God vouchsafed to grant them a wonderful and very famous victory; and such a slaughter was now made of Jeroboam's army as is never recorded to have happened in any other war, whether it were of the Greeks or of the Barbarians, for they overthrew [and slew] five hundred thousand of their enemies, and they took their strongest cities by force, and spoiled them; and besides those, they did the same to Bethel and her towns, and Jeshanah and her towns. And after this defeat Jeroboam never recovered himself during the life of Abijah
We're used to the idea that there were two Israelite nations for hundreds of years, but at this stage the ten tribes had been independent less than twenty years. One wonders why Abijah did not press home his victory and reunite the nation.
Over the following centuries, there were generally good relations between the two countries, and intermarriages between their royal houses, and even when there weren't, people recognised that they were one people of the same origin, and wouldn't generally fight the other, but there was one occasion centuries later when the opportunity to reunite the nation came up again, and was again ignored (IX.9.202):
When Amaziah [king of Judah] had read this letter, he was more eager upon this expedition, which, I suppose, was by the impulse of God, that he might be punished for his offense against him. But as soon as he led out his army against Joash [king of Israel], and they were going to join battle with him, there came such a fear and consternation upon the army of Amaziah, as God, when he is displeased, sends upon men, and discomfited them, even before they came to a close fight. Now it happened, that as they were scattered about by the terror that was upon them, Amaziah was left alone, and was taken prisoner by the enemy; whereupon Joash threatened to kill him, unless he would persuade the people of Jerusalem to open their gates to him, and receive him and his army into the city. Accordingly Amaziah was so distressed, and in such fear of his life, that he made his enemy to be received into the city. So Joash over threw a part of the wall, of the length of four hundred cubits, and drove his chariot through the breach into Jerusalem, and led Amaziah captive along with him; by which means he became master of Jerusalem, and took away the treasures of God, and carried off all the gold and silver that was in the king's palace, and then freed the king from captivity, and returned to Samaria.
Again, I wonder why Amaziah did not stay and make himself lord of Jerusalem.Coming back a bit, IX.2.19:
Now it happened that Ahaziah, as he was coming down from the top of his house, fell down from it, and in his sickness sent to the Fly, which was the god of Ekron, for that was this god's name, to inquire about his recovery.
The Bible here has ba`al zəvuv, or Beelzebub as it is frequently transcribed, normally translated "Lord of the Flies", though "Lord Fly" would be a better translation.In IX.2.28 Josephus writes:
Now at this time it was that Elijah disappeared from among men, and no one knows of his death to this very day; but he left behind him his disciple Elisha, as we have formerly declared. And indeed, as to Elijah, and as to Enoch, who was before the deluge, it is written in the sacred books that they disappeared, but so that nobody knew that they died.I wonder why he chose to miss out the story of how Elijah got taken up to to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2) altogether:
