Daniel Agee

2nd Kings 14: Amaziah allows Yehudah to slide back into idolatry; enter Yonah

Daniel AgeeAmaziah king of Yehudah (Judah) started out good but didn’t remove the pollution of the land — “high places,” places to worship other gods. This historical account helps provide the backdrop for the messages of a number of prophet-writers in the Bible, such as Yonah (Yonah), Amos and Yeshiyahu (Isaiah).

There are many historical events crammed into 2nd Kings 14 (parallel account: 2nd Chronicles 25) ,but the events that are listed and the order they are listed has a specific purpose and lesson. 

When Amaziah becomes king while Elisha is still alive (whose death was recorded in 2 Kings 13). Elisha died during the later half of Josiah’s reign.

I want to bring something out to you about why Amaziah was king of Yehudah and Yehoash (Jehoash) king of Israel went to war. The way the narrative reads in 2 Kings 14, it appears that Amaziah/Yehudah is the one who picked a fight with Yehoash/Israel but that is not all there is to the story. The war was provoked by Yehoash/Israel when they raided Yehudah’s territory and killed 3,000 Judeans while Amaziah was at war with Edom. 

Amaziah’s father, who is also named Yehoash, became king when he was only 7 years old. He did well as long as his mentor, the high priest was alive. After the high priest died, Yehoash, Amaziah’s father, went his own way and did not hold closely to what he had been taught as a youth. He didn’t obey the Torah because he loved God but because he was told to. When he allowed Yehudah to go back to the High Places, bad things started to happen. 

When prophets came to Yehoash (Joash) king of Yehudah and reprimanded him for allowing this to happen, he had them killed. One of the murdered prophets was the son of the high priest who had raised him. 

Now, going back to Amaziah, we see that the phrase “like father like son” applies here. 

Wadi Rum, Jordan
Wadi Rum, located in Jordan near the Gulf of Aquba, is located in the ancient land of Edom, the reconquest of Edom by the King of Yehudah played a profound role in the deterioration of the relationship between Israel and Yehudah. (Cristiano Galbiati, freeimages.com)

 

Edom had been subdued by King David over 220 year before but by this time Edom had been free from Yehudah’s control for about 60 years until Amaziah goes down to Edom to crush them. 

Let’s go to 2 Chronicles 25 for some additional insight. 

“Now after Amaziah came from slaughtering the Edomites, he brought the gods of the sons of Seir, set them up as his gods, bowed down before them and burned incense to them. Then the anger of the LORD burned against Amaziah, and He sent him a prophet who said to him, ‘Why have you sought the gods of the people who have not delivered their own people from your hand?’ As he was talking with him, the king said to him, ‘Have we appointed you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?’ Then the prophet stopped and said, ‘I know that God has planned to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.'” (2 Chronicles 25:14–16 NASB)

Neither Yehoash or Amaziah had any heart for God at all. They just followed God’s words but they didn’t even do that very well. 

In 2 Chronicles 25:5-13, we read the back story of how it was Yehoash/Israel who actually started the hostilities with Yehudah. Amaziah soldiers had killed 10,000 soldiers, and captured an additional 10,000 prisoners of war and pushed them off the cliff. Amaziah is a pretty wicked king but Yehoash king of Israel was worse. There’s one thing that Yehoash king of Israel had on his side: a prophesy of Elisha that God would preserve him. 

The prophet of God had told Amaziah that God was not with Ephraim/Israel, which is true because it will only be about a generation or so later when Israel will be taken into exile. Amaziah listened to that prophet but when Amaziah came back from Edom and was confronted by another prophet, he did not listen to that one. He was “wishy-washy” similar to his father. 

Both Amaziah and his father Yehoash met the same fate: they were assassinated by their own servants. 

When Amaziah and Yehoash, King of Israel went to war, Yehoash took all the gold and silver and all the utensils which were found in the Temple. God doesn’t usually take kindly to kings who ransack His house. If you take something from His house, you don’t live long after that. Yehoash died only a year after he ransacked Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), while Amaziah lived as king of Yehudah for an additional 15 years after Yehoash sacked the Temple. 

Steal God's stuff, including his incense burners, and you won't live very long. (James Chan photo from freeimages.com
Steal God’s stuff, including his incense burners, and you won’t live very long. (James Chan, freeimages.com)

Going back to Elisha’s prophesy over Yehoash was that he would strike Syria three times, but it was his son Jeroboam who “restored Damascus.” His army took Damascus one other city and gives them over to Yehudah. That is not normal but there was a reason. 

Syria/Aram is being squeezed in by Israel on one side and Assyria and Babylon on the other. That is why Israel, with God’s help, was able to take Damascus. Adam was distracted by border disputes and problems on their eastern side so their western borders were vulnerable. None of these countries liked each other. They still don’t to this day. 

Assyria’s capital was Nineveh, which is called Mosul in Iraq today. Assyria has a self-imposed bad reputation. They are known for two things: cruelty and power. They are cruel and power-hungry.

Enter prophet Yonah

God does not like cruel people, but God makes a choice as Assyria’s power is rising. God declares a prophesy over Nineveh at that time. This is where Yonah comes in. This is the same Yonah that is the author/subject of the book of Yonah. We first meet him in this story. 

