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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

2 Kings 15

 

 

Verses 1-7

AZARIAH AND JOTHAM IN JUDAH, AND THE LAST SIX KINGS IN ISRAEL

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—

2Ki .—Azariah, son of Amaziah, king of Judah—This king is the Uzziah of 2 Chronicles 26. See there the more extended explanation of his leprosy. His act was the assumption of sacerdotal functions, which the Lord had restricted to the Levitical priesthood. He arrogated the office of Sovereign Pontiff, and God rebuked his arrogance and impiety. His heart was lifted up to his destruction (2Ch 26:16).

2Ki . Leper unto the day of his death—In his pride he aspired to be more than king, usurped the functions of God's consecrated priests; would have seized "the holy crown" of the high priesthood, and added that to his own royal crown. Therefore God took away what was rightly his, and might have enjoyed till his death, debased him to a leper, and thus he died. So covetousness beggars, not ennobles men, and profanity ensures overthrow and contempt. Dwelt in a several house—An array of authorities regard בֵית הַחָפְשִׁית as meaning house of sickness, a hospital, from חָפַשׁ, which (without any Scriptural analogy in the use of the word) they render to be prostrate, weak, or sick. The natural meaning of the verb is to be loosed, set free, as (in Pual form) Lev 19:20, the release of a slave. A separate house, therefore, is the best rendering, and fulfils the law of Lev 13:46, that lepers should dwell apart, outside the camp or city. He was thus an outcast Even in burial (2Ki 15:7) he was only interred in the "field of the burial" of the kings (2Ch 26:23), not in the royal vaults, as being a leper. As the record stands, it marks God's displeasure against presumption, for "the Lord smote the king;" and this Divine judgment denotes guilt. Even though his rushing to the altar might have been through "too much zeal rather than too little," as is suggested, zeal must not violate law. To go beyond God's direction is guilty as to fall behind. To "add to" what is written is denounced equally as to "take from" (Rev 22:18-19).

2Ki . The Lord began to send against Judah, &c.—This was the beginning of a confederacy by the Israelites with the Syrians against Judah, an alliance which shows, for the first time in the history of the divided kingdoms, that hostility had grown so intense between Israel and Judah that a foreign force was called in to make violent attack upon Judah's borders. So, when such fellowship and affection as are hallowed and Divinely sanctioned are violated, evil confederacies are sure to be sought, and antagonism grows rife where unity and love should have ruled.—W. H. J.

HOMILETICS OF 2Ki ; 2Ki 15:32-38

THE BIBLICAL ESTIMATE OF NATIONAL AFFAIRS

THE reigns of Azariah and Jotham, here referred to with such marked brevity, covered a most eventful period in the history of Judah and Israel, extending over nearly seventy years. The prophets Hosea, Amos, Joel, Jonah, and the sublime Isaiah, flourished during the period, and uttered their faithful protest against the national apostacy. Under the vigorous administration of Azariah and Jotham the kingdom of Judah was placed in a condition of great strength and prosperity. The success of Azariah in all departments seemed to correspond to his double name: Azariah, the strength of Jehovah, and Uzziah, the help of Jehovah. But prosperity, as in other periods and nations, was not without its baleful effects. With the increase of wealth, the nobles of Judah rose into importance, and their luxury, indolence, drunkenness, and oppressive exactions, were in a high degree scandalous: "They skinned the poor to the very quick, they picked their bones and ground them to powder." The haughty ladies of Zion, decked in gayest apparel and covered with tinkling ornaments, forgot the modesty of their sex as they mincingly tripped along the streets. The licentiousness and irreligion of the times were interrupted and perhaps punished by two great calamities—the awful, dearthful visitation of locusts, who found a garden of Eden, and left it an empty, desolate wilderness; and the ever-memorable earthquake which shook the solid building of the Temple, and moved through the land like a mighty wave of the sea (vide Joe ; Amo 4:6-9; Amo 1:1-2; Zec 14:5). The paragraph before us is a suggestive illustration of the Biblical estimate of national affairs.

I. It views the nation in its relation to the claims of Jehovah.

1. Commands obedience to the Divine purpose (2Ki ). So far as Azariah and Jotham imitated the theocratic kings, they had the approbation of all lovers of Zion. The highest exercise of kingly power is to use it in furthering the ends of Divine government.

2. Is careful to record the monarch's interest in the House of God (2Ki ; 2Ki 15:35). The history emphasises the fact that the name of Jotham's mother was "Jerusha, the daughter of Zadok," who was probably a priest, and would thus show the close association of the king with the religious order. Special reference is also made to his building "the higher gate of the House of the Lord." He the sought to induce the worshippers to bring their offerings to the temple of the true Jehovah, and forsake the forbidden "high places" where many were accustomed to sacrifice. The king does himself honour in all he does for the house of God.

3. Exposes the defects of religious duty (2Ki ; 2Ki 15:35). Both Azariah and Jotham were favourable to the worship of Jehovah, but they showed no great zeal in it. Their government was not remarkable for any decided religious reform, or the quickening of new religious life. The false worship was allowed to exist side by side with the true. The word of God notices this, and while it commends what is good, it faithfully denounces the evil.

II. It takes note of any signal instance of Divine judgment. "And the Lord smote the king, so that he was a leper" (2Ki ). The writer of Kings is silent as to the circumstances under which the king was thus afflicted. He simply records the fact, and regards it as a judgment of Jehovah. (For particulars read 2Ch 26:16-21). The Bible abounds in examples of Divine judgments on nations and individuals (e.g., Sodom and Gomorrha, Genesis 19; Egyptians, Exodus 9; Amalek, 1 Samuel 15; Cain, Genesis 4; Saul, 1 Samuel 28; Jezebel, 2 Kings 9; Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5). These examples might be multiplied indefinitely. "Every story," says Feltham, "is a chronicle of this truth, and the whole world but the practice. We live not long enough to observe how the judgments of God walk their rounds in striking. Neither always are we able. Some of God's corrections are in the night, and closeted. Every offence meets not with a market lash."

