Ahaz Reigns in Judah
16 In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, Ahaz the son of Jotham, king of Judah, began to reign. Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God, as his father David had done, but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel. He even burned his son as an offering, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. And he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree.
Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, came up to wage war on Jerusalem, and they besieged Ahaz but could not conquer him. At that time Rezin the king of Syria recovered Elath for Syria and drove the men of Judah from Elath, and the Edomites came to Elath, where they dwell to this day. So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, “I am your servant and your son. Come up and rescue me from the hand of the king of Syria and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.” Ahaz also took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasures of the king’s house and sent a present to the king of Assyria. And the king of Assyria listened to him. The king of Assyria marched up against Damascus and took it, carrying its people captive to Kir, and he killed Rezin.
When King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, he saw the altar that was at Damascus. And King Ahaz sent to Uriah the priest a model of the altar, and its pattern, exact in all its details. And Uriah the priest built the altar; in accordance with all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus, so Uriah the priest made it, before King Ahaz arrived from Damascus. And when the king came from Damascus, the king viewed the altar. Then the king drew near to the altar and went up on it and burned his burnt offering and his grain offering and poured his drink offering and threw the blood of his peace offerings on the altar. And the bronze altar that was before the LORD he removed from the front of the house, from the place between his altar and the house of the LORD, and put it on the north side of his altar. And King Ahaz commanded Uriah the priest, saying, “On the great altar burn the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering and the king’s burnt offering and his grain offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. And throw on it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice, but the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by.” Uriah the priest did all this, as King Ahaz commanded.
And King Ahaz cut off the frames of the stands and removed the basin from them, and he took down the sea from off the bronze oxen that were under it and put it on a stone pedestal. And the covered way for the Sabbath that had been built inside the house and the outer entrance for the king he caused to go around the house of the LORD, because of the king of Assyria. Now the rest of the acts of Ahaz that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? And Ahaz slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David, and Hezekiah his son reigned in his place.
2 Kings 16 Commentary
by Hank Workman
Ahaz was a weak and extremely compromising ruler. Under his leadership, their religious system was put to shambles. He reconstructed everything about it, modeling it after pagan customs to please his own thought. Here’s how it all went down.
Ahaz walked more than an evil line – he crossed it time and again. Beginning with sacrificing his own son to pagan gods, a practice of the Canaanites, he thought it would bring him help. Politically Israel and Aram were under rule by this time of the Assyrians. Joining forces against Judah they hoped to overtake the small nation and force them to join in hopes of an overthrow. The plan completely fell apart when king Ahaz switched alliances and asked for Assyria themselves to come to his aid.
By this time Assyria had captured Damascus and Ahaz was scared he would be next. Consequently, he hoped his money would help keep the antagonistic nation at bay. It failed. Although in the end, they did not take Judah this alliance did become a snare that he later regretted as mentioned in 2 Chronicles 28.
But what took place during this time was horrific in the sense of his compromise of worship. While Ahaz was in Damascus trying to seal his deal and be safe as a nation he observed the false worship temples which had been constructed. He mimicked these as he replaced the altar of burnt sacrifice with one he had seen there. The original detailed by God was kept for divination. He removed basins that were part of the Israelite ritual for forgiveness, took away the Sea and moved it elsewhere, took down the Sabbath canopy. He changed 16 different aspects.
To us, this may seem somewhat insignificant as we don’t understand all the ins and outs of their worship. But to God this was huge and a smackdown of all he had instructed with his original construction of the temple.
As we read this it may be easy to condemn Ahaz as he should have known better. But do we act in the same way ever? Do we compromise and attempt to mold God’s message to fit our own personal preference? Do we hear what we want to hear and disregard other aspects of God we would rather not wrestle or be obedient to?
2 Kings 16 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
This was a horrific compromise by Ahaz as he decided to trust the Assyrian army to bail him out of this looming threat. When we read this same story from the book of Isaiah, the compromise becomes even more clear.
When King Ahaz, the son of Jotham and grandson of Uzziah, ruled Judah, war broke out. Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah son of Remaliah, king of Israel, attacked Jerusalem, but were unable to capture it. 2 When word reached the king of Judah that the armies of Syria were already in the territory of Israel, he and all his people were so terrified that they trembled like trees shaking in the wind.Isaiah 7:1-2 GNB
The LORD sent another message to Ahaz: 11 “Ask the LORD your God to give you a sign. It can be from deep in the world of the dead or from high up in heaven.” 12 Ahaz answered, “I will not ask for a sign. I refuse to put the LORD to the test.” 13 To that Isaiah replied, “Listen, now, descendants of King David. It’s bad enough for you to wear out the patience of people—do you have to wear out God’s patience too? 14 Well then, the Lord himself will give you a sign: a young woman who is pregnant will have a son and will name him ‘Immanuel.’Isaiah 7:10-14 GNB
As you can see, the prophet Isaiah was not pleased with Ahaz’s answer. Under the excuse of “testing the Lord,” he instead trusts the Assyrians and ignores the prophet’s counsel. Interestingly, Isaiah then goes into a full-fledged prophetic statement that many believe to point to Jesus Christ (Immanuel). Scholars and commentators alike have debated this statement and the significance of it following this huge decision by Ahaz. Many agree that this decision to trust Assyria over God signaled the end of David’s dynasty.
The main point is, Ahaz thwarted the attack plan of Syria and Israel but did so in direct disobedience to Isaiah’s instruction. There are tough times ahead.