Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem: but he did not that which was right in the sight of the LORD, like David his father:XXVIII.
THE REIGN OF AHAZ.(Comp. 2 Kings 16)
PRELIMINARY NOTICES OF THE LENGTH AND CHARACTER OF THE REIGN (2Chronicles 28:1-4).
The Lord.—Add his God. So some MSS. and Syriac; also Kings. The Assyrian monuments call Ahaz Yahuhazi, i.e., Jehoahaz, of which Ahaz may be a familiar abridgment. (Comp. Nathan, Jonathan.)
For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim.(2) And made also molten images for Baalim.—For the Baals, i.e., the different aspects or avatars of the Canaanite god. This clause is added by the chronicler, in explanation of the former one; “the way of the kings of Israel” was the state recognition of Baal worship, side by side with that of Jehovah (2Chronicles 21:6; 2Chronicles 22:3-4; comp. 2Chronicles 23:17). But possibly both this and the first clause of 2Chronicles 28:3 have fallen out of the text of Kings. (So Thenius on that passage.)
Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.(3) Moreover he.—“And he (emphatic) burnt incense” to Moloch, the god of Ammon, for whom Solomon had built a high place (1Kings 11:5-8), which was still in existence.
“Moloch, horrid king, besmeared with blood.”
(Jeremiah 7:31-32; Jeremiah 19:2-6, where “the Baal” is named as the object of this worship, Moloch being a Baal.) In later times, the term “valley of Hinnom,” spelt as one word, and with modified vowels, Gĕhinnām, became the appellation of hell, “the house of woe and pain.” It is so used in the Targums, and later in the Talmud, and appears in the New Testament under the Græcised form Γέεννα, whence the Latin Gehenna.
Burnt his children in the fire.—Kings, “And even his own son he made to pass through the fire.” The chronicler has paraphrased by transposing two Hebrew letters (ba‘ar for ‘abar). “His children is simply a generalised expression, as we might say, “he burnt his own offspring or posterity.” (Comp. Psalm 106:37.) Thenius accuses the chronicler of exaggerating the fact. But this peculiar use of the plural is one of the marks of his style. (Comp. 1Chronicles 6:57; 1Chronicles 6:67; and 2Chronicles 28:16, infra.)
Wherefore the LORD his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Syria; and they smote him, and carried away a great multitude of them captives, and brought them to Damascus. And he was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, who smote him with a great slaughter.THE WAR WITH REZIN OF SYRIA AND PEKAH OF ISRAEL; OR, THE SYRO-EPHRAITE CAMPAIGN (2Chronicles 28:5-9). (Comp. 2Kings 16:5; Isaiah 7:1.)
(5) Wherefore (and) the Lord his God delivered him.—These opening words help us to understand the ground of the variations of the present account from that of 2 Kings 16. The chronicler purposes, not so much to describe a campaign, as to select those events of it which most conspicuously illustrate God’s chastisements of the apostate Ahaz. Accordingly, throughout the description, the historical is subordinated to the didactic motive. (Comp. the account of the Syrian invasion, 2Chronicles 24:23-24.) Not history for its own sake, but history teaching by example, is what the writer desires to present. At the same time, the events here recorded are above critical suspicion. Thenius characterises the whole section (2Chronicles 28:5-15) as “thoroughly historical.”
Into the hand of the king of Syria.—Rezin of Damascus. (Comp. 2Kings 16:5.) Instead of relating the joint attempt against Jerusalem, and the seizure of Elath by Rezin, the chronicler prefers to record two severe defeats suffered by Ahaz in the open field, before his retreat behind the walls of Jerusalem. (See Note on 2Chronicles 17:17; 2Chronicles 22:1.) After these successes the confederates converged upon the capital, and the panic inspired by the news of their coming is finely depicted in Isaiah 7:2. Their attempt proved ineffectual, as the prophet had foretold.
Smote him.—Literally, smote in him, i.e., in his army; defeated him. (A similar remark applies in the next sentence.)
