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Ahaz King of Judah
Ahaz succeeds his God-fearing father Jotham as king (2 Chronicles 28:1). He is then twenty years old. He reigns as long as his father, sixteen years old (2 Chronicles 27:1), but the contrast with his father is enormous. Just as nothing wrong is said of Jotham, nothing good is said of Ahaz. However, his life is not compared to that of his father Jotham, but to that of “David his father”. It is not written of Ahaz that he does what is evil in the sight of the LORD, but that he does not do what is right in the sight of the LORD. David did. David is the man after God’s heart, while God finds nothing in the life of Ahaz that is a joy to His heart. Ahaz completely lacks the good.
Jotham has ordered his ways before the LORD, but Ahaz walks “in the ways of the kings of Israel” (2 Chronicles 28:2). He rejects his father’s good example. The wicked kings of Israel, of whom not one does good in the sight of the LORD, are the examples that appeal to him. But that is not all. “Moreover”, so on top of that, he makes idols for the Baals. Ahaz cancels the covenant with the LORD. His sins accumulate. He burns incense to the idols. He does so “in the valley of Ben-hinnom”. From the name of the valley and the practices that take place there, the name Gehenna, hell, is derived (2 Chronicles 33:6; Mark 9:43).
He also serves the Baals in a gruesome way by sacrificing his sons to them (2 Chronicles 28:3). With this Ahaz completely follows in the footsteps of the heathen peoples who commit these atrocities. The LORD has driven out the nations of the Gentiles before the eyes of the Israelites, and with them has shown His people His abhorrence of those nations, and their practices. That Ahaz unites himself with what God abhors by accepting their atrocities again is a great and gross insult to the LORD. His idolatry is so general that he makes any place he considers suitable for it a place where can be sacrificed to the idols (2 Chronicles 28:4).
We may be surprised and wonder how it is possible that such a God-fearing father has such a godless son. There is no easy answer to that. We see it more often. David has had rebellious sons like Absalom and Adonijah. Even today there are God-fearing believers who have children who live in revolt against God.
Sometimes there are demonstrable errors in upbringing, partly due to a lack of self-restraint, as with David. We must learn from that. But sometimes it cannot be explained. We must learn to accept that and not think that we can explain the causes. If we know those cases, the best response is that it brings us to prayer for them and their parents.
It is certain that each child has its own responsibility in the choices it makes. If the child makes wrong choices, the parents should not be held liable. God does not do that either. Everyone is punished for his own sins, the parents not for those of the children and the children not for those of the parents (Deuteronomy 24:16).
The Discipline of the LORD
The unfaithfulness of Ahaz brings the discipline of God upon him (2 Chronicles 28:5). God is here called “his God”. That is not because Ahaz has any connection with God, but because God does not give up His rights to His land and His representative in that land. Ahaz can deny these rights, but God does not give them up therefore. That is precisely why He brings discipline upon him and his people (Amos 3:2). He exercises this discipline by giving him into the power of the king of Aram or Syria and the king of Israel.
Syria and Ephraim have joined forces to make themselves strong against Assyria. God uses this reprehensible alliance of the ten tribes with Syria as a disciplinary rod for the two tribes. A large group of prisoners is taken by the king of Syria to Damascus. The king of Israel inflicts a heavy blow on Ahaz. Ahaz has chosen to walk in the ways of the kings of Israel (2 Chronicles 28:2) and now experiences what that brings. Whoever connects with wickedness, experiences wickedness.
Pekah, king of Israel, has the opportunity to kill 120,000 men in Judah in one day (2 Chronicles 28:6). That so many men, who were also “valiant men”, and that in one day, are killed, shows the speed and fierceness of this judgment of the LORD. Pekah is able to do this because Judah – that is king and people, “they” – has forsaken the LORD. This does not mean that Pekah and the ten tribes are in connection with the LORD. They are just as independent from the LORD and just as ungodly. But Judah has a greater responsibility, because the LORD still dwells in His house in Jerusalem in their midst. The departure of both kingdoms from the LORD has led to this unprecedented drama of brotherhood.
One man from Pekah’s army receives a special mention. That is “Zichri, a mighty man of Ephraim” (2 Chronicles 28:7). Zichri is called “mighty man”, but in a different sense than for example the mighty men of David. The mighty men of David have become mighty men in a battle for David and against the enemies of Israel. Zichri is a mighty man in the eyes of the people.
He kills three people who belong to God’s people. He does so from a strategic point of view. The people he kills have a close relationship with the king. It concerns a family member, a ruler of the house and the prime minister. The death of these men will have smashed Ahaz’s last hope for some support in his immediate surroundings. On that support he relies, for there is no thought with him of the LORD.
In Isaiah 7 we read the purpose of the attack by Syria and Israel. That is to dethrone Ahaz and appoint a Syrian king over Judah, a certain “son of Tabeal” (Isaiah 7:6). There it also appears that Ahaz is very much in a tight spot. It seems as if the house of David is over. Then Isaiah comes to him. Ahaz may ask for a sign. His answer is false, hypocritical (Isaiah 7:10-1 Chronicles :). He has long hoped for Assyria. There is no desire whatsoever with him to ask the LORD for help.
