A People's King and Priest; Or, Kinghood and Priesthood
2 Kings 16:1-20
In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah Ahaz the son of Jotham king of Judah began to reign.…

In the seventeenth year of Pekah, etc. Throughout all lands, almost throughout all times, two functionaries have been at the head of the peoples, too often treading them down by oppression, and fattening on them by their greed. One of these functionaries was not, among the Jews, of Divine ordinations; for the Almighty is represented as saying, "They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not." Let us notice each functionary as presented in this chapter - the king and the priest - the one named Ahaz, the other Urijah.

I. THE KINGHOOD. It is said, "In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah Ahaz the son of Jotham King of Judah began to reign. Twenty years old was Ahaz when he began to reign, and reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem, and did not that which was right in the sight of the Lord his God, like David his father." Here we learn that Ahaz, who was the son of Jotham, began to reign over Judah in his twentieth year, and that his reign continued for sixteen years. Elsewhere we are told that Hezekiah, his son, succeeded him at the age of twenty-five (see 2 Kings 18:17). According to this he became a father when he was only eleven years of age. This is not, necessarily, a mistake of the historian, since among the Jews in Tiberias there are mothers of eleven years of age and fathers of thirteen. And in Abyssinia boys of ten years and twelve years enter into the marriage relationship (see Keil). The account given of Ahaz in this chapter furnishes us with an illustration of several enormous evils.

1. The dehumanizing force of false religion. Ahaz was an idolater. "He walked in the way of the kings of Israel," we are told. Instead of worshipping the one true and living God, he bowed down before the idols of the heathen. This false religion of his made him so inhuman that he "made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out from before the children of Israel; and he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree." Moloch was this idol-god of fire, and the rabbins tell us "that it was made of brass, and placed on a brazen throne, and that the head was that of a calf, with a crown upon it. The throne and image were made hollow, and a furious fife was kindled within it. The flames penetrated into the body and limbs of the idol, and, when the arms were red hot, the victim was thrown into them, and was almost immediately burnt to death." The revolting cruelty of Moloch-worship is thus described by Milton -

"In Argob and in Basan, to the stream
Of utmost Arnon. Nor content with such
Audacious neighborhood, the wisest heart
Of Solomon he led by fraud to build

His temple right against the temple of God
On that opprobrious hill; and made his grove
The pleasant valley of Hinnom, Tophet thence
And black Gehenna call'd, the type of hell." Thus the idolatrous religion of this Ahaz dehumanized him, by destroying within him all parental affection and transforming him into a fiend. This is true, more or less, of all false religions. Idolatry is not the only religion that makes men cruel. A corrupt Judaism and a corrupt Christianity generate in their votaries the same dehumanizing results. False religion kindled in Paul the savage ferocity of a wild beast. "He breathed out slaughter." Ecclesiastical history abounds with illustrations.

2. The national curse of a corrupt kinghood. 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. At that time Rezin King of Syria recovered Elath to Syria, and drave the Jews from Elath: and the Syrians came to Elath, and dwelt there unto this day." These two kings, Rezin of Syria and Pekah of Israel, had their eyes upon this Ahaz, saw, perhaps, how his wickedness had injured his people, had taken away their heart and exhausted their resources, until they felt that this was the time for striking at Jerusalem, taking possession of the metropolis, and subjugating the country. And they made the attempt. Although they could not "overcome" Ahaz, and failed to strike him down personally, yet they "recovered Elath to Syria [or, 'Edom'], and drave the Jews from Elath." So it has ever been; corrupt kings expose their country to danger, they invite the invader and make way for him.

"Proudly up the regal heights they sit in pampered power,
While fires smoulder underground that strengthen every hour."

3. The mischievous issues of a temporary expediency. Ahaz, in order to extricate himself from the difficulties and trials which Rezin and Pekah had brought on his country, applies to the King of Assyria. "So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser King of Assyria, saying, I am thy servant and thy son: come up, and save me out of the hand of the King of Syria, and out of the hand of the King of Israel, which rise up against me. And Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king's house, and sent it for a present to the King of Assyria. And the King of Assyria hearkened unto him: for the King of Assyria went up against Damascus, and took it, and carried the people of it captive to Kir, and slew Rezin." What else could he do? To whom could he have looked for help in his emergency? The right thing to have done would have been the utter renunciation of his idolatry, submission to the Divine will, and invocation of the Almighty's help; but he followed what appeared to him the expedient, not the right, and hence two evils ensued.

