Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
4 Kings (2 Kings) 14:1
Reign of Amaziah of Judah (cf. 2 Chron 25). - Kg2 14:1-7. Length and spirit of his reign, and his victory over the Edomites. - Kg2 14:1. Amaziah began to reign in the second year of Joash of Israel. Now as Joash of Israel ascended the throne, according to Kg2 13:10, in the thirty-seventh year of Joash of Judah, the latter cannot have reigned thirty-nine full years, which might be reckoned as forty (Kg2 12:1), according to the principle of reckoning the current years as complete years, if the commencement of his reign took place a month or two before Nisan, and his death occurred a month or two after, without its being necessary to assume a regency.
Amaziah reigned twenty-nine years in the same theocratical spirit as his father Joash, only not like his ancestor David, i.e., according to the correct explanation in Ch2 25:2, not with שׁלם לבב (see at Kg1 11:4), since Amaziah, like his father Joash (see at Kg2 12:3), fell into idolatry in the closing years of his reign (cf. Ch2 25:14.). - Only the high places were not taken away, etc.
After establishing his own government, he punished the murderers of his father with death; but, according to the law in Deu 24:16, he did not slay their children also, as was commonly the custom in the East in ancient times, and may very frequently have been done in Israel as well. The Chethb ימוּת is correct, and the Keri ימת is an unnecessary alteration made after Deuteronomy.
The brief account of the defeat of the Edomites in the Salt Valley and of the taking of the city of Sela is completed by Ch2 25:6-16. According to the latter, Amaziah sought to strengthen his own considerable army by the addition of 100,000 Israelitish mercenaries; but at the exhortation of a prophet he sent the hired Israelites away again, at which they were so enraged, that on their way home they plundered several of the cities of Judah and put many men to death. The Edomites had revolted from Judah in the reign of Joram (Kg2 8:20.); Amaziah now sought to re-establish his rule over them, in which he was so far successful, that he completely defeated them, slaying 10,000 in the battle and then taking their capital, so that his successor Uzziah was also able to incorporate the Edomitish port of Elath in his own kingdom once more (Kg2 14:22). On the Salt Valley (גּי־המּלח for גּיא־המּלח in the Chronicles), a marshy salt plain in the south of the Dead Sea, see at Sa2 8:13. According to Ch2 25:12 of the Chronicles, in addition to the 10,000 who were slain in battle, 10,000 Edomites were taken prisoners and cast headlong alive from the top of a rock. הסּלע (the rock) with the article, because the epithet is founded upon the peculiar nature of the city, was probably the capital of the Edomites, called by the Greeks ἡ Πέτρα, and bore this name from its situation and the mode in which it was built, since it was erected in a valley surrounded by rocks, and that in such a manner that the houses were partly hewn in the natural rock. Of this commercial city, which was still flourishing in the first centuries of the Christian era, splendid ruins have been preserved in a valley on the eastern side of the ghor which runs down to the Elanitic Gulf, about two days' journey from the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, on the east of Mount Hor, to which the Crusaders gave the name of vallis Moysi, and which the Arabs still call Wady Musa (see Robinson, Pal. ii. pp. 512ff., and for the history of this city, pp. 574ff., and Ritter's Erdkunde, xiv. pp. 1103ff.).
War with Joash of Israel. - Kg2 14:8. Amaziah then sent a challenge to the Israelitish king Joash to go to war with him. The outward reason for this was no doubt the hostile acts that had been performed by the Israelitish troops, which had been hired for the war with Edom and then sent back again (Ch2 25:13). But the inward ground was the pride which had crept upon Amaziah in consequence of his victory over the Edomites, and had so far carried him away, that he not only forgot the Lord his God, to whom he was indebted for this victory, and brought to Jerusalem the gods of the Edomites which he had taken in the war and worshipped them, and silenced with threats the prophet who condemned this idolatry (Ch2 25:14.), but in his proud reliance upon his own power challenged the Israelitish king to war.
