SUCCESS FOSTERS PRIDE WHICH OFTEN LEADS TO IDOLATRY AND STUBBORNNESS WHICH THEN RESULT IN JUDGMENT
Raymond Dillard: On the whole the record of Amaziah’s reign is a negative one. Apart from the brief, but clouded, victory over Edom as a reward for his obedience to the prophetic warning, the passage does not record any of the usual repertoire of indications of divine favor; rather, it is a study in opposites. Instead of royal building programs, the walls of Jerusalem are destroyed; instead of wealth from the people and surrounding nations, the king is plundered; instead of a large family, there are hostages; instead of peace, war; instead of victory, defeat; instead of loyalty from the populace and long life, there is conspiracy and regicide. The Chronicler’s message for the restoration community was clear—to those rebuilding Jerusalem and restoring its walls, the Chronicler sounded again the central demand of exclusive loyalty in Israel’s covenant with its Lord.
Iain Duguid: The narrative provides yet another example of disaster and decline that follows failure to continue serving the Lord wholeheartedly: his father’s reign had begun with the joyful refurbishment of the temple, but Amaziah’s was to be marked by the seizing of “all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of God” (v. 24).
Martin Selman: That Amaziah did what was right . . . but not wholeheartedly (v. 2) aptly summarizes a reign vitiated by compromise. Though he could respect the Mosaic law (v. 4) and respond to prophecy (vv. 9-10), it is all tinged with mixed motives, and it is no surprise that in the end he turned away from following the Lord (v. 27). His reign is difficult to classify, and commentators have disagreed as to whether it should be divided into favourable and unfavourable parts (Williamson, Allen, Becker, etc.) or whether he is fundamentally half-hearted and double-minded (e.g. Coggins, McConville). In favour of the former, Amaziah’s emphatic if violent victory against the Edomites (v. 12) is an apparent turning-point, since any good features that do exist are limited to verses 1-12. On the other hand, Amaziah’s weaknesses are distributed throughout the chapter, even though they gather momentum from verse 14 onwards. Over all, while his reign does fit the periodization scheme of chapters 24-26, he declines from bad to worse rather than from good to bad!
Mark Boda: The Chronicler organizes his account of Amaziah into two phases, one highlighting positive aspects of his reign (25:5-12) and the other negative (25:13-24). . . Each phase is structured according to this pattern:
(1) The action of Amaziah that arouses God’s anger (25:5-6, 14-15a);
(2) the prophetic voice that confronts Amaziah (25:7-8, 15b);
(3) the question of Amaziah (25:9a, 16a);
(4) the response of the prophetic voice (25:9b, 16b);
(5) the obedience/disobedience of Amaziah (25:10, 17-20);
(6) success/failure in battle (25:11-12, 21-24).
(:1-4) PROLOGUE — OPENING SUMMARY OF HIS REIGN –
CONSOLIDATION OF POWER
A. (:1a) Age and Duration of Reign
“Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king,
and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem.”
Iain Duguid: Although Amaziah “reigned twenty-nine years,” it is likely that his son Uzziah (also called Azariah) was co-regent from the fifth year (15:1). This probably came about when Amaziah was captured by Joash, king of Israel (25:23), and held hostage in Samaria until at least Joash’s death ten years later (v. 25). Thereafter, power might have been shared, but tensions were evident, culminating in his assassination (v. 27).
Frederick Mabie: During Amaziah’s reign, the Assyrian Empire begins to decline, which facilitates a time of peace and prosperity for Judah and Israel.
B. (:1b) Identification of His Mother
“And his mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem.”
C. (:2) Moral Evaluation
“And he did right in the sight of the LORD, yet not with a whole heart.”
Raymond Dillard: While the Chronicler often divides an individual reign into distinct periods of obedience and disobedience, here he depicts Amaziah as fundamentally half-hearted and mediocre from the beginning (McConville, 214).
