SPIRITUAL FAITHFULNESS MUST BE SUSTAINED –
IT’S NOT ENOUGH TO JUST START OUT STRONG
We see many examples in Scriptures and in life where somebody starts out strong – trusting the Lord alone in times of pressure – but finishes poorly. New challenges to our faith require sustaining spiritual faithfulness. As the financial commercials clearly state: “Past performance is no guarantee of future success.” Yet Asa must be given his due credit for his many reforms.
August Konkel: There is never a time when learning to be faithful is complete. Faithfulness is an attitude that must be practiced; it is learned again in each new circumstance. Failures in faithfulness strike without warning. The consequences of such failures are not limited to the individual who sins. Like all sins, unfaithfulness affects all those around, and its effects continue far into the future. Asa is an example of such a disastrous failure, both at the individual level as well on the institutional scene. Leaders of institutions, whether denominations or congregations, therefore carry a particular responsibility to learn to trust God in every situation and to recognize that success at one time does not make future success more likely.
Andrew Hill: In summary, King Asa is a religious reformer (14:3–5) and a builder of fortifications for the defense of Judah’s perimeter (14:7). The repetition of “seeking the LORD” in 14:4, 7 (2×)—an expression that occurs nine times in the three chapters recounting Asa’s kingship (see also 15:2, 4, 12, 13, 15; 16:12)—sets the theme for the entire section. The “rest” (14:5, 6, 7) or peace that Judah enjoys under Asa is due in part to Abijah’s victory over Jeroboam (13:19–20) but is also a reward for Asa’s faithfulness to God (14:7). This accords well with the Chronicler’s emphasis on the retribution principle in Israelite history; that is, obedience to God’s commands results in reward whereas disobedience brings punishment. “Rest” in the land is the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise to give Canaan to the Israelites as their “inheritance” (Deut. 12:8–10).
Iain Duguid: The story of Asa’s long reign is an example of growth in obedience as one “seeks the Lord.” The life of faith is not static. The prophetic word, with its promises, warning, and encouragement, came after initial reforms and enjoyment of blessing over some years, and after a victory over attackers that resulted from “relying” on God. The unreserved commitment (“covenant”) came after deliverance; repentance (15:8: further “put[ting] away”; cf. 14:3–5) came after God’s gracious acts. . .
In the Chronicler’s narration, the last six years of Asa’s reign are quite different from the first thirty-five. The concise side comment in 1 Kings 15:23 that “In his old age he was diseased in his feet” required explanation in light of the positive reforms during his reign. The Chronicler sees examples of judgment that followed Asa’s failure to “rely” on God and his subsequent angry rejection of the prophet’s word; they are outworkings of the second alternative in 2 Chronicles 15:2, “If you forsake him, he will forsake you.” The theological perspective of retribution shapes his narrative and explains the additions.
Raymond Dillard: The Chronicler notes that after Asa’s accession, the land was quiet for ten years, a statement that contrasts with 1 Kgs 15:16 which describes warfare between Asa and Baasha throughout their reigns. The Chronicler proceeds to elaborate on Asa’s reform, essentially interpolating between 1 Kgs 15:12 and 13 a large block of material unique to his account (2 Chr 14:4—15:15). This material is rich in the concepts of retribution theology: it elaborates on Asa’s building programs, his trust in God and the subsequent victory over the much more numerous forces of Zerah, and his responsiveness to the word of God through Azariah. . .
The writer accepts the basic evaluation of his reign from Kings (14:1  // 1 Kgs 15:10). He takes details from the Kings account (details of the reform, the wars with Baasha, the death from a foot disease) and elaborates upon them in light of his convictions about retribution. Each detail is provided with its cause or results: reforms issue in victory, peace, prosperity, and the loyalty of the populace (chaps. 14–15); war and disease follow infidelity (chap. 16). The reign is divided into two periods, and apostasy is confined to the last few years.
The Chronicler commonly uses speech materials to announce themes important to him; the speech materials often seem to have direct homiletical relevance for the post-exilic period. Building, prosperity, and the possession of the land depend on seeking God (14:6 ); even though facing numerically insurmountable opposition, no one can prevail against God (14:10 ). In spite of the ferment and tumult of the past, there is reward for labor (15:2–7); do not rely on political alliances but on God (16:7–9).
