2 Kings 16
This chapter is wholly taken up with the reign of Ahaz; and we have
quite enough of it, unless it were better. He had a good father, and a
better son, and yet was himself one of the worst of the kings of Judah.
I. He was a notorious idolater,
2 Kings 16:1-4.
II. With the treasures of the temple, as well as his own, he hired the
king of Assyria to invade Syria and Israel,
2 Kings 16:5-9.
III. He took pattern from an idol's altar which he saw at Damascus for
a new altar in God's temple,
2 Kings 16:10-16.
IV. He abused and embezzled the furniture of the temple,
2 Kings 16:17,18.
And so his story ends,
2 Kings 16:19,20.
|The Reign of Ahaz.
||B. C. 726.|
1 In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah Ahaz the
son of Jotham king of Judah began to reign.
2 Twenty years old was Ahaz when he began to reign, and
reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem, and did not that which was
right in the sight of the LORD his God, like David his father.
3 But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, yea, and
made his son to pass through the fire, according to the
abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out from before
the children of Israel.
4 And he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and
on the hills, and under every green tree.
We have here a general character of the reign of Ahaz. Few and evil
were his days--few, for he died at thirty-six--evil, for we are here
1. That he did not that which was right like David
(2 Kings 16:2),
that is, he had none of that concern and affection for the instituted
service and worship of God for which David was celebrated. He had no
love for the temple, made no conscience of his duty to God, nor had any
regard to his law. Herein he was unlike David; it was his honour that
he was of the house and lineage of David, and it was owing to God's
ancient covenant with David that he was now upon the throne, which
aggravated his wickedness; for he was a reproach to that honourable
name and family, which therefore was really a reproach to him
(Degeneranti genus opprobrium--A good extraction is a
disgrace to him who degenerates from it), and though he enjoyed the
benefit of David's piety he did not tread in the steps of it.
2. That he walked in the way of the kings of Israel
(2 Kings 16:3),
who all worshipped the calves. He was not joined in any affinity with
them, as Jehoram and Ahaziah were with the house of Ahab, but, ex
mero motu--without any instigation, walked in their way. The kings
of Israel pleaded policy and reasons of state for their idolatry, but
Ahaz had no such pretence: in him it was the most unreasonable
impolitic thing that could be. They were his enemies, and had proved
enemies to themselves too by their idolatry; yet he walked in their
3. That he made his sons to pass through the fire, to the honour
of his dunghill-deities. He burnt them, so it is expressly said of him
(2 Chronicles 28:3),
burnt some of them, and perhaps made others of them (Hezekiah himself
not excepted, though afterwards he was never the worse for it) to pass
between two fires, or to be drawn through a flame, in token of their
dedication to the idol.
4. That he did according to the abominations of the heathen whom the
Lord had cast out. it was an instance of his great folly that he
would be guided in his religion by those whom he saw fallen into the
ditch before his eyes, and follow them; and it was an instance of his
great impiety that he would conform to those usages which God had
declared to be abominable to him, and set himself to write after the
copy of those whom God had cast out, thus walking directly contrary to
5. That he sacrificed in the high places,
2 Kings 16:4.
If his father had but had zeal enough to take them away, the debauching
of his sons might have been prevented; but those that connive at sin
know not what dangerous snares they lay for those that come after them.
He forsook God's house, was weary of that place where, in his father's
time, he had often been detained before the Lord, and performed his
devotions on high hills, where he had a better prospect, and under
green trees, where he had a more pleasant shade. It was a religion
little worth, which was guided by fancy, not by faith.
5 Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah king of
Israel came up to Jerusalem to war: and they besieged Ahaz, but
could not overcome him.
6 At that time Rezin king of Syria recovered Elath to Syria,
and drave the Jews from Elath: and the Syrians came to Elath, and
dwelt there unto this day.
7 So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria,
saying, I am thy servant and thy son: come up, and save me out
of the hand of the king of Syria, and out of the hand of the king
of Israel, which rise up against me.
8 And Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house
of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king's house, and sent
it for a present to the king of Assyria.
9 And the king of Assyria hearkened unto him: for the king of
Assyria went up against Damascus, and took it, and carried the
people of it captive to Kir, and slew Rezin.
1. The attempt of his confederate neighbours, the kings of Syria and
Israel, upon him. They thought to make themselves masters of Jerusalem,
and to set a king of their own in it,
In this they fell short, but the king of Syria recovered Elath, a
considerable port upon the Red Sea, which Amaziah had taken from the
2 Kings 14:22.
What can those keep that have lost their religion? Let them expect,
thenceforward, to be always on the losing hand.