Carried away . . . captives.—Literally, and led captive from him a great captivity (Deuteronomy 21:11).
And he was also delivered.—A second terrible reverse, which took place, perhaps, while Rezin was absent in Idumæa. “At that time Rezin king of Syria recovered Elath to Syria, and drove the Jews out of Elath: and the Arameans (or Edomites) came to Elath, and dwelt there unto this day” (2Kings 16:6).
For Pekah the son of Remaliah slew in Judah an hundred and twenty thousand in one day, which were all valiant men; because they had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers.(6) For.—And, i.e., so.
Pekah . . . slew in Judah an hundred . . . in one day.—Details of what is generally stated in the last sentence of 2Chronicles 28:5. The totals of slain and of captives (2Chronicles 28:8) are both round numbers. The figures 120,000, if accurate, would show that about a third of the Jewish host (2Chronicles 26:13) had fallen in the battle and pursuit. The ruthlessness of the foe is borne out by the words of the prophet Oded in 2Chronicles 28:9 : “Ye have slain them in a rage that reacheth up to heaven.” Isaiah 7:6 proves that the allies designed to break wholly the independence of Judah, by abolishing the Davidic monarchy, and setting up a Syrian vassal king.
In one day.—In one great engagement. Among the Hebrews and Arabs the word “day” often bears the special force of “day of battle;” e.g., “the day of Midian” (Isaiah 9:4).
Because they had forsaken.—2Chronicles 27:2. Moreover, the idolatrous example of Ahaz would be eagerly followed by large numbers of the people, whose average religious condition was far below the standard which the prophets of Jehovah demanded. The prophetical writings demonstrate this.
And Zichri, a mighty man of Ephraim, slew Maaseiah the king's son, and Azrikam the governor of the house, and Elkanah that was next to the king.(7) Maaseiah the king’s son—i.e., a prince of the royal house, related to Ahaz, but not his own son; or he would have been too young to be engaged in the battle. (Comp. 2Chronicles 18:25 : “Joash the king’s son.”)
Elkanah . . . next to the king.—See margin. Elkanah was grand vizier. (Comp. 1Samuel 23:17; Esther 10:3.) The writer mentions the deaths of these three personages, because of their intimate connection with Ahaz, whose punishment he is describing. The blow which struck them struck the king. (Comp. 2Chronicles 24:23.)
And the children of Israel carried away captive of their brethren two hundred thousand, women, sons, and daughters, and took also away much spoil from them, and brought the spoil to Samaria.(8) Of their brethren.—Heightening the barbarity of the deed. So 2Chronicles 28:11.
Two hundred thousand, women, sons, and daughters.—See Note on 2Chronicles 28:6. Sennacherib boasts that in the war against Hezekiah he took forty-six strong cities of Judah, and carried off 200,150 captives. The number of the text is thus corroborated from a foreign and wholly unrelated source. The thrilling narrative of Kings (2 Kings 18-19) says nothing of the carrying away of all these captives by the Assyrian invader, the interest of the writer being centred on Jerusalem. With this omission that of the facts related in the present section may be compared.
But a prophet of the LORD was there, whose name was Oded: and he went out before the host that came to Samaria, and said unto them, Behold, because the LORD God of your fathers was wroth with Judah, he hath delivered them into your hand, and ye have slain them in a rage that reacheth up unto heaven.THE PROPHET ODED PROTESTS AGAINST RETENTION OF THE JEWISH CAPTIVES, AND THEY ARE SENT HOME (2Chronicles 28:9-15).
(9) But a prophet of the Lord.—This whole section is peculiar to the chronicler. The author has told the story in his own way; and perhaps the words of the prophet and the chiefs are mainly his. But there is no ground for doubting the general truth of the narrative.
Was there.—In Samaria. It is remarkable that neither here nor in the parallel narrative is any mention made of the great prophet Hosea ben Beeri, who must have been active at this epoch in the northern kingdom. Of Oded nothing further is known. He was a “prophet of Jehovah,” not of the Baals.
He went out before.—To meet the hosts, like Azariah ben Oded (2Chronicles 15:2).
