Ahaz’s rule as king of Judah

Chapter 16

Ahaz’s rule as king of Judah

v1 Ahaz, Jotham’s son, began to rule as king of *Judah. That was in the 17th year of Pekah’s rule. Pekah (king of *Israel) was Remaliah’s son. v2 Ahaz was 20 years old when he became the king. He ruled in Jerusalem for 16 years. Unlike David his *ancestor, Ahaz did not do what pleased the *Lord his God. v3 Ahaz did what the kings of *Israel did. He even *sacrificed his son in the fire. The *Lord had forced some nations out of the *Israelites’ country when the *Israelites came there. Those nations behaved in ways that cause disgust. But Ahaz imitated their behaviour. v4 Also, he offered *sacrifices and he burned *incense. He did it on the high *altars. He did it on hills. And he did it under large trees.

Ahaz probably started to rule with his father Jotham in 735 *B.C.. We think that Jotham died in 732 *B.C.. Jotham was a good king who remained loyal to God. But God allowed him to die at a fairly young age. We do not know how he died. But we do know that the people were not copying his good behaviour. Because of Jotham’s early death, he did not see the terrible results of their evil deeds.

Ahaz began to rule while his father was still alive. Ahaz was an extremely wicked king. Many of his wicked deeds were because of his religion. In fact, Ahaz served many different false gods. He even *sacrificed his son. That was part of the religion of a false god called Molech. God forbids that wicked practice in Leviticus 18:21.

Ahaz *worshipped another false god, *Baal, on the high *altars and hills. People thought that large trees produced a lot of fruit. So people *worshipped under those trees. They were *worshipping the gods of sex there. The people believed that they would have many children because of that. People did many wicked things as part of their *worship.

During Ahaz’s rule, *Judah became much weaker. First *Israel and Syria attacked *Judah. They had many successes, but they could not overcome Jerusalem. Ahaz paid the king of Assyria so that the king of Assyria would help him. But the king of Assyria actually caused many more troubles for Ahaz. We read more about these matters below and in 2 Chronicles chapter 28. When Ahaz had all these troubles, he began to *worship even more false gods. His wicked behaviour made the *Lord angry.

v5 King Rezin of Syria and King Pekah of *Israel [Remaliah’s son] attacked Jerusalem. They surrounded the city, but they could not defeat Ahaz. v6 At the same time Rezin, Syria’s king, took control of Elath. So then it belonged to Syria again. He forced out the men that were from *Judah. Then people from Edom moved into Elath. They are still living there.

v7 Ahaz sent men to Assyria’s king Tiglath-Pileser with this message. ‘I am your servant. And I am loyal to you, as a son is loyal to his father. Come and rescue me from Syria’s king and *Israel’s king. They are attacking me.’ v8 Ahaz took the gold and silver from the *Lord’s *temple and from the royal palace. He sent the gold and silver as a gift to Assyria’s king. v9 The king of Assyria listened to Ahaz. So the king of Assyria attacked Damascus. He *captured it. He took its people as prisoners to Kir. The king of Assyria killed Rezin.

Because the people in *Judah were so evil, God allowed Rezin and Pekah to attack them. The two kings overcame many towns and cities in *Judah. They killed many soldiers and they took many prisoners. However, Rezin and Pekah still wanted to replace Ahaz with another king. But although they attacked Jerusalem, they did not remove Ahaz. We can read the complete story in 2 Chronicles chapter 28 and Isaiah chapter 7.

In verse 6, the writer mentions ‘Rezin, Syria’s king’. Many people believe that verse 6 should have ‘the king of Edom’ instead. They think that an army from Edom took that area. If these people are correct, the army from Syria did not take it. (See also 2 Chronicles 28:17.)

The *prophet Isaiah lived at this time. God sent a message to Ahaz by means of Isaiah. God told Ahaz that he (Ahaz) must trust God. *Israel and Syria seemed strong, but in fact they were weak. Soon God would send the king of Assyria as his (God’s) agent to attack them (Isaiah chapter 7).

Ahaz was not willing to trust God. Ahaz *worshipped many false gods, but he would not listen to the real God. God told Ahaz to trust him, but Ahaz only trusted his own resources. So Ahaz offered himself and his country to the king of Assyria. Ahaz took gold and silver from the *temple and the palace. He sent the gold and silver to Tiglath-Pileser, the king of Assyria. Tiglath-Pileser attacked Damascus city and he killed Rezin. Ahaz made himself like a slave to Assyria’s king. Ahaz did not trust God and he did not trust God’s promises. ‘A *curse will come upon the person that trusts in other people. He does not trust the *Lord. …But the man that trusts in the *Lord is happy’ (Jeremiah 17:5-7).

