« AnteriorContinuar »
them in the grave. In fine, he bestowed, as a legacy, three victories upon king Joash, who thereby did set Israel in a fair way of recovering all that the Aramites had usurped, and weakening the kings of Damascus in such sort, that they were never after terrible to Samaria.
Of Amaziah's war against Edom; his apostacy, and overthrow by Joash.
The happy success which Joash had found in his war against the Aramites, was such as might kindle in Amaziah a desire of undertaking some expedition, wherein himself mi^ht purchase the like honour. His kingdom could furnish three hundred thousand serviceable men for the wars; and his treasure was sufficient for the payment of these and the hire of many more. Cause of war he had very just against the Edomites, who having rebelled in the time of his grandfather Jehoram, had about fifty years been unreclaimed; partly by reason of the troubles happening in Judah, partly through the timorousness of his father Joash. Yet, forasmuch as the men of Judah had in many years been without all exercise of war, (excepting that unhappy fight wherein they were beaten by a few bands of the Aramites,) he held it a point of wisdom to increase his forces, with soldiers waged out of Israel; whence he hired for an hundred talents of silver, 4 an hundred thousand va4 liant men'/ as the scripture telleth us, though Josephus diminishes the number*, saying, that they were but twenty thousand.
This great army, which with so much cost Amaziah had hired out of Israel, he was fain to dismiss, before he had employed it, being threatened by a prophet with ill success, if he strengthened himself with the help of those men, whom God, (though in mercy
1 2 Chion. XXV. S. 2 Joseph Ant. Jud. 1.J), cap. 10.
he gave them victory against the cruel Arattiites,) did not love, because they were idolators. The Israelites therefore departed in great anger, taking in ill part this dismission, as an high disgrace; which to revenge, they fell upon a piece of Judah in their return, and shewed their malice in the slaughter of three thousand men, and some spoil which they carried away. But Amaziah with his own forces, knowing that God would be assistant to their journey, entered courageously into the Edomites country; over whom obtaining victory, he slew ten thousand, and took other ten thousand prisoners, all which he threw from an high rock; holding them, it seems, rather as traitors, than as just enemies. This victory did not seem to reduce Edom under the subjection of the crown of Judah, which might be the cause of that severity, which was used to the prisoners; the Edomites that had escaped, refusing to buy the lives of their friends and kinsmen at so dear a rate, as the loss of their own liberty. Some towns in mount Seir Amaziah took, as' appears by his carrying away tha idols thence ; but it is like they were the places most indefensible, in that he left no garrisons there, whereby he might another year the better have pursued the conquest of the whole country. Howsoever it were, he got both honour by the journey, and gains enough, had he not lost himself.
Among other spoils of the Edomites, were carried away their gods, which, being vanquished and taken prisoners, did deserve well to be led in triumph. But they contrariwise, I know not by what strange witchcraft, so besotted this unworthy king Amaziah,
* That he set them up to be his gods, and worship
* ped them, and burnt incense unto them V
When he was rebuked for this by a prophet sent from God, he gave a churlish and threatening answer; asking the prophet, who made him a counsellor, and bidding jiim hold his peace for fear of the
8 2 Chroo. xxv. It.
worst. If either the costly stuff whereof these idols were made, or the curious workmanship and'beauty with which they Were adorned by artificers, had ravished the king's fancy, methinks he should have rather turned them to matter of profit, or kept them as houshold ornaments and things of pleasure, than there* by have suffered himself to be blinded with such unreasonable devotion towards them. If the superstitious account wherein the Edomites had held them, were able to work much upon his imagination; much more should the bad service which they had done to their old clients, have moved him thereupon to laugh* both at the Edomites and them. Wherefore it seems to me, that the same affections carried him from God unto the service of idols, which afterwards moved him to talk so roughly to the prophet reprehending him. He had already obeyed the warning of God by a prophet, and sent such auxiliary forces as he had gathered out of Israel; which done, it is said, that he ' was encouraged, and led forth his people4;' thinking belike, that God would now rather assist him by miracle, than let him fail of obtaining all his heart's desire. But with better reason he should have limited his desires by the will of God, whose pleasure it was, that Esau, having broken the yoke of Jacob from his neck, according as Isaac had foretold, should no more become his servant. If therefore Amaziah did hope to re-conquer all the country of Edom, he failed of his expectation; yet so, that he brought home both profit and honour, which might have well contented him.