Jehoash (Joash) answered his insolent challenge, "Come, we will see one another face to face," i.e., measure swords with one another in war, with a similar fable to that with which Jotham had once instructed his fellow-citizens (Jdg 9:8.). "The thorn-bush on Lebanon asked the cedar on Lebanon for its daughter as a wife for his son, and beasts of the field went by and trampled down the thorn-bush." This fable is, of course, not to be interpreted literally, as though Amaziah were the thorn-bush, and Jehoash the cedar, and the wild beasts the warriors; but the thorn-bush putting itself upon an equality with the cedar is a figurative representation of a proud man overrating his strength, and the desire expressed to the cedar of a wish surpassing the bounds of one's condition; so that Thenius is not warranted in inferring from this that Amaziah had in his mind the subjugation of Israel to Judah again. The trampling down of the thorn-bush by a wild beast is only meant to set forth the sudden overthrow and destruction which may come unexpectedly upon the proud man in the midst of his daring plans. Kg2 14:10 contains the application of the parable. The victory over Edom has made thee high-minded. לבּך נשׂאך: thy heart has lifted thee up, equivalent to, thou hast become high-minded. הכּבד, "be honoured," i.e., be content with the fame thou hast acquired at Edom, "and stay at home." Wherefore shouldst thou meddle with misfortune? התגּרה, to engage in conflict or war. Misfortune is thought of as an enemy, with whom he wanted to fight.
But Amaziah paid not attention to this warning. A battle was fought at Beth-shemesh (Ain-Shems, on the border of Judah and Dan, see at Jos 15:10); Judah was smitten by Israel, so that every one fled to his home.
Jehoash took king Amaziah prisoner, and then came to Jerusalem, and had four hundred cubits of the wall broken down at the gate of Ephraim to the corner gate, and then returned to Samaria with the treasures of the palace and temple, and with hostages. the Chethb ויבאו is to be pointed ויּאו, the vowel ו being placed after א, as in several other cases (see Ewald, 18, b.). There is no ground for altering יביאהוּ after the Chronicles (Thenius), although the reading in the Chronicles elucidates the thought. For if Jehoash took Amaziah prisoner at Beth-shemesh and then came to Jerusalem, he no doubt brought his prisoner with him, for Amaziah remained king and reigned for fifteen years after the death of Jehoash (Kg2 14:17). The Ephraim gate, which is generally supposed to be the same as the gate of Benjamin (Jer 37:13; Jer 38:7; Zac 14:10; compare Neh 8:16; Neh 12:39), stood in the middle of the north wall of Jerusalem, through which the road to Benjamin and Ephraim ran; and the corner gate was at the north-western corner of the same wall, as we may see from Jer 31:38 and Zac 14:10. If, then, Jehoash had four hundred cubits of the wall thrown down at the gate Ephraim to the corner gate, the distance between the two gates was not more than four hundred cubits, which applies to the northern wall of Zion, but not to the second wall, which defended the lower city towards the north, and must have been longer, and which, according to Ch2 32:5, was probably built for the first time by Hezekiah (vid., Krafft, Topographie v. Jerus. pp. 117ff.). Jehoash destroyed this portion of the Zion wall, that the city might be left defenceless, as Jerusalem could be most easily taken on the level northern side.
(Note: Thenius takes a different view. According to the description which Josephus gives of this event (Ant. ix. 9, 3), he assumes that Jehoash had the four hundred cubits of the city wall thrown down, that he might get a magnificent gate (?) for himself and the invading army; and he endeavours to support this assumption by stating that the space between the Ephraim gate and the corner gate was much more than four hundred cubits. But this assertion is based upon an assumption which cannot be sustained, namely, that the second wall built by Hezekiah (Ch2 32:5) was already in existence in the time of Amaziah, and that the gates mentioned were in this wall. The subjective view of the matter in Josephus has no more worth than that of a simple conjecture.)
- The treasures of the temple and palace, which Jehoash took away, cannot, according to Kg2 12:19, have been very considerable. התּערבות בּני, sons of the citizenships, i.e., hostages (obsides, Vulg.). He took hostages in return for the release of Amaziah, as pledges that he would keep the peace.
