AHAZ AND Hezekiah

After the death of Jotham, his son Ahaz reigned in Jerusalem. He was more wicked than any king who had gone before him. He not only made images and worshiped them, but burnt incense in the valley of Hinnom, and made his children pass through the fire to Moloch.

Then the Lord caused his enemies to prevail against him; but instead of taking warning from this, Ahaz did worse than before. He cut in pieces the vessels of the temple, and set up altars of his own making in every part of Jerusalem. Instead of returning to the worship of the true God, he worshiped the gods of his enemies; saying, "Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, therefore will I sacrifice to them, that they may help me. But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel."

Ahaz died when he was only thirty-six years old, having reigned sixteen years. His son Hezekiah then reigned in his stead. The Bible says that this king "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done.'' He is known as the good king Hezekiah. He called upon the priests and Levites to sanctify themselves, and to cleanse the temple; and when this had been done, gathered the people together, and offered sacrifices and praises to God.

After this, he sent messengers throughout all the land, Israel as well as Judah, inviting the people to come to Jerusalem to keep the Passover. Now when they had assembled, and had kept the Passover seven days with gladness, they counseled together, and decided to keep the feast seven days longer. Hezekiah prayed for the people, and spoke comforting words to them. Before they went to their homes, the people united with Hezekiah in destroying all the altars, which, Ahaz had set up to false gods in Jerusalem.

Hezekiah went on, doing all that he could to lead the people back to the worship of the true God. In the fourteenth year of his reign, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, came up with a great army to take Jerusalem. Hezekiah called the people into the city, built up the walls, and prepared weapons of war. He told the people not to be afraid, for their God was able to protect them. But Sennacherib sent messengers to tell the Jews not to believe Hezekiah; that the gods of other nations had not been able to defend them against the Assyrians, and that the God of the Jews could do no better. Then Hezekiah prayed very earnestly, and the Lord told the prophet Isaiah to tell him that the Assyrians should not harm him, but should return by the way they came.

The Assyrians were very haughty, and despised the God of the Jews, thinking that he was just like the false gods that heathen nations worshiped; but they soon had reason to think differently, for the angel of the Lord came into their camp by night and smote a hundred and eighty-five thousand of them, and in the morning their dead corpses were seen lying on the ground. They were then glad to return to their own country.