The Hearts of Ahaz and His People Were Shaken

7: 1-2

    DIG: The events here occur in Ahaz’s reign, some ten years after those of Chapter 6 (Second Kings 16:5-18). What two kingdoms were going to invade Y'hudah and why? What was their fatal mistake? Who was the king of Judah at that time? What did Isaiah prophecy to him? Why didn’t he heed what the prophet said? What did he do instead? What were consequences for the two invaders, for Ahaz and the House of David?

    REFLECT: King Ahaz’s first deadly decision was ignoring the Word of the LORD from the mouth of His prophet Isaiah. What is you belief about the Word? Is it God’s letter to you? Is it something to base you life on? Or is it merely of human origin to be taken with a grain of salt? Secondly, Ahaz entered into a close relationship with Assyria that involved idol worship. Is there anyone who you are intimately involved with, socially, politically or economically, that is a friend with the world (Second Corinthians 6:14-17a; James 4:4)? How did it work out for Ahaz?

    At the time Isaiah was written, Ahaz, son of Jotham, the son Uzziah, was the king of Judah (7:1a). Of the four Judean kings under which Isaiah prophesied, Ahaz was easily the most wicked. The reason he was so uniquely wicked is that he tried to combine the idol worship of the high places and the golden calf, with the worship of Ba'al and Molech. It is important to understand that what Isaiah is about to prophecy was rooted in, and grows out of, real historical events. Prophecy and history have a symbionic relationship here. The prophecy is meaningless apart from an adequate understanding of its historical context and the historical context is necessary to understand the prophecy.

    Since Isra'el lay at the intersection of three great empires, Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon, it experienced frequent wars. At this time the Assyrian Empire was beginning to assert itself in the area of Judah and Isra'el. When Assyrian king Tiglath–pileser turned westward, the smaller nations in his path tended to group themselves into coalitions to defend themselves. King Rezin of Syria, known in the Hebrew as Aram, formed one such coalition with Pekah, son of King Remaliah of the northern kingdom of Isra'el. But they soon realized that their confederacy was not strong enough and they pressured the southern kingdom of Judah to join with them. But Judah, under King Ahaz, refused.

    When diplomacy failed to entice Judah, Syria and Isra'el decided on a strategy to invade Judah and do away with Ahaz. Therefore, King Rezin of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah, king of Isra'el, marched up to fight against Judah (7:1b). They inflicted heavy casualties (2 Chron 28:5-8), but they could not overpower her (7:1c). A second invasion followed (2 Chron 28:17-18), and the northern powers threatened to replace King Ahaz with a puppet king, the son of Tabeel (Isaiah 7:6).

    If Syrian and Isra'el had stopped with only wanted to kill Ahaz they may have been able to succeed. But they were also determined to do away with the house of David once and for all. For that reason, Ahaz is described as the house of David, for the Davidic Covenant was being threatened (Second Samuel 7:5-16). They wanted to set up a new dynasty, with the house of Tabeel upon the throne in Jerusalem that would have been more favorable to an alliance against the Assyrian menace. Thus, what happens in Chapters 7 through 12 needs to be viewed in light of that threat to Ahaz, but more importantly to the house of David. Ahaz’s next move would determine the future of David’s line.

    Although it is not mentioned here, something else lies in the background: When Ahaz was told that Syria had allied itself with Isra'el, with its capitol in Ephraim, the hearts of Ahaz and his people were terrified (7:2a). This prompted Ahaz’s decision to appeal to Assyria for help (Second Kings 16:7-9). We do not know whether the decision had yet been acted upon when ADONAI sent Isaiah to confront Ahaz, but surely it was at least under consideration. The situation abounded with ironies. It was probably the advance of the Assyrian Empire that prompted Syria and Isra'el to unite and try to force Judah into a defensive coalition with them; Assyria hardly needed to be urged and paid a great sum to do what she had been planning to do all along. Furthermore, the real threat to Judah’s independence was not Syria or Isra'el, but Assyria, whom Ahaz was inviting to be an ally. Yet Ahaz could not see the long-term issues. He could only see the short-term view, and he was about to pay the full price for his shortsightedness.25

    The decision of Ahaz to appeal to Assyria had spiritual implications as well as political ones. The only way Assyria would help Judah was to have a covenant with her. As a result of Ahaz’ policy, Judah was compelled to undertake the obligations of a normal vassal, which involved the paying of tribute and the recognition of Assyria’s gods in the Jerusalem Temple. Ahaz was also obligated to appear before Tiglath-pileser in Damascus and to pay homage to the Assyrian gods at a bronze altar that stood there. A copy of this altar was then made and set up in the Jerusalem Temple (Second Kings 16:10-16 and Second Chronicles 28:22-24). It was a humiliating position and not likely to win the approval of the people of Judah; however, Judah was spared military occupation and loss of her territory by Assyria. When Isaiah challenged Ahaz to trust in God, it backed Ahaz into a corner. He needed to either commit himself to Assyria, and in effect deny YHVH, or he must commit himself to the LORD and leave Assyria in His hands. We know which one he chose, and all because of an attack that was doomed before it began!

    There is the initial attempt to do away with Ahaz and the attack against  Y'hudah is by the army of Isra'el alone. But this initial attempt fails. The Israelite and Syrian armies split. Isra'el went against Jerusalem while the Syrians went south against the city of Elath. The Syrians were successful in taking Elath, and after the conquest the armies of Syria and Isra'el then combined for a joint attack against the southern kingdom of Y'huadh.

    The prospect of such formidable enemies caused the people of Judah to be shaken. The house of David refers to the royal family or the court. The king’s name is not mentioned. A wicked man, declares a rabbinic tradition, does not deserve the honor of being named. At any rate, the house of David is an expression for the king and his courtiers much like the White House is for the president of the United States and his staff. But ironically, it is the house of David that was shaken. This shaking was due to a lack of faith and trust in the Scriptures. Second Samuel 7:11-17, First Chronicles 17:10-15, Psalm 89:1-4 and 19-37 all detail the content of the Davidic Covenant. Had Ahaz been able to trust in the LORD and His promised Covenant with David, he would not have been afraid, and the nation would have followed his lead. Because of his lack of faith, however, the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind (7:2b).

 

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