Frederick Mabie: Asa is the first of the post-divided kingdom Judean kings to be described as doing what is right in God’s eyes. Moreover, Asa is the first Judean king of this era to inaugurate significant reforms designed to eradicate syncretism and revitalize covenantal fidelity within the community (cf. 15:8-18). Thus the reign and reforms of Asa function as a sort of precursor to the later reformer kings in Judah, most notably Hezekiah and Josiah. Note that Asa, like Hezekiah (30:6-11), invites those situated within the northern kingdom to assemble in Jerusalem and publicly declare their loyalty to God’s ways (cf. 15:9-15). By contrast, the final six or so years of Asa’s reign (compare 15:19; 16:1, 13) are punctuated with compromise and ungodly behavior.
De Vries: The lesson of Asa is clear: when formidable enemies attack God’s people, their trust in Yahweh will assure them the victory. But when they use force and intrigue on their own initiative, ignoring their special calling as his people, they bring ineluctable [inescapable] ruin on themselves and their posterity.
I. (14:1-15) THE EARLY YEARS –
ASA SEEKS GOD AND IS PROSPERED
A. (:1-7) Seeking God Brings Manifold Blessing of Peace and Prosperity
Phil Winfield: Early Rule: He did right in times of peace and prosperity (2 Chronicles 14.1- 8). I have said many times people get spiritual in a crisis. Notice that:
• Asa did right by using the peace time to remove the foreign altars, high places, asherim (v.3&5)
• Asa did right by motivating the people to seek God and to obey his law (v.4).
• He did right by building up his cities and their defenses while they were at peace. It is foolish to wait for a battle to get ready for war. (v.6-8).
• God rewarded them with rest and they were undisturbed on every side.
Amen. Peace comes from a position of strength not weakness as far as nations are concerned.
Martin Selman: The first part of Asa’s reign exemplifies faithfulness, expansion, and security. In the evaluation, good has been added to right (v. 1; cf. 1 Kgs 15:11), apparently as a parallel with Hezekiah (the phrase recurs only in 2 Chr. 31:20). The reform has three main features: worship (vv. 3-5), buildings and fortifications (vv. 6-7), and the army (v. 8).
1. (:1a) Transition from Abijah to Asa
a. Death and Burial of Abijah
“So Abijah slept with his fathers,
and they buried him in the city of David,”
“and his son Asa became king in his place.”
2. (:1b-2) Blessing of Peace Associated with Righteousness
a. (:1b) Rare Rest
“The land was undisturbed for ten years during his days.”
b. (:2) Righteous Reign
“And Asa did good and right in the sight of the LORD his God,”
Iain Duguid: Asa’s doing “good and right in the eyes of the Lord” (v. 2; said also of Hezekiah, 31:20) and his command to Judah “to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers [cf. 15:12], and to keep the law and the commandment” (14:4) led to peace: “The kingdom had rest under him . . . for the Lord gave him peace” (vv. 5–6). Here, after reform, is return to the “rest” from attacks that was a feature of the reign of Solomon (1 Chron. 22:9). This follows the pattern of the period of the judges, in which there was always “rest” for some years after God delivered the people, until they again “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (e.g., Judg. 3:11–12; 3:30–4:1); an intentional parallel here with Judges is likely, given the later reminder of the turmoil of that time (2 Chron. 15:3–6).
3. (:3-5a) Essentials for Seeking God
a. (:3) Attack Idolatry Aggressively
“for he removed the foreign altars and high places,
tore down the sacred pillars,
cut down the Asherim,”
b. (:4) Obey God’s Commands Diligently
“and commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers
and to observe the law and the commandment.”
J.A. Thompson: There are nine references to seeking the Lord in the three chapters devoted to Asa (14:3, 7 [twice]; 15:2, 4, 12, 13, 15; 16:12). The phrase was a summary description of how one was to respond to God and thus defined one who was a member of the believing community. It involved more than a specific act of seeking God’s help and guidance but stood for one’s whole duty toward God (cf. v. 7; 15:2, 12-13). According to 1 Chr 28:9 it is equivalent to knowing God and serving him “with wholehearted devotion.” Part of that attitude was the keeping of God’s laws and commands. S. Wagner notes that the concept is “so complex that very important consequences are causally connected with it”: success (2 Chr 17:5), peace (2 Chr 14:5-6), and life (1 Chr 10:13-14; 2 Chr 15:13). He also explains that it denotes “the Chronicler’s typical ideal of piety.”
c. (:5a) Purify Worship Boldly
“He also removed the high places and the incense altars
from all the cities of Judah.”
