II Chronicles 25

 

This chapter is filled up with a very graphic account of the entire career of

Amaziah, and its twenty-eight verses are paralleled by the twenty verses of

II Kings 14:1-20, where the narrative reads in several places much more

curtly. Our chapter opens with the familiar anticipatory summary of the

man, his age, pedigree, and character, whose course is to be detailed more

precisely in following verses, again and yet again sounding the clear keynote

of an unclean character and reign (vs. 1-2); it proceeds to record

the king’s avenging of his father’s murder (vs. 3-4); his successful sally

against “the children of Seir,” with the incident of the affronted division of

army, formed of them that “came to him out of Ephraim” (vs. 5-13); his

defection to idolatry, and insult put upon the faithful “prophet” (vs. 14-16);

his jaunty and provocative challenge to Joash of Israel, to his own

overthrow (vs. 17-24); his end (vs. 25-28).

 

1 Amaziah was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and he

reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was

Jehoaddan of Jerusalem.”  Twenty and five years old… reigned twenty and

 nine years.  Glance at notes on vs. 1, 15, 17 of foregoing chapter, from which it

appears that, as Joash died aetat. forty-seven, and Amaziah was now

twenty-five, he must have been born when his father was twenty-two years

old, and Jehoaddan correspondingly likely to have been one of the two

wives Jehoiada selected for Joash, at the age, on other data, of twenty-one

years. Of Jerusalem. This affix to the mother’s name may perhaps carry

credit to the memory of Jehoiada, for having been careful to select a woman

of the honored city rather than of any provincial or even less worthy city.

 

2 “And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, but not

with a perfect heart.”  Not with a perfect heart. This is illustrated by his

coming “to set up the gods of Edom (vs. 14-16, 20); also by what the parallel

supplies, that he resembled Joash rather than David, and did not suppress

the high places, sacrifices, and incense-burning’’ (II Kings 14:3-4). In

almost all cases, the not perfect heart speaks of that which began well, but

did not “endure unto the end.” (Matthew 24:13)

 

 

“Doing Right, But” (v. 2)

 

It is well, indeed, when iniquity is qualified with some redeeming features,

as we are thankful to think it often is. A man is ungodly, or cruel, or self-

indulgent, or mercenary, but he has something in him which makes him

much less condemnable than he would otherwise be. Unfortunately,

goodness also is often qualified; of the man concerning whom we have

much to say in praise there is something serious to say by way of

detraction. Of every good man there may be something to record which is

not favorable; but the qualification may be so slight that it is the mere

dust in the balance.” Too often it has to be “written in heaven,” and

perhaps upon earth also, that he “did what was right, but not with a perfect

heart.” There are some:

 

  • DISCERNIBLE DEFICIENCIES IN CHRISTIAN CHARACTER.

 

Ø      One Christian man is blameless in behavior so far as the main

features of morality are concerned, but he is so reserved and reticent, so

unapproachable, that he exerts but very little influence.

 

Ø      Another is very ardent and enthusiastic in the cause of Christ, very

open-hearted and open-handed, but he is very irritable and ill-tempered,

 so that he is avoided or even disliked.

 

Ø      A third is very tender and sympathetic in spirit, with a ready

ear and an unselfish consideration for every tale of difficulty or distress,

but he is very weak, pliant, credulous; no one can attach any weight to his

judgment.

 

Ø      A fourth is possessed of many of the virtues and graces of

Christian character, but he is very weak in some one direction, much too

open to temptation of one particular kind, and his friends are always

apprehensive lest he should succumb, and fall quite seriously. These are

defects:

 

o        to be pointed out by friends, and to be recognized frankly by those

who are the subjects of them;

o        to be carefully, conscientiously, devoutly corrected and removed,

lest the “gospel of Christ be hindered”  (I Corinthians 9:12),

lest the Master Himself be displeased and dishonored.

But there are:

 

  • MORE SERIOUS INCONSISTENCIES.

 

Ø      In Christian life. It may be that one who has considered himself, and

who has been considered, a true disciple of Jesus Christ, falls back, falls

down:

 

o        into condemnable self-indulgence; or

o        into an arrogance of spirit and haughtiness of bearing which are as

hateful to men as (we know) they are offensive to God; or

o        into a lightness and irreverence of tone which cannot fail to be as

displeasing to Christ as it is painful to the devout and earnest-minded

among men; or

o        into a serious selfishness of soul which has no eye for anything but

its own personal and passing interests.

 

Ø      In Christian work. It may be that one who has shown much earnestness

in the field of sacred usefulness, either

 

o        loses all interest in that for which he once thought much and labored

hard, or

o        becomes so opinionated and so peremptory that no one can co-operate

with him, and he has to be left alone. He is practically disabled by his

self-assertiveness.

 

Now, there is too often found to be:

 

  • ONE SUPREME MISTAKE. It is that which was probably

committed by Amaziah, viz. that of never yielding ourselves thoroughly to

the service of God. It is likely that the King of Judah only gave half an

heart to the worship of Jehovah; that his piety was superficial, formal,

constrained, essentially and radically imperfect; that he was like the young

man of the Gospel narrative, who had “kept the commandments from his

youth up,” but who was never so thoroughly in earnest as to be ready to

give up everything to attain eternal life (Mark 10:17-22). If we do not

yield ourselves wholly to our Divine Saviour, we shall find, as we pursue

our way, that at some important crisis:

 

Ø      our obedience will be at fault; or

Ø      our devotion will fail; or

Ø      our character will be blemished, and

Ø      our reputation will break down; or

Ø      we shall leave the field and lose our reward (II John 1:8).

 

Therefore:

 

Ø      Let us realize how great, how supreme, how prevailing, are

the claims of our Divine Redeemer.

Ø      Let us offer our hearts and lives to Him in full and glad

self-surrender.

 

Then shall it not be written of us, that “we did right, but not with a perfect

heart.”

 

3 “Now it came to pass, when the kingdom was established to him,

that he slew his servants that had killed the king his father.”

Was established to him; Hebrew, חָזְקָה. This is kal

conjugation of the verb, which we found in piel in v. 5 of foregoing

chapter, and there rendered “repair.” The kal force of the word is simply to

be strong” (Genesis 41:57; Joshua 17:13; II Kings 14:5). The

hiph., to “make strong,” or “confirm,” as it is rendered here, is found in

II Kings 15:19. Again and again the disorders of the kingdom and the

violent deaths of prophets and kings must have greatly contributed to

nervous apprehensions, in fact only too just, when a new king ascended the

throne. In the parallel and in passage last quoted the words, “in his hand,”

follow the verb. Amaziah both needed to get his own hand in, according to

modern phrase, and to get things well into his hand. His servants. It may

be held surprising that they should have been found “in the place,” or

should now be his servants at all. The explanation may be either that their

guilt had not yet been known, or, if known, had not been fixed upon them.

 

4 “But he slew not their children, but did as it is written in the law in

the book of Moses, where the LORD commanded, saying, The

fathers shall not die for the children, neither shall the children die

for the fathers, but every man shall die for his own sin.”

Slew not their children. Emphasis (the emphasis of mention, at

any rate) is laid upon this, perhaps partly to show that Amaziah did in some

measure walk by “the Law of the Lord,” and partly because of numerous

cases that had grown up to the opposite (II Kings 9:8, 26; Joshua 7:24-25,

where, however, very possibly all were more or less aiders and

abettors of the wickedness). For Moses’ clearly written rehearsal of “the

commandment of the Lord,” on this subject, see the marginal references,

Deuteronomy 24:16; Jeremiah 31:29-30; Ezekiel 18:4, 19-20.

 

 

The Accession of Amaziah (vs. 1-4)

 

  • THE TITLE HE HAD TO THE THRONE. The son of Joash, most

likely the eldest. His mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. Whether

she, like her husband, had declined into idolatry cannot be told.

 

  • THE REIGN HE ENJOYED ON THE THRONE. Twenty-nine years

— eleven years less than his father reigned. Eighteen years older than Joash

when he obtained the crown, he was only seven years older when he put it

off. Clearly IDOLATRY in those days was not conducive to longevity.

 

  • THE CHARACTER HE MAINTAINED ON THE THRONE. Mixed.

 

Ø      Good. He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord,” as his

father did while Jehoiada lived (ch. 24:2); i.e. he abandoned

idolatry and became a worshipper of Jehovah.

 

Ø      Not perfect. “Not with a perfect heart,” as it should have been (I Kings 8:61),

after the examples of Asa (ch. 15:17; I Kings 15:14) and David (II Kings 14:3;

Psalm 101:2). His return to the worship of Jehovah was probably:

 

o        dictated by fear, occasioned by the recollection of his father’s

untimely and violent death; hence

o        deficient in extent, the high places not being removed (II Kings

14:4); and

o        destitute of permanence — in fact, dropped when he felt himself

secure upon his throne (v. 14).

