The Word Made Fresh
1Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king and ruled for sixteen years in Jerusalem. He did not do right in the LORD’s judgment as David his ancestor had. 2Instead, he followed the ways of the kings of Israel, going so far as casting idols for the Baals 3and presenting offerings in the valley of Ben Hinnom, and he even made his sons pass through fire – one of the disgusting practices of the people the LORD drove out before Israel. 4He brought offerings to and made sacrifices on the high hilltop shrines and under every spreading tree.
5Because of this the LORD his God delivered him into the hands of the king of Aram who defeated him and took a large number of his people into captivity to Damascus. He was also delivered into the hands of the king of Israel who killed many of his people. 6Pekah son of Remaliah killed a hundred twenty thousand of the soldiers of Judah, all of them experienced in war, because they abandoned the LORD God of their ancestors. 7And Zichri, a soldier from Ephraim, killed Maaseiah, the king’s son, and Azrikam who guarded the palace, and Elkanah who was next in authority to the king.
8The army of Israel took two hundred thousand men, women and children, as well as much of the wealth of the people, to Samaria. 9But as they approached the city, they were met by Oded, a prophet of the LORD. He said, “The LORD, the God of your ancestors, was angry with Judah, and gave them to you. But you killed them in anger that reached as high as the heavens. 10And now do you think you can make the men and women of Jerusalem and Judah your slaves? You have accomplished nothing but to sin against the LORD your God. 11Listen to me! Send these captives you took from your own relatives back because God is deeply angered by what you have done.”
12Also, Azariah son of Johanan, Berechiah son of Meshillemoth, Jehizkiah son of Shallum, and Amasa son of Hadlai, all of them leaders among the Ephraimites, stood in front of those who were returning from the war, 13and told them, “You cannot bring these captives in here, or you will make us all guilty before the LORD, on top of the guilt we already bear which has brought God’s fierce anger against Israel.”
14Then the soldiers left the captives and the spoils they had taken with the officials and others gathered there. 15A number of them were called by name, and they gathered the captives, and among the spoils they found clothing for those who were naked. They clothed them and gave them sandals, and also gave them food and drink and healing balms. They carried the weakest ones on donkeys and brought them all to Jericho, city of palms. Then they returned to Samaria.
16Then king Ahaz petitioned the king of Assyria for help 17because the Edomites had again invaded and defeated Judah and had carried away captives. 18Also, the Philistines had raided the Shephelah and the Judean Negeb and had taken the towns of Beth-Shemesh, Aijalon, Gederoth, plus Soco and Timnah and Gimzo with their outlying settlements, and had settled there themselves, 19for the LORD had rejected Judah because of the behavior of King Ahaz, who had behaved foolishly in Judah and had been unfaithful to the LORD. 20So, the king of Assyria, Tiglath-Pilneser, answered the plea of Ahaz by attacking him instead of coming to his aid. 21And this was surely because Ahaz had robbed the LORD’s temple as well as the king’s palace and the residences of his officials and used the plunder to pay the king of Assyria, but to no avail.
22The more king Ahaz suffered the more he turned from the LORD. 23He even sacrificed to the gods of Damascus who had defeated him. He said, “The gods of the kings of Aram assisted them, so I will sacrifice to them, too, and maybe they will assist me.” But they were his ruin, and the ruin of all Israel as well. 24Ahaz gathered all the items in the temple of God and cut them apart. He blocked the doors to the temple of God and made altars at every street corner in Jerusalem. 25He set up pillars to make offerings to other gods in all the cities of Judah, and the LORD God of his ancestors was angry.
26All the deeds of Ahaz and how he lived are recorded in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 27Ahaz died and joined his ancestors and was buried in Jerusalem, but they did not bury him in the tombs of the kings of Israel.
He was succeeded by his son Hezekiah.
1-4: (The reign of Ahaz is also covered in 2 Kings 16, where there are significant differences.) Ahaz, son of Jotham, comes to the throne at the age of 20. By all accounts he is a very religious man – he worships every god he has ever heard of except the LORD. He even makes “his sons pass through the fire,” and although there is wide speculation about what passing his sons through the fire means, it is certain that it is a religious ritual connected with a cult other than the faith of the God of Abraham.
5-7: Because Ahaz has forsaken the worship of the LORD, his authority is no longer respected or respectable and the country is weakened so that the kings of Aram (Damascus) and Israel (Samaria) invade Judah and kill thousands and capture and carry off numbers of others as slaves.
8-15: Here is a tale not told in 2 Kings. The Israelite army carries away thousands of the people of Judah as captives to Samaria. But there is strong opposition, particularly from a prophet named Oded, to keeping the captives, and from some of the tribal chieftains as well. The captives are clothed and fed and taken back to Judah and left at Jericho.
16-21: Judah is so weakened that the Edomites and Philistines also make successful forays into the land and carry off captives. Tiglath-Pilneser, emperor of Assyria, threatens Judah as well, and Ahaz plunders the temple in order to get together enough of a bribe to pay him off (this is completely different from the viewpoint in 2 Kings).
22-27: Ahaz figures that the gods Tiglath-Pilneser worships are more powerful than the gods of Judah (the ones he’s been worshiping, not the LORD God), so he brings in idols and statues and sets up altars all over the country to worship the gods of Damascus. He never figures out that his turning away from the LORD presents a crisis of leadership that is the cause of the decline of his nation. He is not given an honorable burial in the tombs of his predecessors.
The authors of 2 Chronicles want to make certain their message is clear: worshiping other gods is a devastating practice, not only for the one worshiping but also for the people around them. What I do with my life affects for good or ill not only me, but others around me as well, and even beyond my circle.