But there is a foolish and a wretched pride, Wherewith men being transported, can ill endure to ascribe unto God the honour of those actions, in which it hath pleased him to Use their own industry, courage, or foresight. Therefore it is commonly seen, that they who, entering into battle, are careful to pray for aid from heaven, with due acknowledgement of
* 3 Chron. m. 11.
Vol. III. T
his power who is the giver of victory, when the field is won, do vaunt of their own exploits; one telling how he got such a ground of advantage; another, how he gave check to such a battalion; a third, how he seized on the enemies cannon; every one striving to magnify himself, whilst all forget God, as one that had not been present in the action. To ascribe to fortune the effects of another man's virtue, is, I confess, an argument of malice. Yet this is true, that as he, which findeth better success than he did, or in reason might expect, is deeply bound to acknowledge God the author of his happiness; so he, whose mere wisdom and labour hath brought things to a prosperous issue, is doubly bound to shew himself thankful, both for the victory, and for those virtues by which the victory was gotten. And indeed so far from weakness is the nature of such thanksgiving, that it may well be called the height of magnanimity ; no virtue being so truly heroical, as that by which the spirit of man advanceth itself, with confidence of acceptation, unto the • love of God. In which sense, it is a brave speech that Evander in Virgil useth to iEneas, none but a Christian being capable of the admonition:
'Aude hospes contimnere opes, et te quoqne dignura
With this philosophy, Amaziah, (as appears by his carriage,) troubled not his head; he had shewed himself a better man of war than any king of Judah, since the time of Jehoshaphat, and could be well contented, that his people should think him little inferior to David; or which honour he saw no reason why the prophets should rob him, who had made him lose an hundred talents, and done him no pleasure, he having prevailed by plain force and good conduct, without any miracle at all. That he was distempered with such vain thoughts as these, (besides the witness of his impiety following,) Josephus doth testify 5, saying, that he despised God, and that being puffed up with his good success, of which, nevertheless, he would not acknowledge God to be the author, he commanded Joash king of Israel to become his subject, and to let the ten tribes acknowledge him their sovereign, as they had done his ancestors king David and king Solomon. Some think that his quarrel to Joash was rather grounded upon the injury done to him by the Israelites, whom he dismissed in the journey against mount Sier. And likely it is, that the sense of a late wrong had more power to stir him up, than the remembrance of an old title forgotten long since, and by himself neglected thirteen or fourteen years. Nevertheless it might so be, that when he was thus provoked, he
would also call old matters into question; that so the kings of Israel might, at the least, learn to keep their subjects from offending Judah, for fear of endangering their own crowns. Had Amaziah desired only recompense for the injury done to him, it is not improbable that he should have had some reasonable answer from Joash, who was not desirous to fight with him. But the answer which Joash returned, likening himself to a cedar, and Amaziah, in respect of him, no better than a thistle, shews that the challenge was made in insolent terms, stuffed perhaps with such proud comparison of nobility, as might be made, (according to that which Josephus hath written,) between a king of ancient race, and one of less nobility than virtue.
It is by Sophocles6 reported of Ajax, that, when going to the war of Troy, his father had bid him to be valiant, and get victory by God's assistance, he made answer, that, by God's assistance, a coward could get victory, but he would get it alone, without such help; after which proud speech, though he did many valiant acts, he had small thanks, and finally
6 Jotepb. Ant. 1. ix. c. x. 6 Sophocles in Ajace Lea.
new wrongs, but