Amaziah proceeds to a military action which, as we will see later, is directed against Edom (verse 55Moreover, Amaziah assembled Judah and appointed them according to [their] fathers’ households under commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds throughout Judah and Benjamin; and he took a census of those from twenty years old and upward and found them to be 300,000 choice men, [able] to go to war [and] handle spear and shield.; verse 1111Now Amaziah strengthened himself and led his people forth, and went to the Valley of Salt and struck down 10,000 of the sons of Seir.11Now Amaziah strengthened himself and led his people forth, and went to the Valley of Salt and struck down 10,000 of the sons of Seir.). The reason for this is not clear. Amaziah assembles Judah and appoints an army of the best men from twenty years old and upward (cf. Num 1:2-32“Take a census of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ households, according to the number of names, every male, head by head3from twenty years old and upward, whoever [is able to] go out to war in Israel, you and Aaron shall number them by their armies.). There appear to be 300,000 men who qualify and who can handle spear and shield. This is a considerable army, but it still does not reach to the armies of Asa and Jehoshaphat who had an army of 580,000 and more than 1,000,000 men respectively (2Chr 14:88Now Asa had an army of 300,000 from Judah, bearing large shields and spears, and 280,000 from Benjamin, bearing shields and wielding bows; all of them were valiant warriors.; 17:14-1614This was their muster according to their fathers’ households: of Judah, commanders of thousands, Adnah [was] the commander, and with him 300,000 valiant warriors;15and next to him [was] Johanan the commander, and with him 280,000;16and next to him Amasiah the son of Zichri, who volunteered for the LORD, and with him 200,000 valiant warriors;).
Perhaps Amaziah has those numbers in mind when assessing the size of his army. In any case, he is not convinced that he can defeat the Edomites with this army. Therefore he complements his army with mercenaries from the northern empire, for which he pays a hundred talents of silver (verse 66He hired also 100,000 valiant warriors out of Israel for one hundred talents of silver.). In his calculations, however, there is no room for the LORD.
Although Amaziah does not count with the LORD, He in His goodness sends a prophet, a man of God, to him (verse 77But a man of God came to him saying, “O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the LORD is not with Israel [nor with] any of the sons of Ephraim.; cf. 2Chr 16:77At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you have relied on the king of Aram and have not relied on the LORD your God, therefore the army of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand.; 19:22Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD and so [bring] wrath on yourself from the LORD?). The name of the man of God is not given. His name doesn’t matter, because it’s about what he has to say. He warns Amaziah not to rely on the soldiers of Israel and not to take them with him. The reason is that “the LORD is not with Israel [nor with] any of the sons of Ephraim”. Because there is no place left for Him in the northern kingdom, He cannot be with them either. If we deny the Lord the first place in our lives, He cannot help us in what we do.
The man of God tells Amaziah that he is free to fight with Edom despite the warning, and use of the soldiers he hires (verse 88But if you do go, do [it], be strong for the battle; [yet] God will bring you down before the enemy, for God has power to help and to bring down.”). If he wants to, he must do so. Then he must encourage himself to be strong in battle. But he must also know that he will lose the battle because God will bring him down before the enemy. For God has power to help, but if he refuses to use that power, God will prove His power by bringing him down.
Amaziah is almost convinced. The only question he still has is what about the money he has invested in this expedition (verse 99Amaziah said to the man of God, “But what [shall we] do for the hundred talents which I have given to the troops of Israel?” And the man of God answered, “The LORD has much more to give you than this.”). To this question the man of God gives the beautiful and encouraging and also comforting answer: “The LORD has much more to give you than this.” Amaziah may choose: loss of money or loss of the battle. The choice between these two possibilities is in reality the choice between fighting with or without the LORD. We may know that the Lord will pay double for all we leave for Him. Every loss to Him is amply compensated by Him. The only question is whether we trust Him in that promise.
Amaziah made his choice (verse 1010Then Amaziah dismissed them, the troops which came to him from Ephraim, to go home; so their anger burned against Judah and they returned home in fierce anger.10Then Amaziah dismissed them, the troops which came to him from Ephraim, to go home; so their anger burned against Judah and they returned home in fierce anger.). He wants to go out with the LORD and thus without the troops from Ephraim. He dismisses the mercenaries so they can go back home. We might think that the hired troops like that. They have their money (verse 66He hired also 100,000 valiant warriors out of Israel for one hundred talents of silver.) and can, without having to do anything for it and therefore without the chance that they will be killed in battle, return home. It is not like that, however. They get angry at Judah that they have been sent away.
The question is answered and the choice is made. Through the words of the prophet Amaziah takes courage and leads his people away to the Valley of Salt to fight against Edom (verse 1111Now Amaziah strengthened himself and led his people forth, and went to the Valley of Salt and struck down 10,000 of the sons of Seir.11Now Amaziah strengthened himself and led his people forth, and went to the Valley of Salt and struck down 10,000 of the sons of Seir.). Nothing is said about the battle, but about the result is. That’s all very well. Amaziah defeats the sons of Seir – those are the Edomites, named after the area where they live – 10,000 men. Another 10,000 are taken away as captives (verse 1212The sons of Judah also captured 10,000 alive and brought them to the top of the cliff and threw them down from the top of the cliff, so that they were all dashed to pieces.12The sons of Judah also captured 10,000 alive and brought them to the top of the cliff and threw them down from the top of the cliff, so that they were all dashed to pieces.). These prisoners are taken to the top of a cliff and thrown down from the top of the cliff. They are all dashed to pieces by it, by which, so to speak, their corrupt inner being comes out.