When the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, "Stay here please; for the Lord has sent me to Bethel." But Elisha said to him, "As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you." So they went down to Bethel. The sons of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said to him, "Don't you know that the Lord will take away your master from your head today?" He said, "Yes, I know it; hold your peace." [...] Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask what I shall do for you, before I be taken away from you." And Elisha said, "Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me." He replied, "You have asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so." As they still went on and talked, a chariot of fire appeared, and horses of fire, and parted the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha, seeing it, cried out, "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and its horsemen!" But he never saw him again. He took hold of his own clothes, and tore them in two pieces. [...] [The sons of the prophets which were at Jericho] said to him, "Behold now, there are fifty strong men with your servants; let them go, please, and seek your master: in case the Spirit of the Lord has taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley." But he said, "Don't send them." But when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, "Send them." They sent therefore fifty men; and they sought three days, but did not find him. וַיְהִי בְּהַעֲלוֹת ה׳ אֶת־אֵלִיָּהוּ בַּסְעָרָה הַשָּׁמָיִם וַיֵּלֶךְ אֵלִיָּהוּ וֶאֱלִישָׁע מִן־הַגִּלְגָּל׃ וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלִיָּהוּ אֶל־אֱלִישָׁע שֵׁב־נָא פֹה כִּי ה׳ שְׁלָחַנִי עַד־בֵּית־אֵל וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלִישָׁע חַי־ה׳ וְחֵי־נַפְשְׁךָ אִם־אֶעֶזְבֶךָּ וַיֵּרְדוּ בֵּית־אֵל׃ וַיֵּצְאוּ בְנֵי־הַנְּבִיאִים אֲשֶׁר־בֵּית־אֵל אֶל־אֱלִישָׁע וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו הֲיָדַעְתָּ כִּי הַיּוֹם ה׳ לֹקֵחַ אֶת־אֲדֹנֶיךָ מֵעַל רֹאשֶׁךָ וַיֹּאמֶר גַּם־אֲנִי יָדַעְתִּי הֶחֱשׁוּ׃ [...] וַיְהִי כְעָבְרָם וְאֵלִיָּהוּ אָמַר אֶל־אֱלִישָׁע שְׁאַל מָה אֶעֱשֶׂה־לָּךְ בְּטֶרֶם אֶלָּקַח מֵעִמָּךְ וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלִישָׁע וִיהִי נָא פִּי־שְׁנַיִם בְּרוּחֲךָ אֵלָי׃ וַיֹּאמֶר הִקְשִׁיתָ לִשְׁאוֹל אִם־תִּרְאֶה אֹתִי לֻקָּח מֵאִתָּךְ יְהִי־לְךָ כֵן וְאִם־אַיִן לֹא יִהְיֶה׃ וַיְהִי הֵמָּה הֹלְכִים הָלוֹךְ וְדַבֵּר וְהִנֵּה רֶכֶב־אֵשׁ וְסוּסֵי אֵשׁ וַיַּפְרִדוּ בֵּין שְׁנֵיהֶם וַיַּעַל אֵלִיָּהוּ בַּסְעָרָה הַשָּׁמָיִם׃ וֶאֱלִישָׁע רֹאֶה וְהוּא מְצַעֵק אָבִי אָבִי רֶכֶב יִשְׂרָאֵל וּפָרָשָׁיו וְלֹא רָאָהוּ עוֹד וַיַּחֲזֵק בִּבְגָדָיו וַיִּקְרָעֵם לִשְׁנַיִם קְרָעִים׃ [...] וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו הִנֵּה־נָא יֵשׁ־אֶת־עֲבָדֶיךָ חֲמִשִּׁים אֲנָשִׁים בְּנֵי־חַיִל יֵלְכוּ נָא וִיבַקְשׁוּ אֶת־אֲדֹנֶיךָ פֶּן־נְשָׂאוֹ רוּחַ ה׳ וַיַּשְׁלִכֵהוּ בְּאַחַד הֶהָרִים אוֹ בְּאַחַת הַגֵּיאָיוֹת וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא תִשְׁלָחוּ׃ וַיִּפְצְרוּ־בוֹ עַד־בֹּשׁ וַיֹּאמֶר שְׁלָחוּ וַיִּשְׁלְחוּ חֲמִשִּׁים אִישׁ וַיְבַקְשׁוּ שְׁלֹשָׁה־יָמִים וְלֹא מְצָאֻהוּ׃
I wonder why Elisha wouldn't let them search for the body of Elijah. Maybe he was afraid he hadn't been bodily taken up into heaven, and really had just been sucked up by a tornado, as the others thought.
