2 Chronicles 25:5-13
Moreover Amaziah gathered Judah together, and made them captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds…
I. WARLIKE PREPARATIONS. (Vers. 5, 6.)
1. The army mustered. "Amaziah gathered Judah together;" i.e. collected for review, probably in Jerusalem, all in the southern kingdom who were capable of bearing arms.
2. The army organized. "He made them captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, according to the houses of their fathers, throughout all Judah and Benjamin." Compare Samuel's prediction (1 Samuel 8:12), and Moses' practice (Numbers 31:14; Deuteronomy 1:15). Order and subordination indispensable to the efficiency of a host. Since the days of Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 23:1; 2 Kings 11:15) the army had probably become disorganized.
3. The army numbered. "And he numbered them from twenty years old and above, and found them three hundred thousand choice men - a considerably smaller force than Asa led out against Zerah (2 Chronicles 14:8), or than Jehoshaphat possessed (2 Chronicles 17:14-18). The explanation is, either that only the flower of Amaziah's troops, the picked men of the army, were numbered, or the force had been diminished by the disastrous wars of the preceding reigns. What is next stated renders this probable.
4. The army increased. "He hired also an hundred thousand mighty men of valour out of Israel for an hundred talents of silver" (£50,000, if the talent be valued at £500).
II. PROPHETIC WARNINGS. (Vers. 7, 8.) The prophet's name is not given, but his admonition is:
1. A dissuasive. Against allowing Israel to accompany the army of Judah to battle. If the king's recollection of former alliances with the northern kingdom did not remind him of the unadvisedness of the course he was contemplating (2 Chronicles 18:28; 2 Chronicles 20:35; 2 Chronicles 22:5; 1 Kings 22:29; 2 Kings 3:7), the earnestness of Jehovah's messenger might have startled him.
2. A reason. Jehovah was not with Israel, not with any of the sons of Ephraim, because of their defection into idolatry. What had been true of Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 12:5), what had been threatened to Asa (2 Chronicles 15:2), what had been the case with Judah in the previous reign (2 Chronicles 24:20), was the habitual and seemingly permanent condition of the northern people. They had forsaken God, and he had in turn forsaken them. To seek the help of Israel, therefore, was to seek help in a quarter where no help was, rather whence hurt alone could proceed. It is hardly doubtful that the people of God err in asking the assistance of God's enemies for their schemes, whether those schemes be material such as church-building, or spiritual such as propagating the gospel, and whether that aid be in the form of money, influence, or men. The Jews who returned from Babylon would not accept assistance from the Samaritans in building their temple (Ezra 4:3). Should the Church of Jesus Christ accept the aid of the unbelieving world?
3. An alternative, or an exhortation. "If thou wilt go [i.e. with these northern allies], then go, do valiantly, be strong for the battle," i.e. do your best - the language of irony; or, according to another rendering (Ewald, Bertheau, Keil), "If thou wilt go, go alone, do valiantly, be strong for the battle" But in this case the force of the first clause is lost, as there was no question as to "going" or "not going" put before Amaziah, but merely as to "going with" or "without Israel."
4. A threatening or a promise. "God shall cast thee down before the enemy," or "God shall (not) cast thee down before the enemy," the word "not" being supplied. If Amaziah went depending on the assistance of his mercenaries, he would lose the battle; if he left them behind and went forth with only his own forces, he would prove victorious. The great lesson Jehovah was constantly, by means of his prophets (Isaiah 26:3, 4; Isaiah 57:13; Jeremiah 39:18; Jeremiah 42:11; Nahum 1:7) and the events of his providence, striving to impress upon Israel and Judah was that of exclusive reliance upon himself, as the only means of ensuring their safety and continued prosperity (2 Chronicles 20:20); the same lesson is urgently required by Christians (Romans 15:13; Ephesians 2:8).
5. An argument. "God hath power to help or to cast down" - to help his people without allies, as he helped Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:22), Asa (2 Chronicles 14:12), and Abijah (2 Chronicles 13:15); or to cast down his people, even in spite of allies, as he did formerly with Joash (2 Chronicles 24:24), with Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:36), and with Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 13:9), and afterwards with Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:16-19).
III. KINGLY EXCUSES. (Ver. 9.)
1. Proposed. Amaziah felt a difficulty about complying with the prophet's counsel. He might send back his allies to Joash in Jezreel or Samaria; but what about his talents? These his royal brother would not be likely to return. He might go to battle without his hired troops, but who would give him his silver moneys? One hundred talents was a large sum to lose even for a king. Amaziah was of Shylock's mind, "You take my house when you do take the prop that doth sustain my house" ('Merchant of Venice,' act 4. sc. 1). Like the Jew who lamented more over the loss of his ducats - his "Christian ducats," "a sealed bag, two sealed bags of ducats, of double ducats... and jewels" - than the flight of his daughter, Amaziah mourned less the idea of parting with his mercenaries than the fact that they would carry with them his precious talents.
2. Answered. The man of God might have replied
(1) that even if he kept his allies his hundred talents were lost, while he would certainly lose the battle in addition; or
(2) that if he parted with his hirelings he would prove victorious, which would more than compensate for the loss of his talents; but the man of God responded
(3) that Jehovah, if he pleased, could give him much more than a hundred talents. He said not, indeed, that Jehovah would give him more than he would lose, because considerations of money do not enter into questions of right and wrong. The moral quality of an action is not determined by its financial results. Simply the prophet stated that Jehovah could give the king much more than a hundred talents, which was true, since the silver and the gold were his (1 Chronicles 29:11, 12; Haggai 2:8), and he gave them to whomsoever he would (Proverbs 30:8; Ecclesiastes 5:19; Psalm 127:1, 2).
