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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 16

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-4

Second Kings - Chapter 16 AND Second Chronicles - Chapter 28

Ahaz Reigns in Judah –Commentary on 2 Kings 16:1-4 AND 2 Chronicles 28:1-4

Ahaz, the son of Jotham, who succeeded his father as king of Judah, was an altogether paganistic king. It is almost inconceivable that he could be so in view of the character of his father, and even his grandfather Uzziah. Judah is about to experience a series of kings alternately bad and good presenting a surprisingly inexplicable question as to the reason. Ahaz became king at twenty years of age, reigned sixteen years, and so died at the young age of thirty-six. As his wicked reign is examined one is almost convinced that the Lord cut him down in judgment, though the Scriptures do not so state.

Ahaz does not appear to have pretended to worship the Lord. He used the evil kings of Israel, the northern kingdom, who were his enemies, as his example in worship. He constructed images of the Baals of the Canaanites and Phoenicians. In the valley just outside Jerusalem, called Ben-hinnom (Gehenna in the New Testament), south of the city, he offered incense to his false gods. Here he worshipped all of the abominable idols which the Lord commanded the conquering Israelites to expel from the land. It was in this place Ahaz went further in heathenism than any king of Israel or Judah had ever gone before, when he sacrificed his children by burning them in the fire to the false god. Of this practice the law demanded swift attention, by stoning the offender promptly (De 12:29-32; 13:6-11).

Ahaz furthermore frequented the high places and established others "on the hills, and under every green tree." In other words Ahaz made the religion of idolatry very prominent throughout the countryside of the land of Judah. These conditions were what Isaiah inveighed against in his prophecy. (Isaiah 1:2 ff).

Verses 5-6

Judah Invaded –Commentary on 2 Kings 16:5-6 AND 2 Chronicles 28:5 -I5

The Lord soon brought chastisement on King Ahaz Note that the Scriptures refer to "the Lord his God", not that Ahaz was a worshipper of the Lord, for he was certainly not. He was God’s representative on the throne of David, as He promised by His oath in covenant (2 Samuel 1:16). In that sense the Lord was his God, as He was also Judah’s and Israel’s God, though they did not so acknowledge Him.

The punishment was overwhelming, falling on guilty king and guilty people alike. Two kings, Syria’s Rezin and Israel’s Pekah, brought their armies into Judah and besieged Jerusalem. It was a very trying and fearful time. It is described more fully in Isaiah 7:1-2. (The student should read all of Isaiah, chapter 7, with this chapter of the commentary.) Though these kings could not capture Jerusalem they did wreak great harm. On one day a hundred twenty thousand of the army of Judah was slain, hundreds of thousands of the people were made captive and carried away into bondage to Damascus. Rezin himself went all the way to the Red Sea port of Elath, which the kings of Judah had wrested from Edom and made it his.

The army of Israel captured several of the notable men of Ahaz’s court and put them to death, including the crown prince, Maaseiah, the governor of the king’s house, and his chief counsellor. A man named Zichri, an Ephraimite, did this great feat of war. Two hundred thousand men, women, and children were taken by the Israelite army who carried them back to Israel, intending to enslave them, even though they were Israelites like themselves.

The next incident related reveals that not all the people of the northern kingdom were devoid of godliness and righteous fear. As the army approached their homes with their many captives they were met by a brave prophet of the Lord, named Oded. Oded took them to task for their highhandedness against their brother nation, Judah. He told them they had been able to accomplish these things against Judah because they had provoked the Lord, who was angry with them, and who thus allowed them to be delivered to Israel and Syria. The ruthlessness with which they had slaughtered and devastated the land of Judah had not gone unnoticed by the Lord. Now they had added to their trespass by bringing back these many captives with intent of making them bondservants. They were themselves guilty of grave sins against the Lord and He would surely pour out His wrath on them. The prophet advised them to return the captives to their homes.

Four of the princes of Ephraim heard the message of Oded and were mindful of its truth. These refused to allow the entry of the captives into Israel, and they too berated the soldiers for taking their fellow Israelites captive. Surprisingly there were still God-fearing people in the northern kingdom and their admonition was heeded. The men left the captives there on the border, with the spoil. The princes took charge, supplied clothing and food from the spoil for the captives, provided transportation for those unable to return on foot and sent them to Jericho, in the tribe of Benjamin, to be returned to their homes.