 

  • THE ACTS HE PERFORMED FROM THE THRONE. Two.

 

Ø      A deed of vengeance. “He slew his servants that had killed the king his

father.”

 

o        Justice demanded this. If his father deserved to die, which seems

indisputable, it is not clear that Zabad and Jehozabad had a right

to be his executioners.

o        Filial piety approved this. Under the Law it was the next kinsman’s

duty to avenge the blood of a slain relative (Deuteronomy 19:12).

Amaziah would have proved himself an unnatural son had he spared

any longer than he could help the assassins of his father.

o        Prudence recommended this. Doubtless Amaziah feared that some

day the fate of Joash would be his, if these men lived.

 

Ø      An exercise of clemency. “He slew not their children.”

 

o        Considering what the Law of Moses said (Deuteronomy 24:16),

this was right;

o        remembering the universal practice of the Orient, it was merciful;

o        if they were young children when the wicked deed was done, it was

humane as well as right.

 

  • LESSONS.

 

Ø      The vanity of earthly glory — even kings must die.

Ø      The imperfection of human goodness — the best of men but men at

the best.

Ø      The impossibility of escaping for ever the due reward of one’s evil

deeds, except by repentance and faith IN JESUS CHRIST!

Ø      The beauty of clemency in all, but especially in kings. “Earthly power

doth then show likest God’s when mercy seasons justice” (‘Merchant

of Venice,’ act 4. scene 1).

 

5 “Moreover Amaziah gathered Judah together, and made them

captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, according to

the houses of their fathers, throughout all Judah and Benjamin: and

he numbered them from twenty years old and above, and found

them three hundred thousand choice men, able to go forth to war,

that could handle spear and shield.”  This and the following five verses are

entirely omitted in the parallel, which contents itself with giving in its v. 7, in

fewer words, but with the supplement of other matter, what is contained in our

v. 11.  Found them three hundred thousand. Compare Asa’s “five hundred and

eighty thousand” (ch.14:8), and Jehoshaphat’s “eleven hundred and sixty thousand”

(ch. 17:14-19; see note, however, on these verses, and the improbability of numbers

so high). The Hebrew text of the second clause of this verse simply says,

he set them” (יַעֲמִידֵם), or placed them according to… fathers’ houses,

under captains, etc., glancing most naturally at Numbers 1:2-2:34. Twenty

years old and above (compare I Chronicles 27:23).

 

6 “He hired also an hundred thousand mighty men of valor out of

Israel for an hundred talents of silver.”  Out of Israel. The next verse tells

us that “all the children of Ephraim” (which was strictly the northern Israel’s

chief tribe) are hereby designated. It is not quite clear that this Israel is exactly

conterminous with the Israel of ch. 13:3, the identity of which, however, with

Joab’s Israel (II Samuel 24:9) is very probable. The boundaries of the

strict tribe of Ephraim, whose ancestor was Joseph’s younger son, are

described in Joshua 16:5. The tribe were located as nearly as possible in

the center of the land. Ephraim, however, is here, as in many other places,

as the name of the royal tribe, so named upon the whole of the northern

kingdom (Isaiah 9:8; 17:3; 28:3; several times in almost every chapter

of Hosea, and for a typical instance, compare Hosea 14:8).

 

7 “But there came a man of God to him, saying, O king, let not the

army of Israel go with thee; for the LORD is not with Israel, to wit,

with all the children of Ephraim.”  (See foregoing chapter, v. 19.) The

name of this man of God does not transpire. To wit, with. These three words,

all in italic type, if entirely omitted, and not even the preposition adopted, as

in the Revised Version, into the ordinary type, will leave the intention of the

writer clearer rather than less clear.

 

8 “But if thou wilt go, do it; be strong for the battle: God shall make

thee fall before the enemy: for God hath power to help, and to cast down.”

It is hard to feel satisfied as to the correct rendering of this

verse. The drift of the next verse, which shows Amaziah a convert to the

strong exhortation of the man of God, makes either alternative allowable

under the present text very untimely. and not very much in accord with

what we should look for at the lips of the man of God. The very

conceivable way out of the difficulty is to read לא, hyphened to אם (all the

rather that no vau is present in בּלֺא, as the present text is), and proceed to

supply בּא or בּוא again before אַתָּה, crediting some copyist with

confusion of eye through these having come close together in his

manuscript. The rendering will then be straightforward, and prepare the

way for Amaziah’s yielding conformably with the tenor of the next verse.

“But if not” (i.e. if thou wilt not be guided by my remonstrance as to

Ephraim), “go thou, be on the alert, exert all the strength possible for the

battle, and yet nevertheless God will cause thee to stumble.” And the

remaining sentence may bear this significance, “For God hath power to

help thee though alone, or to cast thee down though supported by an extra

hundred thousand.” If such alteration or conjectural restoration of the text

be not accepted, we may harmonize the facts of the case with the most

utter faithfulness of lip on the part of the prophet, by translating, “For in

very truth, if thou go at all, and though thou make the best preparations,

God shall make it go ill with thee.” And Amaziah is persuaded to this

point, that he will neither risk the lives of them of Ephraim vainly, nor risk

the likelier displeasure of God on himself. He yields only partly, and

therefore is nothing benefited. The difficulty is left untouched, that the

prophet did not simply in toto forbid Amaziah to go, and that, saving them

of Ephraim, he saves them to be a second scourge for the back of Amaziah,

though he took his prophet’s advice so far, and lost his own money. A

careful and devout observer of human life and perverseness, when once

these commit themselves to the vain struggle with God, and equally vain

attempt to haggle with His providence as to how much to yield and how

much to resist and withhold, cannot but be struck with the photograph

here thrown off, and that it is a faithful one, of hard facts that have met

together disastrously times without number in men’s lives. The sum, then,

of the matter of our vs. 7-8 may amount to this: “Under no circumstances

take Israel, and if thou go thyself with all best preparations, yet know that

God shall destroy thee.”

 

9 “And Amaziah said to the man of God, But what shall we do for the

hundred talents which I have given to the army of Israel? And the man of

God answered, The LORD is able to give thee much more than this.”

This verse is consummate in the two touches by which it sets forth the phase

of earth’s calculatingness respecting the perishable, and Heaven’s swift disposal

of any such trifling difficulty.

 

 

Gold, and the Favor of God (vs. 5-9)

 

There is something which approaches, if it does not amount to, the

ludicrous in the question so solemnly proposed by Amaziah, “But what

shall we do for the hundred talents which I have given to the army of

Israel?” Could it be the right thing and the wise thing to sacrifice all that

money? Were a hundred talents to be thrown away? Supposing he defeated

the enemy without the help of these mercenaries, would it not be a

mortifying thing that he had spent such a sum to no purpose? But Amaziah

was so situated that he had to make the choice which has so often to be

made; he had to choose between:

 

Ø      sacrificing his money or

Ø      forfeiting the favor of his God.

 

He had the wisdom to accept the former alternative, and to believe the prophet,

that the Lord was “able to give him more than this.”  On the choice which we

make, when this question comes up for settlement by ourselves, there hang

great issues. Wherefore let us well consider:

 

  • THE LIMITATIONS TO THE VALUE OF GOLD. Gold serves many

useful purposes; through it we can secure the necessaries and the comforts

of life, the conditions of education, the advantages of good society; but its

power is very limited, after all.

 

Ø      Its possession, so far from ensuring happiness, often entails much

burdensomeness, and always imposes a heavy responsibility.

 

Ø      Its tenure is slight and short; an accident or a revolution, impossible to

foresee, may take it suddenly away, and at death it must be relinquished.

 

Ø      It is wholly powerless in the presence of some of the sadder and graver

evils of our life.

 

Ø      It tempts to indolence and indulgence, and it may be doubted whether it

does not spoil more lives than it brightens and blesses.

 

  • THE BOUNDLESS BLESSEDNESS OF THE FAVOR OF GOD.

The Lord was not only able to give Amaziah “much more than this,” much

more than “a hundred talents of silver,” but He was able to bless him in

ways which were incomparably superior to such material enrichment. And

so is HE IS ABLE AND MOST WILLING TO BLESS US!   Willingly should

we part with gold and silver at His bidding, to be true and loyal disciples to

our Master, to preserve our spiritual integrity; for if we do this “for Christ’s

 sake and the gospel’s” (Mark 8:35) there will be for us ample and most

abundant compensation for what we lose.

 

Ø      The peace of God, which passes understanding, and which surpasses all

material values.

Ø      The positive and active friendship of our Lord, and of the good and true.

Ø      A life of noble and fruitful service.

Ø      A death of hope.

