II Chronicles 14

 

 

 

This chapter commences Asa’s long reign of forty-one years. Asa was son

of Abijah and grandson of Maachah (ch. 15:16; I Kings 15:13). The reign

was remarkable for the devotion of Asa to the true God, and for the signal

successes given to him in consequence, but it did not reach its end without a

mournful defection on Asa’s part from trust in God (ch. 16:2-4, 12), which

entailed its reward (ibid. v. 9), and which has left tarnished for all ages a fame

that would otherwise have been fairest among all the kings of Judah. The

disjointed and grudging parallel to the forty-eight verses of this and the following

two chapters respecting Asa, in Chronicles, is comprised within the sixteen verses

only of I Kings 15:8-24.

 

1 “So Abijah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of

David: and Asa his son reigned in his stead. In his days the land

was quiet ten years.”  Buried… in the city of David (see our note,

ch.12:16). Asa his son. If, according to the suggestion of our note, chps. 10:8 and

12:13, the alleged forty-one years of the age of Rehoboam be made twenty-one,

it will follow that Asa could not now be more than a boy of some twelve years of

age. It is against that suggestion that there is no sign of this, by word or deed, in

what is here said of the beginning of Asa’s reign; the signs are to the contrary,

especially taking into the question the indications given us respecting the

tendencies, if not contradicted, of the queen-mother Maachah (ch.15:16;

I Kings 15:13), and it is not supposable that a boy of twelve years of age

could contradict them. This point must be held still moot. In his days…

quiet ten years. No doubt one cause of this was the defeat that Jeroboam

and Israel had sustained at the hands of Abijah (ch. 13:18-20).

It appears also, from I Kings 15:19, that after that defeat a league was

instituted between Abijah and the then King of Syria: “There is a league

between me and thee, and between my father and thy father. And these

things, with Israel’s new kings, and perhaps Asa’s extreme youth, would

have favored the repose of the land.

 

2 “And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the LORD

his God:”  That which was good and right. Our Authorized Version does

not omit to mark the first three words with italic type, the simple and

emphatic original being, the good and the straight.

 

3 “For he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high

places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves:”

The altars of the strange (gods); Hebrew, the altars of the

stranger, meaning, of course, “the altars of the gods of the stranger.” This

expression, “strange gods,” is found in the Authorized Version about

thirteen times for the Hebrew גֵכָר, or הַגֵּכָר,, and would be most correctly

rendered, “The gods [or, ‘god’] of the stranger,” i.e. of the foreigner, as it

is rendered in the solitary instance of Deuteronomy 31:16. The high

places. Compare v. 5 and ch. 15:17, which says, “But the high

places were not taken away out of Israel;” and I  Kings 15:14, which

says, “But the high places were not removed,” without limiting this

non-removal to “of Israel.” On the question of this apparent inconsistency

and surface-contradiction, see our Introduction, §7, pp. 16:1 and 17:2. Further,

it may here be well distinctly to note how little is even the apparent

discrepancy or contradiction alleged in this subject, throwing in the

analogous passages in Jehoshaphat’s history (ch. 17:6; 20:33),

in case these may reflect any light on the question. Firstly, we will

remove out of our way the parallel in I Kings 15:14, with the

observation that it is evident from its immediate context that it corresponds

with the last statement of our ch. 15:17), savoring of a retrospective

summarizing of the compiler, not with the first statements (here vs. 3, 5), 

which set forth Asa’s prospective  purpose of heart, his resolution, and, no

doubt, his edicts. Secondly, we may notice that there is a plain-enough

distinction made by the writer in vs. 3 and 5 respectively — the one saying that

Asa “took away the high places,” without any further limitation; the other saying

within two verses, “Also out of all the cities of Judah (note by the way here the

suggestive stress laid upon “the cities, possibly as more easily coped with than

country districts) “he took away the high places.” The only legitimate

inference (taking into account both the words used, and the fact that the

last written are found close upon the former, with the significant

conjunction “also”) must be that some different information was intended

in the two places. V. 3 finds Asa as much master of Judah as v. 5.

Therefore the natural interpretation of v. 3 must be that Asa at once

abolished “the high places” nearest home, nearest Jerusalem, most within

his own personal reach; then “also” that he did and ordered the same to be

done in “all the cities of Judah,” and it was done at the time, if only for the

time. Thirdly, include the statement of ch. 15:17, if we do not

insist (as we might insist very fairly when pressed on a point of alleged

inconsistency or contradiction) on the fact that now the high places “of

Israel arc distinctly designated, and that therein those outlying parts of

Asa’s more or less acknowledged sway outside of Judah and his

thoroughest control are designedly described, let us instead take the help of

an exactly analogous (and analogously alleged) discrepancy (ch. 17:6 compared

with ch. 20:33), and we find there that the very key with which to unlock the

difficulty is provided to our hand. Jehoshaphat (ch. 17:6) “took away the high

places;” “the people” (ch. 20:33) did not faithfully and with a constant

heart follow suit, but had failed to prepare, i.e. to turn “their hearts unto

the God of their fathers.” How well the juxtaposition of these very words

would tell, nay, do tell, with the emphatic words of I Kings 15:14!

“Nevertheless Asas heart was perfect with the Lord all his days;” and with

our ch. 15:17, “Nevertheless the heart of Asa was perfect all his days.”

In both these passages the antithesis is patent between Asa’s

heart and the peoples hearts, between Asa’s all his days” and the

people’s uncertainty and apostasy. The fidelity of Bible history and its

non-cunningly, non-fabulously devised tenor are gratefully corroborated by the

inquisition made into such a supposed “discrepancy,”“ inconsistency,”

“contradiction.” Notice once more the confirming indication, so far as it

goes, of the one verb that commands the next verse, as there noted upon.

Brake down the images; Hebrew, מַצֵּבות. It occurs in the Authorized

Version thirty-two times, and is rendered “pillar” or “pillars” twelve times;

“image” or “images” nineteen times; and “garrisons” once. It appears

simply to have slipped from the signification of pillar into the rendering of

the word “image,” by aid of the intermediate word “statue.” It is used of

the pillar or statue of Baal in II Kings 3:2; 10:26-27, with his name

expressed; and  in ibid. ch.18:4; 23. 14, without that name expressed.

Cut down the groves; Hebrew, וַיְגַדַּע אֶת־הָאֲשֵׁרִים.  The verb

here used implies the “cutting,” “cutting down,” “pruning” of trees. It is

undoubtedly applied also to other cutting and cutting down, as:

 

·         of the “breaking” of a rod (Zechariah 11:10),

·         of an arm (I Samuel 2:31),

·         of horns (Jeremiah 48:25),

·         of bars or bolts (Isaiah 45:2).

 

It occurs in all twenty-three times. It is here employed to describe the destroying

of what according to the Authorized Version arc called “groves” (Septuagint,

ἄλσοςalsos; Vulgate, lucus) — a word which with little doubt misleads for the

rendering of our אֲשֵׁרִים. Before this same word we have also another

Hebrew verb for “cutting,” of very frequent occurrence in its simple and

metaphorically derived uses included, viz. כָּרַת. The first uses of this verb

with the above word are found in Judges 6:25-26, 30. That word

means literally “fortune,” but in its ultimate derivation “straightness,” and

hence supposed to designate, in Phoenician and Aramaean idolatry, Astarte

or the planet Venus, who is constantly associated in such idolatry with Baal

(Judges 3:7). But see for the first occurrence of the word, Exodus 34:13,

where there is no express mention of Baal, but where the idolatries

of the Amorite, Canaanite, Hittite, Hivite, Perizzite, and Jebusite are being

spoken of. When we take into consideration the probable ultimate

derivation of the word, the fact of the verbs that speak of “cutting” being

uniformly applied to what it represents, the “burning” to which this was

condemned (Judges 6:26) when cut down, and a series of statements

that represent it as “set up under every green tree” (I Kings 14:23;

II Kings 17:10; see also I Kings 15:13; II Kings 21:7; 23:6; here ch. 15:16),

it not only becomes perfectly certain that “grove” and “groves” cannot

rightly render the word, but directs us with the light of those passages that

speak of it coupled with Baal as an object of worship, and that speak of prophet

and priest called by its name (Judges 3:7, compared with 2:13; 10:6; I Samuel 7:4;

I Kings 18:19; II Kings 21:3; 23:4), to the strong conviction that it should be at

once written with a capital letter, and rendered as a proper name; that it may

possibly be a synonym with Ashtoreth, 1.q. Astarte, or a representation in wooden

pillar, stock or trunk fashion, of some supposed aspect of her passion or

dominion, very likely in the voluptuous or sensual direction (see the

nevertheless very doubtful Septuagint and Vulgate, here ch. 15:16;

and Vulgate, Judges 3:7). Conder, in ‘Handbook to the Bible,’ p. 187,

2nd edit., speaks of “Baal-peor (Numbers 25:3) as identified by St.

