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This chapter contains the reign of Ahaz only, relates his idolatry, ( <121601> Kings 16:1-4) his hiring the king of Assyria with the treasure of the temple, and his own, to assist him against the kings of Israel and Syria, who besieged him, ( 2 Kings 16:5-9), his seeing the altar of an idol at Damascus, the fashion of which he took, and ordered one like it to be built at Jerusalem, ( 2 Kings 16:10-16), his defacing and removing some things in the temple, ( 2 Kings 16:17,18), and the chapter is concluded with his death and burial, ( 2 Kings 16:19,20).
Ver. 1 . In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah Ahaz the son of Jotham king of Judah began to reign .] Jotham began to reign in the second of Pekah, and he reigned sixteen years, and therefore his last year would fall in the eighteenth of Pekah; but as his first year might be at the beginning of the second of Pekah, his last was towards the end of the seventeenth of Pekah’s, as here; (see 2 Kings 15:32).
Ver. 2 . Twenty years old was Ahaz when he began to reign, and reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem , etc.] The same number of years his father did: and did not that which was right in the sight of the Lord God, like David his father ; his more remote progenitor, nor even like his more immediate father, from whom he received such good instructions, and of whom he had so good an example; but grace is neither propagated by blood, nor obtained through the force of education.
Ver. 3 . But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel . etc.] Worshipping the calves as they did; which, as it was contrary to the religious sentiments in which he was educated, so against his political interest, which was the only, or at least the principal thing, which swayed with the kings of Israel to continue that idolatry: yea, and made his son to pass through the fire ; between two fires to Molech, by way of lustration; which might be true of Hezekiah his son, and others of his sons, for he had more he burnt with fire, as appears from ( 2 Chronicles 28:3), both ways were used in that sort of idolatry, (see Gill on “ Leviticus 18:21”), according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out from before the children of Israel ; the old Canaanites; so the Carthaginians, a colony of the Phoenicians, used in time of calamity to offer human sacrifices, and even their children, to appease their deities f182 .
Theodoret says, he had seen in some cities, in his time, piles kindled once a year, over which not only boys, but men, would leap, and infants were carried by their mothers through the flames; which seemed to be an expiation or purgation, and which he takes to be the same with the sin of Ahaz.
Ver. 4 . And he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills , etc.] Which none of the kings of Judah before him ever did; for though they connived at this practice in the people, they never encouraged it by their own example; and very probably he offered sacrifices there to idols, (see 2 Chronicles 28:25) whereas the people sacrificed to the true God, though at a wrong place: and under every green tree ; and which is never said of the people, and seems to confirm it, that Ahaz sacrificed to other gods, since the Heathens used to place idols under green trees, and worship them, whom the Jews imitated, ( Jeremiah 2:2 3:6).
Ver. 5 . Then Rezin king of Syria, and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel, came up to Jerusalem to war , etc.] To fight with Ahaz, moved to it by the Lord, to chastise Ahaz for his idolatry, ( 2 Kings 15:37 Chronicles 28:5) but could not overcome him ; so as to take Jerusalem, and set up another king there, as their scheme was, ( Isaiah 7:5,) though they had both at other times got great advantages over him, and slew many of his people, and carried them captive, (see 2 Chronicles 28:5-8).
Ver. 6 . At that time Rezin king of Syria recovered Elath to Syria , etc.] A port on the Red sea, that formerly belonged to Edom, taken from them by David, retaken by them when they revolted in Joram’s time, and perhaps taken by Amaziah again, since his son Azariah rebuilt it, and restored it to Judah, ( 2 Kings 14:22) and it seems by this that it had been in the hands of the Syrians, who now recovered it; unless instead of Aram, rendered Syrians, we could substitute Edom, which Leviticus Clerc has ventured to do without any authority: and drave the Jews from Elath ; who were in possession of it. This is the first time that the inhabitants of the kingdom of Judah are called Jews, from the name of their original patriarch, and principal tribe; though some think they had this name from the time this tribe went up first against the Canaanites, ( Judges 1:1,2), however, it is a mistake of R. Elias Levita f184 , that it is never found in the Bible they were called Jews, but from the time the ten tribes were carried captive, and not before; and a greater mistake still it is of Tacitus f185 , that they were called Jews or Judaeans, as if they were Idaeans from Mount Ida in Crete, from whence he supposes they came: and the Syrians came to Elath, and dwelt there unto this day ; the marginal reading is Edomites; and so read the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions; and Kimchi observes that it is written “Aramim”, Syrians, because the king of Syria took it, and by his means the Edomites returned to it, but is read “Edomim”, Edomites, because it belonged to the children of Edom; and it is certain the Edomites had come and smitten Judah, ( Chronicles 28:17).
