Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a loyal heart. Now it happened, as soon as the kingdom was established for him, that he executed his servants who had murdered his father the king. However he did not execute their children, but did as it is written in the Law in the Book of Moses, where the Lord commanded, saying, “The fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall the children be put to death for their fathers; but a person shall die for his own sin.” (2 Chronicles 25:1-4)
Why Were The Children Killed?
One of the troubling aspects of the story of Achan is the judgment of God upon his children. When Achan took of the accursed things during the destruction of Jericho, his whole family was stoned to death and then burned with fire. The judgment of the Lord was against Achan, his wife, and his sons and daughters. We do not know the age of the children but we find God’s wrath is not kept from the destruction of the whole family. Achan had taken a Babylonian garment along with some gold and silver hiding the items in the center of his tent. When he was brought before Joshua he confessed his sin. Finding the stolen goods in his tent, the people of Israel took the family along with all of their possessions and stoned them. It became a life lesson for all who took part in the stoning and a historical imprint upon the minds of all who read the story to understand the judgment of God upon wickedness. Questions may rise, “Why the children?” The answer is found in the Law of Moses and shown by the judgment of king Amaziah.
The period of the divided kingdom in Israel was a turbulent time of righteous kings and kings who followed in the sins of Jeroboam. All of the kings of the northern tribes of Israel were wicked. Some of the kings in Judah followed the Lord but most did not. Amaziah was a king who had good qualities but failed to give his heart totally to the Lord. His father Joash had reigned in Judah forty years. Rescued from the murderous plots of Athaliah, Joash became king at the age of seven. The reign of Joash was a good time and he served the Lord for most of his reign. Like many kings, he fell short of keeping his faith in the Lord and was defeated by a small army of Syrians. During the battle Joash was wounded. Taking advantage of the king’s condition, servants loyal to Jehoiada the priest killed him on his bed. Then Amaziah his son reigned in his place. When Amaziah became king he executed his servants who murdered his father the king but did not destroy his children. The Law of Moses declared that only those guilty of sin would be put to death.
In the case of Achan the family knew of his trespass. Bringing the stolen goods to his tent and burying them in the ground did not go unnoticed by his wife and children. They were party to his sin and were held accountable. We do not know the details of the story but we can well imagine Achan bringing the goods into his tent and telling his family. Their responsibility would have been to rebuke Achan demanding he return the stolen goods. For reasons unknown they did not and accepted the stolen goods into their home. Because of their complicity in the act, they would suffer the same penalty as their father.
The story of Achan is a sad and tragic lesson but shows the righteousness of God according to His word. Everyone of Israel understood the prohibition against taking anything from Jericho. This was plainly set forth before attacking Jericho. The penalties were clear. Achan chose to ignore the law of God and drawing his family into this scheme determined their fate. The Law of Moses was not a cruel law and was established upon the principles of righteousness. King Amaziah did not execute the children of those who killed his father because they were not guilty. It is a profound statement of God that all men will be punished for their sins alone. Judgment is reserved for the individual. The prophet Ezekiel would later write the soul who sins shall die. One of the amazing things about the eternal day of judgment is that everyone will be there and we will be all alone. Fathers will not be punished for their children nor shall the children be punished for their fathers. The judgment of God will be upon every man and woman according to what the man and woman has done. We cannot blame our parents for our sin and we will not go to Heaven because our parents are saved. When the final day of judgment comes every individual will be judged according to the actions of their own heart. The soul that sins shall die. No blaming. No excuses. No more time.