Accuse not heaven's delay; if loth to strike,

Its judgments, like the thunder-gathered storm,

Are but the greater.

Webster.

III. It dismisses with briefest notice the public acts of a great and victorious monarch (2Ki ). The successful wars of the king, his elaborate defences, his public buildings, his encouragement of agriculture and commerce—all these are passed over with the brief formula—"the rest of the acts of Azariah, and all that he did." The sacred writer was more concerned to show how the king served God and exalted His worship than how he aggrandized himself and his people. External prosperity is delusive and evanescent: growth in piety is a permanent blessing to the nation.

IV. It reveals the combination of powers by which Jehovah would punish the nation for its sins (2Ki ). When the Arctic voyager penetrates the northern seas, the first indication of his approach to the great ice region is a white streak of light seen in the stratum of air nearest the horizon called "the ice-blink." He then observes loose pieces of ice floating on both sides of his vessel—the modest vanguard of the terrible army of ice-giants with which the stout-timbered ship has to do battle, and by which it is ultimately crushed and vanquished. So this alliance of Rezin and Pekah was the beginning of a series of attacks on Judah which ended in its utter overthrow. Thus Jehovah punished the nation for its idolatry. It is a mercy when the first signs of coming calamity are noted, and its severities avoided by timely repentance and reform. Jehovah can disconcert and scatter the most potent combinations of men, or use them as his instruments for avenging wrong.

LESSONS:—

1. The sacred writers are more careful to depict the moral condition than the external magnificence of the nation.

2. We learn that the great object of revelation is to give prominence, not to merely historical details, but to the development of the Divine purpose in redeeming the race.

3. The fidelity and impartiality of the sacred writings should command our reverence and belief.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

2Ki ; 2Ki 15:32-38. At this time the people turned their attention to money-getting not so much, as had formerly been the case, in particular provinces and districts, but throughout the country, even in Judah; and not so much because a single king like Solomon favoured commercial undertakings, as because the love of trade and gain, and the desire for the easy enjoyment of the greatest possible amount of wealth, had taken possession of all classes. All the scorn poured out by the prophets upon this haste to be rich, and all the rebuke of their tendency to cheat, which was one of the fruits of it, no longer availed to restore the ancient simplicity and contentment (Hos 12:8; Isa 2:7). The long and fortunate reign of Uzziah in Judah was very favourable to the growth of this love of gain and enjoyment. Many were the complaints in Judah of the injustice of the judges and of the oppression of the helpless (Amo 3:1; Amo 6:1; Hos 5:10). There was a perverse and mocking disposition prevalent which led men to throw doubt upon everything, and to raise objections to everything (Amo 6:3; Amo 9:10; Hos 4:4). It made them treat with harsh contempt the rebukes and exhortations of the best prophets, as we feel distinctly from the tone of the writings of Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah. It led them to desire to know heathen religions and to introduce foreign divinities, even when the king himself held aloof from any such movement (Amo 2:4; Hos 4:15; Hos 6:11; Hos 12:1; Isa 2:8).—Ewald.

2Ki . Azariah not only maintained the worship of Jehovah, but was a good and religious monarch during the greater portions of his reign. See 2Ch 26:4-5. Becoming puffed up, however, with his military successes, he attempted to invade the high priest's office, and forfeited God's favour for this sin.—Speaker's Comm.

2Ki . The Judgment of God.—I. Is never inflicted but on the gross violation of His law (comp. 2Ch 26:16-21). II. Knows no distinction of person or rank—"The Lord smote the king." III. Involves terrible suffering—"He was a leper unto the day of his death." IV. Isolates the sufferer from all he loved and prized—"He dwelt in a several house."

—The only incident which is mentioned during the long reign of Uzziah is that God touched him, and that he was a leper until his death. It follows that this fact must have seemed to the author to be important before all others. Leprosy is not for him an accidental disease, but a Divine judgment for guilt, as it is often described (Num ; Deu 24:8-9; 2Sa 3:29; 2Ki 5:27). He does not tell more particularly what the sin of the king was; perhaps it was hateful to the king alone, and personally, and not to the whole people, like the sin of Jeroboam.—Lange.

—We should not be over bold to undertake duties which do not devolve upon us. He who covets more than he has any right to have, loses even what he has. We cannot break over the bounds which God has set, without incurring punishment. Think no man blessed until thou hast seen his end.—Ibid.

2Ki . These acts were recorded by Isaiah, and have come down to us in Chronicles. They comprised, besides the re-establishment of Elath—

1. Successful wars (a) with the Philistines, which resulted in the capture and dismantling of Gath, Jabneh, and Ashdod, and in the planting of a number of Jewish colonies in the Philistine country; (b) with the Arabians of Gur-baal; and (c) with the Mehunim or Maonites.

2. Extension of the power of Judah over Ammon.

3. Fortification of Jerusalem.

4. Extension of pasture and of agriculture towards the East and South, and protection of the agricultural and pastoral population by means of towers.

5. Reorganisation of the army. And

6. Construction of numerous engines for the attack and defence of towns (see 2Ch ). Compare for the flourishing condition of Judea at this time, Isa 2:7-16.—Speaker's Comm.

2Ki compared with Isa 6:1-3. Isaiah's vision of the majesty and glory of Jehovah.—Special work needs special training. This is a principle recognized in all God's dealings. He prepares His servants for special work by a special course of training and discipline, and by special and striking displays of His glory. As Moses was prepared for his work by his Egyptian experience and by splendid revelations of Jehovah; as the disciples were prepared for their mission by the teachings of Christ and the extraordinary endowments of the Spirit, so Isaiah was qualified for his work by the teachings of this glorious vision. His commission as a prophet was renewed, his faith confirmed, his religious fervour intensified, and his soul braced up for the important duties before him. I. This vision was a revelation of the universal government of Jehovah. "In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne." The throne of God is the centre and source of universal government, including in its conception the two leading ideas of dominion and power.