v10 Then King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet King Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria. Ahaz saw an *altar in Damascus. He sent back a plan of the *altar to Uriah the priest. Ahaz also sent instructions about how to build it. v11 So Uriah the priest built the *altar. He followed the plans that King Ahaz had sent to him. Uriah finished the *altar before King Ahaz returned. v12 When the king returned from Damascus, he saw the *altar. Then the king approached the *altar and he climbed up its steps. v13 He offered his *burnt *offering and his grain *offering. The king poured out a wine *offering. He put the blood of his *fellowship *offerings on the *altar. v14 People had given an *altar of bronze (brown metal) to the *Lord. Ahaz took that *altar from the front of the *temple. [It had been between the new *altar and the *Lord’s *temple.] He put it on the north side of the new *altar.

v15 Then he gave these orders to Uriah the priest. ‘Use the large new *altar for the *offerings. Use it when you offer the *burnt *offering each morning. Use it when you offer the grain *offering each evening. Use it when you offer the king’s *burnt *offering and grain *offering. Use it when you offer the *burnt *offering on behalf of all the people in the country. Use it when you offer their *offerings of grain and wine. Put the blood of the *burnt *offerings and *sacrifices on that *altar. But keep for me the *altar that people made out of bronze (brown metal). There I can discover what God wants me to do.’ v16So Uriah the priest did what Ahaz had ordered.

Ahaz went to Damascus (the capital of Syria) to pay tax to Tiglath-Pileser. There, Ahaz saw an *altar that he liked. He ordered the chief priest to make a copy of it in Jerusalem. When Ahaz returned to Jerusalem, he *sacrificed *offerings on it. Ahaz was doing this in the inner area of the *Lord’s *temple. But Ahaz was not loyal to the *Lord. He had decided to import Syria’s religion and Syria’s gods to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 28:23). He had seen how, during the war, Syria’s army was stronger than his own army. So he supposed that Syria’s gods were more powerful than the *Lord.

The new *altar was much larger than the old one. Ahaz moved the old *altar to a less important place. But he did not want to destroy it. He still wanted it to be there so that he could ask the *Lord for advice.

Ahaz was a man who mixed different religions. He imagined that he could serve many different gods. He supposed that they would all be on his side. But the *Lord is the only real God. He is not like other gods. Such gods are mere images of wood, metal and stone. If they have any power, it comes from the devil. Such gods cannot help people. They cannot give good advice. They are without any value whatever (Isaiah 44:15-20).

But the *Lord is not like those false gods. He created the heavens and the earth. He alone deserves our honour and our *worship. And he has ordered that people must not serve any other god (Deuteronomy 5:7-10).

It is terrible that Uriah, the chief priest, allowed the king to do these things. The chief priest permitted the *worship of false gods in the *Lord’s *temple. This fact proves how wicked the people in *Judah were. We may remember how brave Uriah’s *ancestors were. They risked their lives to defend the *Lord’s *temple. For example, Azariah desperately urged King Uzziah not to offer *incense to the *Lord in the *temple (2 Chronicles 26:17-18). And Zechariah died in the *temple area because he spoke the *Lord’s message to King Joash (2 Chronicles 24:20-21). But when King Ahaz wanted to follow false religions in the *temple, Uriah, this chief priest, agreed. And he even carried out the changes that were necessary for that false religion.

v17 (In the *temple,) King Ahaz separated the smaller basins from the carts on which they stood. And he removed the panels (flat sides) from them. He also removed the bronze (brown metal) *bulls that supported the great basin. Instead, he put it on a stone base. v18 Ahaz took away the platform for the royal seat. He shut the king’s private entrance to the *Lord’s *temple. He did that to please the king of Assyria.

v19 You can read about all the other events during Ahaz’s rule. And you can read about the other things that he did. They are in the history of *Judah’s kings. v20 Ahaz died. People buried him in David’s city (Jerusalem). His son Hezekiah became the king after him.

We do not know why Ahaz made the changes in verse 17. It was King Solomon who designed those objects for the *temple. They were works of art. Some people think that perhaps Ahaz wanted the metal in order to pay taxes to Tiglath-Pileser. But perhaps Ahaz simply wanted to make the *temple more modern.

Also, Ahaz took away the platform for the royal seat. That showed that he was not still in complete control of his country. Ahaz shut the king’s private entrance to the *temple. That action showed that he would not go through that entrance. The king of Assyria had become so important in *Judah that Ahaz could not still use his royal entrance. Originally, Ahaz was trying to give just a little control over *Judah to the king of Assyria. But the king of Assyria took more and more control over the country. Soon his control became complete.

If we allow *sin to rule over us, it will control us. In Genesis 4:6, God warned Cain. ‘If you do wrong things, *sin is waiting to control you. But you must overcome it.’ In Romans 6:12-14, Paul writes this: ‘Do not let *sin rule in your body so that you obey *sin. But offer yourselves to God… Because *sin shall not be your master.’

Ahaz died when he was 36 years old. Although Ahaz’s grave was near the royal graves, it was not among them (2 Chronicles 28:27). There were still some people in Jerusalem who were loyal to God. Perhaps those people decided that such an evil king did not deserve a royal grave. They did not want to give him that honour.