Jerome with the classical Priapus;” and adds “the Asherah (rendered

‘grove’ in our version) was also apparently a similar emblem” (II Kings

23:7). The analogy of the sacred tree of the Assyrians sculptured on the

monuments of Nineveh (‘Nineveh and Persepolis,’ p. 299, Fergusson),

which was probably a straight trunk or stock garlanded at certain times

with ribbons and flowers, has been opportunely pointed to (see also

Professor Dr. Murphy’s ‘Handbook: Chronicles,’ p. 115).

 

4 “And commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and

to do the law and the commandment.” And commanded Judah to seek the

Lord God of their fathers. What an indication lies couched in this word

commanded (confirmatory of the spirit of what is said above, in our previous

verse-note) of the moral efforts of Asa, and that the efforts on which he may

have largely relied for “taking away the high places” were moral efforts,

rather than those of physical force.

 

5 “Also he took away out of all the cities of Judah the high places and

the images: and the kingdom was quiet before him.”  The images; Hebrew,

חַמָּנֹים. The images spoken of here are, of course, not the same with those

(noted upon already) of v. 3. The present khammanim are mentioned seven times

beside, viz. Leviticus 26:30; here ch. 34:4, 7; Isaiah 17:8; 27:9; Ezekiel 6:4, 6.

Gesenius says Khamman is an epithet of Baal as bearing rule over the sun

(חַמָה, “heat,” or “the sun”), in the oft-found compound expression, בַֹּעַל חַמָּן;

he thinks the plural (חַמָּנִים), invariably found in the Old Testament,

is short for בְּעָלִים חַמָּנִים. He does not agree with the translation of

Haenaker (‘Miscell. Phoen.,’ p. 50), “sun-image” by aid of the word פֶסֶל,

understood, images said to have been of a pyramid form, and placed in the

most sacred positions of Baal-temples. This, however, is the rendering

adopted by not a few modern commentators (so ch.34:4).

Gesenius would render “the Sun-Baal,” or “the Sun-Lord,” i.e. statues of

the sun, representing a deity to whom (see ‘ Phoen. Inseript.’) votive

stones,were inscribed. In his ‘Thesaurus’ (p. 489) Gesenius instances the

Phoenician inscriptions, as showing that our chemmanim denoted statues

of both Baal, the sun-god, and Astarte, the moon-goddess.

 

 

Destructive Godliness (vs. 2-3, 5)

 

Human energy and capacity show themselves in two forms -in the

destructive and in the constructive. Though action of the latter kind is the

more honorable and admirable of the two, yet that of the former is also

useful and needful in its time. Moses did a very good work for the people

of Israel when he ground to powder the golden calf; and Hezekiah, when

he broke in pieces the brazen serpent and called it “a bit of brass;” and the

Christians of Ephesus did a wise as well as a worthily sacrificial thing when

they burnt the “books” out of which they had been making large profits for

their pocket (Acts 19:19). Destructive godliness sometimes indicates a

devotedness, and sometimes renders a service which deserves to take high

rank amongst the excellences and even the nobilities of human worth. We

look at:

 

  • THE DESTRUCTIVE PIETY SHOWN BY THE KING. He removed

the high places set apart for idolatrous worship, also the altars of false

gods; he “cut down the groves” where moral and devotional abominations

were likely to be committed; he “took away the sodomites out of the land,

and removed all the idols that his fathers had made” (I Kings 15:12).

And that which was, perhaps, more than all this, as evidencing a sincerity

and thoroughness of heart toward God, and justifying the language used by

the Chronicler (v. 2) concerning him, he destroyed the idol of Maachah,

and even removed that idolatrous queen from the official dignity she had

been enjoying. Asa, therefore, struck a very decisive and damaging blow at

the idolatry of his time; he powerfully and effectually discouraged iniquity

and immorality in three ways:

 

Ø      He showed his own personal and royal hatred of them.

Ø      He rebuked and punished the perpetrators of them.

Ø      He took away the means of indulging in them.

 

By these measures he strove well and wrought successfully for the truth of

God and for the purity of his people.

 

  • OUR OWN ACTION IN THE SAME DIRECTION. In what ways

shall we serve God by a destructive piety?

 

Ø      By promoting wise legislative measures. There arc evils which it is

needless to name from which large numbers of people need to be

protected. To be tempted by them is to be overcome, is to be slain by

them; they are active sources of evil and of suffering, of ruin and of death;

they ought to be suppressed; and one part of a Christian man’s duty is to

join his fellow-citizens in cutting down or “removing those high places” of

the land. 

 

Ø      By excluding evil things and evil persons from the home. There are men

and there is literature concerning whom and concerning which we can only

say that they are sources of defilement; and if we have not power, like an

Oriental monarch, to forbid them the land, we can forbid them the home;

we can see that, in respect of those who are in our charge and for whose

well-being we are responsible, that these men and these books are well

beyond reach.

 

Ø      By putting down evil language. (You cannot do this by requiring readings

of this sort in the curriculum, as is so foolishly done in the education

strategies of the National Education Association.  When I was in high

school in the late 1950's, the language of the average high schooler

was angelic in comparison to the vulgarities spouted by thoughtless

teenagers today!  - CY - 2016)  This we may do, in many quarters, by

firmly discountenancing and fearlessly condemning it; the voice of

righteous reprobation will soon silence the profane and lascivious tongue.

 

Ø      By expelling from our own life that which imperils our moral or spiritual

integrity. Every man must know, or should know, what habits (in eating or

drinking, in recreation, etc.) are fascinating, absorbing, dangerous to

himself; must know in what direction it is perilous to set out, lest he should

go too far. There let him determinately bar the way; that threatening habit

let him exclude rigorously from his life (see Matthew 5:29-30).

 

6 “And he built fenced cities in Judah: for the land had rest, and he

had no war in those years; because the LORD had given him rest.”

He built fenced cities in Judah. Though it is not said so here,

it is very probable that Asa did again the work of Rehoboam (ch.11:5-12)

which Shishak had done so much to undo (ch.12:4-5, 8).

 

7 “Therefore he said unto Judah, Let us build these cities, and make

about them walls, and towers, gates, and bars, while the land is yet

before us; because we have sought the LORD our God, we have

sought Him, and He hath given us rest on every side. So they built

and prospered.”  We have sought Him, and He hath given us rest. In three

successive verses the blessings of peace and quiet, and no war and rest, are

recorded (Isaiah 26:1; Zechariah 2:5).

 

 

Rest on Every Side (vs. 1, 5-7)

 

It is significant enough that the Chronicler considered it a noteworthy fact

that “in his days the land was quiet ten years.” It indicates very forcibly that

the chronic condition of the country in those times was one of unsettlement

and strife. We should think it strange, indeed, if the historian of our

country thought it worth while to record that for ten years the sovereign

had no war” (v. 6). But it is painful to think that for very many

centuries, in many lands, if not in all, war was regarded as the normal

condition; an attitude of armed hostility toward the neighboring nation

was considered the necessary and natural relation. History then was not the

account of discovery, of invention, of achievement, of advance; it was the

story of international or civil war. This was the rule which, we may thank

God, is now the exception, and which, we devoutly hope, will soon be

obsolete. But for ten years the land “was quiet;” it had “rest on every side.”

We may glance at:

 

  • THE NATIONAL ASPECT OF THE SUBJECT. A nation has “rest on

every side” when it:

 

Ø      is at peace will all surrounding powers; and

Ø      is enjoying internal tranquility, its various subjects living in concord,

one class with another.