Iain Duguid: The removal of the “high places” appears to contradict 1 Kings 15:14 (“but the high places were not taken away”), but the Chronicler notes that the removal was from “all the cities of Judah” (2 Chron. 14:5) but not “out of Israel” (15:17). “Pillars” were standing stones representing Baal, and “Asherim” were wooden poles representing the goddess Asherah (cf. Deut. 7:5); the “incense altars” (2 Chron. 14:5; 34:4, 7; Lev. 26:30; Isa. 17:8) were perhaps small shrines.
Frederick Mabie: In addition to Asa’s efforts to facilitate Godwardness and adherence to divine truth (orthodoxy) summarized in v.4, Asa takes specific steps to remove places associated with syncretism (heterodoxy). The result of these efforts in covenantal obedience is God-given peace and stability within the southern kingdom.
4. (:5b-7) Blessing of Peace and Prosperity Leveraged in Building up Defenses
a. (:5b) Peace
“And the kingdom was undisturbed under him.”
b. (:6a) Fortifications
“And he built fortified cities in Judah, since the land was undisturbed, and there was no one at war with him during those years,”
c. (:6b-7a) Rest Due to Seeking God
“because the LORD had given him rest. 7 For he said to Judah, ‘Let us build these cities and surround them with walls and towers, gates and bars. The land is still ours, because we have sought the LORD our God; we have sought Him, and He has given us rest on every side.’”
d. (:7b) Prosperity
“So they built and prospered.”
Raymond Dillard: The Chronicler commonly reports on the building projects of godly kings; he makes no mention of such projects in his account of the reigns of kings under divine censure. These two verses are a fairly direct articulation of his historiographical concepts: obedience brings peace (“no wars . . . for Yahweh had given him rest”; “we sought him and he has given us rest”) and the prosperity to build (“they built and prospered”).
B. (:8-15) Seeking God Brings Overwhelming Victory over Powerful Foes
(:8) Transition – Formidable Military Force of Asa
“Now Asa had an army of 300,000 from Judah, bearing large shields and spears, and 280,000 from Benjamin, bearing shields and wielding bows; all of them were valiant warriors.”
1. (:9-11) Overwhelming Force of the Attacking Enemy
a. (:9-10) Crisis Confrontation – Test Ordained by God
1) (:9) Superior Forces of Zerah
“Now Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and 300 chariots, and he came to Mareshah.”
Martin Selman: Normally in the Bible Cush is the area south of Egypt, i.e. Sudan (cf. GNB; rather than modern Ethiopia, cf. NRSV, RSV). Mention of Gerar (vv. 13-14), however, just across the Judean-Philistine border, may indicate a more local bedouin conflict, perhaps supported by the parallel between “Cushan” and Midian (Hab. 3:7). The African interpretation is more likely, however, for the following reasons. The Cushites are associated with the Libyans (2 Ch. 16:8, cf. 12:3), local bedouin tribes are unlikely to have owned 300 chariots when Judah had none (v. 9), and precise geographical conclusions should not be drawn on the basis of a single example of prophetic poetry, especially as Gerar is west of Judah and Midian is to the south.
2) (:10) Staging for Battle
“So Asa went out to meet him, and they drew up in battle formation in the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah.”
J. Barton Payne: This was one of the cities Rehoboam had fortified in anticipation of just such an attack (11:9).
b. (:11) Calling on the Lord for Deliverance
“Then Asa called to the LORD his God, and said, ‘LORD, there is no one besides Thee to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in Thee, and in Thy name have come against this multitude. O LORD, Thou art our God; let not man prevail against Thee.’”
Andrew Hill: As in the report of Abijah’s war with Jeroboam (ch. 13), Yahweh-war motifs flavor this story: the overwhelming numbers of the enemy army (14:9; cf. 13:3), a pre-battle speech or prayer invoking God to be a warrior for Israel (14:11–12; cf. 13:5–11), Yahweh’s striking down the enemy for the king of Judah (14:12–13; cf. 13:15–16), and the fear of Yahweh falling on the enemy (14:13; cf. 13:16).
The Chronicler includes this story of Judah’s victory over Zerah and the Cushites as evidence of the king’s faithfulness and reliance on God. Despite Asa’s defensive strategy and military resources (14:7–8), he acknowledges powerlessness before the foe and pleads for divine deliverance (14:11). McConville observes that events like this one are recorded in the Bible “precisely to encourage faith that can hold in the face of such (overwhelming) odds.” Allen goes further, first by outlining the beautiful structure of Asa’s prayer, “beginning and ending with appeals to God and setting human faith in the middle, surrounded by the protective power of the covenant God,” and second by noting that “God’s help is triggered by prayer, prayer which admits to human helplessness and lays claim to God’s patronage.” Such prayer is exemplary, whether for the Chronicler’s time or our own!
