2 Kings 16:1-20 – Ahaz of Judah


2 Kings 16:1-20


Ahaz (742-727) is portrayed as a weak and indecisive king in the face of external political pressures to align with the anti-Assyrian coalition.


Ahaz is censured with the standard Deuteronomistic formula, “He did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD his God” (v. 2). His wickedness is compared with the kings of Israel (v. 3), a remarkable comment since Ahaz reigned in Judah at the time of Assyria’s destruction of the northern kingdom. This historical setting dominates the presentation. When Syria (Aram) and Israel attacked Jerusalem in an attempt to force Ahaz to join their anti-Assyrian coalition, Ahaz escaped by turning to Tiglath-pileser of Assyria for help, paying him tribute, and becoming a vassal with the words, “I am your servant and your son. Come up, and rescue me from the hand of the king of Aram and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me” (v. 7)-all this, despite Isaiah’s memorable counsel (Isaiah 7:1-9). Tiglath-pileser responded by capturing Damascus (Syria) and invading Israel (2 Kings 16:9; see also 15:29).

Even more heinous to the Deuteronomistic editors was Ahaz’s utter adoption of Assyrian religion, including the replacement of Solomon’s bronze altar with a newly constructed altar of Assyrian design, and compounding the matter by using it for Assyrian divination practices and removing other cultic objects “because of the king of Assyria,” a vague phrase that probably means he sent them to Tiglath-pileser as tribute (16:10-18).