The repetition of the notice concerning the end of the reign of Joash, together with the formula from Kg2 13:12 and Kg2 13:13, may probably be explained from the fact, that in the annals of the kings of Israel it stood after the account of the war between Jehoash and Amaziah. This may be inferred from the circumstance that the name of Joash is spelt invariably יהואשׁ here, whereas in the closing notices in Kg2 13:12 and Kg2 13:13 we have the later form יואשׁ, the one which was no doubt adopted by the author of our books. But he might be induced to give these notices once more as he found them in his original sources, from the statement in Kg2 14:17, that Amaziah outlived Jehoash fifteen years, seeing therein a manifestation of the grace of God, who would not destroy Amaziah notwithstanding his pride, but delivered him, through the death of his victor, from further injuries at his hands. As Amaziah ascended the throne in the second year of the sixteen years' reign of Jehoash, and before his war with Israel made war upon the Edomites and overcame them, the war with Israel can only fall in the closing years of Jehoash, and this king cannot very long have survived his triumph over the king of Judah.
Conspiracy against Amaziah. - Kg2 14:19. Amaziah, like his father Joash, did not die a natural death. They made a conspiracy against him at Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish, whither murderers were sent after him, who slew him there. The earlier commentators sought for the cause of this conspiracy in the unfortunate result of the war with Jehoash; but this conjecture is at variance with the circumstance that the conspiracy did not break out till fifteen years or more after that event. It is true that in Ch2 25:27 we read "from the time that Amaziah departed from the Lord, they formed a conspiracy against him;" but even this statement cannot be understood in any other way than that Amaziah's apostasy gave occasion for discontent, which eventually led to a conspiracy. For his apostasy began with the introduction of Edomitish deities into Jerusalem after the defeat of the Edomites, and therefore before the war with Jehoash, in the first part of his reign, whereas the conspiracy cannot possibly have lasted fifteen years or more before it came to a head. Lachish, in the lowlands of Judah, has probably been preserved in the ruins of Um Lakis (see at Jos 10:3).
"They lifted him upon the horses," i.e., upon the hearse to which the king's horses had been harnessed, and brought him to Jerusalem, where he was buried with his fathers, i.e., in the royal tomb.
All the people of Judah, i.e., the whole nation, not the whole of the men of war (Thenius), thereupon made his son Azariah (Uzziah) king, who was only sixteen years old. עזריה or עזריהוּ is the name given to this king here and Kg2 15:1, Kg2 15:6,Kg2 15:8, Kg2 15:17, Kg2 15:23, and Kg2 15:27, and Ch1 3:12; whereas in Kg2 15:13, Kg2 15:30, Kg2 15:32, Kg2 15:34; Ch2 26:1, Ch2 26:3,Ch2 26:11, etc., and also Isa 1:1; Isa 6:1; Hos 1:1; Amo 1:1, and Zac 14:5, he is called עזּיה or עזּיּהוּ (Uzziah). This variation in the name is too constant to be attributable to a copyist's error. Even the conjecture that Azariah adopted the name Uzziah as king, or that it was given to him by the soldiers after a successful campaign (Thenius), does not explain the use of the two names in our historical books. We must rather assume that the two names, which are related in meaning, were used promiscuously. עזריה signifies "in Jehovah is help;" עזּיה, "whose strength is Jehovah." This is favoured by the circumstance adduced by Bertheau, that among the descendants of Kohath we also find an Uzziah who bears the name Azariah (Ch1 6:9 and Ch1 6:21), and similarly among the descendants of Heman an Uzziel with the name Azarel (Ch1 25:4 and Ch1 25:18).