Ø      A future of immortal glory. In view of these things, we need not be

greatly concerned about the less of a hundred or a thousand talents.

 

10 “Then Amaziah separated them, to wit, the army that was come to

him out of Ephraim, to go home again: wherefore their anger was

greatly kindled against Judah, and they returned home in great anger.”

It appears that, though this contingent from Israel’s land was a

hired force, yet for some reason their heart was in their calling, perhaps in

anticipation of plunder. It may well be that they asked why they were

discharged; and whether the right answer were given them, that the Lord

dwelt not among them, or some wrong answer, it evidently did not

improve matters, but rankled in their hearts till it found relief (vs. 13, 22),

as they concluded that either their ability or fidelity, or both, were called in

question. The ‘Speaker’s Commentary’ very aptly cites the keen

resentment and mortification that the Athenians are recorded to have felt in

similar circumstances as told in Plutarch’s ‘Lives:’ “Cimon,” §17.

Separated them. This is the verb occurring several times in the first verses

of Genesis 1. (יַבְדִּילֵם); there it is always followed by the preposition בֵּי,

when speaking of the separating of two things from one another. Though

this be meant here, it is not what is exactly said, and the prefix preposition

לְ before the substantive (לְהַגְּדוּד) may, as Keil says, be regarded as

designating the appositional accusative to that affixed in the shape of the

pronoun “them” to the verb.

 

11 “And Amaziah strengthened himself, and led forth his people, and

went to the valley of salt, and smote of the children of Seir ten thousand.”

Strengthened himself. The hithp, conjugation of our already

familiar verb חָזַק; it was not a healthy strengthening, and this may be

considered denoted in the fact that the work was all his own, and that he

wrought himself up. The valley of salt. Commonly supposed to be the

plain south of the Salt Sea, but according to Stanley (‘Sinai and Palestine,’

Appendix. § 2. 5, pp. 482, 483), more probably a “ravine near Petra

(I Chronicles 18:12; II Samuel 8:13). (For the association of Seir with

Edom, see (20:10; Genesis 36:17-20;)

 

12 “And other ten thousand left alive did the children of Judah carry

away captive, and brought them unto the top of the rock, and cast

them down from the top of the rock, that they all were broken in pieces.”

The top of the rock. The parallel uses the Hebrew word

without translation, Selah (הַסֶּלַע). There is little doubt that this is Petra

(Conder’s ‘Handbook to the Bible,’ 305; Stanley’s ‘Sinai and Palestine,’

87-92). The parallel tells us the interesting fact that Amaziah, perhaps

under the influence of a spasmodic touch of devoutness or gratitude,

changed the name of Selah, or rather endeavored to change it, to

Joktheel, which Gesenius translates “subjugated of God.” This name had

already occurred in Joshua 15:38. The new name, however, did not

last, as the Edomites recovered soon the country of (ch. 28:17; Amos 1:11;

Isaiah 16:1-2) Arabia Petraea, of which Selah or Petra was the capital.

Left alive. The Revised Version correctly renders, carry away alive.

The cruelty of the Edomites receives many illustrations

(see last references, and Ezekiel 25:12-14; Obadiah 1:1-15).

 

13 “But the soldiers of the army which Amaziah sent back, that they

should not go with him to battle, fell upon the cities of Judah, from

Samaria even unto Bethhoron, and smote three thousand of them,

and took much spoil.”  There is probably something to read

between the lines here, to wit, that the soldiers returned to their master and

king (Joash of Israel), and were by him remitted to this work. The mention

of Samaria before Beth-horon (see map) indicates it, and the words “sent

backmay be held to imply, at least, that they first went back — that the

disappointment of spoil was the chief part of their aggravations, so that

now the rather they got their much spoil, and note made thereof, and that

— since not so much the instructive and so far forth more excusable

revenge on the part of the disappointed soldiers, but the deliberate plan and

order of their king had brought about this devastation of Amaziah’s

domains, in this fact we have the key of what we read in our vs. 17-18,

etc., and of the very cool manner in which Amaziah challenged Joash. The

cities of Judah attacked were apparently those that once had belonged to

Ephraim. Smote three thousand of them; i.e. of the people of them.

 

 

A Campaign against the Edomites (vs. 5-13)

 

  • WARLIKE PREPARATIONS. (vs. 5-6.)

 

Ø      The army mustered. Amaziah gathered Judah together;” i.e. collected

for review, probably in Jerusalem, all in the southern kingdom who were

capable of bearing arms.

 

Ø      The army organized. “He made them captains over thousands, and

captains over hundreds, according to the houses of their fathers,

throughout all Judah and Benjamin.” Compare Samuel’s prediction

(I Samuel 8:12), and Moses’ practice (Numbers 31:14; Deuteronomy

1:15). Order and subordination are indispensable to the efficiency of a host.

Since the days of Jehoiada (ch. 23:1; II Kings 11:15) the army had probably

become disorganized.

 

Ø      The army numbered. “And he numbered them from twenty years old and

above, and found them three hundred thousand choice men — a

considerably smaller force than Asa led out against Zerah (ch. 14:8), or than

Jehoshaphat possessed (ch. 17:14-18). The explanation is, either that only

the flower of Amaziah’s troops, the picked men of the army, were numbered,

or the force had been diminished by the disastrous wars of the preceding

reigns. What is next stated renders this probable.

 

Ø      The army increased. “He hired also an hundred thousand mighty men of

valor out of Israel for an hundred talents of silver”

 

  • PROPHETIC WARNINGS. (vs. 7-8.) The prophet’s name is not

given, but his admonition is:

 

Ø      A dissuasive. Against allowing Israel to accompany the army of Judah to

battle. If the king’s recollection of former alliances with the northern

kingdom did not remind him of the unadvisedness of the course he was

contemplating (ch. 18:28; 20:35; 22:5; I Kings 22:29; II Kings 3:7),

the earnestness of Jehovah’s messenger might have startled him.

 

Ø      A reason. Jehovah was not with Israel, not with any of the sons of

Ephraim, because of their defection into idolatry. What had been true of

Rehoboam (ch. 12:5), what had been threatened to Asa (ch. 15:2),

what had been the case with Judah in the previous reign ch. 24:20),

was the habitual and seemingly permanent condition of the northern people.

They had forsaken God, and He had in turn forsaken them. To seek the

help of Israel, therefore, was to seek help in a quarter where no help was,

rather whence hurt alone could proceed. It is hardly doubtful that the people

of God err in asking the assistance of God’s enemies for their schemes

ch. 19:2), whether those schemes be material such as church-building,

or spiritual such as propagating the gospel, and whether that aid be in the

form of money, influence, or men. The Jews who returned from Babylon

would not accept assistance from the Samaritans in building their temple

(Ezra 4:3). Should the Church of Jesus Christ accept the aid of the

unbelieving world?

 

Ø      An alternative, or an exhortation. “If thou wilt go [i.e. with these

northern allies], then go, do valiantly, be strong for the battle,” i.e. do your

best — the language of irony; or, according to another rendering (Ewald,

Bertheau, Keil), “If thou wilt go, go alone, do valiantly, be strong for the

battle” But in this case the force of the first clause is lost, as there was no

question as to “going” or “not going” put before Amaziah, but merely as to

going with” or “without Israel.”

 

Ø      A threatening or a promise. “God shall cast thee down before the

enemy,” or “God shall (not) cast thee down before the enemy,” the word

not” being supplied. If Amaziah went depending on the assistance of his

mercenaries, he would lose the battle; if he left them behind and went forth

with only his own forces, he would prove victorious. The great lesson

Jehovah was constantly, by means of his prophets (Isaiah 26:3-4; 57:13;

Jeremiah 39:18; 42:11; Nahum 1:7) and the events of His providence,

striving to impress upon Israel and Judah was that of exclusive

reliance upon Himself, as the only means of ensuring their safety and

continued prosperity (ch. 20:20); the same lesson is urgently

required by Christians (Romans 15:13; Ephesians 2:8).

 

Ø      An argument. “God hath power to help or to cast down” — to help His

people without allies, as He helped;

 

o        Jehoshaphat (ch. 20:22),

o        Asa (ch. 14:12), and

o        Abijah (ch. 13:15);

 

or to cast down His people, even in spite of allies, as He did formerly with:

 

o        Joash (ch. 24:24),

o        Jehoshaphat (I Kings 22:36),

o        Rehoboam (ch.13:9),

o        and afterwards with Ahaz (ch. 28:16-19).

 

  • KINGLY EXCUSES (v. 9.)