 

To obtain and to preserve such a desirable condition, there need to be:

 

Ø      a “foreign policy” that is not aggressive in aim or provocative in

address; and,

 

Ø      an internal administration that is based on justice, that promotes

wholesome and fruitful labor, that encourages and rewards merit and

ability, that observes a strict impartiality amidst all differences of

custom and belief. Then there is likely to be “rest on every side,”

more especially if the citizens of the land are serving the Lord according

to their conscientious convictions, and are continually seeking His

blessing and asking for “peace in their time” (v. 6). But let us

rather consider:

 

Ø      THE INDIVIDUAL ASPECT OF IT. How shall we have “rest on

every side”?

 

o        Not by securing outward and temporal success. A man may clasp the

goal of honor, or of wealth, or of affection, and may think himself

possessor of complete and lasting rest, and he may awake any morning

to find that all his pleasant conditions are disturbed, and that the prize

of peace is snatched ruthlessly from his brow. The heavens may be

cloudless and the sun be shining in its full light and warmth to-day;

but to-morrow those heavens may be draped in gloom, and the rain

may be pelting pitilessly upon us. Not that way lies “rest on every

side.”

 

o        Nor by going down into the grave. The “rest of the grave” is only a

false poetical metaphor. (This is what we call it - rest in peace or RIP -

but "There is no peace, saith God, to the wicked."  Isaiah 57:20 -

CY - 2016) that is not rest which excludes all present consciousness

and provides no refreshment and invigoration for the future.

The darkness of death which the despairing suicide seeks and finds

is not rest at all; it is entirely undeserving of the name; the word is a

complete misnomer as thus applied. It is not rest on any side:

 

§         it is defeat;

§         it is loss;

 

o        It is found in holy, filial service; in the happy, honorable, rightful

service of a Divine Redeemer. There is:

 

§         peace with God — the rest that looks upward;

§         peace in our own heartrest within, all our spiritual

faculties consenting to the condition:

v     the reason,

v     the conscience,

v     the will, and

v     the affections;

§         rest in relation to those that are without —

a prevailing spirit of good will and of love

toward all men“rest on every side.”

 

 

Constructive Godliness (vs. 2, 4, 6-7)

 

It is better to construct than to destroy (see preceding homily), and though

Asa did well in demolishing the strange altars and expelling the sodomites

from the land, he did even better in:

 

(1) encouraging all Judah to seek God in worship and to obey His Law, and in:

 

(2) fortifying his territory against the enemy while the land was in his full

possession (while the land was “yet before” them). The patriotism and the

piety that expended themselves in spiritual and in material edification were

of the best. We shall find their analogue among ourselves in:

 

  • BUILDING UP OURSELVES ON OUR HOLY FAITH (Jude 1:20). A

man’s first duty is that which he owes to his own spirit; for God has given

him that, above all things, to have in charge and to present pure and perfect

before Him at the last. We are, therefore, most sacredly bound to build up

ourselves in faith, in love, in purity, in truthfulness, in moral and spiritual

integrity, in mercy and magnanimity. And this we shall do:

 

Ø      by the study of our Lord Jesus Christ (of His life and character);

Ø      by the worship of Him and fellowship with Him, both in the home

and in the sanctuary;

Ø      by an earnest and prayerful endeavor to do and bear His will, and

to follow His example until we attain to His likeness.

 

  • EDIFYING THOSE WHOM WE CAN INFLUENCE; bringing to

bear upon:

 

Ø      the inmates of our home,

Ø      those whom we employ (or by whom we are employed),

Ø      our nearer neighbors,

Ø      our fellow townsmen,

Ø      our fellow-worshippers and fellow-workers in the kingdom of God,

 

all the strengthening, stimulating, elevating influence we can possibly command.

 

  • CARING FOR CONSULTING THE WELFARE OF OUR

COUNTRY. Asa built those “fenced cities in Judah that he might make

timely provision against the enemy and thus keep him off, or repel him if he

attacked. What are the enemies of our native land? These are not to be

found (chiefly) in invading hosts; there is but little to be feared from them.

We find our national enemies in:

 

Ø      intemperance,

Ø      impurity,

Ø      dishonesty and fraud,

Ø      unconscientious and unfaithful labor, and, therefore, in poor

and unsound production,

Ø      political charlatanism and pretence, and

Ø      ecclesiastical bitterness,

Ø      (abortion on demand,

Ø      the drug culture, and

Ø      a crass and vulgar society  - CY – 2016)

 

We want to call into the field forces that will expel these evils from the land.

Where shall we find them?

 

Ø      In Christ-like men; in men imbued with the spirit, possessed of the

principles, living the life, of Jesus Christ.

 

Ø      In Christian institutions; in earnest, working Churches; in Sunday

schools; in temperance societies; in guilds for the inculcation of all that is

pure and wholesome; in philanthropic associations of many kinds.

 

Ø      In Christian literature. Not only that which is distinctively religions, but

that also which is sound in tone and spirit, which imparts and infuses a true

idea of human character and human life.

 

Our patriotic work must be found in building up these; building up these

men in our homes and circles by the influence of our Christian character;

sustaining these institutions by generous gifts of time and strength and

money; countenancing and supporting this wholesome, edifying literature.

So shall we also “build and prosper.”

 

8 “And Asa had an army of men that bare targets and spears, out of

Judah three hundred thousand; and out of Benjamin, that bare

shields and drew bows, two hundred and fourscore thousand: all

these were mighty men of valor.”  The “ten years’ quiet” (v. 1) begins to see

its end. Targets  (ch. 9:15); spears (ch. 11:12); for both, see I Chronicles 12:24.

Out of Benjamin… shields and… bows. The minuter coincidences of the history

are very observable and very interesting; for see I Chronicles 8:40; 12:2; and much

earlier, Genesis 49:27; Judges 20:16-17.

 

 

Quiet in the Land (vs. 1-8)

 

  • A GREAT BLESSING.

 

Ø      Its character. No war (v. 6). Few, reflecting on the untold calamities

of war, the expenditure of blood and treasure, the sorrow and desolation

sent into many homes, the interruption of the arts of peace, the bad

passions kindled by it in the breasts even of the victors, will doubt that

peace is one of the foremost blessings a nation can enjoy. This was the

condition of Judah during the first ten years of Asa’s reign. Compare

Shakespeare’s description of “peace after a civil war” (‘King Henry IV.,’

Part I. act 1. sc. 1).

 

Ø      Its source. Jehovah (v. 7). “Every good and every perfect gift is from

above(James 1:17) — true of national peace (Joshua 21:44-45;

I Chronicles 22:18) no less than of other things (Psalm 29:11; Isaiah

45:7; Haggai 2:9). As no king or people can stir up war until

God permits, so can none extinguish its flames without His help.  But

when He giveth  quietness, who can make trouble?” (Job 34:29). 

Hence national peace should be prayed for (Jeremiah 29:7; I Timothy

2:1-2).

 

Ø      Its medium. Righteousness. The peace of Asa’s opening years was due,

not to Abijah’s successful campaigns (ch. 13:15), though successful

campaigns are of God’s giving (Psalm 144:1-2, 10); or to his own skilful

diplomacy, since skilful diplomacy is not always from above (II Samuel

16:20-22); or to his fenced cities, which would have been

poor fortifications had they not been defended by Jehovah’s battalions

(Psalm 127:1); but to his and his people’s following after that

righteousness which is a nation’s best defense (Proverbs 14:34) and a

sovereign’s surest security (ibid. ch. 16:12). Asa and his people sought

the Lord their God, and He gave them “rest on every side.” The annals

of Israel show that:

 

o       peace ever went hand-in-hand with piety, and

o       war with disobedience (Psalm 81:11-16; Isaiah 48:18-19).

 

Always when the people chose new gods there was war in the gates

(Judges 5:8). When they forsook God, He forsook them, with the result

that “there was no peace to him that went out or to him that came in”

(ch. 15:5).  So, in modem times, the military spirit exists in Christian men

and nations in proportion as they depart from the religion of Jesus. If at

any time “Christianity, socially regarded, does almost nothing to control

the state of expectant war and the jealousies of nations,” that is not

because Christianity is a “failure,” and “criminally complacent to these

(and other) evils,” or “because the religion of heaven and supernatural

visions” is “powerless to control this earth and its natural realities”

(Harrison’s ‘ New Year’s Address to English Positivists,’ 1889), but

because its professed disciples do not honestly obey its precepts (John 13:34;

Romans 13:8; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 5:2) and carry out its principles

(Matthew 7:12; Romans 13:10; James 2:8). The reign of Christianity in

any nation would put an end to civil feuds and wars of aggression. With

the extinction of these, wars of defense would cease.

