2 Kings 16:4
And he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) In the high places.—These are evidently distinguished from “the hills,” two different prepositions being used in the Hebrew as in the English. A bāmāh, or “high-place,” was a local sanctuary, and it appears that a sacred pillar or altar might be called a bāmāh. Mesha king of Moab speaks of his pillar as “this bāmath” (See Note on 2Kings 1:1.)

Under every green tree.—Comp. 1Kings 14:23; Hosea 14:8. Thenius says not so much a green as a thick-foliaged and shadow-yielding tree. “They burn incense . . . under oaks, and poplars, and teil trees, because the shadow thereof is good” (Hosea 4:13).

THE SYRO-EPHRAIMITIC WAR, AND THE INTERVENTION OF TIGLATH PILESER. (Comp. Isaiah 7:1 to Isaiah 9:7, “an epitome of the discourses delivered by the prophet at this great national crisis.”—Cheyne.)

2 Kings 16:4. He sacrificed, &c., in the high places — If his father had but had zeal enough to take them away, it might have prevented the corrupting of his sons. They that connive at sin, know not what dangerous snares they lay for those that come after them.

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.He sacrificed ... - Other kings of Judah bad allowed their people to do so. Ahaz was the first, so far as we know, to countenance the practice by his own example. 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.

After the manner of the heathens: See Poole "Deu 12:2"; See Poole "Jeremiah 2:20"; See Poole "Hosea 4:13".

And he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills,.... Which none of the kings of Judah before him ever did; for though they connived at this practice in the people, they never encouraged it by their own example; and very probably he offered sacrifices there to idols, see 2 Chronicles 28:25 whereas the people sacrificed to the true God, though at a wrong place:

and under every green tree; and which is never said of the people, and seems to confirm it, that Ahaz sacrificed to other gods, since the Heathens used to place idols under green trees, and worship them, whom the Jews imitated, Jeremiah 2:2.

And he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. And he sacrificed, &c.] Hitherto we have heard only that the people continued the worship in the high places. Now the king takes part in the same, and so makes it doubly popular.

under every green tree] Expressly mentioned (Deuteronomy 12:2) as among the wrong doings of the heathen: ‘Ye shall utterly destroy all the places wherein the nations, which ye shall possess, served their gods, upon the high mountains and upon the hills, and under every green tree’.

Verse 4. - And he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places. The special sin of Ahaz here noted is that he not only allowed the high-place and grove worship, as so many other kings of Judah had done, e.g. Solomon (1 Kings 3:2), Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:23), Asa (1 Kings 15:14), Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:43), Joash (2 Kings 12:3), Amaziah (2 Kings 14:4), Azariah (2 Kings 15:4), and Jotham (2 Kings 15:35), but himself countenanced and took part in it, which no other king appears to have done. It was probably the stimulus that his example gave to the cult which induced Hezekiah to abolish it (see 2 Kings 18:4). And on the hills, and under every green tree (comp. 1 Kings 14:23, with the comment). 2 Kings 16:4"Ahaz walked in the way of the kings of Israel," to which there is added by way of explanation in 2 Chronicles 28:2, "and also made molten images to the Baals." This refers, primarily, simply to the worship of Jehovah under the image of a calf, which they had invented; for this was the way in which all the kings of Israel walked. At the same time, in 2 Kings 8:18 the same formula is so used of Joram king of Judah as to include the worship of Baal by the dynasty of Ahab. Consequently in the verse before us also the way of the kings of Israel includes the worship of Baal, which is especially mentioned in the Chronicles. - "He even made his son pass through the fire," i.e., offered him in sacrifice to Moloch in the valley of Benhinnom (see at 2 Kings 23:10), after the abominations of the nations, whom Jehovah had cast out before Israel. Instead of בּנו we have the plural בּנין in 2 Chronicles 28:3, and in 2 Chronicles 28:16 אשּׁוּר מלכי, kings of Asshur, instead of אשּׁוּר מלך, although only one, viz., Tiglath-pileser, is spoken of. This repeated use of the plural shows very plainly that it is to be understood rhetorically, as expressing the thought in the most general manner, since the number was of less importance than the fact.

