|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
16:1-9 Few and evil were the days of Ahaz. Those whose hearts condemn them, will go any where in a day of distress, rather than to God. The sin was its own punishment. It is common for those who bring themselves into straits by one sin, to try to help themselves out by another.
Verse 3. - But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel. Not, of course, by establishing a worship of calves, but by following the worst practices of the worst Israelite kings, e.g., Ahab and Ahaziah, and reintroducing into Judah the Phoenician idolatry, which Joash and the high priest Jehoiada had cast out (2 Kings 11:17, 18). As the writer of Chronicles says (2 Chronicles 28:2), "He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim." Baalim is either a plural of dignity, or a word denoting the different forms under which Baal was worshipped, as Melkarth, Adonis, Rimmon, etc. Yea, and made his son to pass through the fire. In Chronicles (2 Chronicles 28:3) we are told that "he burnt incense in the valley of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire," as if he had sacrificed more than one son. The practice of offering children in sacrifice was not a feature of the Assyro-Babylonian religion, as some suppose, but an intrinsic part of the worship of the Phoenicians, common to them with the Moabites, Ammonites, and others. It was based upon the principle of a man's offering to God that which was dearest and most precious to himself, whence the crowning sacrifice of the kind was a man's offering of his firstborn son (see 2 Kings 3:27; Micah 6:7). Some have supposed that the rite was a mere dedication or lustration, the children passing between two fires, and being thenceforward employed only in God's service. But the expressions used by the sacred writer and others, and still more the descriptions that have come down to us from heathen and patristic authors, make it absolutely certain that the "passing through the fire' was no such innocent ceremony as this, but involved the death of the children. The author of Chronicles says, "Ahaz burnt his children in the fire;" Jeremiah 19:5, "They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal;" Ezekiel 16:21, "Thou hast slain my children, and delivered them to cause them to pass through the fire." Josephus declares of Ahaz that he "made his own son a whole burnt offering (ἴδιον ὠλοκαύτωσε παῖδα)." Diodorus Sicalus describes the ceremony as it took place at Carthage, the Phoenician colony. There was in the great temple there, he says, an image of Saturn (Moloch), which was a human figure with a bull's head and outstretched arms. This image of metal was made glowing hot by a fire kindled within it; and the children, laid in its arms, rolled from thence into the fiery lap below. If the children cried, the parents stopped their noise by fondling and kissing them; for the victim ought not to weep, and the sound of complaint was drowned in the din of flutes and kettle-drums (Died. Sic., 20:14). "Mothers," says Plutarch ('De Superstitione,' § 13), "stood by without tears or sobs; if they wept or sobbed, they lost the honor of the act, and the children were sacrificed notwithstanding." The only doubtful point is whether the children were placed alive in the glowing arms of the image, or whether they were first killed and afterwards burnt in sacrifice; but the description of Diodorus seems to imply the more cruel of the two proceedings. According to the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord east out from before the children of Israel. (On the practice of this terrible rite by the Canaanitish nations at the time of the Israelite invasion, see Leviticus 18:21; Deuteronomy 12:31; Deuteronomy 18:9, 10; Psalm 106:37, 38.)
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel..... 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 (l). 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.
(l) Justin. e Trogo, Hist. l. 18. c. 6. Curt. Hist. l. 4. c. 3. Pescennius Festus apud Lactant. de fals. Relig. l. 1. c. 21.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
3. walked in the way of the kings of Israel—This is descriptive of the early part of his reign, when, like the kings of Israel, he patronized the symbolic worship of God by images but he gradually went farther into gross idolatry (2Ch 28:2).
made his son to pass through the fire—(2Ki 23:10). The hands of the idol Moloch being red hot, the children were passed through between them, which was considered a form of lustration. There is reason to believe that, in certain circumstances, the children were burnt to death (Ps 106:37). This was strongly prohibited in the law (Le 18:21; 20:2-5; De 18:10), although there is no evidence that it was practised in Israel till the time of Ahaz.
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