Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
B.—The Reign of Amaziah in Judah, and that of Jeroboam II. in Israel
2 KINGS 14:1–29. (2 CHRON. 25)
1IN THE second year of Joash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel reigned [omit reigned] Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah [became king]. 2He was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and [he] reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. 3And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like David his father: he did according to [in] all things as Joash his father did [had done]. 4Howbeit the high places were not taken away: as yet [omit as yet] the people did sacrifice [were yet sacrificing1] and burnt [burning] incense on the high places.
5And it came to pass, as soon as the kingdom, was confirmed in his hand, that he slew his servants which had slain the king his father. 6But the children of the murderers he slew not: according unto that which is written in the book of the law of Moses, wherein [which] 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 [die2] for his own sin. 7He slew of Edom in the valley of salt ten thousand, [:] and [omit and—He also] took Selah by war, and called the name of it Joktheel unto this day.
8Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash, the son of Jehoahaz son of Jehu, king of Israel, saying, Come, let us look one another in the face.3 9And Jehoash the king of Israel sent to Amaziah king of Judah, saying, The thistle [brier] that was in Lebanon sent to the cedar that was in Lebanon, saying, Give thy daughter to my son to wife: and there passed by a wild beast that was in Lebanon, and trode down the thistle [brier]. 10Thou hast indeed smitten Edom, and thine heart hath lifted thee up: glory of this [exult!], and tarry at home: for why shouldest [wilt] thou meddle to thy hurt [provoke a calamity], that thou shouldest fall, even thou, and Judah with thee? 11But Amaziah would not hear. Therefore Jehoash king of Israel went up; and he and Amaziah king of Judah looked one another in the face at Beth-shemesh, which belongeth [belongeth] to Judah. 12And Judah was put to the worse before Israel: and they fled every man to their [his] tents [tent]. 13And Jehoash king of Israel took Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Jehoash the son of Ahaziah, at Beth-shemesh, and came4 to Jerusalem, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem from the gate of Ephraim unto the corner gate, four hundred cubits. 14And he took all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king’s house, and hostages,5 and returned to Samaria.
15Now 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? 16And Jehoash slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel; and Jeroboam his son reigned in his stead.
17And Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah lived after the death of Jehoash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel fifteen years. 18And the rest of the acts of Amaziah, are they not written in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Judah? 19Now they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem: and he fled to Lachish; but they sent after him to Lachish, and slew him there. 20And they brought him on horses: and he was buried at Jerusalem with his fathers in the city of David.
21And all the people of Judah took Azariah, which [who] was sixteen years old, and made him king instead of his father Amaziah. 22He built Elath, and restored it to Judah, after that the king slept with his fathers.
23In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel began to reign in Samaria, and reigned forty and one years. 24And 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. 25He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of [near6] Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the Lord God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gath-hepher. 26For the Lord saw the affliction of Israel, that it was very bitter:7 for there was not any shut up, nor any left [neither any of age, nor any under age], nor any helper for Israel. 27And the Lord said not that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven: but he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash. 28Now 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, which belonged to Judah, for Israel, are they not written in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Israel? 29And Jeroboam slept with his fathers, even with the kings of Israel; and Zachariah his son reigned in his stead.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
2 Kings 14:1. In the second year of Joash … Amaziah … became king. On the chronological datum see 2 Kings 13:1. 2 Kings 14:3. Instead of the words: not like David, his father, the parallel account in Chronicles (25:2) reads: “Not with all his heart.” The additional statement: He did in all things as Joash his father had done, shows that Amaziah, in the first part of his reign, was devoted to the worship of Jehovah as Joash was (2 Kings 12:3), but that afterwards, especially after his victory over Edom, he introduced, or at least tolerated, the worship of the false gods of Edom, as his father had permitted the worship of Asherah (2 Chron. 24:2, 18). [It is putting too great a strain on these words to make them cover any such accurate parallelism between the lives of the two kings, especially when this parallelism is constructed by borrowing from the Chronicles. It is simply meant that his general policy, and the extent to which he conformed to the demands of the Jehovah-religion, were modelled upon his father’s conduct.—W. G. S.] The passage 2 Chron. 25:14 does not, therefore, contradict this verse, as Thenius and Bertheau assert; on the contrary, 2 Kings 14:2 of the Chronicle contains the same assertion as 2 Kings 14:3 here. [An attentive comparison of the records of Kings and Chronicles at this point reveals some most interesting characteristics of each, and nothing could be more mischievous than a false effort to “harmonize” and “reconcile,” which should obliterate these distinguishing characteristics. A comparison of 2 Kings 12:2 with 2 Chron. 24:2 shows a difference of judgment as to Joash’s career. (See translator’s note on 12:2.) In perfect consistency, each with its own general judgment, Kings says nothing of any idolatry of Joash, while Chronicles records such an error (2 Chron. 24:18). Again, Kings approves in general of Amaziah’s career, although it was not up to the standard of David (2 Kings 14:3; cf. also 15:3). 2 Kings 14:4 tells wherein he failed according to this author. 2 Chron. 25:2 might be considered equivalent to this, but 2 Kings 14:14 states the fault which the chronicler had to find with him, while Kings is silent in regard to any such sin. The two accounts are each consistent with itself, but they differ in regard to their general estimate of the careers of these two kings. Thenius and Bertheau think that the chronicler inferred from the misfortunes of these kings that they must have been unfaithful to Jehovah, but it is unnecessary to adopt so violent an explanation of the divergence. The chronicler either had more information, or a stricter standard.—W. G. S.] On 2 Kings 14:4 see note on 1 Kings 3:2. On 2 Kings 14:5 cf. 2 Kings 12:21 sq. As it was the custom in the Orient to put to death not only conspirators themselves, but also their children (Curtius VI. 11, 20; Rosenmüller, Altes und Neues Morgenland, II. s. 59), 2 Kings 14:6 expressly emphasizes the fact that Amaziah, in obedience to Deut. 24:16, did not do this, and thereby proved himself to be a faithful king according to the Israelitish standards. The words: As it is written, &c., are not, as Thenius asserts, an explanatory addition by the “redactor;” they do not merely give his opinion; they rather state the true historical reason why Amaziah acted as he did. It is Clear, therefore, from this passage, that the author of these books assumes the existence of the book of Deuteronomy at that time, and did not at all suppose that it was first composed under Manasseh, 150 years later, as modern criticism (Riehm) maintains. We do not know whether Amaziah acted according to this precept on his own motive, or not. Perhaps he was exhorted to it by a prophet or a priest.
