AHAZ, King of Judah (735-719 B.C.).
Son of King Jotham. His reign is memorable as that in which Judah first became vassal to Assyria, and Assyrian (Babylonian) modes of worship were first introduced into the official worship at Jerusalem. The Hebrew authorities know only the form of his name given above, but the Assyrians called him Yauḥazi (= Jehoahaz: "Whom YHWH has held fast"); the former name being a contraction of the latter, like Nathan for Elnathan or Jonathan. Immediately upon his accession Ahaz had to meet a combination formed by northern Israel, under Pekah, and Damascus (Syria), under Rezin. These kings apparently wished to compel him to join them in opposing the Assyrians, who were arming a force against Syria and Palestine under the great Tiglath-Pileser III. (Pul). To protect himself he called in the aid of the Assyrians. Through their interference, and as a result of their invasion and subjection of the kingdom of Damascus and of Palestine outside of Judah, 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
- See the commentaries on II Kings, xvi., II Chron. xxviii., and Isa. vii., and the standard histories of Israel for the period in question. For the relations with Assyria and its consequences, see Schrader, C. I. O. T. 2d ed., pp. 257 et seq.;
- McCurdy, History, Prophecy, and the Monuments, i. chaps. iv and vii., especially §§ 317 et seq.;
- Price, The Monuments and the Old Testament, pp. 165 et seq.;
- Schrader, K. B. ii. 20.
According to the rabbis, who refer to II Chron. xxviii. 19-25, Ahaz was the king who persisted in his wickedness even in the face of all the trials to which he was subjected, and would not repent (Sanh. 103a, Meg. 11a). Worse than this, he threatened Israel's religion to its very foundation, in order to destroy all hope of regeneration. He closed the schools and houses of worship so that no instruction should be possible, and the Shekinah (or Glory of God) should abandon the land. It was for this reason that Isaiah had to teach in secret (Yer. Sanh. x. 28b; Gen. R. xlii.), though Ahaz always humbly submitted to the prophet's rebukes—his only redeeming feature (Sanh. 104a).