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THE REIGN OF AHAZ. (Comp. 2 Kings 16:0)
PRELIMINARY NOTICES OF THE LENGTH AND CHARACTER OF THE REIGN (2 Chronicles 28:1-4).
(1) Ahaz was twenty years old.—The verse is identical with 2 Kings 16:2; LXX., Syriac, and Arabic, “twenty and five.” (See 2 Chronicles 29:1.)
The Lord.—Add his God. So some MSS. and Syriac; also Kings. The Assyrian monuments call Ahaz Yahuhazi, i.e., Jehoahaz, of which Ahaz may be a familiar abridgment. (Comp. Nathan, Jonathan.)
(2) And made also molten images for Baalim.—For the Baals, i.e., the different aspects or avatars of the Canaanite god. This clause is added by the chronicler, in explanation of the former one; “the way of the kings of Israel” was the state recognition of Baal worship, side by side with that of Jehovah (2 Chronicles 21:6; 2 Chronicles 22:3-4; comp. 2 Chronicles 23:17). But possibly both this and the first clause of 2 Chronicles 28:3 have fallen out of the text of Kings. (So Thenius on that passage.)
(3) Moreover he.—“And he (emphatic) burnt incense” to Moloch, the god of Ammon, for whom Solomon had built a high place (1 Kings 11:5-8), which was still in existence.
In the valley of the son of Hinnom.—Also called simply the valley of Hinnom (Joshua 15:8), on the west and south of Jerusalem (Joshua 18:16), the scene of the cruel rites in honour of
“Moloch, horrid king, besmeared with blood.”
(Jeremiah 7:31-32; Jeremiah 19:2-6, where “the Baal” is named as the object of this worship, Moloch being a Baal.) In later times, the term “valley of Hinnom,” spelt as one word, and with modified vowels, Gĕhinnâm, became the appellation of hell, “the house of woe and pain.” It is so used in the Targums, and later in the Talmud, and appears in the New Testament under the Græcised form Γέεννα, whence the Latin Gehenna.
Burnt his children in the fire.—Kings, “And even his own son he made to pass through the fire.” The chronicler has paraphrased by transposing two Hebrew letters (ba‘ar for ‘abar). “His children is simply a generalised expression, as we might say, “he burnt his own offspring or posterity.” (Comp. Psalms 106:37.) Thenius accuses the chronicler of exaggerating the fact. But this peculiar use of the plural is one of the marks of his style. (Comp. 1 Chronicles 6:57; 1 Chronicles 6:67; and 2 Chronicles 28:16, infra.)
THE WAR WITH REZIN OF SYRIA AND PEKAH OF ISRAEL; OR, THE SYRO-EPHRAITE CAMPAIGN (2 Chronicles 28:5-9). (Comp. 2 Kings 16:5; Isaiah 7:1.)
(5) Wherefore (and) the Lord his God delivered him.—These opening words help us to understand the ground of the variations of the present account from that of 2 Kings 16:0. The chronicler purposes, not so much to describe a campaign, as to select those events of it which most conspicuously illustrate God’s chastisements of the apostate Ahaz. Accordingly, throughout the description, the historical is subordinated to the didactic motive. (Comp. the account of the Syrian invasion, 2 Chronicles 24:23-24.) Not history for its own sake, but history teaching by example, is what the writer desires to present. At the same time, the events here recorded are above critical suspicion. Thenius characterises the whole section (2 Chronicles 28:5-15) as “thoroughly historical.”
Into the hand of the king of Syria.—Rezin of Damascus. (Comp. 2 Kings 16:5.) Instead of relating the joint attempt against Jerusalem, and the seizure of Elath by Rezin, the chronicler prefers to record two severe defeats suffered by Ahaz in the open field, before his retreat behind the walls of Jerusalem. (See Note on 2 Chronicles 17:17; 2 Chronicles 22:1.) After these successes the confederates converged upon the capital, and the panic inspired by the news of their coming is finely depicted in Isaiah 7:2. Their attempt proved ineffectual, as the prophet had foretold.
Smote him.—Literally, smote in him, i.e., in his army; defeated him. (A similar remark applies in the next sentence.)
Carried away . . . captives.—Literally, and led captive from him a great captivity (Deuteronomy 21:11).
And he was also delivered.—A second terrible reverse, which took place, perhaps, while Rezin was absent in Idumæa. “At that time Rezin king of Syria recovered Elath to Syria, and drove the Jews out of Elath: and the Arameans (or Edomites) came to Elath, and dwelt there unto this day” (2 Kings 16:6).