Then comes the prophecy, not for Ahaz, but for the house of David, about the virgin who conceives (Isaiah 7:14). This is what we see fulfilled in Matthew 1 (Matthew 1:18-Isaiah :). In that dark history God thus lets the light of the future shine. In Christ Who according to the prophecy by Isaiah is born of the virgin, the lamp for David’s house remains lit.
The LORD Speaks to the Israelites
The Israelites have already killed 120,000 men (2 Chronicles 28:6). Now they also take 200,000 “women, sons and daughters” as prisoners (2 Chronicles 28:8). It is noticeable that it says that they carry away “of their brethren”. It is a brother-people. From them the Israelites also take a great deal of spoil which they take with them to Samaria. Judah suffers an enormous loss of people and goods. Deviation from the LORD never results in profit, but always in loss. The fact that all this is happening among brothers makes the matter even more tragic. In fact, the winners are also losers. That is clear from the sequel.
There comes a prophet from Samaria, Oded (2 Chronicles 28:9). It is remarkable that he is there, in the center of godless Israel. He goes to the army that is on his way to Samaria with the prisoners and the spoil. The prophet has no pleasant message for them. He does not come to congratulate them on their victory, but to point out their sins in God’s Name and to announce judgment to them. It is a testimony of great courage to speak in this way to a people in a rush to victory and to call upon them to become humble because of their own condition (cf. Deuteronomy 9:5; Romans 11:20-Ecclesiastes :).
Oded reminds the Israelites that they owe the victory only to the LORD’s anger with Judah. The prophet strongly admonishes them about the way in which they have dealt with Judah. They raged in such a way that the cries of their victims raised to heaven. And as if all this were not enough, they also subjected the Judeans and the people of Jerusalem to themselves to use them as male and female slaves (2 Chronicles 28:10), something the LORD explicitly forbids (Leviticus 25:46). Do they have no idea how much they themselves are guilty toward the LORD their God (2 Chronicles 28:10)?
Oded tells the ten tribes that the wrath of the LORD rests upon them. God has used them as a rod to punish Judah. But the anger of God also comes over the rod of discipline when they act as they see fit. We see this also in Assyria, for example, which is used by God as a disciplinary rod against Israel. That people will also be judged because of their unfaithfulness to the LORD (Isaiah 10:5-Psalms :).
After his serious words, Oded calls on them to listen to him and to do what he says (2 Chronicles 28:11). They must bring back to Judah the prisoners “whom you captured from your brothers”. They must do so because the LORD’s burning anger is against them. The LORD is very wroth with their revenge. They did bring His discipline over Judah, but they did not take Him into account in its execution, nor did they take into account their own sinful practices. They did it in pride and bloating.
For us, this is a lesson if we have to point out a mistake to someone personally or if discipline is required in the church. We must then be aware that we are not better and also should not exercise discipline in a haughty attitude (Galatians 6:1; 1 Corinthians 5:2).
Reaction to the Word of Oded
Rarely has the admonishing word of a prophet been heard so quickly and so radically. The word of God through the prophet hits four men (2 Chronicles 28:12). They are family heads of Ephraim, whose names the Spirit mentions. He does this because what they do is so valuable to the LORD (cf. Luke 10:30-Haggai :; Matthew 25:31-:; Romans 12:20). In those wicked ten tribes there appear to be men who are open to God’s Word. They are among the “7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal” (1 Kings 19:18). They turn against those who come from the army and, following Oded, have the courage to speak to them about their condition against God.
The four men underline what Oded said and supplement it with their confession of guilt (2 Chronicles 28:13). There already has been sinned much, there is already much guilt and the burning anger is against Israel. Should they add even more by bringing their brothers as prisoners from Judah to Samaria?
The four men also find direct hearing. The armed men do not oppose, but give all the spoils out of their hands and give them to the officers and all the assembly (2 Chronicles 28:14). They react in an unexpectedly consenting way that is completely unusual for soldiers who have the spoil in their hands. Such surrender can only be the work of God’s Spirit. It is a bright spot in the history of the ten tribes.
The Spirit works even further in the hearts. A number of men, indicated by their names (2 Chronicles 28:15) – certainly including the four men mentioned (2 Chronicles 28:12) – act as true ‘good Samaritans’ (Luke 10:30-Habakkuk :). We can safely call their merciful treatment of prisoners of war unique.
The nudes are dressed and shod with clothes and footwear from the booty. They give them food and drink. The wounded are treated with oil (cf. Ezekiel 16:9). Those who are too weak to walk are “led on donkeys” and transported. They treat their prisoners with remarkable gentleness. So all prisoners come back to their brothers in Jericho. Then the ‘good Samaritans’ return to Samaria.
