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2 Kings 16:1-20 – Ahaz of Judah


Ahaz (742-727) is portrayed as a weak and indecisive king in the face of external political pressures to align with the anti-Assyrian coalition.


Ahaz is censured with the standard Deuteronomistic formula, "He did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD his God" (v. 2). His wickedness is compared with the kings of Israel (v. 3), a remarkable comment since Ahaz reigned in Judah at the time of Assyria's destruction of the northern kingdom. This historical setting dominates the presentation. When Syria (Aram) and Israel attacked Jerusalem in an attempt to force Ahaz to join their anti-Assyrian coalition, Ahaz escaped by turning to Tiglath-pileser of Assyria for help, paying him tribute, and becoming a vassal with the words, "I am your servant and your son. Come up, and rescue me from the hand of the king of Aram and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me" (v. 7)-all this, despite Isaiah's memorable counsel (Isaiah 7:1-9). Tiglath-pileser responded by capturing Damascus (Syria) and invading Israel (2 Kings 16:9; see also 15:29).

Even more heinous to the Deuteronomistic editors was Ahaz's utter adoption of Assyrian religion, including the replacement of Solomon's bronze altar with a newly constructed altar of Assyrian design, and compounding the matter by using it for Assyrian divination practices and removing other cultic objects "because of the king of Assyria," a vague phrase that probably means he sent them to Tiglath-pileser as tribute (16:10-18).

2 Kings 16:1-20

Ahaz Reigns over Judah

16In the seventeenth year of Pekah son of Remaliah, King Ahaz son of Jotham of Judah began to reign. 2Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign; he reigned for sixteen years in Jerusalem. He did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had done, 3but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel. He even made his son pass through fire, according to the abominable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. 4He sacrificed and made offerings on the high places, on the hills, and under every green tree.

Then King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah son of Remaliah of Israel came up to wage war on Jerusalem; they besieged Ahaz but could not conquer him. 6At that time the king of Edom* recovered Elath for Edom,* and drove the Judeans from Elath; and the Edomites came to Elath, where they live to this day. 7Ahaz sent messengers to King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria, saying, ‘I am your servant and your son. Come up, and rescue me from the hand of the king of Aram and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.’ 8Ahaz also took the silver and gold 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. 9The king of Assyria listened to him; the king of Assyria marched up against Damascus, and took it, carrying its people captive to Kir; then he killed Rezin.

10 When King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria, he saw the altar that was at Damascus. King Ahaz sent to the priest Uriah a model of the altar, and its pattern, exact in all its details. 11The priest Uriah built the altar; in accordance with all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus, just so did the priest Uriah build it, before King Ahaz arrived from Damascus. 12When the king came from Damascus, the king viewed the altar. Then the king drew near to the altar, went up on it, 13and offered his burnt-offering and his grain-offering, poured his drink-offering, and dashed the blood of his offerings of well-being against the altar. 14The 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. 15King Ahaz commanded the priest Uriah, saying, ‘Upon the great altar offer 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, their grain-offering, and their drink-offering; then dash against 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.’ 16The priest Uriah did everything that King Ahaz commanded.

17 Then King Ahaz cut off the frames of the stands, and removed the laver from them; he removed the sea from the bronze oxen that were under it, and put it on a pediment of stone. 18The covered portal for use on the sabbath that had been built inside the palace, and the outer entrance for the king, he removed from* the house of the Lord. He did this because of the king of Assyria. 19Now the rest of the acts of Ahaz that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah? 20Ahaz slept with his ancestors, and was buried with his ancestors in the city of David; his son Hezekiah succeeded him.

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