Ver. 7 . So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglathpileser king of Assyria , etc.] Of whom (see 2 Kings 15:29) saying, [I am] thy servant, and thy son ; signifying, that he would be his vassal, and become tributary to him, and serve him as a servant to his master, or a son his father, on condition he would come to his assistance, and so he became his servant; hence his son Hezekiah is said to rebel against the king of Assyria, ( 2 Kings 18:1,7) come up and save me out of the hand of the king of Syria, and out of the hand of the king off Israel, which rise up against me ; which assistance he had no reason to call in, since the Lord had promised him deliverance from both those kings, and gave him a sign of it, ( Isaiah 7:4-16).
Ver. 8 . And Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the Lord , etc.] Which Uzziah and Jotham had put there; for all that was found there in the times of Amaziah was taken away by Jehoash king of Israel, ( 2 Kings 14:14) and in the treasures of the king’s house ; whatever gold and silver he had of his own: and sent it for a present to the king of Assyria ; to obtain his help and assistance.
Ver. 9 . And the king of Assyria hearkened unto him , etc.] Complied with his request: for the king of Syria went up against Damascus, and took it ; the metropolis of the kingdom of Syria, and so made a powerful diversion in favour of the king of Judah: and carried the people of it captive to Kir ; not Cyrene, as the Vulgate Latin version, a country belonging to Egypt, which the king of Assyria had no power over; but a place in upper Media, as Josephus relates, which belonged to the Assyrian king; (see Isaiah 22:6), compared with ( Kings 21:2), of this captivity Amos had prophesied some time before, (Amos 1:5) and slew Rezin ; the king of Syria, which also was foretold in the same prophecy.
Ver. 10 . And King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglathpileser king of Assyria , etc.] When he heard he was come thither, and had taken it, to congratulate him on the victory, and to give him thanks for his assistance; which place from Jerusalem was one hundred and sixty miles, according to Bunting f187 and saw an altar that was at Damascus ; where, in all probability, he attended at the sacrifice on it along with the king of Assyria: and King Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar, and the pattern of it, according to all the workmanship thereof ; not only the size and form of it, but all the decorations and figures on it, with which it was wrought. This Urijah was very probably the high priest, for it can scarcely be thought that Ahaz would write to any other, or that any other priest would or could have complied with his request; and he seems to be the same Isaiah took to be a witness in a certain affair, though he now degenerated from the character he gives of him, ( Isaiah 8:2).
Ver. 11 . And Urijah the priest built an altar according to all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus , etc.] Exactly according to the size, form, figure, and carved work of it, though expressly contrary to the command of God; which fixed both the form and matter of the altar of God, with everything appertaining to it, which he, being high priest, could not be ignorant of, ( Exodus 27:1), etc. but he was a timeserver, and sought to curry favour with his prince: so Urijah the priest made it against King Ahaz came from Damascus ; both king and priest were in haste to have this altar made. Ahaz could not stay till he came home, but sent directions about it from Damascus, and the priest was so expeditious in observing his commands, that he got it done before he came thence to Jerusalem.
Ver. 12 . And when the king was come from Damascus, the king saw the altar , etc.] Looked at it, and liked it, being exactly according to the pattern he had sent: and the king approached the altar, and offered thereon ; either by a priest, or it may be in his own person, having no regard to the laws and appointments of God, and especially as his sacrifices were not offered to him, but to the gods of Damascus and Syria, ( 2 Chronicles 28:23).
Ver. 13 . And he burnt his burnt offering, and his meat offering , etc.] Which went together according to the law of God, and was imitated by the Heathens: and poured his drink offering ; a libation of wine, as probably it was, like what they used according to the Levitical law: and sprinkled the blood of his peace offerings upon the altar ; as used according to the same law; for all sorts of sacrifices were offered by idolaters, as by the people of God, in imitation of them.