That came.—Was coming in.
Because the Lord . . . was wroth.—Literally, in the wrath of Jehovah . . . against Judah he gave them into your hand. Your victory was due to the punitive wrath of Jehovah, not to your own valour or intrinsic superiority. You ought to have considered this, and shown compassion to the victims of divine displeasure; but you have, on the contrary, given full rein to the savage dictates of furious hatred.
Slain them.—Slain among them.
In a rage.—2Chronicles 26:19 (za’af).
That reacheth up unto heaven.—Genesis 28:12; Isaiah 8:8. Literally, which even to the heavens did reach; i.e., a guilty excess of rage, calling to heaven for vengeance, like the blood of Abel (Genesis 4:10), or the wickedness of Sodom (Genesis 18:21). (Comp. also Ezra 9:6.)
And now ye purpose to keep under the children of Judah and Jerusalem for bondmen and bondwomen unto you: but are there not with you, even with you, sins against the LORD your God?(10) Ye purpose.—Literally, Ye are saying or proposing (2ch. 1:18).
To keep under.—Subdue, or reduce to bondmen, Genesis 1:28 (kabash).
But are there not with you.—An abrupt question: Are there no trespasses at all with you yourselves? i.e., “Are you yourselves wholly guiltless, that your indignation was so hot against your brethren? (Genesis 20:11). Or, “Are there no trespasses with you only?” . . . Are you the only guiltless people, so that you are justified in these severities?” (Job 1:15). The reference in either case may be to the calves of Bethel and Dan.
Now hear me therefore, and deliver the captives again, which ye have taken captive of your brethren: for the fierce wrath of the LORD is upon you.(11) Now hear me therefore.—And now hearken to me (2Chronicles 13:4; 2Chronicles 15:2). The “and now” is illative, not temporal.
Deliver . . . again.—Cause to return, send back.
Pierce wrath.—Heat of anger, i.e., hot anger. Leviticus 25:39, expressly forbids the permanent enslaving of Israelites by Israelites.
Then certain of the heads of the children of Ephraim, Azariah the son of Johanan, Berechiah the son of Meshillemoth, and Jehizkiah the son of Shallum, and Amasa the son of Hadlai, stood up against them that came from the war,(12) Children of Ephraim.—The ten tribes, as a political whole, are often designated as “Ephraim” by the prophets of that age, e.g., Hosea and Isaiah.
Stood up against.—The Hebrew phrase usually means opposed; here confronted or came before those who were coming from the host.
And said unto them, Ye shall not bring in the captives hither: for whereas we have offended against the LORD already, ye intend to add more to our sins and to our trespass: for our trespass is great, and there is fierce wrath against Israel.(13) Ye shall not bring in.—Into the city.
Whereas we . . . already.—This is at least a possible rendering. Literally, at or in the trespass of (against) Jehovah (lying) upon us, ye are proposing to add to our sins, &c. Others translate, “so that a trespass against Jehovah come upon us.” (Comp. Leviticus 4:3.) But the elders admit an already existing trespass, when they add, “for our trespass is great, and there is fierce wrath against Israel.” What they deprecate is an aggravation of that trespass.
Our trespass is great.—Literally, a great trespass is ours. (Syriac omits this clause and next verse. Instead of 2Chronicles 28:15 it has: “And they caused the whole captivity to return to Jerusalem.” It then continues with 2Chronicles 28:23-25, transposing 2Chronicles 28:16-21.)
So the armed men left the captives and the spoil before the princes and all the congregation.(14) Armed men.—See 2Chronicles 17:18.
The princes, “the heads” of 2Chronicles 28:12.
The congregation.—The assembly of the citizens at the gate of Samaria.
And the men which were expressed by name rose up, and took the captives, and with the spoil clothed all that were naked among them, and arrayed them, and shod them, and gave them to eat and to drink, and anointed them, and carried all the feeble of them upon asses, and brought them to Jericho, the city of palm trees, to their brethren: then they returned to Samaria.(15) The men which . . . by name.—1Chronicles 12:31; 1Chronicles 16:41. Certain chiefs formally designated for the office, perhaps including those of 2Chronicles 28:12.
