II Chronicles 28

 

 

This chapter is paralleled by II Kings 16. There is a great deal gained in this

case by addition on the two accounts, however. Our chapter contains the

wickedness by idolatry of Ahaz, the severe punishment thereof by the King

of Syria, the Syrian captivity of Judah, and the release of the latter so

unexpectedly (vs. 1-15); other punishments by war of Ahaz, his hardened

heart, greater sins, and end (vs. 16-27). The united unsuccessful attacks

of Syria and Israel, under Rezin and Pekah respectively, on Jerusalem, and

attempt at the siege of Ahaz there; the Syrian recovery of Elath, and

expulsion of the Jews thence, and the Assyrian taking of Damascus II Kings

16:5-9), are, though so full of interest, all omitted from our chapter.

 

 

1 "Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned

sixteen years in Jerusalem: but he did not that which was right in

the sight of the LORD, like David his father:" Ahaz. The signification

of this word is “grasping.” Isaiah (7:1; 38:8), Hosea, and Micah were

contemporaries of Ahaz, whoso reign may be set down at B.C. 744-728.

His name shows in the Assyrian tablets, Jahukhazi, or Jehoahaz.

 

2 "For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also

molten images for Baalim."  Molten images; Hebrew, מַסֵּכות.

This was a characteristic sin of Israel, but Judah had not been guilty

of making molten images during late reigns.

 

3 "Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and

burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen

whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel."

Burnt incense… Hinnom. The sin of Solomon (I Kings 11:7-8)

is reproduced. For the valley of the son of Hinnom, which

curved round the southwest and west of Jerusalem (Ge Ben-Hinnom), see

Conder’s ‘Handbook,’ ch. 7. pp. 330-332. Burnt his children (see

Leviticus 18:21); but there cannot be any doubt that Ahaz’s practice

here stated was an incident of the Moloch-superstition and horrible cruelty

(see the parallel in its vs. 3-4).

 

4 "He sacrificed also and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills,

and under every green tree.  5 Wherefore the LORD his God delivered him

into the hand of the king of Syria; and they smote him, and carried away a

great multitude of them captives, and brought them to Damascus. And

he was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, who smote him with

a great slaughter."  The King of Syria. The name of this king (Rezin) does not

appear in this chapter, but it does in the parallel, vs. 5-6, 9. They smote

him. A previous unsuccessful attempt of Rezin and Pekah is apparently

passed over in our chapter (II Kings 16:5), while the contents of our

present verse must be understood to have its place just before the last clause

of v. 5 in the parallel, and to be significantly confirmed by the contents of

its following verse. They smote… carried away… brought. These

plurals strongly indicate the dislocation of sentences in compiled matter.

They probably came from original sources, where the conjoined names of

Rezin and Pekah had been the antecedents (see on this history, Isaiah

chapters 7., 8., 9.). Brought them to Damascus. The mode of the first

introduction of the name of Ahaz in connection with Damascus in the parallel

(v. 10) is a suggestive illustration of how these parallel but very various

narratives proffer to piece themselves, and in a wonderful manner clear their,

whole subject of any possible taint of the “cunningly devised fable.” A great

multitude of Judah’s people had been carried captives and “brought to

Damascus.” When the King of Assyria (parallel, v. 9) came to the help of

Ahaz, he struck a fierce and evidently decisive blow against Damascus and

Rezin, and to Damascus, "to meet” Assyria’s king, Tiglath-Pileser, the very

next verse tells us, Ahaz went — little doubt to pay his bills, over which a

decent veil of silence is thrown. He was also delivered into the hand, etc.

The form of this sentence, with its “also,” and with its evidently tacked-on

appearance, coupled with the conjunction “for” with which the following

verse is dragged in, seems to give great probability to the idea, first, that

the latter half of v. 5 and all of v. 6 find their real place before (say) the

word Damascus;” and secondly, that they are strictly and conterminously

paralleled by the former part of v. 5 parallel.

 

 

Spiritual Rebound (vs. 1-4)

 

From Jotham to Ahaz, from the king who “made his ways firm before

Jehovah” to the king who “made molten images for Baalim,” and “burnt

incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the

fire, after the abominations of the heathen,” what a terrible rebound, what a

deplorable reaction! We may regard this as:

 

  • AN EVENT WHICH FREQUENTLY OCCURS.

 

Ø      Sometimes to the nation. We have a notable instance of this in the

reaction from the Puritan strictness of the Commonwealth to the

unbounded licence of the Restoration.

 

Ø      Sometimes to the Church. A sudden passing from the ardor of some

fervent enthusiasm to the rigor of utter indifference and inactivity.

 

Ø      Sometimes to the family. When a godly, devoted, and useful parent is

succeeded by a dissolute and mischief-working son (as in the text).

 

Ø      Sometimes in the individual. A man is led to the appearance (if not the

reality) of piety and zeal; he worships regularly in the house of the Lord,

and takes a prominent part in the activities of the Church; then with more

or less of suddenness he declines; he abandons his religious convictions and

his moral principles, and stands before society as a spiritual renegade,

living to injure and destroy all he had appeared to love and had busied

himself to promote.

 

  • ITS EXPLANATION.

 

Ø      Not in any law of human change. It may be contended that there is in the

mind and in the history of man a constant ebb and flow as in the tides of

the sea; that when a mental or moral movement has proceeded long and far

in one direction, the time has come for a counter-movement in the opposite

direction. But there is no reason, in the nature of things, why we should

not move steadily on in the direction of wisdom and virtue. Such a

tendency as this is not properly a law; it is only a generalization from a

comparatively small number of particulars. Hence we also say:

 

Ø      Not in any inherent human fickleness. Man is more or less fickle; i.e.

many men are very fickle, and some men are seriously so, and others

slightly so. But other men are constant, faithful, loyal to the last. Man, as

man, is under no necessity to change his course, to reverse his direction, to

pursue what he has shunned, to pull down what he has built up. We find

the explanation we seek:

 

Ø      Partly in the rashness of the good. Possibly Jotham may have been an

unwise father in some material respects; he may have so acted, so ruled his

royal household, as to present to his son an unattractive aspect of

godliness; he may have failed to distinguish between the requirements of

manhood and of youth. Certainly, if he did not, very many parents do, and

this their folly is the account of the departure and defection of their sons.

It is clear that the unwise austerity of the Puritans had much to do with the

excesses of the following generation. Very often, indeed, the intemperate

heats of some body of Christian or philanthropic men account, in a large

degree, for the repugnance and retrogression of the community. Folly

in the good may be as mischievous in its results as the very transgressions

of the wicked.

 

Ø      Partly in the shallowness of the piety or morality in question. When this

is nothing more than mere habit, especially when that habit is of the body

rather than of the mind, is fleshly rather than spiritual, it is not to be

expected that loyalty will last; it is to be expected that the first strong wind

of inclination, or of worldly interest, or of social pressure, will carry such a

one away and bear him whithersoever it wills. The great lesson for parents,

teachers, pastors, reformers, patriots, is this — dig deep IF YOU WOULD

HAVE YOUR HOUSE STAND!   If you would not see your sons and

daughters, your fellow-members or fellow-citizens swept round with the

current, facing the wrong goal, exerting their influence for evil instead of

for good, then do not be content with scattering seed anyhow and anywhere.

Dig the deep furrow, sow the seed well; plant living convictions in the

judgment and in the conscience of men. Get the whole nature on the side

of truth and righteousness. If the man himself, and not only his external

habits, not only his feelings and inclinations ¯ “if he himself, through his

whole spiritual nature, gives himself to the service of Christ and of man,

you need not fear the coming of an adverse tide; you need not fret about

the fickleness of our kind; you will witness no painful and pitiable reaction;

the path of those you serve will be one of continuous ascent; it will be

“the path of the just, shining brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.”

                        (Proverbs 4:18)

 

6 "For Pekah the son of Remaliah slew in Judah an hundred and

twenty thousand in one day, which were all valiant men; because

they had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers."

(See foregoing note.) An hundred and twenty thousand. The

number is large, but, the uncertainty of very many of these figures

notwithstanding, it is impossible absolutely to pronounce it incredible.

Because they had forsaken. The now frequent refrain of the writer.