Ver. 14 . And he brought also the brasen altar which was before the Lord , etc.] That which Solomon made, ( 2 Chronicles 4:1), which stood in the court by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord, ( Leviticus 1:5) from the forefront of the house; the frontispiece of the temple, which was at the eastern gate of it: from between the altar and the house of the Lord for it seems Urijah had placed the new altar behind the old one, more out of sight; the brasen altar standing between that and the eastern gate, or entrance into the temple; wherefore he removed the brasen altar, and put his new one in the room of it: and put it ; that is, the brasen altar of Solomon: on the north side of the altar ; of the new altar, at the right hand as they went into the temple; where it was as in a corner, in greater obscurity, and the new altar more in view as they came into the temple.
Ver. 15 . And King Ahaz commanded Urijah the priest, saying , etc.] Who was not to be commanded by the king in matters of worship, but to attend to the laws and institutions of God: saying, upon the great altar ; meaning the new one, which either was of a larger size than the altar of God, or was greater in the esteem of Ahaz: burn the morning burnt offering, and the evening meat offering ; the daily sacrifice, morning and evening: and the king’s burnt sacrifice, and his meat offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their meat offering, and their drink offerings ; such as were offered up at any time on the account of the rulers of the land in particular, or of the whole congregation of Israel, (see Leviticus 4:1-35) and sprinkle upon it all the blood of the burnt offering, and all the blood of the sacrifice ; as it used to be sprinkled upon the altar of the Lord: and the brasen altar shall be for me to inquire by ; to search, inquire, and consider what was to be done with it; for altars were never inquired by as oracles; the meaning is, that it was never to be made use of but by him, and when he pleased.
Ver. 16 . Thus did Urijah the priest, according to all that King Ahaz commanded .] Not only concerning the structure of the altar, but the sacrifices to be offered on it; like king like priest, both apostates and idolaters.
Ver. 17 . And King Ahaz cut off the borders of the bases, and removed the laver from off them , etc.] In the temple there were ten lavers for the priests to wash in, which are here meant, the singular being put for the plural; and these had bases of brass, on which they were set; and about these bases were borders, which had on them figures of various creatures, lions, oxen, and cherubim; and these Ahaz cut off, either to deface them, in contempt of them, or to convert the brass to other uses, as he might also the bases themselves, since he removed the lavers from off of them, (see 1 Kings 7:27-30) and took down the sea from off the brasen oxen [that were] under it ; the molten sea Solomon made, which he set upon twelve oxen made of brass; this Ahaz took down from thence, either to abate its magnificence, and render it despicable, or for the sake of the brass, of which the oxen were made, (see 1 Kings 7:23-26) and put it upon a pavement of stones ; not upon the floor of the temple, for that was of wood, fir, or cedar, but on rows of stones, placed instead of bases for it to stand upon.
Ver. 18 . And the covert for the sabbath that they had built in the house , etc.] Used on the sabbath day, either for the people to sit under to hear the law explained by the priests; or for the course of the priests to be in, that went out that day, to give way to the course that entered, which yet did not depart from the temple till evening; or rather for the king himself to sit under, while attending the temple service of that day, and might be the cover of the scaffold, ( 2 Chronicles 6:13) and be very rich cloth of gold; and therefore he took it away for the king of Assyria, or to signify that he should not frequent the place any more: and hence it follows, and the king’s entry without, turned he from the house of the Lord ; the way which led from the king’s palace to it, he turned it a round about way, that it might not be discerned there was a way from the one to the other: and this he did for the king of Assyria ; to gratify him, that he might from hence conclude that he had wholly relinquished the worship of God in the temple, and should cleave to the gods of Damascus and Syria; or for fear of him, that he might not see the way into the temple, and take away the vessels; or find him, should he be obliged to hide himself there, when in danger by him.
Ver. 19 . Now the rest of the acts of Ahaz which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah ?] Some others are written in the canonical book of Chronicles, ( 2 Chronicles 28:1) and were, it is highly probable, in the annals of the kings of Judah, now lost.
Ver. 20 . And Ahaz slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David , etc.] But not in the sepulchres of the kings of Israel, as David and Solomon, he being such a wicked prince, ( 2 Chronicles 28:27) and Hezekiah his son reigned in his stead ; of whom much is said in the following part of this history.