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From The Decline Of The Two Kingdoms
To The Assyrian And Babylonian Captivity
CHAPTER 7 - UZZIAH (TENTH), JOTHAM (ELEVENTH), AND AHAS, (TWELFTH) KING OF JUDAH.
ZACHARIAH (FIFTEENTH), SHALLUM (SIXTEENTH), MENAHEM (SEVENTEENTH), PEKAHIAH
(EIGHTEENTH),PEKAH (NINETEENTH) KING OF ISRAEL
Accession and Murder of Zachariah - Accession and Death of Shallum - Accession of
Menahem - Taking and Back of Tiphsah - Accession and Victories of Pul or Tiglath-pileser
II. of Assyria - Tribute to Assyria - Accession and Murder of Pekahiah - Military
Revolution and Accession of Pekah - Aooession and Reign of Jotham in Judah -
Syro-lsraelitish League against Judah - Accession of Ahaz in Judah - Character of his
Reign - The new Idolatry - Changes in the Temple and its Worship.
(2 KINGS 15:8-16:18; 2 CHRONICLES 27, 28)
WHILE the kingdom of Judah was enjoying a brief period of prosperity, that of Israel
was rapidly nearing its final overthrow. The deep-seated and wide corruption in the land
afforded facilities for a succession of revolutions, in which one or another political or
military adventurer occupied the throne for a brief period. In the thirteen or fourteen
years between the death of Jeroboam II. and that of Uzziah, the northern kingdom saw no
less than four kings (2 Kings 15:8-27), of whom each was removed by violence. In the
thirty-eighth year of Uzziah,* Jeroboam II was succeeded by his son Zachariah, the
fourth and last monarch of the line of Jehu.
* We are writing on the supposition of the correctness of the numbers in the
Holy Scripture here specially marks the fulfillment of Divine prediction (2 Kings
10:30), in the continuance of this dynasty "unto the fourth generation." Of his
brief reign, which lasted only six months, we read that it was characterized by
continuance in the sins of Jeroboam. A conspiracy by one Shallum,* not otherwise known,
issued, not in the private assassination, but in the public** murder of the king.
* Josephus (Ant. 9. 11, 1) describes him as "a friend" of the king.
** (...) "before the (?) people" - in public view. The LXX.,
apparently unable to understand the Hebrew words, have left them un-translated, and made
Keblaam the name either of the place where Zachariah was killed, or else, according to
Ewald, of his murderer.
So terribly had all bonds of society been loosened. The regicide occupied the throne
for only one month. Menahem, whom Josephus* describes as the general of Zachariah,
advanced** against Shallum from Tirzah,*** the ancient royal residence, and slew the
* Ant. u.s.
** According to Josephus, with his army, and gave battle to Shallum.
*** For a description of Tirzah see Vol. V.
of this History.
The assumption of the crown by Menahem seems to have met some resistance. At any rate,
we read of an expedition of Menahem against a place called Tiphsah ("a ford"*),
which had refused to open its gates to him. The town and its surrounding district were
taken, and Menahem took horrible vengeance on the population.** The reign of
Menahem, which, as regards religion, resembled that of his predecessors, lasted ten years.
But it may truly be characterized as the beginning of the end. For with it commenced the
acknowledged dependence of the northern kingdom upon Assyria, of which the ultimate
outcome was the fall of Samaria and the deportation of Israel into the land of the
* It seems doubtful whether this was the Tiphsah of Solomon (1 Kings 4:24),
which lay on the banks of the Euphrates. The name, which means "a ford," is so
general that it may have attached to other places. At the same time it should be
remembered that about that period Assyria had fallen into a state of great weakness.
** Such horrors were not unheard of on the part of Israel though only too common
in heathen warfare (2 Kings 8:12; Hosea 13:16; Amos 1:13).
