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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Kings 14". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ 2-kings-14.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Kings 14". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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2 Kings 14:1-29
REIGNS OF AMAZIAH, SON OF JOASH KING OF JUDAH, OVER JUDAH, AND OF JEROBOAM, SON OF JOASH KING OF ISRAEL, OVER ISRAEL.
2 Kings 14:1-20
THE REIGN OF AMAZIAH OVER JUDAH. This chapter takes up the history of the kingdom of Judah from the each of 2 Kings 12:1-21; with which it is closely connected. The writer, after a few such general remarks as those with which he commonly opens the history of each reign (2 Kings 12:1-4), proceeds to relate
(1) the punishment by Amaziah of the murderers of his father (2 Kings 12:5, 2 Kings 12:6);
(2) the war of Amaziah with Edom (2 Kings 12:7);
(3) the challenge which he sent to Joash King of Israel, that king's reply, and the war which followed (2 Kings 12:8-16); and
(4) the circumstances of Amaziah's death (2 Kings 12:17-20). Between 2 Kings 12:14 and 2 Kings 12:16 there is interposed a summary of the reign of King Joash of Judah, which is little more than a repetition of 2 Kings 13:12, 2 Kings 13:13, and is thought by many to be an interpolation.
2 Kings 14:1
In the second year of Joash son of Jehoahaz King of Israel reigned Amaziah the son of Joash King of Judah. Again the chronology is defective. If Joash of Israel ascended the throne in the thirty-seventh year of Joash of Judah (2 Kings 13:10), and the latter reigned forty years (2 Kings 12:1), Amaziah cannot have become king till the fourth or fifth year of the Israelitish Joash, instead of the second. The ordinary explanation of commentators is a double accession; but this is unsatisfactory. It is best to allow that the chronology of the later half of the Israelite kingdom is in confusion.
2 Kings 14:2
He was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 9.' 9. § 3) and the author of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 25:1) confirm these numbers. And his mother's name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. Josephus (l.s.c.) calls her Jodade, but the LXX. have, more correctly, Joadim.
2 Kings 14:3
And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like David his father. Only one King of Judah hitherto, viz. Asa, had obtained the praise that he "did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did David his father" (1 Kings 15:11). All the others had fallen short more or less; and Amaziah fell short in many respects. He was wanting in "a perfect heart" (2 Chronicles 25:2), i.e. a fixed intention to do God's will; he was proud and boastful (2 Kings 14:10); he gave way to idolatry in his later years (2 Chronicles 25:14), and he despised the reproof of the prophet who was sent to rebuke his sin (2 Chronicles 25:16). Though placed among the "good kings' by the authors of both Kings and Chronicles, it is, as it were, under protest, with a distinct intimation that, although better than most of his predecessors, he did not reach a high standard. He did according to all things as Joash his father did. There is something of Oriental hyperbole in this statement, which must be understood in the spirit, not in the letter. The two kings were differently circumstanced, and history did not "repeat itself" in their reigns. The position of Joash with respect to Jehoiada finds no parallel in the circumstances of the life of Amaziah. Still, the lives are parallel to some extent. Both kings began better than they ended. Both were zealous for Jehovah at first, but turned to idolatry at last. Both opposed themselves to prophets, and treated their rebukes with scorn. Both reused conspiracy against them by their misconduct, and were murdered by the malcontents. Further, both were unsuccessful in war, had to withstand a siege of their capital, and bought off their enemy by the surrender of the greater part of its wealth, including the treasures of the temple.
2 Kings 14:4
Howbeit the high places were not taken away. No king ventured to touch the "high places" until the time of Hezekiah, by whom they were put down (2 Kings 18:4). Even Asa did not remove them (1 Kings 15:14). They were remnants of an old ancestral worship which went back to the time of the judges, and which had been connived at by judges and kings and prophets. Local feeling was everywhere in their favor, since they provided for local needs, and enabled men to dispense with the long] and tedious journey to the distant Jerusalem. As yet the people did sacrifice and burnt incense on the high places; literally, were sacrificing and burning incense; i.e. continued the practice, which had come down to them from their ancestors. (On the morality and legality of the practice, see the comment on 1 Kings 3:2.)
2 Kings 14:5
And it came to pass, as soon as the kingdom was confirmed in his hand. Joash had been murdered in Jerusalem by conspirators (2 Kings 12:20). A time of trouble had, no doubt, supervened. The conspirators would not wish to see Amaziah placed upon the throne, and may have opposed and delayed his appointment. But their efforts proved fruitless. After a time, the young king was confirmed (literally, "strengthened"), i.e. settled and established in his kingdom, all opposition being overcome or dying away. This seems to be what the writer means. He cannot intend a confirmation by a foreign suzerain, which the phrase used might import (2 Kings 15:19), when he has given no hint of any subjection of the kingdom to any foreign power, or indeed of any serious attack on its independence. That he slew his servants. Jozachar and Jehozabad were "servants" of Joash, apparently domestic servants employed in his palace, and are therefore reckoned "servants" also of his successor. Which had slain the king his father. In the "house of Millo,' where he lay sick. They "slew him on his bed" (see 2 Chronicles 24:25).
2 Kings 14:6
But the children of the murderers he slew not. It was the ordinary usage in the East for the sons of traitors to share the fate of their fathers. A Greek poet went so far as to say that a man was a fool who put to death the father, and allowed the son to live. The practice had a double ground. Sons, it might be assumed, would be cognizant of their father's intention, and would so be accessories before the fact. And the law of claim, or "blood-feud," would make it dangerous to spare them, since they would be bound to avenge their father's death on his destroyer. That the practice prevailed among the Israelites appears from Joshua 7:24, where we find the children of Achan involved in his fate, and again from 2 Kings 9:26, where we are told that Naboth's sons suffered with their father. But it was contrary to an express command of the Law, as the writer goes on to show. According unto that which is written in the book of the Law of Moses. "The book of the Law of Moses" (סֵפֶר תוֹרַת־משֶׁה) may be either the Pentateuch regarded as one book, or Deuteronomy, the particular" book" of the Pentateuch in which the passage occurs. In either case the passage is fatal to the theory of the late' composition of Deuteronomy, which is here found to have ruled the conduct of a Jewish king a hundred and fifty years before Manasseh, two hundred before Josiah, and two hundred and eighty before the return from the Captivity—the dates assigned to Deuteronomy by recent "advanced" critics. Wherein the Lord commanded, saying, The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children be put to death for the fathers; but every man shall be put to death for his own sin. As usual, when one sacred writer quotes another, the quotation is not exact. "But" (כִּוּ אִם) is inserted at the beginning of the final clause, and the form of the verb in the same clause is modified. It seems to be intended that we should be made to feel that it is the sentiment or meaning conveyed, and not the phraseology in which it is wrapped up, that is of importance.
2 Kings 14:7
He slew of Edom in the valley of salt ten thousand. Edom had revolted from Judah and recovered complete independence in the reign of Jehoram, about fifty years previously (2 Kings 8:20). Since that time the two countries had remained at peace. Now, however, Amaziah resolved upon a great effort to resubjugate them. According to Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 9.9. § 1) and Chronicles (2 Chronicles 25:5), he levied an army of 400,000 men—300,000 Jews, and 100,000 hired Israelites—with which he marched against the three nations of the Amalekites, the Idumaeans, and the Gabalites. Rebuked by a prophet for want of faith in calling to his aid the wicked Israelites, he consented to dismiss them, and made the invasion at the head of his own troops only. These were carefully organized (2 Chronicles 25:5), and met with a great success. Ten thousand of his enemies fell in battle, and an equal number were made prisoners. These last were barbarously put to death by being precipitated from the top of a rock (2 Chronicles 25:12). "The valley of salt," the scene of the battle, is probably identified with the sunken plain, now called Es Sabkah, at the southern extremity of the Dead Sea. This is "a large flat of at least six miles by ten, occasionally flooded" (Tristram), but dry in the summer.time. It is full of salt springs, and is bounded on the west and northwest by a long ridge of pure salt, known as the Khasm Usdum, so that the name "valley of salt" would be very appropriate. And took Selah by war. Selah with the article (has-Selah) can only be the Idumaean capital, which the Greeks called Petra (Πέτρα or ἡ Πέτρα), and which is one of the most remarkable sites in the world. In the rocky mountains which form the eastern boundary of the Arabah or sandy slope reaching from the edge of the Sabkah to the Red Sea, amid cliffs of gorgeous colors, pink and crimson and purple, and ravines as deep and narrow as that of Proffers, partly excavated in the rook, partly emplaced upon it, stood the Edomite town, difficult to approach, still more difficult to capture, more like the home of a colony of sea-gulls than that of a number of men. Petra is graphically described by Dean Stanley, and has also received notice from Robinson, Highten, and others. And called the name of it Joktheel; i.e. "subdued by God." The name took no permanent hold. Selah is still "Sela" in Isaiah (Isaiah 16:1), Obadiah (Obadiah 1:3), and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 49:16). It is known only as "Petra" to the Greeks and Romans. Unto this day; i.e. to the time of the writer who composed the account of Amaziah's reign for the 'Book of the Kings,' and whoso words the author of Kings transcribes here as so often elsewhere.