All that were naked.—Literally, and all their nakednesses they clad out of the spoil (ma’arummîm, “nakednesses,” here only).
Carried all the feeble of them upon asses.—Literally, led them on he-asses, to wit, every stumbling one. There would be many such, as the captives were mostly women and children.
The writer dwells with manifest pleasure upon the kindness shown by their repentant foes of the northern kingdom to these Jewish captives. He may have intended to suggest a lesson to the Samaritans of his own age, whose bitter hostility had proved so damaging to the cause of the restored exiles (Nehemiah 4:2; Nehemiah 4:7-8; Nehemiah 6:1-2 sqq.), and who, according to Rabbinical tradition, endeavoured to prejudice Alexander the Great against the commonwealth of Jerusalem (Talmud, Yoma, 69, A).
Some have supposed that our Lord had this passage in His mind when He uttered the parable of the Good Samaritan. The coincidences between the two stories are at any rate curious. (See Luke 10:30; Luke 10:33-34.)
The interposition of the Ephraite prophet Oded between the Ephraites and their Judæan captives is precisely parallel to that of the Judæan prophet Shemaiah between his people and the Ten Tribes, as related in 1Kings 12:22-24; and granting the truth of the one account, there can be no ground for suspecting the other.
At that time did king Ahaz send unto the kings of Assyria to help him.UNDER THE PRESSURE OF NEW ENEMIES, AHAZ ASKS HELP FROM ASSYRIA, BUT RECEIVES HURT (2Chronicles 28:17-21). (Comp. 2Kings 16:7-18.)
(16) At that time.—Apparently after the events above narrated; how soon after we can hardly decide.
For again the Edomites had come and smitten Judah, and carried away captives.(17) For again.—And moreover.
Smitten Judah.—Smitten in Judah, i.e., inflicted a defeat upon her. After their reduction by Uzziah, the Edomites had probably remained subject to Judah, until Rezin of Syria expelled the Jews from Elath (2Kings 16:6), and restored it to them. After that event, the disasters of Ahaz seem to have encouraged them to make a raid upon his territory.
The Philistines also had invaded the cities of the low country, and of the south of Judah, and had taken Bethshemesh, and Ajalon, and Gederoth, and Shocho with the villages thereof, and Timnah with the villages thereof, Gimzo also and the villages thereof: and they dwelt there.(18) Invaded—i.e., “fell upon” (2Chronicles 25:13).
The low country.—The sheph̓̓ēlah, or lowland of Judah, between the hill-country and the Mediterranean.
The south.—The Negeb, or southland of Judah, nearly co-extensive with the territory assigned to Simeon (2Samuel 24:7).
Beth-shemesh.—See 1Chronicles 6:59.
Gederoth.—In the lowland (Joshua 15:41).
Shocho.—Rather, Socho (2Chronicles 11:7).
Timnah.—Now Tibna (Joshua 15:10).
Gimzo.—Now Jimsu, between Lydda and Beth-horon (Robinson, iii. 271).
And the villages thereof.—And her daughters. (See Note on 1Chronicles 7:28, “and the towns thereof.”)
For the LORD brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel; for he made Judah naked, and transgressed sore against the LORD.(19) Ahaz king of Israel.—Most commentators see an irony in this expression. But, as has been stated before, the southern kingdom was Israel in the chronicler’s idea; although that of the Ten Tribes was, politically speaking, as much more important, as the cedar of Lebanon was in comparison with the blackthorn growing beside it (2Chronicles 25:18. See Note on 2Chronicles 12:6; 2Chronicles 21:2). (Some Hebrew MSS., and all ancient versions, read “Judah.” Other Hebrew MSS. remark that in seven places “king of Judah” should be read instead of “king of Israel.”)