 

  • A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY.

 

Ø      For the furtherance of true religion. Besides setting an example of

personal religion — the most effective way in which kings can promote

national religion — Asa labored with promptitude, decision, and constant

attention in the work of abolishing the prevalent idolatry.

 

o        He demolished the “strange altars,” i.e. altars to foreign divinities

which had been erected by his predecessors, Solomon and Rehoboam, and

left standing by his father Abijah.

 

o        He removed the “high places” dedicated to idolatrous worship, though

he allowed those which had been consecrated to Jehovah to remain

(ch. 15:17; I Kings 15:14).

 

o        He brake down the “pillars,” obelisks or monumental columns

dedicated to Baal. (II Kings 3:2; 10:26), resembling that erected by

Jacob at Bethel (Genesis 35:14), and perhaps also those set up by

Moses at Sinai (Exodus 24:4) in honor of Jehovah.

 

o        The Asherim, wooden idols or tree trunks, consecrated to Astarte (see

I Kings 14:23), he hewed down.

 

o        From all the cities of Judah he removed the high places and the sun

images, i.e. pillars or statues consecrated to Baal as the sun-god, and

erected near or upon the altars of Baal (ch. 34:4). So Christian kings

and statesmen should labor at the destruction of all false

forms of religion within their domains; not, however, by forcible

suppression, which, though permitted and even demanded of Asa, is not

allowed to sovereigns or, indeed, to any under the gospel, but by

fostering in all legitimate ways what they believe to be the absolute and

only true religion.

 

Ø      For promulgating useful laws. When nations are distracted by

internecine feuds within themselves or between each other, it is hopeless to

expect the work of good legislation to proceed. Hence the value of a “long

peace” to any country, permitting, as it does, the cultivation of the peaceful

arts, the development of trade and commerce, the spread of learning and

culture, the growth of domestic institutions, and the promotion of

measures for the welfare of the state. Asa, in the ten years of rest,

commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to do the

Law and the commandment” (v. 4); and though under the New

Testament dispensation it is not required of kings to command their

subjects to worship and obey God — that being an obligation already laid

on men by the gospel — and far less to punish them should they disobey,

it is, nevertheless, allowed kings to follow in Asa’s footsteps so far as to

utilize the years of rest their countries may enjoy in legislating for the

comfort and happiness of their subjects.

 

Ø      For securing the safety of the realm. Asa did so by:

 

o        erecting military fortresses, “fenced cities” in the land of Judah,

surrounding them with walls and towers, and securing them with

gates and bolts; and

 

o        by collecting around him a well-equipped army — from Judah 300,000

targeteers and spearmen, with heavy shields and lances (I Chronicles

12:24); and from Benjamin 280,000, bearing light shields and furnished

with bows (ibid. ch. 8:40). So should Christian states employ times

of peace in constructing such bulwarks as their lands require, whether in

the shape of garrison cities, regiments of soldiers, or fleets of war-vessels,

since self-preservation is an instinct of nature as much for nations as for

individuals, and is not forbidden to either by the gospel, while to be

prepared for war is sometimes an effective means of securing peace

(Luke 11:21).

 

Thus, we have a duty as individuals and nations to shun war and follow

peace.

 

Vs. 9-15. The remaining seven verses of this chapter are occupied

with the account of the invasion of Zerah the Ethiopian, and the successful

defense and reprisals of Asa.

 

9 “And there came out against them Zerah the Ethiopian with an host

of a thousand thousand, and three hundred chariots; and came unto

Mareshah.”  Zerah the Ethiopian; Hebrew, זֶרַח הַכּוּשִׁי, the “Ethiopian,”

Greek and Septuagint rendering for “Cushite.” In its vaguest dimensions

Ethiopia, or Cush, designated Africa south of Egypt, but more concisely it

meant the lands we now call Nubia, Sennaar, Kordefan, and part of

Abyssinia. And these, roughly speaking, were bounded north, south, east,

and west respectively by Egypt and Syene, Abyssinia, Red Sea, and Libyan

Desert. When, however, Ethiopia proper is spoken of, the name probably

designates the kingdom of Meroe (Seba, Genesis 10:7; I Chronicles 1:9);

and the Assyrian inscriptions make the Cushite name of the deified

Nimrod one with Meroe), which was so closely associated at different

times with Egypt, that sometimes an Egypt king swayed it (as e.g. some

eighteen hundred years before Shishak, Sesostris fourth king of the twelfth

dynasty), and sometimes vice versa (as e.g. the three Ethiopian kings of the

twenty-fifth dynasty — Shabak (Sabakhou), Sethos (Sebechos), and

Tarkos (Tirhakah), whose reigning dates as between Ethiopia and Egypt

are not yet certified). The name thus confined covers an irregular circular

bulk of country between “the modern Khartoum, where the Astapus joins

the true Nile, and the influx of the Astaboras, into their united stream.”

From the language of Diodorus (1:23), harmonized conjecturally with

Strabo (18:821), the region may be counted as 375 miles in circumference

and 125 miles in the diameter of the erratic circle, its extreme south point

being variously stated, distant from Syene, 873 miles (Pliny, 6:29. § 33);

or, according to Mannert’s book (‘Geogr. d. Alt.,’ 10:183), 600 miles by

the assertion of Artemidorns, or 625 by that of Eratosthenes. Thence the

Cushite extended probably to the Euphrates and the Tigris, and through

Arabia, Babylonia, and Persia. Some, however, think that the Cushite now

intended was the Ethiopian of Arabia, who had settlement near Gerar (Dr.

Jamieson, in ‘Comm.’) as a nomadic horde. Dr. Jamieson quotes Bruce’s

‘Travels’ to support this view, which seems a most improbable, not to say

impossible, one nevertheless. The question as to the people intended will

perhaps best be found in the solution of the question for whom the name of

their king stands (see following note). Zerah. Hebrew as above. It is

noteworthy that the four previous occurrences of this name — Genesis

36:13 and I Chronicles 1:37, son of Reuel, grandson of Esau; Genesis 38:30

and I Chronicles 2:6, son of Judah and Tumor; I Chronicles 4:24, son of Simeon;

I Chronicles 5:6, 26, Hebrew text, son of Iddo, a Gershonite Levite — show it as

the name of an Israelite, or descendant of Shem. Our present Zerah is a Cushite,

or descendant of Ham. The Septuagint forms of the name are Ζαρέ, Ζαρά, Ζαρές

Zare, Zara, Zares - , or Ζαραέ, ΖααραιZarae, Zaarai - or (Alexandrian) Ἀκαρίας

Akarias - . Although Professor Dr. Murphy says (‘Handbook: Chronicles,’ p. 116)

that “it is plain that Zerah was a sovereign of Kush, who in the reign of Takeloth,

about B.C. 944, invaded Egypt and penetrated into Asia,” the balance of probability,

both from the names themselves and the synchronisms of history, corroborated

by the composition of Zerah’s army (Cushim and Lubim, ch. 16:8) and some

other tributary considerations, is that our Zerah was Usarken II., the fourth king

of the twenty-second dynasty (or possibly Usarken I., the second king of the

dynasty). The invasion of the text was probably in Asa’s fourteenth year, his

reign thus far being dated B.C. 953-940 (or B.C. 933 — 920 if Manasseh’s be

taken at only thirty-five instead of fifty-five years). The alleged army of this Zerah

was an Egyptian army, largely made of mercenaries (compare the description of

Shishak’s army, ch. 12:3). The present defeat of Zerah would go far to explain the

known decline of the Egyptian power at just this date, i.e. some twenty-five to

thirty years after Shishak. At the same time, it must be admitted that it is

not possible to identify with certainty Zerah with either Usarken. Whether

he is an unknown Arabian Cushite, or an unknown African Cushite of

Ethiopia-above-Egypt, or one of the Usarkens, has yet to be pronounced.

Mareshah (see our note, ch. 11:8). It lay the “second mile” (Eusebius and Jerome)

south of Eleutheropolis and between Hebron (I Maccabees 5:36; II Maccabees 12:35)

and Ashdod (Josephus, ‘Ant.,’ 12:8. § 6). The mention of the valley of Zephathah

in the following verse will half identify its exact position. It is probable that Dr.