2 Kings 14:8
Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash, the son of Jehoahaz son of Jehu, King of Israel, saying. Amaziah had a cause of complaint against Jehoash, or at any rate against his subjects, which does not appear in the narrative of Kings. The author of Chronicles tells us that, when Amaziah dismissed his Israelite mercenaries, they were offended, and vented their anger by an inroad into his territories (2 Chronicles 25:13), where they killed three thousand men and "took much spoil." This was a clear casus belli, if Amaziah chose to consider it such. Come, let us look one another in the face. A rude message, if it was actually couched in these terms. But perhaps the writer substitutes the gist of the message for the language in which it was wrapped up. Josephus says that Amaziah wrote a letter to Joash, and required him to submit himself and people to the authority of the Jewish state, and thus restore the state of things which had existed under David and Solomon. Otherwise the sword must decide between them ('Ant. Jud.,' 9.9. § 2). Whatever its terms, pride and self-confidence, the result of his success against Edom, were at the root of the challenge.
2 Kings 14:9
And Jehoash the King of Israel sent to Amaziah King of Judah, saying. According to Josephus, the reply to the challenge was given in a formal letter, of which he presents us with a copy-
"King Joash to King Amaziah [sends greeting]:
"Once upon a time there was in Mount Lebanon a very tall cypress, and also there was a thistle. And the thistle sent to the cypress, saying,' Contract thy daughter in marriage to my son.' And while this was transacting, a wild beast passed by and trod down the thistle. Let this be a warning to thee not to cherish immoderate desires, and not, because thou hast had success against Amalek, to pride thyself thereupon, and so draw down dangers both upon thee and upon thy kingdom."
The force of the original message is much weakened in this paraphrase. The thistle that was in Lebanon. "Thistle" is a better translation than "thorn-bush" (Keil), first, as a meaner, growth, and secondly, as more likely to be trodden down by a wild beast. The monarch intends to say that the meanest thing in the vegetable world sent to the grandest, claiming equality. Sent to the cedar—certainly "the cedar." and not "the cypress," as translated by Josephus—that was in Lebanon, saying, Give thy daughter to my son to wife. Nube pari was a Roman maxim; and the rule was one generally established throughout the ancient world. To ask a man's daughter in marriage for one's self or for one's son was to claim to be his equal. And there passed by a wild beast—literally, a beast of the field—that was in Lebanon (on Lebanon as the haunt of wild beasts, see Song of Solomon 4:8), and trode down the thistle. So leveling with the dust the pride of the impertinent one. We must not seek an exact application of all the details either of a fable or of a parable. It is not required that metaphors should "run on all fours."
2 Kings 14:10
Thou hast indeed smitten Edom (see 2 Kings 14:7, and the comment), and thine heart hath lifted thee up—i.e; made thee proud, exalted thee above measure—glory of this, and tarry at home—i.e; rest content with the glory which thou hast gained in thy Edomite war; make thy boast thereof, but do not affront fresh dangers—for why shouldest thou meddle to thy hurt—literally, why wilt thou meddle with misfortune?—that thou shouldest fall, even thou, and Judah with thee? Joash was as confident of success, if it came to war, as Amaziah. His three victories over Syria (2 Kings 13:25) were, he thought, at least as good evidence of military strength as Amaziah's one victory over Edom.
2 Kings 14:11
But Amaziah would not hear. The message of Joash was not conciliatory, but provocative. On hearing it, Amaziah (as Josephus says, 'Ant. Jud.,' 9.9. § 3) was the more spurred on to make his expedition. Therefore Jehoash King of Israel went up. "Joash," as Bahr says, "did not wait for the attack of Amaziah, but anticipated his movements, and carried the war into the enemy's country." Defensive warfare often requires such an Offensive movement. And he and Amaziah King of Judah looked one another in the face—e.g; came to an engagement—at Beth-shemesh, which belongeth to Judah. Beth-shemesh was assigned to Judah by Joshua (Joshua 19:38), and lay on its western frontier line. Its position is marked by the modern Ain-Shems, which lies nearly due west of Jerusalem, on the road from Hebron to Jaffa. Ain-Shems itself is an Arab village, but "just to the west of it are the manifest traces of an ancient site". The position commands the approach from the Philistine plain; and we may suspect that Joash, avoiding the direct line of approach, led his troops to the attack through Philistia, as was so often done by the Syrians in their attacks on the Maccabees (see 1 Macc. 3:40; 13:12, 13; 15:40; 16:4-8, etc.).
2 Kings 14:12
And Judah was put to the worse before Israel; and they fled every man to their tents; i.e. "to their homes" (see the comment on 2 Kings 13:5). This was the first trial of strength between the two nations of which we have any distinct account. It resulted in the complete discomfiture of Israel. There was another great struggle in the time of Pekah and Ahaz, wherein Judah suffered even more severely (see 2 Chronicles 28:6-8).
2 Kings 14:13
And Jehoash King of Israel took Amaziah King of Judah, the son of Jehoash the son of Ahaziah at Beth-shemesh—Josephus says (l.s.c.) that Amaziah was deserted by his troops, who were seized with a sudden panic and fled from the field—and came to Jerusalem, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem. According to Josephus, Joash threatened his prisoner with death unless the gates of Jerusalem were opened to him, and his army admitted into the town; and it was upon Amaziah's representations that the surrender was made as soon as the Israelite army appeared before the place. The breach in the wall was therefore not the result of siege operations, but the act of a conqueror, who desired to leave his enemy as defenseless as possible. From the gate of Ephraim; i.e. the main gate in the northern wall of the city—that by which travelers ordinarily proceeded into the territory of the tribe of Ephraim. In later times it seems to have been called indifferently "the gate of Ephraim" (Nehemiah 8:16; Nehemiah 12:39) and "the gate of Benjamin" (Jeremiah 37:13; Zechariah 14:10). The great north road, which passed through it, led across the Benjamite into the Ephraim-its territory. Unto the corner gate. The, "corner gate" is generally thought to have been that at the north-western angle of the City wall, where it turned southward, but this is perhaps doubtful. The exact line of the city wall in the time of Amaziah is exceedingly uncertain. Four hundred cubits; six hundred feet, or two hundred yards. This seems to have been the entire distance between the two gates. As there were at least thirteen gates in the circuit of the walls (Nehemiah 3:1-31; Nehemiah 12:31-39; Zechariah 14:10), which were probably not mere extensive than those of the present town, the distance of two hundred yards between one gate and another would not be improbable, the average distance being about three hundred yards.
2 Kings 14:14
And he took all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of the Lord. As Joash of Judah had, fifteen or twenty years previously, stripped the temple of its treasures to buy off the hostility of Hazael (2 Kings 12:18), there could not have been at this time very much for Joash of Israel to lay his hands on. Still, whatever there was passed into the possession of the Israelite king. And in the treasures of the king's house. Neither can this have amounted to much, unless the booty taken from Hazael after his defeats (2 Kings 14:25) was very considerable. And hostages. This is a new feature in the warfare of the time; but hostages were given and taken from an early date by the Persians (Xen; 'Cyrop.,' 4.2. § 7; Herod; 6.99), the Greeks, and the Romans.
2 Kings 14:15, 2 Kings 14:16
Now the rest of the acts of Jehoash which he did, and his might, and how he fought with Amaziah King of Judah, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? And Jehoash slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel; and Jeroboam his son reigned in his stead. These verses are repeated with very slight alterations from 2Ki 13:11, 2 Kings 13:12. Curiously, on both occasions they are out of place. It is scarcely worth while to consider how they came into the text at this point, since no explanation could be more than a conjecture. In point of fact, they are redundant.
2 Kings 14:17
And Amaziah the son of Joash King of Judah lived after the death of Jehoash son of Jehoahaz King of Israel fifteen years. This note of time is based on 2 Kings 14:2, which makes Amaziah begin to reign in the second year of Joash of Israel, and hold the throne for twenty-nine years. If he really began to reign in the fourth year of Joash, he would have survived him only thirteen years (see the comment on 2 Kings 14:2).
