The Wickedness of Ahaz
2 Kings 16:1-4
In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah Ahaz the son of Jotham king of Judah began to reign.…

The history has passed rapidly over the later kings of Israel. That kingdom was lost beyond recovery. "The victim having once got his stroke-of-grace, the catastrophe can be considered as almost come. There is small interest now in watching his long low moans; notable only are his sharper agonies, what convulsive struggles he may make to cast the torture off from him; and then, finally, the last departure of life itself" (Carlyle). In Judah the crisis too is approaching, but it is not yet reached. Prophets and good kings are yet to do their utmost for the nation. But a reign like that of Ahaz is a sensible step in the advance to the catastrophe.

I. THE CHARACTER OF THE KING. Though the son of the vigorous Jotham, and already twenty or twenty-five years old when he ascended the throne, Ahaz proved one of the weakest and most incapable of rulers. One sees in him the reflection of the luxurious and effeminate age described by Isaiah 3:12-26. Feeble, petulant, arbitrary, in his ways of acting; without strength of mind or strength of will; busying interests of his kingdom were at stake; craven in war; above all, full of religiosity and himself in dilettante fashion with novelties, with altars and sun-dials, while the greatest superstition without the faintest spark of true religion - "this is that King Ahaz" (2 Chronicles 28:22). Possibly his father Jotham was too much occupied with state and public affairs to give the necessary attention to his softs education - a fatal mistake not unfrequently committed by parents.

II. HIS ABOUNDING IDOLATRIES. Ahaz displays great zeal of his own kind in religion, but it is zeal of the most perverse and suicidal description. We observe:

1. His imitation of the kings of Israel. He took for his pattern, not his ancestor David, the type of the true theocratic king, but the wicked kings of the northern kingdom, whose idolatries were bringing their own realm to ruin. He made, like them, molten images to Baal, and sacrificed to them (2 Chronicles 28:2). Wicked men seem absolutely impervious to warning. The northern kingdom was an object-lesson, to those who had eyes to see, of the folly and fatal effects of this very course on which Ahaz was now entering. Yet he would not be deterred.

2. His reversion to Canaanitish practices. Not content with importing the licentious Baal-worship patronized in Israel, Ahaz revived the worst abominations of the old Canaanitish religions. He even went so far as to sacrifice his own son to Moloch in the valley of Hinnom - a deed indicating a degree of fanaticism, a blunting of the moral sense, and a depth of superstition which could hardly have been believed possible in a King of Judah. It was, moreover, a daring defiance of the direct letter of God's Law (Deuteronomy 12:31). Well might such a deed bring down wrath on Judah!

3. His extravagance in worship. It is further narrated that Ahaz sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree. Worship in this reign seemed to have run riot; yet there was no true religion in it. All this depraved religiosity was but a manifestation of self-will, of subjective caprice; it had its origin in superstition and an impure craving for excitement, not in the fear of God. Yet Ahaz, in his dilettante way of looking at things, may have thought that he was introducing improvements into Jewish religion. He may have flattered himself that he was robbing it of its narrowness, and giving it the philosophic breadth suitable to persons of taste and culture. He might argue that there was something good in all religions; that all were but diverse expressions, equally acceptable to God, of the fundamental instinct of worship; and that none, therefore, ought to be despised. We hear such arguments nowadays, and they may very well have been used then. Ahaz was but going in for a species of Jewish Broad-Churchism. But the Bible brands this so-called breadth of view as treason against the God who has definitely revealed his will to men, and taught them how they are, and how they are not, to worship him. The true lessons to be learned from this conduct of Ahaz is that religiosity - delight in sensuous and impure religious services - is far different from religion; that altars may be multiplied, yet multiplied only to sin (Hosea 8:11); that the religious instinct, itself the noblest part of man, is capable of the most perverted developments; that only worship according to his own commandment is acceptable to God.

III. NOT ALONE IN SINNING. The lengths to which Ahaz could go, apparently without awakening any public opposition, show that the heart of the nation also had widely departed from God. This is borne out by the descriptions in Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 2:6-8; Isaiah 3:16-26; Isaiah 5:8-25). The king's innovations were acceptable to a people wearied of the severer worship of Jehovah. They were glad to have the services adapted to their corrupt and dissolute tastes. "The carnal mind is enmity against God" (Romans 8:7). - J.O.

Parallel Verses
KJV: In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah Ahaz the son of Jotham king of Judah began to reign.

WEB: In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah Ahaz the son of Jotham king of Judah began to reign.

Steps in a Downward Path: the Reign of Ahaz
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