J.A. Thompson: Asa’s prayer is appropriate for the occasion and in keeping with Solomon’s advice. The Lord is called upon as the one who could help the powerless against the mighty. The literal Hebrew reads, “It is not with you to help between the great and him that has no strength.” The meaning is that the strong as well as the weak need the Lord’s assistance to gain victory. In this situation the appeal is to the Lord to help the weak. Asa’s appeal was that as he relied on the Lord and in the Lord’s name had come against the vast army of the Cushites, so may the Lord not allow people to prevail against him (the Lord). This is the standard theological approach of the Chronicler. The war was a holy war, and the victory must have been assured when the Lord’s people relied on him however small Israel’s forces may have been.
2. (:12-15) Overwhelming Victory — God Utterly Vanquishes His Enemies
When God goes up against His enemies, there are no buzzer beaters, no close calls, no tight skirmishes. He utterly vanquishes those who oppose Him. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord! There’s Victory in Jesus!
a. (:12-13a) Routing the Enemy
“So the LORD routed the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. 13 And Asa and the people who were with him pursued them as far as Gerar; and so many Ethiopians fell that they could not recover, for they were shattered before the LORD, and before His army.”
b. (:13b-14) Plundering the Enemy
“And they carried away very much plunder. 14 And they destroyed all the cities around Gerar, for the dread of the LORD had fallen on them; and they despoiled all the cities, for there was much plunder in them.”
c. (:15) Devastating the Enemy
“They also struck down those who owned livestock, and they carried away large numbers of sheep and camels. Then they returned to Jerusalem.”
Iain Duguid: “Then they returned to Jerusalem” could be simply a matter-of-fact statement, but Chronicles’ focus on Jerusalem and the temple points greater significance. The phrase functions as transition to the next stage, centering on the temple. Immediately following is an account of further reform and a gathering of all the people in worship, with sacrifices from the “spoil” (14:13; 15:11) and a “covenant” ceremony that concluded with “rejoicing” and a recognition that “the Lord gave them rest all around” (15:15).
Mark Boda: In the Chronicler’s account, the attack of an enemy is usually a sign of God’s discipline awakening the people to their need for renewal. In the Chronicler’s pattern the repentance of the people leads to God’s miraculous deliverance of his people. In this case, however, God’s deliverance was provided without any reference to repentance and was followed by a prophetic call to renewal. Thus, deliverance rather than discipline served as a motivation for renewal. This may be linked in the present case to the absence of a clear link between sin and the attack of the enemy or to the exemplary character of Asa’s cry to the Lord in 14:11, which was enough to secure deliverance in the moment of crisis. However, it is possible that the Chronicler’s program was multidimensional, in this case providing a model for repentance that followed the gracious intervention of God rather than preceded it. Such a model would have resonated with the Persian-period community, which had experienced the grace of God and was being called to an even deeper level of purity and commitment.
II. (15:1-19) THE EXEMPLARY YEARS –
ASA IMPLEMENTS RELIGIOUS REFORMS
Raymond Dillard: The post-exilic community probably saw the speech as quite applicable to its own life. The exile could have been regarded as a period without a proper cultic establishment in place and operational, a time when God had abandoned the people (15:3); the adversity and strife faced by the restoration community mirrored the unsafe commerce (cf. Zech 7:14; Ezra 8:31), turmoil, and harassment of which Azariah spoke (15:4–6). The promises of his speech, that God could be found and would reward their labor, would have immediate homiletical relevance; for the Chronicler the desired response may have been similar to that of Azariah’s hearers (15:8–15).
A. (:1-7) Religious Reforms Motivated by Prophetic Exhortation of Azariah
Frederick Mabie: Whether seen from a past or future orientation, the Chronicler’s postexilic audience would not doubt appreciate the parallel to their own situation in the light of Judah’s seventy years of captivity and the destruction of the Jerusalem temple and thus be likewise exhorted to return and seek God.
(:1-2a) Introduction to the Message of Azariah
a. (:1) Initiative of the Spirit of God
“Now the Spirit of God came on Azariah the son of Oded,”
b. (:2a) Interchange with Asa
“and he went out to meet Asa and said to him,”
c. (:2b) Importance of Heeding the Message
“Listen to me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin:’”
Andrew Hill: Azariah is unknown in the Old Testament apart from this one episode. The expression “the Spirit of God came upon” (15:1) is typically used in the Old Testament to signify divine empowerment for some specific task, often prophetic inspiration for delivering oracles from God (e.g., 20:14; 24:20). A direct commission of some sort usually accompanies the work of God’s Spirit; in this case Azariah is charged to go and find King Asa (15:2a). God’s prophet serves as the conscience of the divided monarchies, so it is appropriate that Azariah’s message is delivered to the king and the people of Judah and Benjamin (15:2b).