Edom or Esau (Gen 36:11Now these are [the records of] the generations of Esau (that is, Edom).) is a picture of sin, the old nature or flesh. Edom has always behaved as a merciless enemy of God’s people, and will be judged for it. The whole of Obadiah’s prophecy is devoted to this (Oba 1:1-211The vision of Obadiah. Thus says the Lord GOD concerning Edom—
We have heard a report from the LORD,
And an envoy has been sent among the nations [saying],
“Arise and let us go against her for battle”—
2“Behold, I will make you small among the nations;
You are greatly despised.
3“The arrogance of your heart has deceived you,
You who live in the clefts of the rock,
In the loftiness of your dwelling place,
Who say in your heart,
‘Who will bring me down to earth?’
4“Though you build high like the eagle,
Though you set your nest among the stars,
From there I will bring you down,” declares the LORD.
5“If thieves came to you,
If robbers by night—
O how you will be ruined!—
Would they not steal [only] until they had enough?
If grape gatherers came to you,
Would they not leave [some] gleanings?
6“O how Esau will be ransacked,
[And] his hidden treasures searched out!
7“All the men allied with you
Will send you forth to the border,
And the men at peace with you
Will deceive you and overpower you.
[They who eat] your bread
Will set an ambush for you.
(There is no understanding in him.)
8“Will I not on that day,” declares the LORD,
“Destroy wise men from Edom
And understanding from the mountain of Esau?
9“Then your mighty men will be dismayed, O Teman,
So that everyone may be cut off from the mountain of Esau by slaughter.
10“Because of violence to your brother Jacob,
You will be covered [with] shame,
And you will be cut off forever.
11“On the day that you stood aloof,
On the day that strangers carried off his wealth,
And foreigners entered his gate
And cast lots for Jerusalem—
You too were as one of them.
12“Do not gloat over your brother’s day,
The day of his misfortune.
And do not rejoice over the sons of Judah
In the day of their destruction;
Yes, do not boast
In the day of [their] distress.
13“Do not enter the gate of My people
In the day of their disaster.
Yes, you, do not gloat over their calamity
In the day of their disaster.
And do not loot their wealth
In the day of their disaster.
14“Do not stand at the fork of the road
To cut down their fugitives;
And do not imprison their survivors
In the day of their distress.
15“For the day of the LORD draws near on all the nations.
As you have done, it will be done to you.
Your dealings will return on your own head.
16“Because just as you drank on My holy mountain,
All the nations will drink continually.
They will drink and swallow
And become as if they had never existed.
17“But on Mount Zion there will be those who escape,
And it will be holy.
And the house of Jacob will possess their possessions.
18“Then the house of Jacob will be a fire
And the house of Joseph a flame;
But the house of Esau [will be] as stubble.
And they will set them on fire and consume them,
So that there will be no survivor of the house of Esau,”
For the LORD has spoken.
19Then [those of] the Negev will possess the mountain of Esau,
And [those of] the Shephelah the Philistine [plain];
Also, possess the territory of Ephraim and the territory of Samaria,
And Benjamin [will possess] Gilead.
20And the exiles of this host of the sons of Israel,
Who are [among] the Canaanites as far as Zarephath,
And the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad
Will possess the cities of the Negev.
21The deliverers will ascend Mount Zion
To judge the mountain of Esau,
And the kingdom will be the LORD’S.). We cannot feel sorry for sin, but must judge it mercilessly. Scripture calls us to kill our members which are on earth (Col 3:55Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.). This means for us that we must learn to judge ourselves (1Cor 11:3131But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.) and also to judge sin in the church (1Cor 5:13b13But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.).
Then the chronicler makes another comment about the mercenaries sent home by Amaziah (verse 1313But the troops whom Amaziah sent back from going with him to battle, raided the cities of Judah, from Samaria to Beth-horon, and struck down 3,000 of them and plundered much spoil.13But the troops whom Amaziah sent back from going with him to battle, raided the cities of Judah, from Samaria to Beth-horon, and struck down 3,000 of them and plundered much spoil.). We have seen that these men have become furious about their sending away (verse 1010Then Amaziah dismissed them, the troops which came to him from Ephraim, to go home; so their anger burned against Judah and they returned home in fierce anger.10Then Amaziah dismissed them, the troops which came to him from Ephraim, to go home; so their anger burned against Judah and they returned home in fierce anger.). From what we read now, we might conclude that the cause of their burning anger is that by sending them away they will miss a great booty. They are therefore going to get the loss of profit and compensate themselves by attacking the cities of Judah. There they kill a large number of men and plunder much spoil.
How could such people be a help to God’s affairs? People with selfish motives can never be a help in the struggle that children of God have to fight. They inflict losses on Amazia. We may wonder what about the LORD’s promise that He has more to give than Amaziah lost by sending the mercenaries away. That promise will be fulfilled. The LORD has also given Amaziah a great victory. Yet there is no complete trust in the LORD, as the sequel shows.