2 Kings 14:7. He slew of Edom. The Edomites revolted from Judah, according to 2 Kings 8:20, during the reign of Joram. Amaziah undertook to resubjugate them, and prepared great military resources to this end, as is narrated in 2 Chron. 25:5 sq. The valley of salt (2 Sam. 8:13; 1 Chron. 18:12) is a plain about two miles broad, south of the Dead Sea, which does not show a sign of vegetation. It is now called El-Ghor (Robinson, Palestine, II. 488 and 450). The chronicler does not mention the capture of Sela, but states that, besides the 10,000 who fell, 10,000 others were taken prisoners and thrown from a rock. Sela lay south of the valley of salt, in a valley which was shut in by rocks, but which was well watered and fruitful; it is the well-known Petra, and it was as important in a military as in a mercantile point of view. Cf. Winer, R.-W.-B. II. s. 446 sq. The new name given to this town by the victor is significant. יָקְתְאֵל means a Deo subactum, in servitutem redactum (Gesenius, s. v.). We see from the phrase: unto this day, that the original document, from which our author took the history of Amaziah’s reign, belonged to the time of that king, or at least to a time not long after his death. As soon as the city came into other hands again, which it did under Ahaz (2 Kings 16:6), it certainly lost that humiliating name. It is possible indeed that it continued to be called by this name by the Jews, so that the argument is not conclusive, but, if we do not adopt this hypothesis, we must infer that the original document, in which stood the words “unto this day,” which the redactor has preserved, was written at least before the time of Ahaz. Of course this place has nothing to do with the Joktheel mentioned in Joshua 15:38.
2 Kings 14:8. Then Amaziah sent messengers. This took place after the brilliant victory over the Edomites. The detailed statement “son of Jehoahaz, son of Jehu,” &c, gives ground for the supposition that the original authority for 2 Kings 14:8 sq. is different from that of 2 Kings 14:1–7. [Let us look one another in the face. See Grammatical on the verse. This is a literal translation. Though the formula is variously explained, yet its significance is clear. It is a challenge to combat.—W. G. S.] Josephus says that Amaziah sent a letter to king Joash, in which he demanded of him to submit himself and people, as they had once been subject to David and Solomon, adding that, if he would not do this, a pitched battle should decide between them which had the superior authority (Antiq. ix. 9, 2). It is also possible that, as the rabbis say, the acts mentioned in 2 Chron 25:13 occasioned this demand.—The parable in 2 Kings 14:9 is not to be pressed too much in its details. The main point is the contrast of the largest, strongest, and most majestic tree, the cedar, and the contemptible, weak, and useless, although prickly, briar (not, as Thenius maintains, thistle. Cf. Prov. 26:9; 1 Sam. 13:6; Job 31:40. [The comparison between a tree and a briar bush is more correct and appropriate than between a tree and a thistle]). These two stand side by side upon Lebanon. No wild beast can break down and crush the cedar, but it is very possible that this may occur with the briar. It is more a proverb than a parable, like the story in Judges 9:8–15. The words: Give thy daughter to my son to wife, are not to be interpreted as implying that Amaziah had demanded a daughter of Joash as a wife for one of his sons (Dereser); neither is the explanation that the kingdom of Israel is the daughter, and the kingdom of Judah the son (Thenius), a fit interpretation of the haughty parable of the king of Israel. Only he who is equal to the father may demand of the latter his daughter as a wife for his son, not one who stands as far below the father as the briar below the cedar. If such an one as this latter does make such a proposal, he is guilty of arrogance and presumption, and he must expect to be set in his proper place.—Thenius’ translation of 2 Kings 14:10: “Show thy might at home,” is not correct, as we see from 2 Chron. 25:19, where we read: “Thine heart lifteth thee up to boast (לְהַכְבִּיד); abide now at home.” כבד, in the hifil, means to win honor or fame (Gesen.). The Vulg. is right according to the sense: contentus esto gloria et sede tua in domo tua.—Calamity is here spoken of as a hostile power, against which one fights in vain [or rather, in stricter accordance with the literal meaning of תִּתְגָּרֶה בְּ, upon which one makes a rash and causeless attack, and so provokes it, brings it down upon one’s self.]
2 Kings 14:11. But Amaziah would not hear. Beth-Shemesh (cf. note on 1 Kings 4:9), where the two armies met, was in Judah, on the southern border of Dan, and therefore much nearer to Jerusalem than to Samaria. It follows that Joash did not wait for the attack of Amaziah, but anticipated his movements and so carried the war into the enemy’s country. Josephus says that Joash threatened the captive Amaziah with death, if he did not compel the inhabitants of Jerusalem to open the gates, and grant him free admission with his army into the city; and that Amaziah, in fear for his life, brought about the admission of the enemy. This statement, although it stands by itself, and has no support from any other authority, does not, at any rate, contradict the biblical text. Instead of the chetib ויבאו, in 2 Kings 14:13, the keri offers ויבא. In 2 Chron. 25:23 there stands instead of either: וַיְבִיאֵהוּ, i. e., “he brought him.” The Sept. have this reading in the verse before us also (ἤγαγεν αὐτόν), and the Vulg. follows: adduxit eum. Thenius, therefore, adopts this as the original reading, but unnecessarily, for if Joash took Amaziah prisoner and did not put him to death, it is a matter of course that he took him with him when he went farther. The chronicler simply expresses himself a little more definitely. Although Jehoash did not need to besiege Jerusalem, yet he caused a large piece of its wall of fortification to be torn down, from the gate of Ephraim to the corner gate. The former stood on the north side of the city, towards Ephraim, and was also called the gate of Benjamin, because the road to Ephraim ran through the territory of Benjamin. It is now called the gate of Damascus. The latter was to the west of this, at the point where the wall turned southward: i. e., at the northwest corner of the city. According to Thenius עַד does not here denote the terminus ad quem, but only the direction in which, because the distance between them was more than 400 cubits, viz., 2,000 English feet. The question arises, however, whether Thenius has correctly fixed the situation of the corner-gate on his plan of the city, and whether the distance was as great as he supposes, as the city was laid out before the exile. In descriptions of localities, עַד always serves to define the limit up to which, and not merely the direction. Josephus’ assertion that Jehoash caused a breach (διακοπή) 30 cubits wide to be made in the wall, and that he drove through this in a chariot with the captive king by his side, has no foundation in the biblical text. Jehoash’s purpose in ordering the wall to be torn down was not to get a grand gateway for a triumphal entry (Thenius), but to mark the city as captured, and as lying open on the side of Ephraim.—The “hostages” (2 Kings 14:14) were demanded by Jehoash especially because he, as Josephus expressly states, gave the king his freedom, but desired still to hold him in check. They were taken, no doubt, from the most important families, but they were hardly sons of the king himself, for, if they had been, it would probably have been so stated. The treasures, which the victor carried off, were not probably very great (see 2 Kings 13:18), and the word הַנִּמְצְאִים seems to hint at this.