1. Dominion. This extends over the whole universe of existing things—great and small—reaching and acting upon the most distant with the same ease and comprehensiveness as is shown in the management of those nearest the central throne.

2. Power. It is by the exercise of this attribute that Jehovah makes His dominion felt, and accomplishes His gracious and righteous purposes. That power is infinite and absolute, but its exercise is ever limited by His will, and controlled and regulated by His wisdom: it is constantly operating for our good, both in the material and spiritual realms. II. This vision was a revelation of the adorable holiness of Jehovah. "And one cried unto another and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts." The holiness of God is the beauty and glory of all other perfections. If it were possible for one attribute to have any excellency over another, that preeminency must be given to His holiness. Power is the hand or arm of God, Omniscience His eye, Mercy His heart, Eternity His duration, but holiness is His beauty. He is called "the Holy One," the "Holy One of Israel," and is said to be "glorious in holiness." This glimpse of the surpassing holiness of Jehovah overwhelmed the prophet. He was smitten with the sense of his own vileness, and cried, "Woe is me, because I am a man of unclean lips!" It was a picture of conscious sin, cowed and shrinking before the presence of infinite purity. 'Tis ever so. Nothing humbles us more than the contrast of our own insignificence and sin with the majesty and ineffable perfections of God. III. This vision was a revelation of the higher order of beings engaged in the service and worship of Jehovah.

1. Observe their exalted station. "Above, or around the throne stood the seraphim." This indicates their superiority over the heavenly hosts. Jehovah has legions of angels, varying in ability and rank; highest in the innumerable grades stand the seraphim.

2. Observe their extraordinary endowments. "Each one had six rings; with twain he covered his face"—a token of deep reverence and adoring awe, as though unable to bear the insufferable blaze of the Divine glory, or to fathom the incomprehensible mysteries of the Divine nature. "With twain he covered his feet"—a token of profound respect and humility, as if he would fain hide the humblest instrumentalities by which he might accomplish the Divine purposes. "With twain he did fly"—an emblem of the willingness and speed with which he would execute the Divine commands.

3. Observe their delightful employment. "One cried unto another and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory." They chant in responsive strains the praises of Jehovah. What a lofty example of worship and service have we here! Burning with holy and unquenchable love, we may well strive to emulate the adoration of the glowing seraphim.

The church of to-day has special work to do, and to do it successfully needs special help and instruction. The age in which we live demands the exercise of every kind of power the church can legitimately wield. To meet the multiform aspects of the active thought of our time, to sympathise with all that is true, and denounce wisely and boldly all that is false and misleading; to soothe the world's deep sorrow and lessen its distracting woes; to conduct the troubled heart of humanity to the satisfying rest for which it daily groans—this is a work demanding superhuman aid. We never feel so weak as when we come to grapple with the difficulties of earnest Christian work. It is then we touch the furthermost point of human limitation, and, conscious of our powerlessness, we cry out, like one of old—"I beseech thee, show me thy glory." And as the vision dawns and pours its splendours on our stricken spirits, we feel the throb of a new ecstatic life, and, with the glow of an intenser love, and sustained by an invincible resolution, we press on to grander achievements!

—We have been hearing of a vision. Does that word sound as if it belonged to times which we have left far behind, as if it pointed to something fantastical and incredible? Oh! if there were no such visions, what an utterly dark and weary and unintelligible place this world would be! How completely we should be given up to the emptiest phantoms, to the base worship of phantoms! What mere shows and mockeries would the state and ceremonial of kings, the debates of legislators, the yearnings and struggles of people become! How truly would the earth be what it seemed to the worn-out misanthropical libertine—"A stage, and all the men and women merely players." A thousand times we have been all tempted to think it so. The same painted scenery, the same shifting pageants, the same unreal words spoken through different masks by counterfeit voices, the same plots which seem never to be unravelled, what does it all mean? How do men endure the ceaseless change, the dull monotony? Satirists and keen observers of the world's follies have asked this question again and again. The best man may often doubt what he should reply. But he hears a voice saying to him, "Try to be true to thyself; resist the powers which are tempting thee to go through thy acts, common or sacred, as if thou wert a mere machine; hold fast thy faith that God is, and is working when thou seest least of His working, and when the world seems most to be going on without Him; assure thyself that there is an order in the universe when all its movements seem most disorderly. So will the things around thee by degrees acquire a meaning and a purpose. And when Divine love has kindled thy flagging and perishing thoughts and hopes, thou mayest learn that God can use thee to bearing the tidings of His love and righteousness to a sense-bound land that is bowing to silver and gold, to horses and chariots. And if there should come a convulsion in that land, such as neither thou nor thy fathers have known, be sure that it signifies the removal of such things as can be shaken, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain."—Maurice.

2Ki . Josephus gives Jotham a very high character, that he was pious towards God, just towards men, and laid himself out for the public good; that whatever was amiss he took care to have it rectified; and, in short, wanted no virtue that became a good prince.

2Ki . "He built the higher gate of the house of the Lord." The love of Divine worship.—I. Shown in reverence for God's house. II. In cheerful sacrifice and labour for the improvement of that house. III. In making the house and worship of God attractive to others.

—It is a glorious thing for a prince, instead of beautifying his palaces and building ivory houses (Amo ), to restore the temple gates, and so say to his people, "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise."

