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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 2 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 key-note of an unclean character and reign (2 Chronicles 25:1, 2 Chronicles 25:2); it proceeds to record the king's avenging of his father's murder (2 Chronicles 25:3, 2 Chronicles 25:4); 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" (2 Chronicles 25:5-13); his defection to idolatry, and insult put upon the faithful "prophet" (2 Chronicles 25:14-16); his jaunty and provocative challenge to Joash of Israel, to his own overthrow (2 Chronicles 25:17-24); his end (2 Chronicles 25:25-28).
2 Chronicles 25:1
Twenty and five years old … reigned twenty and nine years. Glance at notes on 2 Chronicles 25:1, 2 Chronicles 25:15, 2 Chronicles 25:17 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 honoured city rather than of any provincial or even less worthy city.
2 Chronicles 25:2
Not with a perfect heart. This is illustrated by his coming "to set up the gods of Edom" (2 Chronicles 25:14-16, 2 Chronicles 25:20); also by what the parallel supplies, that he resembled Joash rather than David, and did not suppress "the high places, sacrifices, and in-cense-burning'' (2 Kings 14:3, 2 Kings 14:4). In almost all cases, the not perfect heart speaks of that which began well, but did not "endure unto the end."
2 Chronicles 25:3
Was established to him; Hebrew, חָזְקָה. This is kal conjugation of the verb, which we found in piel in 2 Chronicles 25:5 of foregoing chapter, and there rendered "repair." The kal force of the word is simply to "be strong" (Genesis 41:57; Joshua 17:13; 2 Kings 14:5). The hiph; to "make strong," or "confirm," as it is rendered here, is found in 2 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.
2 Chronicles 25:4
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 (2 Kings 9:8, 2 Kings 9:26; Joshua 7:24, Joshua 7:25, 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, Jeremiah 31:30; Ezekiel 18:4, Ezekiel 18:19, Ezekiel 18:20.
2 Chronicles 25:5
This and the following five verses are entirely omitted in the parallel, which contents itself with giving in its 2 Chronicles 25:7, in fewer words, but with the supplement of other matter, what is contained in our 2 Chronicles 25:11. Found them three hundred thousand. Compare Asa's "five hundred and eighty thousand" (2 Chronicles 14:8), and Jehoshaphat's "eleven hundred and sixty thousand" (2 Chronicles 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 1:2-34. Twenty years old and above.
2 Chronicles 25:6
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 2 Chronicles 13:3, the identity of which, however, with Joab's Israel (2 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 centre 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; Isaiah 17:3; Isaiah 28:3; several times in almost every chapter of Hosea, and for a typical instance, cf. Hosea 14:8).
2 Chronicles 25:7
(See foregoing chapter, 2 Chronicles 24:19.) 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.
2 Chronicles 25:8
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 בּאֹ, 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 with. hold, 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 2 Chronicles 25:7, 2 Chronicles 25:8 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."
2 Chronicles 25:9
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.
2 Chronicles 25:10
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 (2 Chronicles 25:13, 2 Chronicles 25:22), 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 1:1-31. (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 לְbefore 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.
2 Chronicles 25:11
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, more probably a "ravine near Petra" (1 Chronicles 18:12; 2 Samuel 8:13). (For the association of Seir with Edom, see Gen 36:17-20; 2 Chronicles 20:10.)
2 Chronicles 25:12
The top of the rock. The parallel uses the Hebrew word without translation, Selah (הַסֶּלַע). There is little doubt that this is Petra. The parallel tells us the interesting fact that Amaziah, perhaps under the influence of a spasmodic touch of devout-hess or gratitude, changed the name of Selah, or rather endeavoured 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 (2 Chronicles 28:17; Amos 1:11; Isaiah 16:1, Isaiah 16:2) 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).
2 Chronicles 25:13
The soldiers … sent back … fell upon the cities of Judah, from Samaria to Beth-horon. There is probably something to read between the lines here, to wit, that the soldiers returned to their master add 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 back" may 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 2 Chronicles 25:17, 2 Chronicles 25:18, 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.
2 Chronicles 25:14
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 fulfilment of the "man of God's" prophetic denunciations.
2 Chronicles 25:15
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 2 Chronicles 25:16, 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 2 Chronicles 24:16.
2 Chronicles 25:16
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." 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.
2 Chronicles 25:17
Took advice; i.e. took counsel; as in foregoing verse, "Art thou made king's counsellor?" and as in same verse, "counselled" should read instead of "determined," The verb (יָעץ), 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 2 Samuel 2:13; and, perhaps yet more remarkably, a strange some balance between 2 Samuel 2:14, 2 Samuel 2:15, 2 Samuel 2:17 of that chapter and our 2 Samuel 2:21, 2 Samuel 2:22 may be noticed.