Leaving aside, for reasons already indicated, questions of chronology, the Assyrian
monuments enable us more clearly to understand the Biblical account of the relations
between Menahem and his eastern suzerain (2 Kings 15:19, 20). Thus we learn that after a
period of decadence which may account for the independent progress of Jeroboam II.,
perhaps even for the occupation of Tiphsah by Menahem, a military adventurer of the name
of Pul, apparently sprung from the lower orders, seized the crown of Assyria, and assumed
the title of Tiglath-pileser II.*
* The identity of the Biblical Pul with Tiglath-pileser II. has, we believe,
been lately proved beyond the possibility of doubt. On the subject generally, comp. Sayce,
Fresh Light from the Ancient Monuments, pp. 125-131; Schrader, u.s., and the article by
the same writer in Riehm's Hand-W. p. 1664, etc.
The first monarch of that name, five centuries earlier, had founded the power of
Assyria, which was now to be re-established. In the very year of his accession he
vanquished and impaled the king of Babylon, and henceforth himself assumed that title. Two
years later he turned his armies to the west, and after a siege of three years took the
Syrian city Arpad, in the neighborhood of Hamath, and not far from Damascus* (comp. Isaiah
10:9, 36:19; 2 Kings 18:34; Jeremiah 49:23).
* About three hours north of Aleppo. Its possession did not, however, become
permanent till the time of Sennacherib.
Without following his further military expeditions it may suffice to state that three
years later (in the eighth year of his reign), he is described on the monuments as
receiving the tribute of Menahem of Israel, among those of other vassal kings. The
shattering of the power of the Syrian confederacy and the occupation of Hamath fully
explain the Biblical notice of the advance of Pul or Tiglath-pileser II. into the northern
kingdom. His progress was for the time arrested by the submission of Menahem, and his
payment of an annual tribute of 1,000 talents of silver, or about 375,000 pounds, which
the king of Israel levied by a tax of 50 shekels, or about. 6 pounds 5 shillings. on all
the wealthier inhabitants of his realm. This would imply that there were 60,000
contributors to this tax, a large figure, indicating at the same time the wide prosperity
of the country, and the extent of the burden which the tribute must have laid on the
people. On these hard conditions Menahem was "confirmed" in "the
kingdom" by the Assyrian conqueror* Menahem was succeeded in the kingdom by his son
Pekahiah, whose reign, of a character similar to that of his father,** lasted only two
years. He fell the victim of another military conspiracy headed by Pekah, the son of
Remaliah,*** probably one of the captains of the king's bodyguard.
* The account which we have given is confirmed by the reference to, "the
burden" or tribute of "the king of princes" the king of Assyria, Hosea
8:10. Some writers have regarded this event as forming the subject of the prophecy in Amos
** According to Josephus he "followed the barbarity of his father"
(Ant. ix. 11, 1).
*** Some critics have supposed that his low birth is indicated by his
designation as simply "the son of Remaliah" in Isaiah 7:4, 5, 9; 8:6.
As we interpret the narrative (2 Kings 15:25), the king of Israel had surrounded
himself with a bodyguard, such as that which of old had been formed by King David. The
name of Pekahiah's father: "Menahem, the son of Gadi" (2 Kings 15:17), seems to
indicate that he was descended from the tribe of Gad. It is therefore the more likely that
this bodyguard had been raised from among his countrymen the Gileadites - those brave
highlanders on the other side of Jordan who were famed as warriors (comp. Judges 11:1; 1
Chronicles 26:31). Thus the LXX. - perhaps after an old tradition - render, instead of
"the Gileadites" of the Hebrew text, the 400, which reminds us of David's famous
600 (2 Samuel 15:18). This bodyguard we suppose to have been under the command of three
captains, one of whom was Pekah, the leader of the rebellion. The other two:
"Argob," so named from the trans-Jordanic district of Bashan (Deuteronomy 3:4),
and "Arieh," "the lion" (comp. 1 Chronicles 12:8), fell, probably in
defending the king. As we read it, Pekah, with fifty of the Gilead guard, pursued the king
into the castle, or fortified part of his palace at Samaria, and there slew him and his
adherents. The crime vividly illustrates the condition of public feeling and morals as
described by the prophet Hosea (4:1, 2). The murderer of his master was not only allowed
to seize the crown, but retained it during a period of thirty years.*
* The Biblical text has 20, k , which seems to be a transcriber's error for l ,
30. The latter number seems required by a comparison of 2 Kings 15 32 + 33 + xvii. 1. The
only alternative seems to interpose an interregnum of ten years between Pekah and Hoshea,
of which, however, the Biblical text does not give any indication.
