1-4Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king and reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. He didn’t live right in the eyes of God; he wasn’t at all like his ancestor David. Instead he followed in the track of Israel in the north, even casting metal figurines for worshiping the pagan Baal gods. He participated in the outlawed burning of incense in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and—incredibly!—indulged in the outrageous practice of “passing his sons through the fire,” a truly abominable thing he picked up from the pagans God had earlier thrown out of the country. He also joined in the activities of the neighborhood sex-and-religion shrines that flourished all over the place.
5-8God, fed up, handed him over to the king of Aram, who beat him badly and took many prisoners to Damascus. God also let the king of Israel loose on him and that resulted in a terrible slaughter: Pekah son of Remaliah killed 120,000 in one day, all of them first-class soldiers, and all because they had deserted God, the God of their ancestors. Furthermore, Zicri, an Ephraimite hero, killed the king’s son Maaseiah, Azrikam the palace steward, and Elkanah, second in command to the king. And that wasn’t the end of it—the Israelites captured 200,000 men, women, and children, besides huge cartloads of plunder that they took to Samaria.
9-11God’s prophet Oded was in the neighborhood. He met the army when it entered Samaria and said, “Stop right where you are and listen! God, the God of your ancestors, was angry with Judah and used you to punish them; but you took things into your own hands and used your anger, uncalled for and irrational, to turn your brothers and sisters from Judah and Jerusalem into slaves. Don’t you see that this is a terrible sin against your God? Careful now; do exactly what I say—return these captives, every last one of them. If you don’t, you’ll find out how real anger, God’s anger, works.”
12-13Some of their Ephraimite leaders—Azariah son of Jehohanan, Berekiah son of Meshillemoth, Jehizkiah son of Shallum, and Amasa son of Hadlai—stood up against the returning army and said, “Don’t bring the captives here! We’ve already sinned against God; and now you are about to compound our sin and guilt. We’re guilty enough as it is, enough to set off an explosion of divine anger.”
14-15So the soldiers turned over both the captives and the plunder to the leaders and the people. Personally designated men gathered the captives together, dressed the ones who were naked using clothing from the stores of plunder, put shoes on their feet, gave them all a square meal, provided first aid to the injured, put the weak ones on donkeys, and then escorted them to Jericho, the City of Palms, restoring them to their families. Then they went back to Samaria.
16-21At about that time King Ahaz sent to the king of Assyria asking for personal help. The Edomites had come back and given Judah a bad beating, taking off a bunch of captives. Adding insult to injury the Philistines raided the cities in the foothills to the west and the southern desert and captured Beth Shemesh, Aijalon, and Gederoth, along with Soco, Timnah, and Gimzo, with their surrounding villages, and moved in, making themselves at home. Arrogant King Ahaz, acting as if he could do without God’s help, had unleashed an epidemic of depravity. Judah, brought to its knees by God, was now reduced to begging for a handout. But the king of Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser, wouldn’t help—he came instead and humiliated Ahaz even more by attacking and bullying him. Desperate, Ahaz ransacked The Temple of God, the royal palace, and every other place he could think of, scraping together everything he could, and gave it to the king of Assyria—and got nothing in return, not a bit of help.
22-25But King Ahaz didn’t learn his lesson—at the very time that everyone was turning against him, he continued to be against God! He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus. He had just been defeated by Damascus; he thought, “If I worship the gods who helped Damascus, those gods just might help me, too.” But things only went from bad to worse: first Ahaz in ruins and then the country. He cleaned out The Temple of God of everything useful and valuable, boarded up the doors of The Temple, and then went out and set up pagan shrines for his own use all over Jerusalem. And not only in Jerusalem, but all over Judah—neighborhood shrines for worshiping any and every god on sale. And was God ever angry!
26-27The rest of Ahaz’s infamous life, all that he did from start to finish, is written in the Royal Annals of the Kings of Judah and Israel. When Ahaz died, they buried him in Jerusalem, but he was not honored with a burial in the cemetery of the kings. His son Hezekiah was the next king.
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