2 Kings 14:15. Now the rest of the acts, &c. The repetition of the standing formula, in regard to Jehoash, after it had once been used in 2 Kings 13:12, 13, has its explanation probably in this, that the author found it in the document from which he took 2 Kings 14:8–17, as well as in that from which he took chap. 13. An especial reason for adopting this explanation is that the formula is not precisely the same here as in the former place. “The name of the king of Israel is there written three times יוֹאָשׁ, whereas we have here twice יְהוֹאָשׁ. The latter form is preserved throughout the section 2 Kings 14:8–17, whereas in 2 Kings 14:1 the shorter form occurs. Here, the natural succession of the details is observed (death, burial, successor); there, there is a transposition (death, successor, burial)” (Thenius). Nevertheless, the author may have been led to repeat the formula because 2 Kings 14:17 “contains an important statement which is connected with Joash’s death,” namely, that Amaziah lived and reigned for fifteen years after Joash died. The author felt obliged to repeat the notice of Joash’s death, as an introduction to this statement (Superflua non nocent).
2 Kings 14:17. And Amaziah, &c. This chronological datum stands in perfect accord with the ones before given in 2 Kings 14:1 and 2 and in 2 Kings 13:10. Amaziah reigned in all 29 years; 15 after Joash’s death; therefore, 14 with him. As Joash reigned 16 years, Amaziah’s succession falls in his second year, as is stated in 2 Kings 14:1. [See the translator’s note on 2 Kings 14:22.]—If we bear in mind that Amaziah’s war with Edom took place before that with Joash, we are led to infer that the latter took place shortly before Joash’s death. The old expositors adopted the supposition that Amaziah spent the 15 years after Joash’s death in retirement and contempt, as a deposed king, and that the conspiracy was a consequence of his disgraceful defeat (2 Kings 14:19). There is no ground for such an hypothesis, however, for if the conspiracy had been formed after that defeat, it would not have been 15 years before it was consummated. The chronicler says (2 Kings 25:27): “Now, after the time that Amaziah did turn away from following the Lord (i. e., from the time when he, after the victory over the Edomites, brought their gods back to Jerusalem with him, 2 Chron. 25:14), they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem.” This time was before the war with Joash and the great defeat; it is only intended to assert that the unfortunate end of Amaziah was a punishment for his apostasy. The conspiracy must have had some other especial cause which is not stated. According to Thenius, who explains all the people of Judah (2 Kings 14:21) to mean the whole military force, it was a conspiracy of the army. It may be, however, that a general dissatisfaction arose among the people from other causes, and that this finally led to the conspiracy.—Lachish was originally a royal city of the Canaanites in the lowlands of southern Palestine. Joshua conquered it, and afterwards gave it to the tribe of Judah (Jos. 10:31; 15:39). Rehoboam fortified it against the Philistines (2 Chron. 11:9). Amaziah fled to this place, probably because he could easily flee across the frontier from there if the necessity should arise. The conspirators seem to have followed upon his heels. According to 2 Kings 14:20 it is probable that they brought the slain king back to Jerusalem in his own royal chariot.
2 Kings 14:21. And all the people of Judah took, &c. It is remarkable that, in this case also, the conspirators did not take one of their own number and make him king, but, as in 2 Kings 12:22, they adhered to the succession of the house of David. It is doubtful whether Azariah was the oldest son of Amaziah, for it is most probable that the latter, at the age of 54, when he died, left sons older than this boy of 16 years. The expression יִקְחוּ appears to imply that they chose this boy on account of some peculiar characteristics.—The new king is called here and in 2 Kings 15:1, 6, 7, 8, 17, 23, 27, עֲזַרְיָה; on the contrary, in 2 Kings 15:13, 31, 32, 34, as in the Chronicle (except 1 Chron. 3:12), [and in Isai. 1:1; 6:1; Hos. 1:1; Amos 1:1; Zach. 14:5], he is called עֻזִּיָּה. Against the explanation that עזריה is an error of the copyist, arising from the similarity of the ר and the י, is the consideration that the error, if it be an error, is repeated so often. “We must rather suppose that the king really had both these names, which are very closely connected” (Keil). [In the ed. of 1865, he says that they are used “promiscuously.”] Vatablus: duo nomina habuit affinia: Fortitudo Domini, et Auxilium Domini. [The two names are at least very nearly equivalent in etymological meaning: עזריה (he whose) Help (is) Jehovah; עזיה (he whose) Strength (is) Jehovah. Bertheau calls attention to a similar case, In 1 Chron. 25:4, among the sons of Heman, is one who is called Uzziel. A comparison of the names in the subsequent repetition shows that he is the person called Azareel in 2 Kings 14:18.—W. G. S.] This is quite possible in view of the frequency with which names are changed in the Orient. The name Uzziah seems to have been generally used after his accession to the throne (see the places where it occurs in the later prophets, which are quoted above).