 

7 "And Zichri, a mighty man of Ephraim, slew Maaseiah the king’s

son, and Azrikam the governor of the house, and Elkanah that was

next to the king."  The king’s son. This can scarcely mean the child of Ahaz,

considering Ahaz’s age; some think a brother of the present king, son of

Jotham, may be intended. We have also to fall back upon the use of the

phrase, “king’s son,” for some special official of the king or court (see note

on ch.18:25; and its parallel, I Kings 22:26). The governor of the house;

Revised Version, ruler. We have probably a sufficient clue to this designation

in I Kings 4:6; and the designation itself, ch. 18:3; 19:11; II Kings 18:18.

Next to the king; Hebrew, מִשְׁנֵה הַמֶּלֶך; literally, therefore, the next of

the king, the general meaning of which expression cannot be doubtful

(compare I Chronicles 16:5; Esther 10:3; Nehemiah 11:9), but the

more exact scope and functions of the person under the kings of the divided

kingdom thus designated is less certain. It is naturally to be supposed his

place may have been king’s deputy in councils in his absence, or in and

over the city itself, when he was at a distance with an army.

 

8 "And the children of Israel carried away captive of their brethren

two hundred thousand, women, sons, and daughters, and took also

away much spoil from them, and brought the spoil to Samaria."

To Samaria. While the Syrian king carried his captives to

Damascus (v. 5), the Israel king carried his to Samaria. The numbers in

this verse, with the added hundred and twenty thousand whom Pekah slew

(v. 6), may be compared with the military strength of the kingdom in

Uzziah’s time, as given in ch. 26:13.

 

9 "But a prophet of the LORD was there, whose name was Oded: and

he went out before the host that came to Samaria, and said unto

them, Behold, because the LORD God of your fathers was wroth

with Judah, he hath delivered them into your hand, and ye have

slain them in a rage that reacheth up unto heaven."

The very interesting contents of this and the following six verses

are not found in the parallel. A prophet of the Lord… Oded. We do not

know any particulars of this prophet; for his name and its possible identity

with the name Iddo, see notes on ch. 9:29; 15:1, 8. The

growingly frequent references to the interposition of the prophets is much

to be noticed, and their dignity, courage, fidelity, are brought into grand

relief. They are very typical of the moral presence of which no national

history, as centuries solemnly flow on, gives the slightest symptom of a

slackening need. The very same may be said alike of the truth and those

qualified and commissioned to bear it, of the message and the messenger.

Before the host; i.e. in very face of the host, somewhat too mildly

rendered “to meet” the host, in ch. 15:2, etc. In a rage that

reacheth up unto heaven. To the wonderful life of this figure, that must

strike every reader, must be added the force that comes of its moral rather

than merely material suggestion — a moral suggestion that reminds us of

that of the sentence of far greater antiquity, and from the sacred lip of the

Inspirer of all prophets, “The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me

from the ground.”  (Genesis 4:10)  The rage had not been that on which the

sun did not go down; it had been so fierce that upon it the sun ought never

to have been required to look. See for interesting particulars and then more

general references, Jeremiah 51:9; Ezra 9:6; Psalm 38:4; Genesis 18:21; 28:12;

Job 20:6. The expression of the text, however, reacheth,”

or toucheth,” cannot be understood to reproduce as a perfect

equivalent the older above-quoted one of crieth.” In other words, the

magnitude of the rage is the first thing set forth, and the particular

language in which it is set forth well postulates the inference of its

abominableness in God’s sight.

 

10 "And now ye purpose to keep under the children of Judah and

Jerusalem for bondmen and bondwomen unto you: but are there

not with you, even with you, sins against the LORD your God?"

For bondmen and bondwomen unto you. The denunciation

of Deuteronomy 28:68 may be instructively compared with the

emphatic prohibition of Leviticus 25:46. The moral thread of ordinance

that runs everywhere through the divinely established economy of the Old

Testament Judaism should be devoutly observed. The verse, in the position

of its words, furnishes an example of almost classical pattern: And now

persons who are children of Judah and Jerusalem, ye are resolving within

yourselves (literally, saying) to subdue into bondmen and bondwomen for

yourselves.

 

11 "Now hear me therefore, and deliver the captives again, which ye

have taken captive of your brethren: for the fierce wrath of the LORD is

upon you." The fierce wrath; i.e. not unannounced, for Oded means to say,

“You are doing contrary to the Law and the Prophet Moses,” as just quoted.

 

12 "Then certain of the heads of the children of Ephraim, Azariah the son of

Johanan, Berechiah the son of Meshillemoth, and Jehizkiah the son of Shallum,

and Amasa the son of Hadlai, stood up against them that came from the war," 

Oded’s appeal, and forcible but most temperate and pertinent

argument of the previous verses, was addressed to those who led the

returning army, flushed with victory and haughty with their captives led in

triumph, and, as v. 15 shows, cruelly, and with every deprivation of

clothes and of shoes, etc. It now, however, fortunately meets with most

welcome practical support from those (certain of the heads of the

children of Ephraim) who had not had a hand in what had been done, and

now stood by, in some measure like umpires. They, at any rate, are

convinced, partly perhaps in that their blood was not hot with the battles

that had been. We do not know particulars of these four worthier men,

whose names, with their fathers’, are here “expressed” (v. 15). They

were evidently conscious of their past sins, had fear toward God, were not

of those who, sinning, hastened to sin yet more; but they wished to flee

from the wrath to come, the “fierce wrath,” already impending. Ephraim

(see note on ch. 25:7).

 

13 "And said unto them, Ye shall not bring in the captives hither: for

whereas we have offended against the LORD already, ye intend to

add more to our sins and to our trespass: for our trespass is great,

and there is fierce wrath against Israel."  Hither. The returning army was,

no doubt, on the outskirts of Samaria, though the exact site of this interesting

scene is not written. For whereas we have offended against the Lord; Hebrew;

לְאַשְׁמַת יְהוָהו עָלֵינוּ. Translate, For to the just cause of offence on the

part of Jehovah with us, ye propose to add to our sins, and to the offence existing

already with us; for great is that offence, etc. The genius of the word here

rendered "offence,” seems, from careful comparison of the eighteen times

of its occurrence, to point to “guilt, sin,” or “trespass,” as the causes

awakening offence in any one against these who do them. The repentant

temper of these “heads of the children of Ephraim” was admirable, and

indicated their distance from many, many others of their people and day,

and of Judah, who were either callous or reckless.

 

14 "So the armed men left the captives and the spoil before the princes

and all the congregation."  Before the princes and all the congregation; i.e.

the four and those who were now congregated round them.

 

15 "And the men which were expressed by name rose up, and took the

captives, and with the spoil clothed all that were naked among

them, and arrayed them, and shod them, and gave them to eat and

to drink, and anointed them, and carried all the feeble of them

upon asses, and brought them to Jericho, the city of palm trees, to

their brethren: then they returned to Samaria."

The men which were expressed by name; Revised Version,

which have been expressed by name. This is the probable, yet hardly

certain, meaning of the clause. My name should be “by names.” And the

meaning may be that “the men who were now specified by names for the

work rose up,” etc. Under any aspect, it was likely enough these would

embrace the four who had already spoken so piously and seasonably

(ch. 31:19; I Chronicles 12:31; 16:41). The captives; Hebrew,

שִׁבְיָה; literally, the captivity; i.e. of course, the body of captives

(Deuteronomy 21:11; 32:42). Clothed… arrayed. These two

renderings are both the same verb (לָבַשׁ), and even the same (hiph.)

conjugation. The undisguised, apparent repetition in the Hebrew text,

veiled and disguised in both the Authorized and Revised Versions, may

perhaps be owing to the intentness of the narrative on saying, first, that all

who were literally naked were clothed from their own captive spoil; and

then, secondly, that all whosoever (dusty, dirty, tired, footsore) were

clothed, in the sense of being fresh dressed. The eleven particulars of this

verse are uncommonly graphic in the Hebrew text brevity of description.

The verse may read thus: And the men appointed by their names rose up,

and took the captives by the hand, and all of the naked of them they

dressed from the very spoil, and dressed them (all), and shod them, and

fed them, and gave them drink, and anointed them, and carried upon asses

all the feeble ones, and brought them to Jericho, city of palms, to the very

side of their brethren, andreturned to Samaria. These made their own

so far the blessedness of them of Matthew 25:34-36. Jericho; i.e. well

within their own land, to a fertile and shaded spot of it, with plenty of

water, and whence probably all might most easily wend their ways to their

own district and town, Jericho lay on the border of Benjamin.

 

 

 

The Sending Back of the Captives — an Incident of the Israelitish War

    (vs. 8-15)

 

  • THE WARRIORS OF ISRAEL AND THE CAPTIVES OF JUDAH (v. 8.)