Robinson (‘Bibl. Res.,’ 2:67) and Toblev in his interesting , Dritto Wand.’

(pp. 129, 142), have reliably fixed the site one Roman mile south-west of the

modern Beit- Jibrin. Mareshah is again mentioned in ch. 20:37 and Micah 1:15,

as quoted already, in references interesting to be consulted. A thousand thousand.

Whether this number be correct or not, it may be noted that it is the largest alleged

number of an army given in the Old Testament.

 

10 “Then Asa went out against him, and they set the battle in array in

the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah.”  The valley of Zephathah at Mareshah.

“At” some translate “belonging to,” some more suitably to the exact connection

near.” The Hebrew here for” valley” is גֵיא. It can scarcely designate necessarily a

“ravine.” It is a valley in the sense of being a low, flat region, in which

springs of water “broke out.” From Numbers 21:20, the first occasion

of its occurrence, to Zechariah 14:5 it is found fifty-six times, and is

always rendered (Authorized Version) “valley;” it is the word used in the

celebrated passages, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”

(Psalm 23:4); and “Every valley shall be exalted” (Isaiah 40:4). The Septuagint,

however, do not render it uniformly; but though they render it generally

φάραξpharax - valley, they also have ναπή κοίλας αὐλώνnapae koilas aulon,

and in some cases the simple word γῆ - gae - , as e.g. ἐν γῇ - en gae -  (γεge - ),

(ch. 28:3; 33:6), which, nevertheless, elsewhere they describe as φάραξ Ἑννόμ

pharax Hennomvalley of Hennom (Joshua 15:8). The full explanation may

probably be that the word is used for the valley that narrowed up to a ravine-like

pass, or gorge, or that opened out into one of the wide wadies of the country; but

see Stanley’s ‘Sinai and Palestine,’ Appendix, pp. 482, 483, new edit., 1866. It is

supposed that Zephathah is not mentioned elsewhere, but see the Zephath of Judges

1:17; and compare Numbers 21:3; I Samuel 30:30, which Keil and Bertheau think

conclusively to be not the same.

 

11 “And Asa cried unto the LORD his God, and said, LORD, it is

nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that

have no power: help us, O LORD our God; for we rest on thee, and

in thy name we go against this multitude. O LORD, thou art our

God; let no man prevail against thee.”  Nothing with thee; Hebrew,

אֵין־עִמְּך. In the passage of very similar tenor (I Samuel 14:6) the exact

rendering is more easily fixed, “It is nothing to the Lord,” i.e. it makes no

difference to the Lord, “to save by many or by few.” Probably the more correct

rendering of our present Hebrew text would be, “It makes no difference with thee

to help those whose strength is great or whose strength is nothing (between the

much even to the none of strength).” Keil and Bertheau would translate “There is

none beside thee.” For another instance of the preposition גֵּין followed by ל, see

Genesis 1:6; and compare here ch. 1:13. The prayer must be counted a model prayer

to an omnipotent Deliverer. It consists of opening invocation and the instancing

of what postulates the crowning Divine attribute as the broad foundation for

argument; of invocation repeated, warmed to closer clinging by the appropriating

our;” attended by the defining, though very universal petition, Help us; and

followed by the argument of the unbending fidelity of trusting dependence,

for we rest on thee, and in thy Name we go against this multitude; and,

lastly, of invocation renewed or still determinedly sustained, pressed home by

the clenching challenge of relationship and its correlative responsibility and

presumable holy pride. The antithesis marked in these two last clauses will

not escape notice — one made all the bolder, with the marginal reading of

mortal man” for the emphatic (a poetical, universal kind of) word here

employed (ךאגושׁ) for man.

 

12 “So the LORD smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah;

and the Ethiopians fled.”

 

So the Lord smote the Ethiopians. As little as the real work

was of the army of Asa, so little is said of even the mere human method by

which this great victory was obtained for Asa and Judah. Again and yet

again, in the following two verses, the glory is given to “the Lord.”

 

13 “And Asa and the people that were with him pursued them unto

Gerar: and the Ethiopians were overthrown, that they could not

recover themselves; for they were destroyed before the LORD, and

before his host; and they carried away very much spoil.”

And the Ethiopians… before his host. It is evident that these

words, with the clauses they include, should be placed in brackets, and so

leave “they,” the subject of the verb “carried” in the last clause, to refer to

its proper noun-subject, Asa and the people. Gerar. This place is

mentioned as defining a full distant spot as the limit of the pursuit of the

flying army. While it was nearly four hours south of Gaza, on the road to

Egypt, it is calculated that it was more than twenty miles distant from

Mareshah.

 

14 “And they smote all the cities round about Gerar; for the fear of the

LORD came upon them: and they spoiled all the cities; for there was exceeding

much spoil in them.” The fear of the Lord came upon them; i.e. on the cities

round about Gerar. This and the following verse illustrate in particular the

very graphic character which attaches to the entire stretch of the

description of the scene, introduced so suddenly in v. 9 and closing with

v. 15. Much spoil. The Hebrew word here used for “spoil” (בִּזָּה) is

found only in Chronicles, Ezra, Esther, Nehemiah, Daniel, and once in

Ezekiel (Ezekiel 29:19).

 

15 “They smote also the tents of cattle, and carried away sheep and

camels in abundance, and returned to Jerusalem.”  The tents of cattle.

This word “tents” (אָהֲלֵי, construct state) is used just 325 times, and this is

the only time it is spoken of as the place of cattle; there are, however, four

passages looking the same way (Genesis 13:5; Judges 6:5; II Kings 7:7;

Jeremiah 49:29). It is the word used for the tabernacle of the wilderness many

times, and many times for the place of abode that has highest associations

(Psalm 15:1; 118:15), and of the usual abodes of people (here ch. 10:16). The

use of the word here, though unique, will occasion no surprise, considering

the camping of the vast invading army. Camels in abundance. The mention of

this spoil reminds us both where we are, on desert border (I Samuel 27:7-10;

30:16-17), and what was the personality or nationality within some latitude of

choice of the invaders. Returned to Jerusalem.  The expression awakens inevitably,

though inaptly, a reminiscence of Scripture language in strangest contrast — the

climax in a description also, but of a victory infinitely vaster and grander and for

ever (Luke 24:52; Acts 1:12). This return of Asa and the people that were with

him to Jerusalem dated the commencement of a period of comparative internal

peace and reform for the kingdom of Judah, that lasted twenty-one years,

and yet more of exemption from Egyptian attack, that lasted about three

hundred and thirty years (B.C. circa 940-609). It was a doubtful benefit,

but Judah and Egypt came to be found in alliance against Assyria

(II Kings 17:3-6; 18:20-21, 24; Isaiah 30:2; Hosea 7:11). The

‘Speaker’s Commentary’ points out the interesting fact that this was one of

the only two occasions known of the Jews meeting in open field either

Egypt or Assyria (the other occasion being the unfortunate one of Josiah

against Necho, ch. 35:30), and adds, “Shishak, Sennacherib,

Esarhaddon, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander, and Ptolemy I., were either

unopposed or only opposed from behind walls.”

 

 

The Quiet of Ten Years (1-15)

 

The former half of this chapter may be said to turn upon the welcome

subject of the “quiet” (spoken of twice), the “no war” (spoken of once),

and the “rest” (spoken of three times), which were now for ten years the

portion of Judah. The tender youth and the pious promise of King Asa

combined, no doubt, in the providence of God, with external

circumstances, to secure that interval of quiet and repose from war from

which many blessings were able to flow. We may notice generally, from

such induction of illustrations as are yielded by the far less complex

instances of those wars that belong to early history and to the histories of

Scripture, some of the essential and intrinsic advantages and blessings of

being, in this most impressive sense, “quiet.”

