Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
4 Kings (2 Kings)
Ahaz begins to reign, acts wickedly, and restores idolatry in Judea, Kg2 16:1-4. Rezin, king of Syria, besieges Jerusalem, but cannot take it; he takes Elath, and drives the Jews thence, Kg2 16:5, Kg2 16:6. Ahaz hires Tiglath-pileser against the king of Syria and the king of Israel, and gives him the silver and gold that were found in the treasures of the house of the Lord, Kg2 16:7, Kg2 16:8. Tiglath-pileser takes Damascus and slays Rezin, Kg2 16:9. Ahaz goes to meet him at Damascus: sees an altar there, a pattern of which he sends to Urijah, the priest; and orders him to make one like it, which he does, Kg2 16:10-15. He makes several alterations in the temple; dies; and Hezekiah his son reigns in his stead, Kg2 16:16-20.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 16:2
Twenty years old was Ahaz - Here is another considerable difficulty in the chronology. Ahaz was but twenty years old when he began to reign, and he died after he had reigned sixteen years; consequently his whole age amounted only to thirty-six years. But Hezekiah his son was twenty-five years old when he began to reign; and if this were so, then Ahaz must have been the father of Hezekiah when he was but eleven years of age! Some think that the twenty years mentioned here respect the beginning of the reign of Jotham, father of Ahaz; so that the passage should be thus translated: Ahaz was twenty years of age when his father began to reign; and consequently he was fifty-two years old when he died, seeing Jotham reigned sixteen years: and therefore Hezekiah was born when his father was twenty-seven years of age. This however is a violent solution, and worthy of little credit. It is better to return to the text as it stands, and allow that Ahaz might be only eleven or twelve years old when he had Hezekiah: this is not at all impossible; as we know that the youth of both sexes in the eastern countries are marriageable at ten or twelve years of age, and are frequently betrothed when they are but nine. I know a woman, an East Indian, who had the second of her two first children when she was only fourteen years of age, and must have had the first when between eleven and twelve. I hold it therefore quite a possible case that Ahaz might have had a son born to him when he was but eleven or twelve years old.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 16:3
Made his son to pass through the fire - On this passage I beg leave to refer the reader to my notes on Lev 18:21; Lev 20:2, Lev 20:14, where the subject is considered at large.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 16:5
But could not overcome him - It is likely that this was the time when Isaiah was sent to console Ahaz; (see Isa 7:1); and predicted the death both of Rezin and Pekah, his enemies.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 16:6
Recovered Elath to Syria - See the note on Kg2 14:22.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 16:7
I am thy servant and thy son - I will obey thee in all, and become tributary to thee; only help me against Syria and Israel.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 16:9
The king of Assyria hearkened unto him - It is said, Ch2 28:20, that Tilgath-pilneser distressed him, but strengthened him not.
Though he came against the Syrians, and took Damascus, and slew Rezin, yet he did not help Ahaz against the Philistines, nor did he lend him any forces to assist against Israel; and he distressed him by taking the royal treasures, and the treasures of the temple, and did him little service for so great a sacrifice. He helped him a little, but distressed him on the whole.
It appears that, about this time, Pekah king of Israel nearly ruined Judea: it is said, Ch2 28:6, that he slew one hundred thousand valiant men in one day; and that he carried away captive to Samaria two hundred thousand women and children, and much spoil; but, at the instance of the prophet Oded, these were all sent back, fed and clothed, Ch2 28:8-16.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 16:10
Ahaz went to Damascus - He had received so much help on the defeat of Rezin, that he went to Damascus to meet the king of Assyria, and render him thanks.
Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar - This was some idolatrous altar, the shape and workmanship of which pleased Ahaz so well that he determined to have one like it at Jerusalem. For this he had no Divine authority, and the compliance of Urijah was both mean and sinful. That Ahaz did this for an idolatrous purpose, is evident from Ch2 28:21-25 : "For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus; - and he said, Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, I will sacrifice to them, that they may help me. And he made high places to burn incense to other gods in every city of Judah."
4 Kings (2 Kings) 16:14
Put it on the north side - He seems to have intended to conform every thing in the Lord's house as much as possible to the idolatrous temples which he saw at Damascus, and to model the Divine worship in the same way: in a word to honor and worship the gods of Syria, and not the God of heaven. All the alterations specified here were in contempt of the true God. Thus he provoked to anger the Lord God of his fathers, Ch2 28:25.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 16:18
And the covert for the Sabbath - There are a great number of conjectures concerning this covert, or, as it is in the Hebrew, the מוסך musach, of the Sabbath. As the word, and others derived from the same root, signify covering or booths, it is very likely that this means either a sort of canopy which was erected on the Sabbath days for the accommodation of the people who came to worship, and which Ahaz took away to discourage them from that worship; or a canopy under which the king and his family reposed themselves, and which he transported to some other place to accommodate the king of Assyria when he visited him. Jarchi supposes that it was a sort of covert way that the kings of Judah had to the temple, and Ahaz had it removed lest the king of Assyria, going by that way, and seeing the sacred vessels, should covet them. If that way had been open, he might have gone by it into the temple, and have seen the sacred vessels, and so have asked them from a man who was in no condition to refuse them, however unwilling he might be to give them up. The removing of this, whatever it was, whether throne or canopy, or covered way, cut off the communication between the king's house and the temple; and the king of Assyria would not attempt to go into that sacred place by that other passage to which the priests alone had access.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 16:20
Was buried with his fathers in the city of David - But it is expressly declared, Ch2 28:27, that he was not buried in the sepulchres of the kings of Israel; and this was undoubtedly intended as a mark of degradation.
His reign was disastrous and impious; and it was disastrous because it was impious. He had been a scourge, not a blessing, to his people. He had not only made illegal alterations in the temple, and in the mode of worship prescribed by the true God, but he had polluted all the cities of Judah with idolatry, and brought ruin upon the nation. On the whole, a worse king than himself had not as yet sat on the Jewish throne; and yet he had many advantages: he had for counsellor one of the greatest men ever produced in the Jewish nation, Isaiah the prophet; and God condescended to interpose especially for him when grievously straitened by the kings of Israel and Syria, both of whom were cut off according to the prediction of this prophet. But he would not lay it to heart, and therefore the wrath of God fell heavily upon him, and upon the stiff-necked and rebellious people whom he governed. He had sufficient warning and was without excuse. He would sin, and therefore he must suffer.