1. (:2b) Fundamental Principle – Lord is with You When You Seek Him
“the LORD is with you when you are with Him.
And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him;
but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.”
Martin Selman: The theme of seeking God continues from chapter 14, occupying a central role in both the prophecy (vv. 2, 4) and the covenant (vv. 12-13, 15). Two elements are stressed, that the purpose of seeking God is to be found by him (vv. 2, 4, 15), and that this is an attitude affecting the whole of life. Seeking is not an end in itself, but a God-given means to be restored to a relationship with him. That relationship is seen to encompass internal and external worlds, attitudes as well as actions. Neither pietism nor restructuring is adequate by itself, and any authentic movement of spiritual renewal should show evidence of both.
2. (:3) Recipe for Spiritual Disaster
a. No Relationship with the True God
“And for many days Israel was without the true God”
J. Barton Payne: Probably referring to the chaotic days of the Judges.
b. No Spiritual Instruction from Qualified Leader
“and without a teaching priest”
c. No Divine Revelation of God’s Standards
“and without law.”
Andrew Hill: The prophet’s speech also has currency for the Chronicler’s audience, for it summarizes the three essentials for sustaining the faith of the restoration community in postexilic Judah: the true God, the teaching priest, and the law (15:3).
3. (:4) Key to Spiritual Reformation = Repentance and Seeking God
“But in their distress they turned to the LORD God of Israel,
and they sought Him,
and He let them find Him.”
4. (:5-6) Pressure from Divine Discipline
“And in those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in,
for many disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands.
6 And nation was crushed by nation, and city by city,
for God troubled them with every kind of distress.”
5. (:7) Encouragement to Bravely Persevere in Implementing Reforms
“But you, be strong and do not lose courage,
for there is reward for your work.”
Frederick Mabie: The prophet’s admonition to Asa to “be strong” is a function of one’s spiritual – not physical – fortitude in times of challenge and uncertainty. This spiritual dimension of being strong is seen in Asa’s response (“he took courage,” v.8) as he embarks on leading the people in worship and spiritual renewal (vv.8b-15).
B. (:8-15) Asa’s Reforms and Covenant Renewal Ceremony
1. (:8-9) Asa’s Reforms
a. (:8a) Removal of Abominable Idols
“Now when Asa heard these words and the prophecy which Azariah the son of Oded the prophet spoke,
he took courage and removed the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities which he had captured in the hill country of Ephraim.”
b. (:8b) Restoration of the Altar of the Lord
“He then restored the altar of the LORD
which was in front of the porch of the LORD.”
Frederick Mabie: Asa’s destruction of idols from the tribal territories of the southern kingdom and northern tribal areas (“the hills of Ephraim”) is balanced with his repairs on the altar of the Jerusalem temple. These repairs on the altar function as a tangible act evidencing his inward disposition toward faithfulness and fidelity to God. The destruction of objects of idolatry and syncretistic worship per Deuteronomic admonition (cf. Dt 16:21-22) is a cornerstone of Asa’s religious reforms and is likewise seen in the reforms of Hezekiah (cf. 2Ch 31:1) and Josiah (cf. 34:3-7).
c. (:9) Rallying the People
“And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin and those from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon who resided with them,
for many defected to him from Israel when they saw that the LORD his God was with him.”
Raymond Dillard: The Chronicler’s concern with “all Israel” is one of his most pervasive themes; from the vantage point of the post-exilic community, he has not simply written off the Northern tribes. Here Asa enjoys the loyalty of many Northerners, as had Rehoboam before him (11:13–17). The Chronicler speaks of actions in the North on the part of several of the kings of Judah. Asa’s son Jehoshaphat put garrisons in the cities of Ephraim captured by his father (17:2) and sent a teaching delegation into the North (19:4). Hezekiah invited Israelites from Beersheba to Dan to celebrate the Passover (30:5, 11); Josiah’s reform reached into “Ephraim, Manasseh, Simeon, and as far as Naphtali” (34:6; cf. 34:21, 33). Though there is the steady call for reform in the North and for the recognition of the Jerusalem cult, the Chronicler’s attitude to the North is not one of exclusivism (cf. Ezra 6:17).
2. (:10-15) Covenant Renewal Ceremony
a. (:10) Assembled
“So they assembled at Jerusalem
in the third month of the fifteenth year of Asa’s reign.”
b. (:11) Sacrificed
“And they sacrificed to the LORD that day
700 oxen and 7,000 sheep from the spoil they had brought.”