 

Ø      Proposed. Amaziah felt a difficulty about complying with the prophet’s

counsel. He might send back his allies to Joash in Jezreel or Samaria; but

what about his talents? These his royal brother would not be likely to

return. He might go to battle without his hired troops, but who would give

him his silver moneys? One hundred talents was a large sum to lose even

for a king. Amaziah was of Shylock’s mind, “You take my house when you

do take the prop that doth sustain my house” (‘Merchant of Venice,’ act 4.

sc. 1). Like the Jew who lamented more over the loss of his ducats — his

“Christian ducats,” “a sealed bag, two sealed bags of ducats, of double

ducats… and jewels” — than the flight of his daughter, Amaziah mourned

less the idea of parting with his mercenaries than the fact that they would

carry with them his precious talents.

 

Ø      Answered. The man of God might have replied

 

o        that even if he kept his allies his hundred talents were lost, while he

would certainly lose the battle in addition; or

 

o        that if he parted with his hirelings he would prove victorious, which

would more than compensate for the loss of his talents; but the man

of God responded

 

o        that Jehovah, if he pleased, could give him much more than a hundred

talents. He said not, indeed, that Jehovah would give him more than he

would lose, because considerations of money do not enter into questions

of right and wrong. The moral quality of an action is not determined by

its financial results. Simply the prophet stated that Jehovah could give the

king much more than a hundred talents, which was true, since the silver

and the gold were his (I Chronicles 29:11-12; Haggai 2:8), and he gave

them to whomsoever he would (Proverbs 30:8; Ecclesiastes 5:19;

Psalm 127:1-2).

 

  • FIELD OPERATIONS (vs. 10-12.)

 

Ø      The dismissal of the mercenaries. The army out of Ephraim was

separated from his own troops and sent home to Israel. Whether the king,

in discharging them, was actuated by cupidity, the desire of getting back

his talents with interest, or by fear, the dread of losing the battle, — the

step he took was right, being such as the man of God demanded, prudent

as the issue of the campaign showed, and bold as the situation required. It

was certain to excite the ire of the northern warriors, and according to the

Chronicler it did: “they returned home in fierce anger.” Well-doing on the

part of good men may stir the wrath of others, to whom it may at times

appear insulting; nevertheless, the path of duty must be adhered to, though

it should lead to the estrangement of friends no less than to the loss of

ducats.

 

Ø      The advance of the army of Judah. Amaziah took courage, added to his

faith fortitude, as Christians are exhorted to do in the campaign of life

(II Peter 1:5), and led his forces out with no ally but Jehovah, as far as

the Valley of Salt (II Samuel 8:13; I Chronicles 18:12) — a plain

about two miles broad, south of the Dead Sea, absolutely devoid of

vegetation, now called El-Ghor (Robinson). There he encountered the

Edomites, or children of Mount Seir, who had revolted from Judah in the

days of Jehoram (ch. 21:8; II Kings 8:20), and whose subjugation was

the object of the present campaign.

 

Ø      The defeat of the Edomites.

 

o        The destruction of their army. Ten thousand soldiers were killed, ten

thousand prisoners taken.

 

o        The capture of their capital. Selah, “Rock” (Isaiah 16:1), the well

known Petra or Rock city, was taken, and its name changed to Joktheel,

or “conquered by God” (II Kings 14:7). This remarkable city was

situated in a valley (Es Sik, “the cleft;” called by the Arabs Wady Musa)

running from north to south, about three quarters of a mile long, and

enclosed on all sides by precipitous sandstone rocks of variegated hues,

rising in some parts to a height of eight hundred or a thousand feet.

 

o        The slaughter of their people. If Amaziah’s prisoners were hurled from

the cliffs of Petra, their death must have been simply appalling.

 

  • UNFRIENDLY RETALIATONS. (v. 13.)

 

Ø      By whom.? The soldiers of the Israelitish army sent back by Amaziah.

The Samaritans, whose aid Zerubbabel declined, “weakened the hands of

the people of Judah and troubled them in building” (Ezra 4:4); and the

unbelieving world would oppose, harass, and hinder the Church of Christ

even more than it does, were it separated as it should be from the Church’s

midst (John 15:19). But better the world’s opposition, hatred, and

revenge, with God’s help, favor, and blessing, than the world’s

cooperation, friendship, and approbation, with God’s displeasure,

withdrawal, and antagonism.

 

Ø      For what? For not being allowed to go to battle with Judah against

Edom. An insufficient cause, since they lost nothing of their pay, while

they saved their lives. Their honor, it may be supposed, was wounded;

and the world holds a wound to one’s honor to be a greater stroke than

a buffet to one’s person or a loss to one’s purse. But Christ’s followers

ought not to take their code of morals from the world!

 

Ø      On whom? The cities of Judah and their inhabitants, from Samaria unto

Beth-horon, now Beit-Ur (ch. 8:5). Though these had no part in the

offence, they must nevertheless share in the penalty. If Amaziah had

done the soldiers wrong, Amaziah should have given them redress in his

own person. But nations have hardly yet learned to discriminate between

offending sovereigns and offenseless subjects, When those quarrel they

can only heal their friends by setting these to cut each other’s throats

or blow each other into eternity by means of guns and cannons!

 

Ø      How far? To the taking of three thousand men and much spoil. Whether

this devastation of the northern cities of Judah occurred while the

Israelitish soldiers were returning home to Samaria, or, as seems more

likely, when Amaziah was in Edom (Bertheau, Keil), is uncertain; that it

subsequently led to a war between the two kingdoms is undoubted.

 

  • LEARN:

 

Ø      The folly of entering on any enterprise in which God cannot aid.

Ø      The sin of resorting to means of which Heaven cannot approve.

Ø      The sufficiency of God’s help without creature-aids.

Ø      The duty of withdrawing from wicked schemes, even though doing so

should entail financial loss.

Ø      The impossibility of settling questions of right and wrong by calculations

of profit and loss.

Ø      The insignificance of money loss as compared with loss of Divine help

and favor.

Ø      The immense indebtedness of the world to Christianity, even while

rejecting it.

 

14 “Now it came to pass, after that Amaziah was come from the

slaughter of the Edomites, that he brought the gods of the children

of Seir, and set them up to be his gods, and bowed down himself

before them, and burned incense unto them.”

Brought the gods of the children of Seir… to be his gods.

Amaziah’s devout gratitude to God, and acknowledgment of Him in the

name Joktheel, was soon gone, and at the very last, grown confident, he

loses all, and realizes the fulfillment of the “man of God’s” prophetic

denunciations.

 

15 “Wherefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against Amaziah,

and He sent unto him a prophet, which said unto him, Why hast

thou sought after the gods of the people, which could not deliver

their own people out of thine hand?” He sent unto him a prophet.

We are again not told whom.  The tone of the prophet, and the words given

us as his in the latter half of v. 16, would lead us to think it was the same

man of God;” but we cannot assert it, and had it been the same, it would more

probably have transpired. The history now often reminds us of ch. 24:16.

 

 

The Folly of Irreligion (v. 15)

 

The remonstrance addressed by the prophet of the Lord to Amaziah was

well grounded; his argument was conclusive. We arc simply astonished at:

 

  • THE INFATUATION OF IDOLATRY. What insensate folly of the

King of Judah to turn from the service of Jehovah, who had just granted

him a signal proof of His power and His goodness, to the service and the

worship of the gods of the very people he had defeated (v. 14)! Well

might he be reproached for conduct so culpable and so irrational. Any one

who was cognizant with the history of the Hebrew people, even up to this

time, might have known that faithfulness to Jehovah was accompanied by

victory and prosperity, and that, contrariwise, idolatry was attended with

misery and disaster. And yet, such was “the deceitfulness of sin, we find

king and courtier, priest and people, lapsing into disobedience and iniquity.

We are not now under the temptation which proved too strong for Amaziah,

but we may make a mistake as serious and as senseless as he made.

 

  • THE FOLLY OF IRRELIGION, AND ESPECIALLY OF

SPIRITUAL UNFAITHFULNESS. For what is it that we see?

 

Ø      A large number of men and women honoring various false gods; it is

some form of temporal success; it may be:

 

o        physical enjoyment,

o        the possession of wealth,

o        social position,

o        political power, or

o        it may be professional distinction.

 

Ø      These votaries are not blessed by the deities they are serving; for these

powers” are weakness itself; they “cannot. deliver their own people,” their

own adherents. They do not deliver them from failure, from

disappointment, from heartache, from misery. They do not gladden the

heart and brighten and beautify the life of those who are seeking and

serving them. Even those who have reached the heights they set themselves

to climb, who have grasped the goal towards which they ran, have

confessed, again and again, that they have not found rest unto their soul,

but rather disquietude, craving, envya sense of dreariness and defeat.

(Ecclesiastes 3:11 explains this.  God has set “eternity” in man’s heart,

his heart is too big for the world to fill!  Only God can fill it.  It is a

a design of His creation of man!  CY – 2016)  Why, then, should we add

our souls to the number of the unblessed, of the deceived and the betrayed?

