New Influx of Idolatry
Ahaz was twenty years old when he succeeded his father Jotham to the throne of Judea. He was a weak and idolatrous king. He even made his son walk through the fire of Moloch, aping the abominable custom of the Phoenicians. Another son, Hezekiah, who was to become king after Ahaz, was saved from the flames of the idol by his mother.
Soon great troubles and misfortunes befell the land and the king. The Edomites revolted, and even made a successful invasion of Judah, carrying off many captives. Then the Philistines also broke into some western districts of the land which they annexed to their own territory. Finally, Rezin, the king of Syria, who had Joined forces with King Pekah of Israel while Jotham was yet alive, marched on Judea together with his associate.
Ahaz suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Pekah. Many people of Judea were killed and numerous prisoners were brought to Samaria. The prophet Obed went to meet the victorious army of Pekah and said: "Because G‑d was angry with Judah, He gave her into your hands. You have slain many in cruel rage; the rest you want to force into your service as man and maid-servants. Thus you bring guilt upon yourself. Return the captives of your brethren, that G‑d's wrath may not come upon you." Some of the leaders of Israel supported this plea of the prophet, and the captives were freed. They were fed and dressed and were transported back to their families in Judea.
Rezin, too, came away with spoils. Though Jerusalem had withstood the siege of the united armies, Rezin captured the important harbor of Elath and exiled its Jewish inhabitants. In their stead he brought in Syrian colonists.
Ahaz found himself hard-pressed by the united armies of Pekah and Rezin. The position of Jerusalem seemed very precarious. The Prophet Isaiah tried his best to encourage Ahaz and assure him that G‑d would save the city from the hands of the enemies. But Ahaz had no trust in G‑d. He sent a delegation of noblemen to Tiglath-Pileser, the powerful king of Assyria, with presents of gold and silver taken from the treasures of the Temple and his own palace. Ahaz instructed his envoys to hand over these presents to the king of Assyria with the following words: "I am your servant and son. Save me from the hands of the kings of Syria and Israel who have gone to war against me."
Tiglath-Pileser was only too glad to take this opportunity to subdue these two states and gain an outlet to the sea. He marched on Damascus and thus forced Rezin of Syria to abandon the siege of Jerusalem. Rezin himself was captured and killed by the Assyrians. At that time Syria was incorporated into the Assyrian empire and at the same time Tiglath-Pileser also annexed part of the land of Israel.
Ahaz Desecrates the Temple
Delivered from his enemies, Ahaz traveled to Damascus to thank his liberator and patron, the victorious Tiglath-Pileser. He was accorded the usual courtesy, but he was made aware of his status of dependence. In Damascus Ahaz saw a famous heathen altar which he admired so much that he had it copied and sent to Jerusalem to the High Priest Uriah, with the command to put it up in the Holy Temple. After his return from Damascus, he himself sacrificed on this altar, and forced the priests to offer the daily sacrifices on it.
In order to satisfy the greed of Tiglath-Pileser, Ahaz continually despoiled of its treasures the Temple, which had been enriched during Uzziah's and Jotham's successful reigns.
Ahaz died in the sixteenth year of his most unfortunate rule. Both politically and spiritually he had been instrumental in undermining the foundations of the kingdom of Judea. Heaven, too, did its share to spoil the last honors accorded him. On the day of his death, the sun shone for only two hours, so that his burial had to be rushed through. He was not buried with the other kings of the House of David.