Amaziah's good reign. (1-7) Amaziah provokes Jehoash king of Israel, and is overcome. (8-14) He is slain by conspirators. (15-22) Wicked reign of Jeroboam II. (23-29)
Verses 1-7 Amaziah began well, but did not go on so. It is not enough to do that which our pious predecessors did, merely to keep up the common usage, but we must do it as they did, from the same principle of faith and devotion, and with the same sincerity and resolution.
Verses 8-14 For some time after the division of the kingdoms, Judah suffered much from the enmity of Israel. After Asa's time, it suffered more by the friendship of Israel, and by the alliance made with them. Now we meet with hostility between them again. How may a humble man smile to hear two proud and scornful men set their wits on work, to vilify and undervalue one another! Unholy success excites pride; pride excites contentions. The effects of pride in others, are insufferable to those who are proud themselves. These are the sources of trouble and sin in private life; but when they arise between princes, they become the misery of their whole kingdoms. Jehoash shows Amaziah the folly of his challenge; Thine heart has lifted thee up. The root of all sin is in the heart, thence it flows. It is not Providence, the event, the occasion, whatever it is, that makes men proud, secure, discontented, or the like, but their own hearts do it.
Verses 15-22 Amaziah survived his conqueror fifteen years. He was slain by his own subjects. Azariah, or Uzziah, seems to have been very young when his father was slain. Though the years of his reign are reckoned from that event, he was not fully made king till eleven years afterwards.
Verses 23-29 God raised up the prophet Jonah, and by him declared the purposes of his favour to Israel. It is a sign that God has not cast off his people, if he continues faithful ministers among them. Two reasons are given why God blessed them with those victories: 1. Because the distress was very great, which made them objects of his compassion. 2. Because the decree was not yet gone forth for their destruction. Many prophets there had been in Israel, but none left prophecies in writing till this age, and their prophecies are part of the Bible. Hosea began to prophesy in the reign of this Jeroboam. At the same time Amos prophesied; soon after Micah, then Isaiah, in the days of Ahaz and Hezekiah. Thus God, in the darkest and most degenerate ages of the church, raised up some to be burning and shining lights in it; to their own age, by their preaching and living, and a few by their writings, to reflect light upon us in the last times.
2 Kings 14:1-6 . AMAZIAH'S GOOD REIGN OVER JUDAH.
3-6. He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like David his father--The beginning of his reign was excellent, for he acted the part of a constitutional king, according to the law of God, yet not with perfect sincerity of heart (compare 2 Chronicles 25:2 ). As in the case of his father Joash, the early promise was belied by the devious course he personally followed in later life (see 2 Chronicles 20:14 ), as well as by the public irregularities he tolerated in the kingdom.
5. as soon as the kingdom was confirmed in his hand--It was an act of justice no less than of filial piety to avenge the murder of his father. But it is evident that the two assassins must have possessed considerable weight and influence, as the king was obliged to retain them in his service, and durst not, for fear of their friends and supporters, institute proceedings against them until his power had been fully consolidated.
6. But the children of the murderers he slew not--This moderation, inspired by the Mosaic law ( Deuteronomy 24:16 ), displays the good character of this prince; for the course thus pursued toward the families of the regicides was directly contrary to the prevailing customs of antiquity, according to which all connected with the criminals were doomed to unsparing destruction.
2 Kings 14:7 . HE SMITES EDOM.
7. He slew of Edom in the valley of salt ten thousand--In the reign of Joram the Edomites had revolted ( 2 Kings 8:20 ). But Amaziah, determined to reduce them to their former subjection, formed a hostile expedition against them, in which he routed their army and made himself master of their capital.
the valley of salt--that part of the Ghor which comprises the salt and sandy plain to the south of the Dead Sea.
Selah--literally, "the rock"; generally thought to be Petra.
Joktheel--that is, "given" or "conquered by God." See the history of this conquest more fully detailed ( 2 Chronicles 25:6-16 ).
