2 Kings 16:11
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
2 Kings 16:11-12. And Urijah built an altar, &c. — He complied with the king’s command against his own conscience, and against the express command of that great God to whom the king and he both were subject. The priest made it against Ahaz came from Damascus — He made haste and delayed not to do it, to please the king, and advance himself. The king approached to the altar, and offered thereon — Namely, a sacrifice, and that not unto God, but unto the Syrian idols, (2 Chronicles 28:23-24,) to whom that altar was appropriated. A wonderful blindness, to worship those gods, and expect help from them, who could not preserve their own country from ruin! Whether Ahaz offered this sacrifice himself, or by a priest, is not certain.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). So he complied with the king’s command against his own conscience, and against the express command of that great God, to which the king and he both were subject. He made haste, and delayed not to do it, to please the king, and advance himself. And Urijah the priest built an altar according to all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus,.... Exactly according to the size, form, figure, and carved work of it, though expressly contrary to the command of God; which fixed both the form and matter of the altar of God, with everything appertaining to it, which he, being high priest, could not be ignorant of, Exodus 27:1, &c. but he was a timeserver, and sought to curry favour with his prince:

so Urijah the priest made it against King Ahaz came from Damascus; both king and priest were in haste to have this altar made. Ahaz could not stay till he came home, but sent directions about it from Damascus, and the priest was so expeditious in observing his commands, that he got it done before he came thence to Jerusalem.

And Urijah the priest built an altar {g} according to all that king Ahaz had sent from Damascus: so Urijah the priest made it against king Ahaz came from Damascus.

(g) We see that there is no prince so wicked that he cannot find liars and false ministers to serve his purposes.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
11. so Urijah … Damascus] These words are omitted by the LXX. though not in all MSS. Perhaps because the preceding clause ends with the same word as this, the eye of a scribe may have been misled. The part played by Urijah in this business is not mentioned by the Chronicler. The R.V. renders this clause So did Urijah the priest make it. This is done to shew that the word ‘so’ refers to the previous phrase ‘according to all that king Ahaz had sent’.Verse 11. - And Urijah the priest. No doubt the Uriah of Isaiah (Isaiah 8:2), who might be a "faithful witness" to the record of a fact, though a bad man, over-complaisant in carrying out the will of the king. Built an altar according to all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus: - rather, built the altar, i.e. the altar commanded by the monarch - so Urijah the priest made it against King Ahaz came from Damascus. A bold high priest like Azariah (2 Chronicles 26:17) would have refused to work the king's will in such a matter, which was certainly a desecration of the temple, and to some extent a compromise with idolatry. But Urijah was a man of a weaker fiber, and does not seem to have thought even of remonstrance, much less of resistance. Of the war which the allied Syrians and Israelites waged upon Ahaz, only the principal fact is mentioned in 2 Kings 16:5, namely, that the enemy marched to Jerusalem to war, but were not able to make war upon the city, i.e., to conquer it; and in 2 Kings 16:6 we have a brief notice of the capture of the port of Elath by the Syrians. We find 2 Kings 16:5 again, with very trifling alterations, in Isaiah 7:1 at the head of the prophecy, in which the prophet promises the king the help of God and predicts that the plans of his enemies will fail. According to this, the allied kings intended to take Judah, to dethrone Ahaz, and to install a vassal king, viz., the son of Tabeel. We learn still more concerning this war, which had already begun, according to 2 Kings 15:37, in the closing years of Jotham, from 2 Chronicles 28:5-15; namely, that the two kings inflicted great defeats upon Ahaz, and carried off many prisoners and a large amount of booty, but that the Israelites set their prisoners at liberty again, by the direction of the prophet Oded, and after feeding and clothing them, sent them back to their brethren. It is now generally admitted that these statements are not at variance with our account (as Ges., Winer, and others maintain), but can be easily reconciled with it, and simply serve to complete it.

(Note: Compare C. P. Caspari's article on the Syro-Ephraimitish war in the reigns of Jotham and Ahaz (Univers. Progr. von Christiania, 1849), where the different views concerning the relation between the two accounts are fully discussed, and the objections to the credibility of the account given in the Chronicles most conclusively answered.)

