2 Kings 16:5
Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to war: and they besieged Ahaz, but could not overcome him.
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(5) Then Rezin king of Syria . . . to war.—This verse agrees almost word for word with Isaiah 7:1. The time is soon after the accession of Ahaz. “Jotham, the last of a series of strong and generally successful princes, had died at a critical moment, when Pekah and Rezin were maturing their plans against his kingdom. The opposing parties in northern Israel suspended their feuds to make common cause against Judah (Isaiah 9:21), and the proud inhabitants of Samaria hoped by this policy to more than restore the prestige forfeited in previous years of calamity (Isaiah 9:9-10). At the same time the Syrians began to operate in the eastern dependencies of Judah, their aim being to possess themselves of the harbour of Elath on the Red Sea, while the Philistines attacked the Judeans in the rear, and ravaged the fertile lowlands (Isaiah 9:12, 2Kings 16:6). A heavy and sudden disaster had already fallen on the Judean arms, a defeat in which ‘head and tail, palm-branch and rush’ had been mown down in indiscriminate slaughter (Isaiah 9:14). Ahaz was no fit leader in so critical a time; his character was petulant and childish, his policy was dictated in the harem (Isaiah 3:12). Nor was the internal order of the state calculated to inspire confidence. Wealth, indeed, had greatly accumulated in the preceding time of prosperity, but its distribution had been such that it weakened rather than added strength to the nation. The rich nobles were steeped in sensual luxury, the court was full of gallantry, feminine extravagance and vanity gave the tone to aristocratic society (Isaiah 5:11; Isaiah 3:16; comp. Isaiah 3:12; Isaiah 4:4), which, like the noblesse of France on the eve of the Revolution, was absorbed in gaiety and pleasure, while the masses were ground down by oppression, and the cry of their distress filled the land (Isaiah 3:15; Isaiah 5:7).”—Prof. Robertson Smith.

They besieged Ahaz.—The allies wanted to compel Judah to join them in their attempt to throw off the burdensome yoke of Assyria, imposed in 738 B.C. (2Kings 15:19); and thought the best way to secure this was to dethrone the dynasty of David, and set up a creature of their own—“the son of Tabeal” (Isaiah 7:6).

Could not overcome him.—Literally, they were not able to war, as in Isaiah 7:2. The allies could not storm the city, which had been strongly fortified by Uzziah and Jotham (2Chronicles 26:9; 2Chronicles 27:3).

2 Kings 16:5-6. But could not overcome him — Because God, of his own mere grace, undertook the protection of Judah, as he promised to do, and disappointed the designs and hopes of their enemies, Isaiah 7:1-9. At that time Rezin recovered Elath — Took it from the Jews, who had not long been in possession of it, having but lately recovered it, with the rest of Edom: see on 2 Kings 14:22. So that, though the confederate kings of Syria and Israel failed, through the interference of Divine Providence, in their attempts on Jerusalem, the former made himself master of this considerable and very commodious port on the Red sea.

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.Rezin and Pekah, who had already begun their attacks upon Judaea in the reign of Jotham 2 Kings 15:37, regarded the accession of a boy-king, only 16 years of age, as especially favorable to their projects, and proceeded without loss of time to carry them out. The earlier scenes of the war, omitted by the writer of Kings, are given at some length in 2 Chronicles 28:5-15. 5. Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel came up to Jerusalem—Notwithstanding their great efforts and military preparations, they failed to take it and, being disappointed, raised the siege and returned home (compare Isa 7:1). Because God of his own mere grace undertook their protection, as he promised to do, and disappointed the hopes and design of their enemies; of which see on Isa 7.

Then Rezin king of Syria, and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel, came up to Jerusalem to war,.... To fight with Ahaz, moved to it by the Lord, to chastise Ahaz for his idolatry, 2 Kings 15:37.

but could not overcome him; so as to take Jerusalem, and set up another king there, as their scheme was, Isaiah 7:5 though they had both at other times got great advantages over him, and slew many of his people, and carried them captive, see 2 Chronicles 28:5.

Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to war: and they besieged Ahaz, but could not overcome {c} him.

(c) For the Lord preserved the city and his people for the sake of his promise made to David.

5. came up to Jerusalem to war] The plans which had been formed in the reign of Jotham (see 2 Kings 15:37) were now put into execution. And from Isaiah 7:2 we can see into what agitation the people of Judah were brought by the advance of the allied enemies. ‘It was told the house of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim (i.e. Israel). And his heart was moved and the heart of his people as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind’.

they besieged Ahaz, but could not overcome him] i.e. They never took Jerusalem (cf. Isaiah 7:1). This is the security which Isaiah was instructed to promise to Ahaz. But it is evident from the narrative of the Chronicler that much damage was done in the land by the invasion. He says (2 Chronicles 28:5) that Ahaz was delivered into the hand of the king of Syria, who smote him and carried away a great multitude of captives and brought them to Damascus, and he was also delivered into the hand of Pekah king of Israel, who slew in Judah a hundred and twenty thousand men in one day, and carried away captive two hundred thousand, women, sons and daughters, along with much spoil. We can understand the stir caused in Jerusalem by the approach of an army which had already inflicted such blows upon the land.

Verses 5, 6. - War of Ahazleith Pekah and Rezin. Verse 5. - Then Rezin King of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah King of Israel came up to Jerusalem to war. The alliance between Rezin and Pekah has been already glanced at (2 Kings 16:37). It began, apparently, in the reign of Jotham. The policy which brought it about was one that was entirely new. Since Syria developed an aggressive tendency under the first Ben-hadad (1 Kings 20:1), there had till now been no alliance made with her by either of the two Israelite kingdoms. She had been reckoned as their common enemy; and while they had on two occasions been allied together against her (1 Kings 22:4-36; 2 Kings 8:28), never as yet had either asked her help against the other. Now, however, Ephraim became confederate with Syria against Judah. The new policy must be ascribed to the new condition of things consequent upon the attitude assumed by Assyria under Tiglath-pileser. Assyria had been under a cloud for forty years. The nations of the western coast of Asia had ceased to fear her, and had felt at liberty to pursue their own quarrels. Her recovery of vigor altered the whole situation. It was at once evident to the statesmen who directed the policy of the small western states that, unless they combined; they were lost. Hence the alliance between Pekah and Rezin. Probably they would have been glad to have drawn Ahaz into the confederacy; but it would seem that he did not share their fears, and would not join them. Hereupon the design was formed to dethrone him, and set up in his place a new ruler, a certain Ben-Tabeal (Isaiah 7:6), on whose assistance they could rely. The two confederate princes then began the campaign. Pekah invaded Judaea, and gained a great victory over Ahaz, which is perhaps exaggerated in 2 Chronicles 28:6-15; Rezin carried his arms further south, took Elath, and reestablished the Edomites in power (see the comment on ver. 6). Then the allies joined forces and proceeded to besiege Jerusalem. And they besieged Ahaz, but could not ever-come him. The siege is mentioned by Isaiah 7:1, who was commissioned by God to comfort Ahaz, and assure him that the city would not fall (Isaiah 7:7). The fortifications of Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:9) and Jotham (2 Chronicles 27:3) had, no doubt, greatly strengthened the city since the time when (as related in 2 Kings 14:13) it was captured so easily by Joash. 2 Kings 16:5Of 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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