2 Kings 14:8-16 . JOASH DEFEATS HIM.
8. Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash, the son of Jehoahaz, son of Jehu, king of Israel--This bold and haughty challenge, which was most probably stimulated by a desire of satisfaction for the outrages perpetrated by the discharged auxiliaries of Israel ( 2 Chronicles 25:13 ) on the towns that lay in their way home, as well as by revenge for the massacre of his ancestors by Jehu ( 2 Kings 9:1-37 ) sprang, there is little doubt, from pride and self-confidence, inspired by his victory over the Edomites.
9. Jehoash the king of Israel sent to Amaziah--People in the East very often express their sentiments in a parabolic form, especially when they intend to convey unwelcome truths or a contemptuous sneer. This was the design of the admonitory fable related by Joash in his reply. The thistle, a low shrub, might be chosen to represent Amaziah, a petty prince; the cedar, the powerful sovereign of Israel, and the wild beast that trampled down the thistle the overwhelming army with which Israel could desolate Judah. But, perhaps, without making so minute an application, the parable may be explained generally, as describing in a striking manner the effects of pride and ambition, towering far beyond their natural sphere, and sure to fall with a sudden and ruinous crash. The moral of the fable is contained in 2 Kings 14:10 .
11-14. But Amaziah would not hear--The sarcastic tenor of this reply incited the king of Judah the more; for, being in a state of judicial blindness and infatuation ( 2 Chronicles 25:20 ), he was immovably determined on war. But the superior energy of Joash surprised him ere he had completed his military preparations. Pouring a large army into the territory of Judah, he encountered Amaziah in a pitched battle, routed his army, and took him prisoner. Then having marched to Jerusalem ( 2 Kings 14:13 ), he not only demolished part of the city walls, but plundered the treasures of the palace and temple. Taking hostages to prevent any further molestation from Judah, he terminated the war. Without leaving a garrison in Jerusalem, he returned to his capital with all convenient speed, his presence and all his forces being required to repel the troublesome incursions of the Syrians.
2 Kings 14:17-20 . HE IS SLAIN BY A CONSPIRACY.
19, 20. they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem--Amaziah's apostasy ( 2 Chronicles 25:27 ) was followed by a general maladministration, especially the disastrous issue of the war with Israel. The ruinous condition of Jerusalem, the plunder of the temple, and the loss of their children who were taken as hostages [ 2 Kings 14:13 2 Kings 14:14 ], lost him the respect and attachment not of the grandees only, but of his subjects generally, who were in rebellion. The king fled in terror to Lachish, a frontier town of the Philistines, where, however, he was traced and murdered. His friends had his corpse brought without any pomp or ceremony, in a chariot to Jerusalem, where he was interred among his royal ancestors.
2 Kings 14:21 2 Kings 14:22 . AZARIAH SUCCEEDS HIM.
21. all the people of Judah took Azariah--or Uzziah ( 2 Kings 15:30 , 2 Chronicles 26:1 ). The popular opposition had been personally directed against Amaziah as the author of their calamities, but it was not extended to his family or heir.
22. He built Elath--fortified that seaport. It had revolted with the rest of Edom, but was now recovered by Uzziah. His father, who did not complete the conquest of Edom, had left him that work to do.
2 Kings 14:23-29 . JEROBOAM'S WICKED REIGN OVER ISRAEL.
23. Jeroboam, the son of Joash king of Israel--This was Jeroboam II who, on regaining the lost territory, raised the kingdom to great political power ( 2 Kings 14:25 ), but adhered to the favorite religious policy of the Israelitish sovereigns ( 2 Kings 14:24 ). While God granted him so great a measure of national prosperity and eminence, the reason is expressly stated ( 2 Kings 14:26 2 Kings 14:27 ) to be that the purposes of the divine covenant forbade as yet the overthrow of the kingdom of the ten tribes (see 2 Kings 13:23 ).