The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
In the second year of Joash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel reigned Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah.2 Kings 14
1. In the second year of Joash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel reigned Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah.
2. He was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem.
3. And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like David his father [yet not with a perfect heart]: he did according to all things as Joash his father did.
4. Howbeit the high places were not taken away: as yet the people did sacrifice and burnt incense on the high places.
5. ¶ And it came to pass, as soon as the kingdom was confirmed [firmly established] in his hand, that he slew his servants which had slain the king his father.
6. But the children of the murderers he slew not: according unto that which is written in the book of the law of Moses [a quotation from Deuteronomy 24:16], wherein the Lord commanded, saying, The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children be put to death for the fathers; but every man shall be put to death [shall die] for his own sin.
7. He slew [He it was that smote] of Edom in the valley of salt [comp. 2Samuel 8:13], ten thousand [the number slain in one conflict], and took Selah by war [or in the battle], and called the name of it Joktheel [a town of Judah bore this name (Joshua 15:38). The name probably means "God's ward"], unto this day.
8. ¶ Then [after the reduction of Edom] 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 [a challenge to battle].
9. And Jehoash the king of Israel sent to Amaziah king of Judah, saying, The thistle [or bramble or briar. (Comp. Job 31:40; Song of Solomon 2:2)] 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.
10. Thou hast indeed smitten [thoroughly worsted] Edom, and thine heart hath lifted [lifteth] thee up: glory of this, and tarry at home [rest on thy laurels, and do not risk them by further enterprises which might not turn out so favourably]: for why shouldest thou meddle to thy hurt, that thou shouldest fall, even thou, and Judah with thee?
11. But Amaziah would not hear. Therefore Jehoash king of Israel went up; and he and Amaziah king of Judah looked one another in the face [encountered one another; joined battle] at Bethshemesh, which belongeth to Judah.
12. And Judah was put to the worse before Israel; and they fled every man to their [his] tents [the enemy disbanded, as usual after a great defeat (comp. chap. 2Kings 8:21)].
13. And Jehoash king of Israel took Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Jehoash the son of Ahaziah [comp. 2Kings 14:8], at Bethshemesh, and came to Jerusalem, and brake down [made a breach in] the wall of Jerusalem from the gate Ephraim unto the corner gate, four hundred cubits [about 222 yards].
14. And 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 [having humbled the pride of Amaziah, Jehoash left him in possession of his throne, taking hostages for his future good behaviour], and returned to Samaria.
15. ¶ Now the rest [comp. chap. 2Kings 13:12-13], 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?
16. And Jehoash slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel; and Jeroboam his son reigned in his stead.
17. ¶ And Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah lived after the death of Jehoash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel fifteen years.
18. And the rest of the acts of Amaziah, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
19. Now [And] they made a conspiracy [the death of Amaziah would seem to be the result of general disaffection: no individual conspirators being mentioned] against him in Jerusalem: and he fled to Lachish; but. [and] they sent after him to Lachish, and slew him there.
20. And they brought him on horses: and he was buried at Jerusalem with his fathers in the city of David.
21. ¶ And all the people of Judah took Azariah [he is called Uzziah in 2Chronicles 26:1], which was sixteen years old, and made him king instead of his father Amaziah.
22. He built Elath, and restored it to Judah, after that the king slept with his fathers.
23. ¶ In 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.
24. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord: he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.
25. He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain [the Dead Sea (Numbers 3:17, Numbers 4:49; Joshua 3:16], according to the word of the Lord God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai [comp. Jonah 1:1], the prophet, which was of Gath-hepher [Joshua 19:13].
26. For the Lord saw the affliction [oppression] of Israel, that it was very bitter [stubborn, inveterate, unyielding (comp. Deuteronomy 21:18-20)]: for there was not any shut up, nor any left, nor any helper for Israel.
27. And the Lord said not that he would blot out the name [the figure is taken from blotting out writing (comp. Numbers 5:23)] of Israel from under heaven: but he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash.
28. ¶ Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, and all that he did, and his might, how he warred, and how he recovered [restored] Damascus, and Hamath, which belonged to Judah, for [in] Israel, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?
29. And Jeroboam slept with his fathers, even with the kings of Israel [the original was probably, "and was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel" (comp. 2Kings 14:16)]; and Zachariah his son reigned in his stead.
In this chapter there is little, so far as the historical sequence is concerned, which can be turned to spiritual profit; yet here and there are lines which are very striking, and well worthy of being brought into clear view.
"And 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" (2Kings 14:5).
