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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 16

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


REIGN OF AHAZ, KING OF JUDAH, 2 Kings 16:1-20.

“The reign of Ahaz was the most disastrous of any through which Judah had yet passed. The kingdom sank so low, both internally and externally, religiously and politically, that it was on the verge of ruin. Such an incapable ruler had never before ascended the throne. The predominant feature in his character was weakness weakness of spirit and weakness of intellect. History records nothing about him worthy of respect.” Bahr.

1. Seventeenth year of Pekah As Jotham began to reign in Pekah’s second year, and reigned sixteen years, (2 Kings 15:32-33,) it would seem that the beginning of the reign of Ahaz should synchronize with Pekah’s eighteenth or nineteenth year. But this apparent discrepancy is explained by supposing the first and last years of Jotham’s reign to have been only parts of years. See note on 2 Kings 14:1.

Verse 2

2. Twenty years old… sixteen years So his whole age was thirty-six years. But he was immediately succeeded by his son Hezekiah, who was at the time twenty-five years old. 2 Kings 18:2. Accordingly Ahaz must have begotten his son Hezekiah when he was only eleven years old. To meet this difficulty some copies of the Septuagint, and the Syriac and Arabic versions at the parallel place in Chronicles (2 Chronicles 28:1,) read twenty-five instead of twenty years. But most interpreters accept the common reading, and argue that it was nowise impossible for Ahaz to beget a son in his eleventh or twelfth year. Compare note on 2 Kings 18:2.

Verse 3

3. Walked in the way of the kings of Israel By running into all sorts of idolatry, and forming leagues with the heathen. His reign was a period of enormous wickedness, and to Judah one of numerous disasters.

Made his son to pass through the fire This expression, more fully written in 2 Kings 23:10, to pass through the fire to Molech, is interpreted by the rabbies to mean merely the passing between two burning pyres as a purificatory rite. But this is refuted by the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 28:3: He burnt his children in the fire, and also by the unequivocal statements of the following texts: Psalms 106:37-38; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:4-5; Ezekiel 16:20-21; Ezekiel 23:37. A comparison of all these passages will show that the victims were slain before they were burned. The laws of Moses warned the Israelites against this very abomination, Compare Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2-4; Deuteronomy 18:10. The rabbinical theory evidently sprung from a desire to escape the charge of the atrocious idolatries of the ancient Jews.

Abominations of the heathen Several of the Canaanitish nations, as well as the Ammonites and Moabites, appear to have practised this horrible rite. According to Movers, “the burning of the children was regarded as a passing through, by which they attained to purification with the deity after the dissolution of the earthly, impure dross of the body.”

Verse 4

4. High places… hills… every green tree Compare Hosea 4:13. To all this Chronicles adds that he “made molten images for Baalim.”

Verse 5

5. Rezin… and Pekah… came up In the days of Jotham they had formed an alliance and commenced operations against the kingdom of Judah, but for some reason they seem not to have come up to Jerusalem until the beginning of Ahaz’s reign. Perhaps Jotham’s soldier-like power and valour were more than a match for the allied armies.

Besieged Ahaz His weakness and wickedness emboldened his foes.

Could not overcome The army of Jerusalem seems to have been inspirited by Isaiah’s words, who came forward at this season of alarm, and uttered the oracle of doom against “the two tails of these smoking firebrands, Rezin and the son of Remaliah.” Compare Isaiah 7:1-9.

But though unable to capture Jerusalem, they did immense injury to the kingdom of Judah. According to 2 Chronicles 28:5-15, they either slew or carried into exile hundreds of thousands of the people, and also took much spoil. The Israelites, however, at the expostulation of the prophet Obed, released their captives and sent them back to Jericho.

Verse 6

6. At that time During the course of this Syro-Israelitish war.

Rezin… recovered Elath to Syria Rezin appears throughout all this war against Judah as more powerful than his Israelitish ally. Elath, on the Red Sea, had been taken from the Edomites and attached to the kingdom of Judah in the reign of Uzziah. See on 2 Kings 14:22. The word recovered [ השׁיב ] does not necessarily imply that Elath had formerly belonged to Syria, but here it simply means that it now changed hands, turned from one possessor to another.