(1) He degraded himself. He sold himself as a slave to the king whose help he invoked. "I am thy servant and thy son: come up, and save me out of the hand of the King of Syria." What more dishonorable thing can a man do than to renounce his independence and become the slave of another? He loses his self-respect, which is the very essence of true manhood.

(2) He impoverished his people. "And Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king's house, and sent it for a present to the King of Assyria." This silver and gold belonged to the nation. It was public property. What right had he to dispose of a fraction? No right whatever. Alas! it is not uncommon for kings to rob their people, consume what they have never produced, live on the property of others, and thus impoverish their subjects! What happened with Ahaz must happen with all, in the long run, who pursue the expedient rather than the right. The right alone is truly expedient.

II. HIS PRIESTHOOD. Urijah is the priest. There seems to have been more priests than one of this name, and little is known of this Urijah more than what is recorded in the present chapter. He was the priest, who at this time presided in the temple of Jerusalem. He seems to have been influential in the state, and, although a professed monotheist, was in far too close connection with Ahaz the idolatrous king. Two things are worthy of note concerning him, which too frequently characterize wicked priests in all times.

1. An obsequious obedience to the royal will. The Assyrian king, having taken Damascus, is visited by Ahaz in the city, the object of his visit being, no doubt, to congratulate him on his triumphs. While at Damascus, Ahaz is struck with the beauty of an altar. He seems to have been so charmed with it that he commands Urijah, the priest, to make one exactly like it. "And King Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar, and the pattern of it, according to all the workmanship thereof." Knowing the king's wishes, with shameful obsequiousness he sets to the work. "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. And when the king was come from Damascus, the king saw the altar: and the king approached to the altar, and offered thereon." This obsequious priest not only did this, but, without one word of protest or reproof, he witnessed the sacrifices of the king at the altar, and allowed the position of the brazen altar in the temple to be altered; further, he actually engaged, according to the king's command, in the services. "And King Ahaz commanded Urijah the priest, saying, Upon the great altar burn the morning burnt offering, and the evening meat offering, and the king's burnt sacrifice, and his meat offering, with the burnt offerings of all the people of the land, and their meat offering, and their drink offerings; and sprinkle upon it all the blood of the burnt offering, and all the blood of the sacrifice; and the brazen altar shall be for me to inquire by. Thus did Urijah the priest, according to all that King Ahaz commanded." Thus wicked priests have too often acted.

2. An obsequious silence to the royal profanation. See what the king did, no doubt in the presence of the priest. "And King Ahaz cut off the borders of the bases, and removed the laver from off them; and took down the sea from off the brazen oxen that were under it, and put it upon a pavement of stones. And the covert for the sabbath that they had built in the house, and the king's entry without, turned he from the house of the Lord for the King of Assyria." This fawning, sacerdotal traitor not only "did according to all King Ahaz commanded," but he stood by silently and witnessed without a word of protest this spoliation of the holy temple. Had he acted according to his profession as a minister of the most high God, he would have risen up in all the sternness of honesty and manhood against the first intimation of Ahaz concerning the construction of an unauthorized altar. He would have said, "We have a divinely sanctioned altar already; we do not need another." And when the command came to him to make such an altar, he would have felt it an insult to his conscience, an outrage on his loyalty to Heaven, and have broken into thunders of reproof. When he saw the king's hand employed in disturbing and altering the furniture of the temple, he would have resisted him, as Azariah resisted Uzziah when he wished to offer incense. But instead of this, he, like some of his class in almost every age, seems to have been transported with the honor of seeing the royal presence, hearing the royal voice, and doing the royal bidding. A true priest should, by inflexible loyalty to Heaven, mould kings to be lords paramount in all mundane affairs, and in none other; and should lead them to be very kings of men, governing, not by craft and force, fraud and violence, but by royal thoughts, actions, and aims. - D.T.

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.

A People's King and Priest, or Kinghood and Priesthood
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