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THE UNGODLY REIGN OF AHAZ
Ahaz stands in painful contrast to his father. Jotham had been unable to rightly influence Judah to cease worshipping in high places, and it seems his influence over his own son was ineffective, for Ahaz from the beginning of his reign at the age of 20 was committed to a course of evil. Ignoring the faithfulness of his father David and that of other kings of Judah, he chose to follow the wicked example of the kings of Israel. He made idolatrous images and burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, in that place sacrificing his own children to the fire (v.3). This was done through placing the young child in the arms of a metal idol, a fire fit under the child and drums beaten to drown out the child's cries. Such is the callous wickedness of idolatry, though such men as Ahaz think they are very religious in practising such idolatry. Though his father Jotham did not burn incense in the high places, he had allowed those places to remain, and Ahaz forgot the temple of God and burned incense in the high places and other outdoor areas (v.4). He was like many today who claim they need not gather with others to worship God, but can worship just as well in enjoying the scenery while they bunt or fish or play golf or hike in the mountains.
DEFEATED BY SYRIA AND ISRAEL
Because of the idolatry of Ahaz, God sent the king of Syria against him, to badly defeat him and take a great number of captives to Damascus (v.5). But also, Pekah, the king of Israel, came against Judah and in one day killed 120,000 able warriors! (v.6). Three prominent men of Judah, including the king's son, were killed by one man of Ephraim.
But as well as this, the Israelites captured 200,000 people, women with their sons and daughters, as well as a great amount of plunder, bringing this to Samaria. The devastation of Judah must have been awesome, with the number of men killed by Syria and great numbers taken captive, then 120,000 killed by Israel and 200,000 captives taken! Why did Ahaz not realise that this was a judgment from God, and turn to the Lord in repentance? But his heart remained hard as a stone.
CAPTIVES RETURNED BY ISRAEL
The Lord intervened to stop Israel from exceeding in their harsh treatment of Judah. Having the upper hand, Israel was bent on doing all in their power to humiliate their brethren in Judah, but God sent the prophet Oded to the army of Israel with a solemn message. He told them that, because the Lord was angry with Judah, He had allowed Israel to soundly defeat them. But Israel's rage against Judah had reached up to heaven, and now they were planning to force the women and children into slavery. Israel's law had forbidden them to make slaves of other Israelites (Leviticus 25:39). Did the Israelites think that because Judah had sinned against the Lord, therefore it was right to make them slaves? But Oded answered this by reminding Israel that they also were guilty before God (v.10). Therefore, he told them, return those captives to Judah, for the fierce wrath of God was against their plan to make slaves of them (v.11).
It was a mercy of God that there were some leaders among the people who took Oded's words to heart. Four are mentioned by name who stood up against the armed warriors, who came bringing the captives, and told 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" (v.13). These men realised that Israel was guilty in the first place of killing 120,000 men, which was far more than necessary to win the war. To also take 200,000 women and children captive as staves would add greatly to their guilt.
Pekah, the king of Israel, is not mentioned as having anything to do with the protest of these four men, but it is good to see that they acted rightly without consulting the king. Their word had good effect on the warriors, who left the captives and the spoil then for the leaders to do with as they saw fit. Then these men named in verse 12 showed proper concern for the captives, using the spoil to clothe and feed them, even providing donkeys for those who were feeble, and brought them to Jericho to be returned to Judah. But in spite of the Lord's dealing with Judah in allowing them to be so devastated by Syria and Israel, and in spite of kindness being shown to Judah by the return of the captives, Ahaz did not turn to the Lord. It seems he remained as cold and hard as he been before. There are some cases of men who are so decidedly sold to do evil, that, though God patiently appeals to them again and again, they not only fail to respond, but become more hardened still. This is all the more tragic when we consider that the father of Ahaz was a believer. When standing before the Great White Throne such men will have the past all brought before them with all its kind overtures by God, and no excuse will even come to their lips.
Ahaz, having, refused the Lord, sought help from the kings of Assyria, when the Edomite again attacked Judah and took captives, and the Philistines invaded Judah's cities, taking possession of some of them (vv.16-18). Thus, the Lord brought Judah low, and anyone ought to have been able to discern the reason for this was the bad influence of Ahaz in his own moral depravity and his despising of the worship of the God of Israel (v.19), But Ahaz was so deluded by his own wickedness that he was blind to the reasons for his defeat. The king of Assyria also came to Judah, but not to help Ahaz, rather to add to his troubles. In fact, Ahaz robbed the temple of God to give some of its treasures to the king of Assyria, which the king gladly took without any intention of helping Ahaz (v.20).
INCREASED EVIL AND DEATH OF AHAZ
God's patience had no good effect on Ahaz, for his determination to do evil only increased instead of being arrested (v.22). Since Syria had defeated him, he thought Syria did so by the power of their idols, and therefore he adopted Syria's idolatry, sacrificing to their gods. But this only involved him and all Judah in deeper evil. It seems he was doing everything he could to limit the God of Israel, going so far as to cut in pieces the articles of the house of God, shutting its doors, and instead make altars in every corner of Jerusalem (v.24). This pictures what many religious leaders are doing today. For instance, the table of showbread in the temple symbolised Christ as the Sustainer of true communion with God. Such truth has been cut to shreds by the false teachings of ungodly professors of religion. The lampstand speaks of Christ as the Sustainer of testimony, but this truth too has been treated with utter contempt, as have many other scripture truths that are illustrated in the articles of the temple.
By shutting the doors of the temple, Ahaz was indicating he considered the temple no longer of any use, just as today the truth of the Church, the present-day house of God, is flatly refused by many religious denominations. In contrast to this, Ahaz made altars in every corner of Jerusalem. God had placed His name in the temple, but Ahaz refused God's centre and made centres wherever he wanted, just as denominations today consider it right to forget God's one centre, which is Christ, and adopt for themselves any number of centres that appeal to their selfish feelings.
Besides his many other wicked actions, Ahaz made high places in every city of Judah for burning incense to false gods. Since he despised God's centre, Jerusalem, he made centres all through Judah, making their worship more convenient with many locations (v.25), Satan likes to make people feel at ease with no exercise of heart and conscience to know and to obey the Word of God, so he has religions of every kind to cater to the fleshly desires of everyone. But such things provoked the Lord to anger, and Ahaz died at the early age of 36 years! He was buried in Jerusalem, but not with the kings of Judah. The people evidently refused him this honour, for he was not worthy of it.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 28". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25