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Jotham is a welcomed relief for Israel. Finally they have a king who is faithful to God and who credits Him with the Southern Kingdom’s prosperity. Unfortunately his righteousness does not make an impression on his son. Ahaz will prove to be one of the worst kings in the history of the Southern Kingdom. Not only does he ignore God’s laws, but he also engages in so many pagan practices that he is like the kings of the Northern Kingdom whom God has abandoned.

28 Ahaz was 20 years old when he became king, and he reigned 16 years in Jerusalem. But he did not follow the Eternal as his ancestor David had done. 2-4 Instead, he acted like the kings of the Northern Kingdom and worshiped their gods. He polluted all the land with his idolatry, cast idols of the Baals, burned incense in the valley of Ben-hinnom (Jerusalem’s refuse pit), and sacrificed his own children. Such evil things had not happened throughout the land, on high places, hills, and under trees, since the Eternal conquered the previous inhabitants and gave the land to the Israelites. The Eternal One, his True God, was furious with Ahaz for his apostasy, so He empowered the king of Aram to defeat the Southern Kingdom and take Judean prisoners of war to Damascus, the capital of Aram. But this wasn’t enough to satisfy God’s anger. He also empowered the Northern Kingdom to kill many of the Judeans: Pekah (son of Remaliah) in one day killed 120,000 valiant warriors who had abandoned the Eternal One, the True God of their ancestors; and Zichri (a Ephraimite warrior) killed Maaseiah (Ahaz’s son), Azrikam (leader of the palace), and Elkanah (vice-regent). Then the Northern soldiers took 200,000 Judean women and children and their possessions to Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom.

As the Northern army approached Samaria, Oded, a prophet of the Eternal ran out to meet them.

Oded: Do not think that you have won this victory yourselves. In fact, the Eternal One, the True God of your ancestors, was furious with Judah and used you to punish them. But now He is furious with you because your rage was excessive and has reached the heavens, 10 and you intend to make your captives from Judah and Jerusalem into your slaves. You are already guilty of sins against the Eternal, your True God, so why do you want to anger Him even more? 11 Instead of enslaving the Southern captives, return them to their nation and stop infuriating the Eternal.

12 Then some Ephraimite chiefs—Azariah (son of Johanan), Berechiah (son of Meshillemoth), Jehizkiah (son of Shallum), and Amasa (son of Hadlai)—stopped the soldiers.

Ephraimite Chiefs: 13 Stop! Do not bring those prisoners back to our city, for we are all convicted of our guilt. If you do, the Eternal will be more furious with us due to our sins and guilt. There is now a fierce wrath against Israel.

14 The soldiers obeyed. They left the prisoners and the spoils for the chiefs and the assembly to decide what to do. 15 The chiefs dressed the naked prisoners with clothes and shoes from the spoils, fed them, anointed their heads with oil to refresh them after the journey, and returned them to the southern city of Jericho (the city of palm trees) with an envoy of Northerners and the feeble riding on donkeys. Then the Northerners returned to Samaria.

Only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remain faithful in the Southern Kingdom while the other tribes forming the Northern Kingdom largely depart from the Eternal. But this exchange between Oded and the Ephraimites shows another side of the Northerners. Oded’s request that they free the Judahites is based on their common heritage. And the chiefs’ obedience to his request shows that they still remember God’s power. Although the Northern Kingdom has strayed far from the Eternal One, they still remember their ancestral brothers in the South.

16-19 The Eternal humbled Judah with continued attacks against them because of Ahaz’s wicked rebellion against Him, which had infected the entire nation. The Edomites attacked Judah and took prisoners; the Philistines invaded the lowland and the Negev, capturing and settling in the cities and surrounding villages of Beth-shemesh, Aijalon, Gederoth, Soco, Timnah, and Gimzo.

King Ahaz asked the Assyrians for help, 20 but Tilgath-pilneser, king of Assyria, recognized an opportunity to expand his empire and attacked Judah instead of helping Ahaz. 21 To save his kingdom from complete destruction by the Assyrian army, Ahaz gave a tribute from his own palace and from the Eternal’s temple to Tilgath-pilneser. But the tribute did not work.

The Assyrians still attack Judah, and Ahaz’s tributes begin generations of Judean subjugation to the Assyrian Empire.

22 During these disasters, King Ahaz did not return to the Eternal. Instead he persisted in his unfaithfulness 23 by sacrificing to the Aramean gods of Damascus, the gods of the first people who had defeated him.

Ahaz: Obviously the gods of the kings of Aram are more powerful than the Judean God. Since they helped the Aramean army, surely they will help me if I sacrifice to them.

But these gods were the downfall of him and all Israel. 24 He destroyed the vessels from the True God’s temple and stopped all worship in the Eternal’s temple. Then he built his own altars throughout Jerusalem 25 and high places throughout Judah to burn incense to false gods. These actions infuriated the Eternal One, the True God of his ancestors.

26 Ahaz’s remaining actions, from his birth until his death, are contained in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel. 27 Ahaz slept with his fathers in Jerusalem, but not in the tombs of the kings of Israel. His son, Hezekiah, succeeded him as king.

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