(6) For.—And, i.e., so.
Pekah . . . slew in Judah an hundred . . . in one day.—Details of what is generally stated in the last sentence of 2 Chronicles 28:5. The totals of slain and of captives (2 Chronicles 28:8) are both round numbers. The figures 120,000, if accurate, would show that about a third of the Jewish host (2 Chronicles 26:13) had fallen in the battle and pursuit. The ruthlessness of the foe is borne out by the words of the prophet Oded in 2 Chronicles 28:9 : “Ye have slain them in a rage that reacheth up to heaven.” Isaiah 7:6 proves that the allies designed to break wholly the independence of Judah, by abolishing the Davidic monarchy, and setting up a Syrian vassal king.
In one day.—In one great engagement. Among the Hebrews and Arabs the word “day” often bears the special force of “day of battle;” e.g., “the day of Midian” (Isaiah 9:4).
Because they had forsaken.—2 Chronicles 27:2. Moreover, the idolatrous example of Ahaz would be eagerly followed by large numbers of the people, whose average religious condition was far below the standard which the prophets of Jehovah demanded. The prophetical writings demonstrate this.
(7) Maaseiah the king’s son—i.e., a prince of the royal house, related to Ahaz, but not his own son; or he would have been too young to be engaged in the battle. (Comp. 2 Chronicles 18:25 : “Joash the king’s son.”)
Azrikam the governor of the house—i.e., of the royal house, or palace. Azrikam was nagîd, “prince” or superintendent of the palace, a high court official. (Comp. 1 Kings 4:6; 1 Kings 18:3.)
Elkanah . . . next to the king.—See margin. Elkanah was grand vizier. (Comp. 1 Samuel 23:17; Esther 10:3.) The writer mentions the deaths of these three personages, because of their intimate connection with Ahaz, whose punishment he is describing. The blow which struck them struck the king. (Comp. 2 Chronicles 24:23.)
(8) Of their brethren.—Heightening the barbarity of the deed. So 2 Chronicles 28:11.
Two hundred thousand, women, sons, and daughters.—See Note on 2 Chronicles 28:6. Sennacherib boasts that in the war against Hezekiah he took forty-six strong cities of Judah, and carried off 200,150 captives. The number of the text is thus corroborated from a foreign and wholly unrelated source. The thrilling narrative of Kings (2 Kings 18-19) says nothing of the carrying away of all these captives by the Assyrian invader, the interest of the writer being centred on Jerusalem. With this omission that of the facts related in the present section may be compared.
THE PROPHET ODED PROTESTS AGAINST RETENTION OF THE JEWISH CAPTIVES, AND THEY ARE SENT HOME (2 Chronicles 28:9-15).
(9) But a prophet of the Lord.—This whole section is peculiar to the chronicler. The author has told the story in his own way; and perhaps the words of the prophet and the chiefs are mainly his. But there is no ground for doubting the general truth of the narrative.
Was there.—In Samaria. It is remarkable that neither here nor in the parallel narrative is any mention made of the great prophet Hosea ben Beeri, who must have been active at this epoch in the northern kingdom. Of Oded nothing further is known. He was a “prophet of Jehovah,” not of the Baals.
He went out before.—To meet the hosts, like Azariah ben Oded (2 Chronicles 15:2).
That came.—Was coming in.
Because the Lord . . . was wroth.—Literally, in the wrath of Jehovah . . . against Judah he gave them into your hand. Your victory was due to the punitive wrath of Jehovah, not to your own valour or intrinsic superiority. You ought to have considered this, and shown compassion to the victims of divine displeasure; but you have, on the contrary, given full rein to the savage dictates of furious hatred.
Slain them.—Slain among them.
In a rage.—2 Chronicles 26:19 (za’af).
That reacheth up unto heaven.—Genesis 28:12; Isaiah 8:8. Literally, which even to the heavens did reach; i.e., a guilty excess of rage, calling to heaven for vengeance, like the blood of Abel (Genesis 4:10), or the wickedness of Sodom (Genesis 18:21). (Comp. also Ezra 9:6.)
(10) Ye purpose.—Literally, Ye are saying or proposing (2ch. 1:18).
To keep under.—Subdue, or reduce to bondmen, Genesis 1:28 (kabash).