2 Chronicles 25:18
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, הַחוֹחַ. The word occurs, beside the four times here and in the parallel, eight other times: 1 Samuel 13:6; 2 Chronicles 33:11; Job 31:40; Job 41:2; Proverbs 26:9; So Proverbs 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.
2 Chronicles 25:19
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 patronizingness, but would still spare Amaziah's people and save him from himself. This does not resemble, at any rote, 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.
2 Chronicles 25:20
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" (2 Chronicles 24:17).
2 Chronicles 25:21
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" (Joshua 19:38).
2 Chronicles 25:23
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. 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. The corner gate. This is not the translation of our Hebrew text, 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.
2 Chronicles 25:24
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 (2 Samuel 6:10; 1 Chronicles 13:13); or an Obed-Edom "a porter" (1 Chronicles 15:18; 1 Chronicles 16:38; 1 Chronicles 26:4, S). 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 "Samaria-ward" (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 2 Kings 12:17, 2 Kings 12:18, 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" (הַתַּעֲרֻבוֹת 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.
2 Chronicles 25:25
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" (2 Chronicles 25:23), contemptuously left him there, with a present of his life, though less his honour and much wealth.
2 Chronicles 25:26
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 elucidation 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."
2 Chronicles 25:27
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 generis) 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 past century or more. 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 (2 Chronicles 11:9; Joshua 10:3, Joshua 10:32; Joshua 15:39; 2 Kings 14:19; 2Ki 18:14; 2 Kings 19:8; Isaiah 36:2; Jeremiah 34:7; Micah 1:13). Eusebius places it seven Roman miles south of Eleutheropolis.
2 Chronicles 25:28
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 2 Kings 14:20, "the city of David," which is found in some of the manuscripts.
2 Chronicles 25:1-28
Another type of uncertain character.
We are at once advised, in refer-once 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 -rod favour. 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—
I. 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. 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 (2 Chronicles 25:8), and he now heeds the assurance with trustful faith of the same prophet; he goes up to war, and has a splendid Success.
II. 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. Success! Boastfulness and self-confidence had been the untimely growth of the very ground where gratitude, obedience, self-distrust, and 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!
III. 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 (2 Chronicles 25:18-20). 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 Amaziab, "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.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
2 Chronicles 25:2
Doing right, but
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 favourable; 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—
I. DISCERNIBLE DEFICIENCIES IN CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. One Christian man is blameless in behaviour 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. 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. 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. 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
(1) to be pointed out by friends, and to be recognized frankly by those who are the subjects of them;
(2) to be carefully, conscientiously, devoutly corrected and removed, lest the "gospel of Christ be hindered," lest the Master himself be displeased and dishonoured. But there are—
II. MORE SERIOUS INCONSISTENCIES.
1. 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
(1) into condemnable self-indulgence; or
(2) into an arrogance of spirit and haughtiness of bearing which are as hateful to men as (we know) they are offensive to God; or
(3) 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
(4) into a serious selfishness of soul which has no eye for anything but its own personal and passing interests.
2. In Christian work. It may be that one who has shown much earnestness in the field of sacred usefulness, either
(1) loses all interest in that for which he once thought much and laboured hard, or
(2) 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—
III. 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 our obedience will be at fault; or our devotion will fail; or our character will be blemished, and our reputation will break down; or we shall leave the field and lose our reward (2 John 1:8). Therefore:
1. Let us realize how great, how supreme, how prevailing, are the claims of our Divine Redeemer.
2. 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."—C.
2 Chronicles 25:5-9
Gold, and the favour of God.
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 sacrificing his money or forfeiting the favour 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—
I. 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.
1. Its possession, so far from ensuring happiness, often entails much burdensomeness, and always imposes a heavy responsibility.
2. 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.
3. It is wholly powerless in the presence of some of the sadder and graver evils of our life.
4. It tempts to indolence and indulgence, and it may be doubted whether it does not spoil more lives than it brightens and blesses.
II. THE BOUNDLESS BLESSEDNESS OF THE FAVOUR 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 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.
1. The peace of God, which passes understanding, and which surpasses all material values.
2. The positive and active friendship of our Lord, and of the good and true.
3. A life of noble and fruitful service.
4. A death of hope.
5. 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.—C.
2 Chronicles 25:15
The folly of irreligion.
