King Ahaz, son of Jotham and father of Hezekiah, was the twelfth king of Judah and nearly destroyed the nation with his idolatry. Dates of the kingly line of Judah are difficult to reconcile when comparing 2 Chronicles, 2 Kings, and passages in Isaiah, but all accounts agree: Ahaz wins the prize for WORST king of Judah.
“Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree.” 2 Kings 16:2–4
The Sin Sandwich
Ahaz’s reign followed his father, Jotham, who was a good and righteous king. Ahaz’s son, Hezekiah, was even more righteous, winning God’s description as no one like him “before his time or after.” (2 Kings 18:5)
So how did sinful Ahaz get “sandwiched” between two such righteous kings? What or who spoiled his heart of worship? Of course, we can’t know for sure, but I believe Scripture gives us clues to follow.
God’s Misunderstood Discipline
After studying the ages and dates of the kingly line of Judah, it’s likely Ahaz knew his grandfather Uzziah, who had been disciplined by Yahweh for his pride.
“…after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God, and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. Azariah the priest with eighty other courageous priests…confronted King Uzziah…While [Uzziah] was raging at the priests…leprosy broke out on his forehead. When Azariah the chief priest and all the other priests looked at him, they saw that he had leprosy on his forehead, so they hurried him out. Indeed, he himself was eager to leave, because the Lord had afflicted him. King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house—leprous, and banned from the temple of the Lord. Jotham his son had charge of the palace and governed the people of the land.” 2 Chronicles 26:16–21
Ahaz, at a young age, might have thought God’s discipline harsh and uncalled-for against his grandfather, who had been a faithful servant of Yahweh for most of his fifty-two-year reign. Did he blame God for Uzziah’s leprosy? Or was he able to accept and trust a perfectly good God who is a far better Judge of men’s imperfect hearts?
Sin’s Insidious Access
Surely, King Uzziah and King Jotham would have guarded the Crown Prince Ahaz’s friends and teachers. Surely, they would have surrounded him with godly people, who taught him of Yahweh. So, how did Ahaz discover the rituals of pagan worship? Where did he first taste the fleshly pleasures of Baal, Chemosh, and Molech?
Though his father Jotham was righteous, prosperous, and successful, he evidently allowed pagan worship to go unchecked on Judah’s high places—the country bumpkins, the fringes of society.
“[Jotham] did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Uzziah had done, but unlike him he did not enter the temple of the Lord. The people, however, continued their corrupt practices. Jotham rebuilt the Upper Gate of the temple of the Lord and did extensive work on the wall at the hill of Ophel.” 2 Chronicles 27:2–4
Rebuilding the “Upper Gate” would have meant reinforcing the gate that separated the palace from the Temple. Interesting, eh?
“He built towns in the hill country of Judah and forts and towers in the wooded areas. Jotham waged war against the king of the Ammonites and conquered them.” 2 Chronicles 27:4–5
Apparently, after Uzziah was stricken with leprosy, his son Jotham faced the adversity by giving everything he had to his added responsibilities. But what happened to Ahaz during this busy time? Who taught him of Yahweh’s laws, His love, His blessings and curses?
Perhaps Jotham’s public success overshadowed his private shortcomings, and his great victories minimized the fine cracks in the foundations of his reign. We can only assume that his son Ahaz was exposed to pagan worship on Judah’s high places or in military campaigns (war on the Ammonites). Someone somewhere introduced Ahaz to his first idol.
During Ahaz’s sixteen-year reign, Judah was attacked by Israel, Syria, Edom, and Philistia—each enemy carrying off captives and/or raiding towns and villages (2 Chron.18:8,17-18). King Ahaz also invited Assyria to a “big brother” relationship, asking the most ruthless king in history to defend Judah against the Israel-Syrian aggression.
Now encumbered by annual Assyrian tribute, Judah’s wealth dwindled and the nation floundered. By the time Hezekiah inherited his father’s throne, even those who had followed Ahaz into idolatry abandoned him to a dishonorable grave.
“Ahaz rested with his ancestors and was buried in the city of Jerusalem, but he was not placed in the tombs of the kings of Israel.” 2 Chronicles 28:27
As I’ve studied and contemplated Ahaz’s life, it’s become clear that the man didn’t make an isolated choice that doomed him to idolatry. His grandfather and/or father didn’t render him a sinner by their own spiritual shortfalls or parenting mistakes. Like others in Scripture who found themselves in sin’s iron grip, Ahaz made a series of his own disobedient choices, blatantly slapping away God’s hand of mercy.
Ahaz, like you and me, had choices every day to seek God’s eternal blessing or pursue life’s fleeting pleasures. God knocks on stubborn hearts each day, waiting to pour out His mercy on the mess we’ve made.
- Discover what or who spoiled King Ahaz’s heart of worship in today’s post.
- Ahaz made a series of disobedient choices, blatantly slapping away God’s hand of mercy.
- God knocks on stubborn hearts each day, waiting to pour out His mercy on our mess.
- Is there a decision that seemed small at the time that has—in hindsight—been especially formative in your life and/or legacy?