The Bible goes to pains to tell us (2 Kings 14:1-6):
However, it doesn't seem to have occurred to the author of Kings how this contradicts, for example, 1 Kings 21:27-29, where after G-d has doomed Ahab and his house following his murder of Naboth:
In the second year of Yo'āsh son of Yo'āḥāz king of Israel Ămaṣyāhu ben Yo'āsh king of Judah to reign. He was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Yeho'addān of Jerusalem. He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like David his father: he did according to all things as Yo'āsh his father did. Howbeit the high places were not taken away: the people continued to sacrifice and burn incense on the high places. It came to pass, as soon as the kingdom was confirmed in his hand, that he slew his servants who had slain the king his father. But the children of the murderers he slew not: according unto that which is written in the book of the law of Moshe, wherein the Lord commanded, saying, The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children be put to death for the fathers; but every man shall be put to death for his own sin. בִּשְׁנַת שְׁתַּיִם לְיוֹאָשׁ בֶּן־יוֹאָחָז מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל מָלַךְ אֲמַצְיָהוּ בֶן־יוֹאָשׁ מֶלֶךְ יְהוּדָה׃ בֶּן־עֶשְׂרִים וְחָמֵשׁ שָׁנָה הָיָה בְמָלְכוֹ וְעֶשְׂרִים וָתֵשַׁע שָׁנָה מָלַךְ בִּירוּשָׁלִָם וְשֵׁם אִמּוֹ יהועדין (יְהוֹעַדָּן) מִן־יְרוּשָׁלִָם׃ וַיַּעַשׂ הַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינֵי ה׳ רַק לֹא כְּדָוִד אָבִיו כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂה יוֹאָשׁ אָבִיו עָשָׂה׃ רַק הַבָּמוֹת לֹא־סָרוּ עוֹד הָעָם מְזַבְּחִים וּמְקַטְּרִים בַּבָּמוֹת׃ וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר חָזְקָה הַמַּמְלָכָה בְּיָדוֹ וַיַּךְ אֶת־עֲבָדָיו הַמַּכִּים אֶת־הַמֶּלֶךְ אָבִיו׃ וְאֶת־בְּנֵי הַמַּכִּים לֹא הֵמִית כַּכָּתוּב בְּסֵפֶר תּוֹרַת־מֹשֶׁה אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּה ה׳ לֵאמֹר לֹא־יוּמְתוּ אָבוֹת עַל־בָּנִים וּבָנִים לֹא־יוּמְתוּ עַל־אָבוֹת כִּי אִם־אִישׁ בְּחֶטְאוֹ ימות (יוּמָת)׃
It came to pass, when Aḥ'āv heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly. Then the word of the Lord came to Eliyāhu the Tishbi, saying, Seest you how Aḥ'āv humbles himself before me? because he humbles himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house. וַיְהִי כִשְׁמֹעַ אַחְאָב אֶת־הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה וַיִּקְרַע בְּגָדָיו וַיָּשֶׂם־שַׂק עַל־בְּשָׂרוֹ וַיָּצוֹם וַיִּשְׁכַּב בַּשָּׂק וַיְהַלֵּךְ אַט׃ וַיְהִי דְּבַר־ה׳ אֶל־אֵלִיָּהוּ הַתִּשְׁבִּי לֵאמֹר׃ הֲרָאִיתָ כִּי־נִכְנַע אַחְאָב מִלְּפָנָי יַעַן כִּי־נִכְנַע מִפָּנַי לֹא־אָבִי הָרָעָה בְּיָמָיו בִּימֵי בְנוֹ אָבִיא הָרָעָה עַל־בֵּיתוֹ׃
I.e. G-d is saying here: You've repented, so I'll not punish you; instead I'll punish your children for your crime. Of course, the solution is that this latter prophecy is probably retroactive, the people of the time struggling to come up with a reason why Yēhu has killed seventy of the children of Aḥ'āv, many of them still children. On the other hand, that's the kind of thing that happens with regime change in the ancient world. Back on the first hand, though, wasn't it G-d who ordered Eliyāhu to anoint Yēhu as king of Israel?