The Syrians came to Elath The Hebrew is without the article, Syrians came that is, a colony of Syrians. Rezin, having captured this ancient commercial town, at once settled a Syrian colony there, probably for purposes of commerce, and to open for himself a new source of revenue, and though Syria was soon afterwards conquered, and Rezin slain, this colony dwelt there unto this day, that is, at the time when our author wrote. For it is by no means improbable that a Syrian colony remained at Elath long after the home Government had been annihilated. The Keri, Septuagint, Vulgate, and many interpreters, read Edomites instead of Syrians, but that reading would seem to be unsuitable, for it would be strange to say that Edomites dwelt there unto this day, when the Edomites had always dwelt in that vicinity. Besides the losses which Ahaz sustained from the combined armies of Rezin and Pekah, Chronicles informs us that the Edomites and Philistines also invaded Judah on the south and west, occupied many cities, and carried off captives. 2 Chronicles 28:17-18.

Verse 7

7. Ahaz sent… to Tiglath-pileser He placed no strong reliance on the word of the Lord by Isaiah that Rezin and Pekah were only like two smoking firebrands that would soon burn out and be harmless. He was probably led to apply to the Assyrian monarch because he had already greatly injured Israel. See note on 2 Kings 15:29.

Thy servant and thy son An acknowledgment of Judah’s dependency on Assyria. Compare note on 2 Kings 14:5.

Verse 8

8. Ahaz took the silver and gold He did to the king of Assyria what Jehoash had done for a like purpose to the king of Syria. See 2 Kings 12:18.

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Verse 9

9. Went up against Damascus Which was the “head,” or capital of Syria. See Isaiah 7:8.

Took it Captured the city.

Kir This place is mentioned again at Isaiah 22:6; Amos 1:5; Amos 9:7; but it does not appear from any of these notices whether it was a city or a district, and its locality is unknown. Some think a trace of the name still lingers in the river Kur, which rises in the mountains of Caucasus and flows into the Caspian Sea. But this seems too far north, and it is doubtful whether that region ever belonged to Assyria.

Slew Rezin This defeat crushed for centuries the prosperity and independence of Damascus, and utterly destroyed the kingdom of Syria. A mutilated inscription now in the British Museum contains a notice of the defeat and death of this last of the Syrian kings; and among the sculptures lately discovered at Nineveh is one that is thought to be a representation of the final siege of Damascus and the captivity of its inhabitants.

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Verse 10

10. Went to Damascus After its capture.

To meet Tiglath-pileser To pay him a visit of homage and submission.

Saw an altar Before going to Damascus, and before the fall of the Syrian kingdom, and while he was hard pressed by the forces of Rezin, “he sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus, which smote him: and he said, Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, therefore will I sacrifice to them, that they may help me.” 2 Chronicles 28:23. Now, however, he proposes to worship the more triumphant gods of Assyria, whose altar, after the victory of Tiglath, had been set up at Damascus, “It has been generally supposed,” says Rawlinson, ( Historical Evidences, p. 117,) “that this altar was Syrian; and its establishment has been connected with the passage in Chronicles, where Ahaz is said to have ‘sacrificed to the gods of Damascus, which smote him;’ but few things can be more improbable than the adoption of the gods of a foreign nation at the moment when they had been proved to be powerless. The strange altar of Ahaz was in all probability not Syrian, but Assyrian; and its erection was in accordance with an Assyrian custom, of which the inscriptions afford abundant evidence the custom of requiring from the subject nations some formal acknowledgment of the gods and worship of the sovereign country.” It would seem that about this time the astral worship of Assyria was introduced into the kingdoms both of Judah and Israel. See on 2 Kings 17:16.