2. His project to get clear of them. Having forsaken God, he had
neither courage nor strength to make head against his enemies, nor
could he, with any boldness, ask help of God; but he made his court to
the king of Assyria, and got him to come in for his relief. Those whose
hearts condemn them will go any where in a day of distress rather than
to God. Was it because there was not a God in Israel that he sent to
the Assyrian for help? Was the rock of ages removed out of its place,
that he stayed himself on this broken reed? The sin itself was its own
punishment; for, though it is true that he gained his point (the king
of Assyria hearkened to him, and, to serve his own turn, made a descent
upon Damascus, whereby he gave a powerful diversion to the king of
2 Kings 16:9,
and obliged him to let fall his design against Ahaz, carrying the
Syrians captive to Kir, as Amos had expressly foretold,
yet, considering all, he made but a bad bargain; for, to compass this,
(1.) He enslaved himself
(2 Kings 16:7):
I am thy servant and thy son, that is, "I will be as dutiful and
obedient to thee as to a master or father, if thou wilt but do me this
good turn." Had he thus humbled himself to God, and implored his
favour, he might have been delivered upon easier terms; he might have
saved his money, and needed only to have parted with his sins. But, if
the prodigal forsake his father's house, he soon becomes a slave to the
worst of masters,
(2.) He impoverished himself; for he took the silver and gold that were
laid up in the treasury both of the temple and of the kingdom, and sent
it to the king of Assyria,
2 Kings 16:8.
Both church and state must be squeezed and exhausted, to gratify this
his new patron and guardian. I know not what authority he had thus to
dispose of the public stock; but it is common for those that have
brought themselves into straits by one sin to help themselves out by
another; and those that have alienated themselves from God will make no
difficulty of alienating any of his rights.
10 And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king
of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus: and king
Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar, and the
pattern of it, according to all the workmanship thereof.
11 And Urijah the priest built an altar according to all that
king Ahaz had sent from Damascus: so Urijah the priest made it
against king Ahaz came from Damascus.
12 And when the king was come from Damascus, the king saw the
altar: and the king approached to the altar, and offered thereon.
13 And he burnt his burnt offering and his meat offering, and
poured his drink offering, and sprinkled the blood of his peace
offerings, upon the altar.
14 And he brought also the brasen altar, which was before the
LORD, from the forefront of the house, from between the altar and
the house of the LORD, and put it on the north side of the altar.
15 And king Ahaz commanded Urijah the priest, saying, Upon the
great altar burn the morning burnt offering, and the evening meat
offering, 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; and sprinkle upon it
all the blood of the burnt offering, and all the blood of the
sacrifice: and the brasen altar shall be for me to enquire by.
16 Thus did Urijah the priest, according to all that king Ahaz
Though Ahaz had himself sacrificed in high places, on hills, and under
every green tree
(2 Kings 16:4),
yet God's altar had hitherto continued in its place and in use, and the
king's burnt-offering and his meat-offering
(2 Kings 16:15)
had been offered upon it by the priests that attended it; but here we
have it taken away by wicked Ahaz, and another altar, an idolatrous
one, put in the room of it--a bolder stroke than the worst of the kings
had yet given to religion. We have here,
I. The model of this new altar, taken from one at Damascus, by the king
2 Kings 16:10.
The king of Assyria having taken Damascus, thither Ahaz went, to
congratulate him on his success, to return him thanks for the kindness
he had done him by this expedition, and, as his servant and son, to
receive his commands. Had he been faithful to his God, he would not
have needed to crouch thus meanly to a foreign power. At Damascus,
either while viewing the rarities of the place, or rather while joining
with them in their devotions (for, when he was there, he thought it no
harm to do as they did), he saw an altar that pleased his fancy
extremely, not such a plain old-fashioned one as that which he had been
trained up in attendance upon at Jerusalem, but curiously carved, it is
likely, and adorned with image-work; there were many pretty things
about it which he thought significant, surprising, very charming, and
calculated to excite his devotion. Solomon had but a dull fancy, he
thought, compared with the ingenious artist that made this altar.
Nothing will serve him but he must have an altar just like this: a
pattern of it must be taken immediately; he cannot stay till he returns
himself, but sends it before him in all haste, with orders to Urijah
the priest to get one made exactly according to this model and have it
ready against he came home. The pattern God showed to Moses in the
mount or to David by the Spirit was not comparable to this pattern sent
from Damascus. The hearts of idolaters walked after their eyes, which
are therefore said to go a whoring after their idols; but the
true worshippers worship the true God by faith.
II. The making of it by Urijah the priests,
2 Kings 16:11.
This Urijah, it is likely, was the chief priest who at this time
presided in the temple-service. To him Ahaz sent an intimation of his
mind (for we read not of any express orders he gave him), to get an
altar made by this pattern. And, without any dispute or objection, he
put it in hand immediately, being perhaps as fond of it as the king
was, at least being very willing to humour the king and desirous to
curry favour with him. Perhaps he might have this excuse for gratifying
the king herein, that, by this means, he might keep him to the temple
at Jerusalem and prevent his totally deserting it for the high places
and the groves. "Let us oblige him in this," thinks Urijah, "and then
he will bring all his sacrifices to us; for by this craft we get our
living." But, whatever pretence he had, it was a most base wicked thing
for him that was a priest, a chief priest, to make this altar, in
compliance with an idolatrous prince, for hereby,
1. He prostituted his authority and profaned the crown of his
priesthood, making himself a servant to the lusts of men. There is not
a greater disgrace to the ministry than obsequiousness to such wicked
commands as this was.
