2 Chronicles 28 – The Evil Reign of Ahaz
A. The sin of Ahaz and the punishment of Ahaz.
1. (1-4) Ahaz rejects God and embraces idols.
Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD, as his father David had done. For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made molded images for the Baals. He burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and burned his children in the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. And he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills, and under every green tree.
a. He did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD: This briefly describes the reign of perhaps the worst king of Judah. Whereas many previous kings fell short in some area or another, of Ahaz it is simply said that he did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD.
b. As his father David had done: Ahaz had plenty of good examples, both immediately in his father Jotham and historically in his ancestor David. Ahaz rejected these godly examples and walked in his own way.
c. He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel: Ahaz not only rejected the godly heritage of David, he embraced the ungodly ways of the kings of the northern kingdom of Israel. The southern kingdom of Judah had a mixture of godly and ungodly kings; the northern kingdom of Judah had only ungodly kings, and Ahaz followed their pattern.
i. “This is the first instance where Judah imitates Israel’s apostasy.” (Wiseman)
ii. Micah 7:2-7 is a good description of the depravity of the times of Ahaz and the reaction of the godly remnant to it.
d. And burned his children in the fire: This describes Ahaz’s participation in the worship of Molech. The pagan god (or, demon, more accurately) Molech was worshipped by heating a metal statue representing the god until it was red hot, then placing a living infant on the outstretched hands of the statue, while beating drums drowned out the screams of the child until it burned to death.
i. In Leviticus 20:1-5, God pronounced the death sentence against all who worshipped Molech, saying: I will set My face against that man, and will cut him off from his people, because he has given some of his descendants to Molech, to defile My sanctuary and profane My holy name (Leviticus 20:3).
ii. Sadly, even a man as great as Solomon at least sanctioned the worship of Molech and built a temple to this idol (1 Kings 11:7). One of the great crimes of the northern tribes of Israel was their worship of Molech, leading to the Assyrian captivity (2 Kings 17:17). King Manasseh of Judah gave his son to Molech (2 Kings 21:6). Up to the days of King Josiah of Judah, Molech worship continued, until he destroyed a place of worship to that idol (2 Kings 23:10).
iii. “The ‘Valley of (the son of) Hinnom’ descended eastward below the southern edge of the city of Jerusalem; and it became noted as the scene of Judah’s most revolting pagan practices (2 Chronicles 33:6). It was later defiled by King Josiah and converted into a place of refuse for the city (2 Kings 23:10); thus the perpetual fires of ‘Gehenna’ became descriptive of hell itself (Mark 9:43).” (Payne)
e. According to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel: The Canaanite nations that occupied Canaan before the time of Joshua also practiced this terrible form of human and child sacrifice. God would bring judgment upon Judah for their continued practice of these sins.
i. This reminds us that the war against the Canaanites in the Book of Joshua – as terrible and complete as it was – was not a racial war. God’s judgment did not come upon the Canaanites through the armies of Israel because of their race, but because of their sin. If Israel insisted on walking in the same sins, God would bring similar judgment upon them.
2. (5-8) A great slaughter and captivity of many from Judah.
Therefore the LORD his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Syria. They defeated him, and carried away a great multitude of them as captives, and brought them to Damascus. Then he was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, who defeated him with a great slaughter. For Pekah the son of Remaliah killed one hundred and twenty thousand in Judah in one day, all valiant men, because they had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers. Zichri, a mighty man of Ephraim, killed Maaseiah the king’s son, Azrikam the officer over the house, and Elkanah who was second to the king. And the children of Israel carried away captive of their brethren two hundred thousand women, sons, and daughters; and they also took away much spoil from them, and brought the spoil to Samaria.
a. Therefore the LORD his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Syria: 2 Kings 16:5-6 tells us more about the confederation of Israel and Syria in this attack against Judah. This was part of King Pekah of Israel’s anti-Assyria policy. He thought that with Judah defeated, Syria and Israel together could more effectively resist the resurgent power of the Assyrian Empire.