Why, indeed, should we who have tasted of better things be so indescribably

foolish as to abandon “our Rock” for “their rock” (Deuteronomy 32:31)?

I recommend:  Acts 17 Dwight Moody Sermon – The Great Redemptionthis

website – CY – 2016) Why should we seek after the “gods that cannot

deliver their own people”? And this folly is the greater when we take into

our account:

 

  • THE PROVED WISDOM OF PIETY. For has it not been abundantly

confirmed that “godliness has the promise of the life that now is, as well as

of that which is to come”?  (I Timothy 4:8)  Do not we who have followed

Christ know, and can we not testify, that to be His true disciple, His faithful

servant — this is to be:

 

o       Gladdened with all joy.

o       Comforted in all sorrow.

o       Enlarged in all obscurity and lowliness of sphere.

o       Engaged in the best and noblest of all works — the work of human

elevation.

o       Sustained by the most exalted hope — the hope of everlasting life in

His own royal presence.

 

16 “And it came to pass, as he talked with him, that the king said unto

him, Art thou made of the king’s counsel? forbear; why shouldest

thou be smitten? Then the prophet forbare, and said, I know that

God hath determined to destroy thee, because thou hast done this,

and hast not hearkened unto my counsel.”  The chapter well keeps up in this

verse its graphic character, though the culminating instances of it are yet to

come. Forbear. The faithful prophet is “wise as the serpent, harmless as

the dove.” (Matthew 10:16)  He does forbear, but not till the application of

his speech, and all that was needful is most outspokenly (more so than before

he had heard the usual coward fashion of the tyrant’s threat) pronounced.

His forbearing, therefore, is open to no charge of moral cowardice and

unprophet-like infidelity.

 

 

The Declension of Amaziah (vs. 14-16)

 

  • THE NATURE OF IT. A subsidence into idolatry. On returning from

the slaughter of the Edomites he brought with him the gods of the children

of Seir, and, setting them up to be his gods, bowed down himself before

them and burned incense unto them (v. 14). That the Seirites were

idolaters is confirmed by:

 

o       Moses, who gives Baal-hanan, “Baal is gracious,” as one of

their kings (Genesis 36:38);

 

o       by Josephus, who mentions that the Idumaeans had a god named

Kotze (‘Ant.,’ 15:7. 9); and by

 

o       the Assyrian inscriptions, which show that one of their sovereigns

bore the designation Kaus-malaka, i.e. Kaus or Kotze is king”

(Schrader, ‘Keilinschriften,’ p. 150).

 

  • THE MOTIVE OF IT. Probably political, to enable him to complete

the subjugation of the Seirites, which, as he imagined, could be best done

by winning over their gods to his side (Keil). Compare the conduct of Ahaz

in sacrificing to the gods of Damascus in order to obtain their assistance

(ch. 28:23), and of Cyrus in asking the Babylonian divinities

to intercede with Bel and Nebo on his behalf (Sayce, ‘Fresh Light,’ etc.,

p.175). At the same time, Amaziah’s idolatry just as likely had its roots in

inherent depravity. If Joash fell away to Baal (ch. 24:18), it is

hardly surprising that Amaziah his son should have followed his example.

The fallen heart gravitates towards polytheism, as the history of mankind

of Jews, Egyptians, Assyrians, Phoenicians - shows. Almost all nations

in their infancy were monotheists.

 

  • THE CRIMINALITY OF IT. Arising from the time when this

declension took place. To have lapsed into idolatry at any time would have

been wicked — contrary to the express commandment of Jehovah

(Exodus 20:3-4); to do so immediately after having enjoyed such a

signal display of Jehovah’s kindness in granting him a splendid victory over

his enemies — to select that moment for his apostasy was surely adding

insult to injury; to say the least, was to be guilty of monstrous ingratitude

as well as open sin.

 

  • THE FOLLY OF IT. Seen in the impotence of the idols to whom he

bowed. The Edomite gods had not been able to save their devotees, the

Seirites: where was the guarantee they could assist Amaziah? One wonders

that idolaters do not see the absurdity of praying to divinities that cannot

save (Isaiah 45:20). The utter helplessness of idols and the senselessness

of such as trust in them are themes of frequent illustration in Scripture

(Psalm 115:4-8; Isaiah 46:1-7; Jeremiah 2:28; 10:5; I Corinthians 8:4).

 

  • THE DANGER OF IT.

 

Ø      It aroused against the king Jehovahs anger. The one living and true

God can tolerate no rival claimant of man’s homage. The worship of two

gods, besides being impossible (Matthew 6:24; I Corinthians 6:16),

is provocative of wrath (Leviticus 26:30; Deuteronomy 27:15;

Psalm 16:4; 79:6; Isaiah 42:17).

 

Ø      It drew down upon him a prophets rebuke. The man of God said unto

him, “Why hast thou sought after the gods of the people,” etc.? The

censures of the good may be profitable, but are rarely pleasant. Their

judgments, besides, when calmly given, are an index to God’s mind

concerning man’s conduct.

 

Ø      It excited the kings own evil disposition. Had Amaziah not been a

backslider, he would not have answered the prophet so churlishly as he did,

practically telling him that nobody asked his opinion, and that if he valued

his own skin he had better hold his peace. It was easy, but neither valiant

nor right, for a king thus to insult or silence Jehovah’s messenger; he

would, by-and-by, find it harder to deal in such fashion with

JEHOVAH HIMSELF!  Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee:

reprove a wise man, and he will love thee” (Proverbs 9:8).

Amaziah’s conduct showed he was a fool (Proverbs 13:1) — one of those

that “hate him who reproveth in the gate” (Amos 5:10).

 

Ø      It foreshadowed his ultimate fall. It revealed to the prophet that God

had determined to destroy him — more especially when it was followed by

obstinate refusal of the Divine warning. It is a bad sign when faithful

admonition is followed by the hardening rather than the softening of the

admonished — when it confirms in sin rather than leads to repentance.

Quem deus vult perdere prius dementat. “He, that being often reproved

hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy”

(Proverbs 29:1).

  • LEARN:

 

Ø      The danger of prosperity in turning away the heart from God.

Ø      The need of constantly guarding against temptation.

Ø      The complete absurdity of idolatry.

Ø      The certainty that idol-worshippers and idol-worship shall perish.

 

17 “Then Amaziah king of Judah took advice, and sent to Joash, the

son of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, king of Israel, saying, Come, let

us see one another in the face.”  Took advice; i.e. took counsel; as in

foregoing verse, “Art thou made king’s counselor?” and as in same verse,

counseled should read instead of “determined,” The verb (יָעצ), in kal, niph.,

and once only in hithp., occurs just eighty times, always in this sense, and

almost always so rendered in the Authorized Version, Let us see one another

in the face. A refined analogy to this expression, with all its speaking

significance, occurs in II Samuel 2:13; and, perhaps yet more

remarkably, a strange semblance between vs. 14-15, 17 of that

chapter and our vs. 21-22 may be noticed.

 

18 “And Joash king of Israel sent to Amaziah king of Judah, saying,

The thistle that was in Lebanon sent to the cedar that was in Lebanon,

saying, Give thy daughter to my son to wife: and there passed by a

wild beast that was in Lebanon, and trode down the thistle.”

The thistle… sent to the cedar. While other history shows

frequently the abounding Eastern delight in this exact kind of composition,

it will be remembered that it is not absent from Scripture, and that this is

not the first recorded instance of it by three hundred and fifty years, for see

Judges 9:7-15. The thistle; Hebrew, הַחוַח. The word occurs, beside

the four times here and in the parallel, eight other times:  ch. 33:11; 

I Samuel 13:6; Job 31:40; 41:2; Proverbs 26:9; Song of Solomon 2:2;

Isaiah 34:13; Hosea 9:6. Although, then, the word we have here is not the

bramble (אָטָד) of Judges 9:15, which also is brought before us in its

contrast with Lebanon’s cedar, yet the bramble bush, chiefly in virtue of

its characteristic thorn, best answers to the average suggestions of all the

 twelve instances of the use of our word.

 

 

19 “Thou sayest, Lo, thou hast smitten the Edomites; and thine heart

lifteth thee up to boast: abide now at home; why shouldest thou meddle

to thine hurt, that thou shouldest fall, even thou, and Judah with thee?”

If the contents of this verse do not fail to impress with a

persuasion of the keen mental gift of Joash, they do not fall far short of

warranting some persuasion of a certain moral sense and goodness about

him also. He knows human nature well, and Amaziah’s particular variety

therein perfectly well. And many would have snapped at the opportunity of

humbling such a man. But not so Joash; he enjoys, indeed, the opportunity

of satisfying his own sarcasm and patronizing, but would still spare

Amaziah’s people and save him from himself. This does not resemble, at

any rate, the commonest, poorest, hungriest style of soul. To boast. Our

text gives us here hiph. infinitive construct, where the parallel has niph.

imperative. This lends the more effective shaft to the invective of Joash,

though without material difference to the sense.