He made Judah naked.—Rather, he behaved loosely, dealt licentiously in Judah (hiphri’a). The verb is so used here only. (Comp. Exodus 5:4, where it is transitive: “Why loose ye the people from their works?”) (LXX. omits, Authorised version follows the Vulg.)
Transgressed sore.—Done unfaithfulness (1Chronicles 10:13).
And Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria came unto him, and distressed him, but strengthened him not.(20) Tilgath-pilneser (Heb., Pilne’èser). In 2 Kings more correctly called Tiglath-pileser (Pil’èser). (See Note on 1Chronicles 5:26.) According to the As syrian Eponym Canon, Tiglath-pileser II. came to the throne B.C. 745, and marched westward against Damascus and Israel, B.C. 734. The importance of these dates for the chronology of the period is obvious.
Came unto him.—Comp. the more detailed narrative in 2Kings 16:7-10; and see Note on 2Chronicles 28:16. Tiglath was induced by the message and present of Ahaz to undertake a campaign in the west; he captured Damascus, slew Rezin, and transported the population of the city to Kir (Kings, l.c.). After this, “king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria” (2Kings 16:10). The chronicler in the words before us, is estimating the results of this expedition as they affected the interests of Judah. At the prayer of Ahaz the Assyrian had indeed “come to him”; but not with any purpose of strengthening the southern kingdom. Glad of a pretext for interference in the affairs of the west, the ambitious usurper was simply bent on the extension of his own empire; and when the more powerful states of Syria and Israel lay at his feet, he naturally proceeded to require a most unequivocal acknowledgment of vassalage from Ahaz. He thus “distressed” or oppressed him by reducing his kingdom to a mere dependency of Assyria, besides impoverishing him of all his treasure, which Ahaz had sent as the price of this ruinous help.
Distressed him, but strengthened him not.—This is correct. A possible rendering is: “and besieged him, and conquered him not”; but the context is against it. (The word chazaq, “strengthened,” everywhere else means to be strong, or, to prevail. LXX. omits the last words, rendering the whole καὶ ἐπάταξεν αὐτόν. Syriac and Arabic, “besieged him.” The Vulg. has: “et afflixit eum, et nullo resistente vastavit.” That Judah now became tributary to Assyria is evident from 2Kings 18:7; 2Kings 18:14; 2Kings 18:20.
For Ahaz took away a portion out of the house of the LORD, and out of the house of the king, and of the princes, and gave it unto the king of Assyria: but he helped him not.(21) Took away a portion . . . gave it.—Rather, For Ahaz had despoiled the house of the Lord, and the house of the king and the princes, and had given it. (Comp. 2Kings 16:8.)
The princes—i.e., the great courtiers living in the palace, whose valuables as well as those of Ahaz were ransacked to make up the costly bribe. (Syriac and Arabic, “the vessels which were in the house of the Lord, and in the house of the former kings, and in the rich houses.”)
But he helped him not.—And it was not for help (i.e., it resulted not in help) to him. His submission to Tiglath brought him no real advantage, but rather hastened the downfall of his kingdom.
“The Assyrians had no regard to the welfare of their vassals. The principle of the monarchy was plunder; and Ahaz, whose treasures had been exhausted by his first tribute, was soon driven, by the repeated demands of his masters, to strip the Temple even of its ancient bronze-work and other fixed ornaments (2Kings 16:17, seq.). The time was not far off when the rapacity of the Assyrian could no longer be satisfied, and his plundering hordes would be let loose upon the land” (Robertson Smith).
And in the time of his distress did he trespass yet more against the LORD: this is that king Ahaz.AHAZ ADOPTS THE SYRIAN IDOLATRY, AND CLOSES THE TEMPLE (2Chronicles 28:22-25; comp. 2Kings 16:10-18).
(22) In the time of his distress.—At the time when he (Tiglath) oppressed him, i.e., at the time when Ahaz went to Damascus to do homage to the Assyrian monarch (2Kings 16:10), probably in reluctant obedience to a peremptory mandate.
