The Word Made Fresh
1Amaziah was twenty-five years old when his reign began, and he ruled for twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. 2He followed the ways of the LORD, but not wholeheartedly. 3As soon as he was firmly in control, he killed the attendants who had killed his father, king Joash. 4He did not, however, have the children killed, in accordance with the law recorded in the book of Moses where the LORD said, “Parents shall not be executed for the crimes of their children, nor children for the crimes of their parents. Only the guilty ones shall be executed for their crimes.”
5Amaziah summoned the people of Judah and arranged them in family groups with army generals who were over the armies and battalions of Judah and Benjamin. He gathered those who were twenty years old or more. There were three hundred thousand trained soldiers prepared for battle who could handle spears and shields.
6He also hired another hundred thousand troops from Israel for three and a quarter tons of silver. 7But a man of God came to him and said, “O king, do not allow Israelite soldiers to do battle with you because the LORD is not with these Ephraimites from Israel. 8Instead, use your own troops for battle or God will throw you down before your enemies. God has the power to aid or destroy.”
9“Then, what shall I do about the three plus tons of silver I have already paid the troops from Israel?” Amaziah asked.
The man of God replied, “The LORD is capable of rewarding you much more than that.”
10So, Amaziah dismissed the troops from Ephraim and sent them home, but they returned home in anger. 11Amaziah then took courage and led his people to battle in the Salt valley. They killed ten thousand of the army of Seir. 12They captured another ten thousand alive and took them to the crest of Sela and threw them down, and all of them were killed by the fall. 13However, the Ephraimite soldiers Amaziah had dismissed (and refused to allow them to join in the battle) attacked cities in Judah from Samaria to Beth-Horon. They killed three thousand people and robbed them of their valuables.
14After defeating the Edomites, Amaziah brought their gods from Seir and placed them on pedestals as his own gods and worshiped them and made offerings to them. 15Because of this the LORD was angry with Amaziah and sent a prophet to say to him, “Why have you turned to the gods of a people who couldn’t save their own country from you?”
16But Amaziah interrupted him and said, “Who made you my advisor? Be quiet! Do you want to be put to death?”
The prophet paused then, and said, “I know that God has decided to do away with you because you have not listened to me concerning these other gods.”
17Some time later King Amaziah of Judah followed the advice of his counselors and sent a challenge to King Joash son of Jehoahaz son of Jehu of Israel. “Come, let’s meet face to face,” he said.
18King Joash sent this reply: “A bramble bush on Mt. Lebanon sent a challenge to a nearby cedar: ‘Give your daughter to be my son’s wife.’ But then a wild beast of Lebanon passed by and trampled the bramble bush. 19You defeated Edom and now you are filled with pride. Stay home. Why should you overreach and fail, and take Judah with you?”
20Amaziah paid no heed because it was God’s plan to give him over for worshiping the gods of Edom. 21So, King Joash of Israel and King Amaziah of Judah faced one another at Beth-Shemesh (which belongs to Judah), 22and the Israelites were victorious over Judah, and the troops all ran home. 23Moreover, King Joash of Israel captured king Amaziah of Judah at Beth-Shemesh, and brought him to Jerusalem and demolished about six hundred feet of the wall from the Ephraim gate to the Corner gate. 24He took all the gold and silver and the vessels from God’s temple. He took the priest Obed-Edom also. He also took all the treasures from the king’s palace along with hostages, and then returned to Samaria.
25King Amaziah son of Joash of Judah lived fifteen years after the death of king Joash son of Jehoahaz of Israel. 26The record of Amaziah’s rule from beginning to end are recorded in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 27When Amaziah turned away from the LORD a conspiracy formed against him in Jerusalem. He fled to Lachish, but they followed him and killed him there. 28They brought him back on their horses and he was buried with his ancestors in the city of David.
1-4: Upon the death of Joash, his son Amaziah comes to the throne at the age of 25. He is deemed a good man, but not perfect. He shows some savvy, however, in restraining himself until he is certain his authority is unquestioned, and then he puts to death the two men who assassinated his father. Remember that the assassination had been a reaction to the murder of the son of the high priest Jehoida (24:25), and it is likely that the priesthood has been heavily involved in affairs of state since Joash was a child. Amaziah therefore waits until his authority is secure (but we will learn that it really is not). Being a sort of good man, though, he doesn’t kill the children of the assassins because the Law says you’re not supposed to hold children responsible for their parents’ mistakes (thank goodness).
5-10: The record of the campaign against Edom is given in great detail here, where in 2 Kings it receives exactly one verse (2 Kings 14:7). The Edomites had been subjects of Judah but had rebelled during the reign of Amaziah’s great-grandfather Jehoram (21:8-10). Amaziah decides to regain control of them and raises a large standing army. Not being satisfied with his numbers, however, he uses the common expedient of hiring a mercenary force, in this case 100,000 troops from Israel. An unnamed “man of God” tells Amaziah that the LORD will have nothing to do with him if he uses Israelite soldiers and advises him to send them back home and forget about the wages he has already paid them. The Israelites leave, but they’re not happy about losing the promise of looting the Edomites, and they will have their revenge.
11-13: Amaziah is victorious in the battle, but while he is murdering the Edomite captives, the angry Israelite mercenaries are sacking some of his cities on their way back home.
14-16: Amaziah is attracted to the religion of the Edomites, much as Christians today are often enamored of eastern religions when they visit that part of the world, and he brings back to Jerusalem some of their idols and begins practicing the faith of his enemies. Another prophet confronts him with a logical argument: if this religion couldn’t help the Edomites, why do you think it’s good for you? Amaziah shuts him up with a threat, but not before the prophet informs him that his days are numbered.
17-19: The campaign against Israel is covered in 2 Kings 14:8-14. Amaziah, flushed with his victory over the Edomites, now challenges King Joash of Israel. Joash waves him off, comparing Judah and Israel to a thorn bush and a cedar.
20-24: Amaziah refuses to back down, just as God knows he will. The battle takes place on Judean soil at Beth-Shemesh. Israel is victorious. Amaziah is captured and taken back to Jerusalem as a prisoner. A chunk of the city’s wall is demolished. The palace and the temple are sacked and hostages are taken back to Samaria.
25-28: Nevertheless, Amaziah outlives Joash by fifteen years, but we now learn that a conspiracy to get rid of him has been brewing since the time he brought the Edomite idols into Jerusalem. “They” pursue him to Lachish and put him to death, then bring him back to Jerusalem and bury him with the kings of Judah.
There is much speculation as to the identity of the conspirators. During much of the reign of Amaziah’s father Joash, Jehoida the high priest had been the real power behind the throne, and Jehoida had lived a long time. During those years the priesthood in Jerusalem certainly became more and more powerful in affairs of state. It is not outside the realm of imagination that the priests, threatened by Amaziah’s turn to the religion of Edom, are the ones behind the plot to get rid of him. A proper burial – conducted by the priests, of course – would help draw attention away from them. Another surprising element is that, in the next chapter, all seems forgiven and Amaziah is judged as having done right “in the sight of the LORD” (26:4). Chronicles, you will recall, is believed to have been written by priests in Jerusalem.