Andrew Hill: The covenant ceremony may have been associated with the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, as the spring pilgrimage festival would have naturally necessitated the gathering of all Israel in Jerusalem at that time of year (15:10). It also appears that the victory over Zerah the Cushite (cf. 14:9–15) was incorporated into the festival since some of the animals taken as plunder from that battle are included in the sacrificial offerings to the Lord (15:11).
c. (:12-13) Covenanted
“And they entered into the covenant to seek the LORD God
of their fathers with all their heart and soul;
13 and whoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman.”
d. (:14) Made an Oath
“Moreover, they made an oath to the LORD with a loud voice, with shouting, with trumpets, and with horns.”
e. (:15) Rejoiced
“And all Judah rejoiced concerning the oath,
for they had sworn with their whole heart
and had sought Him earnestly,
and He let them find Him.
So the LORD gave them rest on every side.”
C. (:16-19) Additional Reform Measures
1. (:16) Removal of the Queen Mother Maacah
“And he also removed Maacah, the mother of King Asa, from the position of queen mother, because she had made a horrid image as an Asherah, and Asa cut down her horrid image, crushed it and burned it at the brook Kidron.”
Andrew Hill: The Asherah pole was a cultic symbol of the Canaanite fertility goddess Asherah in the form of a tree or tree trunk. The pole represented the tree of life in Canaanite religion, and the fertility cult associations of the symbol made the object “repulsive” or even “obscene” (NEB). It was among the objects of false worship under the ban of holy war for the Israelites at the time of the conquest of Canaan (Deut. 7:5). The raising of an Asherah pole is expressly forbidden in Mosaic law as an act that God hates (Deut. 16:21; cf. 2 Kings 23:6). Asa smashes this pole and burns it in the Kidron Valley southeast of Jerusalem, a garbage pit and refuse dump sometimes used for the disposal of such religious objects (cf. 2 Chron. 29:16; 30:14).
Frederick Mabie: The Kidron Valley is located to the east of the old city of Jerusalem and is the location of the famed Gihon Spring. This valley as a focal point in the destruction of heterodoxy and idolatry continues into the later reforms of Hezekiah (cf. 29:15-17; 30:14) and Josiah (cf. 2Ki 23:1-15).
2. (:17) No Removal of the High Places but Overall Integrity of Heart
“But the high places were not removed from Israel;
nevertheless Asa’s heart was blameless all his days.”
Andrew Hill: Nevertheless, Asa fails to remove the high places from Israel. Rather than see this as a contradiction to the record of the king’s reforms (15:17; cf. 14:2), it is probably better to assume that the writer distinguishes between the high places of Judah and Israel, or perhaps the two statements are but “evidence of the persistence of the indigenous cults over several years.”
3. (:18) Regathering of the Dedicated Things into the Temple
“And he brought into the house of God the dedicated things of his father and his own dedicated things: silver and gold and utensils.”
(:19) Result: Rest from War
“And there was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of Asa’s reign.”
III. (16:1-10) THE EGOCENTRIC (EXPEDIENT) LATER YEARS –
ASA FAILS TO TRUST GOD IN THE TIME OF CRISIS OR LISTEN TO GOD’S PROPHET
A. (:1-6) Failure to Trust God in Time of Crisis
Iain Duguid: Baasha’s aggressive act so close to Jerusalem hinted at his military strength in comparison to Judah’s and presented a much more serious threat than the previous occasional raiding parties. Asa’s response was to seek help from Syria, which bordered Israel to the northeast.
Martin Selman: Asa’s last five years, recounted in chapter 16, completely reverse the pattern of the rest of his life, a decline that is all the more unexpected in that it seems to have started from an act of unprovoked hostility (v. 1). From that point on, however, Asa seemed determined to go his own way, and he followed his initial rejection of God’s help (vv. 2-3) by persecuting a prophet (v. 10), oppressing his people (v. 10), and neglecting God (v. 12). A pattern therefore developed, which, though it may have begun by accident, became a series of conscious decisions.
1. (:1-3) Expedient Solution to Aggression by Baasha of Israel
a. (:1) Aggressive Defensive Measures of Baasha
“In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah and fortified Ramah in order to prevent anyone from going out or coming in to Asa king of Judah.”