 

20 “But Amaziah would not hear; for it came of God, that He might

deliver them into the hand of their enemies, because they sought

after the gods of Edom.”  The whole of the religious reflection, with its special

post- Captivity significance of this verse, is wanting in the parallel, and finds no

suggestion either thence or from common authorities. The parallel shows

the statement, But Amaziah would not hear, followed up immediately by

“Therefore Jehoash… went up.” Our own verse, in the use of the plural

pronoun them, and again they, takes some slight amount of the weight of

guilt in the matter of the idolatry from the shoulders of the king, that it may be

shared by the people, and no doubt chiefly again by the “princes” (ch. 24:17).

 

21 “So Joash the king of Israel went up; and they saw one another in

the face, both he and Amaziah king of Judah, at Bethshemesh,

which belongeth to Judah.  22 And Judah was put to the worse before

Israel, and they fled every man to his tent.”  Beth-shemesh. The

Beth-shomesh of Judah, on the borders of Judah, Dan, and the Philistines,

is to be distinguished from that on the boundary of Issachar (Joshua 19:22),

and “the fenced city of Naphtali (ibid. v. 38).

 

23 “And Joash the king of Israel took Amaziah king of Judah, the son

of Joash, the son of Jehoahaz, at Bethshemesh, and brought him to

Jerusalem, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem from the gate of

Ephraim to the corner gate, four hundred cubits.” Joash… took;

Hebrew, תָּפַּשׂ, “seized” (as Genesis 39:12), or “caught up” (as

Deuteronomy 9:17), or “capture” (as Joshua 8:8). The gate of Ephraim

(see Conder’s ‘Handbook to the Bible,’ p. 343). It led out on the north or

north-west side of the city. There is very little to identify it with the high

gate of Benjamin (see ditto, p. 346). The corner gate. This is not the

translation of our Hebrew text (שַׁעַר הַפּונֶה, which, see margin,

means “that looketh), but of the Hebrew text of the parallel (חַפִנָּה),

see pp. 343-346 of Conder’s ‘Handbook to the Bible,’ and map facing

p. 334, 2nd edit. Four hundred cubits. Probably about a hundred and

eighty yards.

 

24 “And he took all the gold and the silver, and all the vessels that

were found in the house of God with Obededom, and the treasures

of the king’s house, the hostages also, and returned to Samaria.”

No mention is made in the parallel of that custodian of

treasures in the house of God, here called Obed-Edom, and who possibly

was a descendant of the Obed-Edom of David’s time (II Samuel 6:10;

I Chronicles 13:13); or an Obed-Edom “a porter” (I Chronicles

15:18; 16:38; 26:4, 8). The present verse is an interesting one for pointing

out the exact differences, even to the minutest of them, in what the two

writers (of Kings and Chronicles) respectively took from a common

original; e.g. the writer of Kings has “he took;” leaves out “Obed-Edom;

has not the preposition “in” before “the house;” has “Jehovah” instead of

“God;” has the preposition “in” before “treasures;” and has “Samariaward

(i.e. to Samaria) instead of only Samaria;” the writer of Chronicles

differing in each of these respects. All the gold… in the house of God.

See II Kings 12:17-18, from which we must conclude that Hazael had

already had the pick both for quantity and for quality. The hostages also;

the phrase runs in the Hebrew text, “and sons [or, ‘the sons’] of the

hostages(הַתַּעֲרֻבות יְאֵת בְּנַי); the literal rendering of which is

children or sons of pledges,i.e. hostages. The word (and indeed the

practice so prevalent elsewhere) is found only here and in the parallel.

 

 

Human Presumption (vs. 17-24)

 

In the correspondence between these two kings and the action which ensued

we have a very striking illustration of the evil of human presumption.

 

  • IT MAY BE BEGOTTEN OF A SLIGHT SUCCESS. “Thou hast

smitten the Edomites and thy heart lifteth thee up to boast” (v. 19). Some

men are soon inflated; even a little “knowledge puffeth up.” (I Corinthians

8:1)  And a very slight achievement, in art, or in song, or in speech, or in

manufacture, is enough to fill them with vanity, to cause them to

think more highly of themselves than they ought to think” (Romans 12:3),

to make them presume upon an ability which they are far from possessing.

Complacency is an element which soon rises to the surface in human nature;

it takes a very slight touch to stir it.

 

  • IT MAY BEGET A SINFUL SCORNFULNESS. On this occasion the

presumption of Amaziah provoked the contemptuous answer of Joash (v.18).

There is something very unbeautiful and unbecoming in human scorn.

Derision is a rather frequent action, and those who employ it take great

pride in it. But we may be sure that it is offensive in the sight of the Lord

of love. We may pity, we may condemn, we may reproach one another,

rightly and faithfully. But to pour out on one another the spittle of our

scorn, — this is an unworthy, an ungodly, a blameful thing. Joash no doubt

felt a keen satisfaction in his reference to the cedar and the thistle, and sent

his message with enjoyment; but the Father of spirits would be grieved to

see one of his children thus treating another with withering contempt.

Scorn may be a pleasant thing, but it is a sinful thing.

 

  • IT SUFFERS AN HUMILIATING DEFEAT, (vs. 21-22.) Failure

and humiliation are the inevitable end of human presumption. It is

certain in time to undertake some task too great for its strength, to go up

to a battle against a foe which it cannot fight and we know what will be

the issue.  Whatever the field may be — whether political, commercial,

literary, ecclesiastical, social — the man of presumptuous spirit is on

his way to an ignominious defeat. He will attempt the leap which he

cannot make, and he will come down heavily to the ground.

 

  • IT ENDURES OTHER PENALTIES BESIDES. In the case of Amaziah,

it meant, beside defeat, captivity, the violation of the capital, and the

spoliation of the temple, the miseries of remorse as he pondered in his

palace. How senselessly he had brought this calamity on himself (see

v.15)! Presumption is sure to result in adversity of more kinds than one. It

ends in the bitter mortification of defeat, of conscious overthrow and

dishonor; it usually ends (as here) in loss, either of property, or of

reputation, or of friendship — perhaps of all of these at the same time. It

frequently brings down upon a man the severe reproaches of those who

have been injured along with the principal offender. For guilt of this kind

commonly involves misery to many beside the criminal. It is Jerusalem,

and even Judah, as well as Amaziah, on whom the blow comes down.

 

Ø      Let us know ourselves well, lest we make an egregious and fatal

mistake.

Ø      Let us ask God to reveal our feebleness to our own eyes.

 

 

 

The Battle of Beth-shemesh; or, the Downfall of a Boaster (vs. 17-24)

 

  • THE OBJECT OF THE BATTLE.

 

Ø      The object of its promoter, Amaziah.

 

o       Perhaps revenge; to punish the Israelitish sovereign for the sins of

his subjects (v. 13) — a principle of action on which man cannot always

with safety proceed, though God may. Revenge, sweet to the natural

heart (Jeremiah 20:10), was forbidden under the Law (Leviticus 19:17-

18), and is absolutely inconsistent with the gospel (Romans 12:19).

“Men revenge themselves out of weakness because they are offended,

because they are too much influenced by self-love.” This was seemingly

the case with Amaziah. “A great soul overlooks and despises injuries;

a soul enlightened by grace and faith leaves the judgment and

 revenge of them to God” (Cruden).

 

o        Possibly ambition; in the hope of reducing the northern kingdom to

subjection. In this hope (Josephus, ‘Ant.,’ 9:9. 2) he was probably

confirmed by his previous success over the Edomites (v. 14). Ambition,

easily excited in the breasts of the weak, is always difficult to allay even

by the wills of the strong. Wherever it exists, it is like the horse-leech’s

two daughters, which cry, “Give, give!” like the grave and the barren

womb, the dry earth and the fire, which never say, “It is enough”

(Proverbs 30:15-16). It commonly proves too imperious even for men

of iron will, while weaklings like Amaziah it blows to destruction

with a slight puff.

 

Ø      The object of its Director, God. If Amaziah had an aim in seeking a

pitched battle with Joash King of Israel, so had Jehovah an aim in allowing

him and Joash to try conclusions on the field of war. If Amaziah meant to

punish Joash, Jehovah meant to punish Amaziah: which of the two, the

King of Judah or the King of kings, was the more likely to succeed in

accomplishing his object, it required no prophet to foretell. So in mundane

affairs, generally, “man proposes,” but “God disposes.” (Thomas a Kempis)

Men, as free agents, are allowed to scheme and plan as they please, while

God worketh all things according to the counsel of His will.   (Ephesians 1:11)

Man often fails in his purposes, Jehovah never (Job 23:13; Psalm 115:3;

Isaiah 46:10-11; Daniel 4:35).