G. Campbell Morgan: The root idea of the Hebrew word translated “perfect” [loyal in the NKJV] is being whole, complete. Imperfection of heart consists in incomplete surrender. Some chamber of the temple is retained for selfish purposes. What it was in the case of Amaziah we are not told, but the fact remains that notwithstanding the general direction of his life…the whole heart was not set on doing the will of God.
D. (:3-4) Purging of Conspirators
“Now it came about as soon as the kingdom was firmly in his grasp, that he killed his servants who had slain his father the king. 4 However, he did not put their children to death, but did as it is written in the law in the book of Moses, which the LORD commanded, saying, ‘Fathers shall not be put to death for sons, nor sons be put to death for fathers, but each shall be put to death for his own sin.’”
Raymond Dillard: Amaziah may have been motivated to avenge the death of his father when he executed the assassins; however, his own consolidation of power and elimination of potential rivals may also have been a factor.
Andrew Hill: Amaziah obeys the law of Moses selectively, bringing just punishment against the conspirators responsible for his father’s murder (and solidifying his own rule in the process) but ignoring the injunctions against false worship in the Canaanite high places (cf. Deut. 7:5; 12:2).
I. (:5-10) COUNSEL OF THE PROPHET REDIRECTED AMAZIAH TO TRUST IN THE LORD RATHER THAN IN MILITARY MIGHT
A. (:5) Preparing Troops for Battle
1. (:5a) Appointing Commanders
“Moreover, Amaziah assembled Judah and appointed them
according to their fathers’ households under commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds throughout Judah and Benjamin;”
2. (:5b) Accounting of the Numbers
“and he took a census of those from twenty years old and upward,
and found them to be 300,000 choice men,
able to go to war and handle spear and shield.”
Raymond Dillard: Twenty years old was the traditional age of enrollment (Exod 30:14; 38:26; Lev 27:3–5; Num 1; 1 Chr 27:23; 23:24; 2 Chr 31:17). The fact that Benjamin is included suggests that Judah continued to exercise hegemony in that region.
August Konkel: Amaziah’s interest in Edom was to gain control of the trade routes in Transjordan. Edom had gained its independence in the days of Joash (2 Chron 21:8-10). Amaziah mustered his forces and appointed his commanders according to the ancestral clans, the typical way of gathering an army. The inclusion of Benjamin in the muster indicates that it was part of the territory of Judah at that time. Amaziah’s force was smaller than that of Asa (580,000) or Jehoshaphat (1,160,000), which may explain his desire to hire additional troops. The fee for the mercenaries amounted to three shekels for each soldier, slightly more than an ounce of silver (a talent is 3,000 shekels). Hiring mercenaries amounted to a foreign alliance instead of relying on the Lord. . .
There were two main centers in Edom. Petra was in the south, and Bozrah (Buseirah) was in the north, between Sela and Punon. The initial conquests were in the north, with the aim of dominating the southern portion of the King’s Highway, on the east side of the Arabah, the rift valley of the Jordan, which extends south from the Dead Sea. . .
Uzziah was able to complete the task begun by Azariah: regaining control over the trade routes of the King’s Highway, and providing a port city on the Gulf of Aqaba. With the death of Jehoash and Amaziah, the royal houses of Samaria and Jerusalem come to a new level of cooperation, providing a temporary advantage over the Edomites.
B. (:6-10) Perverting Faith in the Lord by Hiring Mercenaries from Israel
1. (:6) Decision of Amaziah to Supplement Judah’s Forces
“He hired also 100,000 valiant warriors out of Israel
for one hundred talents of silver.”
John Schultz: Amaziah thought in terms of numbers in order to determine power and chances of victory. He must not have taken God into his calculations. He did not evince any of the faith of Jonathan, the son of King Saul, who attacked the Philistines single-handedly, and who said to his armor-bearer: “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”
Faith in the God of Israel played no role in Amaziah’s strategic planning; he wanted to be sure his numbers were up.
2. (:7-9) Directive Issued by God’s Prophet to Warn Amaziah
a. (:7-8) Forsake Any Alliance with Israel or God Will Defeat You
“But a man of God came to him saying, ‘O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the LORD is not with Israel nor with any of the sons of Ephraim. 8 ‘But if you do go, do it, be strong for the battle; yet God will bring you down before the enemy, for God has power to help and to bring down.’”