The remonstrance addressed by the prophet of the Lord to Amaziah was well grounded; his argument was conclusive. We arc simply astonished at—
I. 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 (2 Chronicles 25:14)! Well might he be reproached for conduct so culpable and so irrational. Any one who was conversant 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.
II. THE FOLLY OF IRRELIGION, AND ESPECIALLY OF SPIRITUAL UNFAITHFULNESS. For what is it that we see?
1. A large number of men and women honouring various false gods; it is some form of temporal success; it may be physical enjoyment, or it may be the possession of wealth, or it may be social position, or it may be political power, or it may be professional distinction.
2. 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, envy—a sense of dreariness and defeat. 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)? 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—
III. 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"? 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:
1. Gladdened with all joy.
2. Comforted in all sorrow.
3. Enlarged in all obscurity and lowliness of sphere.
4. Engaged in the best and noblest of all works—the work of human elevation.
5. Sustained by the most exalted hope—the hope of everlasting life in his own royal presence.—C.
2 Chronicles 25:17-24
In the correspondence between these two kings and the action which ensued we have a very striking illustration of the evil of human presumption.
I. IT MAY BE BEGOTTEN OF A SLIGHT SUCCESS. "Thou hast smitten the Edomites and thy heart lifteth thee up to boast" (2 Chronicles 25:19). Some men are soon inflated; even a little "knowledge puffeth up." 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," 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.
II. IT MAY BEGET A SINFUL SCORNFULNESS. On this occasion the presumption of Amaziah provoked the contemptuous answer of Joash (2 Chronicles 25:18). 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.
III. IT SUFFERS AN HUMILIATING DEFEAT, (2 Chronicles 25:21, 2 Chronicles 25:22.) 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.
IV. IT ENDURES OTHER PENALTIES BESIDES. In the case of Joash 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 2 Chronicles 25:15)! Presumption is sure to result in adversity of more kinds than one. It ends in the bitter mortification of defeat, of conscious overthrow and dishonour; 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.
1. Let us know ourselves well, lest we make an egregious and fatal mistake.
2. Let us ask God to reveal our feebleness to our own eyes.—C.
HOMILIES BY T. WHITELAW
2 Chronicles 25:1-4
The accession of Amaziah.
I. 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.
II. 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.
III. THE CHARACTER HE MAINTAINED ON THE THRONE. Mixed.
1. Good. "He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord," as his father did while Jehoiada lived (2 Chronicles 24:2); i.e. he abandoned idolatry and became a worshipper of Jehovah.
2. Not perfect. "Not with a perfect heart," as it should have been (1 Kings 8:61), after the examples of Asa (2 Chronicles 15:17; 1 Kings 15:14) and David (2 Kings 14:3; Psalms 101:2). His return to the worship of Jehovah was probably
(1) dictated by fear, occasioned by the recollection of his father's untimely and violent death; hence
(2) deficient in extent, the high places not being removed (2 Kings 14:4); and
(3) destitute of permanence—in fact, dropped when he felt himself secure upon his throne (2 Chronicles 25:14).
IV. THE ACTS HE PERFORMED FROM THE THRONE. Two.
1. A deed of vengeance. "He slew his servants that had killed the king his father."
(1) 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.
(2) 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.
(3) Prudence recommended this. Doubtless Amasiah feared that some day the fate of Joash would be his, if these men lived.
2. An exercise of clemency. "He slew not their children."
(1) Considering what the Law of Moses said (Deuteronomy 24:16), this was right;
(2) remembering the universal practice of the Orient, it was merciful;
(3) if they were young children when the wicked deed was done, it was humane as well as right.
1. The vanity of earthly glory—even kings must die.
2. The imperfection of human goodness—the best of men but men at the best.
3. The impossibility of escaping for ever the due reward of one's evil deeds, except by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
4. 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,' Acts 4:0. sc. 1).—W.
2 Chronicles 25:5-13
A campaign against the Edomites.
I. WARLIKE PREPARATIONS. (2 Chronicles 25:5, 2 Chronicles 25:6.)
1. 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.
2. 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 (1 Samuel 8:12), and Moses' practice (Numbers 31:14; Deuteronomy 1:15). Order and subordination indispensable to the efficiency of a host. Since the days of Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 23:1; 2 Kings 11:15) the army had probably become disorganized.
3. 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 (2 Chronicles 14:8), or than Jehoshaphat possessed (2 Chronicles 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.
4. The army increased. "He hired also an hundred thousand mighty men of valour out of Israel for an hundred talents of silver" (£50,000, if the talent be valued at £500).