IV. FIELD OPERATIONS. (Vers. 10-12.)
1. The dismissal of the mercenaries. The army out of Ephraim was separated from his own troops and sent home to Israel. Whether the king, in discharging them, was actuated by cupidity, the desire of getting back his talents with interest, or by fear, the dread of losing the battle, - the step he took was right, being such as the man of God demanded, prudent as the issue of the campaign showed, and bold as the situation required. It was certain to excite the ire of the northern warriors, and according to the Chronicler it did: "they returned home in fierce anger." Well-doing on the part of good men may stir the wrath of others, to whom it may at times appear insulting; nevertheless, the path of duty must be adhered to, though it should lead to the estrangement of friends no less than to the loss of ducats.
2. The advance of the army of Judah. Amaziah took courage, added to his faith fortitude, as Christians are exhorted to do in the campaign of life (2 Peter 1:5), and led his forces out with no ally but Jehovah, as far as the Valley of Salt (2 Samuel 8:13; 1 Chronicles 18:12) - a plain about two miles broad, south of the Dead Sea, absolutely devoid of vegetation, now called El-Ghor (Robinson). There he encountered the Edomites, or children of Mount Seir, who had revolted from Judah in the days of Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:8; 2 Kings 8:20), and whose subjugation was the object of the present campaign.
3. The defeat of the Edomites.
(1) The destruction of their army. Ten thousand soldiers were killed, ten thousand prisoners taken.
(2) The capture of their capital. Selah, "Rock" (Isaiah 16:1), the well-known Petra or Rock city, was taken, and its name changed to Joktheel, or "conquered by God" (2 Kings 14:7). This remarkable city was situated in a valley (Es Sik, "the cleft;" called by the Arabs Wady Musa) running from north to south, about three quarters of a mile long, and enclosed on all sides by precipitous sandstone rocks of variegated hues, rising in some parts to a height of eight hundred or a thousand feet. (For a description of Petra, see Stanley's 'Sinai and Palestine,' pp. 87, etc.; 'Picturesque Palestine,' vol. 3. pp. 214, etc.; 'Forty Days in the Desert,' p. 128.)
(3) The slaughter of their people. If Amaziah's prisoners were hurled from the cliffs of Petra, their death must have been simply appalling.
V. UNFRIENDLY RETALIATONS. (Ver. 13.)
1. By whom.? The soldiers of the Israelitish army sent back by Amaziah. The Samaritans, whose aid Zerubbabel declined, "weakened the hands of the people of Judah and troubled them in building" (Ezra 4:4); and the unbelieving world would oppose, harass, and hinder the Church of Christ even more than it does, were it separated as it should be from the Church's midst (John 15:19). But better the world's opposition, hatred, and revenge, with God's help, favour, and blessing, than the world's co-operation, friendship, and approbation, with God's displeasure, withdrawal, and antagonism.
2. For what? For not being allowed to go to battle with Judah against Edom. An insufficient cause, since they lost nothing of their pay, while they saved their lives. Their honour, it may be supposed, was wounded; and the world holds a wound to one's honour to be a greater stroke than a buffet to one's person or a loss to one's purse. But Christ's followers ought not to take their code of morals from the world!
3. On whom? The cities of Judah and their inhabitants, from Samaria unto Beth-horon, now Beit-Ur (2 Chronicles 8:5). Though these had no part in the offence, they must nevertheless share in the penalty. If Amaziah had done the soldiers wrong, Amaziah should have given them redress in his own person. But nations have hardly yet learnt to discriminate between offending sovereigns and offenceless subjects, When those quarrel they can only heal their friends by setting these to cut each other's throats or blow each other into eternity by means of guns and cannons!
4. How far? To the taking of three thousand men and much spoil. Whether this devastation of the northern cities of Judah occurred while the Israelitish soldiers were returning home to Samaria, or, as seems more likely, when Amaziah was in Edom (Bertheau, Keil), is uncertain; that it subsequently led to a war between the two kingdoms is undoubted. Learn:
1. The folly of entering on any enterprise in which God cannot aid.
2. The sin of resorting to means of which Heaven cannot approve.
3. The sufficiency of God's help without creature-aids.
4. The duty of withdrawing from wicked schemes, even though doing so should entail financial loss.
5. The impossibility of settling questions of right and wrong by calculations of profit and loss.
6. The insignificance of money loss as compared with loss of Divine help and favour.
7. The immense indebtedness of the world to Christianity, even while rejecting it. - W.
Parallel VersesKJV: Moreover Amaziah gathered Judah together, and made them captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, according to the houses of their fathers, throughout all Judah and Benjamin: and he numbered them from twenty years old and above, and found them three hundred thousand choice men, able to go forth to war, that could handle spear and shield.
WEB: Moreover Amaziah gathered Judah together, and ordered them according to their fathers' houses, under captains of thousands and captains of hundreds, even all Judah and Benjamin: and he numbered them from twenty years old and upward, and found them three hundred thousand chosen men, able to go forth to war, who could handle spear and shield.