II Chronicles – Chapter 28

Let’s Not Overdo It

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

As far as kings go, Achaz was not one of the good ones. He served idols and even passed his children through fire in the service of Molech, one of the most reprehensible forms of idolatry, right up there with human sacrifice. Achaz was remarkably prolific in his idol worship, offering sacrifices all over the place.

G-d punished Achaz by delivering him into the hands of Aram, who defeated him in battle and carried off captives. Achaz then suffered a crushing blow at the hands of the northern kingdom of the Ten Tribes, who decimated his army in one fell swoop. Members of Achaz’ own household were among the casualties and the northern kingdom took 200,000 women and children as captives.

A prophet named Oded met the northern army returning triumphantly to Samaria. He told them that G-d had been angry with Judah, which is why He allowed them to suffer such a crushing defeat. However, G-d did not approve of the Ten Tribes taking the women and children of Judah as captives. Oded advised them to send the captives home before G-d directs His wrath at the Ten Tribes. The leaders of the northern army actually took this advice and they renounced their share in the captives and the wealth. They dressed the prisoners and gave them provisions for a journey. They escorted them to Jericho, then they returned to Samaria.

Meanwhile, Achaz had turned to Assyria for military aid, as he was being besieged left and right. Assyria ostensibly complied, but they ended up being no help at all. (In fact, this was their own “foot in the door!”) Even though Achaz paid them with wealth taken from his palace and the Temple, Assyria betrayed him. And even though he found himself in dire straits, Achaz stubbornly refused to turn to G-d. Instead, he decided to implore the “gods” of Aram, which led to his downfall.

Achaz gathered the vessels of the Temple and cut them up; he then locked the Temple doors and established altars to idols all over Jerusalem. (Obviously, he had hoped that the people would use these altars when they found the Temple closed.) When he died, the hated Achaz was not afforded a royal burial. (According to the Mishna in Pesachim, 4:9, his bones were dragged through the streets.) Achaz was succeeded by his son Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah).

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