 

Ø      The number of the captives. Two hundred thousand persons.

 

o        This, following upon a slaughter of one hundred and twenty thousand

soldiers, showed the crushing nature of the blow which had fallen upon

Judah.

 

o        It exemplified the horrors of war, especially among ancient peoples,

with whom the deportation of vast hordes of a country’s population was a

familiar phenomenon. Compare among the Jews the twenty thousand

footmen taken by David from Hadadezer of Zobah (II Samuel 8:4;

I Chronicles 18:4), and the ten thousand Edomites captured by Amaziah

(ch. 25:12); amongst the Assyrians the carrying away of the inhabitants

of Samaria to Assyria by Tiglath-Pileser II. (II Kings 15:29; compare

‘Records,’ etc., 5:52) — “the population, the goods of its people (and

the furniture)to the land of Assyria I sent,” and the removal by

Sargon II. of 27,280 of the leading inhabitants of Samaria to Gozan

and Media (‘Records,’ etc., 7:28); and amongst the Egyptians the

number of foreign peoples transported to the Nile valley as the result

of successful campaigns, a number so great as with their descendants

to compose in the time of Rameses Sesostris “a third, aud probably

still more, of all the families of Egypt” (Brugsch, ‘ Egypt under the

Pharaohs,’ 2:104).

 

o        It illustrated the ease with which, when God willed it, a nation could be

minished and brought low” (Job 12:23; Psalm 107:39).

 

o        It attested the certainty and severity of God’s judgments on account of

sin, whether upon nations or individuals (Leviticus 26:17;

Deuteronomy 32:30; here, ch.15:6).

 

Ø      The persons of the captives.

 

o        The brethren of the Israelites, i.e. their kinsmen; hence the wickedness

of their conduct in enslaving not merely human beings, which was bad, but

their own flesh and blood, which was worse, yea, was unnatural; and

 

o        of these, not the men who had fought against them, which might have

been in some sort excusable, but, which was wholly indefensible, the

women, with their sons and daughters, who were all alike innocent of

offence in either causing or sustaining the war, and therefore should have

been exempted from experiencing its miseries.

 

Ø      The destination of the captives. Samaria, in the Assyrian monuments

Samir- i-na (Schrader, ‘Die Keilinschriften,’ p. 191), the capital of the

northern kingdom, built by Omri (I Kings 16:24).

 

  • THE WARRIORS OF ISRAEL AND THE PROPHET OF JEHOVAH

(vs. 9-11.)

 

Ø      The prophets name. Oded, “Setting up.” The name of the father of

Azariah who went out to meet Asa (ch.15:2).

 

Ø      The prophets designation. A prophet of Jehovah, not of the false

Jehovah worshipped in Samaria under the image of a calf (Hosea 8:5-6),

but of the true Jehovah, which shows that, apostate as the northern

kingdom had become, it was not entirely destitute of true religion-even

there Jehovah having at least prophets who witnessed for Him, like Hosea

(Hosea 1:1) and Oded, if not also adherents who worshipped Him.

 

Ø      The prophets courage. He went out to meet the hosts of Israel as they

returned from their successful campaign, and warned them of the

wickedness of which they had been guilty; as Jehu, the son of Hanani, had

met Jehoshaphat returning from Ramoth-Gilead (ch. 19:2), and a prophet of

Jehovah had confronted Amaziah coming from the slaughter of the Edomites

(ch. 25:15).

 

Ø      The prophets address.

 

o        A reminder that the victory they had obtained had been due not so

much (if at all) to their superior military skill or bravery, as to the fact that

Jehovah had been angry with Judah, and had delivered her armies into

their hands (v. 9; compare Nehemiah 9:27).

 

o        A rebuke for the want of pity they had shown towards their brethren

upon whom the anger of God had fallen — a circumstance which should

have moved their hearts to clemency (Job 19:21), but which had rather

lent intensity to their rage.

 

o        An accusation that they purposed to make bondmen and bondwomen

of the sons and daughters of Judah and Jerusalem — which, besides

being an act of cruelty, was likewise an act of folly, since it could not be

supposed Jehovah’s favor was finally withdrawn from Judah; and an act

of presumption, inasmuch as they themselves had not been blameless in

the matter of apostatizing from Jehovah, and, if the truth were told, were

as much deserving to be punished as their southern brethren and sisters.

 

o        An appeal to their conscience to say whether what he now affirmed was

not correct: “Are there not with you, even with you, sins against the Lord

your God?” Their idolatry was as great as that of Judah had been. Their

pitiless butchery of their brethren was crying up against them to heaven.

Their bringing away of these innocent women and children was an

iniquity which filled up the measure of their guilt (v. 10).

 

o        An exhortation to desist from their criminal intention to enslave their

brethren, and to send back the captives they had brought, with all

convenient speed and with due expressions of regret (v. 11).

 

o        An argument to quicken their movements in the path of duty; if they did

not, the fierce wrath of Jehovah, which was already on them, would engulf

them. The speech, which was a model in respect of compact brevity, lofty

eloquence, clear statement, pathetic appeal, resistless logic, and which

must have been delivered with combined boldness and persuasiveness,

made a deep impression.

 

  • THE WARRIORS OF ISRAEL AND THE PRINCES OF EPHRAIM

(vs. 12-14.)

 

Ø      The names of the princes.

 

o        Azariah (ch. 15:2; 22:6), the son of Johanan, “Jehovah is gracious;”

o        Berechiah, “Whom Jehovah hath blessed” (I Chronicles 6:39),

son of Meshillemoth, “Retribution;”

o        Jehizkiah, the same as Hezekiah, “The might of Jehovah,” son of

Shallum, “Retribution” (II Kings 15:10); and

o        Amasa, “Burden,” the name of one of Absalom’s captains

 (II Samuel 17:25), the son of Hadlai, “Rest.”

 

These princes were obviously at the head of the Israelitish congregation (v. 14).

 

Ø      The action of the princes. They joined the Prophet Oded in resisting the

introduction by the soldiers of the captives into the city. That people is

fortunate whose leaders are courageous to oppose them in evil-doing, and

to point out to them the path of duty.  (“Blessed is the nation whose God

is the Lord”  - Psalm 33:12)

 

Ø      The speech of the princes.

 

o        A refusal to admit the captives into the city (v. 13);

o        a confession that already they, as a people, had transgressed against

Jehovah, and incurred His wrath; and

o        an intimation that the course the soldiers were pursuing was such as

would increase their sin and trespass, and expose them to a heavier

charge of guilt.

 

Ø      The success of the princes. “The armed men left the captives and the

spoil before the princes and all the congregation” (v. 14). Happy is that

community in which the wise and good counsels of its leaders prevail.

 

  • THE PRINCES OF ISRAEL AND THE CAPTIVES OF JUDAH (v. 15.)

 

Ø      The kindness of the princes. The above-named (v. 12), with other

famous and distinguished leaders, to whom a similar designation was

customarily applied (ch. 31:19; I Chronicles 12:31; 16:41;

rose up from their seats of honor in the midst of the assembly,

stood forth as the representatives of the people and received at the hands

of the soldiers the crowd of captives; out of the spoil, which, as usual,

consisted in garments, flocks, and herds, with other articles of value

(ch. 15:14-15; 20:25), clothed and shod all amongst them who were

naked, giving them to eat and drink (II Kings 6:22-23); anointed with

oil such of them as had wounds (Luke 10:34); set the feeble upon

asses, of which animals there was a plentiful supply (I Chronicles 27:30;

Ezra 2:67) — a lively picture of the pity and compassion which

should ever be shown towards the unfortunate, suffering, and miserable,

especially by the people of God (Isaiah 58:6-7; Job 30:25; Luke 10:37;

14:12; I Timothy 5:10; I John 3:17).

 

Ø      The return of the captives. Thus generously treated by the princes, they

were sent back, those able to travel by themselves, those requiring to ride

accompanied by conductors, who journeyed with them as far as Jericho,

the city of palm trees (Judges 3:13), distant from Jerusalem about five

and a half hours walk, situated in the tribe of Benjamin, and belonging to

the kingdom of Judah. Arrived thither, they were handed over to their

brethren, after which their conductors returned to Samaria.

 

  • LESSONS.

 

Ø      The sin of slavery.

Ø      The function of prophecy.

Ø     The beauty of charity.

