2 Chronicles 28

2 CHRONICLES CHAPTER 28

Judah’s King Ahaz (28:1-27)

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “The Chronicler’s account of Ahaz’s reign (735-715 BC) incorporates the introduction and conclusion from 2 Kings 16, and follows the same topics, but otherwise the details are different. The Chronicler amplifies the negative assessment of Ahaz in 2 Kings, showing how his apostasy led Judah astray and brought it to ruin. The charge that Ahaz was ‘very unfaithful’ (Hb ma’ol ma’al, 2 Chron 28:19; see v. 21) exceeds even that made against Saul (1 Chron 10:13). Yet the dark picture of Judah’s decline is mitigated somewhat by the action of its northern kinsmen, who show a measure of repentance and responsiveness to the prophetic word (2 Chron 28:8-15).”

Transgressions of Ahaz

      • Ahaz was 20 years old when he became king and he ruled for 16 years in Jerusalem. In contrast to his ancestor David, he did not do what was right in Yahweh’s eyes. Instead, he followed the ways of the kings of Israel, and even made metal images of the Baals. He offered sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and even sacrificed his sons in the fire in accordance with the detestable practices of the nations whom Yahweh had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burnt offerings on the high places, on the hills, and under every green tree.

Baal figurine from Ugarit

        • ESV Study Bible says, “A few metal statues of Baal, the Semitic storm god and most prominent member of the Canaanite pantheon, have survived from antiquity. A bronze figurine discovered in the temple of Baal at Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit, 14th -12th centuries BC) depicts Baal in is characteristic striding position. His left hand, raised over his head, and his right hand, extending in front of the body, would have originally held objects such as a lightning bolt and a mace.”

          • On the Valley of Ben Hinnom, which is literally “Valley of the Son of Hinnom,” Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges notes, “This name was of harmless signification at first (Jeremiah 7:31-32), but its Heb. form Gê-hinnôm was afterwards corrupted into ‘Gehenna’ (Matthew 5:22, R.V. mg.) and it gained an evil reputation from its connexion with the worship of Molech. It was S. and S.W. of Jerusalem.”

        • ESV Study Bible includes a very education section on p. 171 titled “Child Sacrifice”:

          • Numerous ancient societies have a history of human and child sacrifice. For instance, ancient Indians, Greeks, Italians, Teutons, Slavs, Japanese, African tribes, some South Sea Islanders, and particularly early American tribes- such as the Aztecs and Mayans- at one time sacrificed humans. Child sacrifice was practiced in the ancient Near East, as attested in ancient texts and archaeological discoveries.”

          • One related major archaeological find was the site of a tophet in ancient Carthage. A tophet was a place of child sacrifice and burial. Archaeologists uncovered a cemetery at Carthage that contained the remains of children ritually sacrificed as burnt offerings. The cemetery was in use from 750-146 BC. Excavators estimated a minimum of 20,000 burials in the years 400-200 BC.”

          • The Greek author Kleitarchos (4th century BC) commented on Carthaginian child sacrifice: ‘Out of reverence for Kronos, the Phoenicians, and especially the Carthaginians, whenever they seek to obtain some great favor, vow one of their children, burning it as a sacrifice to the deity, if they are especially eager to gain success. There stands in their midst a bronze statue of Kronos, its hands extended over a bronze brazier, the flames of which engulf the child’ (Scholia on Plato’s Republic 337a).”

          • Carthage was a port city founded by the Phoenicians in the eighth century BC. Residing on the northern border of Israel, the Phoenicians had constant contact with the Hebrews.”

          • God often warned Israel not to practice child sacrifice as their neighbors did (Deut 18:9-13). Yet due to Phoenician and Canaanite influence, the people succumbed to this barbaric practice (e.g., 2 Kings 16:3; 17:17; 21:6). The Israelites were specifically prohibited from offering their children as sacrifices to the Ammonite god Molech (Lev 18:21; 20:2-4). Some scholars argue that this was actually not child sacrifice but rather some form of dedicatory rite, such as cult prostitution, at the pagan temple. Evidence does not support this interpretation.”