This revolution had taken place in the last (the fifty-second) year of Uzziah. He was
succeeded in Judah by his son Jotham, in the second year of Pekah, the son of Remaliah.
Jotham was twenty-five years old when he ascended the throne, and his reign is said to
have extended over sixteen years. But whether this period is to be reckoned from his
co-regency (2 Kings 15:5; 2 Chronicles 26:21), or from his sole rule, it is impossible to
determine. And in this may lie one of the reasons of the difficulties of this chronology.*
* Riehm, in the elaborate Art. Zeitrechnung (in his Hand-W.) maintains that the
sixteen years of Jotham's reign consisted of twelve years of co-regency with Uzziah, and
only four years of sole rule. If there had been four years of sole rule a confusion of
this number with the sixteen years of his reign may have led a transcriber to the
erroneous notice about the "twentieth year of Jotham" (2 Kings 15:30).
The reign of Jotham was prosperous, and only clouded towards its close. Both
religiously and politically it was strictly a continuation of that of Uzziah, whose
co-regent, or at least administrator, Jotham had been. According to the fuller account in
the Book of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 27.), Jotham maintained in his official capacity the
worship of Jehovah in His Temple, wisely abstaining, however, from imitating his father's
attempted intrusion into the functions of the priesthood. Among the people the former
corrupt forms of religion were still continued, and had to be tolerated. Naturally this
corruption would increase in the course of time. Among the undertakings of the former
reign, the fortifications of Jerusalem, the inward defense of the country, and its
trans-Jordanic enlargement, were carried forward. As regards the first of these, the wall
which defended Ophel, the southern declivity of the Temple-mount, was further built.*
* Comp. 2 Chronicles 33:14; Nehemiah 3:26, 27; Jos. Jew. War. 6, 1, 3. From
Ophel the "water-gate" opened into Gihon and the Valley of the Kidron. Comp.
here the prophecy Isaiah 32:14, where for "the forts" (in the A.V.) translate
At the same time the sacred house itself was beautified by the rebuilding of the
"higher" [or upper] gate on the north side of the Temple, where the terrace runs
from which it derived its name. The "higher gate" opened from the
"upper" [or inner] court - that of the priests - into the lower, which was that
of the people (2 Kings 21:5; 23:12; 2 Chronicles 33:5). Each of these two courts was
bounded by a wall. Probably the general ingress into the Temple was by the outer northern
gate.* Thence the worshippers would pass through the lower, outer, or people's court to
the second wall** that bounded the inner, upper, or priest's court, which extended
around the Temple house.
* There were four gates opening from the outer, or bounding, wall of the Temple:
north, south, east, and west, (comp. the watchposts of the Levites, 1 Chronicles 26:14-18.
But Bishop Haneberg (Relig., Alterth. p. 226, 4) infers that there were six gates - that
is, two (not one) respectively in the south and west. In the Temple of Ezekiel (Ezekiel
40:6-16, 20-22, 24-27) only three gates are mentioned: North, East, and South.
** For this wall see 1 Kings 6:36; 7:12. Comp. Josephus, Ant. 8. 3, 9.
Thus the worshippers, or at least those who brought sacrifices, would have to enter by
this northern gate which Jotham rebuilt. As the inner or upper court lay on a higher
level, we find that in the Temple of Ezekiel eight steps are said to lead up to it
(Ezekiel 40:31, 34, 37), and such was probably also the case in the Temple of Solomon.
Close to this "higher gate" - at the right hand, as you entered it - the chest
for the collection of money for the Temple repairs had been placed by Jehoiada (2 Kings
12:9). Lastly, from its designation by Ezekiel (8:5), as "the gate of the
altar," we infer that it formed the common access for those who offered sacrifices.