 

 

Divine and Human Pity (vs. 9-15)

 

A very striking and a most unusual incident is here related; it has very few

parallels in the page of ancient history. The hand that struck down the

enemy very rarely failed to strike him when he was down. Here we have a

refreshing picture of human relenting; of men who had just presented the

cup of woe putting to the lips of the suffering a cup of mercy. But first we

have a picture of:

 

  • DIVINE PITY IN THE MIDST OF DIVINE PENALTY. It is clear that

the people of Judah owed their defeat entirely to the fact that they had

grievously sinned against the Lord (see v. 9). But there was a point

beyond which justice did not demand that penalty should go. And at that

point Divine pity might appear. There it did appear, and it arrested the

hand of the cruel smiter. God sends judgment, but in wrath He “remembers

mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2). He sends the serious sickness which brings

pain and weakness, but at a certain point He sends the remedy and

restoration. He brings down upon the guilty the strong indignation of their

kind, but He raises up the compassionate and the considerate who visit the

prisoner or the lonely with words of friendly sympathy and cheer. He

brings the strong but rebellious kingdom to defeat and humiliation, but He

causes it to grow up again to competence and power. He bruises, but He

does not shatter; he lays low, but he raises up.  (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:17-19)

 

  • OFFICIAL FAITHFULNESS. Oded had a difficult and dangerous part

to play on this occasion, but he bore himself right nobly (vs. 9-11). He

did not flinch from words of energetic condemnation (vs. 9, 10), or from

words of unpalatable advice (v. 11). If God puts us into any responsible

position, whether in the family, or in the Church, or in the city, or in the

councils of the nation, we are most sacredly bound to play our part

courageously. No man is fitted to occupy a post of trust and honor unless

he is prepared, at times, to say and do that which is likely to be resented.

Though we may not be called upon to face a triumphant army with words

of remonstrance and command, as Oded did now, yet we are sure to be

under obligation to say that which is unacceptable and to confront the

dislike and disapproval of men. If we are not prepared to do that, we had

better stand down at once, and take a lower place. Certainly we are not

qualified to speak for GOD!

 

  • HUMAN INFLUENCE. We have two instances of human influence

being exercised with remarkable success. The outspoken prophet

persuades the princes, and they in their turn persuade the soldiers to release

the captives and to abandon the spoil which they had taken. This was a

truly remarkable success. To induce men who are flushed with victory to

forego the advantages they have won with the sword is to accomplish a

great feat. It shows what man can do with man; what influence a strong

voice can exert upon the human heart.

 

Ø      It is always well worth while to interpose between men and the wrong

they are meditating; we may save them from great guilt and others from

great suffering.

 

Ø      We must be in downright earnest, and speak with entire fearlessness and

frankness, as both prophet and princes did now, or we shall not succeed.

We must speak as those who are perfectly convinced, as those who know

what is right, and have no hesitation at all as to the course which should

be taken.

 

  • HUMAN PITY. Instead of slaughtering their prisoners, which in that

age might have been done without pity or remorse, we have these soldiers

of Israel showing all possible kindness to them (v. 15). It is a common

thing now for men to show a magnanimous kindness to their fallen enemy

even on the battle-field. But the teaching of the Lord of love has done its

work to some considerable extent, and has mercifully modified the cruelties

of war. The scene of the text was something of an anticipation of the

injunction, “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink.

(Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:20)  It is for us to illustrate the spirit then shown,

on every opportunity. We should spare those who are in our power; it may be

in the domain of business; it may be in the social circle; it may be round the

domestic table; it may be in something so simple as a debate, so common as

an ordinary argument. But wherever or whatever it be, to spare our opponent

when he is down, to save him from the miseries of defeat, to put him in the

way of return to self-respect and honor, to “take back our captives to Jericho,

is to do no more than these Israelites did on this particular occasion; it is to

do no less than our Master requires of us at all times and under every

circumstance (Matthew 5:43-48).

 

16 "At that time did king Ahaz send unto the kings of Assyria to help him." 

The vagueness of this common formula, “at that time,” would doubtless not

have been apparent in the original sources. In the present instance we may

fall back on our vs. 5-6 to give it distinctness; but see vs. 5-7 of the

parallel, which involve their own formula and the present in some little

uncertainty. The kings of Assyria. The Septuagint and other versions show the

singular number. Our plural may perhaps find an explanation in ch. 30:6; 32:4.

 

17 "For again the Edomites had come and smitten Judah, and carried

away captives.  The Edomites. So the work of Amaziah (ch. 25:11, 14;

II Kings 14:7) in reducing Edom was again undone (see also ibid. ch.16:7,

where Edom should be read for Aram).

 

18 "The Philistines also had invaded the cities of the low country, and

of the south of Judah, and had taken Bethshemesh, and Ajalon, and

Gederoth, and Shocho with the villages thereof, and Timnah with the

villages thereof, Gimzo also and the villages thereof: and they

dwelt there.”  The Philistines. These also had been subjugated again and

again, and of late by Uzziah (ch. 26:6-7), work that was now

undone. The exultant relief to the Philistines, short-lived though it was, is

referred to elsewhere, as in the Book of Isaiah (Isaiah 14:29, 31), the

Psalms (Psalm 60:8). Beth-shemesh. On the border of Judah (ch. 25:23,

and our note there; I Chronicles 6:44). Ajalon.  This was also

on the border (ibid. v. 54; ch. 11:10). Gederoth.  This was in the Shefelah

(Joshua 15:41). Shocho; or, Socho, one of Rehoboam’s cities, near the

Philistines, and therefore selected for fortification (ch. 11:7). Timnah. This

bordered on Dan (Joshua 15:10). Gimzo. Not elsewhere mentioned, but well

known in the modern village Jimzu, its site on what would have been the border

of Dan. They dwelt there. This expression is, of course, designed to indicate

that the Philistines obtained successfully some foothold.

 

19 "For the LORD brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel;

for he made Judah naked, and transgressed sore against the LORD."

Ahaz King of Israel. So Jehoshaphat was called in ch. 21:2 “King of Israel.

If these two occasions are not merely cases of the writer’s or of a copyist’s

easily imaginable mistake, they must be regarded as naming the king of the

chief divided kingdom by the title of the whole kingdom or people. He made

Judah naked; Revised Version, had dealt wantonly in Judah; or margin,

Revised Version, had cast away restraint in Judah; Hebrew, הִפְרִיַע.

 

 

Blow upon Blow (vs. 17-19)

 

Ahaz was a very great transgressor, and he was (as we might expect he

would be) a very great sufferer. He received blow upon blow from the

righteous hand of that holy Ruler who by present and temporal visitations

was educating His people in the ways of heavenly wisdom.

 

1. First Rezin King of Syria defeated him, and carried away many captives

    to Damascus (v.5).

2. Then Pekah King of Israel slew his army with a great and pitiless

    slaughter (v. 6).

3. Then the Edomites smote Judah, and went away with the usual spoil (v. 17).

4. Then the Philistines “invaded the cities of the low country,” and took

    several important places (v. 18).

 

Thus “the Lord brought Judah low because of Ahaz.” One blow fell after another,

until the land was thoroughly smitten and stripped, left “naked to its enemies”

(v. 19).  We are reminded by these successive inflictions of:

 

  • THE ACCUMULATING PENALTY WHICH SIN ALWAYS PAYS.

 

Ø      This often comes in the form of obvious and apparent losses. The

trangressor who “fears not God, neither regards man,” finds himself

subjected to a series of adversities, which he regards as misfortunes, but

which we recognize as penalties. He loses the confidence and esteem of his

worthier neighbors; then he loses custom, trade, support, and then and

thus he loses money; then he loses his substance by extravagance and, it

may be, by one or more expensive vices — and vice is a very expensive

thing; then he loses health and spirit and hope; then he loses the regard of

his neighbors generally. So, step by step, he goes down, until “the Lord

brings Judah low,” until he has “made the land naked.”

 

Ø      Or penalty may come in the way of inward and spiritual deterioration.

We cannot pretend to say in what order this proceeds; it varies with

individual souls; but blow upon blow descends; bruise upon bruise is

suffered by the soul; one defense after another is taken away from the

citadel until the land is “naked.” It may be that the fine sense of

truthfulness goes first (Isaiah 59:14); then, perhaps, the spirit of reverence;

then the loss of thorough rectitude; then the loss of purity; then may come an

indifference to the judgment of the good and wise; then the decay of self-

respect; — and what then is left? Let the man who, like Ahaz, hardens

himself against God understand this, that as he goes on his guilty way, even

if outward prosperity remains to him, there is descending upon his spiritual

nature, upon himself if not upon his circumstances, blow upon blow of

righteous penalty — blows which are bruising and slaying him, beneath

which HE IS SURELY PERISHING!