And yet Yēhu needs a little bit of persuasion when Elishā` anoints him king:
I suppose it makes sense to be cautious when some crazy fellow, as Yēhu himself put it, declares you king; but something similar happens when Elishā` anoints Ḥăzā'ēl king—only here, Ḥăzā'ēl acts more off his own bat: he only needs a little push:
Then Yēhu came forth to the servants of his lord: and one said unto him, "Is all well? why did this mishugge fellow come to you?" He told them, "You know the man, and what he said." They replied, "That's not so; tell us now." So he said, "Thus and thus he said to me: 'Thus says the Lord: I have anointed you king over Israel.'" Then they made haste; every man took his garment, and put it under him on the top of the stairs, and blew with trumpets, saying, "Yēhu is king." וְיֵהוּא יָצָא אֶל־עַבְדֵי אֲדֹנָיו וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ הֲשָׁלוֹם מַדּוּעַ בָּא־הַמְשֻׁגָּע הַזֶּה אֵלֶיךָ וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵיהֶם אַתֶּם יְדַעְתֶּם אֶת־הָאִישׁ וְאֶת־שִׂיחוֹ׃ וַיֹּאמְרוּ שֶׁקֶר הַגֶּד־נָא לָנוּ וַיֹּאמֶר כָּזֹאת וְכָזֹאת אָמַר אֵלַי לֵאמֹר כֹּה אָמַר ה׳ מְשַׁחְתִּיךָ לְמֶלֶךְ אֶל־יִשְׂרָאֵל׃ וַיְמַהֲרוּ וַיִּקְחוּ אִישׁ בִּגְדוֹ וַיָּשִׂימוּ תַחְתָּיו אֶל־גֶּרֶם הַמַּעֲלוֹת וַיִּתְקְעוּ בַּשּׁוֹפָר וַיֹּאמְרוּ מָלַךְ יֵהוּא׃
He settled his countenance stedfastly, until he was ashamed: and the man of God [Elishā`] wept. Ḥăzā'ēl said, "Why do you weep, sir?" He answered, "Because I know the evil that you will do to the Israelites: their strong holds you will set on fire, and their young men you will slay with the sword, and dash their children, and rip up their pregnant women." Ḥăzā'ēl said, "What, is your servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?" Elishā` answered, "The Lord has showed me that you shall be king over Syria." So he departed from Elishā`, and came to his master; who asked him, "What said Elishā` to you?" He answered, "He told me that you should surely recover." It came to pass that the following day he took a thick cloth, dipped it in water, and spread it on his face, so that he died: and Ḥăzā'ēl reigned in his place. וַיַּעֲמֵד אֶת־פָּנָיו וַיָּשֶׂם עַד־בֹּשׁ וַיֵּבְךְּ אִישׁ הָאֱלֹהִים׃ וַיֹּאמֶר חֲזָאֵל מַדּוּעַ אֲדֹנִי בֹכֶה וַיֹּאמֶר כִּי־יָדַעְתִּי אֵת אֲשֶׁר־תַּעֲשֶׂה לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל רָעָה מִבְצְרֵיהֶם תְּשַׁלַּח בָּאֵשׁ וּבַחֻרֵיהֶם בַּחֶרֶב תַּהֲרֹג וְעֹלְלֵיהֶם תְּרַטֵּשׁ וְהָרֹתֵיהֶם תְּבַקֵּעַ׃ וַיֹּאמֶר חֲזָהאֵל כִּי מָה עַבְדְּךָ הַכֶּלֶב כִּי יַעֲשֶׂה הַדָּבָר הַגָּדוֹל הַזֶּה וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלִישָׁע הִרְאַנִי ה׳ אֹתְךָ מֶלֶךְ עַל־אֲרָם׃ וַיֵּלֶךְ מֵאֵת אֱלִישָׁע וַיָּבֹא אֶל־אֲדֹנָיו וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ מָה־אָמַר לְךָ אֱלִישָׁע וַיֹּאמֶר אָמַר לִי חָיֹה תִחְיֶה׃ וַיְהִי מִמָּחֳרָת וַיִּקַּח הַמַּכְבֵּר וַיִּטְבֹּל בַּמַּיִם וַיִּפְרֹשׂ עַל־פָּנָיו וַיָּמֹת וַיִּמְלֹךְ חֲזָהאֵל תַּחְתָּיו׃
Actually, it's not quite true that the house of Aḥ'āv is destroyed as thoroughly as Elijah prophesies: His daughter Athaliah, marries the son of the kingdom of Judah, and though she later tries to have the entirety of her late husband's family executed, one grandson, Joash, survives and is proclaimed king! At this point he is the inheritor of the House of David, which G-d has promised will never be wiped out... but he is also the inheritor of the House of Aḥ'āv, which G-d has promised will be.