Andrew Hill: After two decades of peace, conflict once again breaks out between the kingdoms of Israel and Judah (16:1). King Baasha of Israel is the aggressor in that the defensive measures he takes to fortify Ramah also threaten the territory of Judah economically and militarily. The town of Ramah (or er-Ram, a site some five miles north of Jerusalem) is strategically located on the major north-south ridge route that bypasses Jerusalem (cf. Judg. 19:10–13). According to Dillard, control of Ramah is also close enough to the Beth-Horon ridge to menace the east-west traffic traversing the central Benjamin plateau. From this choke point, Baasha can control traffic flow in and out of northern Judah—trade caravans, Israelite defectors heading south, or pious Hebrews journeying to the temple to celebrate the pilgrimage festivals.
Thomas Constable: There is a chronological problem in verse 1, which says: “In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign, Baasha king of Israel” attacked Judah. But in 1 Kings 16:8 we read: “In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah the son of Baasha became king over Israel.” Keil attributed the difference to a scribal error and concluded that the number in 1 Kings is correct.
b. (:2-3) Alliance Procured with Ben-hadad of Aram
“Then Asa brought out silver and gold from the treasuries of the house of the LORD and the king’s house, and sent them to Ben-hadad king of Aram, who lived in Damascus, saying, 3 ‘Let there be a treaty between you and me, as between my father and your father. Behold, I have sent you silver and gold; go, break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so that he will withdraw from me.’”
Andrew Hill: The Chronicler’s report of Baasha’s activity at Ramah and Asa’s response is based on 1 Kings 15:17–22. Asa resorts to the oft-used political ploy of paying tribute to a third party for the purpose of engaging an aggressor nation on a second front (2 Chron. 16:3–4). The cost of contracting Ben-Hadad king of Aram to wage war against Israel is apparently steep, because Asa has to siphon monies from two treasuries (the temple and the palace, 15:6) to seal the pact. This is probably due to the fact that Aram and Israel are already partners in an alliance, and Ben-Hadad will need a greater offer to break his treaty with Baasha (16:3b).
J.A. Thompson: Asa withdrew silver and gold from the treasuries of the Lord’s temple and his own palace and sent it to Ben-Hadad, king of Aram-Damascus, to encourage him to break the treaty he had with Baasha. The Arameans were implacable foes of the Northern Kingdom, and the drawing of Damascus into a hostile attitude to Judah would provide conflict for Baasha on a second front and ease pressure on Judah. By this political maneuver Asa’s enlistment of Ben-Hadad’s aid outmaneuvered Baasha. But however shrewd this scheme was politically, it displayed a lack of trust in the Lord and merited divine retribution.
Mark Boda: For the Chronicler, that Asa entered into a foreign alliance was bad enough; using the treasuries protected by the Levites at the Temple (1 Chr 9:26; 26:20, 22) was far worse.
2. (:4-6) Execution of Asa’s Diversionary Plan by Ben-hadad
a. (:4) Beh-hadad Attacks Israel
“So Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel, and they conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-maim, and all the store cities of Naphtali.”
b. (:5) Baasha Diverted from Fortifying Ramah
“And it came about when Baasha heard of it that he ceased fortifying Ramah and stopped his work.”
c. (:6) Ramah Plundered by Asa to Fortify Geba and Mizpah
“Then King Asa brought all Judah, and they carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber with which Baasha had been building, and with them he fortified Geba and Mizpah.”
Andrew Hill: The Arameans were irrepressible foes of Israel throughout the history of the northern kingdom, so there is doubtless little reservation about reneging on a treaty with Baasha as long as the price is right. The Arameans invade Israelite cities along the northeastern border between the two nations (16:4). When Baasha hears the news that several important cities have fallen to Ben-Hadad, he has to abandon his plan to fortify Ramah and divert his attention to the war with Aram in the northern extremities of his territory (16:5). After Baasha withdraws from Ramah, Judah destroys the fortifications under construction and reuses the stones and timber to fortify Geba (modern day Jeba, a town of Benjamin some six miles northeast of Jerusalem) and Mizpah, thus extending Judah’s defensive perimeter north of Ramah (16:6, assuming this is the Mizpah of Benjamin or Tell en-Nasbeh, nearly eight miles northeast of Jerusalem; cf. Josh 18:24, 26).
B. (:7-10) Failure to Listen to God’s Prophet
1. (:7-9) Indictment by Hanani
a. (:7) Failure to Trust the Lord
“At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, ‘Because you have relied on the king of Aram and have not relied on the LORD your God, therefore the army of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand.’”