 

  • THE MULTIPLIED SORROWS WHICH RIGHTEOUSNESS

SOMETIMES ENDURES. “Many are the afflictions (even) of the

righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” (Psalm 34:19).

To the patient Job, to the faithful Jeremiah, to the devoted Paul, they come

in large number and in great strength. Even to the purest and loveliest of the

sons and daughters of God there sometimes falls a sad succession of trials;

it may be in the heart and on the lips of the most worthy to say, “All thy

waves and thy billows are gone over me.”  (Psalm 42:7)  Blow upon blow

descends upon their head. What does it mean?  It simply means that the

branch which is bearing fruit the Lord of the vineyard is pruning, “that it

may bring forth more fruit”  (John 15:2); it means that “whom the Lord

loveth He chasteneth  (Hebrews 12:6), in order that he may make them to

be “partakers of His holiness” (ibid. v. 10)it means that the Divine Master

is refining and cultivating his servant, to prepare him for a far broader and

nobler sphere and for higher and heavenlier,work hereafter; it means that

affliction is working out an “exceeding weight of glory.”  (II Corinthians 4:17)

 

20 "And Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria came unto him, and distressed

him, but strengthened him not."  Tilgath-Pilneser (see I Chronicles 5:6, 26;

II Kings 15:29; 16:10, our parallel. See our notes in full on I Chronicles 5:6, 26).

Gesenius dates his reign as King of Assyria as B.C. 753-734; others as

about B.C. 747-728. Distressed him, but strengthened him not. This is

in our writer’s usual deeper moral and religious vein, and was no doubt

most true. For all Ahaz paid and bribed out of the sacrilegiously employed

treasure of the temple, out of the depreciating and partial dismantling of

“the house of the king,” and out of the begged contributions or taxes

extortionately wrung “of the princes” (see the succinct account of next

verse, and compare the parallel in II Kings 16:8, 18), he bought a master for

himself, servitude, tributariness, and the humiliation of disgrace itself. The

temporary relief he obtained (and which the writer of Chronicles in no way

means to deny) from one enemy riveted round his neck the yoke of

another and greater. And worse than this, he secured in his own heart the

greatest adversary of all — a restless, implacable foe, which ever goaded

him on to worse folly and deeper sin.

 

21 "For Ahaz took away a portion out of the house of the LORD, and

out of the house of the king, and of the princes, and gave it unto

the king of Assyria: but he helped him not."  Add to references of the

last verse ch.16:2; II Kings 12:18; 18:15. But he helped him not. See the

parallel in its v. 9 (II Kings 16.), and note on our foregoing verse.

 

 

An Unfortunate Embassy (vs. 16, 20-21)

 

  • THE PERSON APPROACHED. Tiglath-Pilneser (v. 20), Tiglath-

Pileser (II Kings 16:7); in Assyrian, Takul-u-(Tukeal)-habal-i-sar-ra,

meaning “He who puts his trust in Adar,” or, “Adar is my confidence;” in

the Septuagint Θαλγα(θφελασσάρ - Thalgath-phelassar - Tilgath-Pileser -  

the same person as Pul King of Assyria (Schrader, ‘Die Keilinschriften,’

pp. 223-240), to whom Menahem of Israel gave a thousand talents of

silver as a bribe for aid to keep the throne he had usurped (II Kings 15:17).

Originally a gardener (according to Greek tradition), Pul rose to eminence

as a soldier, and eventually seized the crown of Assyria in B.C. 745, as

Tiglath-Pileser II.

 

  • THE INVITATION GIVEN. To assist Ahaz against Rezin of

Damascus and Pekah of Israel. Already the power of Tiglath-Pileser II. had

been felt in numerous expeditions towards the West. Syria, Palestine, and

Phoenicia had each resounded at the tread of his conquering legions. In

particular, Rezin (‘Records,’ etc., 5:48), and Menahem, one of Pekah’s

predecessors on the throne of Israel, had acknowledged his supremacy by

paying him tribute (II Kings 15:29; ‘Records,’ etc., 5:48). Accordingly,

Ahaz had no doubt that the mighty Assyrian could by a word call off the

two royal bandits that, like terriers, had sprung at his throat. Despatching

ambassadors to Tiglath-Pileser, he requested aid against his foes from the

north and east. To render his application successful, he sent with his

plenipotentiaries a heavy largess, in the shape of presents of gold and silver

taken from the temple, the palace, and the princes’ mansions (II Kings

16:7-8). An inscription, composed in the last or year before last year of

Tiglath-Pileser’s reign, speaks of the Assyrian monarch as having received

tribute from Mitinti of Askalon, Joachaz of Juda, and Kosmalak of Edom

(Schrader, ‘Die Keilinschriften,’ p. 263). Though this tribute was probably

that which Ahaz paid on visiting Tiglath-Pileser at Damascus (ibid. v. 10),

it will serve to illustrate and confirm the fact here mentioned, that

Ahaz sent a present with his plenipotentiaries when they went to solicit

Tiglath-Pileser’s assistance.

 

  • THE ANSWER RETURNED. Tiglath-Pileser came unto him.

 

Ø      He marched against Rezin. (II Kings 16:9.) The King of Syria was

defeated in a pitched battle, and retreated to his capital. “He, to save his

life, fled away alone and like a deer, and into the great gate of his city he

entered. His generals alive in hand I captured, and on crosses I raised them.

His country I subdued” (Inscription of Tiglath-Pileser, No. 10). “Damascus

was closely invested; the trees in its neighborhood were cut down; the

districts dependent on it were ravaged, and forces were dispatched to

punish the Israelites, Ammonites, Moabites, and Philistines, who had been

the allies of Reson.… At last, in B.C. 732, after a siege of two years,

Damascus was forced by famine to surrender. Reson was slain, Damascus

given over to plunder and ruin, and its inhabitants transported to Kip”

(Sayce, ‘Assyria, its Princes,’ etc., pp. 36, 37; cf. Smith, ‘ Assyrian

Discoveries,’ p. 282; Schrader, ‘ Die Keilinschriften,’ pp. 258, 259).

 

Ø      He turned upon Israel. (II Kings 15:29.) As above stated, this

occurred while the siege of Damascus was being pressed forward. The

towns of Ijon, Abel-beth-maachah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazer, with the

districts of Gilead, Galilee, and all the land of Naphtali, were captured, and

their populations carried away to Syria, while Pekah, their sovereign,

perished at the hands of a conspirator, Hoshea, who forthwith seized upon

the throne. These details likewise receive confirmation from the

monuments. Fragment No. 2 of Tiglath-Pileser’s inscription, narrating his

war in Palestine, mentions “the city Gaul… [probably Gilead] and Abil

[Abel-beth-maachah]… with the land of Humri throughout its whole extent

as having been joined to the borders of Assyria; the entire population of the

district as having been sent to Assyria, and their king, Pakaha, as having

been slain” (Smith, ‘Assyrian Discoveries,’ pp. 284, 285; ‘Records,’ etc.,

5:51, 52; Schrader, ‘Die Keilinschriften,’ pp, 255, 256).

 

Ø      He subjected Judah. This the obvious meaning of the Chronicler’s

statement, that Tiglath-Pileser “distressed Ahaz, but strengthened him not.”

Instead of helping him to become an independent sovereign, Tiglath-Pileser

made him a tributary to the Assyrian crown; and exactly in harmony with

this, Joachaz of Juda appears, along with Mitinti of Askalon, Kosmalak of

Edom, and Hanno of Gasa, among the tributary princes who, in the

seventeenth or eighteenth year of his reign, did homage to the great king

(see above).

 

22 "And in the time of his distress did he trespass yet more against the

LORD: this is that king Ahaz."  (I recommend II Chronicles 28 – Spurgeon

Sermon – That King Ahaz – this website – CY – 2016)

 

23 "For 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. But they

were the ruin of him, and of all Israel."  He sacrificed unto the gods of

Damascus, which smote him. The writer must be understood to speak from the

point of view of Ahaz, in putting it, that it was the gods of Damascus who

smote.” The formula, all Israel, is a clear instance of how the name Israel is

used as Judah.” The gods of Damascus were, of course, the same with those of

Syria, of which Damascus was capital. Their names were Rimmon, Tabrimmen,

Hadad, and some others. Perhaps no verse in Chronicles is more typical of the

special moral aspects and aims of the writer.

