

Imagine the court of heaven beholding this savage execution of the seed of David. Would God’s promise come to naught? The record tells us this: “Howbeit Yahweh would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and as he promised to give a light to him and to his sons for ever” (2 Chron 21:7). This oath was uppermost in the mind of the angels as they now sought the means to intervene and preserve the honour of that promise.

Athaliah, The Daughter of Jezebel

The angels permitted the surrounding enemies to loot Jerusalem and remove all Jehoram’s sons except for one—Jehoahaz, or Ahaziah (2 Chron 21:17). Jehoram died an inglorious death, for according to Yahweh’s judgment upon him through Elijah, his “bowels fell out” (2 Chron 21:18–19). Yahweh smote him with an “incurable disease”, befitting one who despised the promise to David, for it involved the setting up of his seed after him who would “proceed out of his bowels” (2 Sam 7:12).

He was followed by his youngest son Ahaziah. He likewise proved to be a seed of the serpent, and a product of an ungodly marriage, Athaliah being his mother. The Divine pen also records of him that “he also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab: for his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly” (2 Chron 22:3). His reign only lasted a year, before he became caught up in the judgments of Yahweh against the house of Ahab through Jehu (2 Chron 22:9).

Here is where the complexity of the Divine arrangements comes in. God had decreed that the seed of Jezebel would be completely extinguished but that the line of David would continue in Jerusalem. What happens when the two seeds merge?

The complexity continues when we find that Athaliah (Ahaziah’s mother) was elevated to the throne. She was as ruthless and as determined as her mother Jezebel was to continue the influence of the house of Ahab, including Baal worship.

She therefore took the unprecedented step of “destroying all the seed royal of the house of Judah” (2 Chron 22:10). This would have included grandchildren and any other branches of the house of David, including the line of Nathan the son of David through whom the Messiah would come.

The Providential Care of Yahweh

Many years earlier Yahweh reproved Jehoshaphat’s father, king Asa, reminding him that “the eyes of Yahweh run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” (2Chron 16:9). These “eyes” are the angels of Yahweh, His ministering spirits, who are sent forth to perform His work.

They were active on this occasion, for we learn that Jehoshabeath, the daughter of Jehoram by another wife, and therefore the half sister of Ahaziah, “stole” Jehoram’s son Joash away from the fury of Athaliah. She hid him and his nurse in a bedchamber (2 Chron 22:11). Perhaps three different groups of angels were working out God’s purpose: the first ensuring the destruction of Ahab’s seed, the second preserving the immediate line of David, and the third watching over the Messianic line: all of them working in harmony through seemingly natural circumstances. Can we see the angels placing this woman in the right place and at the right time and providing her with the opportunity and courage to instantly act when required? How marvellous is the care of God!

We also learn that Jehoshabeath was the wife of Jehoiada the High Priest. Together they hid Joash from Athaliah in the Temple for six years (2 Chron 22:12). The remarkable courage of these two can only be appreciated when we recognise the ruthless spirit of Athaliah. She would spare no individual that resisted her will. That they were placed by providence in this position as husband and wife is reinforced by the great age disparity between them. Jehoshabeath was about twenty-five years of age, while Jehoiada was almost one hundred years old. Truly, in this we have two people raised up for the purpose of preserving the seed of David.

Joash made King

When Joash was seven years of age, Jehoiada the High Priest determined that the time had come to restore the Davidic lineage and to remove Athaliah from control over the nation. He firstly ensured that he had support amongst the military, by taking “the captains of hundreds… into covenant with him” (2 Chron 23:1).

At the same time he sent for “the captains and the guard” (2 Kings 11:4) and brought them all into the Temple precincts. There he made a covenant with them to restore the throne to the family of David. For the first time they saw “the king’s son” and realised the sacrifice and dangers that Jehoiada and Jehoshabeath had undertaken.

The drama ended with the death of Athaliah, and the restoration of a Davidic king to the throne of David. The Cherethites and Pelethites, who had retained their loyalty to the house of David and their confidence in the God of Israel all those years, were involved. They were here at this time as a result of Divine providence that sees the end from the beginning, and knew that the time would come when David’s lamp would almost be extinguished.

For this reason, the Cherethites and Pelethites had been elevated to prominence in the nation. They were appointed as the personal bodyguards of the kings of Judah. It was a tradition that continued, and was still in place when Jehoiada made his bold move to place Joash on the throne. The “captains and the guard” mentioned in Kings are actually the Cherethites and Pelethites, the translators obscuring this feature in all translations.

The Hebrew for “captains” is chariy and is an abbreviated form of “Cherethites”. In 2 Samuel 20: 23 we read that “Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and over the Pelethites”. The Hebrew for “Cherethites” here is the abbreviated form of chariy. The “guard” that was also mentioned is a Hebrew word ruwts. It signifies “a runner”, and has been used in a context of guards, seeing they acted as messengers for the king. “Pelethite” is a name that signifies “a courier” or “official messenger” (Strong), being derived from the Hebrew name peleth, meaning “swiftness”. We have therefore a move by Jehoiada to use these faithful converts to protect Joash and to convey him to his rightful place on the throne of David: he “took the rulers over hundreds, and the captains, and the guard, and all the people of the land; and they brought down the king from the house of Yahweh, and came by way of the gate of the guard to the king’s house. And he sat on the throne of the kings” (2 Kings 11:19).

This amazing story of God’s work in Judah to fulfil the promise made to David serves to strengthen our faith in God. He prepared special people—individuals as well as groups—in seemingly natural ways to ensure that His Word prevailed in the end. The enormous work and careful planning and foresight involved leaves us breathless in wonder. This is the same God who has said to us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. This is the same God who will minister abundantly on our behalf. Let us put our trust in His care always.