Verses 7-20

Ahaz Hires a Razor – Commentary on 2 Kings 16:7-20 AND 2 Chronicles 28:16-27

Ahaz’s troubles continued. Other long-time enemies, finding Judah prostrate from the invasion of the Syrians and the northern kingdom, took advantage of the situation by sending, their own marauders against the Judaean countryside. The Edomites sought revenge for their defeat by Amaziah, and the Philistines took the cities of the lowlands, including such places as Bethshemesh, to which the Philistines in the long ago returned the captured ark (1 Samuel 6:10 ff) and Timnah, the area made famous by Samson’s exploits (Judges 14:1 ff). God allowed these things because of the wickedness of Ahaz, who had "made Judah naked, and transgressed sore against the Lord."

In desperation with his plight Ahaz decided on a foolish plan. He would hire the terrible Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria to attack his northern enemies, Syria and Israel. Isaiah the prophet sought to dissuade the king from this course and encouraged him to rely on the Lord, but he would not, though the Lord offered him a sign of his choosing (Isaiah 1:3-16). Ahaz had contemptuously refused to ask the Lord for a sign, but was given the sign of the virgin born Son anyway. Isaiah said, "If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established."

Ahaz would not believe. He stripped the temple and the palace of their gold and silver and sent them to Tiglath-pileser. The Assyrian king accepted the tribute and attacked Damascus, capturing the city, taking its people captive and resettling them in Kir of far-distant Armenia, and killing Rezin the king. But the inspired record in Chronicles says that Tiglath-pileser did not strengthen Ahaz, but rather distressed him. Of this, again, the Prophet Isaiah had warned Ahaz (Isaiah 7:20). He had hired a razor which would shave the land of Judah naked and bare in the desolation which the Assyrian forces would wreak upon the land.

With the fall of Damascus, however, Ahaz made a journey to that place to meet with Tiglath-pileser. While there he admired the idols and altars of the false gods of Damascus. One particularly ornate altar caught the eye of the king of Judah. He admired it so much that he sent a pattern of it back to Jerusalem to the high priest Urijah. That fickle unworthy leader of Judah’s worship set out to pamper the king’s fancy by building an altar like it to have for Ahaz when he returned to Jerusalem.

Ahaz returned to Jerusalem determined to install the Damascene gods in the house of the Lord. He was well pleased with the new altar and gave it the most imposing place in the temple. The old brazen altar, made according to the instructions of God Himself, upon which the various typical offerings that pointed to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross were made Ahaz removed and relegated to an inconspicuous place on the north side of the court. He commanded that the morning and evening sacrifices, burnt offerings, meat offerings, drink offerings, and peace offerings be made on the new altar. He would use the old brazen altar if he needed to consult God or to inquire of His will, which it seems he did not expect to do.

Ahaz did not like the way of the Lord, and Urijah was willing to compromise to please him, unmindful of God’s known way. They have many descendants in the world today who set up programs they consider more expedient for modern times, but with which the Lord is surely still displeased (2 Timothy 4:3-4; James 1:27).

Ahaz’s foolish reasoning was that the gods of Damascus had helped them defeat him, so he could please them by adopting them as his gods. In other words he would move over to their side and make friends with them.

Ahaz’s new religious program led him to change many things in the temple.

He gathered up all the vessels and cut them to pieces, closed the sanctuary itself where only the priests could officiate, built altars on all the street corners of Jerusalem, and established high places in all the cities and towns.

He continued to desecrate the sacred furniture of the temple, stripping off the ornate work on the borders of the bases which supported the laver.

The molten sea was taken off the brazen oxen which Solomon had made for it and was placed on stone blocks. He also tore down the cover from the portico leading from the temple to the palace. All of this precious metal thus acquired, Ahaz sent to Tiglath-pileser, evidently in payment for his "hired razor."

The early death of Ahaz, when he was only thirty-six years of age recalls the warning of Isaiah (Isaiah 7:9, cited above), "if ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established." Ahaz had not believed, and therefore he was not established.

Many good lessons can be gleaned from these things; some are: 1) To give oneself over to evil is to fall altogether under demoniac possession; 2) Leaders in every realm exert great influence for bad or good on their followers; 3) if the self-righteous will be honestly observant they will find themselves as guilty as those they would Judges 4) most people who find themselves in trouble look for physical help instead of seeking the Lord; 5) modern "Christianity" has substituted pomp and pleasure for spiritual preaching and prayer.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 2 Kings 16". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/2-kings-16.html. 1985.
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