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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

2 Kings 16

Verses 1-4

Ahaz Becomes King of Judah

In this chapter the historian continues with the description of the kings who ruled over the two tribes realm. Ahaz the son of Jotham has come to power. This whole chapter is devoted to him and gives a clear picture of his reign. That picture is not rosy.

The summary of his reign, which lasted sixteen years, is that “he did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD his God, as his father David [had done]”. It does not say that he did what was evil, but that he did not do what was right. This is to make the contrast with David clear. David did in all what was right in the sight of the LORD. Everything Ahaz did was completely and radically contrary to what David did. That the phrase “the LORD his God” was mentioned, is because this was his confession.

The deeds described of Ahaz bear witness to great corruption. They were acts modelled on the kings of Israel. Ahaz even added a little extra: He “even made his son pass through the fire”. He sacrificed his son to the realm of the dead. So it was not just acting like the kings of Israel, but he did “according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had driven out from before the sons of Israel”. This man had lost every connection with the LORD his God. The contrast between what he confessed and what he did could not be greater.

His entire regard towards idols and idolatry is evident from his places of sacrifice. He offered not only on the high places that were first dedicated to the LORD, but on all places raised above the ground.

Verses 5-9

Ahaz Makes an Alliance with Assyria

While Ahaz was so immersed in idolatry, enemies approached him: “Rezin king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah.” They came “to Jerusalem to [wage] war”. As always, enemies attack God’s people when they depart from God. Without God they are always weaker than the weakest enemy. At the same time, a hostile people is a means in God’s hand to bring His people back to Him. And what an abhorrent role did Pekah play in his covenant with Syria: he, the king of Israel, wanted to help put an end to the house of David.

In Isaiah 7 we read more details about Rezin and Pekah coming up to Jerusalem. There we see that God wanted to act in grace with Ahaz. In His grace God did not allow these enemies to take Jerusalem (Isa 7:1). Then through Isaiah He had a message for Ahaz “at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, on the highway to the fuller’s field” (Isa 7:3). It was a symbolic place, a place that speaks of purifying and refreshment, offered to him if he would be willing to listen to the voice of the LORD.

Isaiah presented the enemies, “Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah” (Isa 7:4), as completely trivial. He prophesied about their end by the power of Assyria, from whom Ahaz expected help. Isaiah encouraged Ahaz that there was a solution, if he would quietly trust in the LORD. Ahaz was even offered to ask for a sign from the LORD, so he could be sure that the LORD would deliver him from those enemies. But Ahaz refused this offer with pretended piety (Isa 7:10-12). He had his own agenda.

Then the LORD Himself gave a sign, not to Ahaz, but to the house of David. He promised the Messiah (Isa 7:13). He is the answer to all political questions. He also let Ahaz know that he himself would perish by the ally on whom he had placed his hope, because he refused to trust in the LORD (Isa 7:17).

Ahaz was one of those figures who only trusted in their own mind and perception. It was too vague for him to Trust in the LORD, Someone you cannot see, on Whom you just have to wait and believe what He says will happen. Then look at Assyria. He was nearby, you could see him and he helped immediately.

Isn’t that a challenging situation that we recognize, in which we too can find ourselves? Don’t we often choose a direct solution instead of submitting to what God says? Do I choose what I think works, or do I wait for what God has offered? For example, let us think of tensions in a marriage. In a marriage disappointments can occur. Is the husband then looking for conversation with his wife, perhaps also with the help of someone else, so that they can pray together again for their need? Or is he seeking refuge with another woman, someone from his work, with whom he can tell his story, someone ‘who understands me so well’?

The request to Assyria for help may also cost some money. The costs for help were paid with silver and gold from the temple, “the house of the LORD”. Every covenant a Christian enters into with the enemy of God, the world, is at the expense of the truth of reconciliation, of which the silver speaks, and at the expense of the glory of God, of which the gold speaks. Again and again the temple was looted for the benefit of the world. God and His interests no longer mattered.

The covenant seemed to work and to be worth the price. The king of Assyria did what was asked of him. He went up against Damascus, defeated the Syrians and thus took away the threat to Ahaz from these enemies. This made Ahaz all the more caught in the snare of the devil. His next steps made it clear that he settled with the LORD. He would replace Him by what was attractive to him.

Verses 10-18

Replacing the Altar of the LORD

Ahaz went to Damascus to greet his benefactor and protector, the king of Assyria. It seems that the place of meeting was the altar in Damascus. Ahaz was impressed by that altar. It was a great altar (2Kgs 16:15). Possibly it was originally an Assyrian altar. Because he saw that the gods of Assyria had helped them, he wanted to have an altar like theirs, to secure the favor of these gods and sacrifice to them.