There was a recall of an ancient law, not forgotten, but a law which had perhaps fallen in some degree into desuetude. Let us remember that it was written in the Book of Deuteronomy:—"The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin" (Deuteronomy 24:16). That is a key which opens many a mystery. Does the Lord trifle with law? Does he vary the law according to the days of the week as they come and go? or do his judgments stand in constancy? If so, what a light is thrown upon some problems whose mystery has darkened many a thought. The law of the Lord is this: "Every man shall be put to death for his own sin." Give that doctrine the widest possible application. No man is slain because Adam sinned. Sin is a personal matter. The transgression of the law is done by the individual. Sin is not a generic term only; it is specific and individual; and this law commends itself instantly not only to the reason but to the conscience,—for reason varies, reason goes to school, reason learns larger lessons; but the conscience begins with, continues with, ends with—Right. God never troubles the conscience of the world. He dazzles its imagination, he humbles its reason; but it has always been his purpose to show the world that he is right, just, and that every judgment is based upon law and argument. What can we say to this declaration, "Every man shall be put to death for his own sin"? Varying the terms without altering their central purport: Every man puts himself to death by his own sin. "The wages of sin is death"—not only in the sense of pointing to an external judgment, an external executioner, but in the sense of an internal self-conviction, in the sense of the soul acknowledging that sin brings with it death. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die;" it would die by external judgment, but the profounder thought is that sin drives the soul to suicide. "Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?" "He that sinneth against God wrongeth his own soul,"—that is to say, impoverishes his highest nature; takes away the right use of his finest faculties; hangs himself in the sight of the universe; destroys his soul. This law was recalled, and let it be said to the credit of the king that he kept within the limits of the law: "The children of the murderers he slew not;" he slew but the men themselves who had done the deed.
Now the king proceeds to a wider field. He goes to Edom, and in the valley of salt he slays ten thousand men; there he "took Selah by war, and called the name of it Joktheel unto this day" (2Kings 14:7). This we are always doing; that is to say, we sanctify human successes by divine names; we baptise our iniquity, and give it a place in the sanctuary; we pay in response to the clamour of conscience, and having laid down the gold we forget the wrong and the shame, covering up our old selves with some religious office or appellation. The place was called Selah, meaning nothing in particular, simply "the rock"—a city of stone, a Gibraltar. The name signified nothing of a religious nature. The king took a great rock by war, and having taken it he called it "Joktheel," meaning "subdued by God." There is a fine hypocrisy in many an appellation. We should be careful how we name our own deeds by divine terms and characteristics. Let us be true—true outside, true inside, all true. Then how many fine names we shall obliterate! In many instances the church will be but a painted market-place. We go to it that we may think over our business the more calmly and collectedly; we say that at church we can turn all these commercial matters over in our minds; and having prostituted and profaned the altar by such base uses, we think we have kept the law of the Lord by not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. We say that on the Sabbath day we will collect our wits; go through the documents carefully; set them out in order, and will devote the whole day to the consideration of the perplexing case; and because we have been indoors and quiet, and have indeed withdrawn into solitude, even within the four walls of our own house, we leave others to suppose that we have kept the Sabbath. Why this false labelling of things? Why this iniquitous profanation of terms which ought only to have one use, and that the very highest to which they can apply? Why call him "reverend" whose prayers are the children of his tongue, and whose appeals come not with the blood and energy and sacrifice of the heart? Why call him "Christian" who makes his Christian profession an element of respectability—a password by which he obtains entrance into circles from which, if he were known, he would be expelled with a sense of offence, indignation, and horror? Names ought to be realities; appellations ought to stand with moral significance, so that men might not be misled by them. What should be done to the guidepost that is painted with the wrong name? It should be torn down. What should be said of the man who, being labelled "Christian," would not be tolerated even by a Jew, and would be but a surprise to an honest Pagan?
