II Kings 15:28–II Kings 16:20. II Chronicles 27–28.
Jotham and Ahaz. The Pro-assyrian Policy.
Isa. 7–8. Isaiah the Prophet Responds
Key Notes: Ahaz caught in a 4-way bind. The failure of compromises. Do not fear.
IIK.15:32–37 Jotham, son of Uzziah, reigned from age 25 to 41. However, he was coregent with his father for 15 years while Uzziah was in quarantine with leprosy. Jotham apparently was also overlapped by his son Ahaz, so that he had sole responsibility for the kingdom for only 2–3 years.
He was a godly man and Judah appeared religiously healthy except for offering incense on the high places. However, Israel and Syria were already threatening Judah. They wanted Jotham out of the way so that they could make a triple alliance (Judah / Israel / Syria) against Assyria.
The Chronicler adds that Jotham built cities in the high country, forts and towers in the woods. He defeated the Ammonites and received tribute for two years. He became strong. God was with him.
IIK. 16:1–4 Jotham’s son Ahaz did not follow his father. This spiritually poor, politically unfortunate young man was put into power at the age of twenty, the year 735BC. It is speculated (International Stand. Bible. Encyclo.) that a pro-Assyrian party had him put in as co-regent with Jotham to reverse Judah’s policy of neutrality. He was caught between the pro-Assyrian party in Judah, the prophet’s party that counseled neutrality, the alliance of Syria and Israel to the North—and God. Ahaz was a pagan; he offered his son as a sacrifice, and burned incense everywhere. He ran into one disaster after another.
IIChron.28:8–16. Almost at once he was hit by an invasion of Syrians who carried many away as captives to Damascus. Then Pekah, king of Israel, came and slaughtered 120,000 able fighting men in one day, including a son of the king, the palace commander and the king’s steward. Pekah took 200,000 women and children as slaves back to Samaria.
A prophet of God in Samaria, Oded, intervened. He acknowledged that God had authorized the defeat of Judah. However, Israel, had fought with unwarranted savagery and was now adding to its own sin-burden by enslaving the survivors. God’s wrath was against Israel also. He ordered the prisoners sent back. Some of the chiefs echoed his words to the returning army. The army abandoned their captives. These chiefs clothed and fed the captives and returned them to Jericho to their relatives.
Isa. 7:1–9 Israel and Syria made an alliance against Judah in 734BC that frightened king Ahaz and his court. Judah shook like the leaves on a tree. Isaiah prophesied that the alliance would not hold. It would not last 5 years, the time a child grows to the age of accountability.
Isa. 7:10–17 The Philistines were occupying Judah’s villages, and the Edomites took captives. Ahaz appealed to Tiglath-Pilezer of Assyria. TheAssyrians invaded Philistia in 734BC, hardly a year after Ahaz came to power.
IIK.16:5–9 Syria under Rezin and Israel under Pekah attacked Judah. They intended to depose Ahaz and put a puppet king, Tabeel, in his place. (Isa.7:7). Ahaz asked help from Assyria. Tiglash-Pileser responded. He conquered Syria and killed their king Rezin in 732.
Pekah of Israel was assassinated in 731BC, confirming Isaiah’s prophecy.
IIK.16:1–18 When Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser, he found a altar that took his fancy. He had it copied exactly by Uriah the priest. Uriah had it ready for the king on his return to Jerusalem. He displaced the brazen altar from the entrance to the Temple and offered his sacrifices on the new pagan altar. The mention of burnt offering, cereal offering, drink offering and peace offering suggest that Ahaz was mixing rituals from Leviticus with his pagan practices.
Ahaz also salvaged bronze from the temple, taking away the twelve bronze oxen on which the laver stood and replacing them with a stone. He also trimmed bronze from other articles of furniture. Everything he could collect was sent to the king of Assyria. He even modified the entrance to the Temple with the Assyrians in mind.
IIChron.28:21–27 In all his distress, Ahaz went everywhere except to God. He worshiped the gods of the Syrians who had defeated him. He shut up the Temple and worshiped everywhere else. Whatever he did hurt him. Assyria hurt him. In four short years, the political landscape had been greatly altered. Syria was conquered. Israel was weakened. Assyria was at the borders of the Northern Kingdom, and had occupied Philistia, on the western side of Judah.
The parallel history written by Isaiah (Isa. 7–9) is instructive. Isaiah, God’s premier OT writing-prophet first came on the scene with Ahaz in 734BC when the Syrian-Israelite alliance became known. Syria and Israel wanted Judah to go into a federation with them to counter Assyria. When Judah refused, they decided to conquer it and put their man in power.
Isa.7:1–9. Isaiah’s message to Ahaz was spoken at the end of the conduit that delivered Jerusalem’s water supply: Listen; don’t be afraid; don’t be faint thinking of Syria and Israel. The alliance will not stand.
7:10–8:8. Ahaz heard the names of three children, two belonging to Isaiah, sounding like a set of telegrams—good news and bad news.
*Isaiah’s first son: Shear-jashub (“a remnant shall return”) is the sound of distant hope after a soon disaster.
*The birth of a child to an unmarried woman in Jerusalem : Immanuel (“God is with us”) has two meanings: God is with His children for blessing; God is against the wicked for judgment.
*Isaiah”s second son: Maher-shalal-hash-baz (“Spoil speeds; prey hastens”; “Quick to the plunder; swift to the spoil”) says that the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be soon be dispersed. In other words, Judah will be relieved of this threat.
Ahaz was also warned that Assyria will shave Judah as with a razor. It will flood the country up to the neck. Nothing Judah does will change that. It is ironic that Ahaz’s ally turned out to be his worst enemy.
Isa. 8:11–22. However, God also gave a word to the prophet and his people. They would not be suddenly taken out of the coming disaster, but must be prepared to live through it.
God said "Don’t call conspiracy what Judah calls conspiracy". Judah sees the Israel /Syria alliance as the problem. It is in fact God at work against Judah that is the problem.
- Fear God and remember His Holiness.
- He is a sanctuary for his people.
- He is also an obstacle, an offense, a trap to Jerusalem.
- The prophet and his disciples are to wait on the Lord, standing as signs, forewarnings to Judah.
- The rest of the people will try wizards and mediums but they will end up in abject distress.
In the face of disaster. God told Ahaz not to fear. Certainly in the short run he was going to be relieved, but he must turn to God for further protection because Assyria (his wicked and cynical ally) is only a few miles away.
The prophet himself is also faced with the same political crisis and military threats. God told him also not to fear. God would be protection for him, his children and his disciples.
How are we to react to threat? Sixty-six or more times in Scripture we hear the admonition not to be afraid. We are not to fear anything but God. Not anthrax, not SARS, nor bombs, nor economic collapse. Prudent preparation is of course required. Even the ant knows that. (Prov.30:25). But not fear. It is a command, not a suggestion.
How can we be held accountable for our fears? Aren’t we a boiling pot, a caldron of turbulent, even violent emotions? “I can’t help it.” “He makes me mad.” “I am shaking in my shoes.” “I wish I had your faith.” ”I hate Moslems”.
We know that God commands us to love Him and our neighbors. If we think about it, all of our strong and primary emotions are under our responsibility. We hear less about control of fear than the other emotions. It is as much of a sin as lust or hate. Like the others sins and temptations, we must plan for it in advance.
*The faithless are condemned. Lk.9:41
*Trust in God is necessary. Prov.2:5,6
*Hatred is gone, part of the Old Life. Tit.3:3
*Perplexed perhaps, but we must not give into despair. IICor.4:8
*Anger must not overwhelm. Eph.4:26
*Fear is forbidden. Lk.12:5,7,32