Its later name of "new gate" was due to its reconstruction by Jotham, while the
passages in which it is mentioned indicate that this was the place where the princes and
priests were wont to communicate with the people assembled in the outer court (Jeremiah
Nor were the operations of Jotham confined to Jerusalem. "And cities he built in
Mount Judah [the hill country], and in the forests [or thickets, where towns could not be
built], castles [forts], and towns [no doubt for security]." To complete the record
of that reign we add that the expedition of the previous reign against Ammon was resumed,
and the Ammonites were forced to pay an annual tribute, not only of the produce of their
fertile lands (10,000 Kor* of wheat and as many of barley), but of a hundred talents of
silver, or about. 37,500 pounds.** But, as the sacred text implies (2 Chronicles
27:5), this tribute was only paid during three years.
* The Kor (more anciently designated Homer or rather Chomer)= ten Ephah - thirty
Seah=100 Omer or Issaron ("tenth," viz. of an Ephah)= 180 Qabh ( bq; ).
According to the Rabbis the Qabh held = twenty-four egg shells. Roughly speaking, the Kor
would be less than "a quarter."
** I am following the calculations of Schrader (Keilinschr. u. d. A. Test. pp.
142-144, and in the Article in Riehm's Hand-W. According to Herzfeld (Handelsgesch, p.
172), the sum would amount to 18,800 pounds, but his computation is based on a
In the fourth, probably the last year of Jotham's reign, it ceased, no doubt in
consequence of the Syro-Israelitish league against Judah, which was apparently joined by
the neighboring tribes who had hitherto been subject to Uzziah and Jotham. Lastly, of the
internal condition of the country, of its prosperity, wealth, and commerce, but also of
its luxury and its sins, a vivid picture has been left in those prophecies of warning
judgment which form the opening chapters of the Book of Isaiah (chap. 1:5-6.).
Jotham himself only witnessed the approach of the calamities which were so soon to
befall Judah. In the northern kingdom Pekah must have found himself in the midst of
turbulent elements. Even if he had not to defend his crown against another pretender,* the
disorganized condition of the country, the necessity of keeping the people engaged in
undertakings that would divert them from domestic affairs, as well as the obvious
desirableness of forming foreign alliances to support his throne - perhaps even more
ambitious plans - must have made the thirty years** of this military usurper a
period of sore trouble in Israel.
* Some writers have supposed that there was such during the first period after
the revolution headed by Pekah.
** One year contemporarily with Uzziah; sixteen years contemporarily with
Jotham; twelve years contemporarily with Ahaz = twenty-nine, or, allowing for the mode of
reckoning years: thirty years.
We catch only glimpses of it at the close of Jotham's reign. But our scanty information
is to some extent supplemented by the Assyrian records. Holy Scripture simply informs us
that "in those days Jehovah began to send against Judah Rezin, the king of Syria, and
Pekah, the son of Remaliah" (2 Kings 15:37).
It is a majestic and truly prophetic mode of viewing events, thus to recognize in such
a league as that of Rezin and Pekah the divinely-appointed judgment upon Judah. It is to
pass from the secondary and visible causes of an event straight to Him Who over-rules all,
and Who with Divine skill weaves the threads that man has spun into the web and woof of
His dealings. In point of fact, the Syro-Israelitish league against Judah ultimately
embraced not only the Ammonites, who refused to continue their tribute, but also the
Edomites, the Philistines, and all the southern tribes lately reduced to subjection (2
Chronicles 28:17, 18).
As already stated, Jotham only witnessed the commencement of this great struggle, or
else he was sufficiently strong still to keep in check what at first were probably only
marauding expeditions. It was otherwise when his weak and wicked son Ahaz ascended the
throne, in the seventeenth year of Pekah, the son of Remaliah (2 Kings 16:1). He was
probably twenty-five years of age* when he succeeded his father.
* So, in 2 Chronicles 28:1, according to the reading of some Codd., supported by
the LXX. and the Syr. The correctness of this reading appears from a comparison with 2
Chronicles 29:1. For if Ahaz had, after sixteen years' reign, died at the age of
thirty-six, and his son succeeded him at the age of twenty-five, Ahaz must have been
wedded when only ten years old. Similarly, we have to correct in 2 Kings 16:2 the numeral
20 into 25.