2 Kings 14:22. On Elath, see note on 1 Kings 9:26. Either Amaziah did not push forward as far as this important port of commerce, in his expedition against the Edomites, or else he was unable to retain possession of it after his defeat by Joash, at Beth Shemesh; but Edom was not a valuable possession for Judah except as it involved the possession of Elath. That the new king took this city and “built” it, that is, either extended it or strengthened it, was a most important event for the kingdom, and especially for his own authority. That is why it is here mentioned by anticipation at the beginning of his reign, whereas his further history is not given until later, in 2 Kings 15:1–7. We cannot infer from the clause: after that the king slept with his fathers, that Azariah undertook this expedition “at once” (Thenius), and advanced victoriously to Elath, for he was, at the time of his accession, a boy of 16 years. However, it may well have been in the early part of his reign. [This clause is very enigmatical. No satisfactory explanation of it has ever been offered. It is said that a certain king died, another succeeded, and when the author goes on to mention the acts of the latter’s reign, he says that he did a certain thing after the (former) king was dead, It is either a most idle and meaningless statement, or else it has a significance which has not yet been perceived. It is difficult to avoid the suspicion that it alludes to the fact that Azariah was made king after his father was captured by Jehoash, and before he was released, and that he did this after his father’s release and death. This would account for Azariah’s youth at the time he was made king. 2 Kings 14:22 would then follow 2 Kings 14:14 in the connection of the narrative. In view of the form and substance of the intervening verses this is not at all impossible. After 2 Kings 14:14 the author goes on to tell (a) what became of Jehoash, (b) what became of Amaziah, (c) what the people of Judah did after their king was captured (2 Kings 14:22). The immediate release of Amaziah by Jehoash rests only upon the authority of Josephus. In connection with this the other remarkable datum in 2 Kings 14:17 may be noticed: Amaziah lived 15 years after Joash. (It is worth noticing that it does not say that he reigned.) Ewald understands this to mean that he lived as a captive, and was finally released by Jeroboam; but he does not suppose that Azariah was made king until after his father’s assassination. This would leave Judah kingless for 15 years, and force us to assume that its king was assassinated as soon as he was released. If, however, we suppose that, after Amaziah was taken away captive, his son was made king; that when Amaziah was released and returned to Judah, he was not welcome there; and that the conspiracy was formed to remove him, we have a consistent theory throughout. With regard, then, to the chronology: 2 Kings 15:1 says that Azariah became king in the 27th of Jerob. II. This is inconsistent with every other chronological datum, and is universally sacrificed (see the COMM. on the verse). Zachariah’s accession in the 38th of Azariah would fix Azariah’s accession in the 3d or 4th of Jeroboam, if we hold fast 41 years as the duration of Jeroboam’s reign. If, as seems very probable, Joash died soon after he defeated and captured Amaziah, then the people of Judah waited 3 or 4 years for the release of their king, and when this did not take place, they made Azariah king. Amaziah lived 11 years longer, was released, returned, and was assassinated, and Azariah was 27 years old when he took Elath. This construction is consistent with all the texts. The “29 years” in 14:2, cover the period from Amaziah’s accession to his death, and the “15 years” in 2 Kings 14:17 hold good. Azariah reigned for 52 years from the date of his coronation, or 41 years from the date of his father’s death. In the text his coronation is recognized as the true beginning of his reign, and the dates for the accession of Zachariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, and Jotham, are all consistent therewith. Against this construction is the strong consideration that the circumstances are not more distinctly narrated. We have no mention of Amaziah’s release at all. There are also difficulties connected with the chronology, but these confront us in any case. They can only be removed by arbitrary changes, and these changes can only be based upon conjecture. Every time that I have re-examined the chronology of this period the suspicion has been revived in my mind that the error, which undoubtedly inheres in it at this point, is to be sought in the duration ascribed to the reign of Amaziah, although the chronologies almost all alter the data in regard to Jeroboam or Azariah. It may be that the clue to the solution of the difficulty lies in the captivity of Amaziah.—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 14:23. In the fifteenth year of Amaziah, &c. This statement agrees with that in 2 Kings 14:1 and in ver 17. Amaziah ruled 29 years; 14 with Joash of Israel, and 15 with his son Jeroboam II. The further statement, however, that Jeroboam reigned for 41 years, is contradicted by 2 Kings 15:8, which says that the son and successor of Jeroboam, Zachariah, came to the throne in the 38th year of Azariah (Uzziah). Now if Jeroboam reigned with Amaziah for 15 years, and then 38 years more with Azariah, his entire reign was not 41 but 53 years, or if, as is probable, the 15 years and the 38 years were not all complete (see Pt. II., p. 86), then 51 years. As all the chronologers agree that Zachariah’s accession cannot be placed earlier than the 38th of Azariah, it is generally assumed, in order to account for the difference between 41 and 51 years, that an interregnum or anarchy of 10 years took place after the death of Jeroboam (Keil and others). But, according to 2 Kings 14:29, Zachariah followed his father Jeroboam, not after an interval of 10 or 11 years, but immediately after his death. Moreover there is not the slightest sign, in the history, of any period of anarchy, though such a period must certainly have been marked by some important incidents, and we may not make history in order to account for a single inconsistent chronological statement. According to Hos. 1:1, that prophet labored under Jeroboam II., and also under Hezekiah, who did not come to the throne until 727 B. C. Now, if Jeroboam only reigned 41 years, from 823 to 782, Hosea must have labored as a prophet publicly before 782 and after 727, that is, for over 60 years; but this hardly seems possible. But if Jeroboam reigned 51 years, 823–772, then still Hosea’s public work covers the great but not impossible time of 50 years. For all these reasons we are compelled to conclude, with Thenius, that there is an error here in copying the letters which designate the numbers (מא = 41 for נא = 51), and that the latter would be the correct number. Wolff (see Pt. II., p. 89), with whose other combinations we do not agree, considers the number 41 incorrect, and reckons the years of the reign of Jeroboam II. at 52. [See bracketed note on 2 Kings 14:22.]