Raymond Dillard: A central theme in the Chronicler’s theology is the necessity of trusting God; all foreign alliances are repudiated as an implicit failure to rely on Yahweh alone (16:2–9; 19:1–3; 20:15–17; 20:35–37; 32:7–8). Commonly associated with this rejection of alliances and reliance on Yahweh is the holy war theme of Yahweh’s fighting for the few against the many (13:3–18; 14:8–15; 1 Kgs 20:27; 1 Sam 14:6; Judg 7); Amaziah need not fear losing a fourth of his army in sending the Ephraimite mercenaries home, for Yahweh “has the power to help.”
Andrew Hill: The expression “man of God” (25:7) is often a title for a prophetic figure (e.g., 1 Kings 13:1; 17:18; 2 Kings 1:9). This unnamed individual is one of two anonymous prophets who approach King Amaziah with a message from God. He heeds the instruction of the first but rejects the counsel of the second to his own demise (cf. 2 Chron. 25:15-16). At times God’s prophets remain unnamed so as to highlight the message rather than the messenger. The first prophet advises the king to reject the help of mercenaries form the kingdom of Israel because “the Lord is not with Israel” (25:7). God’s abandonment of the kingdom of Israel for the persistent sin of idolatry related to the calf-cult of King Jeroboam I assures military failure. In other words, Judah’s association with Israel means that God will side with the Edomites against Amaziah.
b. (:9) Forget about the Sunk Costs
“And Amaziah said to the man of God, ‘But what shall we do for the hundred talents which I have given to the troops of Israel?’ And the man of God answered, ‘The LORD has much more to give you than this.’”
David Guzik: Amaziah heard and understood the word of God from His messenger. Yet his question was familiar: “How much will it cost me to be obedient?” This is not necessarily a bad question to ask if we are willing to be persuaded by the LORD’s answer. “The LORD is able to give you much more than this” — The prophet wisely answered Amaziah. Whatever obedience costs, it is always ultimately cheaper than disobedience.
3. (:10) Dismissal of the Mercenary Troops from Ephraim
“Then Amaziah dismissed them,
the troops which came to him from Ephraim, to go home;
so their anger burned against Judah
and they returned home in fierce anger.”
II. (:11-16) CONQUERING OF THE EDOMITES CAUSED AMAZIAH TO RESPOND IN PRIDE AND IDOLATRY AND STUBBORNNESS
A. (:11-13) Victory over the Edomites Mitigated by the Plundering of Judah by the Dismissed Mercenary Troops
12) Victory over the Edomites
a. (:11) Initial Killing of 10,000 in Battle
“Now Amaziah strengthened himself, and led his people forth, and went to the Valley of Salt, and struck down 10,000 of the sons of Seir.”
b. (:12) Subsequent Slaughtering of Additional 10,000 Captives
“The sons of Judah also captured 10,000 alive and brought them to the top of the cliff, and threw them down from the top of the cliff so that they were all dashed to pieces.”
Frederick Mabie: Amaziah’s victory over the Edomites (“men of Seir”; cf. Ge 32:3; 36:8; Eze 35:15) takes place in the Valley of Salt (Wadi el-Milh), located within the Arabah to the south of the Dead (Salt) Sea. Later, Uzziah will build on Amaziah’s victory over Edom by restoring Judean control over the port city of Elath, adjacent to Ezion Geber (cf. 26:2). Like the subsequent worship of the Edomite gods (v. 14), the heinous act against the prisoners of war should be seen as repulsive.
2. (:13) Plundering of Judah by the Dismissed Mercenary Troops
“But the troops whom Amaziah sent back from going with him to battle, raided the cities of Judah, from Samaria to Beth-horon, and struck down 3,000 of them, and plundered much spoil.”
Raymond Dillard: No reason is offered for the anger and attack of the dismissed mercenaries. Presumably they had received at least a portion of the sum agreed upon (25:6, 9). Perhaps the fact that they would not share in any spoil from the battle is the implicit reason.
