The thistle that was in Lebanon sent to the cedar that was in Lebanon, saying, Give thy daughter to my son to wife: and there passed by a wild beast that was in Lebanon, and trode down the thistle.
This is the reply by the grandson of Jehu, Joash, King of Israel, to the King of Judah Amaziah, when Amaziah, puffed up with his recent victory over the Children of Seir, sent a message to the King of Israel Joash to fight him.
The irony is that Amaziah, had not long ago paid mercenaries from Israel 100 talents of silver to engage their services in a battle Amaziah proposed to engage. However, heeding to a prophecy, discharged those mercenaries, probably irking them by recovering a part of the silver agreed to be paid as wages. This is not stated in II Chronicles 25 so explicitly, yet the behaviour of the discharged mercenaries by attacking certain cities of Judah after their discharge leads one to a conclusion that they were nursing a grouse.
Whatever be the reasons thereof, one thing was clear that those discharged 100,000 men from Israel (Ephraim, being the most dominant tribe), had access routes and intimate knowledge of Judah along with the capabilities and vulnerabilities of Judah. Despite these inherent vulnerabilities, Amaziah wanted to engage with Joash, in a battle!
Aid of history is a must to understand the pedigree of both these kings.
Joash’s grandfather was Jehu, who according to a prophecy was assured by God that up to his fourth generation they would be kings of Israel! Not a mean promise – though i have my doubts as to whether these were pre-facto prophecies or written after history had run its course! In any case, Joash had had peace in Israel, whereas Amaziah’s father was another person named Joash, who though from the royal lineage had escaped from Athaliah by the skin of his teeth to become the King of Judah, at the age of seven, all because of the wisdom, strength and grace of God obtained by the Priest Jehoiada.
Weighing these two kings, it is not difficult to see that Joash, the King of Israel had a better pedigree and better resources at his command than the King of Judah, Amaziah.
But Amaziah had won a battle with the Edomites and having expended his and his people’s bloodthirstiness on around 10,000 Edomites by killing them from a hilltop, this Amaziah was emboldened to provoke the King of Israel into a war, little realising that resources accumulated in one generation by an upstart, who made it more by the goodness of the Priest Jehoiada, would be no match to the resources gathered and accumulated by three generations of Kings!
It is in this context that Joash compares himself to a Cedar – a wood that has dimensional stability. After installing the doorposts and lintels if the wood were to bend, such a wood would have a negative structural impact on the house, but with Cedar the moisture, heat and other elements have marginal impact. I presume, that Joash aptly referred to himself as Cedar and to Amaziah as thistle. Thistle is an unintended outgrowth of vegetation. It is by chance and not by design that thistles grow – and Amaziah is rightly metaphorically told that he was a product of chance with no inherent merit!
The Bible contains passages which are like the words of Joash: fitly spoken like apples of gold in pictures of silver