“When the house of David heard
That Aram had allied itself
The heart of King Ahaz shook.
The heart of his people shook,
As the trees of the forest
Shake before the wind.”
King Ahaz had barely become king of Judah when this news that the King of Aram and Syria had joined with the King of Israel at Ephraim to come against him. Both he and his people of Judah were afraid. They were like shaking trees in a forest all shook up by the wind.
“In the days of King Ahaz,
Son of King Jotham,
Son of King Uzziah,
King of Judah,
King Rezin of Aram Syria
And King Pekah,
Son of Remaliah of Israel
Went up to attack Jerusalem.
But they could not mount
An attack against it.”
King Ahaz (736-716 BCE) was the grandson of King Uzziah, mentioned above, and the son of King Jotham (740-736 BCE) who ruled Judah. At the same time, King Rezin was the Syrian king of Aram from 792-732 BCE. He joined with the northern Israelite King Pekah (743-732 BCE) to attack Jerusalem. However, they were unable to mount an attack against Jerusalem. The story of King Ahaz can be found in 2 Kings, chapter 16 and 2 Chronicles, chapter 28.
“The vision of Isaiah
Son of Amoz.
He saw these visions
This was in the days
Of King Uzziah,
And King Hezekiah,
All were kings of Judah.”
This Book of Isaiah purports to be the visions of a man named Isaiah the son of Amoz. He came to Judah and Jerusalem during the time that King Uzziah (781-740 BCE) was king. He also was there when King Jotham (740-736 BCE), the son of Uzziah was king. His son King Ahaz (736-716 BCE) was also the king of Judah. Finally, he was around when King Hezekiah (716-687 BCE) was the king of Judah. Thus the prophetic life of Isaiah extended from at least 742-701 BCE if not further, during the time there were 4 kings in Judah, spanning almost 100 years. The name Isaiah means that “Yahweh gives salvation.” We do not know much about his early life, probably born around 765 BCE. The so-called Minor Prophets of Amos, Hosea, and Micah lived around the same time in the 8th century BCE. The northern kingdom of Israel in Samaria came to an end around 724 BCE. There were indications of Isaiah’s activity in 2 Kings, chapters 18-20, and 2 Chronicles, chapter 32 in a more summary fashion. However, the influence of Isaiah the prophet was profound.
“Then they went inside to King Hezekiah and said. ‘We have cleansed all the house of Yahweh, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils. We have cleaned the table for the rows of bread and all its utensils. All the utensils that King Ahaz repudiated during his reign when he was faithless, we have made ready and sanctified. See! They are in front of the altar of Yahweh.’”
After the purification and sanctification of the Temple, the priests and Levites reported back to King Hezekiah. In a kind of repudiation of his father, King Ahaz, the priests and Levites told King Hezekiah that the house of Yahweh was cleansed. The altar for the burnt offerings with all its utensils was ready. The table for the rows of bread was all set up. Everything was in its place ready to go, despite the terrible actions of his father.
“King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria came against King Ahaz. He oppressed him instead of strengthening him. King Ahaz plundered the house of the Yahweh and the houses of the king and of the offices. He gave tribute to the king of Assyria. However, it did not help him.”
This is loosely based on 2 Kings, chapter 16, but more succinct. Here King Ahaz is much worse. King Tiglath-pileser III, instead of helping King Ahaz, oppressed him. King Ahaz wanted to please the king of Assyria. It is not clear from the text how this pleased him. However, he took stuff from the Temple, the palace, and the officials to give tribute, but to no avail.
“Therefore Yahweh his God gave him into the hand of the king of Aram, who defeated him and took captive a great number of his people. He brought them to Damascus. King Ahaz was also given into the hand of the king of Israel, who defeated him with a great slaughter. King Pekah, son of King Remaliah, killed one hundred twenty thousand in Judah in one day, all of them were valiant warriors. Judah had abandoned Yahweh, the God of their ancestors. Zichri, a mighty warrior of Ephraim, killed the king’s son Maaseiah. He also killed Azrikam the commander of the palace and Elkanah the next in authority to the king. The men of Israel took captive two hundred thousand of their kin, women, sons, and daughters. They also took much booty from them. They brought the booty to Samaria”.
This is loosely based on 2 Kings, chapter 16. However, this is a different point of view compared to 2 Kings about this invasion from the north. King Rezin was the last king of Aram in Damascus before King Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria took over Damascus, and killed him. He sent his people into exile in Kir. Here he is not named. He is only listed as merely the king of Aram. The northern King Pekah of Israel joined with him to attack Jerusalem. Yahweh wanted them to defeat King Ahaz. In 2 Kings, they were unsuccessful because King Ahaz of Judah formed a coalition with the Assyrian King Tiglath-pileser III. King Ahaz said he would be his servant and sent a present to the king to become a vassal and get protection. So King Tiglath-pileser III was happy to get the money since he was planning to attack Damascus anyway. Here, however, they are successful and there is no alliance with the Assyrian king until later in the story. They are so successful that a great number of people were taken captive to Damascus. However, King Pekah killed 120,000 Judean warriors in 1 day! That was a very busy day or a short war! On top of that, he took 200,000 people captive, including women and children. They also took their booty to Samaria. Thus this was a complete disaster. It does not seem like anybody was left in Judah.
“In the third year of King Hoshea son of Elah of Israel, King Hezekiah son of King Ahaz of Judah began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign. He reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi daughter of Zechariah. He did what was right in the sight of Yahweh, just as his ancestor King David had done. He removed the high places, broke the pillars, and cut down the sacred poles. Then he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made. Until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it. It was called Nehushtan.”
According to most archeological reports, the fall of Samaria took place during the reign of King Ahaz of Judah, not under King Hezekiah, who was a good king. He followed King David rather than his father, King Ahaz, who was not as good in the sight of Yahweh. Finally, he removed all the foreign god high places and broke the foreign god’s sacred pillars and poles. Perhaps the fall of Samaria contributed to the unification of the Yahweh cult. He also got rid of Nehushtan, the bronze serpent of Moses. Although this is the only time that this name appears in the biblical literature, there is a question as to whether it refers to the serpent or the bronze that it was made of. Certainly it had some connection to Moses and yet was a bronze image of a serpent.
“When King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria, he saw the altar that was at Damascus. King Ahaz sent to the priest Uriah a model of the altar, and its pattern, exact in all its details. The priest Uriah built the altar, in accordance with all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus. The priest Uriah built it just so, before King Ahaz arrived from Damascus. When the king came from Damascus, he viewed the altar. Then the king drew near to the altar. He went up on it. He offered his burnt offering and his grain offering, poured his drink offering, and dashed the blood of his offerings of well–being against the altar. The bronze altar which was before Yahweh he removed from the front of the house, from the place between his altar and the house of Yahweh. He put it on the north side of his altar. King Ahaz commanded the priest Uriah, saying. ‘Upon the great altar offer the morning burnt offering, the evening grain offering, the king’s burnt offering, and his grain offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, with their grain offering and their drink offering. Then dash against it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice. The bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by.’ Uriah the priest did everything that King Ahaz commanded.”
When in Damascus to see King Tiglath-pileser III, King Ahaz was enamored by the altar he saw in Damascus. He wanted the same kind of altar in Jerusalem. He sent a model to the priest Uriah to build it like his model. Uriah accomplished this before the king arrived from Damascus. King Ahaz then offered all the normal sacrifices as laid out in Exodus and Leviticus about burnt offerings, grain offerings, and the offerings of well-being. Then he told the priest Uriah that he wanted all the sacrifices done on this altar. They then put aside the bronze altar that had been there.