August Konkel: Samaria was a vastly superior power to the state of Judah. This is of no consequence in the thinking of the Chronicler, for the single criterion of success is faithfulness to God. However, when God is not fighting the battle, the outcome will depend on the power of the combatants. Amaziah utterly failed to appreciate his own weaknesses in this regard, particularly in the border that he shared with the north (2 Chron 25:13). He suffered the plundering of his border towns after he had paid the mercenaries their due. This is not presented by the Chronicler as a theological judgment. It is more an evidence of Amaziah’s failure to recognize his vulnerability in the shadow of his much more powerful neighbor.
Mark Boda: Amaziah’s move against the northern kingdom appears to be an act of revenge for the violent actions of the northern mercenaries (25:13).
B. (:14-16) Victory Fostered Response of Pride and Idolatry and Stubborn Rejection of God’s Merciful Warnings
1. (:14) Repurposing of the Edomite Gods as Idols to Worship
“Now it came about after Amaziah came from slaughtering the Edomites that he brought the gods of the sons of Seir, set them up as his gods, bowed down before them, and burned incense to them.”
Iain Duguid: While this situation is unique in the OT (contrast David; 1 Chron. 14:12), elsewhere in the ancient Near East conquerors sometimes worshiped the gods of defeated nations, regarding them as having abandoned their opponents to fight on the victor’s side (cf. the Lord’s abandoning his people; e.g., Isa. 10:5–6).
John Schultz: There must have been demonic influence in Amaziah’s behavior which made him take the gods of the Edomites and worship them. Our first impression would be that this was an act of stupidity. If the idols of Edom were not strong enough to protect that people who worshipped them, what value would they have for Amaziah? Amaziah may have thought that they had been so favorable to him that they gave him their territory. Instead of attributing his victory to the Lord, he accredited it to the Edomite idols! That sounds like the kind of lie Satan would whisper in someone’s ear.
Martin Selman: Amaziah’s achievement seems to bring out the worst in him. Whereas he had previously made some response to God, now he turns to idolatry (vv. 14-15), persecution (v. 16), revenge (v. 17), intransigence (vv. 16, 20), pride (v. 19), and apostasy (v. 27). The decisive factor is Amaziah’s worship of Edomite gods (v. 14). This is the only explicit reference to Edomite worship in the Bible, even though there was a persistent sense of brotherhood between Israel and Edom (cf. Dt. 23:7; Am. 1:11). The Edomites did worship a deity by the name Qos, though the earliest evidence comes from a few decades later than Amaziah.
2. (:15-16) Rebuke by the Prophet of God
a. (:15) Elevating These Failed Edomite Gods Makes No Sense
“Then the anger of the LORD burned against Amaziah, and He sent him a prophet who said to him, ‘Why have you sought the gods of the people who have not delivered their own people from your hand?’”
Andrew Hill: A second nameless prophet is commissioned by God to rebuke Amaziah (25:15). His worship of the Edomite gods is utter folly on two counts.
(1) These gods have failed to deliver their own people in a time of crisis – the essential test of any deity.
(2) The Mosaic injunction against idolatry has been firmly in place for centuries (Ex. 20:4-5). The expression “the anger of the Lord burned” (2 Chron. 25:15a) is typically found in contexts where God’s jealousy has been provoked by idolatry on the part of the Israelites (e.g., Deut. 7:4; Judg. 3:8; 2 Kings 13:3). According to the sanctions of the Davidic covenant, idolatry by the royal family puts the whole nation at risk of being exiled from the land (2 Chron. 7:19-22).
b. (:16a) Exasperation of Amaziah at the Prophetic Rebuke
“And it came about as he was talking with him that the king said to him, ‘Have we appointed you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?’”