Wikipedia says that the omnipotence paradox ("Could an omnipotent being create a stone so heavy that even he could not lift it?") is mediaeval, but it seems to me this is actually a Biblical example, albeit that the example was a deliberately written, but is rather a consistency error between parts of the text.
Moving onwards, 2 Kings 4:1-7 tells a story:
Josephus, however, identifies who this wife of the sons of the prophets is:
Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, your servant my husband is dead; and you know that your servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen. And Elisha said to her, What shall I do for you? tell me, what hast you in the house? And she said, your handmaid has not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil. Then he said, Go, borrow you vessels abroad of all your neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. And when you are come in, you shall shut the door upon you and upon your sons, and shall pour out into all those vessels, and you shall set aside that which is full. So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out. And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said to her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay your debt, and live you and your children of the rest. וְאִשָּׁה אַחַת מִנְּשֵׁי בְנֵי־הַנְּבִיאִים צָעֲקָה אֶל־אֱלִישָׁע לֵאמֹר עַבְדְּךָ אִישִׁי מֵת וְאַתָּה יָדַעְתָּ כִּי עַבְדְּךָ הָיָה יָרֵא אֶת־ה׳ וְהַנֹּשֶׁה בָּא לָקַחַת אֶת־שְׁנֵי יְלָדַי לוֹ לַעֲבָדִים׃ וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלֶיהָ אֱלִישָׁע מָה אֶעֱשֶׂה־לָּךְ הַגִּידִי לִי מַה־יֶּשׁ־לָךְ בַּבָּיִת וַתֹּאמֶר אֵין לְשִׁפְחָתְךָ כֹל בַּבַּיִת כִּי אִם־אָסוּךְ שָׁמֶן׃ וַיֹּאמֶר לְכִי שַׁאֲלִי־לָךְ כֵּלִים מִן־הַחוּץ מֵאֵת כָּל־שְׁכֵנָיִךְ כֵּלִים רֵקִים אַל־תַּמְעִיטִי׃ וּבָאת וְסָגַרְתְּ הַדֶּלֶת בַּעֲדֵךְ וּבְעַד־בָּנַיִךְ וְיָצַקְתְּ עַל כָּל־הַכֵּלִים הָאֵלֶּה וְהַמָּלֵא תַּסִּיעִי׃ וַתֵּלֶךְ מֵאִתּוֹ וַתִּסְגֹּר הַדֶּלֶת בַּעֲדָהּ וּבְעַד בָּנֶיהָ הֵם מַגִּישִׁים אֵלֶיהָ וְהִיא מוֹצָקֶת׃ וַיְהִי כִּמְלֹאת הַכֵּלִים וַתֹּאמֶר אֶל־בְּנָהּ הַגִּישָׁה אֵלַי עוֹד כֶּלִי וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלֶיהָ אֵין עוֹד כֶּלִי וַיַּעֲמֹד הַשָּׁמֶן׃ וַתָּבֹא וַתַּגֵּד לְאִישׁ הָאֱלֹהִים וַיֹּאמֶר לְכִי מִכְרִי אֶת־הַשֶּׁמֶן וְשַׁלְּמִי אֶת־נִשְׁיֵךְ וְאַתְּ וּבָנַיִךְ תִּחְיִי בַּנּוֹתָר׃
For they say that the widow of Obadiah Ahab's steward, came to him, and said, that he was not ignorant how her husband had preserved the prophets that were to be slain by Jezebel, the wife of Ahab; for she said that he hid a hundred of them, and had borrowed money for their maintenance, and that, after her husband's death, she and her children were carried away to be made slaves by the creditors; and she desired of him to have mercy upon her on account of what her husband did, and afford her some assistance. And when he asked her what she had in the house, she said, "Nothing but a very small quantity of oil in a cruse." So the prophet bid her go away, and borrow a great many empty vessels of her neighbors, and when she had shut her chamber door, to pour the oil into them all; for that God would fill them full. And when the woman had done what she was commanded to do, and bade her children bring every one of the vessels, and all were filled, and not one left empty, she came to the prophet, and told him that they were all full; upon which he advised her to go away, and sell the oil, and pay the creditors what was owing them, for that there would be some surplus of the price of the oil, which she might make use of for the maintenance of her children. And thus did Elisha discharge the woman's debts, and free her from the vexation of her creditors.The online commentary adds:
That this woman who cried to Elisha, and who in our Bible is styled "the wife of one of the sons of the prophets," 2 Kings 4:1, was no other than the widow of Obadiah, the good steward of Ahab, is confirmed by the Chaldee paraphrast,* and by the Rabbins† and others.