2 Kings 14:25. He restored the coast of Israel, &c. As in 1 Kings 8:65; Amos 6:2, 14, Hamath, by which we must understand not a city merely, but also a district of Syria (2 Kings 23:33; 25:21), is here used to designate the northern boundary of Palestine. The sea of the plain is the Dead Sea (Deut. 3:17; Jos. 3:16), the ordinary designation of the southern boundary of Palestine, east of the Jordan, which is more definitely marked on the frontier of Moab by the brook Arnon which flows into the Dead Sea (Isai. 16:2). [cf. also Amos 6:14.] Jonah is the well-known prophet (Jon. 1:1) from the city of Gath-Hepher, which lay in the territory of Zebulon (Jos. 19:13). This oracle does not lose any of its historical value from the fact that it is not to be found in the “Book of Jonah” which we possess. It is incomprehensible how Menzel could suppose that the book of Jonah “contains this prophecy in a metaphorical form, although not directly.” Others, as Hitzig and Knobel, think that Isaiah 15 and 16 contains the oracle of Jonah here referred to, an hypothesis which rests upon a very weak basis.—In 2 Kings 14:26 and 27 it is explained how it came about that the frontiers were restored by a king who still maintained the worship of Jeroboam’s calves. The ground for this lay in Jehovah’s pity for His chosen people. He had not yet declared that He would blot it out for its apostasy. He helped it out of the deep distress into which it had been brought by the Syrians (2 Kings 13:3, 7), and prospered it to an extent which was no longer to be expected or hoped for; for, though Jehoash had recovered all the lost cities on this side of the Jordan, yet all the territory beyond the river was still in the hands of the Syrians. Jeroboam was the one who recovered it. On עָצוּר and עָזוּב see note on 1 Kings 14:10; cf. Deut. 32:36.—In 2 Kings 14:28, הֵשִׁיב cannot be translated otherwise than as in 2 Kings 14:25: he brought back. Ewald desires to strike out לִיהוּדָה and then to read לִישְרָאֵל instead of בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל: “He recovered Damascus and Hamath for Israel.” These changes are as violent as they are unnecessary. לִיהוּדָה is a periphrasis for the genitive, because the proper names do not admit of any form for the stat. const. (Keil, Thenius), and בְּ before יִשְׂרָאֵל means to or for. As, however, neither the cities nor the districts of Hamath and Damascus ever belonged to Judah or Israel, it is impossible to say, in the strict sense of the words, that he brought them back. David had, indeed, once conquered a part of Syria (Damascus, 2 Sam. 8:5 and 6), and Solomon had conquered a part of Hamath (2 Chron. 8:3, 4). It was these districts, which had long before made themselves independent of any authority of Israel, which Jeroboam recovered. The sense is then: Jeroboam re-established the frontiers of the kingdom as they had once been under David and Solomon, i. e., at the most flourishing period of the kingdom.
HISTORICAL AND ETHICAL
1. The reign of Amaziah had, in general, the same course as that of his father Joash (chap. 12). “We see the same good beginning, the same bad progress, and the same sad and terrible ending in the case of Amaziah as in that of Joash” (Schlier). The text itself affirms this by the words: “He did in all things like as Joash his father had done” (2 Kings 14:3). The reasons why he clung, at the commencement of his reign, to the lawful worship of. Jehovah, were rather external and traditional than the result of an internal conviction. He may have seen that this was necessary for the maintenance of his authority, just as the kings of Israel considered it necessary for political reasons to maintain the worship of Jeroboam’s calf-images. It certainly was not an affair of the heart with him (2 Chron. 25:2). “He was a soldier with all his heart, and he was nothing more” (Calw. Bibel). He wanted military glory, and therefore, immediately after his accession to the throne, he collected a large army, and also hired mercenaries from Israel (2 Chron. 25:5 and 6). The Edomites had not provoked in any way the attack upon themselves; it was purely an expedition for conquest. The brilliant victory which he won made him arrogant, and intensified his thirst for war, so that he, in haughty self-confidence and without external occasion, challenged Israel to war, and insisted even when the latter put aside the challenge and warned him to give up his plan. His arrogance was severely punished; he was subjected to a humiliation such as no king of Judah had experienced, not even his father Joash. The Chronicler represents this as a divine judgment upon him because he introduced the worship of the gods of Edom into Judah upon his return from the expedition, and repelled haughtily the warning of a prophet against this course (2 Chron. 25:14–16). There is no occasion at all to doubt this story, as Thenius does, because it “is intended to put in pragmatic form the theocratic explanation of the unfortunate result of the war with Israel.” Neither is it contradictory to 2 Kings 14:3. The idea that divine judgments follow upon idolatry and the worship of false gods is one which runs through the entire Old Testament economy; it is not peculiar to the Chronicler, but was held also by the author of the Books of Kings, and, indeed, by all the Old Testament writers. Amaziah’s unfortunate and shameful end showed that it was not enough for a king of Judah to observe the law for mere external and political reasons, but that he fulfilled his calling only when he, like David, clung to Jehovah “with all his heart.”