Andrew Hill: The petulant Amaziah interrupts the prophet mid-sentence and commands him to desist in his indictment, upon threat of death (25:16). The prophet obeys the edict as a subject of the king and stops his denouncement. No doubt the earlier murder of Zechariah by Joash under similar circumstances is still fresh in the memory of Judah (cf. 24:22). Although the prophet stops his oracle, God’s message cannot be stopped – to reject the counsel of God’s prophet is to reject God himself. Amaziah is doomed to destruction by a righteous God. Not to be overlooked is the clever play of the writer on the word “counsel” (25:16, 17). The course of events will soon demonstrate that Amaziah can ignore the p
rophet’s counsel – but not God’s!
Trapp: This was a rejection of God’s mercy to Amaziah. God was kind to send him a correcting prophet — When he might have sent him to hell with a thunderbolt; as the patientest man upon earth would have done likely, had he been in God’s place and power.
c. (:16b) Eradication of Amaziah Prophecied as Divine Judgment
“Then the prophet stopped and said, ‘I know that God has planned to destroy you, because you have done this, and have not listened to my counsel.’”
III. (:17-24) CRUSHING DEFEAT BY ISRAEL DUE TO THE PRIDE AND IDOLATRY OF AMAZIAH
A. (:17-19) Foolish Battle Initiated Between Judah and Israel
1. (:17) Initiative of Amaziah to Confront Joash
“Then Amaziah king of Judah took counsel and sent to Joash the son of Jehoahaz the son of Jehu, the king of Israel, saying, ‘Come, let us face each other.’”
Iain Duguid: The foolhardy arrogance of Amaziah continued as he sought confrontation with Joash of Israel.
David Guzik: He had reason to believe he would be successful. He had recently assembled a 300,000 man army that killed 20,000 men in a victory over Edom (2 Chronicles 25:5, 11-12). King Joash (Jehoahaz) of Israel seemed very weak, having only 50 horsemen, 10 chariots, and 10,000 foot soldiers after being defeated by the Syrians (2 Kings 13:7).
2. (:18-19) Inadvisable Folly of Amaziah Exposed by Joash
a. (:18) Exposed by Relating a Parable of Contrasting Powers
“And Joash the king of Israel sent to Amaziah king of Judah, saying, ‘The thorn bush which was in Lebanon sent to the cedar which was in Lebanon, saying, Give your daughter to my son in marriage. But there passed by a wild beast that was in Lebanon, and trampled the thorn bush.’”
Perhaps vs. 17 suggests a meeting between the two kings to arrange some type of alliance via a marriage contract. But Amaziah ended up getting trampled instead.
Dilday: The thistle, imagining himself to be equal with the cedar, presumptuously suggested a marriage alliance between them. The difference between the two was made obvious when a wild beast passed through and crushed the thistle underfoot. Of course the beast was powerless to injure the cedar.
b. (:19) Exposed by Rebuking Amaziah’s Pride and Self-Deception
“You said, ‘Behold, you have defeated Edom.’ And your heart has become proud in boasting. Now stay at home; for why should you provoke trouble that you, even you, should fall and Judah with you?”
J.A. Thompson: Jehoash’s fable about the arrogant thistle is similar to Jotham’s allegory about the thornbush in Judg 9:7-15. The Chronicler viewed pride as a grievous sin and can be heard speaking through Jehoash. To have supposed that a victory over Edom was a warrant for attacking Jehoash and a guarantee of another victory was arrogant and foolish. Amaziah would be wiser to remain at home. His action would bring about his own downfall and that of his nation Judah as well (cf. 26:16).
David Guzik: Amaziah should have listened to this word from Jehoash, but he didn’t. He provoked a fight he should have avoided, and did not consider either the likelihood of success or the effect his defeat would have on the whole kingdom of Judah.
B. (:20-24) Foreordained Defeat of Amaziah Executed
1. (:20) Stubbornness of Amaziah Led to Judgment for Idolatry
“But Amaziah would not listen, for it was from God, that He might deliver them into the hand of Joash because they had sought the gods of Edom.”
J.A. Thompson: Behind the human affairs of this world is the overruling hand of God. Indeed, God guided even Amaziah’s own pride in such a way that it brought about his downfall. In judgment for his apostasy God made Amaziah blind to the truth and deaf to wisdom (cf. 1 Kgs 12:15).