Did he trespass . . . Ahaz.—He dealt yet more unfaithfully towards Jehovah, he, king Ahaz. The subject is emphatically repeated: “he, king Ahaz,” who had already been sorely chastised, sinned yet more. Or “he, king Ahaz,” the notorious apostate.
For he sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus, which smote him: and he said, Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, therefore will I sacrifice to them, that they may help me. But they were the ruin of him, and of all Israel.(23) For (and) he sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus.—The statement of this verse is peculiar to the Chronicle; and the same may be said of the next also. Both here and in the preceding account of the relations of Ahaz to Tiglath-pileser, the writer appears to have drawn upon another source than the book of Kings.
Damascus may, perhaps, be put for the Damascenes, though in that case Aram would have been more natural. (Not “at Damascus,” as Thenius renders.)
Which smote him.—Did the chronicler himself believe that the gods of Aram had any power or real existence? That such was the common belief of the Israelites in the days of Ahaz appears certain. (See Exodus 15:11; Judges 11:24; 1Samuel 26:19.) In the latter half of Isaiah we find the nothingness of the false gods strongly asserted; but there was also another current opinion, which St. Paul repeats, and which Milton has adopted in Paradise Lost, viz., that “the things which the heathen sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons” (1Corinthians 8:4; 1Corinthians 10:20; Deuteronomy 32:17).
Because the gods.—Omit because (the Hebrew particle simply introduces what the speaker said). “The gods of the kings of Aram, they help them; to them will I sacrifice, that they may help me.” Such is the word ascribed to Ahaz, implying a doubt of Jehovah's power or willingness to help. (Ma'zĕrîm, “help,” an Aramaised form.)
But they were the ruin of him, and of all Israel.—Literally, and they (i.e., those very gods) were to him to make him stumble, and all Israel. The mode of expression, as well as the thought expressed, is highly characteristic.
Israel = Judah, as usual.
And Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the house of God, and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and shut up the doors of the house of the LORD, and he made him altars in every corner of Jerusalem.(24) Gathered together the vessels.—According to some MSS. the Syriac, Arabic, Vulg., and Targum, all the vessels.
And cut in pieces the vessels.—Literally, trimmed (qiççaç), i.e., cut off their metal ornaments. The same word is used in 2Kings 16:17, where it is said, “And king Ahaz cut off the plates of the bases, and removed the laver from upon them, and the sea he took down from off the brazen oxen that were under it, and put it on a pavement of stones.”
And shut up the doors of the house of the Lord.—Not in Kings. (Comp. 2Chronicles 29:3-7.) The doors of the sanctuary itself, not those of the great court, must be understood. (Comp. 2Kings 16:15-16, from which it appears that the new Syrian altar was erected in the inner court near the brazen altar.) By closing the doors Ahaz suspended all rites that could only be duly performed within the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. (Thenius thinks the verse involves a misunderstanding of 2Kings 16:18.)
In every corner of (in) Jerusalem.—Wanting in Kings.
And in every several city of Judah he made high places to burn incense unto other gods, and provoked to anger the LORD God of his fathers.(25) And in every several city of Judah he made high places.—Comp. 2Chronicles 28:2-4.
And provoked to anger.—Deuteronomy 32:16. Instead of this 2Chronicles 28:18 obscurely mentions further changes which Ahaz made in the Temple, “for fear of the king of Assyria." It seems probable that the sacrilege described in 2Chronicles 28:24 and in 2Kings 16:17-18, was perpetrated in collecting everything of any value to send to the rapacious Assyrian.
Now the rest of his acts and of all his ways, first and last, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.CLOSING NOTICES (2Chronicles 28:26-27. Comp. 2Kings 16:19-20).
(26) Now the rest of his acts, and of all his ways.—The chronicler has varied the usual formula. (See chapter 25:26, 26:7, &c., and comp. 2Kings 16:19.)
But (for) they brought him not into the sepulchres of the kings of Israel.—Wanting in Kings. (See Note on chaps, 21:20, 26:23.) Thenius supposes that this statement is founded either upon mistake, or upon zeal for the Law. But why not upon a written authority?