In a lot of the summaries that I've seen centering around Isaiah 7 and 8, the general sentiment goes:

The Assyrians are invading the Kingdom of Israel. The kings of Israel and Syria form a coalition to fight back against the invaders. They ask Ahaz, the king of Judah to join them. However, King Ahaz refused. Because he refused, the former two kings decide to invade Judah instead and depose King Ahaz. King Ahaz then asks the king of Assyria for help.

There's quite a lot here that confuses me.

  1. I haven't found anywhere that explained why Ahaz refused to join the coalition. Why wouldn't you want to fight together against a more powerful enemy?
  2. Why would the kings of Israel and Syria expend their military energy to invade Judah instead and not focus their resources on dealing with Assyria?
  3. Why would King Ahaz then ask for help from Assyria to do what they're already going planning to do which is to conquer Israel?
  • Regarding your question 3, in 2 Kgs 16 Ahaz asked for Assyria's help after Israel and Syria tried to conquer Judah. He paid tribute to the Assyrian king to win his favor and ensure that Judah would be spared from Assyrian forces. That worked during his tenure, but the Assyrians soon nearly conquered Judah as well during the reign of Hezekiah. Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 4:11

2 Answers 2


Ahaz inherited a political situation in which Israel and Judah were longstanding enemies. Hearing the news of the alliance between Israel and Syria/Aram "the heart of the king and heart of the people trembled, as the trees of the forest tremble in the wind." (Is. 7:2) Moreover, the text does not speak of an anti-Assyria coalition that Judah was invited to join. It states:

In the days of Ahaz... [the] king of Aram and [the] king of Israel went up to attack Jerusalem, but they were not able to conquer it. (7:1)

The roots of this problem go back to the time of Ahaz' grandfather and great-grandfather, Uzziah and Amaziah, respectively. In fact it was an unnamed prophet of God who urged Ahaz' ancestor to break with Israel/Ephraim:

7 A man of God came to him [Amaziah] and said: “O king, let not the army of Israel go with you, for the Lord is not with Israel—with any Ephraimite... 10 Amaziah then disbanded the troops that had come to him from Ephraim, and sent them home. But they became furiously angry with Judah, and returned home blazing with anger.

The New World Encyclopedia summarizes:

Although Amaziah was able to subdue the land of Edom, he was again condemned by the prophets when, as Edom's lord, he honored the Edomite deities. Hard feelings between Israel and Judah (2 Chron. 17-19) led to Amaziah making war against the north, leading to a disastrous defeat in which Jerusalem was sacked. He died years later at Lachish as a result of a conspiracy which placed his son, Uzziah on the throne in Jerusalem.

Ahaz' father, Jotham, was co-regent with King Uzziah for 15 years. Jotham generally cooperated with the priests of the Jerusalem Temple, who were opposed to reconciling with the northern kingdom of Israel as long as that nation supported the rival priesthood and temples at Bethel and Dan. So 2 Kings 15:34 says of Jotham: "He did what was right in the Lord’s sight, just as his father Uzziah had done." Jotham made war successfully against the Ammonites: "He fought with the king of the Ammonites and conquered them." (2 Chron. 27)

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Judah's northern and eastward victories against Edom and Ammon under Ahaz' ancestors were key factors in Israel's alliance with Syria, as they both saw Judah's increasing power as a threat. Nor did the priests and prophets of Judah encourage a coalition between Israel and Judah.

Military enmity between Israel and Judah was already longstanding when Ahaz came to power. Israel and Syria were Judah's military enemies, and he was continuing the existing political policy of his recent ancestors. Although the Bible disapproves of his religious policy (2 Kgs. 2), there is no indication that the prophets and priests were opposed to his stance with regard to the northern alliance. Indeed, the famous "Immanuel prophecy" given to Ahaz by the prophet Isaiah assured him that "before the child (Immanuel) learns to reject evil and choose good, the land of those two kings whom you dread (Israel and Syria) shall be deserted." (Is. 7:16)

  • It is doubtful if Ahaz followed the footstep of his ancestors. The political decision was likely his idea. Commented Aug 8, 2023 at 3:33
  • He had a choice, but as I read it, neither the priests, nor the prophets, nor even God wanted him to ally with Israel. His choice was not to join a coalition, but to surrender to it or not. The reason God gave him the sign of Immanuel was to assure him their was no need to fear the power Israel and Syria. Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 3:56

The short answer to the question is that Ahaz was pro-Assyria and not pro-Syria. The reason for this is rather simple - Assyria was much stronger politically and militarily than Syria.

Since the time of Solomon, Damacus (the capital of Syria) had been enjoyed an independent monarchy founded by Rezon; this had been barely tolerated by Assyria. However, Tiglath-Pilesser III (745 BC – 727 BC) had expansionary plans, so Damascus, Samaria and Jerusalem had to be subjugated. Recognizing this, Resin and Pekah made an alliance and attempted to draw Ahaz into the pact, but Ahaz had very pro-Assyrian views. This precipitated an invasion of Judah (by Resin and Pekah) in 733 BC causing Ahaz to seek help from Assyria. In response Tiglath-Pileser III attacked Damascus in 732 BC, abolished the monarchy, deported the population and made Damascus an Assyrian province.

This further destabilized an already fragile political situation in Samaria and resulted in the assassination of Pekah by Hoshea. This victory for the Jerusalem king was more apparent than real – it sewed the seeds for later invasions by Assyria under Sennacherib (705 BC – 681 BC), but it had the immediate affect of hardening the heart of Ahaz in wickedness. The following year, 731 BC, his Godly father, Jotham, died which further plunged Ahaz deeper into idolatory.

Tiglath-Pilesser III had to leave the remainder of the subjugation of the western states to his son, Shalmanesser V (727 BC – 722 BC), who invaded and besieged Samaria, destroying it in 722 BC and deporting its population.

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