In 2 Kings 14:1–22, the author shifts his attention back to Judah after having looked at Israel in chapter 13. In these verses, we read about King Amaziah of Judah, who succeeded his father, King Jehoash (Joash), after a group of conspirators assassinated Jehoash (12:19–21). With Amaziah, Judah had a king with a mixed record of faithfulness, one who started out well but did not end well. All too often in Judah, it was like father, like son, which meant that instead of lasting turns from idolatry, the nation only went deeper and deeper into the worship of false gods.
Unlike Judean monarchs such as Jehoram, Ahaziah, and Athaliah (8:16–18, 25–27; 11:1–20), Amaziah did not start out as a gross idolater. As his father Joash did when he began his reign, Amaziah did what was right in God’s eyes (14:1–3). He was true to the Lord’s commandments, following the laws for dealing with murderers given in Deuteronomy 24:16 (2 Kings 14:5–6). Yet, 2 Kings does not describe King Amaziah’s faithfulness to God without qualification. He did not follow David’s model of obedience, and he did not tear down the high places. In this, he followed his father’s example (vv. 3–4; see 12:2–3).
Sadly, Amaziah followed also the example of Jehoash’s later reign. Second Kings 14:7 says that Amaziah defeated the Edomites, and 2 Chronicles 25:14–16 adds that he started to worship the gods of Edom after his victory—just as Jehoash worshiped idols after a period of faithfulness to Yahweh, the God of Israel (24:17–19). Soon thereafter, Amaziah foolishly decided to do battle against King Jehoash of Israel even though Jehoash warned him against it, and Judah was soundly defeated (2 Kings 14:8–12). Second Chronicles 25:20 tells us that God was behind Amaziah’s choice to go to war, for He sought to discipline Judah for worshiping Edom’s gods. Augustine of Hippo writes, “God, wishing to punish the sin of idolatry, influenced the heart of this man with whom he was justly angry, that he would not heed salutary advice but, in his contempt for it, would engage in battle, there to perish together with his army.”
Not only was Judah defeated, but Israel invaded Judah, broke down the wall of Jerusalem, plundered the treasuries of Amaziah and of Solomon’s temple, and captured Amaziah, who very likely died while a prisoner in Israel (2 Kings 14:13–22). This was a foretaste of what God would do if Judah did not turn from its idolatry, a warning that Judah, sadly, did not finally heed (2 Chron. 36:1–21).