Here is, I. The great distress which the kingdom of Ahaz was reduced to for his sin. In general, 1. The Lord brought Judah low, 2 Chron. 28:19. They had lately been very high in wealth and power; but God found means to bring them down, and make them as despicable as they had been formidable. Those that will not humble themselves under the word of God will justly be humbled by his judgments. Iniquity brings men low, Ps. 106:43. 2. Ahaz made Judah naked. As his sin debased them, so it exposed them. It made them naked to their shame; for it exposed them to contempt, as a man unclothed. It made them naked to their danger; for it exposed them to assaults, as a man unarmed, Exod. 32:25. Sin strips men. In particular, the Edomites, to be revenged for Amaziah’s cruel treatment of them (2 Chron. 25:12), smote Judah, and carried off many captives, 2 Chron. 28:17. The Philistines also insulted them, took and kept possession of several cities and villages that lay near them (2 Chron. 28:18), and so they were revenged for the incursions which Uzziah had made upon them, 2 Chron. 26:6. And, to show that it was purely the sin of Ahaz that brought the Philistines upon his country, in the very year that he died the prophet Isaiah foretold the destruction of the Philistines by his son, Isa. 14:28, 29.
II. The addition which Ahaz made both to the national distress and the national guilt.
1. He added to the distress, by making court to strange kings, in hopes they would relieve him. When the Edomites and Philistines were vexatious to him, he sent to the kings of Assyria to help him (2 Chron. 28:16); for he found his own kingdom weakened and made naked, and he could not put any confidence in God, and therefore was at a vast expense to get an interest in the king of Assyria. He pillaged the house of God, and the king’s house, and squeezed the princes for money to hire these foreign forces into his service, 2 Chron. 28:21. Though he had conformed to the idolatry of the heathen nations, his neighbours, they did not value him for that, nor love him the better, nor did his compliance, by which he lost God, gain them, nor could he make any interest in them, but with his money. It is often found that wicked men themselves have no real affection for those that revolt to them, nor do they care to do them a kindness. A degenerate branch is looked upon, on all sides, as an abominable branch, Isa. 14:19. But what did Ahaz get by the king of Assyria? Why, he came to him, but he distressed him, and strengthened him not (2 Chron. 28:20), helped him not, 2 Chron. 28:21. The forces of the Assyrian quartered upon his country, and so impoverished and weakened it; they grew insolent and imperious, and created him a great deal of vexation, like a broken reed, which not only fails, but pierces the hand.
2. He added to the guilt, by making court to strange gods, in hopes they would relieve him. In his distress, instead of repenting of his idolatry, which he had reason enough to see the folly of, he trespassed yet more (2 Chron. 28:22), was more mad than ever upon his idols. A brand of infamy is here set upon him for it: This is that king Ahaz, that wretched man, who was the scandal of the house of David and the curse and plague of his generation. Note, Those are wicked and vile indeed that are made worse by their afflictions, instead of being made better by them, who in their distress trespass yet more, have their corruptions exasperated by that which should mollify them, and their hearts more fully set in them to do evil. Let us see what his trespass was. (1.) He abused the house of God; for he cut in pieces the vessels of it, that the priests might not perform the service of the temple, or not as it should be performed, for want of vessels; and, at length, he shut up the doors, that the people might not attend it, 2 Chron. 28:24. This was worse than the worst of the kings before him had done. (2.) He confronted the altar of God, for he made himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem; so that, as the prophet speaks, they were like heaps in the furrows of the fields, Hos. 12:11. And in the cities of Judah, either by his power or by his purse, perhaps by both, he erected high places for the people to burn incense to what idols they pleased, as if on purpose to provoke the God of his fathers, 2 Chron. 28:25. (3.) He cast off God himself; for he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus (2 Chron. 28:23), not because he loved them, for he thought they smote him; but because he feared them, thinking that they helped his enemies, and that, if he could bring them into his interest, they would help him. Foolish man! It was his own God that smote him and strengthened the Syrians against him, not the gods of Damascus; had he sacrificed to him, and to him only, he would have helped him. But no marvel that men’s affections and devotions are misplaced when they mistake the author of their trouble and their help. And what comes of it? The gods of Syria befriend Ahaz no more than the kings of Assyria did; they were the ruin of him and of all Israel. This sin provoked God to bring judgments upon them, to cut him off in the midst of his days, when he was but thirty-six years old; and it debauched the people so that the reformation of the next reign could not prevail to cure them of their inclination to idolatry, but they retained that root of bitterness till the captivity in Babylon plucked it up.
The chapter concludes with the conclusion of the reign of Ahaz, 2 Chron. 28:26, 27. For aught that appears, he died impenitent, and therefore died inglorious; for he was not buried in the sepulchres of the kings. Justly was he thought unworthy to be laid among them who was so unlike them—to be buried with kings who had used his kingly power for the destruction of the church and not for its protection or edification.