(Note: The Greeks and Romans also use the plural instead of the singular in their rhetorical style of writing, especially when a father, a mother, or a son is spoken of. Cf. Cic. de prov. cons. xiv. 35: si ad jucundissimos liberos, si ad clarissimum generum redire properaret, where Julia, the only daughter of Caesar, and the wife of Pompey the Great, is referred to; and for other examples see Caspari, der Syr. Ephraimit. Krieg, p. 41.)

So far as the fact is concerned, we have here the first instance of an actual Moloch-sacrifice among the Israelites, i.e., of one performed by slaying and burning. For although the phrase בּאשׁ העביר or למּלך does not in itself denote the slaying and burning of the children as Moloch-sacrifices, but primarily affirms nothing more than the simple passing through fire, a kind of februation or baptism of fire (see at Leviticus 18:21); such passages as Ezekiel 16:21 and Jeremiah 7:31, where sacrificing in the valley of Benhinnom is called slaying and burning the children, show most distinctly that in the verse before us בּאשׁ העביר is to be taken as signifying actual sacrificing, i.e., the burning of the children slain in sacrifice to Moloch, and, as the emphatic וגם indicates, that this kind of idolatrous worship, which had never been heard of before in Judah and Israel, was introduced by Ahaz.

(Note: "If this idolatry had occurred among the Israelites before the time of Ahaz, its abominations would certainly not have been passed over by the biblical writers, who so frequently mention other forms of idolatry." These are the correct words of Movers (Phniz. i. p. 65), who only errs in the fact that on the one hand he supposes the origin of human sacrifices in the time of Ahaz to have been inwardly connected with the appearance of the Assyrians, and traces them to the acquaintance of the Israelites with the Assyrian fire-deities Adrammelech and Anammelech (2 Kings 17:31), and on the other hand gives this explanation of the phrase, "cause to pass through the fire for Moloch," which is used to denote the sacrificing of children: "the burning of children was regarded as a passage, whereby, after the separation of the impure and earthly dross of the body, the children attained to union with the deity" (p. 329). To this J. G. Mller has correctly replied (in Herzog's Cyclop.): "This mystic, pantheistic, moralizing view of human sacrifices is not the ancient and original view of genuine heathenism. It is no more the view of Hither Asia than the Mexican view (i.e., the one which lay at the foundation of the custom of the ancient Mexicans, of passing the new-born boy four times through the fire). The Phoenician myths, which Movers (p. 329) quotes in support of his view, refer to the offering of human sacrifices in worship, and the moral view is a later addition belonging to Hellenism. The sacrifices were rather given to the gods as food, as is evident from innumerable passages (compare the primitive religions of America), and they have no moral aim, but are intended to reward or bribe the gods with costly presents, either because of calamities that have already passed, or because of those that are anticipated with alarm; and, as Movers himself admits (p. 301), to make atonement for ceremonial sins, i.e., to follow smaller sacrifices by those of greater value.")

In the Chronicles, therefore העביר is correctly explained by ויּבער, "he burned;" though we cannot infer from this that העביר is always a mere conjecture for הבעיר, as Geiger does (Urschrift u. Uebers, der Bibel, p. 305). The offering of his son for Moloch took place, in all probability, during the severe oppression of Ahaz by the Syrians, and was intended to appease the wrath of the gods, as was done by the king of the Moabites in similar circumstances (2 Kings 3:27). - In 2 Kings 16:4 the idolatry is described in the standing formulae as sacrificing upon high places and hills, etc., as in 1 Kings 14:23. The temple-worship prescribed by the law could easily be continued along with this idolatry, since polytheism did not exclude the worship of Jehovah. It was not till the closing years of his reign that Ahaz went so far as to close the temple-hall, and thereby suspend the temple-worship (2 Chronicles 28:24); in any case it was not till after the alterations described in 2 Kings 16:11. as having been made in the temple.

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