* I.e. the Peshitta (Syriac Targum), as I've confirmed.
† I.e. rabbis.
I'm at a loss to understand why many modern commentaries try to identify the Tarshish which Jonah fled to with Tartessus in Spain; Tarsus in Cilicia is a better match linguistically, and is the destination Josephus goes with (though the online commentary snidely remarks "[Josephus] does not appear to have read the text, 1 Kings 22:48, as our copies do, that ships of Tarshish could lie at Ezion-geber, upon the Red Sea.") He goes on to say:
It is also reported that Jonah was swallowed down by a whale, and that when he had been there three days, and as many nights, he was vomited out upon the Euxine Sea, and this alive, and without any hurt upon his body
Which strikes me as a long way for the whale to go, and a destination without Scriptural justification (though so is the identification of the "great fish" as a whale); however the online commentary credits it.What did Jonah prophesy regarding Nineveh? The Bible says (Jonah 3:4):
Josephus, however, says (IX.10.208/214):
Jonah began to enter into the city, one day's journey, and he proclaimed "Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown." וַיָּחֶל יוֹנָה לָבוֹא בָעִיר מַהֲלַךְ יוֹם אֶחָד וַיִּקְרָא וַיֹּאמַר עוֹד אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם וְנִינְוֵה נֶהְפָּכֶת׃
[Jonah] went to the city Nineveh, where he stood so as to be heard, and preached, that in a very little time they should lose the dominion of Asia.
Slightly different. Actually, the Bible says נֶהְפָּכֶת, which means "overturned"; I presume "overthrown" is good as a paraphrase of that, but I don't know for certain.
Surprisingly, Josephus doesn't say anything about what happened next, about how the Ninevites repented, and Jonah went into a depression, and G-d taught him a lesson through a gourd; he just says, immediately following the last quotation:
And when he had published this, he returned. Now I have given this account about him as I found it written [in our books.]IX.10.217:
[Uzziah] made an expedition also against the Philistines, and overcame them in battle, and took the cities of Gath and Jabneh, and brake down their walls; after which expedition he assaulted those Arabs that adjoined to Egypt.
