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The Just and the Abominable

J Gibson, Derby

This study looks at a good man and his ungodly son. Although a spiritual interest can be encouraged and nurtured, it cannot be inherited. The new birth is "not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (Jn 1.13). Ahaz’s story in particular throws up many sinful practices and attitudes that Christians should avoid, as well as showing how well the Old Testament prophets and historical records complement each other.

Jotham the Just (2 Kings 15.32-38; 2 Chr 27)

In the closing years of Jotham’s 16-year reign "the Lord began to send against Judah Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah" (1 Kings 15.37). This was probably because of the people’s sins, for although Jotham lived up to the meaning of his name, "Jehovah is upright", the king’s convictions were not shared by his subjects; as "a godly man [he] stood at the helm of a godless nation".1 "The people did yet corruptly" (2 Chr 27.2), continuing to sacrifice in the high places, tokens of human pride which inevitably fragmented the nation’s worship (2 Kings 15.35).

Jotham’s success in the things of God had several important ingredients. Ruling Judah during the prophetic ministry of Isaiah meant a rich exposure to the word of God - essential preparation for God’s men (Is 1.1; 2 Tim 3.16-17). He "became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God" (2 Chr 27.6), carefully ordering his life with the consciousness that God was watching him: a great impetus for godly living. Neither did Jotham allow his father’s failure to impede his own spiritual progress. He learnt from it. Co-reigning during his father’s last years because of Uzziah’s leprosy – a permanent reminder of his pride (2 Chr 26.21) – Jotham emulated his father’s good ways, doing "that which was right in the sight of the Lord", but he humbly accepted the limitation of his responsibility as king, cautiously refraining from entering the temple to usurp the priestly role (2 Chr 27.2). He was a prolific builder (2 Kings 15.35; 2 Chr 27.3,4), building the house for worship and the wall for protection, both needful for God’s people in every generation. Jotham conquered the Ammonites who paid tribute (2 Chr 27.5), and he may even have won the hearts of the tribe of Gad who had settled in trans-Jordan. This would explain his freedom to take a registry of that tribe (1 Chr 5.11-17). Overall, Jotham was a man full of enthusiasm for the Lord, an example worth following.

Ahaz the Abominable (2 Kings 16; 2 Chr 28; Is 7.1-8.8)

Ahaz was one of the worst kings to sit on David’s throne. He "did not that which was right in the sight of the Lord his God, like David his father. But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel" (2 Kings 16.2-3). It was under Ahaz’s leadership that Judah forsook "the Lord God of their fathers (2 Chr 28.6): "he made Judah naked, and transgressed sore against the Lord" (2 Chr 28.19). His rule was so bad that he was not buried with the other Judean kings (2 Chr 28.27).

Ahaz pursued idolatry with abandon. He sacrificed his own son in the worship of Moloch, an abominable Canaanite practice (2 Kings 16.3). He made molten images to Baal (2 Chr 28.2). His idolatry was so widespread that "he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree" (2 Kings 16.4). And God punished him for it, delivering him into the hands of surrounding nations. To the north, Ahaz faced the kings of Israel and Syria – Rezin and Pekah – who in their scheming were simply working out the purpose of God (2 Chr 28.5,6,9; Is 7.5). These two kings attacked Judah ferociously (2 Kings 16.5). They took Elath (2 Kings 16.6). They "slew [harag "signifies to murder, massacre, butcher"2] in Judah an hundred and twenty thousand in one day, which were all valiant men" (2 Chr 28.6), killed important governmental officials, and carried captive 200,000 with much spoil to Samaria (2 Chr 28.7-8). Determined to replace Ahaz with the son of Tabeal, Rezin and Pekah advanced towards Jerusalem, failing to overcome it (2 Kings 16.5; Is 7.1,6). This attack from the north terrified Judah like the wind blowing through a forest (Is 7.2). God raised even more adversaries against Ahaz because of his sins (2 Chr 28.19). From the south-east Edom smote "Judah, and carried away captives (2 Chr 28.17). The Philistines from the west invaded Judah’s territory, taking villages (2 Chr 28.18). Sadly, "in the time of his distress did he trespass yet more and more against the Lord: this is that king Ahaz" (2 Chr 28.22). He even sacrificed to "the gods of Damascus which smote him…But they were the ruin of him" (2 Chr 28.23). God help us to obey the New Testament exhortations to "flee from idolatry" (1 Cor 10.14), and to "keep [ourselves] from idols" (1 Jn 5.21).