          • One purpose of child sacrifice was to merit the gods’ favor. For example, if one wanted many crops, an offering of crops had to be given; if one desired many children, a child sacrifice had to be presented. Child sacrifice may also have been piacular, used to divert or dispel evil. Excavations of Canaanite towns have revealed child skeletons that served as foundation deposits for houses. These perhaps were sacrifices to keep malicious and malignant enemies away from the house and its inhabitants. Child sacrifice was simply a way of manipulating the deities and their magic.”

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Judah Defeated

      • Therefore Yahweh his God handed Ahaz over to the king of Syria, who defeated him and deported a great many of his people as captives to Damascus. Ahaz was also handed over to the king of Israel who defeated him with a great slaughter. In one day, Remaliah’s son Pekah killed 120,000 of Judah’s valiant warriors, because Judah had abandoned Yahweh, the God of their ancestors. An Ephraimite warrior named Zikri killed the king’s son Maaseiah, the commander in charge of the palace, Azrikam, and the king’s second in command, Elkanah. The Israelites took 200,000 captives from their relatives- women and children. They also carried off a huge amount of plunder and took it back to Samaria.

        • Guzik says, “2 Kings 16:5-6 tells us more about this confederation of Israel and Syria in this attack against Judah. This was part of King Pekah of Israel’s anti-Assyria policy. He thought that with Judah defeated, Syria and Israel together could more effectively resist the resurgent power of the Assyrian Empire. saiah 7 makes it clear that the goal of this attack was to dethrone Ahaz and set up a Syrian king over Judah, a certain son of Tabeal (Isaiah 7:6)…The loss of 120,000 Judean soldiers and 200,000 civilian hostages in these battles with Israel and Syria meant that it was dark time for Judah, and it looked as if the dynasty of David would soon be extinguished, as so many dynasties in the northern kingdom of Israel had ended.”

      • But a prophet of Yahweh named Oded was in Samaria, and he went out to meet the army when it arrived. He told them, “Look, Yahweh, the God of your ancestors, was angry with Judah and that is why He handed them over to you. But you have slaughtered them in a rage that has reached heaven. And now you are planning to make the men and women of Judah and Jerusalem your slaves? Aren’t you also guilty of sinning against Yahweh your God? Now listen to me! Return the captives you have taken from your relatives because the fierce wrath of Yahweh is on you.” Some of the Ephraimite family leaders- Jehohanan’s son Azariah, Meshillemoth’s son Berekiah, Shallum’s son Jehizkiah, and Hadlai’s son Amasa- confronted those returning from battle. They said, “You must not bring those captives here or you will make us even more sinful and guilty before Yahweh! Our guilt is already great and His fierce wrath is against Israel.” So the soldiers released the prisoners and gave up the plunder in the presence of the officials and the entire assembly. Then the men who were designated by name took charge of the captives and provided clothing from the plunder for the ones who were naked. They clothed them, gave them sandals, food and drink, and provided them with oil to put on their skin. They put the ones who were feeble on donkeys and brought them to their relatives at Jericho, the city of palms. Then they went back to Samaria.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Although the Lord was using Israel as a means of punishment toward Judah, the covenant prohibited the enslavement and murder of fellow Israelites (28:10; Lev 25:39-55).”

        • ESV Study Bible notes, “…The intervention by Oded indicates that the northern tribes still belong to ‘the Israel of God,’ even though they are ‘in rebellion against the house of David’ (10:19). The northern and southern tribes are relatives (lit ‘brothers’), and both divisions of the people have aroused God to anger by their unfaithfulness (28:9, 11). The way back for both sides lies through repentance, which the leaders of Ephraim demonstrate in their response to Oded’s words. Their admission of guilt (v. 13) refers primarily to the charges of rebellion made by Abijah in 13:4-12.

Ahaz Closes the Temple

      • At that time King Ahaz asked the king of Assyria for help. The Edomites had once again attacked Judah and carried away captives. The Philistines had raided the cities of the Judean foothills and the Negev of Judah capturing and occupying Beth Shemesh, Aijalon, Gederoth, Soko, Timnah, and Gimzo with their surrounding villages. Yahweh had humbled Judah because of Israel’s King Ahaz, because he had made Judah act sinfully and had been very unfaithful to Yahweh. So Assyria’s King Tiglath-Pileser came, but he caused him trouble instead of giving him support. Ahaz plundered Yahweh’s house and the king’s house and the officials gave the plunder to the king of Assyria, but that didn’t help.