2 Kings 14:18
And the rest of the acts of Amaziah—especially the circumstances of his war with Edom, as related in 2 Chronicles 25:5-13, his idolatry (2 Chronicles 25:14), and the rebuke which he received from one of God's prophets (2 Chronicles 25:15, 2 Chronicles 25:16) in consequence—are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
2 Kings 14:19
Now they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem. The author of Chronicles connects this conspiracy with the idolatry of which Amaziah was guilty (2 Chronicles 25:27); but, though his subjects may have been offended by his religions changes, and have become alienated from him in consequence, the actual conspiracy can scarcely have been prompted by an act which was fifteen, or at any rate thirteen, years old. It is more likely to have sprung out of dissatisfaction with Amaziah's military inaction from and after his defeat by Joash. While Jeroboam H. was carrying all before him in the north, recovering his border, pushing it as far as Hamath, and even exercising a suzerainty over Damascus (2 Kings 14:25, 2 Kings 14:28), Amaziah remained passive, cowed by his one defeat, and took no advantage of the state of weakness to which he had reduced Edom, but sat with folded hands, doing nothing. The conspirators who removed Amaziah, and placed his son Azariah, or Uzziah, upon the throne, may be credited with the wish and intention to bring the period of inaction to an end, and to effect in the south what Jeroboam was effecting in the north. It is true that Azariah was but sixteen years of age, but he may have given indications of his ambition and capacity. Sixteen, moreover, is the time of manhood in the East, and the conspirators had probably waited until Azariah was sixteen in order that his competency to reign should not be disputed. As soon as he was on the throne he initiated the warlike policy which they desired (see verse 22). And he fled to Lachish. Lachish, one of the south-western Judaean towns (Joshua 15:39), was at all times a fortress of importance. It resisted Joshua (Joshua 10:3, Joshua 10:31), and was taken by storm. It was fortified by Jeroboam against the Egyptians (2 Chronicles 11:9). It was besieged and taken by Sennacherib. The position is marked by the modern Um-Lakis, on "a low round swell or knoll," between Gaza and Beit-Jibrin, about thirteen miles from Gaza and nearly thirty-five from Jerusalem. But they sent after him to Lackish, and slew him there. So the author of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 25:27) and Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' Joshua 9:9. § 3); but details are wanting.
2 Kings 14:20
And they brought him on horses; literally, on the horses, which must mean "on his horses." Probably Amaziah had fled to Lachish in the royal chariot, and his body was now brought back in it to Jerusalem. The conspirators were evidently minded to treat the royal corpse with all respect. And he was buried at Jerusalem with his fathers in the city of David; i.e. the city on the eastern hill, which David took from the Jebusites (see the comment on 1 Kings 2:10).
2 Kings 14:21, 2 Kings 14:22
SUCCESSION OF AZARIAH AND RESUMPTION OF THE WAR WITH EDOM. Though reserving his account of the reign of Azariah to the next chapter (verses 1-7), the writer is led by the circumstances of Amaziah's death to mention at once the fact of his son Azariah's succession, and the first important act of his reign, the resumption of war with Edom. He then breaks off suddenly, in order to interpose an account of the reign of Jeroboam II; who was contemporary with Amaziah during fourteen years of his reign,
2 Kings 14:21
And all the people of Judah took Azariah. This is a new expression, and implies a new, perhaps a tumultuary, proceeding. The people, uncertain probably of the intentions of the conspirators, and fearful that they might set up a king not of the house of David, took the initiative, went to the royal palace, and finding there a son of Amaziah—whether his eldest son or not, we cannot say—proclaimed him king and placed him upon the throne. The author of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 16:1) agrees. Josephus is silent. Which was sixteen years old. Young certainly, considering that his father was fifty-four (see verse 2), but not necessarily "a younger son," since Amaziah's earlier children may have been daughters, or he may have married late in life. It is not doubted that Manasseh was Hezekiah's eldest son, yet he was only twelve when Hezekiah died at the same age as Amaziah, viz. fifty-four. And made him king instead of his father Amaziah. There are two forms of the king's name, Azariah and Uzziah. The difference between them is not so great in the Hebrew, where they both begin with the same letter; but still it is considerable. One name is not a mere contraction of the other. Some suppose that the king changed one name for the other upon his accession; others, that he was called indifferently by either, since they were very similar in meaning. "Azariah" is "he whose help is Jehovah;" "Uzziah," "he whose strength is Jehovah." "Uzziah" is the predominant form, occurring four times in 2 Kings, twelve times in 2 Chronicles, three times in Isaiah, once in Hoses, once in Amos, and once in Zechariah; while "Azariah" occurs only in 2 Kings (eight times) and in 1 Chronicles 3:12 (once). Josephus uses the form "Ozias" (equivalent to, Uzziah), and so does St. Matthew (Matthew 1:8, Matthew 1:9).
2 Kings 14:22
He built Elath, and restored it to Judah. On the position of Elath, or Eloth, and its importance, see the comment on 1 Kings 9:26. It had been the headquarters of Solomon's fleet (1 Kings 9:26), and again of Jehoshaphat's (1 Kings 22:48; 2 Chronicles 20:36); but had been, of course, recovered by the Edomites when they revolted (2 Kings 8:22). Azariah's re-occupation seems to imply an intention on his part of, renewing the old Red Sea trade. By "built ' in this passage we must understand "rebuilt" or (as in 2 Chronicles 11:6) "fortified." After that the king slept with his fathers. Keil is probably right in understanding this to mean "immediately after he had ascended the throne," or "as soon as ever his father was dead" (see the comment on verse 19). His further military successes will be considered in the comment on his reign, as sketched in the next chapter.
2 Kings 14:23-29
REIGN OF JEROBOAM THE SON OF JOASH OVER ISRAEL. This reign, the most important of those belonging to the kingdom of Israel since that of Ahab, is treated with great brevity by the writer, whose interest is far more in Judah than in Israel. Seven verses only are devoted to him. The result of his wars is given without any account of the wars themselves. And the great fact of his ruling over Damascus only comes in by a sort of afterthought (verse. 28). The usual formulas are followed in introducing his reign and missing it.
2 Kings 14:23
In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash King of Judah—this note of time agrees with those in 2 Kings 13:10 and 2 Kings 45:1, 17, but not with that in 2 Kings 15:1 (see the comment on that passage)—Jeroboam the son of Joash King of Israel began to reign in Samaria, and reigned forty and one years. Josephus says "forty years; Many moderns (Thenius, Bahr, and others) extend the term to fifty-one years. Some suppose that Jeroboam was joint-king with his father in Amaziah's third year, solo king from his fifteenth. But it is better to acknowledge the general confusion of the chronology, and to regard it as uncertain, unless where a synchronism is distinctly made out. Such assured synchronisms are the following:
(1) The synchronism of Ahab with Jehoshaphat:
(2) the synchronism of Jehoram, Ahab's son, with the same;
(3) the synchronism of Jehu's first year with the first year of Athaliah;
(4) the synchronism of Amaziah with Joash of Israel;
(5) the synchronism of Pekah with Ahaz;
(6) the synchronism of Hoshea's last year with Hezekiah's sixth;
(7) the synchronism of Amaziah's fourteenth year with Jeroboam II.'s first, being twice asserted in two distinct forms (2 Kings 15:17 and 2 Kings 15:23), is, at any rate, highly probable.
Numbers which occur once only in ancient writers can seldom be implicitly trusted, since the liability of numbers to corruption is excessive.
2 Kings 14:24
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord: he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. The judgments which had fallen upon Jehu and Jehoahaz on account of these sins did not teach any lesson to Joash or Jeroboam II. The fatal taint, which was congenital with the Israelite monarchy, could never be purged out, hut clung to it to the end.
2 Kings 14:25
He restored the coast of Israel from the entering in of Hamath. By "the entering in of Hamath" is to be understood the opening into the Coele-Syrian valley a little north of Baalbec, where the ground begins to slope northwards, and the streams to flow in the same direction to form the Orontes. Hamath itself was between eighty and ninety miles further to the north, on the middle Orontes, about N. lat. 35° 22'. The "entering in of Hamath" was always reckoned the northern boundary of the Holy Land (see Numbers 34:8; Joshua 13:5; Judges 3:3; 1 Kings 8:65). It corresponded with the watershed between the Orontes and the Litany. Unto the sea of the plain. The "sea of the plain" is undoubtedly the Dead Sea, the plain (ha-Arabah) being used as a sort of proper name for the lower Jordan valley, like El-Ghor at the present day (see Deuteronomy 3:17; Joshua 3:16; Joshua 12:3, etc.). The territory recovered no doubt included all the trans-Jordanic region as far south as the river Aruon; but the recovery of dominion over Moab, and even over Ammon, which some have seen in this passage, is scarcely con-rained in it. According to the word of the Lord God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai (comp. Jonah 1:1). Jonah's date is determined by this passage. He was contemporary with Hosea and Amos, and earlier than Micah. His prophecy concerning Jeroboam is probably assigned to the early part of that king's reign. The prophet, which was of Gath-hepher. Gath-hepher is mentioned in Joshua, under the name of Gittah-hepher, as a city of Zebulon (2 Kings 19:13), not far from Mount Tabor. It is conjecturally identified with El-Meshhed north of Nazareth, where the tomb of Jonah is shown.