Ahaz spurned God’s grace. God limited the damage inflicted on the southern kingdom. Oded ensured the safe return of two hundred thousand Judean captives (2 Chr 28.9-15). And Isaiah, accompanied by his son Shearjashub, came with a message of hope to wicked king Ahaz (Is 7.1-8.8). Isaiah assured Ahaz that the angry plan of the northern confederacy would "not stand, neither shall it come to pass" (Is 7.7), and within 65 years "shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people" (Is 7.8). Isaiah’s words provide an ideal framework for how believers should respond to adversity. "Fear not, neither be fainthearted" (Is 7.4). See problems as very small, especially in view of the greatness of God.

Isaiah described these two dangerous northern kings as "two smoldering stumps of firebrands" (Is 7.4, ESV), almost ready to go out. And above all, "have faith in God" (Mk 11.22), for "If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established" (Is 7.9). To encourage Ahaz’s faith Isaiah offered him a spectacular sign without limits – "either in the depth, or in the height above" (Is 7.11). But wicked Ahaz, with false piety, scornfully brushed aside this gracious offer (Is 7.12). Although Ahaz rejected it, God gave a sign, and what a sign it was: "before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings" (Is 7.16) – a sign fully realised in our Lord Jesus Christ.

• Virgin conception – "a virgin shall conceive"

• Deity – "call his name Immanuel," meaning "God with us" (Mt 1.23)

• Poverty – "Butter and honey" are "indicative of impoverishment. Thickened milk and honey were the food of desert wanderers"3

• Integrity – "he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good".

Ahaz trusted in worldly allies. Rejecting God’s offer of salvation and His extensive warnings against trusting the Assyrians (Is 7.17-8.8), Ahaz deliberately spoiled the House of God, sending its treasures to the Assyrian monarch. Although at first it seemed to succeed – the Assyrians destroyed Damascus (2 Kings 16.7-9; Is 8.4; see also Amos 1.3-5) – Assyria soon cast its greedy eyes on Judah. In the end the Assyrians did not help or strengthen Ahaz, but distressed him (2 Chr 28.20-21), and in Hezekiah’s day mounted a full scale invasion of Judah (Is 36.1), all the way to Jerusalem, failing to take the capital (Is 8.8). "The more [Ahaz] gave to Tiglath-pileser the more was demanded of him."4 How like the god of this world, who never has enough of us! Let us beware of turning to the world instead of to the living God for deliverance from adversity.

Ahaz tampered with the worship of Jehovah. He replaced God’s altar at Jerusalem with an Assyrian-based, visually impressive model termed "the great altar" (2 Kings 16.10-16). Afterwards, Ahaz seemed uncertain what to do with the brazen altar, saying it "will be to me for deliberation"5 (2 Kings 16.15); as the proverb says, "a snare to a man is he hath swallowed a holy thing, And after vows to make inquiry" (Pr 20.25, YLT). To his shame, Urijah the priest, who should have known better, acquiesced to Ahaz’s request. Ahaz went further. He defaced the beautiful and priceless temple furniture (2 Kings 16.17; 2 Chr 28.24), perhaps "merely [breaking] off the panels from the stands and [removing] the oxen from the brazen sea, that he might use these artistic works to decorate some other place, possibly his palace".6 Many of these vessels remained until the later Babylonian invasion (Jer 27.19; 52.17-23). "The covered way for the sabbath" was removed (2 Kings 16.18) and the doors of the Lord’s house shut; Ahaz "made him altars in every corner of Jerusalem" (2 Chr 28.24).

Ahaz’s crimes were great. God must not be worshipped by worldly methods, however impressive, but by strict adherence to the Bible’s teachings. Ahaz warns us that if we stop worshipping God in His way we will eventually stop worshipping Him at all, and once we turn from the true God there is no limit to our downward spiral.


1Riddle, J M. Kings of Judah (Kilmarnock, Scotland: John Ritchie Ltd., 2003), p. 43

2Keil & Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament (Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, 1996), 3:671

3Vine, W E. The Collected Writings of WE Vine, 5 vols. (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996), 1:79

4Davis, J J, Whitcomb, J C. ISRAEL, From Conquest to Exile (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1992), p.445.

5Keil & Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament (Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, 1996), 3:288

6Keil & Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament (Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, 1996), 3:290


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