But are there not with you.—An abrupt question: Are there no trespasses at all with you yourselves? i.e., “Are you yourselves wholly guiltless, that your indignation was so hot against your brethren? (Genesis 20:11). Or, “Are there no trespasses with you only?” . . . Are you the only guiltless people, so that you are justified in these severities?” (Job 1:15). The reference in either case may be to the calves of Bethel and Dan.
(11) Now hear me therefore.—And now hearken to me (2 Chronicles 13:4; 2 Chronicles 15:2). The “and now” is illative, not temporal.
Deliver . . . again.—Cause to return, send back.
Pierce wrath.—Heat of anger, i.e., hot anger. Leviticus 25:39, expressly forbids the permanent enslaving of Israelites by Israelites.
(12) Children of Ephraim.—The ten tribes, as a political whole, are often designated as “Ephraim” by the prophets of that age, e.g., Hosea and Isaiah.
Stood up against.—The Hebrew phrase usually means opposed; here confronted or came before those who were coming from the host.
(13) Ye shall not bring in.—Into the city.
Whereas we . . . already.—This is at least a possible rendering. Literally, at or in the trespass of (against) Jehovah (lying) upon us, ye are proposing to add to our sins, &c. Others translate, “so that a trespass against Jehovah come upon us.” (Comp. Leviticus 4:3.) But the elders admit an already existing trespass, when they add, “for our trespass is great, and there is fierce wrath against Israel.” What they deprecate is an aggravation of that trespass.
Our trespass is great.—Literally, a great trespass is ours. (Syriac omits this clause and next verse. Instead of 2 Chronicles 28:15 it has: “And they caused the whole captivity to return to Jerusalem.” It then continues with 2 Chronicles 28:23-25, transposing 2 Chronicles 28:16-21.)
(14) Armed men.—See 2 Chronicles 17:18.
The princes, “the heads” of 2 Chronicles 28:12.
The congregation.—The assembly of the citizens at the gate of Samaria.
(15) And arrayed . . . shod them.—And they clad them, and sandalled them. (For the miserable destitution of captives, see Isaiah 3:24; Isaiah 20:2; Isaiah 20:4, “naked and barefoot.”)
Anointed them (sûk, usually intransitive, e.g., 2 Samuel 14:2). (Comp. Luke 7:38.) A different word (mashah) was used to express the ceremonial anointing of kings and priests.
Carried all the feeble of them upon asses.—Literally, led them on he-asses, to wit, every stumbling one. There would be many such, as the captives were mostly women and children.
The writer dwells with manifest pleasure upon the kindness shown by their repentant foes of the northern kingdom to these Jewish captives. He may have intended to suggest a lesson to the Samaritans of his own age, whose bitter hostility had proved so damaging to the cause of the restored exiles (Nehemiah 4:2; Nehemiah 4:7-8; Nehemiah 6:1-2 sqq.), and who, according to Rabbinical tradition, endeavoured to prejudice Alexander the Great against the commonwealth of Jerusalem (Talmud, Yoma, 69, A).
Some have supposed that our Lord had this passage in His mind when He uttered the parable of the Good Samaritan. The coincidences between the two stories are at any rate curious. (See Luke 10:30; Luke 10:33-34.)
The interposition of the Ephraite prophet Oded between the Ephraites and their Judæan captives is precisely parallel to that of the Judæan prophet Shemaiah between his people and the Ten Tribes, as related in 1 Kings 12:22-24; and granting the truth of the one account, there can be no ground for suspecting the other.
UNDER THE PRESSURE OF NEW ENEMIES, AHAZ ASKS HELP FROM ASSYRIA, BUT RECEIVES HURT (2 Chronicles 28:17-21). (Comp. 2 Kings 16:7-18.)
(16) At that time.—Apparently after the events above narrated; how soon after we can hardly decide.
The kings of Assyria.—A generalised expression, as in 2 Chronicles 28:3 (comp. 2 Chronicles 28:20-21), where the actual king is named. All the old versions have “king.”
(17) For again.—And moreover.
Smitten Judah.—Smitten in Judah, i.e., inflicted a defeat upon her. After their reduction by Uzziah, the Edomites had probably remained subject to Judah, until Rezin of Syria expelled the Jews from Elath (2 Kings 16:6), and restored it to them. After that event, the disasters of Ahaz seem to have encouraged them to make a raid upon his territory.
(18) Invaded—i.e., “fell upon” (2 Chronicles 25:13).
The low country.—The sheph̓̓çlah, or lowland of Judah, between the hill-country and the Mediterranean.