 

  • THE FREE, LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THE AFFECTIONS OF

HUMAN NATURE. What more dreadful subversion could be known to

human nature than that love should be called and should become hate, and

to labor to destroy human life should take the place of labor and zeal to

save and to serve it! A nation that is at peace, and undisturbed by

apprehension of war, is, by the very fact, delivered from being the victim of

passions and of the sure operation of principles which must be only one

degree less destructive to the unconscious subjects than to their designed

and deliberately marked objects. War shakes not merely to its foundations

this or that fabric of human society, but to its center the fabric called

human nature itself, which is compacted of affections, and, invisible though

they may be, bound of no other bonds so real. Nothing, therefore, can

justify it but that kind of necessity which declares, and can demonstrate

what it declares, that that disaster of shaking confronts, and is within

measurable distance of, the one alternative of shattering, and may therefore

be counted the lesser evil or risk. The mutual hate and ill will of nations is a

MONSTROUS FORM of the sin of individual hate, and it is the violating on

A GIGANTIC SCALE of the second great commandment. ("Thou shalt

love thy neighbor as thyself."  (Mark 12:31)  It is true that there are

some relief to this indictment, in respect of those composing the actual

armies that confront one another, and of throe who may be called the mere

machinery of war; but there is little relief, indeed, to it, in regard to all who

may be called principals. But in the “quiet” of a nation, its proper human

affections find their opportunity and feel their way with some uniformity

and some regularity of growth; not swept across, on the one hand, by the

destructive tornado of animosity, prejudice, hate, and by all the hurricane

of evil-doing; nor, on the other hand, goaded into partial, frenzied action

by the anguished imagination, or the sickening sight of the unspeakable

horrors of the actual battle-field — its mangled limbs, its cries and groans,

and, for months afterwards, its bleeding hearts and wasted homes, and that

whole crew of consequential vices and indirect calamities which overspread

equally the land of conquered and conqueror!

 

  • THE THOUGHT OF A PEOPLE NOT SUBJECT TO THE

UNHEALTHY STRAIN OF ONE USURPING INTEREST, ONE

IMPERIOUS, TYRANNOUS, CONSTANT, EXCITING THEME, BUT

FREE TO ASCERTAIN, TO FOLLOW, TO DEVELOP, THE LEADING

AND THE INSTINCTS OF ITS PROPER GENIUS, WHATEVER

THAT MAY BE. The loss is, of course, simply incalculable which has

resulted from this one source of perversion, so varied in its operation. No

eye, even with all the aid of historic retrospect, can track its disturbing,

distracting, desolating tyranny. The interaction of the exceedingly diverse

genius of different peoples must be equally significant with the same

phenomenon as between different individuals (as e.g. even within the range

of one family), and is amazingly tributary to the general and, let us say,

universal well-being, when permitted, as it never yet has been, free play.

For what areas of lands, bounded and unbounded in dimension, and

through what stretches of the ages, has it substituted the ravaging headlong

course of the turbid mountain-torrent for the flow of some beneficent river,

with the generous, fertilizing streams, and the everywhere meandering rills,

and the unnumbered perennial springs!

 

  • OUTER WORKS OF WIDE AND ENDURING INFLUENCE, AND

MONUMENTS OF REAL AND ENDURING HONOR, AMONG THE

PEOPLE. With what a mourning heart we look back upon many, nay, the

most part, of the greatest monuments of antiquity, and are often tempted to

do so with cynical look and cynical speech! How many of them perpetuate

the names and memory of those who were the scourges of their kind, the

pestilences of human society, barriers to the health, wealth, and real well-

being of the world, from whom they wrung unwilling and undeserved

honor, which time has reversed and avenged! By unfortunate irony of

events, the useful works of our text even were largely those of the surer

preparation for war; but we may perhaps lay more grateful stress on the

thought that they are described rather as preparations against war, and

defensive in character. Modern history and, in especial, the history, in

God’s mercy, through some few longer stretches of time, of Great Britain/

USA - that antitype in so many most real senses of Judaea of old — have done

enough just to exemplify sufficiently the fact that, in “quiet,” the useful

works of art, the pursuit of the most beneficent sciences, the material well-

being of a people, find the occasion to rise and to spread more equably.

Material well-being may not at first seem to be of the highest moment, but

(the expression being rightly understood) it certainly is of very high

moment. The world was not meant to be a scene of beggary, nor the mere

triumph of moral and spiritual force, with constant strain and effort over

material urgency. So far as at any time and any where it is such a scene, it

yields no honor to religion, no testimony to its power, no furtherance of

its imperial claims.

 

  • FAVOURABLE OPPORTUNITY FOR THE FAIREST OF

GROWTHS — THAT OF RELIGION, AND OF A HEALTHY STATE

OF RELIGIOUS FEELING AND LIFE. The “quiet” and “rest” so

repeatedly spoken of are instanced partly, indeed, as the reward of practical

religion, but partly also (here as very emphatically elsewhere) as the

opportunity of setting the house of God, its worship, and its priests and

officers in order, and of breaking down and breaking away from the evil

practices and habits of idolatry. It can scarcely be doubted that the scourge

of war was used, and has often been used,

 

Ø      as the just judgment on irreligion;

 

Ø      as a strong corrective and loud call to remember God and

righteousness; and

 

Ø      as, generally speaking, such an awakener of the minds of men from that

dormant, sluggish state that grows with hardening tendency on easy and

undisturbed lives, that deep convictions of a religious character have

been known to seed themselves under the unlikeliest of circumstances.

 

There are abundant analogies to this in the individual life, which would quite

prepare us for corresponding phenomena in the collective life of a nation.

Nevertheless, the blessed reality has been of rare-enough occurrence. We

cannot say that the holy dove lights often on such lands, in the midst of

scenes where foes make fiends and where fiends triumph!  War is too great

a curse, and, where the blame may be the least, too directly the mark of the

cloven foot. Golden harvest-fields of illimitable stretch do not bless the eye

across rock-rent and gaping lands, of the scenery of which savagery is the

first, the chief, the last characteristic. The still aspect of the rich, ever ripening,

abounding fruits of the retired, fertile, unstricken country, figure,

not unaptly, the “no war,” the “quiet,” the “rest” of that land and nation,

where the good leaven of God, by truth and practice, is blessedly LEAVENING

THE WHOLE LUMP!

 

 

An Alarming Invasion (vs. 9-15)

 

  • THE INVADER AND HIS ARMY (v. 9)

 

Ø      The invader. Zerah, the Ethiopian (or Cushite), commonly identified

with Osorkhon (Usarkon) I. king of Egypt, the second sovereign of the

twenty-second or Bubastio dynasty (Rossellini, Wilkinson, Champollion,

Lepsius, Rawlinson, Ebers); but, inasmuch as no Ethiopian appears among

the monumental kings of this dynasty, a claim to be regarded as the Zerah

of Scripture has been advanced in behalf of Azerch-amen, an Ethiopian

conqueror of Egypt (Schrader, Brugseh), who, in the reign of Osorkhon,

overran the entire dominion of the Pharaohs, and, though unable at that

time to retain his hold, nevertheless paved the way for the subsequent

conquest of the country by Pianchi, of the twenty-fifth or Ethiopian

dynasty. If, however, the former identification be provisionally accepted,

Zerah’s designation as “the Cushite may be explained by supposing that

his mother was an Ethiopian (Rawlinson), or that he bore the title “king’s

son of Cush” as crown prince of Egypt and viceroy of the south or

Ethiopia (Ebers).

 

Ø      His army1,000,000 men — 900,000 infantry, with 100,000 cavalry

(Josephus, ‘Ant.,’ 8:12. 1), and 300 chariots. This immense host of

Ethiopians and Libyans (ch. 16:8), only 100,000 fewer than

all the fighting men of Israel, and. more than twice as many as the warriors

of Judah in the time of David (I Chronicles 21:5), so far outnumbers

the army of Shishak (ch.12:3), that it has been set down to

popular exaggeration in making a rough estimate (Keil), or to legendary

embellishment (Ebers), suggested by the vast armies of the Persians, with

which the Chronicler was familiar (Ewald). The largest army of invasion of

which history speaks was probably that of Xerxes, which, when numbered

on the Doriscan plain, amounted to nearly two millions and a half of

fighting men, military and naval (Herod., 7:60, etc.; Smith’s ‘ History of

Greece,’ p. 189). Recent calculations show that “the total strength of the

German army on a war footing is now rather over three millions and a half

of men’ (Scottish Leader, January 1, 1889).

 

Ø      His camp. At Mareshah, or Marissa, one of Rehoboam’s garrison cities,

between Hebron and Ashded (ch. 11:8, which see).