Immediately after his ascent of the throne, Uzziah built, i.e., fortified, Elath, the Idumaean port (see at Kg1 9:26), and restored it to Judah again. It is evident from this that Uzziah completed the renewed subjugation of Edom which his father had begun. The position in which this notice stands, immediately after his ascent of the throne and before the account of the duration and character of his reign, may be explained in all probability from the importance of the work itself, which not only distinguished the commencement of his reign, but also gave evident of its power.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 14:23
Reign of Jeroboam II of Israel. - Kg2 14:23. The statement that Jeroboam the son of Joash (Jehoash) ascended the throne in the fifteenth year of Amaziah, agrees with Kg2 14:17, according to which Amaziah outlived Jehoash fifteen years, since Amaziah reigned twenty-nine years. On the other hand, the forty-one years' duration of his reign does not agree with the statement in Kg2 15:8, that his son Zachariah did not become king till the thirty-eighth year of Azariah (Uzziah); and therefore Thenius proposes to alter the number 41 into 51, Ewald into 53. For further remarks, see Kg2 15:8. Jeroboam also adhered firmly to the image-worship of his ancestors, but he raised his kingdom again to great power.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 14:25
He brought back (השׁיב), i.e., restored, the boundary of Israel from towards Hamath in the north, to the point to which the kingdom extended in the time of Solomon (Kg1 8:65), to the sea of the Arabah (the present Ghor), i.e., to the Dead Sea (compare Deu 3:17, and Deu 4:49, from which this designation of the southern border of the kingdom of the ten tribes arose), "according to the word of the Lord, which He had spoken through the prophet Jonah," who had probably used this designation of the southern boundary, which was borrowed from the Pentateuch, in the announcement which he made. The extent of the kingdom of Israel in the reign of Jeroboam is defined in the same manner in Amo 6:14, but instead of הערבה ים the הערבה נחל is mentioned, i.e., in all probability the Wady el Ashy, which formed the boundary between Moab and Edom; from which we may see that Jeroboam had also subjugated the Moabites to his kingdom, which is not only rendered probable by Kg2 3:6., but is also implied in the words that he restored the former boundary of the kingdom of Israel-On the prophet Jonah, the son of Amittai, see the Comm. on Jon 1:1. Gath-hepher, in the tribe of Zebulun, is the present village of Meshed, to the north of Nazareth (see at Jos 19:13).
4 Kings (2 Kings) 14:26
The higher ground for this strengthening of Israel in the time of Jeroboam was to be found in the compassion of God. The Lord saw the great oppression and helpless condition of Israel, and had not yet pronounced the decree of rejection. He therefore sent help through Jeroboam. מאד מרה without the article, and governed by ישׂ אני (see Ewald, 293, a.), signifies very bitter, מרה having taken the meaning of מרר. This is the explanation adopted in all the ancient versions, and also by Dietrich in Ges. Lex. וגו עצוּר ואפס, verbatim from Deu 32:36, to show that the kingdom of Israel had been brought to the utmost extremity of distress predicted there by Moses, and it was necessary that the Lord should interpose with His help, if His people were not utterly to perish. דבּר לא: He had not yet spoken, i.e., had not yet uttered the decree of rejection through the mouth of a prophet. To blot out the name under the heavens is an abbreviated expression for: among the nations who dwelt under the heavens.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 14:28
Of the rest of the history of Jeroboam we have nothing more than an intimation that he brought back Damascus and Hamath of Judah to Israel, i.e., subjugated it again to the kingdom of Israel. ליהוּדה is a periphrastic form for the genitive, as proper names do not admit of any form of the construct state, and in this case the simple genitive would not have answered so well to the fact. For the meaning is: "whatever in the two kingdoms of Damascus and Hamath had formerly belonged to Judah in the times of David and Solomon." By Damascus and Hamath we are not to understand the cities, but the kingdoms; for not only did the city of Hamath never belong to the kingdom of Israel, but it was situated outside the boundaries laid down by Moses for Israel (see at Num 34:8). It cannot, therefore, have been re-conquered (השׁיב) by Jeroboam. It was different with the city of Damascus, which David had conquered and even Solomon had not permanently lost (see at Kg1 11:24). Consequently in the case of Damascus the capital is included in the kingdom.
As Jeroboam reigned forty-one years, his death occurred in the twenty-seventh year of Uzziah. If, then, his son did not begin to reign till the thirty-eight year of Uzziah, as is stated in Kg2 15:8, he cannot have come to the throne immediately after his father's death (see at Kg2 15:8).