2 Kings 14: Israel Against Judah
Have you kept the lists that you made of the kings of Israel and Judah? If not, we will write them again. Israel: Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II, and add now the name of Zachariah, Jeroboam's son. Judah: Joash, Amaziah, and add Azariah his son.
Our story today tells first about Judah. You remember Joash who was made king as a little boy. Do you remember how his life ended, how he was killed by some of his servants in Millo, a fortress in Jerusalem? (2 Kings 12:20-21) That helps you to understand verse 5 of our lesson. The law of Moses spoken of in verse 6 you will fund in Deut. 24:16.
Amaziah made war on Edom, the country lying south of the Dead Sea on the east of the valley which is called in our story, “the valley of salt.” The Dead Sea is very salty, and there is salt upon the shores. He took Selah, the rock, or the rock city, probably the city in the mountains of Edom which was afterwards called Petra, with temples cut in the cliffs. Amaziah seems to have been made proud by the victory over Edom, and he sent a message to Jehoash king of Israel to meet him in battle.
Jehoash had also gained victories over Syria. He treated Amaziah's message with scorn, and sent an answer in which he compared Israel to a great cedar of Lebanon, and Judah to a thistle which a passing beast trod down. The battle was fought. It was in Bethshemesh where the Philistine meadow reaches up by a sunny valley into the hills of Judah. You remember the region in the story of Samson and of the sending back of the ark by the Philistines. Judah was beaten, and king Amaziah was taken captive. The conquerors came to Jerusalem and broke down a large part of the north wall of the city, and took all the precious things from the house of the Lord, and hostages. The last word means that they took persons to keep as prisoners until Judah did things that they agreed to do. Amaziah lived some years after this, but his power was gone. At last, when there was a plot to kill him, he fled to Lachish, a strong city in the Philistine country, on the way to Gaza, but he was killed there.
The son Azariah, a young man, who followed him as king, did something to bring back the power of Judah, rebuilding Elath the seaport at the head of the Red Sea south of Edom. This was near the place where Solomon had built ships that sailed to Arabia and other shores, for gold and treasures. (1 Kings 9:26-28) Jehoshaphat, who was king of Judah in the days of Ahab, built ships at this same port to go for gold, but they were broken and went not. (I Kings 22:48) Azariah rebuilt Elath, but it was held by Judah only a short time. (2 Kings 10:6)
Who was Jeroboam I, and what evil thing did he begin in Israel? Now there was another king of the same name. He worshiped the idols which the first Jeroboam had set up, but in the forty years of his reign, the Lord gave him victories and he enlarged the borders of Israel.
The country that he gained seems to have been mostly on the east of Jordan, reaching on the south to the Dead Sea and on the north beyond Damascus up to the valley between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountains, to the pass at the north of the Lebanon mountains, from the sea. It was called “the entering of Hamath,”" the way which leads to the city of that name on the Orontes river. This was spoken of as recovering what belonged to Judah, remembering the days when the kingdom of David and Solomon included Damascus and all this country.
This success for Israel was foretold by Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gathhepher. This is the same prophet that we read of in the Book of Jonah who was sent to prophesy against Nineveh. He came in the days after Elijah and Elisha, and his home was a village of Israel not far from Nazareth. The prophets Hosea and Amos also prophesied in the days of Jeroboam II. (Hos. 1:1; Amos 1:1)
Let me read you a few lines here and there from the stories we have had, and see if you can tell me in what story the words belong, or who spoke them. (1) “The barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail.” (2) “The Lord, He is the God: the Lord, He is the God.” (3) “And after the fire a still small voice.” (4) “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.” (5) “Go, barrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbors, even empty vessels; borrow not a few.” (6) “A little chamber on the wall.” (7) “If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” (8) “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” (9) “The driving is like the driving of Jehu.” (10) “They reckoned not with the men, into whose hand they had delivered the money to be bestowed on workmen: for they dealt faithfully.” (11) “Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times.”
An important truth is contained in the law about the father and the children in Deut. 24:16, and it is taught again in Ezek. 18. No one is to blame for wrong done by another. The wrong that parents have done is not inherited by their children, but only a tendency or disposition to the same wrong: and the children are not to blame unless they choose the evil way, knowing that it is evil. Often in the old days a person’s family or companions were made to share the punishment for the person’s sin. We can understand now that this is not just, for in this world good and evil people are together, and people may be innocent while their friend or child may be to blame. (A. 5764) The saying of the commandment, that the Lord visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, etc., may remind us that tendencies to evil, and sometimes the effects of evil, are passed on by inheritance. But in the commandment, the Lord is not speaking of natural parents and children, but is telling of His opposition to and His effort to restrain evil and falsity in all their developments, and to multiply goodness and truth to the greatest possible extent. (A. 10623: T. 521; E. 532 end)
Judah defied Israel. It is a picture of the will bent on carrying out its own purpose and defying truth and reason. A strong spiritual intelligence is represented by the noble cedar of Lebanon. A perverted understanding and one finally destroyed by the passion of an evil will is represented by the thistle trodden down by the wild beast. Compare the “cedars of Lebanon” and the “fire out of the bramble” in Jotham's parable. (Judges 9:13) The discarding of truth and reason and the protection which they bring is also represented by the breaking down of the wall of Jerusalem; for this wall represents truth protecting the deeper things of heavenly life. (A. 9277; E. 635 end)