2Ki . It appears by this that the alliance between Pekah and Rezin was made in the reign of Jotham. It had for its object in all probability the consolidation of a power in Syria which might be strong enough to resist the further progress of the Assyrian arms. The recent invasions of Pul and Ziglath-Pileser had effectually alarmed the two northern monarchs, and had induced them to put aside the traditional jealousies which naturally kept them apart, and to make a league offensive and defensive. Into this league they were anxious that Judea should enter; but they distrusted the house of David, which had been so long hostile both to Damascus and to Samaria. They consequently formed the design of transferring the Jewish crown to a certain Ben-Tabeal (Isa 7:6), probably a Jewish noble, perhaps a refugee at one of their courts, whom they could trust to join heartily in their schemes. Hostilities apparently broke out before the death of Jotham; but nothing of importance was effected until the first year of his successor—Speaker's Comm.

—National troubles—I. Cast their shadows before as a warning to prepare. II. Are sent to rectify the abuse of prosperity. III. Are aggravated by the active opposition of envious neighbours.


Verses 8-31

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—

2Ki . Assassination of Zachariah by the conspirator Shallum—The compound word rendered "before the people," would seem to record a public act of regicide to which the populace offered no resistance. But Dr. H. Gratz reals it as "in Ibleam" (i.e., a town in the plains of Jezreel). Yet קָבָל עַם naturally mean what the text records, although Gratz notes that the A. V. is ungrammatical. The Sept. translate thus:— καὶ έπάταξεν αύτὸν εν κεβλαἂμ.

2Ki . This was the word of the Lord unto Jehu; so it came to pass—See chap. 2Ki 10:30. Thus Jehu's dynasty perished ignominiously, and the verity of God's pledge was vindicated equally with the severity of God's judgments.

2Ki . King of Assyria came against the land; and Menahem gave talents … that he might confirm the kingdom in his hand—This was the first effort by a king of Israel to ensure his own throne by purchase of protection from a foreign power. Hosea denounced it (Hos 5:13; Hos 7:11; Hos 10:6). It opened the pathway which led onwards to Israel's doom. Protection from a mighty nation issues in oppression by them. And 2Ki 15:19 leads forward inevitably to 2Ki 15:29. "the king of Assyria carried them captive to Assyria."

2Ki . Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria—He was the successor of Pul (2Ki 15:19). Smith's translation of the cuneiform inscriptions gives the name as Taklat-pel-ashir, which may mean "Lord of the Tigris;" but this is uncertain. His annals and the records of his expedition into Syria have been found at Nimroud, but his genealogy is not given; and as this is the only instance of silence concerning a king's pedigree it is supposed he was a usurper.

HOMILETICS OF 2Ki

THE UNMISTAKABLE SIGNS OF NATIONAL DECAY AND RUIN

I. Seen in rapid and violent dynastic changes.—During the tranquil and prosperous reigns of Uzziah and Jotham in Judah, the kingdom of Israel was plunged into anarchy and civil war, as in the days of Omri; and no less than six different monarchs occupied the throne, one of them retaining the throne only for a single month. Of the five kings after Jeroboam, only one died upon his bed. As Kitto puts it, the history sounds much like this—B murdered A and reigned in his stead; C murdered B and reigned in his stead; D murdered C and reigned in his stead; E murdered D and reigned in his stead.

Ay, sir, our ancient crown, in these wild times

Oft stood upon a cast—the gamester's ducat,

So often staked and lost, and then regained,

Scarce knew so many hazards.

The Spanish Father.

No nation can be permanent where the governing power is unstable, commerce is paralysed, life imperilled, and the national spirit broken.

II. Seen in the prevalence of tyranny and bloodshed (2Ki ).—Menahem waded to the throne through a stream of blood. One district refusing to recognize him, he compelled submission by the perpetration of the most horrible cruelties. To buy off an attack from the Assyrians, he exacted heavy sums of money from his people. When a nation is drained of its life-blood by civil discord, and of its wealth by a foreign power, its final doom is not very distant.

III. Seen in the powerlessness of the nation to repel invasion (2Ki ; 2Ki 15:29). It is at this point of the history we first come in sight of the great Assyrian power that is to play so important a part in the future destiny of the Jewish nation—a presage of the catastrophe which was finished fifty yearn later. Menahem, though a bold warrior, knew it was madness to cope with a power so formidable, and bribed the Assyrian to withdraw by offering tribute. But in the days of Pekah the Assyrian was not so easily pacified. He ravaged the kingdom east of the Jordan, and swept away the tribes of that region into captivity; and, such was the enfeebled condition of the nation, it does not appear that Pekah made the least resistance. The steps of the process now going on with Israel have often been repeated in history. The first danger is averted by a bribe, which only serves as a temptation to new aggression. Each new attack leaves the doomed state weaker and weaker, till it is reduced to tribute; and at last a despairing effort to shake off the yoke brings down destruction. It is a noble sight to see a brave nation struggling for life and independence against a superior force; but Israel had become so demoralised that the spirit of resistance was crushed, and, for the most part, they submitted to their fate with supine indifference.

LESSONS:—

1. The nations that abandon God will be abandoned by Him.

2. The ruler who uses his power for his own aggrandisement and pleasure lives in constant peril, and perishes without any to mourn his loss.

3. The sins and follies of one nation are punished by another.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

2Ki . The five kings who followed Zechariah persevered in the sins of Jeroboam, which was, from the very commencement of the kingdom, the germ of its ruin. It is to them that the prophet's words apply—"They have set up kings, but not by me; they have made princes, and I knew it not" (Hos 8:4). Only one of them died a natural death and left the succession to his son, who, in his turn, could only retain the sceptre for a short time. Of the others, each one killed his predecessor in order to gain the throne, the authority of which was, in the meantime, shattered by these commotions. One of the most important factors in the history of this period is the conflict with the rising Assyrian monarchy, which came to assist the internal dissension in hurrying the nation to its downfall. Assyria was destined, in the purpose of God, to be the instrument for inflicting the long-threatened judgment.—Witsius.

