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not named; but contrariwise, the king of Aram then reigning, (who may seem to have then been the son of Hazael,) is said to have been at Damascus. The first army came to conquer, and was so great that it terrified the king of Judah ; the second was a small company of men, which did animate Joash, (in vain, for God was against him,) to deal with them, as having a very great army.
Now, concerning the time of this former invasion, I cannot perceive that God forsook him, till he had first forsaken God. There are indeed some, very learned, who think that this expedition of Hazael was in the time of Jehoiada the priest, because that story is joined unto the restoration of the temple. This had been probable, if the death of Jehoiada had been afterwards mentioned in that place of the second book of Kings, or if the apostacy of Joash, or any other matter implying so much, had followed in the relation. For it is not indeed to be doubted, that the Lord of all may dispose of all things, according to his own will and pleasure ; nei. ther was he more unjust in the afflictions of Job, that righteous man, or the death of Josiah, that godly king, than in the plagues which he laid upon Pharaoh, or his judgments upon the house of Ahab. But it appears plainly, that the rich furniture of the temple, and the magnificent service of God therewithal, which are joined together, were used in the house ' of the Lord continually, all the days of Jehoia'da 3;' soon after whose death, if not immediately upon it, that is, (as some very learnedly collect,) in the thirty-sixth or thirty-seventh year of this Joash's reign, the king, falling away from the God of his father, became a foul idolator.
And indeed we commonly observe, that the crosses which it hath pleased God sometimes to lay upon his servants, without any cause notorious in the eyes of men, have always tended unto the bettering 2 2 Chron. xxiv. 24. 32 Chron. xxiv. 14,
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f their puith the Arand their am
of their good. In which respect, even the suffering of the blessed martyrs, ('the death of the saints be. :' ing precious in the sight of the Lord ^,') are to their great advantage. But with evil and rebellious men, God keepeth a more even, and more strict account ; permitting usually their faults to get the start of their punishment, and either delaying his vengeance, (as with the Aramites, till their wicked. ness be full; or not working their amendment by his correction, but suffering them to run on in their - wicked courses, to their greater misery. So hath he dealt with many, and so it appears that he dealt with Joash; for this unhappy man did not only continue an obstinate idolator, but grew so forgetful of God and all goodness, as if he had striven to exceed the : wickedness of all that went before him, and to leave such a villainous pattern unto others, as few or none of the most barbarous tyrants should endure to : imitate.
Sect. IV. How Zachariah was murdered by Joash. · SUNDRY prophets having laboured in vain to reclaim
the people from their superstition, Zachariah, the son. · of Jehoiada the priest, was stirred up at length by - the spirit of God to admonish them of their wicked
ness, and make them understand the punishment due · unto it, whereof they stood in danger. This Zachariah was a man so honourable, and son to a man so exceedingly beloved in his life-time, and reverenced, that if Joash had reputed him, (as Ahab did Elias,) his open enemy, yet ought he in common honesty to have cloaked his ill affection, and have used at least some part of the respect that was due to such a person; on the other side, the singular affection which he and his father had borne unto the king, and the unrecountable benefits which they had done
Fsal. cxv. 15.
şimp Joash having of such proplice as the w
unto him, from his first infancy, were such as should have placed Zachariah in the most hearty and assured love of Joash, yea, through he had been otherwise a man of very small mark, and not very good condition. The truth is, that the message of a prophet sent from God, should be heard with reverence, how simple soever he appears that brings it ; but this king Joash having already scorned the adınonitions and protestations of such prophets as first were sent, did now deal with Zachariah, like as the wicked husbandmen, in that parable of our Saviour, dealt with the heir of the vineyard; who said, " This is the heir, • come let us kill him, that the inheritance may be • ours!! By killing Zachariah, he thought to become an absolute commander, supposing belike that he was no free prince, as long as any one durst tell him the plain truth, how great soever that man's deserving were that did so, yea, though God's commandment required it. So they conspired against this holy prophet, and stoned him to death at the king's appointment; but whether by any form of open law, as was practised upon Naboth, or whether surprising him by any close treachery, I do neither read nor conjecture. The dignity of his person consi. dered, together with their treacherous conspiracy, makes it probable, that they durst not call him into public judgment; though the manner of his death, being such as was commonly, and by order of law, inflicted upon malefactors, may argue the contrary. Most likely it is, that the king's commandment, by which he suffered, took place in stead of law; which exercise of mere power, (as hath been already noted,) was nothing strange among the kings of Judah.
Sect. V. . How Joash was shamefully beaten by the Aramites,
and of his death. This odious murder, committed by an unthankful snake upon the man in whose bosom he had been fostered, as of itself alone it sufficed to make the wretched tyrant hateful to men of his own time, and his memory detested in all ages ; so had it the welldeserved curse of the blessed martyr, to accompany it unto the throne of God, and to call for vengeance from thence, which fell down swiftly and heavily upon the head of that ungrateful monster. It was the last year of his reign; the end of his time coming then upon him, when he thought himself beginning to live how he listed, without controulment. When that year was expired, the Aramites came into the country, rather as may seem to get pillage, than to perform any great action ; for they came with a small company of men'; but God had intended to do more by them than they themselves did hope for.
That Joash naturally was a coward, his bloody malice against his best friend is, in my judgment, proof sufficient; though otherwise his base composition with Hazael, when he might have levied, (as his son after him did muster,) three hundred thousand chosen men for the war, doth well enough shew his temper. Yet now he would needs be valiant, and make his people know, how stout of disposition their king was, when he might have his own will. But his timorous heart was not well cloaked. For to encounter with a few bands of rovers, he took a very great army; so that wise men might well perceive, that he knew what he did, making shew as if he would fight for his country, and expose his person to the danger of war, whereas indeed all was mere os
1 9 Chron, xxiv. 24.
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tentation, and no peril to be feared ; he going forth so strongly appointed, against so weak enemies. Thus might weak men think, and laugh at him in secret, considering what ado he made about that, which in all apparent reason was, (as they say,) a thing of nothing. But God, before whom the wisdom of this world is foolishness, did laugh, not only at this vain-glorious king, but them that thought their king secure, by reason of the multitude that he drew along with him.
When the Aramites and king Joash met, whether it were by some folly of the leaders, or by some amazement happening among the soldiers, or by whatsoever means it pleased God to work, so it was, that that great army of Judah received a notable overthrow, and all the princes were destroyed; the princes of Judah, at whose persuasion the king had become a rebel to the King of kings. As for Joash himself, (as Abulensis and others expound the story,) he was sorely beaten and hurt by them, being, (as they think,) taken and shamefully tormented, to wring out of him an excessive ransom.
And surely all circumstances do greatly strengthen this conjecture. For the text, (in the old translation) saith, they exercised upon Joash ignominious judgments; and that departing from him, they dismissed him in great languor. All which argues, that they had him in their hands, and handled him ill-favouredly. Now at that time, Joash the son of Jehoahaz reigned over Israel, and Benhadad the son of Hazael over the Syrians in Damascus; the one a valiant undertaking prince, raised up by God to restore the state of his miserable country; the other inferior every way to his father, of whose purchases he lost a great part, for want of skill to keep it. The difference in condition found between these two princes, promising no other event than such as after followed, might have given to the king of Judah good cause to be bold, and pluck up his spirits,