 

  • THE PRELIMINARIES TO THE BATTLE.

 

Ø      Amaziahs challenge to Joash.

 

o        Deliberately offered. He acted neither in a hurry nor on his own

responsibility, but at leisure and after consultation with his privy

councilors and field-marshals. This only made the matter worse.

It shows what wretched advisers the king had, and how set the

king’s heart was upon the war. Jehoshaphat had been too late

in calling in Jehovah to the council of war at Samaria (ch.18:4);

Amaziah neglected calling Him in at all. The last persons a king or

parliament should apply to for advice when deliberating on the

question of peace or war, are the idlers about court and the officers

in a barracks.

 

o        Arrogantly expressed. Euphemistically phrased, “Come, let us look

one another in the face,” meaning “Come, let us measure strength,”

or “cross swords with one another;” this is one of those hypocritical

formulas with which the world tries to hide from itself the wickedness

of its evil deeds.  Amaziah’s politely worded message was an insolent

challenge to the King of Israel to meet him on the field of war.

 

o        Fittingly answered. Amaziah’s insolence had silenced the prophet

(v. 16); he was now to find that Jonah would not so meekly submit to

his impertinence. It may be proper for good men not to render railing

for railing (I Peter 3:9), but it is not to be lamented when vainglorious

boasters are set down and fools answered according to their folly

(Proverbs 26:5).

 

Ø      Joashs response to Amaziah. This, which Josephus says was delivered

in writing, contained two things.

 

o        A parable or fable (v. 18), not unlike that of Jotham to the

Shechemites (Judges 9:8, etc.). It is not necessary to understand the

thistle or thorn as pointing to Amaziah, in comparison with whom Joash

claimed to be a tall cedar, though possibly this may have exactly expressed

Joash’s estimate of the relative greatness of their royal persons; or to

suppose that Amaziah had solicited a daughter of Joash in marriage for his

son and been refused, and that out of this sprang his present warlike

attitude towards Israel; or to find in the wild beast in Lebanon which trod

down the thistle an allusion to the northern warriors who, should hostilities

break out, would overrun and trample down the land of Judah. It is

sufficient to learn what the fable was designed to teach.

 

o        The interpretation. This consisted of three parts:

 

§         A contemptuous rebuke. Amaziah, lifted up with pride and

ambition, was stepping beyond his natural and legitimate sphere.

He had conquered the Edomites, and now aspired to measure

swords with the Israelites. It was pure self-conceit that lay at the

bottom of his arrogance — a hometruth Amaziah might have

digested with profit.

 

§         A condescending admonition. Amaziah had better stay at home.

To be addressed by Joash as a willful child might be by a wise

and prudent father, must have been galling to the untamed spirit

of Amaziah.

 

§         A threatening prediction. Amaziah was meddling to his hurt,

provoking calamity” that he should fall, even he and Judah

with him.  Joash probably knew that Amaziah had rashly

entered upon a campaign he had neither resources nor courage

to sustain. Fas est ab hoste doceri (It is right to learn, even

from an enemy),  but Amaziah would not hear.

 

  • THE SCENE OF THE BATTLE. Beth-shemesh (Joshua 15:10).

 

Ø      The meaning of the term. “The house of the sun.” Probably the site of an

ancient temple to the sun-god. The Egyptian On, or Heliopolis, i.e. “the

city of the sun,” is probably for the same reason styled Beth-shemesh

(Jeremiah 43:13).

 

Ø      The situation of the place. On the southern border of Dan, and within

the territory of Judah, about three miles west of Jerusalem, represented by

the modern Arabian village ‘Ain Seines, or “sun-well,” near the Wady-es-

Surar, north of which stretches a level plain suitable for a battle (Robinson,

‘Bib. Res.,’ vol. 3. p. 17; Thomson, ‘The Land and the Book,’ p. 535).

Many fragments of old wall-foundations still are visible about the locality,

and the modern village appears to have been built out of old materials.

 

Ø      The historical associations of the spot. It was one of the cities given to

the Levites by the tribe of Judah (Joshua 21:16). The ark of the

covenant long stood there (I Samuel 6:12). One of the officers who

purveyed for Solomon’s court resided there (I Kings 4:9). It

afterwards was taken by the Philistines (ch. 28:18).

 

  • THE RESULTS OF THE BATTLE.

 

Ø      The defeat of Judah. Joash and Amaziah “looked each other in the

face.” Their armies collided at the spot above described. The issue was a

total rout of Judah (v. 22).

 

Ø      The capture of Amaziah. Joash took him prisoner of war at Bethshemesh.

Amaziah’s thoughts at this moment would be pleasant company

for him! Whether Joash exulted over him, taunting him with his bravery,

and reminding him of the fate of the poor briar who aspired to mate with

the cedar, is not recorded; to Joash’s credit it should be stated that

Amaziah was not put to death, or even consigned to a prison, as he

deserved and might have expected, but was allowed to live and even

continue on his throne (v. 25).

 

Ø      The destruction of a part of the wall of Jerusalem. Approaching the

metropolis of Judah with its prisoner-king, Joash, not so much perhaps

with a view to obtain a triumphal gateway (Thenius), or restrain its

inhabitants from reprisals in the shape of warlike operations (Bertheau), as

simply to mark the capital as a conquered city (Bahr), caused about four

hundred cubits of the wall to be broken down, from the gate of Ephraim to

the corner gate, i.e. about half of the north wall. The gate of Ephraim,

called also the gate of Benjamin (Jeremiah 37:13; 38:7; Zechariah 14:10),

because the way to Ephraim lay through Benjamin, was most likely

situated at or near the present-day gate of Damascus, the modern Bab-el-

Amud, or, Gate of the Column, m the second wall, while the corner gate,

called also the first gate (ibid.), was apparently at the other

end of the wall from that at which the tower of Hananeel stood

(Jeremiah 31:38), i.e. at the north-west angle where the wall turned

southwards.

 

Ø      The despoliation of the temple and the palace. The pillaging of the

former was not complete, but extended solely to the carrying off of the

gold, silver, and vessels found in that part of the sacred building which was

under the care of Obed-Edom and his sons (I Chronicles 26:15), viz. in

the house of Asuppim, or, “house of collections or provisions”

(Nehemiah 12:25) — “a building used for the storing of the temple

goods, situated in the neighborhood of the southern door of the temple in

the external court” (Keil). The plundering of the latter does not appear to

have been restrained. All the treasures of the king’s house fell a prey to the

royal spoliator.

 

Ø      The taking of hostages. These were required in consequence of

Amaziah’s liberation, as a security for his good behavior, and were most

likely drawn from the principal families.

 

Ø      The return to Samaria. Joash acted with becoming moderation. Though

he might have killed, he spared Amaziah, and even restored him to his

throne. Whereas he might have broken down the entire city wall, he

overthrew only a part of it. Instead of plundering the whole temple, he

ravaged merely one of its external buildings. Judah and Jerusalem he might

have annexed to his empire, but he forbore. Having properly chastised his

royal brother, he returned to Samaria.

 

  • LESSONS:

 

Ø      A man may wear a crown and yet be a fool — witness Amaziah.

Ø      “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

(Proverbs 16:18)

Ø      “He that girdeth on his armour should not boast as he that putteth it

off.”  (I Kings 20:11)

Ø      The hand that lets slip the clogs of war deserves to be devoured by

them.

Ø      Clemency becomes a conqueror, and is an ornament of kings.

 

25 “And Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah lived after the death

of Joash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel fifteen years.”

Amaziah… lived after the death of Joash. The composition of the previous

two verses dismisses delicately the fact that Joash, ignominiously bringing

Amaziah to Jerusalem (v. 23), contemptuously left him there, with a

present of his life, though less his honor and much wealth.

 

26 “Now the rest of the acts of Amaziah, first and last, behold, are they

not written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel?”

The book of the kings of Judah and Israel. The parallel has

the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah.” Considering the amount

and the character of the resemblance that we have noticed between the

narratives in Kings and in our own text, and assuming that the work to

which each compiler calls attention for the fuller clarification of his subject

of biography is the work which he has himself most largely laid under

‘contribution, then we should justly feel in this instance that we had no

feeble argument for the identity of the two works, called by rather different

titles — by the writer of the pre-Captivity, “the book of the chronicles of

the kings of Judah,” and by him of the post-Captivity, “the book of the

kings of Judah and Israel.”

 

27 “Now after the time that Amaziah did turn away from following the

LORD they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem; and he

fled to Lachish: but they sent to Lachish after him, and slew him there.”

