Sevenfold Evil

Sevenfold Evil March 23, 2018

By the Chronicler’s lights, Ahaz is the worst king Judah ever has. He is the only king of whom it’s explicitly said that he did “not do right” (2 Chronicles 28:1). That not-right is unpacked with six more verbs, making a full seven of wickedness.

1)Did not do right, 28:1.

2) Walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, 28:2a.

3) Made Baals, 28:2b.

4) Burned incense in valley of Ben-hinnom, 28:3a.

5) Burned sons in fire, 28:3b.

6) Sacrificed, 28:4a.

7) Burned incense on high places, 28:4b.

A few notes on the list. At two places, the Chronicler expands on Ahaz’s practice,. Burning sons in fire imitates “the abominations of the nations whom Yahweh had driven out before the sons of Israel” (28:3b). This is the first use of “abomination” (to’evah) and accents the danger that Ahaz poses to Judah as a whole: If they persist in burning, they will be dvien from the land.

Item #7 is also elaborated. Verse 3 informs us that Ahaz burned incense in the valley of Ben-hinnom, a place that would become notorious for its idolatry (Jeremiah 7:32). Verse 4 adds that Ahaz burns in three different environment – high places, hills, under green trees. Each is a link between heaven and earth – hills and high places because they rise up from the lower parts of the land, trees because they reach from roots up to the sky.

The list is perhaps intended to describe the proliferation of idolatry: There are only a few high places, more hills, but thousands of trees. If there’s an altar under every green tree, idolatry has covered the entire land, not merely its most prominent spots.

The emphasis on burning is notable. Ahaz “turned to smoke” (hiqtir) when he burns incense. The verb for “burning” sons is ba’ar, first used of the burning bush (Exodus 3:2) and with reference to Yahweh’s fire (Numbers 11:1, 3; Deuteronomy 4:11) and the purging effect of capital punishment (Deuteronomy 13:5; 17:7, 12; 19:13).

When Amaziah burned (hiqtir) to other gods, Yahweh’s nose burned (charah) against him (2 Chronicles 25:14-15). Ahaz is under the same threat: Yahweh is a jealous God, a God of justice, who will return burning for burning.

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