2 Kings 16:10
And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglathpileser 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.
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(10) Ahaz went to Damascus, to meet Tiglath-pileser.—The great king appears to have held his court there after the capture of the city, and to have summoned the vassal princes of Palestine thither to do him homage in person before his departure. (See the Note on 2Kings 16:8.)

And saw an altar.—Rather, and he saw the altar, namely, that of the principal Temple. Upon the account which follows Prof. Robertson Smith well remarks that the frivolous character of Ahaz “was so-little capable of appreciating the dangers involved in his new obligations, that he returned to Jerusalem with his head full of the artistic and religious curiosities he had seen on his journey. In a national crisis of the first magnitude he found no more pressing concern than the erection of a new altar in the Temple on a pattern brought from Damascus. The sundial of Ahaz (2Kings 20:11), and an erection on the roof of the Temple, with altars apparently designed for the worship of the host of heaven (2Kings 23:12), were works equally characteristic of the trifling and superstitious virtuoso, who imagined that the introduction of a few foreign novelties gave lustre to a reign which had fooled away the independence of Judah, and sought a momentary deliverance by accepting a service the burden of which was fast becoming intolerable” (Proph. of Israel, p. 251).

Urijah the priest—i.e., the high priest, who appears to be identical with the “credible witness” of Isaiah 8:2. His high official position would secure Urijah’s credit as a witness.

Fashion . . . pattern . . . workmanship.—These terms indicate that the king’s interest in the matter was artistic rather than religious.

2 Kings 16:10. And King Ahaz went to meet Tiglath-pileser — To congratulate his victory, acknowledge his favour and help, and to beg the continuance of it. And saw an altar that was at Damascus — Of an excellent structure, as he supposed, upon which the Syrians used to offer to their idols, 2 Chronicles 28:23. Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar — That a pattern of it might be taken immediately. He could not stay till he should return to Jerusalem himself, but sent it before him, in all haste, with orders to Urijah, 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!

16:10-16 God's altar had hitherto been kept in its place, and in use; but Ahaz put another in the room of it. The natural regard of the mind of man to some sort of religion, is not easily extinguished; but except it be regulated by the word, and by the Spirit of God, it produces absurd superstitions, or detestable idolatries. Or, at best, it quiets the sinner's conscience with unmeaning ceremonies. Infidels have often been remarkable for believing ridiculous falsehoods.And saw an altar - Rather, "The altar," i. e. an Assyrian altar, and connected with that formal recognition of the Assyrian deities which the Ninevite monarchs appear to have required of all the nations whom they received into their empire.

The fashion of the altar - Assyrian altars were not very elaborate, but they were very different from the Jewish. They were comparatively small, and scarcely suited for "whole burnt-offerings." One type was square, about half the height of a man, and ornamented round the top with a sort of battlement. Another had a triangular base and a circular top consisting of a single flat stone. A third was a sort of portable stand, narrow, and about the height of a man. This last was of the kind which the kings took with them in their expeditions.

10-16. And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser—This was a visit of respect, and perhaps of gratitude. During his stay in that heathen city, Ahaz saw an altar with which he was greatly captivated. Forthwith a sketch of it was transmitted to Jerusalem, with orders to Urijah the priest to get one constructed according to the Damascus model, and let this new altar supersede the old one in the temple. Urijah, with culpable complaisance, acted according to his instructions (2Ki 16:16). The sin in this affair consisted in meddling with, and improving according to human taste and fancy, the altars of the temple, the patterns of which had been furnished by divine authority (Ex 25:40; 26:30; 27:1; 1Ch 28:19). Urijah was one of the witnesses taken by Isaiah to bear his prediction against Syria and Israel (Isa 8:2). To meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria; to congratulate his victory, and acknowledge his favour and help, and to beg the continuance of it.

Saw an altar of an excellent structure, upon which the Syrians used to offer to their idols: see 2 Chronicles 28:23.

And King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglathpileser king of Assyria,.... 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 (q).

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.

(q) Travels, &c. p. 185.

And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglathpileser 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.
10–18. Ahaz goes to Damascus. Finds a heathen altar, the like of which he sets up in the court of the temple. Further desecration of the temple furniture (2 Chronicles 28:22-25)

10. king Ahaz went to Damascus] Summoned no doubt by the Assyrian king to make full submission to the power which had relieved him from the attacks of Rezin. ‘I am thy servant’ was to find expression in more than mere words.

and saw an [R.V. the] altar] The noun is definite in the original, and probably the most conspicuous and grandest among the altars of Damascus is intended. We know from the story of Naaman that the house of Rimmon was the place to which the Syrian king of that day went to worship. We must think of the most splendid altar in Rimmon’s finest temple as the pattern which Ahaz sent home. Either from inclination, or because policy required him to acknowledge the deities of his superior lord, he is reported by the chronicler to have said (2 Chronicles 28:23), ‘Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, therefore will I sacrifice to them that they may help me’.

sent to Urijah the priest] This may be the same person who is mentioned by Isaiah 8:2 as one of the faithful witnesses whom he chose for himself. If this be so, he must have grievously fallen away ere the priest of Jehovah’s temple would be agent for the manufacture of an idolatrous altar. Bp Hall says on this, ‘Never any prince was so foully idolatrous, as that he wanted a priest to second him. A Urijah is fit to humour an Ahaz. Greatness could never command anything which some servile wits were not ready both to applaud and justify.’

