2 Kings 16
Benson Commentary
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.
2 Kings 16:2. Ahaz did not that which was right in the sight of the Lord — Contrary to what might have been expected, considering the good education which, doubtless, Jotham, his pious father, gave him, and the excellent example he set him. Like David his father — Or progenitor. It was his honour that he was of the house and lineage of David, and it was owing to God’s ancient covenant with David, that he was now upon the throne: but he had none of that concern and affection for the instituted worship and service of God, for which David was so remarkable. He had no love for the temple, made no conscience of his duty to God, nor had any regard to his law, and therefore was a reproach to that honourable name and family, to which he was under such great obligations, and which, of consequence, was really a reproach to him, showing his wickedness in a more aggravated point of view.

But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, yea, and 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.
2 Kings 16:3. He walked in the way of the kings of Israel — Who all worshipped the calves, and were therefore idolaters. He was not joined in any affinity with them, as Jehoram and Ahaziah were with the house of Ahab, but of his own accord and voluntary motion, and, without any instigation, he walked in their way. The kings of Israel pleaded policy and reasons of state for their idolatry; but Ahaz had no such pretence: in him it was the most unreasonable and impolitic conduct that could be. They were his enemies, and had manifested that they were enemies to themselves too by their idolatry; yet he walked in their way. And made his son to pass through the fire — By way of oblation, so as to be consumed for a burnt- offering, which was the practice of heathen, and of some Israelites in imitation of them. Thus 2 Chronicles 28:3, it is said, He burned his children in the fire, that is, some of them, first one, as is here mentioned, and afterward others, as is there observed. See on Leviticus 18:21, and Deuteronomy 18:10. According to the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out — It was an instance of his great folly that, in his religion, he would be guided by and imitate those whom he saw fallen into the ditch before his eyes; and of his great impiety, that he would conform to those usages which God had declared to be abominable to him.

And he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree.
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.

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.
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.

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.
So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglathpileser 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.
2 Kings 16:7. So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser — Having forsaken God, he had neither courage nor strength to make head against his enemies, and therefore made his court to the king of Assyria, and endeavoured to prevail on him to come to his relief. But was it because there was not a God in Israel that he sent to the Assyrian for help? The truth is, he could not with any confidence ask help of God, being conscious he had abandoned his worship, and in the grossest manner violated his laws. Observe, reader, they whose hearts condemn them will go any whither for help, in a day of distress, rather than to God. Saying, I am thy servant and thy son: come up, and save me — I yield myself to thee as thy vassal, to serve and obey thee, and pay thee tribute, upon condition that thou wilt assist me against my enemies. Had he thus humbled himself to God, and implored his favour, he might have been delivered upon easier terms, might have saved his money, and needed only to have parted with his sins. Out of the hand of the king of Syria, &c. — For though they were now gone from Jerusalem, yet he justly concluded they would return again, and, from time to time, molest and vex him.

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.
2 Kings 16:8. And Ahaz took the silver, &c. — The treasures of the house of the Lord, and of the king’s house, had been sent some years before by Jehoash to the king of Syria, 2 Kings 12:18. It seems, however, they had been well replenished again by the piety of his successors, Amaziah, Azariah, and especially Jotham. But what authority had Ahaz to dispose thus of the public money, and exhaust the treasures of both church and state, to gratify his new patron and guardian? We can only answer, that it is common for those, who have brought themselves into straits by one sin, to endeavour to extricate themselves by another. And those that have alienated themselves from God, will make no difficulty in alienating from him any other of his rights. In this instance, the sin itself was its own punishment; for, though the king of Assyria hearkened unto Ahaz, and, for his own ends, made a descent on Damascus, and took it, thereby giving a powerful diversion to the king of Syria, and obliging him to forego his design against Jerusalem; yet Ahaz made but an ill bargain, seeing he not only robbed the temple, and expended his own treasures, but enslaved both himself and his people 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.
2 Kings 16:9. And carried the people of it captive to Kir — Not Kir of Moab, (Isaiah 15:1,) but a part of Media, which was then subject to the king of Assyria. It is remarkable, that this taking of Damascus, and carrying the inhabitants of it captive to this place, nay, and the slaying of Rezin the king, was expressly foretold by Amos some time before it happened. See the margin.

And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus: and king Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar, and the pattern of it, according to all the workmanship thereof.
2 Kings 16:10. And King Ahaz went to meet Tiglath-pileser — To congratulate his victory, acknowledge his favour and help, and to beg the continuance of it. And saw an altar that was at Damascus — Of an excellent structure, as he supposed, upon which the Syrians used to offer to their idols, 2 Chronicles 28:23. Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar — That a pattern of it might be taken immediately. He could not stay till he should return to Jerusalem himself, but sent it before him, in all haste, with orders to Urijah, to get one made exactly according to this model, and have it ready against he came home. The pattern God showed to Moses in the mount, or to David by the Spirit, was not comparable to this pattern sent from Damascus!

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.
2 Kings 16:11-12. And Urijah built an altar, &c. — He complied with the king’s command against his own conscience, and against the express command of that great God to whom the king and he both were subject. The priest made it against Ahaz came from Damascus — He made haste and delayed not to do it, to please the king, and advance himself. The king approached to the altar, and offered thereon — Namely, a sacrifice, and that not unto God, but unto the Syrian idols, (2 Chronicles 28:23-24,) to whom that altar was appropriated. A wonderful blindness, to worship those gods, and expect help from them, who could not preserve their own country from ruin! Whether Ahaz offered this sacrifice himself, or by a priest, is not certain.