        • Guzik reminds us, “This was because, as 2 Kings 16 explains, the combined armies of Israel and Syria had not only overcome many cities of Judah, but were at the time laying siege against Jerusalem. 2 Kings 16:5 says, they besieged Ahaz but could not overcome him. To his shame in this time of crisis, Ahaz looked to the kings of Assyria instead of the LORD. Before Ahaz did this, Isaiah offered him a sign for assurance of God’s help in the struggle against the combined armies of Israel and Syria (Isaiah 7:1-12)… but Ahaz refused under the excuse of not wanting to test God, when instead he really wanted to trust in the king of Assyria. The prophecy of Isaiah 7 – including the announcement of the Immanuel sign – came from Isaiah to King Ahaz during this joint Israel-Syrian invasion (also apparently with the help of the Edomites and the Philistines) Yet for the sake of David, God did not allow this disastrous attack on Judah to prevail. He would not allow this Satanic plot against the Messianic dynasty of David to succeed. The kings of Israel and Syria thought of themselves as burning torches, come to destroy Judah and the dynasty of David. God said they were just like burnt-out smoking sticks, who would not ultimately do much damage (Isaiah 7:4)… Essentially, Ahaz made Judah a subject kingdom to Assyria. Ahaz now took his orders from the Assyrian king, sacrificing the independence of the Kingdom of Judah. Worse yet, he did not help him. It was useless.”

      • During his time of distress Ahaz became even more unfaithful to Yahweh. He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damasus, who had defeated him, because he reasoned: “Since these gods helped the kings of Syria, I’ll sacrifice to them so they will help me.” But they were the downfall of him and all of Israel. Ahaz gathered the items in God’s house and broke them into pieces. He shut the doors of Yahweh’s house and erected altars on every street corner in Jerusalem. He set up high places in every city of Judah to make sacrifices to other gods. He provoked Yahweh, the God of his ancestors, to anger.

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “See 2 Kings 16:10-18. Judah reaches its lowest point before the exile through Ahaz’s desecration of the temple and his suppression of worship according to the Law of Moses (2 Chron 28:24; see 29:7, 18-19) in favor of pagan practices. The blasphemous worship of false gods is now officially promoted by a Davidic king. Although this will be reversed somewhat by the reforming kings Hezekiah (chs 29-32) and Josiah (chs 34-35), Judah is set on a course that will culminate in destruction and exile (see 28:5)…”

        • Guzik adds, “Times of trial and distress do not necessarily drive people closer to God. Sometimes people allow such distresses to drive them away from God. Ahaz was notable among that type, so much so that the Chronicler noted, That is that King Ahaz2 Kings 16 tells us that this happened after a visit that Ahaz made to Damascus. He returned from the visit and made a new altar after the pattern of what he saw in Damascus and he took their forms, their style, and their gods. Sadly, he even received the help of Urijah the priest. 2 Kings 16 also tells us that Ahaz served as a priest at the altar of his own design. Since he created his own place of worship, it also made sense that he would disregard God’s command that a king must not serve as a priest (Numbers 18:7)…Ahaz could not bring in his pagan, corrupt innovations without also removing what had stood before at the temple. This was an ungodly exchange, taking away the good and putting in the bad. Collectively, all these things served to discourage the worship of the true God at the temple of God…During these changes, Ahaz shut down the operation of the temple and established small pagan altars all around Judah.”

      • The rest of the events of Ahaz’s reign, including his accomplishments from beginning to end, are recorded in the “Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel.” Ahaz rested with his ancestors and was buried in the city of Jerusalem, but he wasn’t placed in the tombs of the kings of Israel. His son Hezekiah succeeded him as king.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes that, “Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, fell to Assyria in 722 BC, during the twenty-first year of Ahaz’s reign in Judah (2 Kgs 17:1-6). The Chronicler, with his emphasis on the southern kingdom, does not even mention this event.”

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