Verses 10-18. - Religious changes introduced into Judea by Ahaz. The new position into which Ahaz had brought himself with respect to Assyria was followed by certain religious changes, which were probably, in part at any rate, its consequence, though some of them may have been the result of his own religious (or irreligious) convictions. He had a new altar made and introduced into the temple, which at first he used for his own private sacrifices (vers. 10-13); then, that his new altar might occupy the pest of honor, he removed from its place the old brazen altar of Solomon, and put it in an inferior position (ver. 14). After this, he required all sacrifices to be offered on the new altar (ver. 15). Finally, he proceeded to interfere with several other of Solomon's arrangements, with what particular object is not very apparent (vers. 17, 18). In carrying out all these changes, he had the high priest of the time for his obsequious servant. Verse 10. - And King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser King of Assyria. It was a practice of the Assyrian monarchs to hold durbar's, or courts, at central places in the provinces, in the course of their military expeditions, whereat to receive the subject princes of the neighborhood, who were expected to do homage, and bring with them presents, or their fixed tribute. Tiglath-pileser held one such court in the earlier part of his reign at Arpad, a Syrian town, at which were present the kings of Comma-gene, Syria, Tyre, Carchemish, Gaugama, and others. He seems to have held another at some unknown place, about B.C. 732 (it may have been at Damascus), which was attended by the kings of Commagene, Car-chemish, Gebal, Hamath, Gaugama, Tubal, Arvad, Ammon, Moab, Askelon, Gaza, Edom, and Judah, the last-mentioned being Yahu-khazi (Jehoahaz), by which is probably meant Ahaz. It is with reason conjectured that this was the occasion mentioned in the text, when "King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser." And saw an altar that was at Damascus. It is almost certain that this was an Assyrian altar. Ahaz may at one time have turned for help to the gods of Syria (2 Chronicles 28:23), and asked their aid against his enemies; but the glory of Syria was now gone, her gods were discredited, and the place of power was occupied by Assyria, which had asserted its supremacy. When Ahaz visited Tiglath-pileser at Damascus, and "saw an altar," it was, in all probability, Tiglath-pileser's altar. The Assyrian kings were accustomed to carry altars about with them, and to have them set up in their fortified camps, or in other convenient places. They also, not infrequently, set up altars to the great gods in the countries which they conquered, and required the inhabitants to pay them reverence. Ahaz may either have been required by Tiglath-pileser to set up an Assyrian altar in the temple, or he may have volunteered the act as one which was likely to please his suzerain. And King Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest - i.e., the high priest - the fashion of the altar and the pattern of it. Assyrian altars were quite different from Jewish ones. Generally they were of small size, either square with a battlemented edge, or round at the top and supported on a triangular base ('Dict. of the Bible,' ad voc. "Altar," vol. 1. p. 55, woodcuts Nos. 3 and 5). It is scarcely likely that Ahaz was particularly pleased with the pattern (Keil), and therefore wished to have one like it. He probably merely wished to satisfy his suzerain that he had conformed to some of his religious usages. According to all the workmanship thereof. Though not very elaborate, the Assyrian altars have an ornamentation which is peculiar and unmistakable. Careful instructions would be needed for workmen who had never seen the sort of object which they were required to produce. 2 Kings 16:10Ahaz paid Tiglath-pileser a visit in Damascus, "to present to him his thanks and congratulations, and possibly also to prevent a visit from Tiglath-pileser to himself, which would not have been very welcome" (Thenius). The form דּוּמשׂק is neither to be altered into דּמּשׂק nor regarded as a copyist's error for דּרמשׂק, as we have several words in this chapter that are formed with dull Syriac u-sound. The visit of Ahaz to Damascus is simply mentioned on account of what follows, namely, that Ahaz saw an altar there, which pleased him so much that he sent a picture and model of it "according to all the workmanship thereof," i.e., its style of architecture, to Urijah the priest (see Isaiah 8:2), and had an altar made like it for the temple, upon which, on his return to Jerusalem, he ordered all the burnt-offerings, meat-offerings, and drink-offerings to be presented. The allusion here is to the offerings which he commanded to be presented for his prosperous return to Jerusalem.
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