2 Kings 14:26
For the Lord saw the affliction of Israel, that it was very bitter. The repetition is perhaps to be accounted for by the desire of the writer to explain how it came to pass that so great a deliverance was granted to Israel under a king who maintained the worship of the calves. He views it as the consequence of God's infinite compassion, and of the extreme bitterness of Israel's sufferings under the Syrians. For there was not any shut up, nor any left (see the comment on 1 Kings 14:10), nor any helper for Israel. Apart from Jehovah, Israel had no one to come to her aid. Judah would not help her, for Judah had just suffered at her hands (2 Kings 14:11-14); still less would Philistia, or Moab, or Ammon, who were her constant enemies. Her isolation rendered her all the more an object for the Divine compassion.
2 Kings 14:27
And the Lord said not that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven. God's decision under the circumstances was not, as it well might have been, considering Israel's ill desert, to blot out forthwith the very name of Israel from the earth. On the contrary, he gave the nation a breathing-space, a gleam of light, a second summer before the winter set in—a further opportunity of repenting and turning to him with all their hearts if they would only have taken advantage of it, a chance of redeeming the past and reestablishing themselves in his favor. He might well have destroyed them at this time if he had looked only to considerations of justice, if in his wrath he had not thought upon mercy. But he saved them; i.e. he gave them the deliverance promised first by Elisha (2 Kings 13:17), and then by Jonah the son of Amittai (verse 25)—deliverance from Syria, recovery of their borders, and triumph over their enemies. He gave them all this by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash. Joash began the salvation, but it was reserved for Jeroboam to complete it. He was the true "savior" (2 Kings 13:5), the true accomplisher of the work, for which his father only paved the way. Thus one Jeroboam founded the kingdom; another refounded it, restored its ancient glories, and gave it its old dimensions.
2 Kings 14:28
Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, and all that he did, and his might, how he warred, and how he recovered Damascus and Hamath. It has been suggested that these words mean no more than that Jeroboam took territory from Damascus and Hamath—from Damascus the trans-Jordanic territory which Hazael had conquered from Jehu (2 Kings 10:33); from Hamath some small portion of the Coele-Syrian valley, about the head-streams of the Orontes and Litany (so Keil and Bahr). But there does not seem to be any sufficient reason for giving the words used this narrow signification. Damascus was conquered and annexed by David (2 Samuel 8:6), and held for a time even by Solomon (1 Kings 11:24), of whose kingdom Hamath also seems to have formed part (1 Kings 4:21-24; 2 Chronicles 8:4; 2 Chronicles 9:26). The word "recovered" is, therefore, a suitable one. The prophecy of Amos, no doubt, represents Damascus as independent (Amos 1:3, Amos 1:4); but this may have been written before Jeroboam conquered it. Hamath's subjection seems to be implied in Amos 6:2, Amos 6:14. We may, therefore, well understand, with Ewald and Dr. Pusey, that Jeroboam ' subdued Damascus and even Hamath," and added them to his kingdom. How long the subjection continued is a different question. Probably, in the troubles that followed the death of Zachariah (2 Kings 15:10-14), the yoke was thrown off. In the Assyrian Inscriptions, Damascus appears under its own king about B.C. 786, and it was certainly independent in B.C. 743. At the latter date Hamath also appears as the capital of an independent kingdom under its own monarch. Which belonged to Judah. Keil and Bahr render,"Hamath of Judah," regarding לִיהוּדָה as a genitive. Ewald proposes to read צֲמָת לְצוֹבָה, "Hamath of Zobah", or else to cut out ליצודה altogether. The passage is one of great difficulty. For Israel. It is questionable whether this meaning can be obtained from the present text, which is בְיִשׂרָאֵל. Bahr thinks that it can; but Ewald regards the change into לְיִשׂרָאֵל as one "of necessity." Might we not avoid all these alterations by translating simply—" how he recovered Damascus and Hamath to Judah through Israel"? Attaching them to Israel was a sort of recovering of them to Judah, to which (i.e. the Judah of David and Solomon) they had once belonged. Are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?
2 Kings 14:29
And Jeroboam slept with his fathers, oven with the kings of Israel—his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had been actually among the kings of Israel; but all the kings, his predecessors, were probably reckoned among his ancestors—and Zachariah his son reigned in his stead (see the comment on 2 Kings 15:8). By Zachariah's accession the promise given to Jehu (2 Kings 10:30), that his "children to the fourth generation should sit on the throne of Israel," was literally fulfilled. No other royal house occupied the Israelitish throne for more than three generations.
2 Kings 14:3, 2 Kings 14:4
A father's evil example no justification for a son's misconduct.
Amaziah "did according to all things as Joash his father did." Like his father, he was half-hearted. In his earlier years he kept to the worship of Jehovah, and "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord," yet not with any zeal or energy. Afterwards he fell away, introduced idolatry (2 Chronicles 25:14), and when a prophet rebuked him for his evil courses, answered him with scoffs and threatenings (2 Chronicles 25:15, 2 Chronicles 25:16). His father Joash had done even worse after the death of Jehoiada. He had not only sanctioned idolatries (2 Chronicles 24:17, 2 Chronicles 24:18), but had had the servant of God who rebuked them put to death (2 Chronicles 24:21). This, however, is not held by the sacred writer to be any justification or excuse for Amaziah. The reasons are manifest.
I. NO MAN IS TO BE CALLED MASTER, NOT EVEN A FATHER. God gives men in his Law and in their conscience a standard of right, which they are to follow. He nowhere bids them take any man but the "God-Man" for pattern. He warns them that men are, all of them, more or less imperfect. He requires that parents shall be "honored," not imitated.
II. THE EVIL EXAMPLE OF A FATHER IS A WARNING TO SONS, WHICH SHOULD LEAD TO AVOIDANCE, NOT IMITATION. The sight of a drunken father should disgust sons with drunkenness. Blasphemous and violent words should so shock them as to suggest an exactly opposite behavior. Looseness of morals should breed in them a determination never to offend in a way so absolutely revolting. Given that simplicity which is natural to youth, and every fault of a father should so keenly wound and vex their souls as to bend them in the exactly contrary direction. Sin is so ugly, so offensive, so coarse, that in another it naturally disgusts us; and the more plainly it is revealed, the closer it is brought to us, the more are we naturally provoked and angered by it.
III. THE PUNISHMENT WHICH SIN DRAWS AFTER IT SHOULD COME ESPECIALLY HOME TO THOSE WHOSE HOMES ARE CURSED WITH IT, AND ACT AS A DETERRENT. Disease, decay, the loss of others' respect, the severing of friendships, general dislike and aversion, in some cases contempt, dog the footsteps of sin, and mark it as a thing to be avoided. Sons are naturally sensitive with regard to their fathers' honor, and keen to mark whether they are held in respect or no. There can be no natural deterrent from evil courses stronger than the perception that one with whom we are bound up is deteriorating from day to day, not merely in character, but in reputation, falling in men's esteem, becoming a mark for their scorn. The father's fall should thus not produce the son's, but rather stimulate the son to rise to greater and greater heights of virtue.
2 Kings 14:5, 2 Kings 14:6
A father's sins not to be visited by the civil magistrate on his children.