Verse 12

12. Saw the altar That is, the new altar which Urijah had just completed, according to the pattern sent him from Damascus, and had erected, apparently, near the entrance into the court. This new altar is called emphatically the altar in this verse and the following, and in 2 Kings 16:15, the great altar.

Verse 14

14. The brazen altar This stood in the midst of the inner court, the court of the priests. See cut, page 68. It was, according to 2 Chronicles 4:1, twenty cubits square and ten cubits high. Its position is described as before the Lord, that is, in front of the holy place.

Brought… from the forefront of the house Moved from its old sacred place in front of the temple, and placed, as the sequel shows, nearer to the north side of the court, so as not to stand between the (new) altar and the house of the Lord. In the spot where Urijah had placed it, the new altar was not properly before the Lord, inasmuch as the brazen altar stood between it and the holy place. So the king changed the position of both altars, placing the new one nearer to the temple, and the brazen altar on the north side of it. He would not have the new altar occupy a secondary place. So, says Wordsworth, “the new altar became the principal central object, and the brazen altar was only an adjunct and appendage to it.”

Verse 15

15. Upon the great altar The new altar thus supplanted the ancient altar of Jehovah, and became the great altar, that is, the chief or principal altar, on which all the customary offerings of the temple were thenceforth to be offered as long as Ahaz ruled.

The brazen altar shall be for me to inquire by Better, with Gesenius, Keil, Furst, and Bahr, to take בקר here, not in the sense of inquiring or searching by, as an oracle, but, to consider, to weigh in one’s mired. Ahaz ordered the priest to offer all the offerings on the new altar, but reserved the disposal of the brazen altar for further consideration.

Verse 16

16. Thus did Urijah And because of his sacrilegious obedience to Ahaz, some think his name was not allowed in the list of priests given at 1 Chronicles 6:3-15. What a contrast to the bold and faithful Azariah, who withstood the king when he attempted sacrilege. 2 Chronicles 26:17-18.

Verse 17

17. Borders of the bases… laver… sea… brazen oxen See notes and cuts at 1 Kings 7:23-39. On his object in removing these precious things, see next verse.

A pavement of stones A structure or pedestal made of stones; less costly and attractive than the brazen oxen.

Verse 18

18. The covert for the sabbath Keil renders, the covered sabbath-stand, and explains it with probable correctness as some “covered place, stand, or hall in the court of the temple, to be used by the king whenever he visited the temple with his retinue on the sabbath, or on feast days.” Such a covert would naturally be furnished and ornamented with many precious things, and would be an evidence of wealth.

That they had built A kind of impersonal expression, equivalent to which had been built. The king’s entry without Probably the magnificent ascent from the palace to the temple, which, in the days of Solomon, had so overwhelmed the queen of Sheba. 1 Kings 10:5.

Turned he from the house of the Lord That is, he turned them aside from the purposes for which they were built; he changed them, perhaps to other uses. He changed them, as he did the bases, and the laver, and the brazen oxen, by removing them from sight, or else taking away all their costly adornings.

For the king of Assyria Rather, from the king of Assyria, or from fear of the king, as Bahr explains, referring for this use of the word מפני to Genesis 7:7; Judges 9:21; Isaiah 20:6, and other passages. Some understand that Ahaz removed all these sacred things from the temple for the purpose of presenting them to the king of Assyria; but 2 Kings 25:16, and Jeremiah 52:20, show that some of them were in Jerusalem at the time of the Babylonian conquest. Ahaz removed them, not as a present for the king of Assyria, but to hide them from the king. He desired to hide from the covetous Assyrian monarch these evidences of wealth, and so removed them from their sacred places. Some are of opinion that under the reformation of Hezekiah or of Josiah they were restored to their places again.

This effort of King Ahaz to conceal his treasures from Tiglath-pileser only confirms the statement made, 2 Chronicles 28:20, that his alliance with the Assyrian king “strengthened him not” was no permanent assistance, but rather a curse, for it “distressed him,” and left him a dishonoured vassal of a great heathen power.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Kings 16". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/2-kings-16.html. 1874-1909.
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