Yavneh is famous for the role it played in the emergence of rabbinic Judaism after the destruction of the Second Temple (and infamous for the Arab village on its site, which having been flattened as a strategic liability during the Israeli War of Independence, for has remained unrebuilt since). I hadn't realised that until halfway through the First Temple period, though, it wasn't an Israelite settlement at all, though, but a Philistine one.2 Kings 16:2-3 says:
It's ambiguous what passing one's son through the fire to Molech means. Some people hold it merely meant dedicating them in a ritual in which they passed between two fires. Josephus goes for the stronger interpretation (IX.11.243):
Twenty years old was Āḥāz when he began to reign, and reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem, but he did not do that which was right in the sight of the LORD his God, like David his father: He walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and also passed his son through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out from before the children of Israel. בֶּן־עֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה אָחָז בְּמָלְכוֹ וְשֵׁשׁ־עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה מָלַךְ בִּירוּשָׁלִָם וְלֹא־עָשָׂה הַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינֵי ה׳ אֱלֹהָיו כְּדָוִד אָבִיו׃ וַיֵּלֶךְ בְּדֶרֶךְ מַלְכֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְגַם אֶת־בְּנוֹ הֶעֱבִיר בָּאֵשׁ כְּתֹעֲבוֹת הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר הוֹרִישׁ ה׳ אֹתָם מִפְּנֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל׃
The kingdom came to his son Ahaz, who proved most impious towards God, and a transgressor of the laws of his country. He imitated the kings of Israel, and reared altars in Jerusalem, and offered sacrifices upon them to idols; to which also he offered his own son as a burnt-offering, according to the practices of the Canaanites. His other actions were also of the same sort.2 Kings 16 continues:
Then Reṣin king of Aram and Peqaḥ b. Remaliah king of Israel came up to Jerusalem for war; they besieged Āḥāz, but could not overcome him. At that time Reṣin king of Aram took Eilath for Aram, and drove the Jews from Eilath; the
ArameansEdomites came to Elath, and dwelt there unto this day.
So Āḥāz sent messengers to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, saying, "I am your servant and your son: come up, and save me from the hand of the king of Aram, and of the king of Israel, who rise up against me." Āḥāz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king's house, and sent it for a present to the king of Assyria.
The king of Assyria hearkened to him: The king of Assyria went up against Damascus, and took it, and carried the people of it captive to Kir, and slew Reṣin.
אָז יַעֲלֶה רְצִין מֶלֶךְ־אֲרָם וּפֶקַח בֶּן־רְמַלְיָהוּ מֶלֶךְ־יִשְׂרָאֵל יְרוּשָׁלִַם לַמִּלְחָמָה וַיָּצֻרוּ עַל־אָחָז וְלֹא יָכְלוּ לְהִלָּחֵם׃ בָּעֵת הַהִיא הֵשִׁיב רְצִין מֶלֶךְ־אֲרָם אֶת־אֵילַת לַאֲרָם וַיְנַשֵּׁל אֶת־הַיְּהוּדִים מֵאֵילוֹת וארמים (וַאֲדֹמִים) בָּאוּ אֵילַת וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שָׁם עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה׃ וַיִּשְׁלַח אָחָז מַלְאָכִים אֶל־תִּגְלַת פְּלֶסֶר מֶלֶךְ־אַשּׁוּר לֵאמֹר עַבְדְּךָ וּבִנְךָ אָנִי עֲלֵה וְהוֹשִׁעֵנִי מִכַּף מֶלֶךְ־אֲרָם וּמִכַּף מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל הַקּוֹמִים עָלָי׃ וַיִּקַּח אָחָז אֶת־הַכֶּסֶף וְאֶת־הַזָּהָב הַנִּמְצָא בֵּית ה׳ וּבְאֹצְרוֹת בֵּית הַמֶּלֶךְ וַיִּשְׁלַח לְמֶלֶךְ־אַשּׁוּר שֹׁחַד׃ וַיִּשְׁמַע אֵלָיו מֶלֶךְ אַשּׁוּר וַיַּעַל מֶלֶךְ אַשּׁוּר אֶל־דַּמֶּשֶׂק וַיִּתְפְּשֶׂהָ וַיַּגְלֶהָ קִירָה וְאֶת־רְצִין הֵמִית׃
