There is a passage seldom preached and rarely read with the sincerity with which it ought to be read – it appears in II chronicles 28 chapter of The Bible:
23 “For he sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus, which smote him: and he said, Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, therefore will I sacrifice to them, that they may help me…”
The character who came to that conclusion was Ahaz, who is rarely included in the Roll of Honour of the Kings of Judah & Benjamin. He was eclipsed by his illustrious son Hezekiah, as a King of Judah & Benjamin.
Leaving aside the truthfulness of the belief as to whether the gods of Syria helped the Syrians, let me lead the reader to what made Ahaz come to such a conclusion despite having the heritage of David as his forebear?
Ahaz’ father was Jotham. His grandfather was Uzziah, the longest serving King of Judah & Benjamin.
Jotham had defeated the Ammonites and had amassed silver and wheat as tribute. His grandfather Uzziah was a greater warrior and had even installed machines to throw stones against enemies – a larger version of a sling to launch projectiles- which history credits as an invention by Archimedes of Syracuse called Catapult.
Therefore, Ahaz was not a person who was depleted of his resources. He had inherited resources from his grandfather and his father in good measure, but he came to a conclusion that the Syrians won the battles with him because the Syrian gods were stronger.
He adopted certain practices like making human sacrifice out of his own children. A practice which was not alien to the neighbouring Baal and Molech worshippers. But with Mosaic law proscribing human sacrifice to God, for any reason whatsoever, except Jephthah, a judge of Israel, none practiced it as an acceptable sacrifice to the Jehovah.
Even in the case of Jephthah, the Judge couldn’t bring himself to redeem his own daughter, though there are very many verses supporting redemption of human beings in the Mosaic rules. Jephthah’s case was more because he lacked good priestly advisors.
Ahaz lost to the Syrians more because he relied on the wealth created by his father and grandfather through their action.
Ahaz’s offer to the Assyrian king was the wealth secreted in the temple and the palaces of the king of Judah. Ahaz requested for support of the Assyrian king, but instead of lending a helping hand, even the Assyrians pillage Ahaz’ wealth.
It was a clear case of wrong interpretation by Ahaz, which led to his downfall.
Both Uzziah and Jotham needed God, as they were involved in risky enterprise of engaging in wars and securing their lands by building cities on hilltops and making their people secure; whereas Ahaz had taken it for granted that the wealth was there for him to enjoy and also deploy it as a means to his salvation.
Out of such a thought is born the concept of APPEASEMENT. Ahaz is a classic case of an APPEASER.
What did Ahaz appease with? He appeased, rather sought to appease with the resources so meticulously integrated into the system through care by both Uzziah and Jotham. The foolish Ahaz had used what he had inherited to save what was left of what he had concealed of what he had inherited.
As a King, it was his duty to show himself to be strong, not as an ‘appeaser’. Appeasement as a minor tactic to a larger strategy may serve well, but not as a quid pro quo.
The foolish Ahaz finally reaches a conclusion that the Syrian gods had helped the Syrians, therefore he should bribe the Syrian gods with more to turn those gods against their traditional worshippers.
What a pity, that weakness brings. It stretches it to even beliefs.
If the reader is still sceptical, please see the gumption of the successor of Ahaz, Hezekiah. Despite the deletion of the resources, though it put him in troublesome times, he had the guts to send letters to the tribes of Israel resume their feasts at Jerusalem.
Ahaz is the hyphen who connected the strong kings Jotham and Hezekiah.
If at all one wants to appease, one may do it with what oneself had earned not on what had been inherited.