2. It has been regarded as a proof of extraordinary humanity on the part of Amaziah that, although he put to death, upon his accession, the murderers of his father, nevertheless he spared their sons and relatives, contrary to the course which was commonly pursued in such cases (Curtius 6, 11: Lege cautum erat, ut propinqui eorum, qui regi insidiati cum ipsis necarentur. Cf. Cic. ad Brut. 15). “We see,” says Eisenlohr (Das Volk Israel, II. s. 203), “that there was a remarkable development and growth of moral feeling in the nation, and that a humane and generous culture gradually supplanted the former harshness. We are forced to recognize this movement in spite of exceptional instances to the contrary, and we see that it went hand in hand with the decay of the more rigid and formal conception of moral relations, and with the growth of a more expanded moral vision.” But there are no signs of any progress in humanity at this period. On the contrary, we are rather forced to infer from the oracles of the prophets Amos and Hosea, that it was a time of rudeness and violence. As for Amaziah, it is impossible to speak of any humane disposition in a man who, after killing 10,000 Edomites in battle, proceeded to throw from a rock 10,000 more who had been captured alive (2 Chron. 25:11, 12). The author only means to say that Amaziah, in the beginning of his reign, was guided by the precepts of the Law, and that he obeyed them also in regard to the punishment of those concerned in the murder of his father, and their children. This law came from Moses, and was not the product of a later and (as is asserted) more humane time. This is not disproved by the fact that the precept in question is contained in the Book of Deuteronomy, for that book did not repeal or abolish former statutes, it only renewed and extended them. Hitzig is decidedly in error when he says, on Jerem. 31:29 (cf. Ezek. 18:2 sq.); “The punishment of the sins of the fathers upon the children, a legal institution of the old covenant, is, according to 2 Kings 14:29, repealed. This repeal is accomplished (2 Kings 14:31) by abolishing the entire former covenant.” In the places cited, the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel are attacking the popular error that God had left the guilty parents unpunished, and was now punishing the children for their sins (cf. Havernick on Ezekiel 18). The author of this passage in Kings is not speaking of God’s punishment of men, but of the punishment of the sons of the murderers by the king, i. e., by the civil power. The civil punishment of the sons of wrong-doers for the crimes of their fathers was abolished, not in the time of Ezekiel or Jeremiah, but by the law of Moses. Amaziah’s conduct was not dictated by thirst for vengeance against the fathers, nor by humane pity for the sons. It was rather a simple act of justice, in which he behaved, both towards the fathers (Ex. 21:12; Levit. 24:17), and towards the sons (Deut. 24:16), according to the Law.
[The question of the degree of humanity to be ascribed to Amaziah is of little importance. It is certain that his conduct was very different from that which was observed on all the changes of dynasties in Israel, and by Athaliah in Judah. These events were marked by the wholesale bloodshed which was common in similar cases elsewhere in the Orient. The author of the book of Kings ascribes this action of the king to his loyalty to the law of Moses, i. e., Deuteronomy. The bearing of the text on the question of the time of composition of the book of Deuteronomy is plain. If the author is correct in his explanation of Amaziah’s conduct, then the Book of Deuteronomy was in existence at this time. This is not the place to discuss the general evidence for the time of composition of that book, but the evidence of this verse can only be avoided by supposing that the author carried back to Amaziah the ideas of a book which was written 150 years after his death, but before the time when the Book of Kings was written, or else that this verse was put in by the compiler. Those who maintain the late origin of Deuteronomy are divided between these explanations.—The idea that God punishes the sins of the fathers upon the children is certainly found in the Mosaic Law (Exod. 20:5; Deut. 5:9), and it is a simple fact of observation and experience, both in history and in private life. This is at once a proof and a consequence of the solidarity of the human race. No man can commit an action which will not have greater or less effect upon his contemporaries and upon succeeding generations. Those on whom the punishment falls complain of injustice in this order of things, as the Jews did who had to bear the captivity, while their fathers, who had incurred the penalty, had lived in luxury and sin and died in peace, at home. Against them the prophets maintained the justice of God in his dealings with individuals, and the responsibility of each for his own sins only. This was, undeniably, a modification or explanation of Deut. 5:9. Jeremiah (31:29 sq.) represents it as a new covenant which is to take the place of the old. Deut. 24:16 is entirely different. It forbids, plainly and most justly, that men shall imitate the course of nature, which entails upon the children the consequences of the father’s sins, by inflicting upon children physical punishment for their fathers’ crimes. The latter alone comes into the discussion of Amaziah’s conduct.—W. G. S.]
3. The representation of king Joash which is here given us supplements essentially the portrait of him which we had in the last chapter. The manner in which he here repels Amaziah’s challenge is not by any means a well-meant warning; it is rather calculated to exasperate him, and to stimulate his thirst for war still further. It bears witness, not to faith and trust in God, but to great self-confidence and arrogance. The old spirit of Ephraim appears here again, and, pluming itself upon superior numbers, and external greatness and power, looks down contemptuously upon Judah. The parable of the cedar of Lebanon and the briar-bush at its feet is a piece of genuine oriental bombast, for which Joash had the less ground inasmuch as all that part of Israel beyond Jordan was still in the hands of the Syrians, and Israel was altogether in a distressed condition from which Jeroboam II. was the first to relieve it (2 Kings 14:26). Moreover, Joash did not bear in mind that fire can go forth, even out of a briar, and consume the cedars of Lebanon (Judges 9:15). For the rest, Joash sustained himself here as a valiant soldier; he did not wait for Amaziah to attack him, but took the initiative himself, pushed on to the neighborhood of Amaziah’s capital, inflicted upon him a signal defeat, and took him captive. We are not told why he did not put him to death, and, after taking Jerusalem, put an end to the kingdom of Judah, as Nebuchadnezzer afterwards did (chap. 25). It can hardly have been from magnanimity that he took the captive king with him to Jerusalem, left him upon the throne, and contented himself with hostages. It is more natural to suppose that he did this from arrogance. The “cedar” treated the “briar” with contempt, and let him go as beneath fear. Nevertheless he took hostages as security. We have to recognize here a dispensation of Him who meant indeed to humble Amaziah (2 Chron. 25:20), but who would not permit that Israel should become master of Judah.