We can learn from this. Our mission is to do our enemies well and treat them with gentleness rather than do them evil and hurt them. It is our task to pray for them (Matthew 5:44-Romans :) and to overcome evil in them through good (Romans 12:20-Ecclesiastes :). If we do, we will be perfect as our “heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). We may feel that this is not the case. It is not about our feelings, however, but about what is right in the sight of the Lord. If we do what is right in His sight, our feelings will join in. He will fill our hearts with His love.
Further Discipline of the LORD
Ahaz cannot be brought to an acknowledgment of his sins by discipline, nor by the just granted proofs of grace. “At that time”, that is the time when he is threatened by the king of Syria and the king of Israel, he does not resort to God, but seeks support from the kings of Assyria (2 Chronicles 28:16). There have also come Edomites who have defeated Judah and carried away captives (2 Chronicles 28:17; Obadiah 1:11; Joel 3:19). The Philistines also report (2 Chronicles 28:18). They invade several places and live there.
Ahaz’s behavior causes God’s people suffering enormous losses of territory and freedom. The same goes for the lives of people who deviate from God. They lose their blessings and freedom. They may think they are living in freedom because they experience life according to God’s will as a yoke. However, they will experience that living without God is a life in slavery of sin.
The LORD stands behind all this. He humbles Judah (2 Chronicles 28:19), because Ahaz, the leader of his people, precedes the people in breaking his faith with him. The whole policy of Ahaz is aimed at preventing the people from serving God. This is a great dishonor to Him. He cannot leave such actions unpunished. Ahaz, however, does not allow himself to be moved by anything to “humble himself under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5:6). We will see that in the sequence.
Further Unfaithfulness of Ahaz
The request of Ahaz to the kings of Assyria to help him (2 Chronicles 28:16) has a counterproductive effect (2 Chronicles 28:20). The king of Assyria does come to Ahaz, but that is not to help him. On the contrary, he puts Ahaz in a tight corner. He is a new enemy of Ahaz, the umpteenth. Ahaz empties the house of the LORD, his own house and the houses of the rich princes, to get the king of Assyria on his hand (2 Chronicles 28:21). It is all in vain. He remains alone in his misery with all the enemies that make his life very difficult.
It also has no effect on its relationship with the LORD. His need does not drive him to the LORD. He continues with his unfaithfulness to Him (2 Chronicles 28:22). In his folly he even resorts to the gods of Damascus and sacrifices to them (2 Chronicles 28:23). He simply replaces the God of Israel with the idols of Syria.
The Holy Spirit mentions the foolish reasoning he follows. He argues that the gods of the kings of Syria help them to victory. That is why he also wants to secure their support by sacrificing to them. To make these sacrifices Ahaz even copied the altar of Damascus (2 Kings 16:10-1 Chronicles :). How far a man can deviate from God.
And Ahaz is not alone in his deviation from God. All Israel follows him in this. Someone who deviates from God, and certainly if it is someone who has a leading position in God’s people, never goes that way alone. We can also think of parents in relation to their children. Ahaz is a warning example for all who give a slate thing, in whatever context.
Ahaz is completely in the power of the devil. This is the case with people, especially religious people, who do not allow themselves to be corrected in any way by God, not by His Word and not by dramatic events. Like Ahaz, they run on the road to and from destruction. Nothing can slow them down. Through their, what they call, traumatic experiences with God, they have had it all with Him. Everything that reminds of Him is removed from their lives and surroundings. Instead, they look for it in alternative ways of believing. Everything is good, as long as it is not the God of the Bible. This is the way Ahaz works.
Ahaz has completely done with God. He gathers the objects of the house of God with which He is served, and cuts them into pieces (2 Chronicles 28:24). Away with it. It must also be made impossible for others to enter God’s house. So, close those doors. Not that he has finished with religion, but he does decide for himself how he experiences it. It must be possible to express your religious emotions wherever you need it. Therefore he “made altars for himself in every corner of Jerusalem”. Away with the narrow-mindedness of the LORD.
What he does in Jerusalem, he does in every city in Judah (2 Chronicles 28:25). Everyone must be able to “burn incense to other gods”. That is also open-minded. He is not interested in God’s judgment on this matter. However, the Spirit makes the death bell to ring: he “provoked the LORD, the God of his fathers, to anger”. With these serious words the chronicler concludes his description of the life of Ahaz, a life in which he has been unable to discover anything positive.
The Death of Ahaz
The description of the rest of the history of Ahaz and his ways can be found “in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel” (2 Chronicles 28:26). We don’t know that book. This is not necessary, because what we have read about Ahaz in the previous verses, draws him out in full. All his deeds and ways described in that book, which is unknown to us, are only more of the same.
The wicked life of Ahaz comes to an end. When he dies, he is buried in Jerusalem. However, there is no tomb of honor for him. He is not buried in the graves of the kings of Israel.
After this concluding remark the chronicler places the son of Ahaz, Hezekiah, before our attention. Hezekiah becomes king instead of Ahaz. In the next four chapters (2 Chronicles 29-32) we will see the great grace of God. That grace is that God has given a king as wicked as Ahaz a son as God-fearing as Hezekiah and the blessing He gives His people with that.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 2 Chronicles 28". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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