What happened instead was a series of defeats and reversals so overwhelming that it is hard to imagine how any country could fall so far so fast. Ahaz was king for only sixteen years, yet those few years were packed with failures and disasters. Each catastrophe was so severe that it rivaled or exceeded anything that had previously occurred in Judah's history.
Ahaz suffered five distinct and disastrous losses during his brief reign. First, he was defeated by Aram, with a "great number of captives" taken (II Chronicles 28:5). Second, he was defeated by Israel, "who inflicted him with heavy casualties" (28:5). In that defeat, 120,000 of Judah's soldiers were killed in a single day. If similar in size to previous armies, approximately one-third of the soldiers were lost. Additionally, the prince and two very high-ranking leaders were killed, and 200,000 women and children were taken captive (28:7-8).
The third defeat came at the hands of the Edomites, who attacked and took more captives (28:17). Fourth, the Philistines attacked and took over at least six cities with surrounding villages (28:18). Fifth, Assyria, which Ahaz had sought as an ally, came instead as a foe. Even when Ahaz presented riches from the palace and the temple as tribute, Assyria continued to afflict Judah rather than help (28:16, 20-21).
The extent of the losses was at least as significant as the sheer number of them. After the years of strength and success under Ahaz's father, Judah suffered tremendous losses - of life, of citizens to captivity, of land area and cities, and of riches. It is no wonder that the people did not want to bury this colossal loser with the previous kings (28:27).
God leaves no doubt about how things could have changed so quickly and so dramatically. "The LORD his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Aram" because of his wickedness (28:5). Israel prevailed over Judah "because [Judah] had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers" (28:6). The prophet Obed said that Israel was victorious because God "was angry with Judah" (28:9). The Edomites and Philistines were successful in their conquests because "the LORD humbled Judah because of Ahaz" (28:19). His idol worship "became the downfall of him" (28:23). The wickedness of Ahaz "provoked the LORD . . . to anger" (28:25).
Ahaz received God's intense judgment because of his intense wickedness. In what is recorded, Ahaz's level of wickedness rose above any of the kings before him. The man actively promoted evil and actively demoted God. From the beginning, he made idols and offered incense, which had been done before, but he also burned his sons in the fire, which had not been done before. His sacrifices and high places were widespread and plentiful (28:2-4).
The initial evaluation of Ahaz is that "he did not do right in the sight of the LORD" (28:1). After losses to Aram, Israel, Edom, and Philistia, the Bible states that Ahaz "had brought about a lack of restraint in Judah and was very unfaithful to the LORD" (28:19). His unfaithfulness had intensified, and he was pivotal in causing others to abandon God. After Ahaz lost to Assyria, he became "yet more unfaithful," (28:22) which doesn't even seem possible. He expanded his sacrifices to false gods, he sacrilegiously destroyed the utensils from the temple, and he actually closed the house of God. He further defiled the holy city of Jerusalem by making false altars on every corner, and he aggressively promoted idol worship throughout the entire land (28:24-25).
Ahaz displayed absolute rejection of God, showing no inclination whatsoever toward repentance but rather a deepening pursuit of sin. Even this wicked man was not beyond the scope of God's forgiveness, a concept ironically illustrated by Israel's portion of the story. God used Israel, historically ungodly, as an instrument of judgment against Judah, but Israel took more liberties than God intended. Israel was so consumed with the attack on Judah that they slaughtered 120,000 soldiers and took 200,000 women and children as captives. God considered this to be excessive; Israel's ruthlessness caused "the burning anger of the LORD" to now turn upon them (28:11, 13) instead of Judah.
Amazingly, when the prophet confronted Israel, the soldiers responded humbly to his warning. They clothed, fed, and tended to the captive women and children; then they escorted those captives back to their homes. This humble response turned away God's anger from Israel. The same opportunity was open to Ahaz, but he did not turn his heart toward God.
Ahaz was not beyond seeking help in times of trouble, but he consistently sought it in the wrong places. He sought help from Assyria and from false gods. He was not ashamed to ask for help, he was not reluctant to sacrifice in order to obtain that help, and he was not lazy about pursuing help. He simply would not go to the proper source.
When Ahaz asked Assyria for help, they turned against him instead. When he sought help from the idols, they did nothing. When he expended his money, time, and resources in trying to purchase or obtain help, his investments came up empty. Ahaz would not have received the same responses from God. If Ahaz had shown a fraction of the dedication toward God that he showed toward idols, he would have caught God's attention. God would have turned to him and helped him. God would have accepted the sacrifices of a broken and a contrite heart and would have shown mercy even on this wicked man, if only he had sought God.