Human legislators have differed greatly in their judgments upon this point. In the East, and in early times, the idea was generally accepted that the guilt of the father attached to all his descendants, and was justly visited on them. "Lege cantum erat," says Q. Curtius ('Vit. Alex.,' 2 Kings 6:11), "ut propinqui eorum, qui regi insidiati essent, cum ipsis necarentur.' The family was regarded as the unit of society, and the crime of one member tainted the whole of it. What the Egyptian practice was is uncertain; but we find the Israelites, shortly after the Exodus, putting to death the whole family of Achan on account of their father's sin (Joshua 7:24, Joshua 7:25), and the usage seems to have continued long afterwards (2 Kings 9:26). The Greeks and Romans adopted a different line of action. Recognizing the separateness of the individual, they never executed a family en masse, but only the guilty member or members of it. Yet, in secondary punishments, the contrary idea to some extent prevailed. At Athens, when the sentence on a man was degradation from his rights of citizenship (ἀτιμία), the penalty was shared by his children. A similar disability attached to the children of those who were executed. So, even by our own law, attainder and forfeiture, which mainly affect the children, are attached to the crime of treason, and the property of felons escheats to the Crown. It is very remarkable that the Law of Moses should have anticipated the ultimate judgment of the human conscience upon the point, and have laid down so clearly and strongly the humane principle that the criminal alone should be punished for his own crime. To us at the present day the principle may appear axiomatic; but at the time when Moses enunciated it, the contrary idea was prevalent; and it is doubtful whether the broad assertion, "Every man shall be put to death for his own sins," had ever been heard previously. Even now, though in the letter the principle is universally accepted, infractions of its spirit are common enough—
I. BY NATIONS. Nations infringe it when they cashier a royal family for the fault, or even the crime, of the reigning sovereign. In a hereditary monarchy the son has a right to succeed, though his father may by unconstitutional acts have justly forfeited the crown. Still more unjust is the perpetual exile of all those whose ancestors have ever reigned over a country. Such persons are punished, not so much for the sins as for the merits—the wisdom, prowess, high renown—of their forefathers, since it is for their merits, ordinarily, that persons are first placed upon thrones. Confiscation of the property of exiled princes is still more indefensible, since it is at once unjust and mean. It may be added that forfeiture and attainder, as they exist in our own law, seem to be contrary to the spirit of the rule, which is that no one should be punished for anything but his own acts.
II. BY INDIVIDUALS. Individuals infringe this rule when they maintain a family feud, transferring to the children of those by whom they consider themselves to have been injured the animosity which they have long entertained towards their parents. Or when they treat a man with coldness or incivility because his father has done something disgraceful. Or, generally, when they attach blame or discredit to any one, not for anything that he has done, but for something that somebody connected with him has done. Strict justice requires that each man should "bear his own burden," and stand or fall by his own acts. If we allow anything but his own acts to affect our estimate of a man—still more, if we allow it to affect our demeanor towards him—we act unjustly, we infringe the principle of the law, "Every man shall be put to death [i.e. shall suffer] for his own sin."
2 Kings 14:8-14
Pride goes before a fall.
Amaziah's challenge and its result furnish a remarkable illustration of this maxim. The following points should be dwelt upon.
I. THE WEAK GROUND OF THE PRIDE. This was military success, which is just as often the result of good fortune, or one's enemies' mistakes, as of any merits of one's own. Amaziah's after-life showed that he did not possess any great military capacity, and so had nothing on which he ought to have prided himself. Men constantly over estimate their own merits.
II. THE WRONGFUL WAY IN WHICH THE PRIDE VENTED ITSELF. In quarrel, causeless quarrel with a neighbor. Amaziah had no grievance which he felt it necessary to redress, no need to quarrel with Joash. Having gained one success, he was simply greedy for more. And to gratify his self-esteem he was careless how many lives he sacrificed or what injuries he inflicted
(1) on his adversaries;
(2) on his own subjects.
He forgot that the Israelites were of kindred blood (1 Kings 12:24), of the same religion, a portion of God's people. He plunged into an unnecessary war—in itself always a sin—with a nation towards which he ought to have felt friendly, without obtaining or seeking any Divine sanction, in sole reliance on himself. What wonder that God punished such combined folly and wickedness!
III. THE OBSTINACY WITH WHICH THE WRONGFUL COURSE WAS PERSISTED IN. Proud men dislike above all things admitting that they are in the wrong. Amaziah had ample time to retract his challenge and. give up his enterprise. Joash was not at all eager for the encounter; on the contrary, he was quite willing to have remained at peace if Amaziah would have let him. But to retract, still more to apologize, would have been unpleasant. The pride which had given birth to the challenge absolutely forbade its withdrawal.
IV. THE COMPLETENESS AND EXTREME IGNOMINY OF THE FALL. Amaziah had, no doubt, counted on an easy victory; he went to war "with a light heart." He would do with Israel as he had done with Edom—smite and slay, and make prisoners, and perhaps punish his prisoners with death (2 Kings 14:7). The result is, not a victory, not even a drawn battle, not a long war with alternations of success and defeat, but one crushing blow, from which there is no recovery even for an instant. His army is defeated, dispersed; he himself is a prisoner in the hands of his enemy, his capital is taken, its walls broken down, its treasures carded off. He is disgraced in the eyes of all his subjects, as well as of the neighboring nations, and thenceforth remains absolutely quiescent, attempts nothing, but, humbled and confounded, "sits in the dust."
2 Kings 14:1-4 with 7-20
Compromise and its consequences.
We read here of Amaziah that "he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like David his father: he did according to all things as Joash his father did. Howbeit the high places were not taken away; as yet the people did sacrifice and burnt incense on the high places." And we read of him in 2 Chronicles that "he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart." To understand the meaning of the statement which we meet with so often, that "the high places were not taken away," we must go back to the period before the children of Israel entered the promised land. At that time the inhabitants of Canaan were heathen—pagans and idolaters. One of the peculiarities of their heathen worship was to have groves of trees, generally of oaks, planted on the summit of the hills. In these groves there was usually placed a shrine with an image of their deity, just as we see, when traveling on the continent, shrines of the blessed Virgin, or shrines with a crucifix, by the roadside and on the hill-tops. The custom of having groves of oaks for religious purposes was shared by the early inhabitants of Britain, and the Druids derived their name from this very practice. In these groves the heathen priests sacrificed and burnt incense to their gods. It was to such groves that the name of "high places" was given. When the Israelites were about to enter Canaan, God foresaw the temptation to which they would be exposed from the idolatry of the heathen inhabitants and of the neighboring nations. He therefore charged them not only to drive out the heathen nations from Canaan, but also to utterly destroy their high places, to overthrow their altars, and break their graven images, and burn their groves with fire (Deuteronomy 12:2, Deuteronomy 12:3). This command was repeated over and over again. But, notwithstanding this, the high places were never utterly abolished. Time after time during the period of the judges, the people set up a worship in the high places, which, though nominally that of Jehovah, was tinged with idolatrous practices. It was much the same under the kings. Now and then some courageous, God-fearing, whole-hearted king made a clean sweep of the high places. But the old habit was continually revived, and so in one reign after another we read the policy of compromise," The high places were not taken away." And whenever that was the case, we find it had evil results. It was so in the time of Solomon himself. It was so in the time of the two kings who succeeded him over the divided kingdom—Rehoboam and Jeroboam. It was so in the case of Amaziah now before us.
I. AMAZIAH'S COMPROMISE PREPARED THE WAY FOR POSITIVE SIN. The high places in themselves were not necessarily places of idolatry. There is no doubt that sincere worship to the true God was often offered up in them. Thus we find Solomon sacrificing to the Lord in Gibeon, which was the great high place. But the associations of these places were entirely idolatrous. From time immemorial they had been associated with the worship of the heathen gods. It was for this reason that God forbade the use of them. It was necessary to make the wall of separation between his people and the heathen as wide as possible—to teach them that they could not serve God and Baal, that there could be no compromise between right and wrong without danger to the right. The results showed the wisdom and necessity of God's strict command. The natural tendency of the human heart is to worship what is seen, to look at the outward symbol rather than at the thing signified. This was just what happened in Amaziah's case. He did not see that there was any harm in preserving the high places. Might not God be worshipped there as well as in Jerusalem? And so he made the compromise: "The high places were not taken away." But look at the result. "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" (2 Chronicles 25:14). What a falling off was there! This is that Amaziah who began his career by doing right in the sight of the Lord, now stupidly bowing down before the lifeless idols of the heathen! He conquered the heathen in one sense, but the heathen conquered him in another and more dangerous sense. Has it not been the same in the history of the Christian Church? The early Christian Church was simple in its worship and its government; its members were simple in their habits and pure in their lives. But when it became powerful at Rome, and in a sense captured pagan Rome, its very power was its danger. There was a sense in which the paganism of Rome captured the simplicity of the gospel. As Mourant Brock has so fully shown in that interesting book of his on 'Rome: Pagan and Papal,' and as Gibbon and other historians have pointed out, Christianity, in Rome at least, made a compromise with paganism. And the compromise was anything but an advantage to the Christian religion. The ill effects of it remain to this day in the images and pilgrimages, and the many other superstitions which deface the Roman branch of the Christian Church. Such facts of history carry with them a memorable lesson. The Christian Church ought ever to keep in mind the spiritual objects for which it exists. It ought, therefore, to guard most scrupulously the spirituality and scripturality of its worship. "God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." It ought to guard also the spirituality and scripturality of its doctrine, and teach men to trust, not to penances or indulgences for their acceptance with God, but to the work and merits of Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and man. The countries of the Reformation are marked out among the nations of Europe for their prosperity and industry. The more thorough the work of religious reformation, the stronger has been the national character, the more vigorous the national life. And on the other hand, as we look at the general decay of the Roman Catholic nations, and the corruption that has marked their history, may we not trace the secret of their downfall in the words of the fourth verse, "The high places were not taken away?"