While he was still in Damascus, he sent a pattern of it to the priest Urijah. Urijah was a faithful man (Isa 8:2a), but also a man without a backbone. He had no strength to say no. He did as he had been told, and even quickly, so that the altar was ready before Ahaz had returned. When Ahaz is in Jerusalem again and saw the altar, he approached the altar and sacrificed on it. 2Kgs 16:12 speaks emphatically about Ahaz as “king” (three times in this verse). There is a strong similarity with the first king Jeroboam and his altar (1Kgs 12:32-33). We have to conclude that Jeroboam and his altar service had now entered Judah.

The sacrifices Ahaz brought (2Kgs 16:13), we know from Leviticus 1-7. It is remarkable that the sin offering was missing. It emphasizes that his service was only superficial worship. There was no sense of sin. He arranged everything as he saw fit. It was totally a self-willed religion. We also see this when he removed the bronze altar of burnt offering from the place where it belonged and instead replaced it with his own imitation altar (2Kgs 16:14). The altar of Ahaz had to be central.

The altar of the LORD was not completely removed. The place where it stood was at a distance from its central position, so that it was reminder of the LORD’s service, but at a distance, as it were.

Ahaz determined that from then on the great altar, his altar, must be used to bring the prescribed sacrifices (2Kgs 16:15). He ordered the priest Urijah to see to it that his instructions are followed. He dismissed the bronze altar of the LORD for sacrificial service to the true God. Instead, he made it a place where he could approach demons to seek their advice.

Ahaz’s drive for innovation knew no bounds. The next part of the old worship to be removed was the bronze sea that stood on twelve oxen. He cut off the borders of the stands, and removed the laver from them (2Kgs 16:17). He also took down the sea from the bronze oxen. He shows his thinking (in this picture) that cleanliness is not necessary to be able to do service in the house of the LORD.

The oxen were not a decoration for the bronze sea, but formed the basis for cleansing. It is a picture that speaks of the fact that cleansing must be done on the foundation of the sacrifice of Christ. Oxen speak of His service which He continually performs for us. That foundation is replaced by a stone floor, a foundation made by people.

Ahaz also demolished the covered way for the Sabbath, for his urge to modernize (2Kgs 16:18). What exactly the covered way for the sabbath was is not clear. It is thought that there was a covered place in the temple, where the king sat on the sabbath during his visit to the temple. This may well be possible, because the removal of the covered way for sabbath was linked to the removal of “the outer entry of the king” (cf. 1Kgs 10:5; Eze 46:1-2). It shows his contempt for the sabbath – which speaks of the rest of God and His people – and the absolute unwillingness as king to be connected to the dwelling place of God. He refused to acknowledge that he could only be king if he acknowledged that God was his Lord.

He ordered the destruction of everything reminding of the service of the true God. All his actions meant the abolition of true service to God. He established a religion that was completely to his taste. That’s the tried and true method of disregarding what God had to say about it. It is important to ask God how He wants us to worship. For us, that means that we consult His Word in an attitude of submission to what He says.

It does not mean that our worship must always follow certain fixed patterns through standard formulations. The Holy Spirit will show us different aspects each time for which we can and want to worship God. There is no liturgy to be devised.

Someone rightly said: We should not play with our worship and cheer it up with interviews and entertaining performances. Remarkably enough, he added: “In the church I serve, our worship is carefully planned so that we never have the same thing on two consecutive Sundays.

When I read this, I couldn’t help but feel that the writer himself acted after Ahaz’s model, which he first (rightly) accused. Isn’t the Holy Spirit the only One Who can lead the worship of the church in such a way that every time worship is different, new and fresh, and that it still meets the ancient truths of God’s Word (cf. Jn 4:23-24)?

Verses 19-20

Death of Ahaz

With the above, in this book, God has said everything about Ahaz to be said of him and what is useful for us to know. “The rest” was “written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah”. That “rest” cannot be darker than what God’s Spirit has told us in this chapter, but it can be more in detail. We don’t need to know those particulars. What we are told contains a severe warning not to turn to the world for help and not to follow our own ideas in serving God.

The last verse sheds a ray of hope to the people of God in this deeply dark period. That ray of hope was Hezekiah. God was preparing a revival by making a God-fearing son king instead of his godless father Ahaz.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 2 Kings 16". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.