—Rulers who seized power by force and violence have never been the deliverers and protectors of their people, but rather tyrants who led it to its ruin. "In one demagogue," says Luther, "there are hidden ten tyrants." As is the master, so is the servant; as is the head, so are the members. A succession of rulers, who attained the throne by conspiracy, revolt, perjury, and murder, is the surest sign, not only that there is something rotten in the state, but also that there is nothing sound in the nation. The corruption in Israel extended, in the first place, from the head downwards. Jeroboam made Israel to sin. Then it came from below upwards. The rebels and murderers who came to the throne, came from the people. These kings were so hostile that the one killed the other; but they were of one accord in abandoning Jehovah and persevering in the sin of Jeroboam. This was the cause of their ruin. When there is no fear of God in the heart, then the door is open to every sin and vice.

2Ki . The public assassination of a monarch—I. Readily accomplished if he is. unpopular. II. Reveals the demoralization of the times. III. Increases rather than diminishes the public calamities. IV. Exposes the assassin to a similar fate (2Ki 15:14).

—"Smote him before the people" openly and impudently—which he presumed to do, either because he remembered that the prophecy of the kingdom made to Jehu was confined to the fourth generation (chap. 2Ki ), which he observed to be now expired, or because he perceived that the people were generally disaffected to their king and favourable to his attempt.—Pool.

2Ki . The inflexible fidelity of the Divine Word—I. Is based on the unchangeableness of the Divine nature. II. Is frequently illustrated by facts of history. III. Is a source of strength to the obedient, and of wholesome fear to the wicked.

—God keepeth promise with His foes: shall He fail with His friends?—Trapp.

This was an actual confirmation of the declaration in the fundamental law of Israel, that God visits the sins of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generations (Exo ; Exo 24:7; Deu 5:9)—that is, the sin against the first and chief commandment: "Thou shalt have none other gods before me." This commandment was the foundation of the covenant with Israel, and the centre of the Israelitish nationality. The meaning is, that the sin of Jeroboam will not be permitted by God to run on beyond the third or fourth generation. No dynasty in Israel which followed the sin of Jeroboam lasted for more than three or four generations. The house of Jeroboam, like that of Baasha and Menahem, perished with its first members; the house of Omri with its third; and the house of Jehu with its fourth. Zimri, Shallum, Pehah, and Hosea died without successors; while the house of David remained without long interruption upon the throne. Although single kings in the line were guilty of apostacy, yet the sin was never continued until the second generation.—Lange.

2Ki . The barbarities of revenge. I. Indicate a debased and brutal nature. II. May terrify into submission, but cannot command genuine obedience. III. An unstable foundation on which to build a throne (2Ki 15:17). IV. Reveal the coward when confronted with a superior power (2Ki 15:19).

2Ki . The instrument of Divine retribution. I. A time for solemn reflection when its shadow first crosses our path. II. It is vain to think it can be bribed with money. III. Soon demonstrates the pitilessness of its power (2Ki 15:29).

—The tie that had bound Samaria to Assyria from the reign of Jehu to that of Jeroboam II. had ceased to exist during a period of Assyrian depression. Menahem now renewed it, undertaking the duties of a tributory, and expecting the support and assistance which the great paramount state of Asia was accustomed to lend to her dependencies in their struggles with their neighbours. Hence the reproaches of Hosea, who sees in the submission of Ephraim an unfaithful reliance on an arm of flesh, which was at once foolish and wicked (Hos ; Hos 7:11; Hos 8:9).—Speaker's Comm.

—Now for the first time appeared on the Eastern horizon that great power which for a hundred years was the scourge of Asia. The ancient empire of Assyria, possibly repressed for the time by the dominion of Solomon, rose on its fall, and was henceforth intermingled with all the good and evil fortunes of the kingdom of Israel. Already in the reign of Jehu her influence began to be felt. His name is to be read on the black obelisk which records the tributes offered to Shalmaneser I. in the form of gold and silver and articles manufactured in gold. The destruction of Damascus by Jeroboam II. brought the two powers of Israel and Assyria into close contact; there was now no intervening kingdom to act as a breakwater. Long before its actual irruption the rise of the new power is noted by the prophets. Jonah had already traversed the desert and seen that great Nineveh. Amos had already, though without naming it, foretold that a people should arise which should crush the powerful empire of Jeroboam from end to end, and sees the nations one by one swept into captivity. Hosea brings out the danger more definitely, sometimes naming it, sometimes speaking of it only under the form of the contentions king. The wakeful ear of Isaiah catches the sound of the irresistible advance of the Assyrian armies; their savage warfare, their strange language, the speed of their march, their indefatigable energy, their arrows sharp, their bows bent, their horses' hoofs like flint, and their chariots like a whirlwind.—Stanley.


Verses 32-38

AZARIAH AND JOTHAM IN JUDAH, AND THE LAST SIX KINGS IN ISRAEL

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—

2Ki .—Azariah, son of Amaziah, king of Judah—This king is the Uzziah of 2 Chronicles 26. See there the more extended explanation of his leprosy. His act was the assumption of sacerdotal functions, which the Lord had restricted to the Levitical priesthood. He arrogated the office of Sovereign Pontiff, and God rebuked his arrogance and impiety. His heart was lifted up to his destruction (2Ch 26:16).