4. Jeroboam II. reigned, oven if we take the number 41 to be correct, longer than any other king of Israel. The history of his reign is given here very concisely, and, with the exception of the incidental mention, Amos 7:10, we have no further information. Besides the fact that he, like all his predecessors, maintained the worship of the calf-images, we are only told in regard to him that God, according to the prophecy of Jonah, through him rescued Israel from its bitter distress, and that he restored the frontiers of the country as they had existed under David and Solomon. The complete defeat of the Syrians, and the expulsion of these arch-enemies, who had brought the kingdom to the verge of ruin, had the most important consequences. These events took place early in the reign of Jeroboam, and they show us Jeroboam as the most able and energetic of the kings of Israel. The latter part of his reign seems to have passed away without any decisive events. It was a time of peace and quiet, in which, as 2 Kings 13:5 says, “The children of Israel dwelt in their tents as before,” and the people enjoyed the fruit of the victory over the Syrians. It follows that Jeroboam was not only a valiant soldier, but also a prudent ruler, who understood how to use the time of peace so as to raise the material condition of his people. From the prophecies of the contemporary prophets Amos and Hosea, it is evident that the kingdom had then attained a state of prosperity such as it had never before enjoyed (cf. Amos 6:4–6; 3:15; Hos. 12:8). The deep depravity of the people, however, appeared just at this time, for, instead of being led, by God’s bountiful goodness, to repentance, they were stimulated to pride, so-that Hosea said: “According to their pasture, so were they filled,” &c. (Hos. 13:6). Not only did the worship of the calf-images continue, but also the worship of false gods increased (Hos. 4:12, 17; 8:4; 11:2; 13:2). A shocking corruption of morals found entrance at the same time: luxury, debauchery, shameless licentiousness, injustice, violence, falsehood, and deceit of all kinds (Amos 2:6 sq.; 3:9; 5:12; 6:4–7; Hos. 4:1, 2, 18), so that the kingdom went on from the height of its prosperity, only the more surely, towards its final downfall. (See the next chapter.) In so far, the time of Jeroboam was a turning point in the history of Israel. It gave the proof that this nation could better endure misfortune and oppression of every kind than earthly glory and prosperity; therefore the Lord allowed it, for its own salvation, to fall from its position as an independent nation (2 Kings 17:6 sq.).
5. The prophet Jonah, who foretold the victory of Jeroboam over the Syrians, and the restoration of the ancient boundaries by him, must have appeared in the early part of his reign. He is the first of the line of prophets who not only spoke (preached), but also wrote down their prophecies. A new phase of prophecy begins with him, so that in this respect also the reign of Jeroboam was most important for the history of redemption. Up to this point the activity of the class of prophets of whom Elijah and Elisha were the chief, was especially [and almost exclusively] directed to the present, and aimed to bring about a return from the worship of the calves, and from idolatry, to the fundamental law of Israel. They seized upon events and circumstances, not so much by their teaching and preaching, as by their acts, and their acts were signs, that is, they were acts which transmitted a divine revelation. “Since now,” as Hasse (Geschichte des Alten Bundes, s. 110 sq.) remarks, “the house of Jehu, which owed everything to the prophets, also failed to return to the original purity of the Israelitish constitution, and since it persevered in its idolatry even under Jeroboam II., who no longer had any foreign enemy to fear, every hope of a reformation in the northern kingdom had to be given up, and the prophets could no longer hope to accomplish anything there by actual interference [i. e., by such acts as the deposing of one dynasty and the institution of another. Even that extreme measure had failed in the case of the house of Jehu]; they could only allow the evil to go on to its consummation. They, therefore, gradually withdrew from the direction of affairs, and regarded it as their only remaining task to make known to this stubborn and hard-hearted generation the judgment which it was bringing down upon itself. Just at the time, therefore, when the northern kingdom was at the very height of its glory, Amos and Hosea proclaimed to it its approaching ruin, and, because Judah had also been tainted by the contagion of apostasy, Joel also appeared there at the same time, as herald of the coming judgment. This judgment could not, of course, arrest the higher destiny of Israel. Therefore the prophets saw beyond it a new and purified Israel arise, and form a united kingdom under a sceptre of the house of David, which should embrace the heathen also. The Messianic kingdom, therefore, rose up more and more distinctly as the end and aim of the entire development, as the true kingdom of God, and promises of this kingdom were joined with threats of judgment. Now for the first time did prophecy become truly prophecy—that is, a vision of coming salvation which stretched forward into and anticipated the future; and where the prophets had hitherto made use of word of mouth only, in order to influence the present, and their immediate surroundings, they now made use of writing, because coming generations also were to learn what they had received into their souls.” Instead of recognizing a turning-point in the history of the prophetic institution at the time of Jeroboam, Ewald asserts (Gesch. iii. s. 565 sq. 3d ed. 607 sq.) that there was a “complete dissolution of the ancient prophetic institution” at that time. “The entire school (of Elijah and Elisha) degenerated, and moved, not forwards, but backwards.” The cause of this was that “the violent and imperious character which clung to all the old kind of prophecy, but especially to its developments in the northern kingdom, could no longer be maintained over against the crown. The bow was stretched too hard—it had to break.… A new form of the prophetical institution now arose.… This did not aim to be an independent power in the kingdom, to exercise a control which admitted of no contradiction, to set up and to depose kings,” &c., &c. This theory rests upon the erroneous premise mentioned above (Hist., § 7, on Chap. 9), that the ancient prophetical institution stood opposed to the crown as one independent power to another, and that they strove for the mastery, whereas the former was only a divinely appointed corrective for the latter. If we were to charge any of the prophets with violent and imperious behavior, this charge would fall first of all upon the new order of them, Hosea and Amos for instance, in comparison with whose words those of Elijah and Elisha sound mild and gentle. Jeremiah, who came still later, was called to the prophetic office with the words: “See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down,” &c. (Jerem. 1:10; cf. 18:7). The development of the prophetical institution stands in exact relation to the history of Israel, and is conditioned upon it. It does not break off with Elisha, who died under Jeroboam’s predecessor. The word-prophets stand upon the shoulders of the deed-prophets, and carry on the work which they had founded and begun.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
2 Kings 14:1–20. The Reign of Amaziah. (a) The good beginning, 2 Kings 14:1–7; (b) the deterioration as it advanced, 2 Kings 14:8–14; (c) the sad ending, 2 Kings 14:17–20.
2 Kings 14:3. In cases like that of Amaziah, where faith is not completely and sincerely an affair of the heart (2 Chron. 25:2), it has no firm foundation and is quickly overwhelmed, either by unbelief or by superstition. A half-and-half disposition in what is good is a bridge which leads to what is evil.—In sacred and spiritual affairs we have not to ask, how did our fathers do? but, how would God have us do? Because Amaziah only did as his father had done, he finally fared as his father had fared.