 

24 "And Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the house of God, and

cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and shut up the doors

of the house of the LORD, and he made him altars in every corner

of Jerusalem.  25  And in every several city of Judah he made high places

to burn incense unto other gods, and provoked to anger the LORD God of

his fathers."  This verse (completed, indeed, by the verse following)

heightens to its climax the description of the guilt of Ahaz, which grew to

madness.  II Kings 16:17-18 enlarge our view of what Ahaz did in

the way of destruction, relating his mutilation of the bases and laver and

sea, after also the displacement of the brazen altar in favor of that the

pattern of which he had sent from Damascus to Urijah the priest, who must

have been a consenting party to the iniquity. Our ch. 30:14 speaks of the time

that came when these wicked steps of king and priest began to be retraced, and,

with the previous verses of same chapter, are the sad but interesting reverse of

the present passage. The modern Jews commemorate, by the observance of a

fast, this mournful crisis of Judah’s history.

 

26 "Now the rest of his acts and of all his ways, first and last, behold,

they are written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel."

Parallel (II Kings 16:19), “the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah.”

 

27 "And Ahaz slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city,

even in Jerusalem: but they brought him not into the sepulchers of

the kings of Israel: and Hezekiah his son reigned in his stead."

Parallel (ibid. v. 20), “slept with his fathers… buried with his fathers in

the city of David.” See our notes on ch. 26:23 (parallel, II Kings 15:7);

ch. 24:25 (parallel, II Kings 12:21); ch. 21:20 (parallel, II Kings 8:24).

 

 

 

This King Ahaz:” (the “progress” of a king literally devoid of religion).

                                                (vs. 1-27)

 

In such words, the significance of which no one can mistake, is the royal

person who is the chief subject of this chapter pointed to (v. 22). Ahaz is

the bad son of a good father. He is a type of those who begin badly, who

are untaught by experience, who grow worse by suffering and adversity,

and who end by maddening themselves, to their own destruction! The

career of his father Jotham is written, apparently, without a fault, and

without a reflection to be cast on him; the career of this son is written,

apparently, without one redeeming feature to be put to his account. The

contents of this chapter look like a series of pictures, marking a royal

progress in wrongness, and which, in the issue, led to a very insanity of

irreligion! In this progress notice how the king:

 

  • FORSOOK THE RIGHT MODEL. To be not “like his father David”

was at once to lack the stamp of a true royalty. To be “like the kings of

Israel,” the schismatic line, was to be stamped with the stamp of a base and

ungenuine royalty. This description (v. 2) of “the ways” in which Judah’s

king “walked” was, indeed, on the other hand, a fearful characterization for

that same schismatic line of Israel. For Ahaz, however, thus to be, and be

described, as at the beginning of his reign, when he was already arrived at

the twenty-fifth year of his age, was an evil, anyway, of that worst calamity,

viz. hope for an altered future almost hopelessly shut out! The augury

proved too true. Ahaz counts for nothing Moses, as well as “his father

David.” He systematically “framed mischief by” his own “law,” and the law

of heathendom. He flagrantly breaks, and teaches the breaking of, the first

two of the ever-venerable ten commandments — that vital Heaven-graven

foundation-code of legislation of his kingdom. Sacrilege, idolatry, and each

most heathenish practice and rite of  “unnatural religion” he honors and

follows. He gets as far as it is possible to get from “fearing” and “loving”

and “serving” the Lord God of his fathers “with all the heart, and mind, and

soul, and strength.” For a young man, for any man to forsake the right

model, the one Example, is to leave himself to pick among many, uncertain

in every direction, except in THE ONE CERTAINTY OF BEING WRONG!

 

            “This young man, the prodigal son, started wrong – that was the

                trouble with him.  He was like hundreds and thousands of young

                men in our cities today who have a false idea of life; and when

                a man has a false idea of life, it is hard for his father or his

                mother, or any of his friends to do any thing with him.”

 

                                (excerpt from sermon Luke 15 -  The Prodigal Son by Dwight Moody -

 this website – CY – 2016) )

 

One only safe right rule is ours to follow; “If the Lord be God, follow Him”

(I Kings 18:21). Examples abound, but absolute safety and rightness can be

found in ONE ONLY!

 

  • NEGLECTED WARNING. The warning which Ahaz neglected, with a

long succession, to say nothing of all those who may have gone before,

was not merely warning written, preached loudly and earnestly and with

prophets voice proclaimed, but it was that practical warning, the

ultimatum of all, the warning of consequences. Defeat, and the captivity of

many of his people at the hand of the King of Syria; defeat, and the

captivity of many of his people at the hand of the King of Israel; the slaying

of his son, of the governor of his house, and of the man that was “the

second to him in the kingdom;” — all these judgments, offering to bring

closer and closer home to him and to his conscience the facts of the case,

of his own sins, and of the consequences of those sins, he is blind to, or,

not blind, he nevertheless disregards them to the very point of infatuation.

But, again, not only are the practical warnings of “wrath” thus set at

naught. Providences of mercy compete with those of “wrath” In one of the

most remarkable and pathetic passages of all history, startling us by its

lifelike and more than dramatic reality — a very monograph of pathos —

seven verses (9-15) here record this providence. They tell us how, by the

side of Judah’s king, who refuses to give ear, to repent, or to learn,

“certain of the heads of the children of Ephraim in Samaria,” listen

attentively to the remonstrance and teaching of the Prophet Oded, are open

to the impression of the justness of what he says, see in a moment the truth

of things for themselves, and reason without delay with the people,

producing salutary convictions in them; and then, even with the atoning

addition of all tenderest ministrations (v. 15), lead back their captives of

Judah to Jericho, to the shade of that “city of palm trees,” and to the yet

kinder shelter of “their brethren.” What a practical message that was for a

hardened heart like that of Ahaz! What an appeal and suggestion for the

better feelings, if any, of Judah’s king! But this too, this species of warning

was in vain!

 

  • IMPROVED ADVERSITY TO THE GREATER INIQUITY, AND

TO THE REAPING OF GREATER PUNISHMENT AND DEEPER

DEGRADATION FOR HIMSELF AND NATION.  The Edomites have

successfully “smitten” him; the harrying incursions of the Philistines are

ever on him; they take village after village, and also so take them, that they

are safe in taking up their abode in them, for they dwelt there (v. 18),

Ahaz does not repent, and does not for a moment “seek to the Lord.” The

strickennees of sin is on him; the persistence in evil is his disease; the fatal

aggravation of folly and infatuation of obstinacy cloud his brain, eclipse his

reason, “make gross” his heart. He seeks to the King of Assyria, and bribes

him with the sacred things of the house of the Lord, with the precious

things of his own palace, with the robbed things of his princes. And that

king takes all, but gives no help — “he helped him not” (v. 21); mocks

his defenselessness; makes sport of his supplications to him! To one deeper

depth, in his deafened despair, he descends. Ahaz vows for his own the

gods of those who “smote him” (v. 23). His logic is that the house too of

“the gods of the kings of Syria may possibly prove a house divided against

itself! It was a last, cruel, hapless resort! The refuge was the refuge of ruin

“the ruin of him, and of all Israel (v. 23), He ends all by entreating

for his memory loathing unqualified. He hacks to pieces the collected

“vessels of the house of God;” but shuts up (by just so much too late) “the

doors of the house” itself; rears every wild altar; profanes with “high places

every several city of Judahto burn there the “incense of abomination;”

excludes his own bones from the sepulchers of the best of his ancestors;

and leaves us one more fearful lesson, that none and nothing make so sure

a mock as sin itself makes of the “fool, who makes a mock” at it!

(Proverbs 14:9)

 

 

“This is that King Ahaz.” (vs. 1-27)

 

  • A DEGENERATE SON. Ahaz, “Grasper” or “Possessor.” In the

Tigiath-Plleser inscriptions, which probably confounded him with the son

of Jehoram (ch.21:17), he is called Jehoahaz, “Whom Jehovah grasps,”

though the Scripture writers may have dropped the prefix Jeho-” on

account of his wickedness.

 

Ø      He possessed his fathers nature. Of necessity, as his father’s son

(Genesis 5:3). Yet he improved not upon that nature, but rather

deteriorated and corrupted it. Heredity in him took a downward direction.