The south.—The Negeb, or southland of Judah, nearly co-extensive with the territory assigned to Simeon (2 Samuel 24:7).
Beth-shemesh.—See 1 Chronicles 6:59.
Ajalon.—1 Chronicles 6:69.
Gederoth.—In the lowland (Joshua 15:41).
Shocho.—Rather, Socho (2 Chronicles 11:7).
Timnah.—Now Tibna (Joshua 15:10).
Gimzo.—Now Jimsu, between Lydda and Beth-horon (Robinson, iii. 271).
And the villages thereof.—And her daughters. (See Note on 1 Chronicles 7:28, “and the towns thereof.”)
And they dwelt there.—Permanently occupied the country. (Comp. 1 Chronicles 5:22. See also Isaiah 14:29-30.)
(19) Ahaz king of Israel.—Most commentators see an irony in this expression. But, as has been stated before, the southern kingdom was Israel in the chronicler’s idea; although that of the Ten Tribes was, politically speaking, as much more important, as the cedar of Lebanon was in comparison with the blackthorn growing beside it (2 Chronicles 25:18. See Note on 2 Chronicles 12:6; 2 Chronicles 21:2). (Some Hebrew MSS., and all ancient versions, read “Judah.” Other Hebrew MSS. remark that in seven places “king of Judah” should be read instead of “king of Israel.”)
He made Judah naked.—Rather, he behaved loosely, dealt licentiously in Judah (hiphri’a). The verb is so used here only. (Comp. Exodus 5:4, where it is transitive: “Why loose ye the people from their works?”) (LXX. omits, Authorised version follows the Vulg.)
Transgressed sore.—Done unfaithfulness (1 Chronicles 10:13).
(20) Tilgath-pilneser (Heb., Pilne’èser). In 2 Kings more correctly called Tiglath-pileser (Pil’èser). (See Note on 1 Chronicles 5:26.) According to the As syrian Eponym Canon, Tiglath-pileser II. came to the throne B.C. 745, and marched westward against Damascus and Israel, B.C. 734. The importance of these dates for the chronology of the period is obvious.
Came unto him.—Comp. the more detailed narrative in 2 Kings 16:7-10; and see Note on 2 Chronicles 28:16. Tiglath was induced by the message and present of Ahaz to undertake a campaign in the west; he captured Damascus, slew Rezin, and transported the population of the city to Kir (Kings, l.c.). After this, “king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria” (2 Kings 16:10). The chronicler in the words before us, is estimating the results of this expedition as they affected the interests of Judah. At the prayer of Ahaz the Assyrian had indeed “come to him”; but not with any purpose of strengthening the southern kingdom. Glad of a pretext for interference in the affairs of the west, the ambitious usurper was simply bent on the extension of his own empire; and when the more powerful states of Syria and Israel lay at his feet, he naturally proceeded to require a most unequivocal acknowledgment of vassalage from Ahaz. He thus “distressed” or oppressed him by reducing his kingdom to a mere dependency of Assyria, besides impoverishing him of all his treasure, which Ahaz had sent as the price of this ruinous help.
Distressed him, but strengthened him not.—This is correct. A possible rendering is: “and besieged him, and conquered him not”; but the context is against it. (The word chazaq, “strengthened,” everywhere else means to be strong, or, to prevail. LXX. omits the last words, rendering the whole καὶ ἐπάταξεν αὐτόν. Syriac and Arabic, “besieged him.” The Vulg. has: “et afflixit eum, et nullo resistente vastavit.” That Judah now became tributary to Assyria is evident from 2 Kings 18:7; 2 Kings 18:14; 2 Kings 18:20.
(21) Took away a portion . . . gave it.—Rather, For Ahaz had despoiled the house of the Lord, and the house of the king and the princes, and had given it. (Comp. 2 Kings 16:8.)
The princes—i.e., the great courtiers living in the palace, whose valuables as well as those of Ahaz were ransacked to make up the costly bribe. (Syriac and Arabic, “the vessels which were in the house of the Lord, and in the house of the former kings, and in the rich houses.”)
But he helped him not.—And it was not for help (i.e., it resulted not in help) to him. His submission to Tiglath brought him no real advantage, but rather hastened the downfall of his kingdom.