i. Isaiah 7 makes it clear that the goal of this attack was to dethrone Ahaz and set up a Syrian king over Judah, a certain son of Tabel (Isaiah 7:6).
ii. The LORD his God: “God was his God, though not by covenant and grace, and special relation, which Ahaz had renounced, yet by his sovereign dominion over him; for God did not forfeit his right by Ahaz’s denying of it.” (Poole)
b. Who defeated him with a great slaughter: The loss of 120,000 Judean soldiers and 200,000 civilian hostages in these battles with Israel and Syria meant that it was a dark time for Judah, and it looked as if the dynasty of David would soon be extinguished, as so many dynasties in the northern kingdom of Israel had ended.
3. (9-15) The prophet’s rebuke to Israel is heeded
But a prophet of the LORD was there, whose name was Oded; and he went out before the army that came to Samaria, and said to them: “Look, because the LORD God of your fathers was angry with Judah, He has delivered them into your hand; but you have killed them in a rage that reaches up to heaven. And now you propose to force the children of Judah and Jerusalem to be your male and female slaves; but are you not also guilty before the LORD your God? Now hear me, therefore, and return the captives, whom you have taken captive from your brethren, for the fierce wrath of the LORD is upon you.” Then some of the heads of the children of Ephraim, Azariah the son of Johanan, Berechiah the son of Meshillemoth, Jehizkiah the son of Shallum, and Amasa the son of Hadlai, stood up against those who came from the war, and said to them, “You shall not bring the captives here, for we already have offended the LORD. You intend to add to our sins and to our guilt; for our guilt is great, and there is fierce wrath against Israel.” So the armed men left the captives and the spoil before the leaders and all the assembly. Then the men who were designated by name rose up and took the captives, and from the spoil they clothed all who were naked among them, dressed them and gave them sandals, gave them food and drink, and anointed them; and they let all the feeble ones ride on donkeys. So they brought them to their brethren at Jericho, the city of palm trees. Then they returned to Samaria.
a. A prophet of the LORD was there, whose name was Oded: This brave prophet went with the 200,000 captives taken from the conquered southern kingdom to the northern kingdom of Israel, to make the leaders of Israel conscious of this crime against their fellow tribes.
b. You shall not bring captives here, for we already have offended the LORD: Remarkably, the leaders of Israel responded to the message from Oded and recognized their own sin and guilt. They cared for the captives from the spoil of battle and sent them back to Judah.
i. “Here we have the picture of a good preacher. Oded teacheth, reproveth, exhorteth, turneth himself into all shapes, of spirit and of speech, that he may work upon his hearers; and he had his desire.” (Trapp)
ii. “To this beautiful speech nothing can be added by the best comment; it is simple, humane, pious, and overwhelmingly convincing: no wonder it produced the effect mentioned here. That there was much of humanity in the heads of the children of Ephraim who joined with the prophet on this occasion, 2 Chronicles 28:15 sufficiently proves.” (Clarke)
B. The decline and fall of King Ahaz.
1. (16-21) Ahaz puts his trust in the kings of Assyria instead of the LORD.
At the same time King Ahaz sent to the kings of Assyria to help him. For again the Edomites had come, attacked Judah, and carried away captives. The Philistines also had invaded the cities of the lowland and of the South of Judah, and had taken Beth Shemesh, Aijalon, Gederoth, Sochoh with its villages, Timnah with its villages, and Gimzo with its villages; and they dwelt there. For the LORD brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had encouraged moral decline in Judah and had been continually unfaithful to the LORD. Also Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came to him and distressed him, and did not assist him. For Ahaz took part of the treasures from the house of the LORD, from the house of the king, and from the leaders, and he gave it to the king of Assyria; but he did not help him.