You idiot, Āḥāz; can't you see that inviting a not-quite neighbouring superpower in to settle a regional conflict is only going to result in the superpower conquering the whole region. It's very reminiscent of how the Persians' centuries of attempted conquest of Greece were started off by an attempt to draw in the Persians into a regional squabble amongst the Greeks of Ionia, which I encountered in Herodotus last summer and am never going to be able to find again (<checks> but might be V.30).2 Chronicles 26:16-21 tells us:
When [`Uzziāh] was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the Temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense. `Azariāh the priest went in after him, and with him eighty priests of the LORD, that were valiant men; they stood against King `Uzziāh, and said to him, "It is not for you, Uzziāh, to burn incense for the LORD, but for the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the Sanctuary; for you have trespassed; neither shall it be for your honour from the LORD God." `Uzziāh was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense. Whilst he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar. And `Azariāh the chief priest, and all the priests, turned to him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead. So they thrust him out from there; he himself also hastened to go out, because the LORD had smitten him. `Uzziāh the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a separate house, being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the LORD: and Jotham his son was over the king's house, judging the people of the land. וּכְחֶזְקָתוֹ גָּבַהּ לִבּוֹ עַד־לְהַשְׁחִית וַיִּמְעַל בַּה׳ אֱלֹהָיו וַיָּבֹא אֶל־הֵיכַל יְהוָה לְהַקְטִיר עַל־מִזְבַּח הַקְּטֹרֶת׃ וַיָּבֹא אַחֲרָיו עֲזַרְיָהוּ הַכֹּהֵן וְעִמּוֹ כֹּהֲנִים לַה׳ שְׁמוֹנִים בְּנֵי־חָיִל׃ וַיַּעַמְדוּ עַל־עֻזִּיָּהוּ הַמֶּלֶךְ וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ לֹא־לְךָ עֻזִּיָּהוּ לְהַקְטִיר לַה׳ כִּי לַכֹּהֲנִים בְּנֵי־אַהֲרֹן הַמְקֻדָּשִׁים לְהַקְטִיר: צֵא מִן־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ כִּי מָעַלְתָּ וְלֹא־לְךָ לְכָבוֹד מֵיְהוָה אֱלֹהִים׃ וַיִּזְעַף עֻזִּיָּהוּ וּבְיָדוֹ מִקְטֶרֶת לְהַקְטִיר וּבְזַעְפּוֹ עִם־הַכֹּהֲנִים וְהַצָּרַעַת זָרְחָה בְמִצְחוֹ לִפְנֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים בְּבֵית יְהוָה מֵעַל לְמִזְבַּח הַקְּטֹרֶת׃ וַיִּפֶן אֵלָיו עֲזַרְיָהוּ כֹהֵן הָרֹאשׁ וְכָל־הַכֹּהֲנִים וְהִנֵּה־הוּא מְצֹרָע בְּמִצְחוֹ וַיַּבְהִלוּהוּ מִשָּׁם וְגַם־הוּא נִדְחַף לָצֵאת כִּי נִגְּעוֹ יְהוָה׃ וַיְהִי עֻזִּיָּהוּ הַמֶּלֶךְ מְצֹרָע עַד־יוֹם מוֹתוֹ וַיֵּשֶׁב בֵּית הַחָפְשִׁית מְצֹרָע כִּי נִגְזַר מִבֵּית יְהוָה וְיוֹתָם בְּנוֹ עַל־בֵּית הַמֶּלֶךְ שׁוֹפֵט אֶת־עַם הָאָרֶץ׃
There's also reference elsewhere in the Bible to an earthquake that happened in `Uzziāh's day. Josephus combines these, adding more:
And when they cried out that he must go out of the temple, and not transgress against God, he was wroth at them, and threatened to kill them, unless they would hold their peace. In the mean time a great earthquake shook the ground and a rent was made in the temple, and the bright rays of the sun shone through it, and fell upon the king's face, insomuch that the leprosy seized upon him immediately. And before the city, at a place called Eroge, half the mountain broke off from the rest on the west, and rolled itself four furlongs, and stood still at the east mountain, till the roads, as well as the king's gardens, were spoiled by the obstruction.This is reminiscent of Matthew 27:50-51:
I wonder whether there was a common myth going around which informed both writers (who were more-or-less contemporary).
Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit. Just then the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks were split apart. ο δε ιησους παλιν κραξας φωνη μεγαλη αφηκεν το πνευμα. και ιδου το καταπετασμα του ναου εσχισθη [απ] ανωθεν εως κατω εις δυο και η γη εσεισθη και αι πετραι εσχισθησαν.