2Ki . Leper unto the day of his death—In his pride he aspired to be more than king, usurped the functions of God's consecrated priests; would have seized "the holy crown" of the high priesthood, and added that to his own royal crown. Therefore God took away what was rightly his, and might have enjoyed till his death, debased him to a leper, and thus he died. So covetousness beggars, not ennobles men, and profanity ensures overthrow and contempt. Dwelt in a several house—An array of authorities regard בֵית הַחָפְשִׁית as meaning house of sickness, a hospital, from חָפַשׁ, which (without any Scriptural analogy in the use of the word) they render to be prostrate, weak, or sick. The natural meaning of the verb is to be loosed, set free, as (in Pual form) Lev 19:20, the release of a slave. A separate house, therefore, is the best rendering, and fulfils the law of Lev 13:46, that lepers should dwell apart, outside the camp or city. He was thus an outcast Even in burial (2Ki 15:7) he was only interred in the "field of the burial" of the kings (2Ch 26:23), not in the royal vaults, as being a leper. As the record stands, it marks God's displeasure against presumption, for "the Lord smote the king;" and this Divine judgment denotes guilt. Even though his rushing to the altar might have been through "too much zeal rather than too little," as is suggested, zeal must not violate law. To go beyond God's direction is guilty as to fall behind. To "add to" what is written is denounced equally as to "take from" (Rev 22:18-19).

2Ki . The Lord began to send against Judah, &c.—This was the beginning of a confederacy by the Israelites with the Syrians against Judah, an alliance which shows, for the first time in the history of the divided kingdoms, that hostility had grown so intense between Israel and Judah that a foreign force was called in to make violent attack upon Judah's borders. So, when such fellowship and affection as are hallowed and Divinely sanctioned are violated, evil confederacies are sure to be sought, and antagonism grows rife where unity and love should have ruled.—W. H. J.

HOMILETICS OF 2Ki ; 2Ki 15:32-38

THE BIBLICAL ESTIMATE OF NATIONAL AFFAIRS

THE reigns of Azariah and Jotham, here referred to with such marked brevity, covered a most eventful period in the history of Judah and Israel, extending over nearly seventy years. The prophets Hosea, Amos, Joel, Jonah, and the sublime Isaiah, flourished during the period, and uttered their faithful protest against the national apostacy. Under the vigorous administration of Azariah and Jotham the kingdom of Judah was placed in a condition of great strength and prosperity. The success of Azariah in all departments seemed to correspond to his double name: Azariah, the strength of Jehovah, and Uzziah, the help of Jehovah. But prosperity, as in other periods and nations, was not without its baleful effects. With the increase of wealth, the nobles of Judah rose into importance, and their luxury, indolence, drunkenness, and oppressive exactions, were in a high degree scandalous: "They skinned the poor to the very quick, they picked their bones and ground them to powder." The haughty ladies of Zion, decked in gayest apparel and covered with tinkling ornaments, forgot the modesty of their sex as they mincingly tripped along the streets. The licentiousness and irreligion of the times were interrupted and perhaps punished by two great calamities—the awful, dearthful visitation of locusts, who found a garden of Eden, and left it an empty, desolate wilderness; and the ever-memorable earthquake which shook the solid building of the Temple, and moved through the land like a mighty wave of the sea (vide Joe ; Amo 4:6-9; Amo 1:1-2; Zec 14:5). The paragraph before us is a suggestive illustration of the Biblical estimate of national affairs.

I. It views the nation in its relation to the claims of Jehovah.

1. Commands obedience to the Divine purpose (2Ki ). So far as Azariah and Jotham imitated the theocratic kings, they had the approbation of all lovers of Zion. The highest exercise of kingly power is to use it in furthering the ends of Divine government.

2. Is careful to record the monarch's interest in the House of God (2Ki ; 2Ki 15:35). The history emphasises the fact that the name of Jotham's mother was "Jerusha, the daughter of Zadok," who was probably a priest, and would thus show the close association of the king with the religious order. Special reference is also made to his building "the higher gate of the House of the Lord." He the sought to induce the worshippers to bring their offerings to the temple of the true Jehovah, and forsake the forbidden "high places" where many were accustomed to sacrifice. The king does himself honour in all he does for the house of God.

3. Exposes the defects of religious duty (2Ki ; 2Ki 15:35). Both Azariah and Jotham were favourable to the worship of Jehovah, but they showed no great zeal in it. Their government was not remarkable for any decided religious reform, or the quickening of new religious life. The false worship was allowed to exist side by side with the true. The word of God notices this, and while it commends what is good, it faithfully denounces the evil.

II. It takes note of any signal instance of Divine judgment. "And the Lord smote the king, so that he was a leper" (2Ki ). The writer of Kings is silent as to the circumstances under which the king was thus afflicted. He simply records the fact, and regards it as a judgment of Jehovah. (For particulars read 2Ch 26:16-21). The Bible abounds in examples of Divine judgments on nations and individuals (e.g., Sodom and Gomorrha, Genesis 19; Egyptians, Exodus 9; Amalek, 1 Samuel 15; Cain, Genesis 4; Saul, 1 Samuel 28; Jezebel, 2 Kings 9; Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5). These examples might be multiplied indefinitely. "Every story," says Feltham, "is a chronicle of this truth, and the whole world but the practice. We live not long enough to observe how the judgments of God walk their rounds in striking. Neither always are we able. Some of God's corrections are in the night, and closeted. Every offence meets not with a market lash."

Accuse not heaven's delay; if loth to strike,

Its judgments, like the thunder-gathered storm,

Are but the greater.

Webster.

III. It dismisses with briefest notice the public acts of a great and victorious monarch (2Ki ). The successful wars of the king, his elaborate defences, his public buildings, his encouragement of agriculture and commerce—all these are passed over with the brief formula—"the rest of the acts of Azariah, and all that he did." The sacred writer was more concerned to show how the king served God and exalted His worship than how he aggrandized himself and his people. External prosperity is delusive and evanescent: growth in piety is a permanent blessing to the nation.