II. AMAZIAH'S COMPROMISE LED TO TEMPORAL DISASTER. Amaziah had elements of strength mingled with the elements of weakness in his character. He was capable of acting upon certain occasions with decision and firmness. What a pity he had not carried that spirit of decision into the most important duty for every human being—obedience to the Law of God! Once, indeed, he had done so. And the success which followed his obedience to God's command on that occasion should have encouraged him in a similar decision always. He was going forth to battle against the Edomites. He had raised out of his own kingdom of Judah alone an army of three hundred thousand men. In addition to these, he hired out of the kingdom of Israel a hundred thousand men for a hundred talents of silver, that is to say at a cost of about £50,000. But there came to him a man of God, saying, "O king, let not the army of Israel go with thee; for the Lord is not with Israel" (2 Chronicles 25:7). Amaziah had not yet hardened his heart against God's message. He was not yet blinded to the evil results of forsaking God. So he considered seriously this difficulty, and saw that it would be folly to go forth in defiance of God's warning. But the question arose about the payment of these hired soldiers, and he said, "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." Amaziah hesitated no longer. He sent away these hired troops, though he incurred their anger and vengeance in consequence; but when he went forth against the Edomites, his army gained a most decisive and overwhelming victory. Would that Amaziah had acted in a similar spirit of decision all through his life! Would that he had showed in other matters a similar spirit of dependence on God and obedience to him! Would that he had always remembered the prophet's words, "The Lord is able to give thee much more than this"! Oh that we would all remember this when tempted to make compromise with the world—when, for the sake of worldly gain, or popular applause, or the favor of men, or earthly rank, we are tempted to disregard the voice of conscience and of God! God's commands are clear. His promises are equally clear. We never gain anything by making compromise with sin. From the moment that Amaziah forsook God, success began to forsake his banners. He and his army were defeated by the army of Israel, and eventually he himself was slain by a conspiracy of his own servants. Let us learn that we should never, for the sake of any temporal advantage, make a compromise with sin, or disobey the command of God. We may be the losers for the time, but the Lord is able to give us much more than this. In an interesting book lately published, which gives an account of the mission to the fishermen in the North Sea, we are told that some of the owners of the fishing-vessels refused to allow their vessels to be used for a prayer-meeting or other religious service; but expected the men to work on the Lord's day as on others. There was a small fleet, all the skippers of which were anxious to have no fishing on Sunday, and accordingly sent home a "round robin" to the owners, praying for this concession. They waited anxiously for the return of the cutter with the owners' reply, and when at length it reached them, their hopes were utterly dashed, for the employers, while saying they would not forbid the skippers to keep their fishing-gear on board, gave them clearly to understand that any skipper doing so would run the risk of losing his berth at the end of the voyage. The matter was quietly and prayerfully discussed, and eventually all but one agreed, "We ought to obey God rather than man;" and so sabbath after sabbath this solitary dissentient labored with his gear, while all the other vessels were lying-to. As each skipper's voyage expired, he ran home for the bi-monthly refit, yet not a word was said about discharging him, and as this happened to every skipper in turn, they made up their minds that the threat was an empty one. However, at Christmas the secret came out; for the owner, according to custom, read aloud to his assembled crews the list of the different vessels' earnings during the year. At last he stopped, and put down the paper. "Oh, but, sir," exclaimed several skippers, "you haven't read what So-and-so made" referring to the skipper who had fished seven days a week. "Why, what is that to you? I've read what you've made: doesn't that satisfy you?" "Why, no, sir, because, don't you see, he's fished every Sunday, while we've kept our trawls on board." "Well, well," muttered the owner, "I suppose it's sure to come out, so I may as well tell you. He's at the bottom of the list." The man who related this story added reverently, "Them that honor me I will honor, but they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed." Those men showed true faithfulness. They would have no compromise. Cost what it might, they would obey the command of God, "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." And he who gave the command honored and rewarded them for their observance of it. He prospered their industry on the six days of the week more than the industry of the man who labored on every day of the seven. Even in temporal blessings the policy of compromise is a policy of disaster. Much more when we look at the eternal consequences, "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" We find that Amaziah's spirit of compromise infected his whole character. Unfaithful himself, he did not like faithfulness in others. When he began to worship the heathen idols, God sent a prophet to remonstrate with him. The prophet said to Amaziah, "Why hast thou sought after the gods of the people, which could not deliver their own people out of thine hand?" (2 Chronicles 25:15). A very reasonable question, one would say. But the king was beyond rebuke. He commanded the prophet to cease, and threatened to punish him if he continued. It is a sign that something is wrong when men and women begin to dislike faithful preaching. Those whose own conscience is clear need feel no hurt when sin is rebuked. Beware of the policy of compromise. Let there be no compromise with the world, with godlessness, with sin; no compromise with godlessness in your family; no compromise with wrong in your business; no compromise with evil customs or companionships in your social life; no calling of evil good, and of good evil. Nail your colors to the mast. Let there be no compromise with your own besetting sins. Many a man has begun well, like Amaziah, but has ended badly, because he made a compromise with sin. He retained some old habit. He did not put away the high places of his pride, or his ambition, or his covetousness, or his passion—and in the long ran his sin became too strong for him.—C.H.I
2 Kings 14:5, 2 Kings 14:6
Amaziah visits with just execution the servants who had conspired against his father Joash. But he did not put to death the children of the murderers. He acted on the principle laid down by God through Moses (Deuteronomy 24:16), that "the fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin."
I. EVERY ONE OF US IS RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS OWN LIFE. "For we must all appear before the judgment-scat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."
II. EVERY ONE OF US IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RIGHT DISCHARGE OF HIS OWN DUTIES. We cannot excuse ourselves by the unfaithfulness of others. Responsibility is something which we can never transfer to any one else. Men may deny their responsibility. They may refuse to fulfill it. They may neglect it. But there it is—they cannot get rid of it. Our responsibility to God for the life and opportunities which he has given is a truth we should do well to keep constantly before us.—C.H.I.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
2 Kings 14:1-29
Significant facts in God's government.
"In the second year of Joash," etc. In this chapter we have a sketch of a succession of kings both of Judah and Israel. Here are two kings of Judah—Amaziah and Azariah; and Joash, Jeroboam, and his son Zachariah, kings of Israel. The whole chapter suggests certain significant facts in God's government of mankind.
I. THE ENORMOUS FREEDOM OF ACTION WHICH HE ALLOWS WICKED MEN. Here we learn:
1. That God allows wicked men to form wrong conceptions of himself. All these kings, although descendants of Abraham, who was a monotheist, became idolaters. "The high places were not taken away: as yet the people did sacrifice and burnt incense on the high places." Golden calves, symbols of Egyptian worship, still stood in Dan and Bethel, at the extremities of the dominions. Terribly strange it seems to us that the Almighty Author of the human mind should permit it to think of him as some material object in nature, or as some production of the human hand. What human father, had he the power, would permit his children to form not only wrong but wicked impressions of himself? For what reason this is permitted I know not, Albeit it shows God's practical respect for that freedom of action with which he has endowed us.
2. That God allows wicked men to obtain despotic dominion over others. All these kings were wicked—Amaziah, Azariah, Joash, Jeroboam, and Zachariah, and yet they enjoyed an almost autocratic dominion over the rights, possessions, and lives of millions. Here we read of Amaziah slaying ten thousand men, capturing ten thousand prisoners, and taking Selah, the capital of the Edomites, and of Joash King of Israel using harshly the rights of the conqueror. "He came to Jerusalem, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem from the gate of Ephraim unto the corner gate." It is said of Jeroboam, who reigned forty-one years, that he "did evil in the sight of the Lord, and departed not from the sins of his father." Antecedently one might have concluded that, if a wicked man was allowed to live amongst his fellows, he would be doomed to obscurity and to social and political impotence; but it is not so. Why? Who shall answer?