The sixteen years of his reign were in every sense most disastrous for Judah. As
throughout this history, it is emphatically indicated that just as former successes had
come from the help of the Lord, so now the real cause of Judah's reverses lay in their
apostasy from God. From the first, and throughout, Ahaz "did not the right in the
sight of the Lord." Nor should we omit to mark how the sacred text when describing
each successive reign in Judah brings its religious character into comparison with that of
David. This, not only because he was the founder of the dynasty, nor even because in him
centered the Divine promise to the royal house of Judah, but from the strictly theocratic
character of his public administration, which should have been the type for that of all
his successors, even as Jeroboam's became that for the kings of Israel.
It is impossible to determine whether the varied idolatry described in 2 Chronicles
28:3, 4, characterized the beginning of Ahaz's reign, or was only gradually introduced
during its course. More probably the latter was the case; and as the success of Syria was
the avowed motive for introducing its gods into Judah, so that of Israel formed at least
the pretext for walking "in the ways of the kings of Israel" (2 Chronicles
28:2). Indeed, there is not a single aspect from which the character of the king could
have commanded either respect or sympathy. Unbelieving as regards the Lord and His power
(Isaiah 7:11-13), he was nevertheless ready to adopt the most abject superstitions. By
making "molten images for Baalim," he not only followed in the ways of the house
of Ahab (1 Kings 16:32; 2 Kings 1:2; 3:2), but adopted the rites then practiced in Israel
(Hosea 2:13; 13:1). Connected with these was the service of Moloch [or more correctly,
Molech], who was only another form of Baal (comp. Jeremiah 19:3-6; 32:35). Alike, in the
service of the one and the other, human sacrifices were offered: for which, indeed, Baal
himself was supposed to have given a precedent.*
* Comp. Euseb. Praepar. Evang. 1. 10, 44.
But this was to revive the old Canaanitish and Phoenician worship, with all its
abominations and all its defilements. The valley of Gihon, which bounds Jerusalem on the
west, descends at its southern extremity into that of Hinnom, which in turn joins at the
ancient royal gardens the valley of Kidron, that runs along the eastern declivity of the
Holy City. There, at the junction of the valleys of Hinnom and Kidron, in these gardens,
was Topheth - " the spitting out," or place of abomination - where an Ahaz, a
Manasseh, and an Amon, sacrificed their sons and daughters to Baal-Moloch, and burnt
incense to foul idols. Truly was Hinnom "moaning,"* and rightly was its name
Gehinnom [valley of Hinnom - Gehenna], adopted as that for the place of final suffering.
* This is the probable meaning of "Hinnom," although the name seems
originally to have been that of a person.
And it is one of those strange coincidences that the hill which rises on the south side
of this spot was that "potter's field," the "field of blood," which
Judas bought with the wages of his betrayal, and where with his own, hands he executed
judgment on himself. History is full of such coincidences, as men call them; nor can we
forget in this connection that it was on the boundary-line between the reigns of Jotham
and Ahaz that Rome was founded (in 752 B.C.), which was destined to execute final judgment
on apostate Israel.
Nor was this all. Not only did Ahaz burn incense in that accursed place where he
offered his own son* as a burnt sacrifice to Baal-Moloch, but a similar idolatrous worship
was offered on the high places,** on the hills, and under every green tree (2 Chronicles
28:4; 2 Kings 16:4).
* In 2 Kings 16:3 only one son is mentioned as passed thr6ugh the fire. This
seems the more likely (comp. 2 Kings 3:27; 21:6), and the plural in Chronicles is probably
only a generalization. When in 2 Kings we read that he "made his son pass through the
fire," this may be either a technical expression, or it may refer to one of the
original ideas or purposes of these sacrifices: that of lustration by fire. And possibly
the practice may not always have been the same, and hence the original expression
retained. But from the parallel passage in Chronicles there cannot be a doubt that, in
this instance, as in those afterwards recorded, the unhappy victim was literally burnt.