IV. It reveals the combination of powers by which Jehovah would punish the nation for its sins (2Ki ). When the Arctic voyager penetrates the northern seas, the first indication of his approach to the great ice region is a white streak of light seen in the stratum of air nearest the horizon called "the ice-blink." He then observes loose pieces of ice floating on both sides of his vessel—the modest vanguard of the terrible army of ice-giants with which the stout-timbered ship has to do battle, and by which it is ultimately crushed and vanquished. So this alliance of Rezin and Pekah was the beginning of a series of attacks on Judah which ended in its utter overthrow. Thus Jehovah punished the nation for its idolatry. It is a mercy when the first signs of coming calamity are noted, and its severities avoided by timely repentance and reform. Jehovah can disconcert and scatter the most potent combinations of men, or use them as his instruments for avenging wrong.

LESSONS:—

1. The sacred writers are more careful to depict the moral condition than the external magnificence of the nation.

2. We learn that the great object of revelation is to give prominence, not to merely historical details, but to the development of the Divine purpose in redeeming the race.

3. The fidelity and impartiality of the sacred writings should command our reverence and belief.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

2Ki ; 2Ki 15:32-38. At this time the people turned their attention to money-getting not so much, as had formerly been the case, in particular provinces and districts, but throughout the country, even in Judah; and not so much because a single king like Solomon favoured commercial undertakings, as because the love of trade and gain, and the desire for the easy enjoyment of the greatest possible amount of wealth, had taken possession of all classes. All the scorn poured out by the prophets upon this haste to be rich, and all the rebuke of their tendency to cheat, which was one of the fruits of it, no longer availed to restore the ancient simplicity and contentment (Hos 12:8; Isa 2:7). The long and fortunate reign of Uzziah in Judah was very favourable to the growth of this love of gain and enjoyment. Many were the complaints in Judah of the injustice of the judges and of the oppression of the helpless (Amo 3:1; Amo 6:1; Hos 5:10). There was a perverse and mocking disposition prevalent which led men to throw doubt upon everything, and to raise objections to everything (Amo 6:3; Amo 9:10; Hos 4:4). It made them treat with harsh contempt the rebukes and exhortations of the best prophets, as we feel distinctly from the tone of the writings of Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah. It led them to desire to know heathen religions and to introduce foreign divinities, even when the king himself held aloof from any such movement (Amo 2:4; Hos 4:15; Hos 6:11; Hos 12:1; Isa 2:8).—Ewald.

2Ki . Azariah not only maintained the worship of Jehovah, but was a good and religious monarch during the greater portions of his reign. See 2Ch 26:4-5. Becoming puffed up, however, with his military successes, he attempted to invade the high priest's office, and forfeited God's favour for this sin.—Speaker's Comm.

2Ki . The Judgment of God.—I. Is never inflicted but on the gross violation of His law (comp. 2Ch 26:16-21). II. Knows no distinction of person or rank—"The Lord smote the king." III. Involves terrible suffering—"He was a leper unto the day of his death." IV. Isolates the sufferer from all he loved and prized—"He dwelt in a several house."

—The only incident which is mentioned during the long reign of Uzziah is that God touched him, and that he was a leper until his death. It follows that this fact must have seemed to the author to be important before all others. Leprosy is not for him an accidental disease, but a Divine judgment for guilt, as it is often described (Num ; Deu 24:8-9; 2Sa 3:29; 2Ki 5:27). He does not tell more particularly what the sin of the king was; perhaps it was hateful to the king alone, and personally, and not to the whole people, like the sin of Jeroboam.—Lange.

—We should not be over bold to undertake duties which do not devolve upon us. He who covets more than he has any right to have, loses even what he has. We cannot break over the bounds which God has set, without incurring punishment. Think no man blessed until thou hast seen his end.—Ibid.

2Ki . These acts were recorded by Isaiah, and have come down to us in Chronicles. They comprised, besides the re-establishment of Elath—

1. Successful wars (a) with the Philistines, which resulted in the capture and dismantling of Gath, Jabneh, and Ashdod, and in the planting of a number of Jewish colonies in the Philistine country; (b) with the Arabians of Gur-baal; and (c) with the Mehunim or Maonites.

2. Extension of the power of Judah over Ammon.

3. Fortification of Jerusalem.

4. Extension of pasture and of agriculture towards the East and South, and protection of the agricultural and pastoral population by means of towers.

5. Reorganisation of the army. And

6. Construction of numerous engines for the attack and defence of towns (see 2Ch ). Compare for the flourishing condition of Judea at this time, Isa 2:7-16.—Speaker's Comm.

2Ki compared with Isa 6:1-3. Isaiah's vision of the majesty and glory of Jehovah.—Special work needs special training. This is a principle recognized in all God's dealings. He prepares His servants for special work by a special course of training and discipline, and by special and striking displays of His glory. As Moses was prepared for his work by his Egyptian experience and by splendid revelations of Jehovah; as the disciples were prepared for their mission by the teachings of Christ and the extraordinary endowments of the Spirit, so Isaiah was qualified for his work by the teachings of this glorious vision. His commission as a prophet was renewed, his faith confirmed, his religious fervour intensified, and his soul braced up for the important duties before him. I. This vision was a revelation of the universal government of Jehovah. "In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne." The throne of God is the centre and source of universal government, including in its conception the two leading ideas of dominion and power.

1. Dominion. This extends over the whole universe of existing things—great and small—reaching and acting upon the most distant with the same ease and comprehensiveness as is shown in the management of those nearest the central throne.