a. At the same time King Ahaz sent to the kings of Assyria to help him: This was because, as 2 Kings 16 explains, the combined armies of Israel and Syria had not only overcome many cities of Judah, but were at the time laying siege against Jerusalem. 2 Kings 16:5 says, they besieged Ahaz but could not overcome him. To his shame in this time of crisis, Ahaz looked to the kings of Assyria instead of the LORD.
i. Before Ahaz did this, Isaiah offered him a sign for assurance of God’s help in the struggle against the combined armies of Israel and Syria (Isaiah 7:1-12). “This was a fair offer to a foul sinner” (Trapp), but Ahaz refused under the excuse of not wanting to test God, when instead he really wanted to trust in the king of Assyria.
ii. The prophecy of Isaiah 7 – including the announcement of the Immanuel sign – came from Isaiah to King Ahaz during this joint Israeli and Syrian invasion (also apparently with the help of the Edomites and the Philistines). Yet for the sake of David, God did not allow this disastrous attack on Judah to prevail. He would not allow this Satanic plot against the Messianic dynasty of David to succeed.
iii. The kings of Israel and Syria thought of themselves as burning torches, come to destroy Judah and the dynasty of David. God said they were just like burnt-out smoking sticks, who would not ultimately do much damage (Isaiah 7:4).
iv. Through Isaiah’s message to Ahaz, he assured the wicked king – who did not really listen – “There should be a remnant left to return to the land; and the virgin should bear a son, so there should not fail a king upon the throne of David. The dynasty could never be destroyed, for of Immanuel’s kingdom there shall be no end.” (Knapp)
v. “The kings of Assyria, i.e. the king; the plural number for the singular.” (Poole)
b. For the LORD brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel: This was both because of the personal ungodliness of Ahaz and because of the poor example he was to others (he had encouraged moral decline in Judah).
i. An example of his personal decline was his appeal to the Assyrian king, to whom he said, I am your servant and your son. Come up and save me (2 Kings 16:7). Ahaz surrendered to one enemy in order to defeat another. He refused to trust in the God of Israel and instead submitted himself and his kingdom to an enemy of Israel.
ii. “The address ‘I am your servant and your son’ clearly places Ahaz as the petitioning vassal and shows he was trusting in Assyria rather than in the LORD, against the advice of Isaiah (Isaiah 7:10-16; cf. Exodus 23:22).” (Wiseman)
c. For Ahaz took part of the treasures from the house of the LORD…but he did not help him: Essentially, Ahaz made Judah a subject kingdom to Assyria. Ahaz now took his orders from the Assyrian king, sacrificing the independence of the kingdom of Judah. Worse yet, he did not help him. It was useless.
i. We can only wonder what blessing might have come if Ahaz would have surrendered and sacrificed to the LORD with the same energy and whole heart that he surrendered to the Assyrian king.
ii. “How different was his great ancestor David! ‘In my distress,’ he says, ‘I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God’ (Psalm 18:6). Even his wicked grandson Manasseh sought the Lord his God ‘when he was in affliction.’ But Ahaz seemed determined to fill up the measure of his sins.” (Knapp)
2. (22-27) The apostasy and end of King Ahaz.
Now in the time of his distress King Ahaz became increasingly unfaithful to the LORD. This is that King Ahaz. For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus which had defeated him, saying, “Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.” But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel. So Ahaz gathered the articles of the house of God, cut in pieces the articles of the house of God, shut up the doors of the house of the LORD, and made for himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem. And in every single city of Judah he made high places to burn incense to other gods, and provoked to anger the LORD God of his fathers. Now the rest of his acts and all his ways, from first to last, indeed they are written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel. So Ahaz rested with his fathers, and they buried him in the city, in Jerusalem; but they did not bring him into the tombs of the kings of Israel. Then Hezekiah his son reigned in his place.
a. In the time of his distress King Ahaz became increasingly unfaithful to the LORD: Times of trial and distress do not necessarily drive people closer to God. Sometimes people allow such distresses to drive them away from God. Ahaz was notable among that type, so much so that the Chronicler noted, This is that King Ahaz.