That those "passed through the fire" were really burnt, appears from a
comparison of Jeremiah 32:35 with 7:31, and of Ezekiel 16:21 with 23:37. On the question
whether the children were only passed through the fire or burnt in it the Rabbis have
expressed different opinions. In Yalkut on Jeremiah 7:31, (ii. p. 61. col. d.) we have a
realistic description of the brass figure of Moloch, hollow and filled with fire, with an
ox's head and human arms into which the children were laid. This seems to agree with the
account of the Carthagenian rite (Diodor. Sic. 20. 14). Into the large literature on the
subject this is not the place to enter. To the present writer it has often seemed more
learned than clear. For our purpose it is more important to notice that, according to
Psalm 106:37, Ezekiel 16:20, the victims seem to have been first slain and then burnt. It
would thus be a terrible counterpart of the Old Test. burnt sacrifices. Josephus (Ant. ix.
12, 1) also states that Ahaz had actually burnt his son.
** The "high places" were those on which there was a sanctuary or
chapel (... ) - "the hills," those on which only an altar was reared.
Thus, in regard to form - the many sanctuaries in opposition to the one place of
worship - as well as to substance and spirit, there was direct contrariety to the
institutions of the Old Testament. Indeed, it may not be without use here to mark that in
the surroundings of Israel, exclusive unity of worship in one central temple, as against
many sanctuaries, was absolutely necessary if a pure monotheism was to be preserved and
the introduction of heathen rites to be avoided.
But the idolatry introduced by Ahaz was to be carried to all its sequences. A despotic
edict of the king, while at Damascus, in singular contrast to the weakness displayed
towards his foreign enemies, ordered a new altar for the Temple after the pattern sent to
Jerusalem of one, no doubt devoted to an Assyrian deity, which he had seen in Damascus and
approved. He was obeyed by a servile high-priest. When Ahaz returned to his capital
sacrifices were offered by him on the new altar,* probably thankofferings for his safe
* It does not, however, necessarily follow that Ahaz himself offered the
sacrifices in the sense of discharging priestly functions although 2 Kings 16:13 seems
rather to lead up to this.
This was only the beginning of other changes. It seems not unlikely that the king
introduced in connection with the new altar the worship of the gods of Damascus (2
Chronicles 28:23, in connection with ver. 24). Certain it is that an exclusive place was
assigned to it. Apparently Urijah, the priest, had originally set it at the rear of the
old altar of burnt-offering, which stood "before the Lord," that is,
"before the house," in other words, fronting the entrance into the sanctuary.
But as this would have indicated the inferiority of the new altar, the king, on his return
from Damascus, brought the two altars into juxtaposition.* In the words of the
sacred text (2 Kings 16:14): "And the altar, the brazen [one]** a which [was] before
Jehovah he brought near [placed in juxtaposition], from before the house [the sanctuary],
from between the altar [the new Damascus altar] and the house of Jehovah, and he put it at
the side of the altar [the new Damascus altar], northwards."
* (...) : "he brought near" (2 Kings 16:14, A.V. 'he brought"),
i.e. he brought the one near to the other.
** The old altar of burnt offering, so called in contradistinction to the
"golden altar" of incense in the Holy Place.
The meaning of this is that the brazen altar, which had hitherto faced the entrance to
the sanctuary, eastwards, was now removed to the north side of the new altar, so that the
latter became the principal, nay, the sole sacrificial altar. Accordingly, by command of
the king, all sacrificial worship* was now celebrated at this new heathen altar, the
disposal of the old altar being left for further consideration.**
* In the mention of the daily morning-sacrifice, the meat-offering is omitted;
in that of the evening sacrifice, the burnt offering. But in both cases special mention
was not required, since every burnt sacrifice had its meat-offering (Numbers 7:87;
15:2-12); while the evening sacrifice smoked all night on the altar (Leviticus 6:12, 13),
so that its consummation could not be witnessed by the worshippers.