II. PROPHETIC WARNINGS. (2 Chronicles 25:7, 2 Chronicles 25:8.) The prophet's name is not given, but his admonition is:
1. 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 (2 Chronicles 18:28; 2 Chronicles 20:35; 2Ch 22:5; 1 Kings 22:29; 2 Kings 3:7), the earnestness of Jehovah's messenger might have startled him.
2. 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 (2 Chronicles 12:5), what had been threatened to Asa (2 Chronicles 15:2), what had been the case with Judah in the previous reign (2 Chronicles 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, 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?
3. 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."
4. 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, Isaiah 26:4; Isaiah 57:13; Jeremiah 39:18; Jeremiah 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 (2 Chronicles 20:20); the same lesson is urgently required by Christians (Romans 15:13; Ephesians 2:8).
5. An argument. "God hath power to help or to cast down"—to help his people without allies, as he helped Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:22), Asa (2 Chronicles 14:12), and Abijah (2 Chronicles 13:15); or to cast down his people, even in spite of allies, as he did formerly with Joash (2 Chronicles 24:24), with Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:36), and with Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 13:9), and afterwards with Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:16-19).
III. KINGLY EXCUSES. (2 Chronicles 25:9.)
1. 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,' Acts 4:0. 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.
2. Answered. The man of God might have replied
(1) that even if he kept his allies his hundred talents were lost, while he would certainly lose the battle in addition; or
(2) 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
(3) 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 (1Ch 29:11, 1 Chronicles 29:12; Haggai 2:8), and he gave them to whomsoever he would (Proverbs 30:8; Ecclesiastes 5:19; Psalms 127:1, Psalms 127:2).
IV. FIELD OPERATIONS. (2 Chronicles 25:10-12.)
1. 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.
2. 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 (2 Peter 1:5), and led his forces out with no ally but Jehovah, as far as the Valley of Salt (2 Samuel 8:13; 1 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 (2 Chronicles 21:8; 2 Kings 8:20), and whose subjugation was the object of the present campaign.
3. The defeat of the Edomites.
(1) The destruction of their army. Ten thousand soldiers were killed, ten thousand prisoners taken.
(2) 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" (2 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.
(3) The slaughter of their people. If Amaziah's prisoners were hurled from the cliffs of Petra, their death must have been simply appalling.
V. UNFRIENDLY RETALIATONS. (2 Chronicles 25:13.)
1. 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, favour, and blessing, than the world's co-operation, friendship, and approbation, with God's displeasure, withdrawal, and antagonism.
2. 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 honour, it may be supposed, was wounded; and the world holds a wound to one's honour 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!
3. On whom? The cities of Judah and their inhabitants, from Samaria unto Beth-horon, now Beit-Ur (2 Chronicles 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 learnt to discriminate between offending sovereigns and offenceless 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!
4. 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.
1. The folly of entering on any enterprise in which God cannot aid.
2. The sin of resorting to means of which Heaven cannot approve.
3. The sufficiency of God's help without creature-aids.
4. The duty of withdrawing from wicked schemes, even though doing so should entail financial loss.
5. The impossibility of settling questions of right and wrong by calculations of profit and loss.
6. The insignificance of money loss as compared with loss of Divine help and favour.
7. The immense indebtedness of the world to Christianity, even while rejecting it.—W.
2 Chronicles 25:14-16
The declension of Amaziah.
I. 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 him- self before them and burned incense unto them (2 Chronicles 25:14). That the Seirites were idolaters is confirmed by Moses, who gives Baal-hanan, "Baal is gracious," as one of their kings (Genesis 36:38); by Josephus, who mentions that the Idumaeans had a god named Kotze ('Ant.,' 15.7. 9); and by the Assyrian inscriptions, which show that one of their sovereigns bore the designation Kaus-malaka, i.e. "Kaus or Kotze is king".
II. 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 (2 Chronicles 28:23), and of Cyrus in asking the Babylonian divinities to intercede with Bel and Nebo on his behalf. At the same time, Amaziah's idolatry just as likely had its roots in inherent depravity. If Joash fell away to Baal (2 Chronicles 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 Ñ shows. Almost all nations in their infancy were monotheists.
III. 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, Exodus 20:4); 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.
IV. 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 (Psalms 115:4-8; Isaiah 46:1-6; Jeremiah 2:28; Jeremiah 10:5; 1 Corinthians 8:4).
V. THE DANGER OF IT.
1. It aroused against the king Jehovah's 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; 1 Corinthians 6:16), is provocative of wrath (Leviticus 26:30; Deuteronomy 27:15; Psalms 16:4; Psalms 79:6; Isaiah 42:17).
2. It drew down upon him a prophet's 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.
3. It excited the king's 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).
4. 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).