Some knowledge of who his mother was might shed important light upon

the question of how he came by his peculiarities of character and disposition,

 

Ø      He enjoyed his fathers example. Jotham “prepared his ways before the

Lord his God” (ch. 27:6), yet his pious conduct seemingly

exerted no beneficial influence upon his son. Ahaz followed not his father’s

footsteps, but carved out a path of his own. Example, especially when

good, may be potent, but is not omnipotent.

 

Ø      He obtained his fathers throne. Yet he rather tarnished it than added to

its luster. New dignities do not give new hearts or new powers. At the age

of twenty — five years younger than his father (ch. 27:1), and only four

years older than his grandfather (ch. 26:1) — he assumed the crown of Judah.

If the reading “twenty-five” years (Vatican text of the Septuagint, Arabic,

Syriac) be preferred (Ewald, Thenius, Bertheau, Keil, Bahr), on the ground

that otherwise he must have married in his tenth or eleventh year, in order,

after sixteen years, to be succeeded by a son as old as Hezekiah, who

was twenty-five on ascending the throne (ch. 29:1), he was still but a youth

when crowned, which may suggest that early promotion is not the same

thing as early conversion.

 

Ø      He lacked, i.e. did not possess, his fathers goodness. Grace runs not in

the blood (John 1:13), though corruption does (Job 14:4; Psalm 51:5).

A man may communicate to his son wealth, learning, fame, power;

be cannot, certainly, impart either grace or goodness.

 

Ø      He attained not to his fathers grave. When he died his people buried

him in Jerusalem, but not in the sepulchers of the kings of Israel. He who in

his lifetime had been no true Israelite, though he wore a crown, must not in

his death be laid among the sovereigns who were Israelites indeed. Death,

which destroys all time’s distinctions between man and man (Joshua 23:14;

Job 3:19; Ecclesiastes 8:8), nevertheless effectually distinguishes

between the righteous and the wicked (Proverbs 14:32; Luke 16:22;

Revelation 14:13).

 

  • AN APOSTATE KING. Immediately he reached the crown, Ahaz

discovered what manner of spirit he was of. With a perfect passion for

idolatry — “a mania for foreign religious practices” (Stanley) — he

soon outstripped his people, if not the heathen themselves, in his

becoming their Coryphaeus in superstitious rites, showing himself to be the

idolater par excellence in Judah, and by his regal example leading his

subjects down into unknown depths of infamy (v. 19).

 

Ø      He renounced the true religion of Jehovah. Not merely as it had been

practised by David (v. 1), Asa (ch. 15:17), and Jehoshaphat (ch.17:3), but

as it had been observed by his immediate predecessors, Jotham, Uzziah,

and Amaziah. If not discontinued at once as to outward form, it was kept

up for a season merely as a form; it was from the first abandoned in heart.

He began his reign by practicing the arts of a hypocrite.

 

Ø      He adopted the false worship of Baal, which had long held sway in the

northern kingdom (v. 2). Whether he introduced the calf-worship of

Jeroboam (Keil), or restricted himself to the manufacture of images of Baal

(Bahr), in either case he followed in the way of the Israelitish kings

(I Kings 12:28; 16:32; II Kings 3:2). “It is hard not to be infected by a

contagious neighborhood: whoever read that the kingdom of Israel was

seasoned with the vicinity of the true religion of Judah?” (Bishop Hall).

 

Ø      He utilized all the idol-sanctuaries already existing in the land. “He

sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under

every green tree” (v. 4). In so doing he copied bad masters, reproducing

the slate of matters which had existed in Judah under Rehoboam (I Kings

14:23), and at the moment flourished in Samaria under Hoshea

(II Kings 17:10) — a state of matters which from the first had prevailed

among the heathen inhabitants of the land (Deuteronomy 12:2), but

which they had been commanded ruthlessly to destroy. On the nature of

this worship consult the Exposition.

 

Ø      He introduced the worship of Moloch, “the savage god of the Ammonites’’

(Stanley), as Solomon had done before him (I Kings 11:7), in open defiance

of Divine Law (Leviticus 18:21; Deuteronomy 18:10), setting up an image

of that idol — a human figure with a bull’s head and outstretched arms —

in the valley of Hinnom, a “narrow waterless ravine bounding the site

of Jerusalem, and commencing on the west as a shallow dell” (Conder,

‘Handbook to the Bible,’ p. 330), and even sacrificing to it one (II Kings

16:3) or more (here, v. 3) of his own sons, as Manasseh afterwards did

(ch. 33:6). “The image of metal was made hot by a fire kindled within

it, and the children, laid in its arms, rolled from thence into the fiery

lap below. Voluntary offering on the part of the parents was essential to

the success of the sacrifice. Even the firstborn, nay, the only child of the

family, was given up. The parents stopped the cries of their children by

fondling and kissing them, for the victim ought not to weep, and the sound

of complaint was drowned in the din of flutes and kettledrums” (Dr.

Dollinger, ‘Heidenthum und Judenthum,’ quoted by Rawlinson, ‘Story of

Phoenicia,’ pp. 112-114). That the children were not merely passed

through the fire as an act of purgation, but actually burned, seems

indisputable; it is not certain that the children were thrown alive into the

idol’s glowing arms, the opinion that they were first slain (Keil, Bahr,

Schurer) appearing to be warranted by certain passages in Scripture

(Ezekiel 16:20-21; 23:39; Isaiah 57:5; Jeremiah 7:31; 19:5; compare

II Kings 3:27).

 

Ø      He sacrificed to the gods of Damascus.

 

o        He did this when the Syrians were inflicting on him military reverses,

i.e. in the time of his distress (Keil), not after it (Bertheau). Strange that

just then, when men most need the help of God, in the hour of affliction

and season of calamity, they usually manifest a tendency to run from

Him, looking for assistance from every quarter but the right one!

(Jeremiah 3:23) — exemplified in Ahaziah (II Kings 1:2-3).

 

o        The reason of his doing this was that he imagined his ill success upon

the field of battle had been due, not at all to the hand of God who

thereby punished his wickedness, but to the assistance derived by the

Syrians from their divinities (v. 23), and conceived that, by paying

them respect in sacrificing to them, he would win their favor to himself

instead of them (ch. 25:14). Wicked men seldom ascribe their

misfortunes or adversities to the right cause, their own ill deserts

and God’s hand in punishing the same, but mostly attribute them

to the “scientific idols,” called “chance,” “circumstances,”

“ill luck,” etc., which deities they hope to propitiate in a manner

hardly less foolish than that of Ahaz, by sacrificing at their

unhallowed shrines.

 

o        The specific mode in which he served the Syrian gods is not stated, as

the divinities themselves are not named, and indeed in Scripture never

are (Judges 10:6). The incident of the altar seen by Ahaz at Damascus,

and reproduced in Jerusalem (II Kings 16:10-16), is not referred to by

the Chronicler. The altar incident occurred when Ahaz was attending

Tiglath- Pileser’s durbar at Damascus; “the sacrifices” were performed

while Ahaz was fighting with the Syrians.

 

o        The result of his appeal to the gods of Syria was ruin to himself and

to all Israel. So all that forsake God shall be ashamed (Jeremiah

17:13), while “their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after

other gods” (Psalm 16:4), and “they that observe lying vanities

forsake their own mercies” (Jonah 2:8); for “idolaters shall have

their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone,

which is the second death. ” (Revelation 21:8).

 

Ø      He shut up the doors of the house of the Lord. (v. 24.) It was high

time. The man who could displace the brazen altar made by Solomon after

patterns furnished by Jehovah (Exodus 25:40; 26:30; 27:1; I Chronicles 28:19),

to make room for a new shrine, no matter of what costly material, copied

from a heathen temple at Damascus, and fashioned by a servile priest in

Jerusalem; the monster who could erect an image of Moloch in his

capital and sacrifice to it his own child; the devotee who was so mad

upon foreign gods, that the very sight of a heathen temple, altar, or

idol caused him to fall a-worshipping; — had obviously no excuse for

longer affecting to be a worshipper of Jehovah. Accordingly, he smashed

up the vessels and closed the doors of the temple. There should be no more

worshipping of Jehovah, if he could help it. It was horrible sacrilege, but it

was at least honest.

