2 KINGS 16
1 In the 17th year of Pekah the son of Remaliah Ahaz the son of Jotham king of Judah began to reign.
1 In the seventeenth year of Pekach Ben Remalyahu, Achaz Ben Yotam Melech Yehudah began to reign
THE reign of Ahaz, during which the great prophecy of Isaiah 7 : 14 was made, was a period of acute political crisis. First, the southern kingdom of Judah was subjected to pressure from the northern Samaritan kingdom (called Ephraim by Isaiah) and its ally, Syria.
Then, looming in the background, and presenting a menace to all three states, was the growing and aggressive might of Assyria under Tiglath-pileser III (745-727 b.c.). However, the more immediate danger as far as Judah was concerned was the confederacy of Pekah of Samaria and Rezin of Damascus. The news of this created consternation and the prophet graphically describes the terror experienced by the "house of David":
"And his [the king's] heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the forest are moved with the wind" (Isa. 7 : 2, R.V.).
It was in this situation that the prophet was sent with his son Shearjashub ("a remnant shall shall return") to meet Ahaz. Isaiah brought a message of encouragement to the king. There was no need for him to be afraid of the evil designs of Ephraim and Syria, for they were but "two tails of smoking firebrands" (v. 4, R.V.). This expressive metaphor indicates that they were coming to the end of their power. Isaiah is quite specific about Ephraim:
". . . within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken in pieces, that it shall not be a people" (v. 8, R.V.).
In the message which Ahaz receives from the prophet there is an important item of information which should not be missed, for it has a vital bearing upon the great prophecy of verse 14: the kings of Syria and Ephraim intend to dethrone Ahaz and to put in his place their own nominee, the son of Tabeal (v. 6). This may not appear important at first sight, but when we remember that it involves replacing Ahaz, the legitimate successor of David, by an usurper, we begin to appreciate that it is a challenge to God Himself.
The covenant which the Lord made with David was clear and the meaning is well brought out in the N.E.B.:
"Your family shall be established and your kingdom shall stand for all time in my sight, and your throne shall be established for ever" (2 Sam. 7 : 16).
We can understand that Rezin, the Syrian king, had scant respect for the Davidic covenant, and as for Pekah, he was completely indifferent to rights of succession for he had acceded to the Samaritan throne through the assassination of his predecessor (see 2 Kings 15 : 25).
However, human purposes were subordinate to the divine will and that was why Isaiah was able to reassure Ahaz that he had nothing to fear from Damascus and Samaria. But Ahaz himself, as David's rightful successor, was in a special sense subject to God's will and the prophet's message terminated by stressing the need for faith:
"If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established" (v. 9).
2Twenty years old was Ahaz when he began to reign, and reigned 16 years in Jerusalem, and did not that which was right in the sight of Yahweh his Elohim, like David his father.
Ask thee a sign of Yahweh thine Elohim - Isa 7:11
The whole realm of nature was placed at Ahaz's disposal: he could ask for the sign, either in Sheol beneath or in Heaven above (Isa 7 vv. 10, 11). God was providing Ahaz with an opportunity to seek confirmation of the prophet's words and an evidence that He could act for his protection. Ahaz lamely declined. This was in character for he was a disappointing king.
From his sorry record in 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28 we learn that, instead of looking to God, he turned to the Assyrian king, Tiglath-pileser, for help against his northern enemies. His words to the Assyrian show how little God meant to him:
"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" (2 Chron. 16 : 7).
This was a dangerous game for, although Tiglath-pileser obliged by killing Rezin of Damascus (v. 9), the same king marched against Ahaz and,
"so far from assisting him, pressed him hard. Ahaz stripped the house of the Lord, the king's palace and the houses of his officers, and gave the plunder to the king of Assyria; but all to no purpose" (2 Chron. 28 : 20-21, N.E.B.).
So much for this feckless ruler who brought Judah low because of his faithlessness. What happened during his reign was precisely what Isaiah prophesied: the conquest of Damascus and Samaria by Assyria and the invasion of Judah by the same power (Isa. 8 : 1-8).
Bro TJ Barling
The Christadelphian, May 1974
9And 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.
Rezin and Pekah
(2 Kings 16:5; 2 Chron. 28:5).
A.L.C.-"Rezin and Pekah could not overcome Ahaz: 2 Kings 16:5. Yet in 2 Chron. 28:5 they smote him, and he was delivered into the hands of both kings."
Answer.-The two accounts are complementary. The battles described in Chronicles were first in time; and were followed by the siege of Jerusalem described in Kings. The forces of Ahaz suffered heavy losses in the open campaign, but he was able to withstand the siege of the city.
"In the same connection Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, helped not Ahaz (2 Chron. 28:21), but in 2 Kings 16:9 the king of Assyria slew Rezin."
Answer.-This is an old objection: but the two passages are quite reconcilable. The writer of Chronicles knew of the the record in Kings, and, in fact, his words "And Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came unto him" correspond to the statement in Kings "And the King of Assyria hearkened unto him."
But while the Assyrian was glad of the opportunity to meddle in the affairs of the kingdoms of Syria and Israel, it was of no real benefit to Ahaz. The threatened subjection to the two northern kingdoms gave place to an actual tributary relationship to Assyria, in which Ahaz was weakened and not helped. He despoiled the temple, and fell into worse idolatry, and provoked the anger of the Lord.-J.C.
The Christadelphian, March 1937
20And Ahaz slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David: and Hezekiah his son reigned in his stead.
It is instructive to note at this point the contrast between Ahaz and his son Hezekiah. The latter lived also through perilous days, for he saw his capital Jerusalem in the direst danger, surrounded by the Assyrian forces of Sennacherib. In his extremity he turned to God and solicited Isaiah's support (Isa. 37 : 1, 2). This double initiative bore fruit, for Jerusalem was saved from the Assyrians and Sennacherib perished at the hand of his two sons (Isa. 37 : 33-38).
Bro TJ Barling
The Christadelphian, May 1974