II. GOD PUNISHES WICKED MEN BY THEIR OWN WICKEDNESS.
1. A wicked man is punished by his own wickedness. Amaziah's conduct is an example. Elated with his triumph over the Edomites, he sought occasion of war with the King of Israel. "He sent messengers to Joash, the son of Jehoahaz son of Jehu, King of Israel, saying, Come, let us look one another in the face," etc. About fifteen years after his defeat he fled from Jerusalem to Laehish to escape assassination, but the assassin pursued him, and struck him dead. It is ever so. Wickedness is its own punishment. The wicked passions of a corrupt man are his tormenting devils. Sin is suicidal.
2. A wicked man is punished by the wickedness of others. The thousands whom these despotic kings reduced to anguish, destitution, and death, were idolaters and rebels against Heaven, and by the hand of wicked men they were punished. Thus it ever is. Devils are their own tormentors. Sin converts a community of men into tormenting fiends; man becomes the avenging fate of man.
1. Humanity in this world is obviously in a morally abnormal condition. It can never be that he whose power is immeasurable, whose wisdom and goodness are infinite and radiant everywhere above us and below us, could create such a state of things as we have here. He originates the good alone, permits the evil, and will ultimately overrule it for good.
2. Faith in a future that shall rectify the evils of the present seems essential to true religion. Genuine religion is a supreme love for the Supreme Existence. But who could love a Supreme Existence, which could permit forever such a state of existence as we have here? There must come a day of rectification: "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him," etc. (Matthew 25:31-46).—D.T.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
2 Kings 14:1-7
Amaziah doing right.
The murder of Joash King of Judah, and the accession of his son Amaziah, took place a little after the accession of Joash the son of Jehoahaz in Israel, therefore just before the turn of the tide in the fortunes of the latter kingdom.
I. EARLY RIGHT-DOING.
1. A promising beginning. Amaziah was not, any more than his father, a man of strong character. He proved to be vain, boastful, and foolish But he began well, giving heed to the counsels of God's prophets (cf. 2 Chronicles 25:7-10), and therefore it is said of him, "He did right in the sight of the Lord." It is not, however, the beginning, but the end, which tests character (Colossians 1:23; Hebrews 3:14).
2. Significant shortcoming. To the record of his right-doing, it is added, "Yet not like David his father," or, as elsewhere, "not with a perfect heart." His conduct is likened to that of Joash his father, whose history very much resembled his own. Amaziah, like Joash, began well, afterwards lapsed into idolatry and cruelty, and died by conspiracy of his servants under a cloud of ignominy and contempt. Those who are like in sin need not wonder that they are like in doom.
3. The high places unremoved. This was one of the points in which Amaziah showed a want of thoroughness in right-doing. The sin was one of shortcoming rather than of positive transgression, like the keeping up of the worship of the calves in Israel It is not, therefore, reckoned so hideous as me Baal-worship; but the after-effects show that no portion of God's Law can be neglected with impunity. The worship on high places was a temptation and snare to Judah. The neglect to remove them reacted seriously on the life of the nation.
II. JUST JUDGMENT. The treatment by Amaziah of his father's murderers gives further evidence of his early disposition to do well. We observe:
1. The execution of justice. The murderers were put to death. This was right. The existence of even real grievances does not justify resort to crime. David's treatment of Saul shows the right course to be pursued in such cases (1 Samuel 24:4-12). And a nation is only secure when real crime is punished within its borders.
2. Discrimination of innocent and guilty. It is specially noted about Amaziah that, in taking this vengeance on the men who slew his father, he did not, as was a frequent custom in those times, slay the children of the murderers. He acted, therefore, on principle in his judgment, not in blind fury. His object was to vindicate justice, not to take revenge. He drew the line where it ought to be drawn—between the actually guilty and the innocent. There is a strong tendency, where anger is strongly kindled against a person or persons, to allow rage to overflow on those not directly implicated in their offence. The odium that attaches to them is extended also to their families, and pleasure is taken in inflicting insult and pain on their children and relatives. This ought not to be.
3. Regard for God's Law. The reason for Amaziah acting as he did was that it was so commanded in the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 24:16). On the seeming contradiction between this passage and those which speak of the iniquity of the fathers being visited on the children, or which illustrate the actual punishment of children for their parents' sins—as in the case of Achan (Joshua 7:24-26)—it may suffice to remark that the rule here laid down is one for human jurisprudence. There is a wider treatment of human beings, constantly finding illustration in providence, in which the principles of organic union and corporate responsibility have full play; but God does not entrust the enforcement of these to any human magistracy. What specially concerns us here is the fact that, finding such a rule laid down in the Word of God, Amaziah faithfully adhered to it. His conduct shows an advance in the moral conceptions of the time—a better appreciation of the fact of individuality.
III. EARLY VICTORY. In connection with this earlier and more promising part of Amaziah's reign, we are told of a great victory which he gained over the Edomites. The Edomites had revolted in Jehoram's reign (2 Kings 8:20); but Amaziah now felt himself strong enough to attempt their resubjugation. In setting out on this war—the origin of which we do not precisely know—he had the countenance of God's prophets, and acted by their directions (2 Chronicles 25:6-10). He had, as men always have when God is with them and they are content to be guided by his will, great success. He slew of Edom ten thousand, took Selah, or Petra, and changed its name. But the flush of his victory proved also the beginning of his ruin.
1. His conquest was not unmarked by great cruelty (cf. 2 Chronicles 25:12).
2. He fell into idolatry, actually setting up the gods of the Edomites which he had brought home, and burning incense to them—those gods which, as a prophet reminded him, could not deliver their own people out of his hand (2 Chronicles 25:15). From this point dates his declension. He acted precisely as his father had done in forcibly silencing the prophets; and God, in return, gave him up to a reprobate mind for his destruction. Prosperity tests a man's nature. There are few who can carry the full cup without becoming haughty and God-forgetful.—J.O.
2 Kings 14:8-14
The boastful challenge, and its results.
It is in the light of the facts narrated in the Book of Chronicles, but not alluded to here, that we are to read the story of Amaziah's folly in his boastful challenge to Joash of Israel (cf. 2 Chronicles 25:20).
I. THE BOASTFUL CHALLENGE.
1. Its motives. It is not difficult to conceive the kind of influences which led Amaziah to give this challenge to Joash.
(1) Naturally vain-glorious, he was greatly elated by his successes over Edom, and was ambitious to pose as a great military conqueror. How many wars have had their origin in no higher source! To gratify the vanity and ambition of individuals, or the lust of glory in nations, torrents of blood have been shed.
(2) Israel was at this time in a very humbled state, but showed signs of reviving. Amaziah probably thought it was a good time to bring back the revolted tribes to the scepter of Judah.
(3) The Israelites had given some provocation in attacks upon the cities of Judah (2 Chronicles 25:13). This at least would furnish a pretext.
2. Its nature. The challenge took the form of a message to Joash, "Come, let us look one another in the face." In giving such a challenge, Amaziah did not count the cost (cf. Luke 14:31). He was puffed up with conceit, and did not reflect on the superior military abilities of Joash, already beginning to be displayed in his wars with the Syrians, or on his larger forces. Rather, Joash's rising reputation roused in him the ambition to measure himself against Joash. When men are left to themselves there are no limits to the extent to which their folly will lead them.
3. Its lack of sanction from God. This time God was not with Amaziah in his undertaking. No prophet's voice commanded, sanctioned, or promised blessings on the war. Amaziah was acting on his own motion, and in reliance solely on his own strength. God had left him, as he left Saul. In such condition a man but plunges on to his ruin.
II. THE HAUGHTY REPLY. Joash perfectly took the measure of his challenger, and answered him according to his folly.
1. His insulting parable. First, he replied by a parable. He told how the briar (or thistle) of Lebanon sent to the cedar of Lebanon, demanding that the daughter of the cedar should be given in wife to his son. But a wild beast of the forest passed by, and trode down the briar. The idea of the parable is, of course, to ridicule the presumption of Amaziah in venturing to put himself on an equality with Joash. It was meant to sting and insult the Jewish king by intimating to him that in Joash's eyes he was no more than a contemptible briar in comparison with the majestic cedars. On it we remark
(1) that Joash also cannot be acquitted of overweening arrogance. It is a scornful, haughty spirit which breathes in his parable. From the Israelitish point of view the ten tribes were the kingdom of Israel; Judah was the isolated tribe. But the state of Israel at this time, and in the recent past, did not warrant these boastful metaphors. The cedar, as well as the briar, had been pretty well trodden down by the wild beast of the forest. This arrogant spirit, moreover, is apt to lead its possessor into the error of despising things simply because they are outwardly weak. In this case the King of Israel very justly took the boastful Amaziah's measure. But it does not always follow that the cedar has the right to lord it over the briar. It is no uncommon thing for the weak things of the world to overcome the mighty (1 Corinthians 1:27, 1 Corinthians 1:28). David was a feeble stripling in Goliath's sight, but Goliath fell before him (1Sa 16:1-23 :43-51). The numbers may be few, but if they have a good cause, are inspired by faith, and go forward at God's call, one will chase a thousand (Deuteronomy 32:30; Joshua 23:10).