“He [Yeroboam (Jeroboam) the son of Yoash king of Israel) restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which He spoke through His servant Yonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-hepher.” (2 Kings 14:25 NASB)

Yonah was born in Gath-hepher, near modern day Nazareth in northern Israel. He lived through all the reign of Yehoash of Israel. He probably knew Elisha personally and they are of the same generation.

Yonah doesn’t want to go to Nineveh. Why? He knows they are awful, cruel people. They have already suffered two plagues, back to back, about 20 years apart. They are suffering severe punishment for their crimes as thousands in Nineveh have died from these plagues.

Yonah would love nothing more than for them to be wiped out. Maybe he doesn’t want to catch the plague that’s going around there at this time. He has good reason to despise the Assyrians. 

God wants to use the Assyrians to wipe out Israel. Syria is bad but Assyria is even worse. They are both pretty awful, including practicing child sacrifice.  Israel was supposed to know who God was, a different God that the others followed. Yet, Israel practiced a lot of the same abominations. 

God sent many prophets to Israel including Eliyahu (Elijah), Elisha, Yonah, Amos, Hosea, Obadiah. God is still working with Israel.

He even sent Elisha to Syria, even though Syria cares nothing about God. He sent Yonah to Assyria even though they cared nothing about God either. Babylon hasn’t been sent a prophet at this point but one could argue that Yermiyahu (Jeremiah) and Yeshiyahu (Isaiah) were “pro-Babylonian” in the sense that they were alive at the time when God had already decided that Babylon would take Yehudah away in exile. 

Who does God use and who does He correct? Assyria is pretty awful. He used the cruel Assyrians, who had repented for the span of one king’s generation, to take over Syria. Even with repentance, Assyria did not totally lose their cruel edge. 

Let me rank these kingdoms in terms of their cruelty and horror. 

  1. Babylon. At this point, they aren’t at their zenith they were working on taking Assyria, which they will succeed in later. 
  2. Assyria
  3. Syria
  4. Israel
  5. Yehudah

Babylon smacks Assyria, who smacks down Syria, Syria smacks down Israel and Israel smacks down Yehudah. Why would God allow the nations who are more evil and cruel and further from Him to punish and dominate those who are closer to him, even if they are barely closer to Him than the others?

“But the children of the murderers he did not execute, according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, in which the Lord commanded, saying, “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers; but a person shall be put to death for his own sin.”(2 Kings 14:6-7 NKJV)

Yehudah knows what sin is, they know what their responsibilities are. Whether they believe it in their heart or not, they know it to be true. God could and does send someone better than then to correct them. They are called prophets.

But sometimes God sends someone who is worse to punish His people. The prophet brings the verbal warning and the “bad nation” brings on the physical warning and a nation strong enough to bring that correction is not going to be a softer, kinder nation. 

Just like with a child. You usually give the child verbal warnings first and only after those don’t work, then the physical correction comes to correct their misbehavior. 

Assyria is useful to God as long as they can survive as a nation long enough to punish the nation. Yonah was sent to save them so that they can accomplish God’s role for them.

There’s another reason Yonah doesn’t want to go to Nineveh. There reason is hidden in plain sight in the text of 2nd Kings

“He restored the territory of Israel from the entrance of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord God of Israel, which He had spoken through His servant Yonah the son of Amittai, the prophet who was from Gath Hepher. For the Lord saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter; and whether bond or free, there was no helper for Israel. And the Lord did not say that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven; but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash. (2 Kings 14:25-27 NKJV)

Let’s hone in on the phrase that the “affliction of Israel was very bitter.” The other possible translation of the word that is commonly translated as “very bitter” is “very rebellious.” The Hebrew word here is מֹרְאָה mor’eh, (Strong’s H4784) which means rebel, the root of which is מָרָה marah (Strong’s H4754) which means bitter. This is God’s play on words. Their very severe suffering and they are very rebellious.

Yonah gave Israel a prophesy that Yeroboam would restore the borders of Israel back to their Solomonic glory. Israel is just starting to reap that blessing and Yonah wanted to see his prophesy come to pass, but Yonah doesn’t get to see it because God sends him to Nineveh. All prophets want to be around to see their words come to pass. He wanted to experience see Israel blessed, if only for a little while. 

God instead wants to send Yonah to a plague-ridden country full of nasty, bloodthirsty people. Yonah rebelled against that order and fled. Amos, Yonah’s contemporary, stays in Israel and watch Israel’s glory. But Amos job isn’t an enviable one because Amos has to tell Jeroboam the bad news that his family’s time as King is expiring. 

The nation of Yehudah is following in Israel’s footsteps, just a couple of centuries behind. If you just read the book of Yonah or Amos and you don’t know what they are living through, you only get the surface of the message.

Message of Yonah lives today

Yonah lived the rest of his days in Nineveh, he died there. Yonah’s tomb in Nineveh, modern-day Mosul, was a prominent testimony to the people of Assyria for centuries. It was the site of a Christian church and then a Sunni mosque. It was a popular pilgrimage site until the Muslim fanatical extremists who call themselves ISIS destroyed Yonah’s tomb last summer

To me, when you do something like destroying a tomb, it’s a great disrespect to the person who is represented there. The reason that his tomb was a pilgrimage site is because the people respected Yonah’s message. The ancient Assyrians followed Yonah’s message. They honored him with a tomb. ISIS leaders, however, have shown themselves as rejecting Yonah’s message of repentance. 

Speaker: Daniel Agee. Summary: Tammy.


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