i. “These hammers of the Most High did but beat upon cold iron.” (Trapp)
ii. “Ahaz also ‘behaved without restraint’ and was most unfaithful. The former expression really means to favour licence rather than true liberty, while the latter is a typical term in Chronicles for failing to give God his due.” (Selman)
iii. “The evil of his character is supremely demonstrated in that calamities seemed not to have the effect, as they so often had among his predecessors, of rousing him to consciousness of his sin.” (Morgan)
iv. This is that King Ahaz: “A black mark is put against his name, to show how greatly guilty he was. Those who rebel against divine checks, and will not be held in by the providence of God, are to be written down in capital letters as great sinners. They sin with emphasis who sin against the chastising rod.” (Spurgeon)
b. For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus which had defeated him: 2 Kings 16 tells us that this happened after a visit that Ahaz made to Damascus. He returned from the visit and made a new altar after the pattern of what he saw in Damascus and he took their forms, their style, and their gods. Sadly, he even received the help of Urijah the priest.
i. 2 Kings 16 also tells us that Ahaz served as a priest at the altar of his own design. Since he created his own place of worship, it also made sense that he would disregard God’s command that a king must not serve as a priest (Numbers 18:7).
ii. Ahaz’s grandfather Azariah (Uzziah) dared to enter the temple and serve God as a priest (2 Chronicles 26). Yet at least Azariah falsely worshipped the true God. Ahaz falsely worshipped a false god of his own creation. “Uzziah for so doing was smitten with leprosy; but Ahaz of a far worse disease, an incurable hardness of heart.” (Trapp)
c. Cut in pieces the articles of the house of God, shut up the doors of the house of the LORD: Ahaz could not bring in his pagan, corrupt innovations without also removing what had stood before at the temple. This was an ungodly exchange, taking away the good and putting in the bad. Collectively, all these things served to discourage the worship of the true God at the temple of God.
i. “He caused the Divine worship to be totally suspended; and they continued shut till the beginning of the reign of Hezekiah, one of whose first acts was to reopen them, and thus to restore the Divine worship.” (Clarke)
ii. “Ahaz’s appropriation of the panels and bases from the sacred furniture does not seem to be for the purpose of sending a further gift to Tiglath-pileser but rather for deemphasizing their importance in the worship services. Perhaps he planned to reuse them in some other decorative way. At any rate death overtook him before his attention could be turned to them. They are mentioned among the several items that were carried away in the later Babylonian despoiling of Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:13-14; Jeremiah 27:19-20; 52:17-23).” (Patterson and Austel)
iii. We remember that all this took place at the temple Solomon built unto the LORD. The mere location did not make it true worship. Sometimes idols are worshipped at a house that was once dedicated to the true God.
d. And in every single city of Judah he made high places to burn incense to other gods: During these changes, Ahaz shut down the operation of the temple and established small pagan altars all around Judah.
i. “It would seem as though the light of truth were absolutely extinguished. It was not so, however, for it is likely that throughout the whole reigns of Jotham and Ahaz, Isaiah was uttering his message, and that during the reign of Ahaz Micah also was delivering the word of God.” (Morgan)
e. Now the rest of his acts and all his ways: So ended the reign of perhaps the worst king of Judah. Micah – who prophesied during the reign of Ahaz – describes the man who works to successfully do evil with both hands (Micah 7:3). The idea is that the man pursues evil with all his effort, with both hands. He may very well have had King Ahaz in mind.
i. “He died a natural death, though he was so detestable a miscreant. God putteth off the punishment of many wicked wretches till the other world.” (Trapp)
ii. “Ahaz was evil by choice, persistent in evil in spite of calamity, blasphemously rebellious notwithstanding the direct warnings of the prophet of God. This attitude of the king made the darkness all the denser.” (Morgan)