2. (:21-22) Self-Sufficiency of Amaziah Crushed in Battle
“So Joash king of Israel went up, and he and Amaziah king of Judah faced each other at Beth-shemesh, which belonged to Judah. 22 And Judah was defeated by Israel, and they fled each to his tent.”
Knapp: His [Amaziah’s] name means “strength of Jah”; but we read, “he strengthened himself” (2 Chronicles 25:11); his character of self-sufficiency thus belying his name – a thing not uncommon in our day.
3. (:23-24) Success of Joash
a. (:23a) Captured Amaziah
“Then Joash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah,
the son of Joash the son of Jehoahaz, at Beth-shemesh,
and brought him to Jerusalem,”
b. (:23b-24a) Destroyed and Despoiled Jerusalem
“and tore down the wall of Jerusalem from the Gate of Ephraim to the Corner Gate, 400 cubits. 24 And he took all the gold and silver, and all the utensils which were found in the house of God with Obed-edom, and the treasures of the king’s house, the hostages also,”
Thomas Constable: Amaziah disobeyed God by attacking Israel late in his reign (vv. 17- 24). This was due, from the divine perspective, to the king’s idolatry (v. 20) and, from the human perspective, to his pride (v. 18). The consequences were that Judah’s enemy destroyed a portion of the wall around Jerusalem, thus weakening its defense (v. 23), and stripped the temple, thus diminishing its glory (v. 24). . .
Idolatry was a serious matter because it struck at the heart of God’s relationship with His people. God blessed Israel with the opportunity to have an intimate personal relationship with the living sovereign LORD as no other people in the world then. To turn from this privilege to pursue dead idols was the height of insolence (cf. Exod. 20:5).
c. (:24b) Returned to Samaria as the Victor
“and returned to Samaria.”
(:25-28) EPILOGUE – CLOSING SUMMA
RY OF HIS REIGN
A. (:25) Later Years
“And Amaziah, the son of Joash king of Judah,
lived fifteen years after the death of Joash, son of Jehoahaz, king of Israel.”
Frederick Mabie: This final paragraph covers Amaziah’s final twenty-four years when his son Uzziah is (presumably) acting as his coregent. For nine of these years Amaziah is likely a prisoner of the northern king Jehoash.
B. (:26) Record of His Deeds
“Now the rest of the acts of Amaziah, from first to last,
behold, are they not written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel?”
C. (:27-28) Death and Burial
1. (:27) Death
“And from the time that Amaziah turned away from following the LORD they conspired against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish;
but they sent after him to Lachish and killed him there.”
Andrew Hill: It is likely that Amaziah’s false worship is the catalyst that bonds a group of conspirators from Judah to plot Amaziah’s assassination for some fifteen years. It is unclear as to who these men of Judah are, but most likely it is a coalition of priests along with civil and military leaders similar to the one that elevated Joash to the throne of Judah.
Knapp: Lachish was the first of the cities of Judah to adopt the idolatries of the kingdom of Israel (‘the beginning of the sin to the daughter of Zion: for the transgressions of Israel were found in thee,’ Micah 1:13), and it was natural for the idolatrous Amaziah to seek an asylum there.
Clarke: He no doubt became very unpopular after having lost the battle with the Israelites; the consequence of which was the dismantling of Jerusalem, and the seizure of the royal treasures, with several other evils. It is likely that the last fifteen years of his reign were greatly embittered: so that, finding the royal city to be no place of safety, he endeavoured to secure himself at Lachish; but all in vain, for thither his murderers pursued him; and he who forsook the Lord was forsaken by every friend, perished in his gainsaying, and came to an untimely end.
Mark Boda: The conspiracy broke out within the court in Jerusalem, the center of his power, so he was forced to flee to one of his fortified cities guarding one of the key valleys between the coastal plain and Jerusalem. But there would be no fleeing the prophetic word, or he was killed there.
2. (:28) Burial
“Then they brought him on horses
and buried him with his fathers in the city of Judah.”