The only questions in dispute are, whether the two accounts refer to two different campaigns, or merely to two different events in the same campaign, and whether the battles to which the Chronicles allude are to be placed before or after the siege of Jerusalem mentioned in our text. The first question cannot be absolutely decided, since there are no decisive arguments to be found in favour of either the one supposition or the other; and even "the one strong argument" which Caspari finds in Isaiah 7:6 against the idea of two campaigns is not conclusive. For if the design which the prophet there attributes to the allied kings, "we will make a breach in Judah," i.e., storm his fortresses and his passes and conquer them, does obviously presuppose, that at the time when the enemy spake or thought in this manner, Judah was still standing uninjured and unconquered, and therefore the battles mentioned in 2 Chronicles 28:5-6 cannot yet have been fought; it by no means follows from the connection between Isaiah 7:6 and Isaiah 7:1 (of the same chapter) that Isaiah 7:6 refers to plans which the enemy had only just formed at the time when Isaiah spoke (2 Kings 7:4.). On the contrary, Isaiah is simply describing the plans which the enemy devised and pursued, and which they had no doubt formed from the very commencement of the war, and now that they were marching against Jerusalem, hoped to attain by the conquest of the capital. All that we can assume as certain is, that the war lasted longer than a year, since the invasion of Judah by these foes had already commenced before the death of Jotham, and that the greater battles (2 Chronicles 28:5-6) were not fought till the time of Ahaz, and it was not till his reign that the enemy advanced to the siege of Jerusalem. - With regard to the second question, it cannot be at all doubtful that the battles mentioned preceded the advance of the enemy to the front of Jerusalem, and therefore our account merely mentions the last and principal event of the war, and that the enemy was compelled to retreat from Jerusalem by the fact that the king of Assyria, Tiglath-pileser, whom Ahaz had called to his help, marched against Syria and compelled Rezin to hurry back to the defence of his kingdom. - It is more difficult to arrange in the account of the capture of Elath by the Syrians (2 Kings 16:6) among the events of this war. The expression ההיא בּעת merely assigns it in a perfectly general manner to the period of the war. The supposition of Thenius, that it did not take place till after the siege of Jerusalem had been relinquished, and that Rezin, after the failure of his attempt to take Jerusalem, that he might not have come altogether in vain, marched away from Jerusalem round the southern point of the Dead Sea and conquered Elath, is impossible, because he would never have left his own kingdom in such a defenceless state to the advancing Assyrians. We must therefore place the taking of Elath by Rezin before his march against Jerusalem, though we still leave it undecided how Rezin conducted the war against Ahaz: whether by advancing along the country to the east of the Jordan, defeating the Judaeans there (2 Chronicles 28:5), and then pressing forward to Elath and conquering that city, while Pekah made a simultaneous incursion into Judah from the north and smote Ahaz, so that it was not till after the conquest of Elath that Rezin entered the land from the south, and there joined Pekah for a common attack upon Jerusalem, as Caspari supposes; or whether by advancing into Judah along with Pekah at the very outset, and after he had defeated the army of Ahaz in a great battle, sending a detachment of his own army to Idumaea, to wrest that land from Judah and conquer Elath, while he marched with the rest of his forces in combination with Pekah against Jerusalem.

"Rezin brought Elath to Aram and drove the Jews out of Elath, and Aramaeans came to Elath and dwelt therein to this day." השׁיב does not mean "to lead back" here, but literally to turn, to bring to a person; for Elath had never belonged to Aram before this, but was an Edomitish city, so that even if we were to read אדום for ארם, השׁיב could not mean to bring back. But there is no ground whatever for altering לארם into לאדום (Cler., Mich., Ew., Then., and others), whereas the form ארם is at variance with such an alteration through the assumption of an exchange of r and d, because אדום is never written defective אדם except in Ezekiel 25:14. There are also no sufficient reasons for altering וארומים into וארומים (Keri); ארומיּם is merely a Syriac form for ארמּים with the dull Syriac u-sound, several examples of which form occur in this very chapter, - e.g., הקּומים for הקּמים 2 Kings 16:7, דּוּמשׂק for דּמּשׂק 2 Kings 16:10, and אילות for אילת 2 Kings 16:6, - whereas אדום, with additions, is only written plene twice in the ancient books, and that in the Chronicles, where the scriptio plena is generally preferred (2 Chronicles 25:14 and 2 Chronicles 28:17), but is always written defective (אדמים). Moreover the statement that "אדומים (Edomites, not the Edomites) came thither," etc., would be very inappropriate, since Edomites certainly lived in this Idumaean city in perfect security, even while it was under Judaean government. And there would be no sense in the expression "the Edomites dwelt there to this day," since the Edomites remained in their own land to the time of the captivity. All this is applicable to Aramaeans alone. As soon as Rezin had conquered this important seaport town, it was a very natural thing to establish an Aramaean colony there, which obtained possession of the trade of the town, and remained there till the time when the annals of the kings were composed (for it is to this that the expression הזּה עד־היּום refers), even after the kingdom of Rezin had long been destroyed by the Assyrians, since Elath and the Aramaeans settled there were not affected by that blow.

(Note: If we only observe that ארומים has not the article, and therefore the words merely indicate the march of an Aramaean colony to Elath, it is evident that אדומים would be unsuitable; for when the יהודים had been driven from the city which the Syrians had conquered, it was certainly not some Edomites but the Edomites who took possession again. Hence Winer, Caspari, and others are quite right in deciding that ארומים is the only correct reading.)

As soon as the Edomites had been released by Rezin from the control of Judah, to which they had been brought back by Amaziah and Uzziah (2 Kings 14:7, 2 Kings 14:22), they began plundering Judah again (2 Chronicles 28:17); and even the Philistines took possession of several cities in the lowland, to avenge themselves for the humiliation they had sustained at the hand of Uzziah (2 Chronicles 28:18).

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