2 Kings Chapter 16

Israel and Judah had passed through the hands of many kings. Israel was typically led by those who were wicked and idolatrous. Judah was typically led by those who were trying to be good, but did not help the people to turn fully to the Lord. In Israel, Pekah ruled in wickedness, as the kings before him. A fair amount of the Israelite people had been captured and taken to Assyria. Meanwhile, Jotham ruled in Judah, and had done those things that were good in the sight of God. When he died, his son Ahaz became king. At this time, Pekah joined with Rezin, king of Syria, to go up against Judah.

1 In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah Ahaz the son of Jotham king of Judah began to reign.
2 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.
3 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.
4 And he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree.

Ahaz began to rule during the seventeenth year of Pekah’s reign in Israel. He was twenty years old at the time, and he reigned for sixteen years. Unlike his father, Ahaz did not rule in righteousness. He reigned in wickedness and idolatry, going so far as to sacrifice his own son to false gods, as was done to Baal. He used the high places that had been left by the kings before him, and performed sacrifices and made offerings there and all over Judah. This depth of idolatry, was the type that existed in the nations that the Israelites cast out, when Moses and Joshua led them into the promised land.

5 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.
6 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.
7 So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser 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.
8 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.
9 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.

Ahaz was beseiged by Rezin and Pekah, but they were unable to capture Judah. Elath was again taken from Judah by the Syrians, and the Jews were forced out of that area. Ahaz turned to Tiglath-pileser of Assyria, in hopes of being saved from his enemies. The Assyrians had already showed strength against Israel and had taken much of the people away, as mentioned above. Ahaz gave all the treasures of the temple and king’s house, and gave it as a gift to the king of Assyria, who decided to save Judah. Paying another country for help in times of war, was a normal thing. In a political sense, it meant that the Assyrians would have an allegiance from Judah, if not more. The Assyrians went against Damascaus, captured it and took the people to a place called Kir. They also killed Rezin.

10 And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser 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.
11 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.
12 And when the king was come from Damascus, the king saw the altar: and the king approached to the altar, and offered thereon.
13 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.
14 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.
15 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.
16 Thus did Urijah the priest, according to all that king Ahaz commanded.

Ahaz went to meet the Assyrian king in Damascus, and seeing the altar their, decided he wanted to make a new altar in Judah. He sent a description to Urijah the priest, who built a new altar for Ahaz. Ahaz returned, saw the new altar and made an offering upon it. King Ahaz made the sacrifice himself, unlike the traditions of the past in which the priests made the sacrifices. Ahaz moved the brazen altar of the temple. Then he gave a commandment to Urijah to make offerings on the new, great altar, and he changed the way that sacrifices were made in the temple, reserving the brazen altar for his own use.

17 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.
18 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.

Then, Ahaz destroyed the brazen sea on the oxen, and he changed the things that had been built for the sabbath and king’s entrance. This brazen sea, would have been the baptismal font of the temple of Solomon, like those built in modern-day temples.

19 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?
20 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.

When Ahaz died, his son Hezekiah became king of Judah.

The adversary had a great hold upon the heart of Ahaz. This was a man who was saved by a powerful leader of a powerful nation. Then, when he went to see the king of Assyria, he saw the traditions of those who were more powerful then he was. He may have wanted greater power himself and coveted the same kind of things he saw. Because Ahaz was a powerful man himself, he was able to have what he wanted. A bigger altar and a more grand display when making sacrifices, was not going to bring Ahaz the true strength that he needed to be his greatest potential. Ahaz can be an example to us, for what we should not allow to happen in our lives. Seeing the traditions of those who are more powerful, may cause the prideful to seek after those traditions in order to be more powerful. In effect, turning away from God and what is right to seek after the honors of men. This is not the source of true power. Long-lasting power, even the eternal power of God, can only be given by God and only according to the faithfulness of the righteous. Ahaz might have been able to experience what he felt was great and satisfying, in making the changes to traditions and destroying things of the temple as they were, but that experience would have been fleeting. If we choose to follow after Christ and live his gospel now, even though it is without a lot of earthly honor or reward, we will have the greater reward eternally. This is what our loving Father in Heaven desires for all of His children.

This chapter causes me to reflect on lessons learned about dependence upon the arm of the flesh to be saved. In this instance, Ahaz was able to be rescued by Assyria, but at what cost? He gave great amounts of money, which was normal to do and really didn’t matter in the long run. The greater cost was that of becoming indebted to another country for that rescue. In our own lives, we cannot rely on the strength of men to continually be there for us. Men will eventually fail, but God does not and will not ever fail us. If we are in need, and are humble, we can turn to God and with faith, he will be our strength. Help may not come immediately, which can be seen all throughout the scriptures, but with patience and hope in the Lord, it will eventually come. Ahaz must have had the records of the kings before him. I wonder if there had been some knowledge of times long past to him, which showed that miracles happened to those who depended on the God of Israel. I can only guess that he would have looked at these miracles as legends and turned to what he could see was there for him physically in his own life. Yet, the stories of the bible are real history of men on earth. Ahaz did exist and he did depend on men and false gods. We can know that these things are true and that God is there for us, waiting to bless us for our faith, through sincere prayer and the choice to live faithful to the commandments. I am grateful for the blessings that I have received those times that I have turned to the Lord, rather than depending first on the wisdom and strength of men.

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