Backstory of the Kings 21: Jotham and Ahaz

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, February 9, 2024 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

The Bible races through Uzziah’s 52-year reign in Judah then comes to Jotham and basically skips over that one, too. There is very little coverage of Jotham’s 16-year reign other than he walked with the Lord but did not tear down the high places. His reign overlapped with Uzziah due to Uzziah’s leprosy, but nothing else is said worthy of attention. Jotham’s son Ahaz got a lot more attention, not just in Kings or Chronicles but also in Isaiah. A large portion of the early chapters of Isaiah consists of Isaiah preaching to Ahaz. The rules of Jotham and Ahaz are covered in 2 Chronicles 27-28.

Jotham was 25 years old when he became king and ruled for 16 years. Ahaz was 20 years old when he became king and ruled for 16 years. Jotham was born 27 years into Uzziah’s reign. Ahaz was born when Jotham was 21, four years before Uzziah died. But here is where it gets interesting. Hezekiah was 25 when he became king, and Ahaz was 36 when he died. What does that say? It means Ahaz fathered Hezekiah when he was 11 years old. That’s not biologically impossible, however, it does give a hint at what was going on spiritually during Ahaz’s youth.

During Uzziah’s and Jotham’s reigns, it is noted that while they walked with the Lord, the people did not. Hezekiah showcased this in greater detail. He walked with the Lord, and he tore down the high places, but the people sought out their idols one way or the other. One such idol that Hezekiah would destroy was the bronze serpent that Moses had made. It was being worshiped during Jotham’s and Ahaz’s reigns and very likely long before that too.

Jotham was moral, was religiously right before God, and did not bow before the idols, but he did nothing to stop his people from doing so. Ahaz went full-blown into idolatry. He didn’t merely worship the Baals and Asherah; he even sacrificed his children on the altar to Molech. Hezekiah was spared this fate because he was already 9 years old when Ahaz became king and was too old for such a sacrifice. The Molech worship required an infant, a newborn. Jotham was the fourth king in a row that did nothing about the idol worship going on in Judah, even though they did not worship them personally. When Ahaz became king, he went full out. Again, he fathered Hezekiah when he was 11 years old, which means he did the deed when he was 10. I get it was a different culture then, but it was the girls who tended to get married younger while the men often weren’t married until their 30s when they were old enough and mature enough to lead a home. We don’t know what was going on there other than idol worshiped was tolerated. Nearly all the idol worship going on involved sexual activity, and kids were not exempt. It was much more than just burning incense or a candle and offering food before a man-made statue. Whether Ahaz engaged in sexual activity as a ten-year-old in the practice of idol worship, or whether he witnessed something and was acting it out, or even if Jotham was involved or knew about it or what, it would not surprise me if this activity led to his choices as an adult to go full out in sin against God.

Both Jotham and Ahaz sat under the ministry of Isaiah. Jotham had peace in his day, but Ahaz had trouble. God rallied both Rezin of Syria and Pekah of Israel to reduce Judah to just Jerusalem. Isaiah spent multiple chapters telling Ahaz how the battles and the sieges with Rezin and Pekah would go. God treated both these pagan kings as smoldering wicks, candles on their final flame, before their final snuff out. But Ahaz refused to listen and instead turned to the idols even more than before. Syria beat him in battle and so Ahaz, instead of turning to the Lord as Isaiah strongly admonished him to do, turned to the gods of Syria and shut down the Temple. Because of his idolatry and his wickedness, he wasn’t even given a king’s burial when he died at a mere 36 years old.

Jotham is an example of someone who walks the Christian walk but does nothing about the sin going on around him. Scripture says very little about him, simply indicating him building some walls and cities and defeating the Ammonites again. That’s all we have, but by examining the spiritual status on Uzziah’s side and on Ahaz’s side, we can see that Jotham’s walk with the Lord was personal and involved nothing else. He didn’t even train his son, Ahaz, to walk in the ways of the Lord. And when people are only concerned about their own salvation, even if God does let them in, they will be marked as one who would have “unfulfilled potential” written on their tombstone. They will have “Yes, they professed the faith, but there was nothing real about it.” Jotham’s own son was a prepubescent father who then walked in idolatry, and I don’t believe Ahaz just started it when he became king. He may have kept his idolatry quieter as a youth, but there is no indication he ever walked with God.

Ahaz is partly a product of the apathy and complacency of a generation of four kings who supposedly walked with God but let the idolatry continue. Any one of these kings could have cut off the head of the snake, but they wanted to be politically correct and not offend the idol worshippers. They themselves may have thought it would be just fine to worship God at these high places. Joash and Amaziah turn to the idols. Uzziah usurped the role of a priest and sought to do a duty he was not permitted to do. Jotham did nothing but further build the kingdom’s physical might but did not touch the spiritual defenses. And Ahaz is a product of that, driven by his lust for power, for comfort, for ease, for everything that these other gods had to offer. He had no regard for God or Scripture or the things of God. He shut down the temple, which Hezekiah would reopen, and despised the wisdom of Isaiah, who proved God’s faithfulness time and time again. I believe it was Isaiah’s prophecies regarding Rezin and Pekah’s assault on Jerusalem going down precisely as he described that played a significant role in Hezekiah’s faithful rule and it was in that study that spawned this series. Next week, we’ll look at Hosea, the final king of Israel.

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