2. He betrayed his trust. As priest, he was bound to maintain and
defend God's institutions, and to oppose and witness against all
innovations; and, for him to assist and serve the king in setting up an
altar to confront the altar which by divine appointment he was
consecrated to minister at, was such a piece of treachery and
perfidiousness as may justly render him infamous to all posterity. Had
he only connived at the doing of it,--had he been frightened into it by
menaces,--had he endeavoured to dissuade the king from it, or but
delayed the doing of it till he came home, that he might first talk
with him about it,--it would not have been so bad; but so willingly to
walk after his commandment, as if he were glad of the opportunity to
oblige him, was such an affront to the God he served as was utterly
III. The dedicating of it. Urijah, perceiving that the king's heart was
much upon it, took care to have it ready against he came down, and set
it near the brazen altar, but somewhat lower and further from the door
of the temple. The king was exceedingly pleased with it, approached it
with all possible veneration, and offered thereon his burnt-offering,
2 Kings 16:12,13.
His sacrifices were not offered to the God of Israel, but to the gods
of Damascus (as we find
2 Chronicles 28:23),
and, when he borrowed the Syrians' altar, no marvel that he borrowed
their gods. Naaman, the Syrian, embraced the God of Israel when he got
earth from the land of Israel to make an altar of.
IV. The removal of God's altar, to make room for it. Urijah was so
modest that he put this altar at the lower end of the court, and left
God's altar in its place, between this and the house of the
2 Kings 16:14.
But that would not satisfy Ahaz; he removed God's altar to an obscure
corner in the north side of the court, and put his own before the
sanctuary, in the place of it. He thinks his new altar is much more
stately, and much more sightly, and disgraces that; and therefore "let
that be laid aside as a vessel in which there is no pleasure." His
superstitious invention, at first, jostled with God's sacred
institution, but at length jostled it out. Note, Those will soon
come to make nothing of God that will not be content to make him their
all. Ahaz durst not (perhaps for fear of the people) quite demolish the
brazen altar and knock it to pieces; but, while he ordered all the
sacrifices to be offered upon this new altar
(2 Kings 16:15),
The brazen altar (says he) shall be for me to enquire by.
Having thrust it out from the use for which it was instituted, which
was to sanctify the gifts offered upon it, he pretends to advance it
above its institution, which it is common for superstitious people to
do. The altar was never designed for an oracle, yet Ahaz will have it
for that use. The Romish church seemingly magnifies Christ's
sacraments, yet wretchedly corrupts them. But some give another sense
of Ahaz's purpose: "As for the brazen altar, I will consider what to do
with it, and give order about it." The Jews say that, afterwards, of
the brass of it he made that famous dial which was called the dial
2 Kings 20:11.
The base compliance of the poor-spirited priest with the presumptuous
usurpations of an ill-spirited king is again taken notice of
(2 Kings 16:16):
Urijah the priest did according to all that king Ahaz commanded.
Miserable is the case of great men when those that should reprove them
for their sins strengthen and serve them in their sins.
17 And king Ahaz cut off the borders of the bases, and removed
the laver from off them; and took down the sea from off the
brasen oxen that were under it, and put it upon a pavement of
18 And the covert for the sabbath that they had built in the
house, and the king's entry without, turned he from the house of
the LORD for the king of Assyria.
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?
20 And Ahaz slept with his fathers, and was buried with his
fathers in the city of David: and Hezekiah his son reigned in his
I. Ahaz abusing the temple, not the building itself, but some of the
furniture of it.
1. He defaced the bases on which the lavers were set
(1 Kings 7:28,29)
and took down the molten sea,
2 Kings 16:17.
These the priests used for washing; against them therefore he seems to
have had a particular spite. It is one of the greatest prejudices that
can be done to religion to obstruct the purifying of the priests, the
2. He removed the covert for the sabbath, erected either in
honour of the sabbath or for the conveniency of the priests, when, on
the sabbath, they officiated in greater numbers than on other days.
Whatever it was, it should seem that in removing it he intended to put
a contempt upon the sabbath, and so to open as wide an inlet as any to
all manner of impiety.
3. The king's entry, which led to the house of the Lord, for the
convenience of the royal family (perhaps that ascent which Solomon had
made, and which the queen of Sheba admired,
1 Kings 10:5),
he turned another way, to show that he did not intend to frequent the
house of the Lord any more. This he did for the king of Assyria, to
oblige him, who perhaps returned his visit, and found fault with this
entry, as an inconvenience and disparagement to his palace. When those
that have had a ready passage to the house of the Lord, to please their
neighbours, turn it another way, they are going down the hill apace
towards their ruin.
II. Ahaz resigning his life in the midst of his days, at thirty-six
years of age
(2 Kings 16:19)
and leaving his kingdom to a better man, Hezekiah his son
(2 Kings 16:20),
who proved as much a friend to the temple as he had been an enemy to
it. Perhaps this very son he had made to pass through the fire, and
thereby dedicated him to Moloch; but God, by his grace, snatched him as
a brand out of the burning.