 

  • THE MONARCH AND THE PEOPLE OF JUDAH (vs. 10-11)

 

Ø      A display of splendid courage. Asa went out against him.” On either

hypothesis as to Zerah’s person, it was an exhibition of noble daring on the

part of the King of Judah to confront him, much more to stand up against a

million of highly disciplined troops, with only little more than half that

number of spearmen and archers (v. 8). As an instance of heroic

fortitude, it was worthy to be placed alongside of the most brilliant feats of

valor recorded in either sacred or profane history, as e.g.

 

o        the pursuit of the victorious kings by Abraham (Genesis 14:14-16),

o        the discomfiture of the Midianitee by Gideon with 300 men (Judges 7:21),

o        the invasion of the Philistines’ garrison at Miehmash by Jonathan and his

armor-bearer (I Samuel 14:13-16),

o        the combat of David with Goliath  (ibid. ch. 17:49-50),

o        the defeat of the Persians under Darius at Marathon by Miltiades, with

a small body of Athenians and Plataeans (s.c. 490), and under

Xerxes at Thermopylae, by Leonidas and 300 Spartans (s.c. 480),

o        the victory of Bruce with 80,000 Scotch over Edward II. with 100,000

English (A.D. 1314),

o        the Black Prince over an army seven times as large as his own at

Poictiers (A.D. 1356), and,

o        of Clive with 3000 men over 50,000 led by the Nabob of Moorshedabad

at Plassey (A.D.). 1757).

 

Ø      An example of commendable prudence. Asa selected, as the spot on

which to join issue with the enemy, the valley of Zephathah, near

Mareshah, probably because there the advantage to be derived from

superior numbers would less operate. He also disposed his troops in such a

fashion as to enable them most efficiently to resist the onset of the foe. In

so doing, he only discovered his sagacity and sense both as a general and a

man. He knew that, while it was hopeless to expect victory without God’s

help, it was folly to cry for Divine assistance while neglecting to put his

battalions in order. So in ordinary matters and in matters of religion. Prayer

cannot supersede the use of common means.

 

Ø      A pattern of lofty faith. Having marshaled his forces, Asa prayed —

prayed upon the battle-field, as Moses did on the Red Sea shore when

pursued by the Philistines (Exodus 14:10), as Jehoshaphat did when

invaded by the Ammonites and Moabites (ch. 20:18), as Cromwell and his

Ironsides, Gustavus Adolphus and his Swedes, Colonel Gardiner and his

Scotch dragoons, and other God-fearing generals with their regiments have

been accustomed to do before entering into engagements with their enemies.

Asa’s prayer was remarkable for two things.  (And many others since this was

written!  CY – 2016)

 

o        For the brevity and directness of its petitions. Necessitated in his case

by the situation, these qualities are excellent in all petitioners (Matthew

6:7). Asa asked the help of Jehovah against his foes, as David before him

had often done (Psalm 59:4; 71:12; 35:2), and as Christians may still do

(Hebrews 4:16), especially against such foes as are spiritual and

threaten the destruction of their souls (Psalm 71:12; Isaiah 49:8;

Hosea 13:9; Mark 9:22, 24; Acts 26:22).

 

o        For the excellence and strength of its arguments. invites those who

address Him in prayer to fill their mouths with arguments (Job 23:4),

to bring forth their strong reasons (Isaiah 41:21), and to plead with

Him (Isaiah 43:26). Asa urged:

 

§         Jehovah’s covenant relation to him and his people. Jehovah was

his God and their God (v. 11) — a good argument for a Christian

suppliant.

 

§         The multitude of the foe arranged against them. David derived a plea

from the number of his adversaries (Psalm 25:19, 56:2), and so may

David’s brethren (Ephesians 6:12,18). Compare the English king’s

prayer at Agincourt, “O God, of battles,” etc. (‘Henry V.,’ act 4. sc. 1).

 

§         The fact that the war was Jehovah s even more than theirs (ch. 20:15).

They were going out against Zerah in His Name, as in His Name

David had advanced to meet Goliath (I Samuel 17:45). In this Name

all Christian warfare should be carried on (Psalm 20:5; Acts 4:30;

16:18; Colossians 3:17); when it is, a claim is thereby established

upon God to uphold the honor of his Name (Psalm 71:9; John 12:28).

 

§         The circumstance that HE ALONE was able to assist them in the

tremendous crisis that had come upon them. “There is none beside

 thee to help, between the mighty and him that hath no strength”

(Revised Version); or, “There is no difference with thee to help,

whether the mighty or him that hath no strength” (margin); or,

“It is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them

that have no power” (Authorized Version). Whichever reading be

adopted — though the first is the best — the sentiment was that

Jehovah alone could assist in so unequal a combat, and that He

could do so if He would, since it was not necessary for Him to

be “on the side of the strongest battalions” (Napoleon). He could

win battles, as Jonathan long before observed, whether by many or

by few.  (I Samuel 14:6). Much more is GOD THE ONLY REFUGE

to which the Christian can turn on carrying on the unequal contest to

which he is called against the principalities and powers of darkness;

and to His power nothing is impossible (ch.20:6; Matthew 19:26;

Mark 14:36; Ephesians 3:20; I Peter 1:5).

 

§         The dishonor Jehovah Himself would sustain through their Israel’s

defeat. The invasion of Zerah was practically a campaign against

Jehovah. To suffer them to be overthrown would be (seemingly at

least) permitting Himself to be overcome by a weak mortal. Happily,

God condescends to allow this in matters of grace, as in the case of

Jacob (Genesis 32:29; Hosea 12:4), but not in ordinary affairs when

the interest of His kingdom would be thereby injured (Romans 8:28;

Ephesians 1:11). Asa’s argument was good. Compare the boldness

of Moses in pleading with God in behalf of Israel (Numbers 14:13-20).

 

o        The fact that they were deliberately trusting in God. “Help us, O Lord

our God, for we rest on thee.” God has pledged Himself never to

disappoint those who trust in Him (Psalm 34:22; 37:40; Isaiah 45:17).

 

  • JEHOVAH AND THE COMBATANTS (vs. 12-15)

 

Ø      The Ethiopians were routed.

 

o        They were defeated on the field of battle. Jehovah “smote” them before

Asa and Judah (v. 12).

o        They were put to flight by the archers and spearmen that opposed

them. The Ethiopians “fled.”

o        They were pursued as far as Gerar, a chief city of the Philistines, now

identified as the Khirbet-el-Gerar, in the Wady Jorf-el-Gerar, three leagues

southeast of Gaza (Rowland).

o        They were massacred by the victorious monarch and his exulting

warriors. They were “destroyed before the Lord and before his host,” for

the understanding of which there is no need to call in the help of a battalion

of angels, as in Genesis 32:2. Asa’s army was Jehovah’s host, because

Jehovah was with it and in it; and the blood of Asa’s enemies was poured

out before Jehovah, because the battle had been undertaken in His Name

and the victory achieved through His power.

 

o        They were so completely crushed that they could not recover

themselves. They disappeared from Palestine, and ceased from troubling

Judah. Such will be the end of the enemies of the Church of God

(I Samuel 2:9; II Thessalonians 1:9).

 

Ø      The men of Judah were victorious.

 

o        The monarch’s prayer was answered. So did God hear the prayer of

Moses when he cried for help against the Egyptians (Exodus 14:15),

and that of the Israelites when they appealed for assistance against their

foes (Judges 10:11), and that of the Reubenites when they entreated

succor against the Hagarites (I Chronicles 5:20), and that of Hezekiah

when he appealed to the Lord God of Israel against Sennacherib

(I Kings 19:15-17). So God hears the prayer of the Church’s King

(John 11:41-42), and of the soldiers of the cross (Psalm 65:2; Ephesians

3:20; I John 4:6).

 

o        The soldiers’ courage was rewarded. They inflicted a decisive blow

upon the enemy; they smote all the cities round about Gerar, these having

probably espoused the cause of the enemy; they carried away much spoil,

not only of ammunitions of war and provisions which had been laid up in

those cities, but also of cattle and sheep and camels, which they had found

in abundance, and which, in all likelihood, had belonged to the enemy. So

did Christ, the Captain of salvation, achieve a brilliant triumph over the

principalities and powers of darkness, despoiling them of victory, and

making a show of them openly (Colossians 2:15 – For example consider

the results of Christ’s resurrection – Matthew 27:50-53; I Peter 3:18-20;

4:6; - CY - 2016); and so will Christ’s followers be made more than

conquerors over the same foes (Romans 8:37), and carry off from the

fields of conflict where they meet their enemies much spiritual treasure

(ibid. v. 28).