And when the king was come from Damascus, the king saw the altar: and the king approached to the altar, and offered thereon.
And he burnt his burnt offering and his meat offering, and poured his drink offering, and sprinkled the blood of his peace offerings, upon the altar.
2 Kings 16:13-14. And he burned his burnt-offering, &c. — For the heathen, and Ahaz, in imitation of them, offered the same sorts of offerings to their false gods which the Israelites did to the true. He brought also the brazen altar — Namely, the altar of burnt-offerings made by Solomon, and placed there by God’s appointment; from before the Lord — That is, from before the Lord’s house, Leviticus 1:3. From between the altar, &c. — Urijah had placed Ahaz’s altar behind that of the Lord, namely, between it and the east gate of the court of the priests: but when Ahaz came, taking this for a disparagement to his altar, he impiously and audaciously removed the altar of the Lord to the north side of the court, and set his own in the place of it. A bolder stroke this, than the very worst of the kings had hitherto given to religion.

And he brought also the brasen altar, which was before the LORD, from the forefront of the house, from between the altar and the house of the LORD, and put it on the north side of the altar.
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 offering 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 brasen altar shall be for me to inquire by.
2 Kings 16:15. Ahaz commanded, Upon the great altar burn the morning burnt-offering, &c. — He made a solemn injunction, that all the public sacrifices, of what sort soever they were, whether made by himself or by the people, should be constantly offered upon his altar, which he calls the great altar, because it was much larger, it is probable, than the altar of God. The command, probably, referred principally, if not only, to sacrifices to be offered to the true God, whose service, it seems, he had not yet utterly forsaken, but occasionally worshipped idols with him. The brazen altar shall be for me to inquire by — That shall be reserved for my proper use, at which I may seek God, or inquire his will, by sacrifices joined with prayer, when I shall see fit. He says only, לבקר, lebakker, to seek, or to inquire; not to seek the Lord, or to inquire of the Lord, as the phrase is more largely expressed elsewhere: for, says Poole, “he would not vouchsafe to mention the name of the Lord, whom he had so grossly forsaken and despised.” Thus, having thrust out the altar of God from the use for which it was instituted, which was to sanctify the gifts offered upon it, he pretends to advance it above its institution, a practice common with superstitious people. But to overdo is to under do. The altar was never designed for an oracle, but Ahaz will have it for that use. Some, indeed, put a different sense on Ahaz’s words, and understand him to mean, As for the brazen altar, I will consider what to do with it, and will give orders accordingly.”

Thus did Urijah the priest, according to all that king Ahaz commanded.
2 Kings 16:16. Thus did Urijah the priest, &c. — Having once begun to defile his conscience, he could not now make an honourable retreat, and therefore proceeds to execute all the king’s commands.

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 brasen oxen that were under it, and put it upon a pavement of stones.
2 Kings 16:17. Ahaz cut off the borders of the bases, and took down the sea from off the brazen oxen, &c. — Probably that he might dispose of them, or of the brass of them, in some other way; perhaps that he might turn them into money, either by casting them into such pieces as were current, or by selling them as they were.

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.
2 Kings 16:18. The covert for the sabbath, turned he from the house of the Lord — There is a great variety of opinions concerning this מוסךְ השׂבת, musach hahsabbath, or covert of, or for the sabbath, here spoken of, and why it is so called. Mr. Locke says, It was something made for the purpose of covering the people from the injuries of the weather on the sabbath days, when more were wont to assemble at the temple than the porch could contain: and Houbigant supposes it was something of the same kind. It is, indeed, generally understood to have been some building, either where the priests, after their weekly course was ended, abode until the next course came, which they did upon the sabbath day; or in which the guard of the temple kept their station; or some canopy, or other covered place, under which the king used to sit to hear God’s word, and see the sacrifices, which might be called the covert of the sabbath, because the chief times in which the king used it for those ends was the weekly sabbath, and other solemn days of feasting or fasting, (which all come under the name of sabbaths, in the Old Testament,) upon which the king used more solemnly to present himself before the Lord than at other times. “And the reason,” says Dr. Dodd, “why the king ordered this to be taken away was, because he intended to trouble himself no more with coming to the temple, and by this action to express his hatred and contempt of the sabbath, as his removing the bases, the laver, and the brazen sea, was probably with a design to deface the service of God in the temple, and thence to bring it into public disesteem.” The king’s entry without — The passage by which he used to go from his palace to the temple, and which had been made for the convenience of the royal family; turned he — Another way, and for other uses, from the house of the Lord — To show that he did not intend to frequent the house of the Lord any longer. For the king of Assyria — To oblige him, who probably had returned his visit, and found fault with this entry, as inconvenient, and a disparagement to his palace. Thus, to ingratiate himself with this heathen king, he expresses his public contempt and rejection of that religion which had been the only partition wall between the kings of Judah and other kings.

Now the rest of the acts of Ahaz which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
And Ahaz slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David: and Hezekiah his son reigned in his stead.
2 Kings 16:20. And Ahaz slept with his fathers — Resigning his life in the midst of his days, at thirty-six years of age, and leaving his kingdom to a better man, Hezekiah his son, who proved as much a friend to the temple as Ahaz had been an enemy to it.

Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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