Frederick Mabie: The arrival of Hanani is the second recorded prophetic visit to Asa (the first form Azariah is recorded at 15:1-7). While the prophet Azariah’s visit to Asa was full of the possibilities and blessings of seeking God and exercising covenantal obedience, this visit is full of rebuke and critique in the light of the lack of faith implied in Asa’s request for help from the Arameans. Instead of relying on God, Asa has sought protection by pursuing a more tangible means to military aid – namely, by paying the Arameans a bounty pillaged from the temple treasury and royal treasury (cf. 16:2-3). Ultimately, as the prophet notes, to place trust in humankind or human institutions rather than completely in God is foolishness that reaps broad consequences (v.9).
b. (:8) Failure to Learn the Lessons from Covenant History
“Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim an immense army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the LORD, He delivered them into your hand.”
c. (:9a) Fundamental Principle: The Lord Supports Covenant Loyalty
“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”
d. (:9b) Foolishness Resulting in Unending Wars
“You have acted foolishly in this.
Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.”
J. A. Thompson: The two periods of Asa’s life are here contrasted. Early in his reign when he relied on the Lord, a great army (Cushites and Libyans) with many chariots and horsemen were delivered into his hand (14:9-15). Now in the latter period of his reign, despite appearances, he was a defeated man. He had done a foolish thing, and henceforth war would plague him (cf. 1 Sam 13:13).
God knows what is happening in the hearts of all people. He supports those who are wholeheartedly committed to him, but he will not support those who carelessly reject his sovereignty and lean on another.
2. (:10) Indignation of Asa
a. Imprisonment of the Prophet
“Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in prison,
for he was enraged at him for this.”
b. Oppression of the People
“And Asa oppressed some of the people at the same time.”
(16:11-14) CLOSIING SUMMARY
A. (:11) Recorded Deeds
“And now, the acts of Asa from first to last, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel.”
B. (:12) Severe Disease
“And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa became diseased in his feet.
His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD,
but the physicians.”
Iain Duguid: Asa’s failure to seek God in his disease does not necessarily negate the value of physicians in general but rather judges his reliance on them alone and his failure to see that God ultimately is the source of all healing. A comparison can be seen in the earlier recounting of military defensive preparedness within an overall life of seeking and relying on God (2 Chronicles 14). Elsewhere, Scripture includes both frequent references to God as the one who “heals” (Gen. 20:17; Ex. 15:26; Deut. 32:39; Pss. 6:2; 30:2; etc.) and positive instances of help from physicians (e.g., Isa. 38:21; Jer. 8:22; Col. 4:14). Further, illness may have a spiritual cause (1 Cor. 11:30), and, increasingly, modern medicine is becoming aware of spiritual factors in health and healing. The account of Asa points to the God who calls for people to “seek” and “rely on” him in all of life.
Jamieson: The physicians that Asa sought (v. 12) were most probably Egyptian physicians, who were anciently in high repute at foreign courts, and who pretended to expel diseases by charms, incantations, and mystic arts. Asa’s fault consisted in his trusting to such physicians, while he neglected to supplicate the aid and blessing of God.
C. (:13) Death
“So Asa slept with his fathers, having died in the forty-first year of his reign.”
D. (:14) Burial
“And they buried him in his own tomb which he had cut out for himself in the city of David, and they laid him in the resting place which he had filled with spices of various kinds blended by the perfumers’ art; and they made a very great fire for him.”
Raymond Dillard: The fire accompanying his burial was not cremation, but rather a memorial and honorific rite customarily attending the death of kings (21:19; Jer 34:5).
Iain Duguid: Here have been recounted, in quick succession, three examples of Asa’s not “relying on” or “seeking” the Lord, which led to judgment:
(1) seeking aid from Ben-hadad, resulting in failure to defeat Ben-hadad and in continuing “wars” instead;
(2) anger at the prophet’s message, leading to disease; and
(3) failure “even in his disease [to] seek the Lord,” leading to death.
The ending, however, is positive, as the Chronicler adds details of burial rites that give him “honor.” In fact, he is the only king for whom such memorial “fire” and spices are specifically mentioned (generic mention in 21:19 and Jer. 34:5). It seems that Asa’s experience of God’s grace had diminished but not been destroyed.
Frederick Mabie: A funeral pyre would be a statement of respect and honor for the deceased and was typically only available for those of high stature (cf. Jer 34:4-5). The withholding of honor is clearly connected to the absence of a funerary pyre for Jehoram (cf. 2Ch 21:19). Such fires were accompanied by spices and ointments as noted here and could also be seen as an aspect of purification of the dead, as reflected in the death customs of Egypt and Assyria. The notation that Asa had “cut out for himself” a tomb is unique in terms of regnal death notices in Chronicles.