 

  • LESSONS.

 

Ø      The sinfulness of wars of aggression, and the lawfulness of wars of

defense.

Ø      The duty of combining working with praying, as well as praying with

working.

Ø      The impossibility of achieving victory either without or against God, or

of suffering defeat with God upon one’s side.

 

 

 

The Secret and the Spirit of True Defense (vs. 8-15)

 

We may learn from this narrative of unprovoked attack and triumphant

defense:

 

  • THAT OUR UPMOST PREPARATION WILL NOT SECURE US

FROM ATTACK. Asa endeavored to make his little kingdom

impregnable to assault by:

 

Ø      fortifying the outposts, and

Ø      training and equipping a large army (vs. 7-8).

 

Nevertheless, the Ethiopians came up against him with an army far stronger

than his. The military and naval preparations of one country usually incite

to greater preparations in another, and instead of war becoming impossible

because each nation is invulnerable, it becomes probable because the

combative spirit has been developed; one nation considers itself challenged

by another, and because a large number of professional men are eager to

exert their power and improve their position. But not only does “history

repeat itself” thus; we have here an illustration of a wider truth — that

whatever efforts we may make to guard ourselves against the inroad of

evils, we shall surely fail:

 

Ø      Sickness of some kind will attack us;

Ø      disappointment and disillusion will find their way to our heart;

Ø      sorrow will surprise us;

Ø      loss and separation will befall us;

Ø      death will knock at our door.

 

There are no fortifications we can construct, there are no forces we can

raise, Be we never so vigilant and alert, which will keep all enemies from

the gate. Spite of fenced cities and many thousands of Jewish spears and

Benjamite bows, the Ethiopian army comes up against Jerusalem.

 

  • THAT IN THE PATH OF MORAL AND SPIRITUAL RECTITUDE

WE ARE IN THE WAY OF SAFETY. Asa had no need to be alarmed.

Had he wickedly departed from the Lord he might well have been in the

greatest consternation, for then the severe warnings of sacred Scripture

would have been as a knell in his ears; but as it was, his fidelity to Jehovah

was an assurance of safety. He was God’s servant; he was in a position to

cry unto the Lord his God” (v. 11); to say, “O Lord our God;” to claim

that the Ethiopian’s triumph would be a prevailing against the Lord

Himself: “Let not man prevail against thee.” The king could hide in the cleft

of the rock; he could fall back on almighty power; he was safe before a

blow was struck. He did the right thing on the occasion:

 

Ø      he brought his army into the field, well equipped and well arrayed (v. 10);

and,

Ø      he made his earnest, believing appeal to the Lord his God.

 

This is the path of safety, the place of wisdom. Let us, in days of peace and

plenty, in the time of joy and honor, seek and serve the Lord our God, and

then, when the darkness falls, when the enemy appears, when such power is

needed as goes far beyond our small resources, we can turn with a holy

confidence and with Christian calmness to the succor of THE FAITHFUL

AND MIGHTY FRIEND!  We shall indeed do as Asa did; we shall summon

all our own powers and wisdom to confront the danger, to meet the difficulty;

but, like the King of Judah, we shall feel that our true hope is in the living

God, and we shall hide in Him, our Refuge and our Strength. “In His Name”

we shall “go against this multitude.”

 

  • THAT AS THOSE WHO FIGHT FOR GOD WE HAVE A

POWERFUL PLEA. As those who are enlisted and engaged in the great

campaign against moral evil in this world, we have a strong plea to urge

when we draw nigh to God in prayer and seek His conquering power.

 

Ø      God is our God; the God of our choice and of His own faithful Word.

 

Ø      God is able to give us the victory even against the greatest odds: “It is

nothing with thee to help” (ver. 11). “If thou wilt, thou canst.”

(Matthew 8:2)  “All things are possible” with Him (ibid. ch. 19:26),

 

Ø      We do all that we do in His Name, for the extension of His kingdom.

 

“The work is thine, not mine, O Lord,

It is thy race we run.”

 

“Let not man prevail against thee.

 

  • THAT, GOD WITH US, ANXIOUS FEAR WILL CHANGE TO

JOYOUS VICTORY. “The Lord smote the Ethiopians … and Asa and the

people pursued them,” etc. (vs. 12-15). The king and the people of Judah

went out of Jerusalem with the most grave concern in their hearts; they

re-entered the royal city with their souls full of joy and their arms full of

spoil.  Their courage and, more especially, their fidelity were crowned with

a true and a great success. So in due time will ours also. It is true that our

fight with wrong and woe is not (like this one of Asa’s) a short sharp battle;

it is a long campaign; it is a campaign in which fortune wavers, or seems to

waver, from side to side; in which many good soldiers of Christ are seen to

fall. But there can be no doubt about the issue. The Lord is on our side.

Victorious Love is our great Captain, and the time will come when we too

shall “return to Jerusalem,” with songs of joy and triumph on our lips.

“And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with

songs and everlasting joy upon their heads:  the shall obtain joy and

gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”  (Isaiah 35:10)

 

 

     The Human Trust and Prayer that Herald Divine Victory (vs. 9-15)

 

Though God gives nothing for — that vanishing point — our merit, yet He

constantly of old gave, now constantly gives, in connection with our own

right-doings and right-praying, in order that His freest gifts may establish a

healthy reaction on our experience and on our practical conduct. In the

prayer, the appeal, the trust, the simple, practical account of Asa, according

to the narrative contained within the compass of the above verses, we have

vividly portrayed:

 

  • THE SOVEREIGN MASTER OF AND OVER ALL DIFFICULTIES.

What comfort we forfeit, what source of courage we fling away, when we

permit to lie as though the mere commonplace of faith, the truth that God

is the Equal of all our confronting difficulties, let them be what they may

equal to them at all times, in all places, under all circumstances and

conditions! How much is written in the canon of confidence, the charter of

ourliberty of speech” at the throne of the heavenly grace (I John

5:14-15), where we read, “If we ask anything according to His will, He

heareth us: and if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know

that we have the petitions that we desired of Him”! As much as is thus

written, so much do we lose, when we fail to live in the strength thereof.

Asa did now live so.

 

  • THE EXAMPLE OF AN UNCONDITIONED, UNLIMITED, AND

UNINTERFERING COMMITTING OF THE ENTIRE CONTROL OF A

PRESSING CASE OF HUMAN DIFFICULTY INTO GOD’S HAND,

WHILE MAN REMAINS SIMPLY OBEDIENT TO THE DUTY OF

ACTIVE WORK. Sometimes we are called upon to stand by and stand

still, and see, as it were, at one view, whether more or less sustained in its

duration, “the salvation of the Lord;” but more frequently, as in the

example of the present narrative, we are reminded of the advisableness and

duty of putting our own hand and all our own strength into the work, which

still depends supremely on the “saving strength” of God and His Anointed.

 

  • ONE EARNEST ENTREATY,  IN LOVING FAITH AND TRUST,

THAT GOD WILL BE GRACIOUSLY PLEASED TO ASSUME THE

SOVEREIGN MASTERY OF THE DIFFICULTY AND TAKE CONTROL

OF THE SITUATION. God waits for this on the part of His creatures — our

heavenly Father on the part of His children. He loves to be asked, and desires

that we should seek and knock.  And it is, indeed, a most inspiring thought,

as well as a thought warranted of inspiration, that our prayer, faith, trust,

avail so often as the very signal of Divine action.

 

  • THE COMPLETENESS OF THE TRIUMPH, WHICH THENCE

RESULTS ARE OBSERVABLE.

 

Ø      A faith that can scarcely be described as anything better than a lame faith;

Ø      a trust that is suspicious and doubtful all the while;

Ø      a prayer that has no earnestness nor force of anticipation inherent in it,

 

are poor preparation for conflict, and no augury of decisive and trenchant

triumph. They, at all events, in no sense deserve, as certainly

they cannot merit nor earn, the shout of victory when the day’s sun is ready

to go down. Such a shout follows on decision of mind, glowing love, and

trust of heart, and a tone in prayer, divinely warranted, that might itself be

mistaken for a summons.

 

 

 

 

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