II Kings 13–14 With II Chronicles 25. Samaria Gets a Reprieve.
Key Notes: The success of Jeroboam II. The sins of Jeroboam I. Elisha strengthens Jehoash of Israel. What Christ has to do with all this.
For almost 40 years Israel had been ground down by Hazael and the Syrians. A reprieve was coming. God, through Joash and his son Jeroboam, will reverse the trend. Joash will recapture lands lost by Jehu, and Jeroboam will eventually recover the rest of the territory lost since David and Solomon.
In this lesson, we will also try to understand the reasons why Jeroboam I—and all his successors-- is charged many times over with religious innovations that ruined Israel. I have been searching for Christ in IIKings. He is abundantly represented in the prophets, in the Pentateuch, and the Psalms. But where can He be found in all this carnage?
IIKings. 13:1–9 While Joash was still king of Judah, Jehoahaz, son of Jehu, came into power in Israel. He followed the sins of Jeroboam who made Israel to sin. The hand of God was heavy on Israel. His army was reduced to ten chariots, fifty horsemen and ten thousand foot-soldiers. In this pitiful condition, he finally appealed to God for help and help was given.
The text says God sent “a savior”. Some commentators believe that that savior was the Assyrian king Adad-Nirari who made a move westward that threatened Syria. That would lead Syria to back away from Israel and direct its attention to the threat from the North.
13:10–19 After Jehoahaz died, his son Jehoash took the throne of Israel. Unlike his father Jehoabaz, he went to the prophet Elisha before more disaster struck his kingdom. Elisha was dying, probably in his 70’s. He had not been heard of during the 40 years since he appointed Hazael king of Syria and anointed Jehu king of Israel.
Jehoash addressed Elisha with the expression Elisha used when Elijah was taken up:
“My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen.”
The chariots and horsemen are implements of war. Both Elijah and Elisha were God’s agents in war—against Ahab and Jezebel, and their god Baal, but also in favor of the Syrians. Now Elisha was about to die. Where will help against the Syrians come from now?
Elisha put his hands over the king’s hands and commanded him to shoot out of the east window toward Aphek (on the east side of the sea of Galilee). That was the Lord’s arrow of victory over Syria. Then the prophet ordered him to strike the arrows on the ground. Joash did so—three times—and was rebuked for his lack of either faith or enthusiasm. He should have struck five or six times and that would have eliminated Syria. Now he is assured of only three victories.
13::20–21 The Elisha tomb event is puzzling. Elisha had been dead for some time (only bones would be left) and a marauding band of Edomites forced pall-bearers carrying a corpse for burial to abandon their burden into Elisha’s tomb. The corpse was revived.
The minimal message is that Elisha dead is still more powerful than the next thousand men who are alive--none of whom can revive the dead.
13:22–25 Finally Hazael died and was replaced by Benhadad (II or III). The tide began to turn and Syria was defeated. The cities Jehu lost—all the territory east of Jordan (IIK.10:32-)—were now recovered. Jeroboam II will finish the restoration.
IIKings 14 The life of Amaziah of Judah is more fully covered in IIChron.25.
IIChron.25:1–4 Amaziah came to the throne at 25 and was king for 29 years, although the last years were not pleasant. He followed the Lord half-heartedly. He punished the assassins of his father but was careful to follow the law of Moses [he evidently had access to it] and did not punish their children.
This would be a criticism of Jehu killing anyone with any association to the house of Ahab. It was in fact customary in the Northern Kingdom. Baasha killed all of Jeroboam’s kin. Zimri killed all the house of Baasha. Athaliah, daughter of Ahab, wiped out the princes of Judah.
The issue of being punished only for one’s own sin will come up later. Ezekiel wrestled with Israel’s complaint that his generation was being punished for the sins of their fathers. “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” (Ezek.18:2) Ezekiel reiterated the point that God judges people individually.
25:5–13 Amaziah planned an attack on Edom, Esau’s ancestral homeland, south of the Dead Sea. An alliance including Edom had menaced Jehoshaphat. ((IIChron.20). Amaziah was trying to regain control over Edom, lost by Jehoram of Judah 60 years before. (IIK.8:28). Amaziah had 300,000 troops plus 100,000 mercenaries from Israel, bought with 100 talents of silver.
A man of God (not called a prophet) warned him against going to war using Israel’s troops. “God is not with Israel.” What about the lost 100 talents of silver? God gives wealth also. Amaziah dismissed them. They could only hurt him—and they did—going on a rampage. The cities between Samaria and Beth-horon are all in the northern kingdom, so their attack on ” the cities of Judah” is hard to understand. Had Judah captured portions of Israel?
Judah must go it alone, depending on God and not on other nations. That warning had been heard before. Asa made an unwise alliance with Syria against Israel. (IK.15:19). Jehoshaphat got into trouble marrying his son to the daughter of Jezebel, going to war with Ahab against Moab and with Syria, and making a shipping contract with Ahaziah, Ahab’s son. (IK.22). Later we will read how Isaiah opposed Ahaz’s alliance with Assyria against Israel and Syria. (Isa.7; IIChron.28:16).