 

Ø      He did his utmost to provoke Jehovah to anger. Building altars in every

corner of Jerusalem, till, like Athens in the days of Paul, it was wholly

given to idolatry, literally stuffed full of idols (Acts 17:16), and erecting

besides in every city of Judah high places to burn incense unto other gods

(vs. 24-25); he did his best to pour contempt upon the God of his

fathers; in his outrageous, fanatical, and senseless idolatry eclipsing all his

predecessors, leaving behind him in the race to perdition experts in heathen

worship like Rehoboam and Jehoram in Judah, like Jeroboam and Ahab in

Israel. It was no wonder that Jehovah at length bestirred Himself to take

vengeance on this nonpareil idolater.

 

  • AN UNSUCCESSFUL WARNING. For the wickedness of himself

and people, he and they were “brought low,” :

 

Ø      diminished in numbers,

Ø      weakened in power,  and

Ø      humbled in spirit,

 

by Jehovah, who raised up against them three foreign foes.

 

Ø      The Syrians and Israelites. (vs. 5-7.)

 

o        The leaders of the allied forces were — of the Syrians, Rezin, or Rezon

— in the inscriptions, Razinu, King of Syria, whose capital was

Damascus; of the Israelites, Pekah, the son of Remaliah — in the

inscriptions, Pakaha, a usurper; whose metropolis was Samaria

(‘Records,’ etc., 5:48-52).

 

o        The time selected for their assault upon Judah was the beginning of the

reign of Ahaz, although for some years previous to Jotham’s death

similar attacks had not been wanting (II Kings 15:37).

 

o        The object contemplated by the expedition was to overturn the Davidic

dynasty, and place upon the throne of Judah a vassal king, whose

father’s name, Tabeel, shows that he must have been a Syrian”

(Sayce); the Hauran inscriptions exhibiting several names, like

Tab’el, compounded with el, and the Syrian Tab-rimmon forming

an exact parallel (Delitzsch, on Isaiah 7:6). It is supposed that a

party in Jerusalem favoured the contemplated revolution (Isaiah 8:6).

 

o        The plan of campaign appears to have been that Rezin should invade

Judah from the south, capturing Eloth on the Red Sea, which Uzziah

had restored to Judah (ch. 26:2), that Pekah should send a force

directly from the north across the borders of the southern kingdom,

and that both armies should meet in front of Jerusalem, to reduce it,

if possible, by a siege.

 

o        The result of the invasion, so far as Ahaz and his people were

concerned, was disastrous in the extreme. The capital, as Isaiah had

predicted, was not taken. It may be questioned if the programme was

carried out to the extent of besieging the city. There is ground for

thinking this was prevented by the appearance upon the scene of

Tiglath-Pileser II. of Assyria (v. 16; II Kings 16:7). But:

 

§         Rezin of Damascus, besides recovering Eloth (ibid. v. 6),

defeated Ahaz m a pitched battle, and carried away a

multitude of his subjects captive to Damascus.

 

§         Pekah also routed him with great slaughter in one day’s fight,

slaying a hundred and twenty thousand of his veteran troops.

In particular, Zichri, an Ephraimite hero, struck down three

warriors closely related to Ahaz:

 

ü      Maaseiah the king’s son, i.e. cousin or uncle, as in

chps. 18:25 and 22:11, since Ahaz could hardly at

the commencement of his reign have had a son

capable of bearing arms;

 

ü      Azrikam, the ruler of the house, not of the temple

(ch. 31:13; I Chronicles 9:11), but of the palace,

hence a high official in the royal household; and

 

ü      Elkanah, that was next or second to the king, i.e.

his prime minister.

 

In addition, two hundred thousand women, sons and daughters,

with much spoil, were carried captive to Samaria. The great

number of the slain and of the captives may be accounted for

by remembering that it was practically a war for the existence

of the southern kingdom, which would require Ahaz to call

out all his able- bodied population; that the Israelites were

accustomed to act with great cruelty in war (II Kings 15:16),

and probably did so on this occasion (v. 9); and that

Jehovah had delivered Ahaz and his people into the hands

of their enemies on account of their apostasy, as by the lips

of Moses (Leviticus 26:17, 37) he had threatened he would

in such cases do.

 

Ø      The Edomites. These, whom Uzziah had reduced to subjection (ch. 26:2),

were probably emboldened by Rezin’s successful attack upon Eloth

(II Kings 16:6) to throw off the yoke of Judah, and even attempt reprisals

in the shape of an invasion of Judaean territory. This they executed with

such military skill, that they carried off, as the Syrians and Israelites had

done, a number of prisoners.

 

Ø      The Philistines. During the previous reign these also had been

conquered, and their country occupied by garrisons of Judaean soldiers

(ch. 26:6); but, embracing the opportunity afforded by the simultaneous

attacks directed upon their ancient enemy and present suzerain, they

asserted their independence, made an irruption into the low land and

south country of Judah, captured and occupied a number of cities,

with their dependent villages:

 

o        Beth-shemesh (see on ch. 25:21);

o        Ajalon, the modem Jalo (ch. 11:10);

o        Gederoth, in the hill country of Judah (Joshua 15:36); “the

Gedor of the ‘Onomasticon,’ ten miles from Eleutheropolis,

on the road to Diospolis, now the ruin Jedireh” (Conder,

‘Handbook,’ p. 411);

o        Shocho (ch. 11:7), the Shuweike of to-day;

o        Timnah, the present Tibneh, on the frontier of Judah three

quarters of an hour from Ain-shems;  and

o        Gimzo, now Jimsu, a large village between Lydda and Jerusalem.

 

  • LESSONS:

 

Ø      The degeneracy of human nature — a good Jotham begets a wicked

Ahaz.

Ø      The madness of idolatry, exemplified in the career of Ahaz.

Ø      The certainty of retribution, illustrated by the “bringing low” of Judah.

 

 

 

Sin in Its Issues (vs. 21-27)

 

To what will sin lead us? What, when it nears its end and when it is finished,

will it bring forth? We have the answer in this portion of Ahaz’s life.

 

  • INFATUATION. He robbed the palace and even plundered the temple

in order to bribe the King of Assyria to help him, instead of going to the

house of the Lord as a servant and suppliant of Jehovah, to seek and find

his help. That is to say, he committed robbery and sacrilege in order to

secure the succor of a man who afterwards deceived and defrauded him

(v. 21), when, by simple piety and integrity, he might have secured the

aid of Omnipotence, the help of One that never fails His people. His course

was one of utter infatuation. He neglected the one way that was quite open

to him, and that would certainly have succeeded; he adopted a measure

that was full of iniquity, and that was likely to end, as it did, in failure. He

put the finishing stroke to his fatuity when he worshipped “the gods which

smote him” (v. 23). Sin does lead down to infatuation, it leads men to

seek their joy and their heritage in the poorest and most unsatisfying

springs, to pursue wisdom and wealth in directions where emptiness and

poverty are alone to be obtained; it leads men to neglect the Fountain of

living waters (Jeremiah 2:13), the Source of all truth and wisdom, of all

excellency and joy. It strews the path of the guilty with melancholy failures.

 

  • DEFIANCE. Ahaz could hardly go further in defying the Lord God of

his fathers, the Divine One whom he was taught and trained to worship,

than he did by his conduct as here described (vs. 24-25). It was an act of

unholy hardihood, of almost desperate defiance, that could only be the

outcome of a guilty obduracy of spirit. He must have resented the action of

Jehovah and determined to go all possible lengths in defying His authority.

Well might the spirit of Isaiah be aroused as he witnessed this profanation,

this open and daring rebellion against the living God. When men have long

given way to their folly and to their sinful inclinations they do sometimes

go to this awful length. They defy the God that made them, in whose

power they stand. They may deny His existence; they may mock at His

judgments, and at His final condemnation of their course; they may speak

arrogantly and impiously of His power and of His rule: “How doth God

know? and is there knowledge in the Most High?” (Psalm 73:11).

 

  • DEATH. Ahaz went down to an early and a dishonored death (v. 27).

We do not wonder that he died before he reached the age of forty.

The disasters he brought upon his country, and the mental strain which he

must have undergone to proceed to such lengths of impiety, are enough to

account for a premature decline and death. And all the better instincts of

that instructed people led them to refuse the funeral honor they usually

paid to their kings. “Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

(James 1:15)  The issue of all sin is DEATH:

 

Ø      physical,

Ø      spiritual,

Ø      eternal.

 

This is its wages. Let those who are moving down its sad decline take note

of the end to which they move. But let us realize that to all who will turn

from its enticements and break from its evil power, to all who will accept

the supreme gift of God in Jesus Christ, “eternal life” is open (Romans 6:23).

 

 

 

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