Still pursuing our gleaning way through the field of this chapter, we come to these words, uttered by the messengers of Amaziah in the king's name: "Come, let us look one another in the face" (2Kings 14:8). These are sweet words. What can they mean? Surely but one thing only. Giving them transliteration and broadest meaning, they will sound thus: We have been a long time estranged; let us burn down the barriers of separation: we have hidden ourselves from one another when we ought to have stood face to face, each beaming with complacency upon the other; come, let us make an end of this alienation, and fraternally and trustfully look one another in the face. Was that the real meaning of the message? Not a whit! These beautiful words were the velvet which hid the sword. These terms of supposed approach and trustfulness are really a challenge. The right reading would be: "Come, let us fight; let us see which is the stronger man." Here again we keep upon the same line as in the former instance—the line which points to the right use of language. There is a morality of words. Men are not at liberty to put words into any shape they please; they must consider whether in putting words together they are building a pillar, plumbed by the Eternal Righteousness, and going, so far as they do go, straight up to heaven. But if this were the rule, society would be dissolved. Who can speak truth with his neighbour—except in some broad and general sense? Who can let his Yea be yea, and his Nay, nay? When the Saviour delivered that injunction we thought it was elementary; in reality it is ultimate; there is nothing beyond it. When Yea means yea, and Nay nay, the millennium has come: men will not tell lies, nor will they act them; they will not allow wrong impressions to be made upon the mind; there will be no grammatical torture, no mental reservation, no putting out of words in the sense of putting out a "feeler:" every heart transparent, every motive pure and generous, human speech a human religion, and the human religion sanctified and cleansed by the blood of Christ. But we live in lies; we tell them, we act them, we look them, we suggest them. When David is reported in English to say, "All men are liars," he is misreported; the right reading is, "All men are a lie,"—a grander speech; not a stone thrown at individuals, but an impeachment made upon human nature. These are terrible words; but until we have been terrible we cannot be gentle. Judgment first, then the gospel; the ripping plough, then the seed of heaven thrown into the opened furrows. Blessed are they who cry out for judgment that they may hear word of the Lord in its terrible-ness; for by so much they will become prepared to hear how gentle is God, and how true it is that his mercy endureth for ever, and how supreme, sublime, immeasurable is his redeeming love.
Still advancing, we come to see how sacrilege is the natural and easy sequence of violence.
"And 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, and returned to Samaria" (2Kings 14:14).
Once let men get loose in their views of human life, and it becomes an easy thing for them to despoil the sanctuary. Sometimes the process begins at the other end; then we may put it thus: Once let a man fall in the matter of reverence in relation to God, and all social claims and businesses, and all personal rights, will be trampled under foot. What a base use was made of the temple stores in the old times! "Then Hazael king of Syria went up, and fought against Gath, and took it: and Hazael set his face to go up to Jerusalem." And he was bought off. How was Hazael bought off? "And Jehoash king of Judah took all the hallowed things that Jehoshaphat, and Jehoram, and Ahaziah, his fathers, kings of Judah, had dedicated, and his own hallowed things, and all the gold that was found in the treasuries of the house of the Lord, and in the king's house, and sent it to Hazael king of Syria." And Hazael accepted the bribe, and went back from Jerusalem. Is there no lesson in all this surrender? When Hazael the heretic comes to the church-door, what do we do under the painful circumstances? When Modern Thought glares in at the window, how are we moved in relation to the unexpected and affrighting apparition? Then is there no Jehoash who says, Give him all the gold, all the treasures, all the vessels; bribe him; send him away? Are there not those who say in reply to the Hazael of Science and Progress, Throw to him all your old interpretations, perhaps they will soothe and satisfy him; tell him you were mistaken when you thought there was a supernatural element in the Scriptures; say that without committing yourselves you surely were in some degree mistaken;—throw that out to him, and perhaps the dog will be satisfied with the mouthful, and betake himself away, and leave you to sing a hymn that can never find its way to heaven. Perhaps you will throw out to Hazael the miracles—not altogether, but certain interpretations of them: you will call them "phenomena." That will be a happy way of getting rid of them! Say to Hazael, when he thunders on the church-door, We only meant phenomena; and perhaps having come in anger he will retire in folly, and think we have changed our ground. When the enemy comes and attacks us upon our faith, we may throw out to him the doctrine of what is called a Personal Providence; we may say—In reality we did not mean what you seem to think we intended; we do not suppose that God numbers the hairs of our head: we look upon the universe as a gigantic machine, an infinite organisation, very complex, intricate, subtle, marvellous altogether: that is really all we meant. Has not Hazael emptied the Lord's table of much gold and silver, and many a significant and symbolic vessel? Has he not depleted the altar? There is another way of putting this. We may say, No; all we have given to Hazael is of our own contrivance; we have made mistakes in the interpretation of history, in the grammatical and theological construction of the Scriptures; we have not given away the Bible to Hazael, we have given him our interpretation; the Bible itself still remains; we have not given up the doctrine that the Bible is the word of God! we have only thrown to Hazael some theories of inspiration: inspiration itself remains an abiding and all-sufficing quantity. There may be reason in that reply. It is not to be dismissed flippantly at all events. But let us take care lest, in giving away things that do not belong to us with a liberal hand, we go too far; and above all let us beware that we do not in the hurry of the moment give away something that we have no right to give. The enemy may be bought off too dearly.
