Amaziah (Hebrew אמציה, strengthened by YHWH) (854-r. 839-810 BC according to Ussher, or 821-r. 796-767 BC according to Thiele) was the eighth king of the Southern Kingdom of Israel in direct line-of-descent from David. His is yet another story of a king who starts out doing right, then backslides and brings disaster upon himself and his kingdom.
Early Life and Family
Amaziah himself married Jecoliah of Jerusalem. By Jecoliah he had his son and successor, Uzziah. This happened either when Amaziah was 37 years old (and in the thirteenth year of his reign) or when he was 12 years old (and would not take the throne for another thirteen years). The different birth dates for his son are required by the different chronological systems--a fact that Thiele never acknowledged in his lifetime, but which his disciple, Leslie McFall, readily admits.
Accession and Early Reign
Amaziah succeeded to the throne in either 839 BC or 796 BC, at the age of twenty-five. The author of the Kings books says that this happened in the second year of King Joash of Israel. In fact, it was the second year since Joash of Israel became viceroy of the Northern Kingdom.The Chronicler sums up the character of Amaziah's reign thus:
Nevertheless, he continued the policies of his father Joash, except that, as was usual, he failed to remove the high places.
And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, yet not with a perfect heart. II_Chronicles 25:2 (KJV)
The Edomite War
Next, Amaziah took a census of his people, and found that he had 300,000 men of military age (that is, 20 years old and older) who had weapons training. He decided to attack the Edomites again, and to make sure of his success, he hired 100,000 Ephraimite mercenaries from King Joash of Israel for a hundred silver talents (approximately four tons).
An unnamed prophet then warned Amaziah not to go to battle with those mercenaries as part of his army. So he sent them back, to their great annoyance and displeasure. He did not, however, demand a refund of his hundred talents.
Amaziah marched off to war with his native forces to the "valley of salt." He killed 10,000 Edomites outright and took another 10,000 Edomite prisoners and executed them all by throwing them off a high precipice. (The Columbia Encyclopedia asserts that Amaziah captured the rock-hewn city of Petra, but the Bible does not clearly so state.)
Amaziah then took several idols from the Edomite battle and began to worship them himself and even burn incense to them. Another prophet tried to advise him of the absurdity of his practice: these idols had not proved sufficient to save the Edomites from his army, so why should he worship them? Amaziah told him to mind his own business if he didn't want to be executed. The prophet's last words were that God would certainly destroy Amaziah for his refusal to listen.
War with Joash of Israel
The Ephraimite mercenaries whom Amaziah had sent home, attacked several Southern Kingdom cities, killed 3,000 people, and took much spoil. This is the only provocation Amaziah could be said to have had for what he did next.
Amaziah challenged Joash to a battle. Joash advised Amaziah as gently as he could that he ought to revel in his recent victory and go home, rather than start a war that he would not win. Amaziah did not heed the advice. Thus the two kings met in battle at Bethshemesh, a city belonging to the Southern Kingdom. Joash won the day, took Amaziah prisoner, and then marched to Jerusalem, where he broke a four-hundred-cubit-wide hole in its wall. Then Joash took great spoil, including all the gold and silver in the Temple and palace treasuries, and returned to Samaria, his capital. This battle likely took place in 825 BC or 782 BC.
Later reign, murder and succession
Shortly after this disastrous war, Joash of Israel died, and his viceroy Jeroboam II began to reign alone. Amaziah lived on for another fifteen years. Then another conspiracy formed against him. He fled to Lachish (where the remains of a high place stand in modern times), and the conspirators found him and killed him there. They brought his body back on horseback, and he was buried in the sepulchres of the kings. His son Uzziah reigned in his place.
Two verses plainly state that the people of the Southern Kingdom acclaimed Uzziah as their next king. Those same verses also seem, to all appearances, to state that Uzziah was sixteen years old at the time. Furthermore, the author of Kings states that Uzziah began his reign in the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam II of the Northern Kingdom. Jeroboam II became viceroy of the Northern Kingdom twelve years before Joash of Israel's death; these twelve years added to the fifteen that Amaziah outlived Joash make twenty-seven. More to the point, those same verses also state that Uzziah was sixteen years old when he began to reign.
All of the above are entirely in accord with Ussher's chronology of the Divided Kingdoms. From these statements Ussher concluded that Uzziah was born to Amaziah when the latter was thirty-seven years old, and that he began his sole reign when he was sixteen.
Thiele, however, insists that Uzziah began to reign in 792 BC--this although Amaziah died in 767 BC according to the Thiele system. Only two resolutions are possible, and one of these is physically impossible:
- Uzziah was made viceroy of the Southern Kingdom fully eight years before he was born.
- Uzziah was made viceroy at sixteen and then became sole ruler of the Southern Kingdom twenty-four years later, and then reigned alone for another seventeen years. But that would mean that Amaziah sired Uzziah when he, Amaziah, was twelve years old. That is entirely possible--and in fact a future king of the Southern Kingdom must surely have sired his own successor when he was even younger. But it requires much "multiplication of guesses" because it violates the plain reading of so many verses. It also assumes that Uzziah granted his son a ten-year viceroyship.
- James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed., Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003 (ISBN 0890513600), pghh. 538, 541, 548-51, 553
- Leon J. Wood, A Survey of Israel's History, rev. ed. David O'Brien, Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1986 (ISBN 031034770X), pp. 297-298
- Authors unknown. "King Amaziah - Biography." The Kings of Israel, hosted at http://www.geocities.com/ Retrieved June 10, 2007.
- Authors unknown. "Entry for Amaziah." WebBible Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 10, 2007.
- Larry Pierce, "Some Objections Considered," in James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed., Master Books, 2003, pp. 921-926 ISBN 0890513600
- II_Kings 14:1-2
- II_Chronicles 25:1
- II_Kings 14:3-4
- II_Kings 14:5-6
- II_Chronicles 25:3-4
- II_Chronicles 25:5
- II_Chronicles 25:6-10
- Authors unknown. "Entry for Amaziah." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., 2007. Retrieved June 10, 2007, from <http://www.infoplease.com/>
- II_Chronicles 25:11-16
- II_Kings 14:8-14
- II_Chronicles 25:17-24
- II_Kings 14:17
- II_Chronicles 25:25
- II_Kings 14:19-20
- II_Chronicles 25:27-28
- II_Kings 14:21
- II_Chronicles 26:1
- II_Kings 15:1-2
- Larry Pierce, Evidentialism–the Bible and Assyrian chronology TJ 15(1):62–68 April 2001