2 Kings 14:5 and 6. The civil authority does not carry the sword in vain, but it is an avenger to inflict punishment upon him who does wickedly (Rom. 13:4). It is as much a sin to leave the guilty unpunished as to punish the innocent. Right and justice are distorted by both courses. Where regicides are allowed to go unpunished, out of pity or weakness, there all justice ceases. The throne [and the civil authority] are not established by weak concessions, but by righteousness (Prov. 16:12).—Although the faults of the fathers are not nowadays visited upon the children, yet it is not rare that the son suffers from enmity which his father incurred.
2 Kings 14:7–14. Pride goes before a Fall. (a) Amaziah’s arrogance; (b) his fall.
2 Kings 14:7. Victory cometh from the Lord (Prov. 21:31). If Amaziah had seen and believed this, he would have given to God the honor, and would have humbled himself; but he ascribed the victory to himself and to his own power, and so became haughty and arrogant (Jerem. 17:5, 7).—Extraordinary success in our undertakings is a great temptation to arrogance (WÜRT. SUMM.: Those must be strong legs which can support great good fortune and prosperity). God blesses our undertakings in order that we may become, not haughty, but humble (Gen. 32:10 and 11). Every undue self-exaltation robs us of the blessing again. Paul labored with greater success than any other of the apostles, but he was so far from proudly exalting his heart on this account that he called himself the least of the apostles, and said: “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:9, 10).
2 Kings 14:8. To commence a war from mere lust for war and victory is an abomination in the sight of God. Quarrelsomeness among common people is the same as love of war among kings. The word of God says: “Follow peace with all men” (Heb. 12:14), and: “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18).
2 Kings 14:9 and 10. As you shout, so will the echo be. He who over-estimates his own strength, and pushes himself forward into the charge of things which he is not capable of managing, must not be surprised if he is contemptuously corrected. The warning to “Enjoy your victory (which you have already won) and stay at home!” belongs justly to vanity and self-exaltation.—He who desires to correct another for his arrogance must take good care not to fall into the same fault himself. Blame and complaint for the pride and arrogance of others often come from hearts which exalt themselves too much.—Do not parade your wisdom and strength, if you really possess them. The Lord breaks down even the cedars of Lebanon (Ps. 29:5; cf. Isai. 2:12, 13). Little David, when he comes in the might of the Lord, is a match for the giant Goliath.
2 Kings 14:11. When the humiliating truth is spoken out with scorn and derision, although it is in itself beneficial, yet it only exasperates and embitters, instead of leading to self-knowledge. As a bee sucks honey even out of a poisonous flower, so also a sincere and truth-loving soul will win even from the scorn and mockery of its enemies something good and beneficial for itself.—Arrogance and love of honor make men deaf to every warning and incapable of considering what is really best for them. But he who will not hear must feel.
2 Kings 14:11–14. The defeat and fall of Amaziah proclaim loudly: (a) “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). “The stone falls back upon the head of him who casts it into the air” (Sir. 27:28). (b) He who desires too much, loses even that which he already has; therefore, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6).
2 Kings 14:13–16. “What is a man profited,” &c. (Matt. 16:26). Joash won a great battle, took the king prisoner, conquered Jerusalem, and came back to Samaria crowned with glory and laden with gold and silver; but the best thing, the God who was yet worshipped and honored in Judah, he did not bring. He remained in the sins of Jeroboam until his end.
2 Kings 14:17–20. It is the great grace of God when a long time is given to a man who has sinned grievously in order that he may make good again the harm which his sins have done, but then the responsibility is all the heavier when the limited time expires. There stands written on the tombstone of Amaziah by the finger of God this great and eternal truth: “God will resist the proud!”
2 Kings 14:23–29. See Histor. And Eth.
2 Kings 14:25–27. Israel’s deep misery (Jer. 2:19), and God’s great pity (Ps. 103:10; Hos. 11:8).—WÜRT. SUMM.: Our faithful God helps us out of trouble according to His great compassion, even when we have not deserved it of Him, but often not until our distress has reached the highest pitch and no help is to be expected from any other quarter.—When God not only helps us out of trouble which we have not deserved, but also gives us besides what we never could have hoped for or expected, He thereby says to us: “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked,” &c. (Ezek. 33:11; Rom. 2:4).
2 Kings 14:25. In times of need and calamity God provides faithful servants who bear witness to his pity and call men’s attention to the one thing needful. Well is it for those who listen to these voices and do not harden their hearts.
2 Kings 14:28 and 29. Jeroboam had striven for the external prosperity of his people, and, when he died, he left the kingdom in a more flourishing condition than any previous king of Israel. For its spiritual welfare, however, he had done nothing. Calf-worship and the service of false gods had continued, and a moral rottenness had found entrance, which brought the kingdom near to ruin. So has many a one, at his death, left to his children treasures which he had won by long labor and care, but those children have not been bred in the fear and love of God, and have not been taught that “The world passeth away and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (1 John 2:17; 1 Peter 1:24 sq.).
2 Kings 14:4.—[The participle here marks an event which was going on at the same time with another. Examples of this are numerous. Cf. 1 Kings 1:5; 3:26; 4:24; 2 Kings 8:5.
2 Kings 14:6.—The keri is the result of a desire to reproduce literally the text of Deuteronomy, but it is unnecessary. Read the chetib, יָמוּת.
2 Kings 14:8.—[פָּנִים ,נִתְרָאֶה פָנִים is acc. of the part affected. “Let us look upon one another, as to the face” = “let us look upon one another’s face,” i.e., “let us measure strength with one another.” Ewald (Lehrbuch, § 281, c) explains it: “Let us look upon one another as to the person,” i.e., in person.
2 Kings 14:13.—[The keri is unnecessary. Punctuate the chetib וַיָּבאוֹ.
2 Kings 14:14.—[Literally: “Sons of pledges.”
2 Kings 14:25.—[מִלְּבוֹא would be literally from as far as; i. e., it expresses that he penetrated up as far as Hamath, came near to that place, and then made it a point of departure on the north, from which he extended his conquests southward to the Dead Sea.
2 Kings 14:26.—[מרֶֹה from מרה. Gesen. (Thes. s. v.) understands it to mean deep-rooted, of long standing, but the latest and best expositors agree to take מרה in the sense of מרר, to be bitter.—W. G. S.]
In the second year of Joash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel reigned Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah.