I Kings 15

 

THE REIGNS OF ABIJAM AND ASA, KINGS OF JUDAH (vs. 1-24)

 

                                    The Reign of Abijam (vs. 1-8)

 

1  “Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, reigned

Abijam” - It is implied in II Chronicles 11:20-22 that he was not the firstborn among

Rehoboam’s twenty-eight sons, but the eldest son of the favorite wife. As he left

behind him thirty-eight children (Ibid. 13:21) at his decease, some three years later,

he must have been of considerable age at his accession. This consideration rather

favors the idea that Rehoboam was forty and one years old when he began to

 reign” (Ibid. 12:13)  over Judah. 2 Three years reigned he in Jerusalem.

And his mother's name was Maachah, the daughter of Abishalom.  (Absalom)

3  And he walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him:”

It does not appear that either Abijah or Rehoboam was a vicious man, and from

his pious language on Mount Zemaraim (II Chronicles 13:10-12) we should certainly

have thought that Abijah was a god-fearing prince. But v.13 (here) proves that he

had sanctioned idolatry, and this was no doubt his principal sin, as the next words

explain - “and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as the

heart of David his father.”

 

4  “Nevertheless for David's sake did the LORD his God give him a

lamp (the word is always used figuratively of progeny) – “in Jerusalem,” –

But for David’s piety, that is to say, his family would have been dethroned, if

not destroyed, as was that of Jeroboam (ch.14:10), of Baasha (ch. 16:1-6),

of Ahab (II Kings 10:11).  Abijah was the third prince of that line who had

permitted idolatrous worship, so that that dynasty had richly deserved to forfeit

its position. The stability of the family of David on the throne for nearly 400 years,

amid all the changes and chances of that period, and whilst in Israel there were

nine changes of dynasty within 250 years is  very difficult to account for on mere

grounds of human reason - “to set up his son after him, and to establish

Jerusalem:”

 

5 “Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD,

and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the

days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.  6 And there

was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life.

7 Now the rest of the acts of Abijam, and all that he did, are they not

written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? And

there was war between Abijam and Jeroboam.  8 And Abijam slept

with his fathers; and they buried him in the city of David: and Asa his

son reigned in his stead.”

 

 

                                   

 

                                    The Reign of Asa (vs. 9-24)

 

9  “And in the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel reigned Asa

over Judah.”  This reign is related at much greater length in chapters 14-16

of II Chronicles.  We are there told of the Ethiopian invasion, of the prophecies

of Azariah and Hanani, and of the league with Syria. 10 And forty and one

years reigned he in Jerusalem.” - Asa saw eight kings of Israel on the throne,

Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Tibni, Omri, and Ahab.  “And his

mother's (grandmother’s)  name was Maachah,  the daughter of Abishalom 

(Absalom, as stated before).  Rehoboam’s favorite wife, retained her position,

possibly by force of character, or because Asa’s mother was dead. It is not certain,

however, that if the latter had lived she would have displaced Maachah, of whose

influence and imperious temper we have several indications; e.g., in the

appointment of her son, though not the firstborn, to succeed his father, and

in her open maintenance of idol worship, and above all in the fact that she

was publicly deposed by Asa.

 

11 “And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, as did

David his father.”  It is a wonder how Asa should be good, of the seed of

Abijam, of the soil of Maachah.  12 “And he took away the sodomites out

of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made.

13  And also Maachah his mother, even her he removed from being

queen, because she had made an idol” - tx,l,p]mi from lμp; terruit,

signifies an object of fear, formidonot pudendum, a thing of shame, as the

Rabbis and others have held, i.e., a phallic image (simulacrum obscoenum,

Jerome), but horrendum. The devout Jew could not but regard such objects

with horror  - “in a grove and Asa destroyed her idol,” – simply, cut down –

The image was, no doubt, planted erect in the ground – “and burnt it by the

brook Kidron.”  It is probable that the brook was flowing at this time and

that the ashes of the wooden Asherah were cast into it.

 

14 “But the high places were not removed:” - Yet we read in II Chronicles

14:5 that Asa “took away the high places.”  But it is clear, even from II

Chronicles 15:17, that all of them were not re moved, and the discrepancy

arises from the well-known Eastern idiom of putting the whole for the part.

Asa probably aimed at removing all, and he may have removed all out  of the

cities (II Chronicles 14:5), but some remained in the country districts

or in remote places. Or he may have swept them away for a short time, and

they may have been stealthily and gradually reintroduced - “nevertheless

Asa's heart was perfect with the LORD all his days.”  We have here

a notable instance of the Oriental exaggeration just referred to. For the very

same expression is used by the chronicler (II Chronicles 15:17, who in the

next chapter 16:7-12) tells us of Asa’s unfaithfulness in his old age.

 

15  “And he brought in the things which his father had dedicated,”

These were probably the spoils Abijah had taken in his war with Jeroboam

(II Chronicles 13:18) “and the things which himself had dedicated,” –

probably the spoils of the Ethiopians (II Chronicles 14:15; 15:11) – “into

the house of the LORD, silver, and gold, and vessels.  16 And there

was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days.

17  And Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah, and built Ramah,

that he might not suffer any to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah.”

The object of Baasha in fortifying this place is evident. It was not merely to

have an advanced post as a menace to Jerusalem, but primarily, by its

command of the high road, to prevent his subjects from falling away to the

kingdom of Judah, or even from going up to Jerusalem to worship; in fact,

to isolate Judah and to blockade its capitol. That there was a great defection

to Asa at this time we know from II Chronicles 15:9. This was an exodus

which Baasha felt must be checked and to stop the alarming drainage

of all that was virtuous out of their borders. 

 

18 “Then Asa took all the silver and the gold that were left in the

treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king's

house, and delivered them into the hand of his servants: and king

Asa sent them” - For this act of faithlessness he was reproved by Hanani the

seer (II Chronicles 16:7) - “to Benhadad, (King of Damascus) the son of

Tabrimon, the son of Hezion, king of Syria, that dwelt at Damascus,

saying, 19 There is a league between me and thee, (let there be a league

between us) and between my father and thy father: behold, I have sent

unto thee a present (in reality a bribe) of silver and gold; come and break

thy league with Baasha king of Israel, that he may depart from me.

20  So Benhadad hearkened unto king Asa, and sent the captains of the

hosts which he had against the cities of Israel, and smote Ijon,” –

now represented by Tell Dibbin, a mound near the north end of the MerjAyun

(which probably preserves the name), a “meadow of fountains,” a few miles

northwest of Dan.  This hill would offer a commanding site for a stronghold, and

traces are found there of a large and ancient city (Robinson, 3 p. 375; Dict. Bib.,

1. p. 863), “and Dan,” -  near the northern extremity of Palestine (ch.4:25;

I Samuel 3:20) - now certainly identified with Tell el Kadi the “hill of the Judge”

(which preserves the meaning of the name), near the main source of the Jordan.

The Tell, apparently an extinct crater, is covered with ruins. Stanley, S. and

P., p. 395-6. Thomson, “Land and Book,” 1. p. 320. Van de Velde, if. p.

420. The situation is described as superb, and the country as extremely

fertile. This is the last mention of the place in Scripture. Retribution has

soon fallen on one of the centres of Jeroboam’s schism], - “and

Abelbethmaachah, and all Cinneroth, (in the New Testament identified

with Gennesaret) with all the land of Naphtali.”

 

21  “And it came to pass, when Baasha heard thereof, that he left off

building of Ramah, and dwelt in Tirzah.”  He had enemies on every side

and at once assumes the defensive. He retired to his capitol.  It is not

implied that he planned to dwell in Ramah.

 

 

22 “Then king Asa made a proclamation throughout all Judah; none

was exempted: and they took away the stones of Ramah, and the

timber thereof, wherewith Baasha had builded; and king Asa built

with them Geba of Benjamin, and Mizpah.  23 The rest of all the acts

of Asa, and all his might, and all that he did, and the cities which he

built, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of

Judah? Nevertheless” – Hebrew – only – There was one exception to

his otherwise happy and prosperous reign - “in the time of his old age”

Asa could not have been more than fifty years old.  It was in the 39th

year of his reign when this disease attacked him (II Chronicles 16:12) -

“he was diseased in his feet.”  It is generally supposed that this disease

was the gout. In the Chronicles (l.c.) he is reproached for seeking “not to

 the Lord but to the physicians.” We must remember what the art of

medicine at that day was like and that the Jews regarded sickness and healing

as alike the immediate acts of God.

 

24  “And Asa slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers”

(“in his own sepulchre which he had made for himself” (II Chronicles

16:14, which also notices “the bed filled with sweet odours,” in which he

was laid and the “very great burning” made for him, that is burning of

spices as Jeremiah 34:5 and II Chronicles 21:19) -“in the city of David

his father: and Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his stead.”

 

 

    ADDITIONAL NOTES ON THE REIGN OF ASA (vs. 9-24)

 

Asa’s reign of forty-one years can be summed up under two heads:

internal reforms and external troubles.

 

  • INTERNAL REFORMS.   His reforms were practically of two kinds:

      (a) Moral, and (b) Religious.  It is not implied that he either put morality

            before religion, or believed that the one could be separated from the other.

            All that is meant here, therefore, is that Asa’s reforms resulted in purging

            and raising the tone of public morality by suppressing the idolatry which

            sanctioned and consecrated impurity.

 

ü      The moral reformation is suggested, to our minds by the words

      “He took away the Sodomites out of the land (v. 12). What an

      abyss of corruption does this one brief sentence reveal to us. “It

       is a shame even to speak of those things which were done of

      them in secret” (Ephesians 5:12). And this among the holy people,

      the bride of the Lord! No wonder that Asa’s first effort was directed

      against these horrible enormities. This suppression of the Sodomites

      was a first step towards:

 

 

ü      The religious reformation. He next “removed all the idols that

       his fathers had made.” (v. 12) – [Solomon, as well as Rehoboam

      and Abijah] -   Probably none of the three had himself reared idol

      shrines, but all three had, to say the least, permitted idolatry, and

      connived at it. It was sin enough that they had not vigorously and

      promptly suppressed it. They were, each in his turn, the representative

      of the mighty God of Jacob. What were they doing that they

       permitted any rivalry between the bestial gods of the heathen

       and the Holy One of Israel? But probably we see here the bitter

                        fruits of Solomon’s sin — so true it is that “the evil that men do lives

                        after them.” When that powerful prince had once granted to foreign

                        deities and shameful superstitions a footing in Immanuel’s land, it was

                        more than his comparatively feeble successors could do to dislodge

                        them. The people loved to have it so, (Jeremiah 5:31) and neither

                        Rehoboam nor Abijah was strong enough to say them nay. Thus did

                        Solomon, down to Asa’s days, yes, and down to the time of the

                        captivity (II Chronicles 36:14), go on sinning in his grave.

 

                        And let us notice here an instructive contrast between Asa and

                        Solomon. It was the wise king, the most magnificent of the monarchs

                        of the earth, at the height of his prosperity., and towards the end of a

                        long and peaceful reign, built altars for the abominations of

                        neighboring nations. It was a young prince, unknown to fame, with

                        no special gifts or endowments, with a restricted dominion, and

                        encompassed with difficulties, who was the first to stem this tide

                        of sin and shame with which his great ancestor had flooded the

                        land.

 

                        Consider the way in which these great reforms were brought about.

 

Ø      He began at the right place. “Even Maachah his mother

      he removed,” - The Gebirah, the first lady in the land, whose

      conduct would of course be an example to all the women of

      his realm was deposed from her lofty station. The history of

      Israel shows repeatedly how the country took its tone, as

      indeed every country must do, more or less, from the court.

      It is not only in dress that the queen sets the fashion. The

                                    Japanese have a striking proverb, “Fish begin to stink at the

                                    head.” If the court be corrupt, profligate, irreligious, the

                                    commonalty will soon follow suit, for we all imitate our

                                    superiors. (Think of our own left-leaning and anti-godly

                                    Supreme Court since 1960 in the USA – then think of

                                    the people “who love to have it so” – Jeremiah 5:31 -CY –

                                    2010) - It would consequently have been of little use for

                                    Asa to put down idols elsewhere had he tolerated them in

                                    the harem, the nursery of his successors. This hydra could

                                    not be slain by hewing its feet, or piercing its body; it was

                                    only mortal in its head. Maachah’s horror”must be

                                    destroyed or idolatry will live and flourish. Moreover in

                                    beginning with her, Asa shows that he appraised aright the

                                    power of female influence.  He might have realized that those

                                    who “rock the cradle, rule the world.”  The sinister influence

                                    of the harem had ruined Rehoboam; it should not ruin

                                    Jehoshaphat. Here, again, let us mark the contrast between

                                    the conduct of Asa and that of Solomon; between the cases

                                    of Maachah and Naamah. Solomon built idol altars for his

                                    wives: Asa burnt the idol of his mother. The strong king was

                                     brought into subjection by weak and foolish women; the

                                    weak king humbled and degraded the proudest and

                                    strongest woman of her time. The former could not resist the

                                    blandishments of one of his many foreign mistresses when she

                                    petitioned for the gods and rites of her native country; the latter

                                    was deaf to the entreaties of his mother when she prayed to

                                    retain, not her idol, but her place. It must have cost him an

                                    effort to deal with the queen-mother who had exercised so

                                    great an influence in former reigns. It has been said that the

                                    devil often “comes to a man in the shape of his wife and

                                    children”, and truly a man’s real foes are not unfrequently

                                    those of his own household. Hence the charge of

                                                                        Deuteronomy 13:6 sqq.; cf. Matthew 10:37.  And the moral

                                    effect of this act, the public deposition of the queen-mother,

                                    can hardly be overestimated. It showed the country that the

                                    king was in real earnest; that he was no respecter of persons;

                                    that no idolatry could expect tolerance at his hands. Probably

                                    but for this he could neither have taken away the Sodomites

                                    nor removed the idols. Possibly it was because neither

                                    Rehoboam (II Chronicles 11:21) nor Abijam dared to deal

                                    with the idolatries of Maachah, who would seem to have been

                                    a woman of imperious will, that these foreign superstitions had

                                    defiled the land so long.  Asa struck at their root in removing

                                    her from being queen.

 

Ø      He did not stop halfway. He destroyed “with both hands

      earnestly” (Micah 7:3). He not only cut down her idol, he

                                    burnt it in the valley of the Kedron. This public burning,

                                    witnessed, no doubt, by crowds of spectators, spoke louder

                                    than any words or ordinances could do. When they saw the

                                    “horror” reduced to ashes, and the ashes cast into the brook,

                                    they could have no doubt as to the purpose of their king.

                                    They would remember how Moses had acted before

                                    (Exodus 32:20).

 

Ø      He did what he could. It is no reproach to him that “the

       high places were not removed” (v. 14), for the chronicler

      (chps.14:5; 15:12-13, 17), as well as our author, testifies

      that this was no fault of his. “His heart was perfect all his

       days.” He did what in him lay, and his service was

                                    accepted accordingly (II Corinthians 8:12).

 

Ø      His reformation was followed by a restitution.

                                    It was his happiness to restore to it some of the treasure

                                    of which it had been denuded in the reign of Rehoboam

                                    by giving of silver and gold that he had taken from the

                                    Ethiopians.  Observe: When idolatry came in, the treasures

                                    went out of the land. When idolatry was expelled, prosperity

                                    returned. His, consequently, was no cheap reform. He offered

                                    of that which cost him something (II Samuel 24:24). He might

                                    have converted his spoil into drinking vessels of pure gold

                                    (ch.10:21), but he surrendered it to the service and keeping

                                    of the Most High.

 

Ø      He induced his people to dedicate themselves anew to the

      Lord (II Chronicles 15:12-15; cf. II Corinthians 8:5). This

      was the crown and blossom of his reformation. “They sware

      unto the Lord with a loud voice.”

           

Ø      And, as the fruit of this righteous policy, we find that he enjoyed,

      for a part of his reign at least:

 

o       quietness (II Chronicles 14:1), “The Lord gave him

      rest” (v. 6) – “the effect of righteousness is quietness

      and assurance for ever” (Isaiah 32:17);

 

o       prosperity (II Chronicles 14:7),

 

o       growth, in the shape of a large accession of

      God-fearing, law-abiding subjects. “They fell to him

      out of Israel in abundance when they saw that

                                                the Lord his God was with him.” (II Chronicles 15:9)

                                                Not all the numerical superiority of Israel, not all its

                                                fruitful territory, availed against the attraction of a realm,

                                                in one sense a rival kingdom, where respect for God’s

                                                Law promised security, liberty, and peace.  (It was

                                                no accident that the United States of America once

                                                enjoyed this – CY – 2010)

 

 

  • EXTERNAL TROUBLES. The quiet only lasted ten years His fenced

            cities did not save him from invasion. He had to encounter, first, the

            invasion of Zerah (II Chronicles 14:9), and secondly, the aggression of

            Baasha (ch. 15:17). He may have been tempted to think when that

            overwhelming host of swart barbarians marched against him that his piety

            profited him nothing. He may have argued, when he saw the fortress of

            Ramah threatening his very capital — the city God had chosen to put His

            name there — that God made no difference between the righteous and the

            wicked, between His faithful people and the calf-worshipping Israelites.

            But observe: both these troubles were really blessings in disguise.

            Afflictions and adversities may be either punitive or disciplinary.

            Solomon’s were of the former, Asa’s of the latter class. For:

 

ü      When Asa had learned his own weakness, and learnt whither to

      look for help (II Chronicles 14:11) — lessons both of them of

      singular blessedness — the Lord smote the Ethiopians. This

      invasion resulted in the enrichment of the country. The spoil was

      enormous. And the victory ministered, not to pride, but to piety

      (II Chronicles 15:8).

 

ü      The only result, so far as we know, of the menaces of Baasha was

      that that king drew upon himself an invasion of Syrians (in which it

      is to be observed, Dan, one of the seats of the calf worship, was

      smitten), and Asa gained two fortresses as a protection against

      future inroads (v. 22). It is true that Asa betrayed a want of faith

      in taking the consecrated gold and silver wherewith to bribe the

      northern barbarians (II Chronicles 16:7-8), and that he was

      chastised for the deed (v. 9), but, all the same, his generally

      “perfect heart” was rewarded by more than deliverance. If he

                        ever cried with Jacob, “All these things are against me,”

                        (Genesis 42:36) he must have subsequently exclaimed with

                        Joseph, “Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it

                         unto good” (Genesis 50:20). His troubles must have taught him

                        this lesson, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord

                        delivereth him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19).

 

 

 

                  The Reigns of Nadab and Baasha (vs. 25-34)

     The Reigns of Elah, Zimri and Omri, Kings of Israel (ch. 16:1-28)

 

After bringing up the history of the kings of Judah, which has engaged his pen since

 ch. 14:21, to the date of the death of Asa, our author goes back some forty years

to record the contemporary history of the kingdom of Israel, with which the rest of

this book, the last thirteen verses alone excepted, is occupied. On the other hand,

none of these reigns are even noticed in the Chronicles, the chronicler only refers

to the history of Israel, so far as it is inextricably connected with the object of his

work; in other words, so far as is necessary to explain or illustrate the reigns of

the kings of Judah.  The reigns of these five kings of Israel are related with great

brevity. It was not the object of the author to chronicle secular history - for this

he refers us to “the books of the days” — he is only concerned with the events

of their reigns in so far as they relate to the kingdom of God.

 

25  “And Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over Israel in the

second year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned over Israel two years.

26  And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of

his father,” – Jeroboam begat all his sons, save one, in “his own likeness” –

“and in his sin (the schism) wherewith he made Israel to sin.”  All the

successors of Jeroboam it is clear, either thought themselves compelled, by

the exigencies of their position, to adhere to his ecclesiastical policy, or found

themselves more and more entangled in its toils.

 

27 “And Baasha the son of Ahijah,” - not the prophet of that name (ch. 14:2),

who was an Ephraimite, whereas this Ahijah was “of the house of Issachar,” - 

This fact is perhaps mentioned to distinguish the father of Baasha from the prophet.

Or it may owe its insertion to the insignificance of this tribe (Genesis 49:14-15)

up to this date. This change of dynasty, unlike the last, was in no way connected

with tribal jealousies. Baasha owed his elevation to his own abilities or to his

unscrupulous daring - “conspired” – The word implies associates.  There was

a plot formed for Nadab’s assassination - “against him; and Baasha smote

him at Gibbethon,” – evidently it was a town on the border of Philistia.  The

reader will observe how large a number of the names of towns indicate their

elevation. The cities of those days were set on a hill. It was dangerous to build

in the plain, “which belonged to the Philistines; for Nadab and all Israel

laid siege to Gibbethon.”

 

28  “Even in the third year of Asa king of Judah did Baasha slay him,

and reigned in his stead.”  As the assassination took place during the siege,

it is extremely probable that Baasha, like Omri, was the captain of the host.

Probably Nadab had showed himself quite unequal to the task of governing,

of which reading the army was in that age a principal function (I Samuel 8:20).

It is just possible that in the occupation of Gibbethon by Philistines we have a

proof of his feebleness and incapacity. Anyhow, when the strong hand of

Jeroboam is removed, the fruits of the rebellion at once begin to appear.

The contempt and defiance which Jeroboam had showed towards

constituted authority are now manifested towards his successor. Baasha only

takes a leaf out of Jeroboam’s book (ch.11:26).

 

29  “And it came to pass, when he reigned, that he smote all the house

of Jeroboam; (males and females alike were destroyed) he left not to

Jeroboam any that breathed, until he had destroyed him, according

unto the saying of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Ahijah

the Shilonite:” – (ch. 14:10) - It is not implied that it was because of this

prophecy that Baasha exterminated the house of Jeroboam. It is probable

that, so far from setting himself to fulfill it, he knew nothing about it, and,

as he thought, merely took effectual measures for his own security. His

seat could never be safe, so long as one of Jeroboam’s house survived.

 

30  “Because of the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned, and which he

made Israel sin, by his provocation wherewith he provoked the

LORD God of Israel to anger.  31 Now the rest of the acts of Nadab,

and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of

the kings of Israel?  32 And there was war between Asa and Baasha

king of Israel all their days.”  Verbatim as v. 16. Several commentators

suggest that this latter statement was copied from the chronicles of Israel,

and that of v. 16 from those of Judah. It is held by others, however, that for

Baasha we should here read Nadab, and in favor of this view is the fact that

the reign of Nadab is still under consideration, the history of Baasha only

beginning with the following verse.

 

33 “In the third year of Asa king of Judah began Baasha the son of

Ahijah to reign over all Israel in Tirzah, twenty and four years.”

Practically a repetition of v. 28 which iteration is in accord with Eastern

usage.  34  “And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in

the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.”

 

 

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