(ay' haz) HEBREW: ACHAZ (from JEHOAHAZ)
"he (Yahweh) has grasped"

The 11th king of Judah, who ruled c.735-715 B.C., is described in the Bible as one of the worst examples of an apostate king - one who "even burned his son as an offering" (2 Kg. 16:3). Taking the throne at the age of 20 after several years of coregency with his father, Jotham, Ahaz inherited political troubles that overwhelmed his courage and ability. He was vacillating and panicked easily in a time that called for fortitude and faith.

At the beginning of his reign, he was asked to join the alliance of King Pekah of Israel and King Rezin of Syria to slow the inevitable Assyrian advance. When Ahaz refused, the two kings attacked Judah and besieged Jerusalem in an attempt to replace Ahaz on the throne with the otherwise unidentified "son of Tabeel" (Is. 7:6). Threatened not only by Rezin and Pekah but also by their Edomite and Philistine allies, Ahaz hoped to save Jerusalem by appealing for help to the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III. As he was about to decide, the prophet Isaiah appeared before Ahaz to plead the case against the Assyrian alliance, promising the survival of Judah through a return to worship of Yahweh. Too fearful to trust the prophet, Ahaz hoped to save his kingdom by making the dramatic sacrifice of his son to bring down the wrath of God on his enemies. He also surrendered his independence to Tiglath-pileser, begging the Assyrian king to save him. In response, the Assyrian army marched west in about 732, conquering the Syrian capital of Damascus and portions of Israel before subduing Transjordan and Philistia.

In exchange for protection, Ahaz had appeared before Tiglath-pileser in Damascus to pay tribute in the form of treasure from the temple in Jerusalem and from his own royal palace. While in Damascus, Ahaz was impressed by the great altar that he saw there; he sent construction plans to his high priest Uriah with orders to build a replica in Jerusalem. On it were to be offered sacrifices to the "gods of Damascus" (2 Chr. 28:23). The price of political survival was religious surrender to Assyria - and Ahaz is harshly condemned for his apostasy in the books of 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah.

At his death, the body of Ahaz was "buried with his fathers in the city of David" (2 Kg. 16:20), although it is noted that "they did not bring him into the tombs of the kings of Israel" (2 Chr. 28:27). His son Hezekiah began an era of spiritual reform.

{E2 Dictionary of Biblical People}

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