1. The danger of prosperity in turning away the heart from God.
2. The need of constantly guarding against temptation.
3. The complete absurdity of idolatry.
4. The certainty that idol-worshippers and idol-worship shall perish.—W.
2 Chronicles 25:17-24
The battle of Beth-shemesh; or, the downfall of a boaster.
I. THE OBJECT OF THE BATTLE.
1. The object of its promoter, Amaziah.
(1) Perhaps revenge; to punish the Israelitish sovereign for the sins of his subjects (2 Chronicles 25:13)—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, Leviticus 19:18), 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).
(2) 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 (2 Chronicles 25:14). 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, Proverbs 30:16). It commonly proves too imperious even for men of iron will, while weaklings like Amaziah it blows to destruction with a slight puff.
2. 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." 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 Man often fails in his purposes, Jehovah never (Job 23:13; Psalms 115:3; Isaiah 46:10, Isaiah 46:11; Daniel 4:35; Ephesians 1:11).
II. THE PRELIMINARIES TO THE BATTLE.
1. Amaziah's challenge to Joash.
(1) Deliberately offered. He acted neither in a hurry nor on his own responsibility, but at leisure and after consultation with his privy councillors 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 (2 Chronicles 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.
(2) 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.
(3) Fittingly answered. Amaziah's insolence had silenced the prophet (2 Chronicles 25:16); 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 (1 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).
2. Joash's response to Amaziah. This, which Josephus says was delivered in writing, contained two things.
(1) A parable or fable (verse 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.
(2) The interpretation. This consisted of three parts:
(a) 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 home-truth Amaziah might have digested with profit.
(b) A condescending admonition. Amaziah had better stay at home. To be addressed by Joash as a wilful child might be by a wise and prudent father, must have been galling to the untamed spirit of Amaziah.
(c) A comminatory 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; but Amaziah would not hear.
III. THE SCENE OF THE BATTLE. Beth-shemesh (Joshua 15:10).
1. 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).
2. 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. 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.
3. 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 (1 Samuel 6:12). One of the officers who purveyed for Solomon's court resided there (1 Kings 4:9). It afterwards was taken by the Philistines (2 Chronicles 28:18).
IV. THE RESULTS OF THE BATTLE.
1. 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 for Judah (verse 22).
2. The capture of Amaziah. Joash took him prisoner of war at Beth-shemesh. 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 (verse 25).
3. 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; Jeremiah 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 (Zechariah 14:10), 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.
4. 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 (1 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 neighbourhood 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.
5. The taking of hostages. These were required in consequence of Amaziah's liberation, as a security for his good behaviour, and were most likely drawn from the principal families.
6. 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.
1. A man may wear a crown and yet be a fool—witness Amaziah.
2. "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
3. "He that girdeth on his armour should not boast as he that putteth it off."
4. The hand that lets slip the clogs of war deserves to be devoured by them.
5. Clemency becomes a conqueror, and is an ornament of kings.—W.
2 Chronicles 25:25-28
The last of Amaziah.
I. SPARED BY HIS CONQUEROR. (2 Chronicles 25:25.) 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 Joash's 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.
II. PUNISHED FOR HIS APOSTASY. (2 Chronicles 25:27.) This apostasy was committed in the earlier part of his reign (2 Chronicles 25:14), 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).
III. DRIVEN FROM HIS CAPITAL. (2 Chronicles 25:27.) 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 (2 Samuel 15:16).
IV. SLAIN BY HIS SUBJECTS. (2 Chronicles 25:27.) Lachish, where he sought refuge, was an old Canaanitish royal city (Joshua 10:3-31; Joshua 12:11), south-west 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 (1 Kings 9:19; 1 Kings 10:26-29). It had been fortified by Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:9), and was subsequently captured by Sennacherib (2 Chronicles 32:9) after a long siege (Jeremiah 34:7). It should probably be identified with the modern Um-Lakis, a few miles west-south-west of the Eleutheropolis. Arrested here, the fallen monarch was despatched by the daggers of assassins, as his father before him had been (2 Chronicles 24:25). As conspiracy had set the crown on Amaziah's head, so conspiracy now took it off.
V. BURIED WITH HIS FATHERS. (Verse 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 honour which was not paid to his father. He got a better funeral than he deserved, though it is welt to forget men's faults at the grave's mouth. Nihil nisi bonum de mortuis.
VI. SUCCEEDED BY HIS SON. (2 Chronicles 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.
1. Beware of incurring the Divine anger.
2. Envy not kings or great men.
3. Prepare for the day of death.
4. Think with kindness on the dead.
5. Practise mercy towards the living.—W.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 25". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26