Ahaz ("possessor".) Son of Jotham; ascended the throne of Judah in his 20th year (2 Kings 16:2), a transcriber's error for 25th year; as read in the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic (2 Chronicles 28:1); for otherwise Hezekiah his son would be born when Ahaz was 11 years old. Rezin, king of Damascus, and Pekah of Israel leagued against Judah, to put on the throne the son of Tabeal, probably a Syrian (Isaiah 7:6). Isaiah and Shear-jashub his son (whose name means "the remnant shall return" was a pledge that, notwithstanding; heavy calamity, the whole nation should not perish), together met Ahaz by Jehovah's direction at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, and assured him that Rezin's and Pekah's evil counsel should not come to pass; nay, that within 65 years Ephraim (Israel) should cease to be a people.
It is an undesigned propriety in Isaiah 7, and therefore a mark of truth, that the place of meeting was the pool; for there it was we know, from the independent history in Chronicles, that Hezekiah his son, subsequently in Sennacherib's invasion, with much people stopped the waters without the city to cut off the enemy's supply (2 Chronicles 32:3-5). The place was appropriate to Isaiah's message from God that their labors were unnecessary, for God would save the city; it was also suitable for addressing the king and the multitude gathered for the stopping of the waters there. Isaiah told Ahaz to "ask a sign," i.e. a miraculous token from God that He would keep His promise of saving Jerusalem.
Ahaz hypocritically refused to "tempt the Lord" by asking one. What mock humility in one who scrupled not to use God's brazen altar to divine with, and had substituted for God's altar in God's worship the pattern, which pleased his aesthetic tastes, of the idol altar at Damascus (2 Kings 16:11-15); perhaps the adoption of this pattern, an Assyrian one, was meant as a token of vassalage to Assyria, by adopting some of their religious usage's and idolatries; indeed Tiglath Pileser expressly records in the Assyrian monuments that he held his court at Damascus, and there received submission and tribute of both Pekah of Samaria and Ahaz of Judah. To ask a miraculous sign without warrant would be to tempt (i.e. put to the proof) God; but not to ask, when God offered a sign, was at once tempting and distrusting Him. Ahaz's true reason for declining was his resolve not to do God's will, but to negotiate with Assyria and persevere in idolatry (2 Kings 16:7-8; 2 Kings 16:3-4; 2 Kings 16:10). Thereupon God Himself gave the sign: "a virgin should bring forth Immanuel." (For the primary fulfillment in the birth of a child in Isaiah's time, see IMMANUEL.) The promise of His coming of the line of David guaranteed the perpetuity of David' s seed, and the impossibility of the two invaders setting aside David's line of succession. Ahaz is named Jeho-Ahaz (or Yahu-Khazi) in the Assyrian inscriptions.
Pekah slew 120,000 valiant men of Judah in one day, "because they had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers"; Zichri of Ephraim slew the king's son Maaseiah, and Azrikim the governor of his house, and Elkanah next to the king. Israel carried captive 200,000, and much spoil, to Samaria. But Oded the prophet constrained them to restore the captives fed, arrayed, and shod, and the feeble mounted upon asses, to their brethren at Jericho. Pekah took Elath, which Uzziah or Ahaziah had restored to Judah, a flourishing port on the Red Sea; "the Syrians" according to KJV "came and dwelt in it": or, reading (2 Kings 16:6) Adomim for Aromim, "the Edomites"; who also came and smote Judah on the E., and carried away captives (2 Chronicles 28:17-18), while the Philistines were invading the. S. and W., the cities of the low hill country (shephelah), Bethshemesh, Ajalon, Gederoth, Shocho, Timnah, Gimzo. The feeble Ahaz, retributively" brought low," even as he had "made naked" (stripped of the true defense, Jehovah, Exodus 32:25, by sin) Judah, sought deliverance by becoming Tiglath Pileser's vassal (1 Kings 16:7-10).
The Assyrian king "distressed him, but strengthened him not." For Ahaz had to present his master treasures out of the temple, his palace, and the houses of the princes. It is true the Assyrian slew Rezin, and carried captive the Syrians of Damascus to Kir; but their ruin did not prove Ahaz's safety, "the king of Assyria helped him not." Isaiah (Isaiah 7:17; Isaiah 8:1-2) had warned him against this alliance by writing in a roll Maher-shalal-hashbaz, i.e., hasting to the spoil he hasteth to the prey. To impress this on Ahaz as the coming result of Assyrian interference, he took with him two witnesses, Uriah the priest and Zechariah. Who Uriah was we learn from the independent history (2 Kings 16:15-16), the ready tool of Ahaz's unlawful innovations in worship. Zechariah, the same history tells us (2 Kings 18:2), was father of Abi, Ahaz's wife, mother of Hezekiah. The coincidence between Isaiah's book and that of Kings in these names is little obvious and so undesigned that it forms a delicate mark of truth.
Isaiah chose these two, as the king's bosom friends, to urge on Ahaz's attention the solemn communication he had to make. Distress, instead of turning Ahaz to Him who smote them, the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 9:12-13), only made him "trespass yet more," sacrificing to the gods of Damascus which had smitten him, that they might help him as he thought they had helped the Syrians; "but they were the ruin of him and of all Israel." Ahaz cut in pieces God's vessels, and shut up the doors of the temple, and made altars in every grainer of Jerusalem, and burnt incense on high places in every several city of Judah. He also "cut off the borders of the bases, and removed the laver from off them, and took down the sea from off the brazen oxen and put it upon a pavement of stones," putting God off with inferior things and taking all the best for his own purposes, whether of idolatry or selfish luxury.
The brazen oxen were preserved whole, not melted (compare Jeremiah 52:17-20). "The covert for the sabbath," i.e., a covered walk like a portico or standing place, to screen the royal worshippers in the temple, and the king's private entry, he removed into the temple, to please the king of Assyria, that none might go from the palace into the temple without the trouble of going round. Ahaz seems to have practiced necromancy (Isaiah 8:19) as well as making his son pass through the fire to Moloch (2 Kings 16; 2 Kings 23:11-12; 2 Chronicles 28), and setting up altars on his roof to adore the heavenly hosts. He adopted the Babylonian sun dial (which he probably erected in the temple, perhaps in "the middle court," where Isaiah saw it and gave its shadow as a sign to Hezekiah), becoming acquainted with it through the Assyrians (2 Kings 20:11; 2 Kings 20:4; 2 Kings 20:9). After reigning 16 years (740-724 B.C.) he died and was buried in the city of David, but was, because of his wickedness, "not brought into the sepulchers of the kings."