II Kings – Chapter 16

The Reign of King Achaz

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Evil kings were the norm for Israel, but the exception for Judah. Sadly, Achaz was one of those exceptions. He was extremely idolatrous, going so far as to pass his son through fire as a form of worship to the idol Molech. Aram and Israel teamed up to make war on Judah, but they did not defeat Achaz in battle. Aram did recapture one city and they evicted the Jews who were living there. (Some things never change!)

Achaz sent messengers to Tiglas Pileser, the king of Assyria. He sent as much gold and silver as was in the Temple and the palace for Assyria to drive away the invading forces of Aram and Israel. Tiglas Pileser drove away the invading armies and killed the king of Aram, but he did not return the captured territory to Judah.

When the idolatrous Achaz went to visit Tiglas Pileser, he saw the altar of the Assyrian idol and had a replica built in the Temple courtyard. He instructed that this was to be the main altar from now on, and Uriah the Kohein Gadol (High Priest) complied. Not only did this altar not belong in the Temple, Achaz insisted on bringing sacrifices on it, even though he was not a kohein (priest). The true altar became secondary.

Achaz went further to undermine the Temple service. He had the stands under the wash lavers and the “sea” removed and he disposed of the awning that the Kohanim would use for shelter on Shabbos when they changed shifts. He also made a personal shortcut to the palace. (One may not make a shortcut through a synagogue and certainly not through the Temple!)

The reign of Achaz was sixteen years. When he died, he was replaced by his son Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah), one of the greatest of all Jewish kings.

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