Amaziah won over Edom. But then he killed 10,000 prisoners of war, something Elisha had previously forbidden. (IIK.6:20-)
25:14–16 Amaziah brought back loot from Edom including the images of their gods. He was drawn into offering incense to these images, and was denounced by a prophet. How could he worship gods of Edom which did not have any power to protect the Edomites? He commanded the prophet to stop on pain of death. The prophet said the pain of death would be Amaziah’s.
25:17–24. Amaziah had some momentum militarily and decided to challenge Jehoash of Israel to battle. Jehoash replied with a parable: a thistle (a prickly weed) tried to mate with a cedar tree (huge and majestic) and was trampled by a passing beast. Then he advised Amaziah quite frankly: his heart was lifted up with pride, having defeated Edom, but he should stay home and not provoke trouble for himself and Judah. Amaziah did not see his punishment coming. He went ahead with the battle and ended up a captive in his own city, with 1200 feet of its wall facing Israel broken down, hostages taken from the palace and his treasure confiscated.
We can see a series of Amaziah’s mistakes: brutality in war; turning from the Lord and serving other gods; repressing the truth spoken by the prophet; threatening the prophet with death; provoking a needless war. In a word, pride was his undoing.
25:25–28 He survived, but evidently was in disgrace for the remaining fifteen years. His policy toward Israel had been ruinous for Judah. His son Uzziah became co-regent. (IIChron.26:1). From the time he turned from the Lord, his own people conspired against him, and although he fled to Lachish, 25 miles SW, he was pursued and killed. It was a sad end to what might have been an outstanding career.
Jehoahaz was one a long line of Israel’s kings who following the "sins of Jeroboam, son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin". These kings include Baasha, Zimri, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram, Jehu, Jehoahaz and Jehoash, Jeroboam II, and the last kings of Israel, Zechariah, Menachem and Pekah.
“The sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat who made Israel to sin”-- that recurring theme is found about 17 times in IIKings. What were the sins of Jeroboam? (Incidentally Nebat is unknown except as a reference to Jeroboam’s father.). Was what he did really so wicked? He told the Israelites to stay away from Jerusalem. He set up some golden calves. The golden calf was intended to be a religious symbol and a worship focus.
- He misrepresented God and Israel’s history. He presented the golden calf to Israel as Aaron had done in the wilderness saying virtually the same words: “Behold your gods (Elohim), O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” (Ex.32:8; IK.12:28) The implication is that Aaron had been right in the first place. He had made the gold calf as a distraction for restless people, waiting for Moses to return from Mt. Sinai. He ignored the near-catastrophe that followed Aaron’s gold calf. Three thousand were killed by the Levites. Moses had to make repeated intercession before God to save the lives of the people and to get the expedition back on track.
- He invented a cult, a new religion to protect his regime. Worship altars would be at Bethel and Dan. The priests were non-Levitical. The principal festival was in the eighth month instead of the seventh. The golden calf was originally thought to be a platform for God to ride. The bull was thought of as a fertility symbol. By this late in Israel’s life, the calf had become a worship-object. “And this thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam….” (IK.13:34). “Men kiss calves.” (Hosea.13:2). Idolatry was now in full swing.
- Jeroboam excluded his people from Jerusalem. Jeroboam said Israel was not to go to Jerusalem and substituted a festival in the eighth month for Yom Kippur in the seventh month. That may sound trivial, but Moses had said to Israel in the wilderness: “Seek the place which the Lord your God shall chose to put His Name and make His habitation there; there you shall go….” (Deut.12:50. “…Mount Zion, the place of the name of the Lord of Hosts.” (Isa.18:7) “O Jerusalem, the Holy City.” (Isa.52:1) “And this shall be an everlasting statute for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” (Lev.16:34).
- There was therefore no more atonement for sin. The Messiah, prefigured in the sacrifices as Israel’s hope, was no longer available to them. Christ is the fulfillment of the atonement process, “having entered into the true tabernacle not made with hands bringing his own blood for an eternal redemption.” (Heb.9:11). Jeroboam rejectedYom Kippur, the Day of Atonement which prefigures the cross and the resurrection. He had in effect ”profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified and outraged the Spirit of Grace.” (Heb.10:29)
And all the kings went along with it.
We must beware of finding diversions or substitutes for Christ and the atonement. It is a sin that leads to idolatry. They may be religious. On the facade of a church in rural Ecuador there is a mosaic image of the Virgin Mary with these words underneath: “Come unto me, all ye who labor, and I will give you rest.”
The diversions may be secular. Music, the Environment, Political Action, Creationism, My Experience, Community, even the Family must not take first place. Our faith in Christ, must not be a mere platform for our more important projects.
If I ask what is most important in their lives, most of the young Christian couples I know will say, “My Family.”
“But I thought God was most important.”
“Well, I have been taught to say ‘My Family.’”
The main thing is the main thing. Jesus is our first priority.