** The best rendering of the difficult expression in 2 Kings 16:15: "the
brazen altar shall be for me to inquire by" (A.V. and R.V.) (...) is: "shall
before me to consider." Comp. Proverbs 20:25 and Nowack ad loc.
The new place of sacrifice rendered other changes in the Temple furniture almost
necessary. The old altar of burnt-offering was ten cubits, or about fifteen feet high (2
Chronicles 4:1). Hence there was an ascent to it, and a circuit around, on which the
ministering priests stood. As the pieces of the sacrifice laid on the altar had to be
washed, the "ten lavers of brass" for this purpose, which surrounded the altar,
were placed on high "bases" or rather stands, so that the officiating priests
could wash the sacrificial pieces without coming down from the circuit of the altar. The
side pieces which formed the body of these stands were of brass, richly ornamented
alternately with figures of lions and oxen with wreaths underneath them, and cherubim
(comp. 1 Kings 7:27-40). For the new altar such high stands were no longer required, and
accordingly Ahaz "broke away the sidepieces of the stands" [A. V. "cut off
the borders of the bases"]. Similarly he lowered "the sea," by removing it
from the pedestal of the "brazen oxen," and placing it on "a base* of
stone." Possibly the king may also have been influenced by a desire to make other use
of these valuable pieces of Temple furniture than that for which they had been originally
designed. At any rate they remained in the Temple till a later period (comp. Jeremiah
* So, as the LXX. rightly render it, and not "pavement" as in the A.V.
It is more difficult to understand the import of the changes which King Ahaz made
"on account of the king of Assyria" in "the covered Sabbath place,"
and "the entrance of the king, the outer one" (2 Kings 16:18). In our ignorance
of the precise purpose or locality of these we can only offer such suggestions as seem in
accordance with the language of the original. We conjecture that "the covered Sabbath
place," or stand, "which they had built" - viz., since Solomonic times -
was probably a place opening into the inner or priest's court, occupied by the king and
his court when attending the services on Sabbaths and feast days. Connected with it would
be a private "entrance" to this stand from, or through, the "outer"
court (comp. Ezekiel 46:1, 2). We further conjecture that in view of a possible visit of,
or in deference to, the king of Assyria, Ahaz now "turned the covered Sabbath place
and the entrance of the king, the outer one, to the house of Jehovah," that is, that
he removed both into the sanctuary itself, probably within the porch. We regard it as a
further part of these alterations when, in 2 Chronicles 28:24, by the side of the notice,
that Ahaz "broke up the vessels of the house of God," we find it stated that he
"shut up the doors of the house of Jehovah." This implies that the services
within the Holy Place were now wholly discontinued. Thus the worship would be confined to
the sacrificial services at the new altar; while the transference into the Temple porch of
the king's stand and of the entry to it, would not only bring them close to the new altar,
but also assign to them a more prominent and elevated position than that previously
occupied. We can readily understand that all such changes in the worship of Judah, and the
pre-eminent position in it assigned to the king, would be in accordance with the views,
the practice, and the wishes of the king of Assyria, however contrary to the spirit and
the institutions of the Mosaic law.
After this we do not wonder to read that Ahaz "made him altars in every corner of
Jerusalem," nor yet that "in every several city of Judah he made high places
[bamoth] to burn incense unto other gods" (2 Chronicles 28:24, 25). What influence
all this must have had on a people already given to idolatry will readily be perceived.
Indeed, Holy Scripture only gives us a general indication of the baneful changes made in
the public religious institutions of the country. Of the king's private bearing in this
respect, we only catch occasional glimpses, such, for example, as in the significant later
reference to "the altars" which he had reared "on the roof" of the
Aliyah* or "upper chamber" in the Temple, no doubt for the Assyrian worship of
the stars (Jeremiah 19:13; Zephaniah 1:5).
* It has been surmised that this Aliyah had been constructed by Ahaz on one of
the buildings in the Temple court (for the latter comp. Jeremiah 35:4). But may it not
have been on the Aliyah over the Holy and Most Holy Places (1 Kings 6:17-20), and may
there not be some connection between this also and the change in the king's Sabbath-stand,
and in his entry to it?
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