“The Assyrians had no regard to the welfare of their vassals. The principle of the monarchy was plunder; and Ahaz, whose treasures had been exhausted by his first tribute, was soon driven, by the repeated demands of his masters, to strip the Temple even of its ancient bronze-work and other fixed ornaments (2 Kings 16:17, seq.). The time was not far off when the rapacity of the Assyrian could no longer be satisfied, and his plundering hordes would be let loose upon the land” (Robertson Smith).
AHAZ ADOPTS THE SYRIAN IDOLATRY, AND CLOSES THE TEMPLE (2 Chronicles 28:22-25; comp. 2 Kings 16:10-18).
(22) In the time of his distress.—At the time when he (Tiglath) oppressed him, i.e., at the time when Ahaz went to Damascus to do homage to the Assyrian monarch (2 Kings 16:10), probably in reluctant obedience to a peremptory mandate.
Did he trespass . . . Ahaz.—He dealt yet more unfaithfully towards Jehovah, he, king Ahaz. The subject is emphatically repeated: “he, king Ahaz,” who had already been sorely chastised, sinned yet more. Or “he, king Ahaz,” the notorious apostate.
(23) For (and) he sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus.—The statement of this verse is peculiar to the Chronicle; and the same may be said of the next also. Both here and in the preceding account of the relations of Ahaz to Tiglath-pileser, the writer appears to have drawn upon another source than the book of Kings.
Damascus may, perhaps, be put for the Damascenes, though in that case Aram would have been more natural. (Not “at Damascus,” as Thenius renders.)
Which smote him.—Did the chronicler himself believe that the gods of Aram had any power or real existence? That such was the common belief of the Israelites in the days of Ahaz appears certain. (See Exodus 15:11; Judges 11:24; 1 Samuel 26:19.) In the latter half of Isaiah we find the nothingness of the false gods strongly asserted; but there was also another current opinion, which St. Paul repeats, and which Milton has adopted in Paradise Lost, viz., that “the things which the heathen sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons” (1 Corinthians 8:4; 1 Corinthians 10:20; Deuteronomy 32:17).
Because the gods.—Omit because (the Hebrew particle simply introduces what the speaker said). “The gods of the kings of Aram, they help them; to them will I sacrifice, that they may help me.” Such is the word ascribed to Ahaz, implying a doubt of Jehovah's power or willingness to help. (Ma'zĕrîm, “help,” an Aramaised form.)
But they were the ruin of him, and of all Israel.—Literally, and they (i.e., those very gods) were to him to make him stumble, and all Israel. The mode of expression, as well as the thought expressed, is highly characteristic.
Israel = Judah, as usual.
(24) Gathered together the vessels.—According to some MSS. the Syriac, Arabic, Vulg., and Targum, all the vessels.
And cut in pieces the vessels.—Literally, trimmed (qiççaç), i.e., cut off their metal ornaments. The same word is used in 2 Kings 16:17, where it is said, “And king Ahaz cut off the plates of the bases, and removed the laver from upon them, and the sea he took down from off the brazen oxen that were under it, and put it on a pavement of stones.”
And shut up the doors of the house of the Lord.—Not in Kings. (Comp. 2 Chronicles 29:3-7.) The doors of the sanctuary itself, not those of the great court, must be understood. (Comp. 2 Kings 16:15-16, from which it appears that the new Syrian altar was erected in the inner court near the brazen altar.) By closing the doors Ahaz suspended all rites that could only be duly performed within the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. (Thenius thinks the verse involves a misunderstanding of 2 Kings 16:18.)
In every corner of (in) Jerusalem.—Wanting in Kings.
(25) And in every several city of Judah he made high places.—Comp. 2 Chronicles 28:2-4.
And provoked to anger.—Deuteronomy 32:16. Instead of this 2 Chronicles 28:18 obscurely mentions further changes which Ahaz made in the Temple, “for fear of the king of Assyria." It seems probable that the sacrilege described in 2 Chronicles 28:24 and in 2 Kings 16:17-18, was perpetrated in collecting everything of any value to send to the rapacious Assyrian.
CLOSING NOTICES (2 Chronicles 28:26-27. Comp. 2 Kings 16:19-20).
(26) Now the rest of his acts, and of all his ways.—The chronicler has varied the usual formula. (See chapter 25:26, 26:7, &c., and comp. 2 Kings 16:19.)
But (for) they brought him not into the sepulchres of the kings of Israel.—Wanting in Kings. (See Note on chaps, 21:20, 26:23.) Thenius supposes that this statement is founded either upon mistake, or upon zeal for the Law. But why not upon a written authority?
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 28". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
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