We read in the nineteenth verse that the king "fled to Lachish." There we seem to come to a kind of home. Lachish has a history. It resisted Joshua for two days when the neighbouring cities fell in one. "The Lord delivered Lachish into the hand of Joshua, who took it on the second day." Sometimes God would seem to take two days to a miracle: sometimes he lingers over it, and watches us all the time. Lachish was among the strongholds fortified by Rehoboam. Lachish was known to be one of the strongest places available by the king; so "he fled to Lachish." It is so that Christians may well act in all their great spiritual battles. Let us return to first principles. Let us get back to eternal truths. The assaults made upon the Church, the altar, the Christian faith, the Christian cross itself, will do good, if they be so utilised as to enable us to throw away much that is false, fictitious, merely decorative, and drive us to realities, elementary principles, eternal truths. So when you are hunted through the Bible by the enemies of revelation; when you are challenged with its supposed discrepancies, its literal contradictions, its clerical errors, its perplexing numbers and figures, flee to the Lachish—"God is love." You will find hospitality there, and security, home, angels, sweet fellowship; and then you will have time to recover your strength, and consider again the exact position which you occupy in relation to assaulted fortresses. In all criticism remember the Lachish which we may thus translate—God is right: righteousness is at the heart of things: all events are moving, with some slowness, indeed, but with infinite certainty, towards final justice, right, truth. We cannot all fight controversial battles; we must refer many of our assailants to books which have been written by master-hands, saying, In the pages of such and such a volume you will find definite answers to the questions you are now putting. But little children can understand this—"God is love;" and yet no angel can exhaust its meaning. God is love, but what is "love"? "Love" is as mysterious a term as "God"—invisible, spiritual, subtle, intricate, yet vivid in manifestation, unmistakable in its revealed forms, not to be confounded with any other voice in its tender music, its whisper of healing. Many of us were not intended to be controversialists, soldiers, fighters in the open field; we are not all called upon to vindicate everything that is literal in the Scriptures, but we are all called upon to love God, fear God, come to Jesus Christ, behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world. Nor are we to be driven back by the men who say, Explain these things. We cannot explain everything. We cannot explain "love;" we can talk about it, give hints of it, give representations of it, point to it in various passing forms and features, but explain it we never can: but we can feel it. Explanation may be the trick of a grammarian. But love is the joy of a soul lost in wonder and in praise. Fear not because you cannot explain everything. Blessed be God, Lachish stands there. Outside is written upon it, "God is right;" inside, "God is love;" on it there stands a banner, unfurl it, and read in letters of gold, "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." There are hard battles we cannot fight, but there are sacred refuges which are always open to us.
All thy works praise thee, O God, in all parts of thy dominion: then shall we be silent—shall man be dumb? Whatever thou hast done for the great creation thou hast outdone in redeeming man—not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ thy Son. Man's song shall be loudest in the universe: Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, unto him be glory and dominion, now and for ever. We will praise thee for thy wondrous kindness, saying with one voice, Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. We are lost in wonder, love, and praise, as we stand before the cross, and behold the Saviour of mankind, bowing his head in weakness, and pain, and death. He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; himself bore our sins and carried our iniquities. We lay our hand upon him. Standing at his cross, we make confession of sin. We are broken-hearted because of our sin: God be merciful unto us sinners. Pity us in thy lovingkindness. We cannot account for it, but the sin is in us, and it comes out in many a deadly deed: and that is not the worst;—it abides within us, inventing new forms of blasphemy, suggesting new methods of gratification, and contriving, plotting, scheming always against the sovereignty of holiness. We must be born again. Holy Spirit come to us; brood over us; work in us all the good pleasure of the divine will; perfect us in our love for holiness, and then train us gradually to its complete fulfilment. Thy care is wonderful. If it be numbered, it is without number as to its daily details of mercy and pity, love and tears; if it be measured, it has no height known to man; as for its depth, no language can represent it; behold, what manner of love hath the Father bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God! Thou art very gentle, patient, father-like, mother-like, always hoping for the best, always waiting for the best. We have heard of the patience of the husbandman and of the patience of Job, but what shall we say concerning the patience of God, whose mercy endureth for ever? To thy mercy we flee. We have no hope in justice or righteousness, for it can only be to us an avenging sword, a burning fire; but to thy cross we come, O Son of man, O Son of God; and there no broken-hearted sinner ever died. Amen.