AHAZ (Heb. אָחָז, a diminutive of יְהוּאָחָז, as shown by the reference to him as Ya-u-ha-zi in cuneiform (the inscription of Tiglath-Pileser iii), meaning "yhwh holds fast"), king of Judah (743–727 b.c.e.), son of *Jotham and father of *Hezekiah. Ahaz succeeded to the throne at the age of 20 and ruled for 16 years. It seems, however, that he ruled alone for seven years only, sharing the first nine years with his father as regent for his grandfather *Uzziah (785–733 b.c.e.), who was incapacitated by a terrible skin disease. Ahaz apparently refused to join the anti-Assyrian alliance of Aram, northern Israel, the Philistines, and others, no doubt believing Assyrian power to be irresistible. This refusal led to the "Syro-Ephraimite war" of 733, when Israel and Aram invaded Judah (ii Kings 15:37; ii Chron. 28:5 ff.), carried off many captives, and planned to conquer Judah and to set up, under a certain Ben Tabeel, a regime favorable to an anti-Assyrian alliance (for a different motivation, see H.L. Ginsberg in Bibliography). In the course of the war Ahaz lost control over the Negev and the western slopes of the Judean hills to the Philistines (ii Chron. 28:18), and of Elath to the Edomites (ii Kings 16:6).
Ahaz turned for help to the Assyrian Tiglath-Pileser iii whose suzerainty he, or Uzziah, had probably recognized one or more years previously. Tiglath-Pileser thereupon advanced against Aram and Israel. Ahaz went to Damascus to pay homage to the victor; from there he sent instructions to the high priest Uriah to introduce Aramean (Assyrian?) cults into the Temple in Jerusalem and, in particular, to build an altar modeled on an (Assyrian type?) altar he had seen in Damascus. Later, he himself made sacrifices on this altar (ii Kings 16:7 ff.). Ahaz made other far-reaching changes in the Temple and, besides despoiling the Temple treasury and his own, melted down some of the Temple vessels for his tribute to the Assyrian king. He also installed a sundial in the Temple (ii Kings 20:11). Of his ministers, the names of Shebna, the steward (?; Isa. 22:15), and Eshna, "servant of Ahaz," are known, the latter from a recently discovered seal (see: em, 1 (1950), 207). More recently, a seal impression reading "belonging to Ahaz (son of) Yehotam, King of Judah" was published.
Ahaz, accused of practicing ancient Canaanite cults, such as the Moloch fire rite, is one of the kings who did evil in the eyes of the Lord (ii Kings 16:3–4). According to ii Kings, Ahaz was buried in the royal vault in the City of David, but according to ii Chronicles, merely in Jerusalem. In the Talmud (Pes. 56a) his son Hezekiah is commended for giving Ahaz a pauper's funeral as an atonement for Ahaz' sins and in order to disassociate himself from his father's religious policies. Although Ahaz' own record was tarnished, the rabbis credited him with having been the son and father of righteous kings as well as having accepted Uzziah's reproof, which secured him a share in the world to come (Sanh. 104a).
H.L. Ginsberg, in: Fourth World Congress of Jewish Studies. Papers, 1 (1967), 9 1 ff.; W. Rudolph, Chronikbücher (1955), 289–90; Y. Liver (ed.), Historyah Ẓeva'it shel Ereẓ Yisrael… (1964), index, incl. bibl.; em, 1 (1965), 206–9, incl. bibl.; A. Reifenberg, Ancient Hebrew Arts (1950), 34; Ginzberg, Legends, index. add. bibliography: N. Na'aman, in: vt, 48 (1998), 333–49; R. Deutsch, Messages from the Past (1999), 205.