2. Power. It is by the exercise of this attribute that Jehovah makes His dominion felt, and accomplishes His gracious and righteous purposes. That power is infinite and absolute, but its exercise is ever limited by His will, and controlled and regulated by His wisdom: it is constantly operating for our good, both in the material and spiritual realms. II. This vision was a revelation of the adorable holiness of Jehovah. "And one cried unto another and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts." The holiness of God is the beauty and glory of all other perfections. If it were possible for one attribute to have any excellency over another, that preeminency must be given to His holiness. Power is the hand or arm of God, Omniscience His eye, Mercy His heart, Eternity His duration, but holiness is His beauty. He is called "the Holy One," the "Holy One of Israel," and is said to be "glorious in holiness." This glimpse of the surpassing holiness of Jehovah overwhelmed the prophet. He was smitten with the sense of his own vileness, and cried, "Woe is me, because I am a man of unclean lips!" It was a picture of conscious sin, cowed and shrinking before the presence of infinite purity. 'Tis ever so. Nothing humbles us more than the contrast of our own insignificence and sin with the majesty and ineffable perfections of God. III. This vision was a revelation of the higher order of beings engaged in the service and worship of Jehovah.

1. Observe their exalted station. "Above, or around the throne stood the seraphim." This indicates their superiority over the heavenly hosts. Jehovah has legions of angels, varying in ability and rank; highest in the innumerable grades stand the seraphim.

2. Observe their extraordinary endowments. "Each one had six rings; with twain he covered his face"—a token of deep reverence and adoring awe, as though unable to bear the insufferable blaze of the Divine glory, or to fathom the incomprehensible mysteries of the Divine nature. "With twain he covered his feet"—a token of profound respect and humility, as if he would fain hide the humblest instrumentalities by which he might accomplish the Divine purposes. "With twain he did fly"—an emblem of the willingness and speed with which he would execute the Divine commands.

3. Observe their delightful employment. "One cried unto another and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory." They chant in responsive strains the praises of Jehovah. What a lofty example of worship and service have we here! Burning with holy and unquenchable love, we may well strive to emulate the adoration of the glowing seraphim.

The church of to-day has special work to do, and to do it successfully needs special help and instruction. The age in which we live demands the exercise of every kind of power the church can legitimately wield. To meet the multiform aspects of the active thought of our time, to sympathise with all that is true, and denounce wisely and boldly all that is false and misleading; to soothe the world's deep sorrow and lessen its distracting woes; to conduct the troubled heart of humanity to the satisfying rest for which it daily groans—this is a work demanding superhuman aid. We never feel so weak as when we come to grapple with the difficulties of earnest Christian work. It is then we touch the furthermost point of human limitation, and, conscious of our powerlessness, we cry out, like one of old—"I beseech thee, show me thy glory." And as the vision dawns and pours its splendours on our stricken spirits, we feel the throb of a new ecstatic life, and, with the glow of an intenser love, and sustained by an invincible resolution, we press on to grander achievements!

—We have been hearing of a vision. Does that word sound as if it belonged to times which we have left far behind, as if it pointed to something fantastical and incredible? Oh! if there were no such visions, what an utterly dark and weary and unintelligible place this world would be! How completely we should be given up to the emptiest phantoms, to the base worship of phantoms! What mere shows and mockeries would the state and ceremonial of kings, the debates of legislators, the yearnings and struggles of people become! How truly would the earth be what it seemed to the worn-out misanthropical libertine—"A stage, and all the men and women merely players." A thousand times we have been all tempted to think it so. The same painted scenery, the same shifting pageants, the same unreal words spoken through different masks by counterfeit voices, the same plots which seem never to be unravelled, what does it all mean? How do men endure the ceaseless change, the dull monotony? Satirists and keen observers of the world's follies have asked this question again and again. The best man may often doubt what he should reply. But he hears a voice saying to him, "Try to be true to thyself; resist the powers which are tempting thee to go through thy acts, common or sacred, as if thou wert a mere machine; hold fast thy faith that God is, and is working when thou seest least of His working, and when the world seems most to be going on without Him; assure thyself that there is an order in the universe when all its movements seem most disorderly. So will the things around thee by degrees acquire a meaning and a purpose. And when Divine love has kindled thy flagging and perishing thoughts and hopes, thou mayest learn that God can use thee to bearing the tidings of His love and righteousness to a sense-bound land that is bowing to silver and gold, to horses and chariots. And if there should come a convulsion in that land, such as neither thou nor thy fathers have known, be sure that it signifies the removal of such things as can be shaken, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain."—Maurice.

2Ki . Josephus gives Jotham a very high character, that he was pious towards God, just towards men, and laid himself out for the public good; that whatever was amiss he took care to have it rectified; and, in short, wanted no virtue that became a good prince.

2Ki . "He built the higher gate of the house of the Lord." The love of Divine worship.—I. Shown in reverence for God's house. II. In cheerful sacrifice and labour for the improvement of that house. III. In making the house and worship of God attractive to others.

—It is a glorious thing for a prince, instead of beautifying his palaces and building ivory houses (Amo ), to restore the temple gates, and so say to his people, "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise."

2Ki . It appears by this that the alliance between Pekah and Rezin was made in the reign of Jotham. It had for its object in all probability the consolidation of a power in Syria which might be strong enough to resist the further progress of the Assyrian arms. The recent invasions of Pul and Ziglath-Pileser had effectually alarmed the two northern monarchs, and had induced them to put aside the traditional jealousies which naturally kept them apart, and to make a league offensive and defensive. Into this league they were anxious that Judea should enter; but they distrusted the house of David, which had been so long hostile both to Damascus and to Samaria. They consequently formed the design of transferring the Jewish crown to a certain Ben-Tabeal (Isa 7:6), probably a Jewish noble, perhaps a refugee at one of their courts, whom they could trust to join heartily in their schemes. Hostilities apparently broke out before the death of Jotham; but nothing of importance was effected until the first year of his successor—Speaker's Comm.

—National troubles—I. Cast their shadows before as a warning to prepare. II. Are sent to rectify the abuse of prosperity. III. Are aggravated by the active opposition of envious neighbours.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Kings 15:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/2-kings-15.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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