Now after the time that Amaziah did turn away from following the Lord.

Let it be particularly noted that the entire of this sentence (which is

a strong anachronism sui generisa class by itself) is wanting in the

parallel. It is, of course, in its matter intrinsically true, but none the less

misleading in its form. The object of the writer cannot be doubted, as so

many a cross-light is thrown upon it, in other places, viz. to connect the

rise and the operativeness of the conspiracy with the fact that (though not

the exact date at which) the king had turned aside from Jehovah to idols.

They made a conspiracy. When every deduction is made, it may be that

the conspiracy was one that was long hatching, and one which began in

embryo from the date of Amaziah’s ignominious return to Jerusalem. Very

certain it is that this would be historic certainty with the Paris of the 18th

century. The French would have required a deadly explanation of

such an affront, if brought upon them by any ruler of theirs. He fled to

Lachish. In the Shefelah of Judah, and a strongly fortified place (ch.11:9;

Joshua 10:3, 32; 15:39; II Kings 14:19; 18:14; 19:8; Isaiah 36:2;

Jeremiah 34:7; Micah 1:13). Eusebius places it seven Roman miles south

of Eleutheropolis.

 

28 “And they brought him upon horses, and buried him with his fathers

in the city of Judah.” They brought him upon horses; Hebrew text, “upon the

horses,” i.e. those same royal horses presumably with which he had fled to

Lachish. This seems the most natural suggestion arising from the

memorandum made here, and may indicate that they visited him with no

additional gratuitous disrespect. In the city of Judah. Probably an incorrect

text for that of II Kings 14:20, “the city of David,” which is found in

some of the manuscripts.

 

 

Another Type of Uncertain Character (vs. 1-28)

 

We are at once advised, in reference to Amaziah, that he “did right in the

sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart.” The expression might be

supposed to cover the description of a man whose life was in the main

right, but who was betrayed by temptation into some serious sins, of

which, like David, he bitterly repented, but genuinely repented, and was

restored to peace and favor. No such interpretation, however, is here

possible. And as there are some very marked features in the character of

the folly and sin of Amaziah, they must not be overlooked or missed,

having due regard to the brevity and exactitude of Scripture biography. We

have here, then:

 

  • A MAN WHOSE DISCERNMENT WAS SUCH THAT HE WAS

EQUAL TO SEEING AND TAKING WARNING AND GODLY

ADVICE. It is in the heart of Amaziah to fight with the Edomites. It is a

temptation with him again, as with predecessors of his on the throne, to

borrow and pay for the help of the separated kingdom of Israel. Certain

kinds of friendship are certain to turn out certain snares. Our safety is often

simply a complete separation from persons or things that have been found

to partake of the nature of a snare. These two things look strange only too

natural, if we know enough of our own weak, self-deceiving hearts — in

the attitude of Amaziah at this moment. (“The heart is deceitful above all

things, and desperately wicked:  who can know it?”  - Jeremiah 17:9) He

listens to the  teaching of the prophet, is no doubt startled and vexed thus to

be called on to forfeit his methods and arrangements for the warfare that he

would war, but seems to take his stand rather on the money that he perceives

he will forfeit for nothing, as it seems to him! This is one side of the matter.

But the other shows him, happily, both amenable to the prophet’s reminder

that God was “able to give him much more” than that hundred talents; and

also equal to the effort of dismissing his hired mercenaries of Israel, and of

encountering thereby their fierce indignation. Amaziah had heeded the

warning of the prophet (v. 8), and he now heeds the assurance with trustful

faith of the same prophet; he goes up to war, and has a splendid success.

 

  • A MAN WHOSE DISCERNMENT, UNDER SOME UNTOWARD

INFLUENCE, SEEMED ALMOST SUDDENLY TO BECOME SO

BLUNTED THAT HE CANNOT BROOK A GODLY PROPHET’S

REMONSTRANCE, BUT DEFIANTLY AND WITH MENACE

REJECTS IT. There is scarcely room to doubt what had wrought in the

interim the disastrous change:

 

Ø      success,

Ø      boastfulness and self-confidence

 

had been the untimely growth of the very ground where:

 

Ø      gratitude,

Ø      obedience,

Ø      self-distrust, and

Ø      the profoundest disposition of reliance on God and his prophet

should have been found.

 

Success had more than turned the brain of Amaziah. He worships the gods

who had not delivered him. He worships the gods who had not delivered

their own people,” whom he had destroyed. He worships not, and

glorifies not, his own God and the God of his fathers, but is a marvel

of an apostate, and a monster of blinded ingratitude, and a monument

of blunted discernment, of perverted fatuity!

 

  • A MAN FOR WHOM HIS TOWERING SELF-SUFFICIENCY

AND SELF-GLORIFICATION EXCITE THE PITY, BEG THE

WARNING, AND RECEIVE THE BEST AND THE HONEST ADVICE

OF THE VERY FOE WHOM HE INSULTINGLY CHALLENGES TO

FIGHT. It is evident that the King of Israel was able to read the human

nature that was in Amaziah of Judah (vs. 18-20). And it is evident that

the King of Israel did not desire to be answerable for the blood of the same

Amaziah. He “puts him to the worse,” takes much spoil of him, breaks

down the walls of his city — the holy city; and, bathos of humiliation for

Amaziah, “took him,” “brought him to” that, his own city, and left him

there, in all his fallen glory and mulcted wealth, to meditate on “the wages

of sin,” even when they fall short of death. Men’s enemies sometimes love

their lives and souls better, alas! than they do themselves.

 

 

The Last of Amaziah (vs. 25-28)

 

  • SPARED BY HIS CONQUEROR. (v. 25.) Instead of being put to

death, he was restored to his crown and capital, where he actually survived

Joash for fifteen years. This treatment he hardly deserved, considering he

had aimed at Joashs life and crown. Yet was the mercy of it nothing to

that of GOD’S TREATMENT of sinful men, whom, though they have raised

against Him the standard of revolt, He nevertheless spares, forgives, and will

eventually exalt to a place upon the throne with Christ His Son.

(Revelation 3:21)

 

  • PUNISHED FOR HIS APOSTASY. (v. 27.) This apostasy was

committed in the earlier part of his reign (v. 14), and soon began to bear

bitter fruit, first in the defeat he sustained at the hand of Joash, probably

next in the disaffection of his people, and finally in the formation of a

conspiracy for his overthrow, which came to a head in the fifteenth year

after Joash’s death. One never knows when the evil fruits and penal

consequences of sin are exhausted. The safe plan is to “have no fellowship

with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11).

 

  • DRIVEN FROM HIS CAPITAL. (v. 27.) Probably the disaffection

began after the defeat by Joash and the dismantling of Jerusalem. There is

no reason to suppose that Amaziah was obliged to flee until towards the

end of the fifteen years referred to in the text. The immediate occasion of

this flight was the discovery of a plot against his life. So. David had been

obliged to flee from Jerusalem when his own son Absalom conspired

against him (II Samuel 15:16).

 

  • SLAIN BY HIS SUBJECTS. (v. 27.) Lachish, where he sought

refuge, was an old Canaanitish royal city (Joshua 10:3-31; 12:11),

southwest of Jerusalem, in the lowlands of Judah (Joshua 15:39).

According to Micah (Micah 1:13), it was the first Jewish town to be

affected by Israelitish idolatry, which spread from it towards the capital. It

would seem also to have been one of Solomon’s chariot cities (I Kings

9:19; 10:26-29). It had been fortified by Rehoboam (ch. 11:9), and was

subsequently captured by Sennacherib (ch. 32:9) after a long siege

(Jeremiah 34:7). It should probably be identified with the modern Um-Lakis,

a few miles west-southwest of the Eleutheropolis.  Arrested here, the fallen

monarch was dispatched by the daggers of assassins, as his father before him

had been (ch. 24:25). As conspiracy had set the crown on Amaziah’s head,

so conspiracy now took it off.

 

  • BURIED WITH HIS FATHERS. (v. 28.) Brought to Jerusalem in

his own royal chariot, he was entombed beside his ancestors in the city of

Judah, or of David, thus receiving an honor which was not paid to his

father. He got a better funeral than he deserved, though it is well to forget

men’s faults at the grave’s mouth. Nihil nisi bonum de mortuis (Say

nothing but good about the dead).

 

  • SUCCEEDED BY HIS SON. (ch. 26:1.) The conspirators did not attempt to

seize the crown for either themselves or any of their faction. They adhered to

the legitimate succession of the house of David. As it were, this was a

posthumous mercy conferred on Amaziah.

 

  • LESSONS:

 

Ø      Beware of incurring the Divine anger.

Ø      Envy not kings or great men.

Ø      Prepare for the day of death.

Ø      Think with kindness on the dead.

Ø      Practice mercy towards the living.

 

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