Ahaz (Hebrew: אָחָז, ʼĀḥāz ; "has held"; Greek: Ἄχαζ Akhaz; Latin: Ahaz;1 an abbreviation of Jehoahaz, "Yahweh has held") was king of Judah, and the son and successor of Jotham. He is one of the kings mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.
Ahaz was twenty when he became king of Judah and reigned for sixteen years. His reign commenced in the seventeenth year of the reign of Pekah of Israel. Edwin Thiele concluded that Ahaz was coregent with Jotham from 736/735 BC, and that his sole reign began in 732/731 and ended in 716/715 BC.2 William F. Albright has dated his reign to 744 – 728 (16 years) BC.
Immediately upon his accession Ahaz had to meet a combination formed by northern Israel, under Pekah, and Damascus (Syria), under Rezin. These kings wished to compel him to join them in opposing the Assyrians, who were arming a force against Syria and Palestine under Tiglath-Pileser III. (Pul). To protect himself Ahaz called in the aid of the Assyrians. Tiglath-Pileser sacked Damascus and annexed Aram.3 According to 2 Kings 16:9, the population of Aram was deported and Rezin executed. Tiglath-Pileser then attacked Israel and "took Ijon, Abel Beth Maacah, Janoah, Kedesh and Hazor. He took Gilead and Galilee, including all the land of Naphtali, and deported the people to Assyria." Tiglath-Pileser also records this act in one of his inscriptions.4
Through their intervention, and as a result of their invasion and subjection of the kingdom of Damascus and the Kingdom of Israel, Ahaz was relieved of his troublesome neighbors; but his protector henceforth claimed and held suzerainty over his kingdom. This war of invasion lasted two years (734-732 B.C.), and ended in the capture and annexation of Damascus to Assyria and of the territory of Israel north of the border of Jezreel. Ahaz in the meanwhile furnished auxiliaries to Tiglath-Pileser. This appeal to Assyria met with stern opposition from the prophet Isaiah, who counseled Ahaz to rely upon the Lord and not upon outside aid. The sequel seemed to justify the king and to condemn the prophet. Ahaz, during his whole reign, was free from troubles with which the neighboring rulers were harassed, who from time to time revolted against Assyria. Thus it was that, in 722, Samaria was taken and northern Israel wholly incorporated into the Assyrian empire.5
Ahaz, who was irresolute and impressionable, yielded readily to the glamour and prestige of the Assyrians in religion as well as in politics. In 732 he went to Damascus to swear homage to Tiglath-Pileser and his gods; and, taking a fancy to an altar which he saw there, he had one like it made in Jerusalem, which, with a corresponding change in ritual, he made a permanent feature of the Temple worship. Changes were also made in the arrangements and furniture of the Temple, "because of the king of Assyria" (II Kings, xvi. 18). Furthermore, Ahaz fitted up an astrological observatory with accompanying sacrifices, after the fashion of the ruling people. In other ways Ahaz lowered the character of the national worship. It is recorded that he even offered his son by fire to Moloch.5
His government must be considered, on the whole, disastrous to his country, especially in its religious aspects; and a large part of the reforming work of his son Hezekiah aimed at undoing the evil that Ahaz had wrought.5
|Rulers of Judah|
He died at the age of 36 and was succeeded by his son, Hezekiah. Because of his wickedness he was "not brought into the sepulchre of the kings" (2 Chronicles 28:27). An insight into Ahaz's neglect of the worship of the Lord is found in the statement that on the first day of the month of Nisan that followed Ahaz's death, his son Hezekiah commissioned the priests and Levites to open and repair the doors of the Temple and to remove the defilements of the sanctuary, a task which took 16 days (2 Chronicles 29:3-20).
There has been considerable academic debate about the actual dates of reigns of the Israelite kings. Scholars have endeavored to synchronize the chronology of events referred to in the Bible with those derived from other external sources.
The calendars for reckoning the years of kings in Judah and Israel were offset by six months, that of Judah starting in Tishri (in the fall) and that of Israel in Nisan (in the spring). Cross-synchronizations between the two kingdoms therefore often allow narrowing of the beginning and/or ending dates of a king to within a six-month range. For Ahaz, the Scriptural data allow dating the beginning of his coregency with Jotham to some time in the six-month interval beginning of Nisan 1 of 735 BC. By the Judean calendar that started the regnal year in Tishri (a fall month), this could be written as 736/735, or more simply 736 BC. His father was removed from responsibility by the pro-Assyrian faction at some time in the year that started in Tishri of 732 BC.6 He died some time between Tishri 1 of 716 BC and Nisan 1 of 715 BC, i.e. in 716/715, or more simply 716 BC.
Rodger Young offers a possible explanation of why four extra years are assigned to Jotham in 2 Kings 15:30 and why Ahaz's 16 year reign (2 Kings 16:2) is measured from the time of Jotham's death in 732/731, instead of when Jotham was deposed in 736/735. Taking into account the factionalism of the time, Young writes:
[A]ny record such as 2 Kings 16:2 that recognized these last four years for Jotham must have come from the annals of the anti-Assyrian and anti-Ahaz court that prevailed after the death of Ahaz. Ahaz is given sixteen years in these annals, measuring from the start of his sole reign, instead of the twenty or twenty-one years that he would be credited with if the counting started from 736t [i.e. 736/735 BC], when he deposed Jotham.7
Ahaz of Judah
|King of Judah
Coregency: 736 – 732 BC
Sole reign: 732 – 729 BC
Coregency: 729 – 716 BC
In the mid-1990s a bulla appeared on the antiquities market. This bulla measures .4 inches (10 mm) wide. The back of the bulla bears the imprint of the papyrus it once sealed, as well as the double string which held it together. It contains a fingerprint on the left edge. Like many bullae, it was preserved due to being baked by fire, presumably incidentally (house or city was burned), as in a kiln. The inscription reads: “Belonging to Ahaz (son of) Yehotam, King of Judah.” Given the process that created and preserved bullae, they are virtually impossible to forge. Most scholars believe this bulla to be authentic. It bears the seal of King Ahaz of Judah, who ruled from 732-716 BC.89 Another important source regarding the historicity of Ahaz comes from Tiglat Pileser III annals, mentioning tributes and payments he received from Ahaz, king of Judah and Menahem, king of Israel1011
There is also a reference to Ahaz by Tiglath-Pileser III.
- Isaiah 7:10 Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying
- Edwin R. Thiele (1994-10-01). The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings. Kregel Academic. ISBN 978-0-8254-3825-7.
- Lester L. Grabbe, Ancient Israel: What Do We Know and How Do We Know It? (New York: T&T Clark, 2007): 134
- James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (3rd ed.; Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969) 283.
- "Ahaz, King of Judah", Jewish Encyclopedia
- Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (2nd. ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965) 127.
- Rodger C. Young, "When Was Samaria Captured? The Need for Precision in Biblical Chronologies," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 47 (2004) 588, available here.
- Ahaz Bulla
- First Impression: What We Learn from King Ahaz’s Seal by Robert Deutsch
- Sol Scharfstein (2000-01-01). Jewish History and You: From the Patriarchs to the Expulsion from Spain With Documents and Texts. KTAV Publishing House, Inc. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-88125-686-4.
- Edwin R. Thiele (1994-10-01). The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings. Kregel Academic. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-8254-3825-7.
- "Ahaz". JewishEncyclopedia.com.