2 Chronicles 25 – The Reign of Amaziah
A. His victory over Edom.
1. (1-2) The limited good of the reign of Amaziah.
Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a loyal heart.
a. He did what was right in the sight of the LORD: Amaziah, son of the great reformer Joash, continued the generally godly reign began by his father.
i. “He made a good beginning in thus adhering closely to the law. Happy would it have been for him and for his kingdom had he continued as he began.” (Knapp)
b. But not with a loyal heart: Compared to Joash, Amaziah faithfully continued his policies. Yet some of those policies permitted compromises, such as the allowing of continued sacrifices and incense offerings on the high places (2 Kings 14:1-4). Compared to David – the greatest human king to reign over the people of God – Amaziah did not match up favorably (2 Kings 14:1-4).
i. “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.” (Morgan)
2. (3-4) An example of Amaziah’s obedience.
Now it happened, as soon as the kingdom was established for him, that he executed his servants who had murdered his father the king. However he did not execute their children, but did as it is written in the Law in the Book of Moses, where the LORD commanded, saying, “The fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall the children be put to death for their fathers; but a person shall die for his own sin.”
a. He executed his servants who had murdered his father the king: This was both just and in the best interest of Amaziah. It was good for him to eliminate those who found the assassination of the king a reasonable way to change the kingdom.
i. It also fulfilled God’s command to punish murderers with execution, first given in Genesis 9:5-7.
b. He did not execute their children, but did as it is written in the Law of the Book of Moses: It was the standard practice of the ancient world to execute not only the guilty party in such a murder but also their family. Amaziah went against the conventional practice of his day and obeyed the word of God instead (Deuteronomy 24:16).
i. “Wherein he showed some faith and courage, that he would obey this command of God, though it was very hazardous to himself, such persons being likely to seek revenge for their father’s death.” (Poole)
3. (5-8) Preparations for battle against Edom.
Moreover Amaziah gathered Judah together and set over them captains of thousands and captains of hundreds, according to their fathers’ houses, throughout all Judah and Benjamin; and he numbered them from twenty years old and above, and found them to be three hundred thousand choice men, able to go to war, who could handle spear and shield. He also hired one hundred thousand mighty men of valor from Israel for one hundred talents of silver. 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; not with any of the children of Ephraim. But if you go, be gone! Be strong in battle! Even so, God shall make you fall before the enemy; for God has power to help and to overthrow.”
a. He also hired one hundred thousand mighty men of valor from Israel: In assembling an army (that would eventually fight against Edom), Amaziah hired mercenary troops from the northern tribes of Israel. This was a common practice in the ancient world.
b. O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the LORD is not with Israel: This anonymous prophet warned King Amaziah to not use the Israelite troops that he had hired. Going further, he warned him that if he should go to battle using these Israelite troops, God shall make you fall before the enemy.
i. Even though it made military sense for Amaziah to hire and use these troops, according to the word from God, it made no spiritual sense. This is because God has power to help and to overthrow. To fight with God is to receive His help; to fight against Him is to have God overthrow you.
4. (9) Amaziah’s question and the answer from the prophet.
Then Amaziah said to the man of God, “But what shall we do about the hundred talents which I have given to the troops of Israel?” And the man of God answered, “The LORD is able to give you much more than this.”
a. But what shall we do about the hundred talents which I have given to the troops of Israel? 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.
b. 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.
i. “But you say that you have already entered into so close an alliance that you cannot draw back. You have invested your capital, you have gone to great expenditure. Yet it will be better to forfeit these than Him.” (Meyer)
5. (10-13) Amaziah’s obedience and the victory over Edom.
So Amaziah discharged the troops that had come to him from Ephraim, to go back home. Therefore their anger was greatly aroused against Judah, and they returned home in great anger. Then Amaziah strengthened himself, and leading his people, he went to the Valley of Salt and killed ten thousand of the people of Seir. Also the children of Judah took captive ten thousand alive, brought them to the top of the rock, and cast them down from the top of the rock, so that they all were dashed in pieces. But as for the soldiers of the army which Amaziah had discharged, so that they would not go with him to battle, they raided the cities of Judah from Samaria to Beth Horon, killed three thousand in them, and took much spoil.
a. So Amaziah discharged the troops that had come to him from Ephraim, to go back home: He had paid them as promised, trusting that God was able to return to him much more, and he sent them home in faith, trusting God to both protect and provide.
i. This greatly aroused the dismissed army against Judah, probably because they counted on the anticipated plunder as additional income.
ii. “The Israelites’ great rage, repeated in Hebrew for emphasis, shows further why the Lord is not with them.” (Selman)
b. Amaziah strengthened himself, and leading his people, he went to the Valley of Salt and killed ten thousand of the people of Seir: Walking in obedience to God, Amaziah saw the victory God promised. The Edomites, who had apparently rebelled against Judah’s authority, were defeated.
i. “His victory is definite enough, though it is achieved without any acknowledgment of God’s help and with excessive violence.” (Selman)
c. They raided the cities of Judah from Samaria to Beth Horon, killed three thousand in them, and took much spoil: This shows the wickedness of the dismissed Israelite soldiers and their hunger for plunder and spoil. They were determined to enrich themselves through conquest, beyond their soldier’s wages.
i. “Because they were both disgraced by this rejection, and disappointed of that prey and spoil which they hoped to gain, whereas now they were sent away empty; for the one hundred talents probably were given to their officers only to raise men for this service; that sum being otherwise too small to be distributed into so many hands.” (Poole)
ii. “The soldiers of Israel committed depredations on their way back. This was the result of the folly and sin of Amaziah’s proposal. We may be forgiven, and delivered, and yet there will be after-consequences which will follow us from some ill-considered act. Sin may be forgiven, but its secondary results are sometimes very bitter.” (Meyer)
B. Amaziah’s sin and the judgment against him.
1. (14-16) Amaziah’s strange idolatry and arrogance.
