THE BOOKS OF 1 AND 2 KINGS, though they follow the fortunes of both Judah and
Israel (the southern and northern kingdoms, respectively, after the division that
followed Solomon’s death), lay more emphasis on Israel, the northern ten tribes.
More space is devoted to Israel’s kings than to Judah’s. Eventually, of course, the
northern kingdom collapses (see tomorrow’s meditation), and then all the atten-
tion is focused on the south. By comparison, 1 and 2 Chronicles recount more or
less the same history, but turn the spotlight primarily on the southern kingdom
Even in 2 Kings, however, substantial attention is sometimes focused on one
of the kings of Judah. So it is in 2 Kings 16.By and large, the northern kings
degenerated morequickly than in the south. In the south, many kings are
described as following the Lord, but not as David had done; in the north, many
are described as following in the footsteps of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who
caused Israel to sin. But every once in a while a really evil or stupid king arises in
the south. And such is Ahaz.
Religiously and theologically, Ahaz was a disaster. “Unlike David his father,
he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORDhis God. He walked in the
ways of the kings of Israel and even sacriﬁced his son in the ﬁre, following the
detestable ways of the nations the LORDhad driven out before the Israelites”
(16:2-3). Politically he fared no better.Harried by Israel and Syria to his north,
King Ahaz of Judah decided to strip the temple of its wealth and send it to King
Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria. Assyria was the rising superpower. Sending money to
him as a kind of tribute, with a plea to get him to lean on Syria and Israel so as to
reduce pressure on Judah, was a bit like throwing a hunk of meat to a crocodile:
you could be sure that this crocodile would want more. Worse, King Ahaz
became so enamored of Assyria that he introduced some of its pagan ways into
the temple service. Fear turned Ahaz toward pagan power, and “deference to the
king of Assyria” (16:18) fostered fresh compromises.
Contrast Hezekiah, two chapters later, who, while facing a far more serious
threat from the Assyrians, brought on in no small part because of the stupidity
and faithlessness of Ahaz, brooks no compromise but diligently seeks the face
of God. Therehe discovers, in line with the experience of Moses and the fathers
of Israel, that God is able to defend his people against few or many—it is all the
same with him.