(2) Nevertheless, the parable was just in so far as Amaziah was matching himself against one who, as the event showed, was greatly his superior. Joash was by far the abler soldier, and had larger forces. Amaziah wished to show himself his equal, but lacked the Power of taking a just estimate of his own capabilities. This is one of the first conditions of a man's strength—to know himself. "How many men may you meet in middle life whose career has been marked by bitter disappointments, and whose hearts have been soured by these! They began with vaulting hopes which have never been realized; and so they blame what they call their adverse fate. But you see the effect of one great blunder which has pursued them all their lives—you see that they have never sought to know themselves. They began in a fool's paradise, and they have never made their escape from it. A more exact and modest estimate of Their own powers, a clear and honest apprehension of their own capacity, a readiness to do the work within their limits, the work they were meant to do, and they had been spared many bitter hours."
2. His contemptuous advice. Following up his parable, Joash gave the King of Judah a piece of advice, scornfully and contemptuously expressed, but such advice as, on the whole, Amaziah would have done well to take.
(1) He touched truly enough the motive of his foolish challenge. "Thou hast indeed smitten Edom, and thine heart is lifted up." A measure of success turns the heads of some people, inflates their ideas of themselves, and incapacitates them for sober calculation of the future.
(2) He bids him content himself with what he has achieved, and tarry at home. The tone is most insulting, implying the most perfect contempt for Amaziah's threatened attack; but the advice was wise. Amaziah was a fool to pro-yoke a needless war, and run himself and his kingdom into danger from a mere motive of vain-glory.
(3) He predicts to him what will happen if he persists in his foolish course. "Why shouldest thou meddle to thy hurt, that thou shouldest fall, even thou, and Judah with thee?" It perhaps was not to be expected that Amaziah should take advice so unpalatable, so tauntingly conveyed, so wounding to his pride and royal honor. But the result showed that Joash had not overstated his case. Amaziah meddled truly to his hurt; and he fell, even he, and Judah with him. It is the fatality of a foolish mind that it is impregnable to considerations which would show it its folly.
III. THE CRUSHING DEFEAT. Amaziah, as was to be expected, would not hear. No obstinate man does. He went on his foolish, headstrong way, and brought down upon himself an avalanche of trouble.
1. The army was defeated. He and Joash met in battle, and his army was utterly routed. It is characteristic teat the fight took place at Beth-shemesh, in the territory of Judah. This shows that Joash was the first to move when he saw that war was inevitable. While Amaziah was dallying and mustering his men, Joash was already on the march, and took the offensive. For victory of any kind, much depends on promptitude, alertness, and activity on the part of the assailant.
2. The king was taken prisoner. Joash "took Amaziah." How long the king remained a captive is not said. He was probably delivered up after "hostages" had been given. But the humiliation was great and bitter. The people of Judah never forgot or forgave it.
3. Jerusalem was captured and plundered. The royal city shared the fate of its king. It had no alternative but to open its gates to the conqueror. Joash did not spare it. To mark the completeness of his conquest he,
(1) brake down four hundred cubits of the city wall on the side towards Ephraim;
(2) plundered the house of the Lord and the palace of the king of their treasures. The treasuries had been emptied in the preceding reign for Hazael (2 Kings 12:18); now a second time their contents are taken away. Miserable people, and miserable king! No wonder burning indignation existed against Amaziah, who had led the kingdom into this trouble. We may see some parallel to it in the feelings of the French towards their emperor after the Franco-Prussian War. The lesson had been taught in the preceding reign, but Amaziah had not profited by his father's misfortunes; and, having followed his footsteps in sin, was now reaping the consequences in even severer chastisement.—J.O.
2 Kings 14:15-22
Changes in two thrones.
The next events recorded are the accession of Jeroboam II; after the death of Joash, in Israel; and the conspiracy against Amaziah fifteen years later and the accession of Azariah, in Judah.
I. THE ACCESSION OF JEROBOAM. More is not told us, than we have already heard, of the "might" of Joash. Jeroboam, who succeeded him, proved the able son of an able father. But the stock of Jehu was godless as ever. The new king also, as we are to see, "did evil in the sight of the Lord," and kept up the "sin ' of his namesake, Jeroboam I; in the worship of the calves. Great natural ability is often associated with godlessness of heart.
II. THE ACOESSION OF AZARIAH.
1. Azariah made king. The notice of the conspiracy against Amaziah precedes in the narrative the notice of Azariah's accession; but there is some reason from the chronology to think that the son was made king along with his father shortly after Amazlah's disastrous defeat.
(1) It is stated in 2 Kings 15:8 that the son of Jeroboam II; Zachariah, began to reign in the thirty-eighth year of Azariah, and as there is no sign in the narrative of the interregnum of eleven years which chronologers usually introduce, it would follow that Azariah really began to reign about eleven years before his father's death.
(2) This is in itself not unlikely when we remember the odium which must have fallen on Amaziah after his defeat and captivity, and the capture of Jerusalem. The proof he had given of incapacity for government would make it desirable, to secure the popularity of the throne, that his son should be associated with him in the kingdom.
(3) There are indications in the narrative which point in this direction, e.g. the age of Amaziah, only sixteen years; the statement that Amaziah "lived" fifteen years after the death of Joash, where we might have expected the word "reigned;" lastly, the statement that Amaziah "built Elath, and restored it to Judah, after that the king slept with his fathers."
2. Amaziah's ignominious end. In any case, it seems certain that Amaziah's popularity never revived after the unhappy encounter with Joash. Fifteen years rolled on, and at length, from causes to us unknown, a plot was formed against him in Jerusalem. He fled to Lachish, but was pursued and killed. The slain king was brought back on horses, and buried in Jerusalem in the royal sepulcher. Thus the sun of another descendant of David, who had forsaken the God of his fathers, went down in blood and shame.—J.O.
2 Kings 14:23-29
The reign of Jeroboam II.
After the usual statement that Jeroboam "did evil in the sight of the Lord, and departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin," we have some brief notices of his reign. Note—
I. THE REVIVED FORTUNES OF ISRAEL.
1. Jeroboam's successes in war. This able monarch continued the work of Joash. In fulfillment of the promise that God would give Israel a savior, Jeroboam was enabled to complete the recovery of the cities and territories of Israel from the Syrians. "He restored the coast of Israel from the entering in of Hamath unto the sea of the plain," that is, he extended the boundaries of the kingdom as widely as they had ever reached in the days of its greatest prosperity.
2. The cause of this—God's pity for Israel. This remarkable turn in the fortunes of Israel was strange when it is remembered that Jeroboam was not a man who had the fear of God before him. The explanation is that already given (2 Kings 13:23), the pity which God had for Israel, his desire to give it one more chance before blotting out its name, his respect for the covenant with the fathers, and, subordinately, his regard to the prayer of Jehoahaz (2 Kings 13:4, 2 Kings 13:5). If, as the result of this revival of the nation's fortunes, piety did not also revive, destruction would come all the more speedily. In raising up this powerful king to save Israel, we see God's faithfulness to his promise.
II. PROPHETIC ACTIVITY. We have allusion in the text to the prophetic activity of Jonah, the son of Amittai, the same who was sent to Nineveh, and we know that in this reign other prophets, notably Hosea and Amos, exercised their ministry. The writings of the latter prophets, show us how, amidst the sunshine of revived prosperity, the condition of the people did not improve, but grew more and more corrupt. But God's faithfulness and care and love for his people are shown in sending such prophets to warn them (cf. 2 Kings 17:13). What could exceed the tender pathos of a ministry like Hosea's, or the fidelity and earnestness of a testimony like that of Amos, who bearded the highest in the land to bear witness against them (Amos 7:10)? Yet the people would not hear, but attributed their prosperity to their idols, and worshipped them more than ever, while immorality, violence, and the loosening of all bonds between man and man abounded more and more (Hosea 4:1).
III. THE EVE OF COLLAPSE. Jeroboam died, and was succeeded by his son Zachariah. This was the fourth generation of the house of Jehu, and it will be seen that he reigned only six months. From this time Israel went rapidly to its ruin. The height of prosperity reached in the reign of Jeroboam was but the last flicker of the light before final extinction. A little over thirty years after Jeroboam's death—forty at most—the words of the prophets were fulfilled, and the kingdom of Israel was destroyed, and its people carried away by the Assyrian.—J.O.