After the death of Jehoash, king of Judah, his son Amaziah succeeded to the kingdom. Amaziah was a warlike prince, and he gathered together an army of three hundred thousand armed men of his own people, in order to lead them against the Amalekites and Edomites and Gebalites. He also sent to the king of Israel and hired one hundred thousand of his men for a hundred talents of silver. But as he was making ready to start, a prophet warned him that he should dismiss the Israelites, for they were bad men, and God would not bless him if he made use of such allies. Though Amaziah thought it was hard that he should be obliged to dismiss the Israelites after paying their hire, yet he obeyed the prophet. Then he marched with his own army against the enemy, and defeated them in many battles, and returned with a great booty.
Amaziah began to be puffed up with pride on account of his great victories, and he forgot that God had helped him, and even went so far as to worship the idols he had brought out of the country of the Amalekites. When a prophet was sent to upbraid him, Amaziah angrily told him to hold his peace and begone. The prophet answered that he would indeed hold his peace in future, but that God would surely punish the king.
Then Amaziah wrote an insolent letter to Jehoash, king of Israel, and commanded that he and his people should submit to him, even as the Israelites had formerly submitted to David and to Solomon, his ancestors.
"And if thou wilt not do this," wrote Amaziah, "thou wilt have to fight for thy dominion."
To which message Jehoash returned this answer in writing:
"King Jehoash to King Amaziah: There was once a tall cypress-tree in Mount Lebanon, and a thistle that grew beside it. The thistle spoke to the cypress, asking that the daughter of the cypress be given in marriage to the son of the thistle. But while the thistle was speaking there came a wild beast and trod it down. And this may be a lesson to thee, not to be so ambitious, and to have a care lest thou growest too proud on account of thy success over the Amalekites, and bringest dangers upon thyself and upon thy kingdom."
When Amaziah had read this letter he was very angry, and he gathered up an army to chastise King Jehoash and reduce him to subjection. But just as the men of Judah were marching out to give battle to the Israelites, a strange terror came down upon them from God, and they dispersed in confusion and fled from the field, leaving Amaziah alone and undefended. The Israelites took him captive, and Jehoash threatened to kill him unless he would persuade the people of Jerusalem to open their gates to him and receive him and his army into the city. Amaziah, being in terror for his life, did as he was told. Jehoash threw down a part of the wall and drove into the city through the breach, and became master of Jerusalem. He took away all the treasure he could find in the temple and in the royal palace and in the houses of the citizens, and returned to Samaria, leaving Amaziah behind him. After this some of the men of Jerusalem conspired against Amaziah and slew him, and he was succeeded by his son Uzziah.