Now it was so, after Amaziah came from the slaughter of the Edomites, that he brought the gods of the people of Seir, set them up to be his gods, and bowed down before them and burned incense to them. Therefore the anger of the LORD was aroused against Amaziah, and He sent him a prophet who said to him, “Why have you sought the gods of the people, which could not rescue their own people from your hand?” So it was, as he talked with him, that the king said to him, “Have we made you the king’s counselor? Cease! Why should you be killed?” Then the prophet ceased, and said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not heeded my advice.”
a. He brought the gods of the people of Seir, set them up to be his gods, and bowed down before them: This action of Amaziah shows the deep foolishness of idolatry. These gods of the people of Seir were unable to defend or help the Edomites, yet he worshipped them. God sent a prophet to make this point clear to King Amaziah.
i. “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, persecution, revenge, intransigence, pride, and apostasy.” (Selman)
b. Have we made you the king’s counselor? Cease! The king arrogantly silenced the prophet, yet he pronounced a final word of judgment against Amaziah.
i. 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.” (Trapp)
2. (17-20) The king of Israel warns the king of Judah.
Now Amaziah king of Judah asked advice and sent to Joash the son of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, king of Israel, saying, “Come, let us face one another in battle.” And Joash king of Israel sent to Amaziah king of Judah, saying, “The thistle that was in Lebanon sent to the cedar that was in Lebanon, saying, ‘Give your daughter to my son as wife’; and a wild beast that was in Lebanon passed by and trampled the thistle. Indeed you say that you have defeated the Edomites, and your heart is lifted up to boast. Stay at home now; why should you meddle with trouble, that you should fall; you and Judah with you?” But Amaziah would not heed, for it came from God, that He might give them into the hand of their enemies, because they sought the gods of Edom.
a. Come, let us face one another in battle: Proud from his success against Edom, Amaziah decided to make war against the northern kingdom of Israel, no doubt in retaliation for the plundering attacks by the dismissed mercenaries of Israel (2 Chronicles 25:5-16).
i. 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).
b. The thistle that was in Lebanon: The reply of Joash king of Israel was both wise and diplomatic. With this little story and its application, he counseled Amaziah to glory in his previous victory over Edom but then to stay at home.
i. “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.” (Dilday)
c. Why should you meddle with trouble so that you fall; you and Judah with you? 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.
d. It came from God, that He might give them into the hand of their enemies, because they sought the gods of Edom: Because of Amaziah’s foolish embrace of idolatry, God allowed him to enter into a foolish war with Israel. Foolish idols led him into foolish choices, and the wise God in heaven allowed him to experience the effect of these choices.
i. “It came of God, who gave him up to his own error and passion, in order to his ruin.” (Poole)
3. (21-24) Proud King Amaziah is defeated by Israel.
So Joash king of Israel went out; and he and Amaziah king of Judah faced one another at Beth Shemesh, which belongs to Judah. And Judah was defeated by Israel, and every man fled to his tent. Then Joash the king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash, the son of Jehoahaz, at Beth Shemesh; and he brought him to Jerusalem, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem from the Gate of Ephraim to the Corner Gate; four hundred cubits. And he took all the gold and silver, all the articles that were found in the house of God with Obed-Edom, the treasures of the king’s house, and hostages, and returned to Samaria.
a. Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah: Because of his foolish attack against Israel, Amaziah lost his freedom and for a time became a prisoner of the king of Israel.
i. “His 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.” (Knapp)
b. Broke down the wall of Jerusalem: Because of his foolish attack against Israel, Amaziah saw the defenses of Jerusalem broken down. Not only did they lose the battle at Beth Shemesh, but they were also in a weaker position to face future attacks.
c. And he took all the gold and silver: Because of his foolish attack against Israel, Amaziah lost the treasure of the people of God. It wasn’t just a loss of his personal wealth (the treasures of the king’s house), but also of the gold and silver of God’s people. Amaziah didn’t have the wisdom to see how losing this battle would hurt others as well as himself.
i. This even extended to hostages who were taken from Jerusalem to Samaria. The decision to attack Israel was his alone, but the price paid for the foolish attack was paid by the whole kingdom of Judah. It is a sober warning to all leaders, to consider how their foolish decisions affect many other people.
ii. “The quarrel of Amaziah was certainly just, yet he was put to the rout; he did meddle to his hurt; he fell, and Judah fell with him, as Jehoash had said.” (Clarke)
4. (25-28) He is hated and killed by his own subjects.
Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, lived fifteen years after the death of Joash the son of Jehoahaz, king of Israel. Now the rest of the acts of Amaziah, from first to last, indeed are they not written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel? After the time that Amaziah turned away from following the LORD, they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish; but they sent after him to Lachish and killed him there. Then they brought him on horses and buried him with his fathers in the City of Judah.
a. They made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem: The embarrassing loss against Israel undermined Amaziah’s support among the leaders of Judah.
i. He lived fifteen years after the death of Jehoash (which probably prompted his release from imprisonment in Israel), “But it was a kind of a lifeless life…. He lay all the while under the hatred and contempt of his subjects.” (Trapp)
ii. “At a preliminary stage his sixteen-year-old son Uzziah was elevated to coregency – and to actual rule – in 790 B.C.” (Payne)
b. He fled to Lachish; but they sent after him to Lachish and killed him there: Amaziah tried but was unable to escape the conspirators. He was assassinated, just like his father was (2 Kings 12:20-21).
i. “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.” (Knapp)
ii. ‘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.” (Clarke)