For several successions after the division of the kingdoms that of Judah suffered much by the enmity of Israel. After Asa's time, for several successions, it suffered more by the friendship of Israel, and by the alliance and affinity made with them. But now we meet with hostility between them again, which had not been for some ages before.
I. Amaziah, upon no provocation, and without showing any cause of quarrel, challenged Joash into the field (2Ki 14:8): “Come, let us look one another in the face; let us try our strength in battle.” Had he challenged him to a personal duel only, the error would have remained with himself, but each must bring all their forces into the field, and thousands of lives on both sides must be sacrificed to his capricious humour. Hereby he showed himself proud, presumptuous, and prodigal of blood. Some think that he intended to avenge the injury which the dismissed disgusted Israelites had lately done to his country, in their return (2Ch 25:13), and that he had also the vanity to think of subduing the kingdom of Israel, and reuniting it to Judah. A fool's lips thus enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes. Those that challenge are chargeable with that beginning of strife, which is as the letting forth of water. He that is eager either to fight or to go to law may perhaps have enough of it quickly, and be the first that repents it.
II. Joash sent him a grave rebuke for his challenge, with advice to withdraw it, 2Ki 14:9, 2Ki 14:10. 1. He mortifies his pride, by comparing himself to a cedar, a stately tree, and Amaziah to a thistle, a sorry weed, telling him he was so far from fearing him that he despised him, and scorned as much to have any thing to do with him, or make any alliance with him, as the cedar would to match his daughter to a thistle. The ancient house of David he thinks not worthy to be named the same day with the house of Jehu, though an upstart. How may a humble man smile to hear two proud and scornful men set their wits on work to vilify and undervalue one another! 2. He foretels his fall: A wild beast trode down the thistle, and so put an end to his treaty with the cedar; so easily does Joash think his forces can crush Amaziah, and so unable does he think him to make any resistance. 3. He shows him the folly of his challenge: “Thou hast indeed smitten Edom, a weak, unarmed, undisciplined body of men, and therefore thinkest thou canst carry all before thee and subdue the regular forces of Israel with as much ease. Thy heart has lifted thee up.” See where the root of all sin lies; it is in the heart, thence it flows, and that must bear the blame. It is not Providence, the event, the occasion (whatever it is), that makes men proud, or secure, or discontented, or the like, but it is their own heart that does it. “Thou art proud of the blow thou hast given to Edom, as if that had made thee formidable to all mankind.” Those wretchedly deceive themselves that magnify their own performances, and, because they have been blessed with some little success and reputation, conclude themselves fit for any thing and no less sure of it. 4. He counsels him to be content with the honour he has won, and not to hazard that, by grasping at more that was out of his reach: Why shouldst thou meddle to thy hurt, as fools often do, that will be meddling? Pro 20:3. Many would have had wealth and honour enough if they had but known when they had enough. He warns him of the consequence, that it would be fatal not to himself only, but to his kingdom, which he ought to protect.
III. Amaziah persisted in his resolution, and the issue was bad; he had better have tarried at home, for Joash gave him such a look in the face as put him to confusion. Challengers commonly prove to be on the losing side. 1. His army was routed and dispersed, 2Ki 14:12. Josephus says, When they were to engage they were struck with such terror that they did not strike a stroke, but every one made the best of his way. 2. He himself was taken prisoner by the king of Israel, and then had enough of looking him in the face. Amaziah's pedigree comes in here somewhat abruptly (the son of Joash, the son of Ahaziah), because perhaps he had gloried in the dignity of his ancestors, or because he now smarted for their iniquity. 3. The conqueror entered Jerusalem, which tamely opened to him, and yet he broke down their wall (and, as Josephus says, drove his chariot in triumph through the breach), in reproach to them, and that he might, when he pleased, take possession of the royal city. 4. He plundered Jerusalem, took away all that was valuable, and returned to Samaria, laden with spoils, 2Ki 14:14. It was said of Joash that he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and of Amaziah that he did that which was right; and yet Joash triumphs thus over Amaziah, and why so? Because God would show, in Amaziah's fate, that he resists the proud, or because, whatever they were otherwise, Joash had lately been respectful to one of God's prophets (2Ki 13:14), but Amaziah had been abusive to another (2Ch 25:16), and God will honour those who honour him in his prophets, but those who despise them, and him in them, shall be lightly esteemed.