II Chronicles 16

 

 

The contents of this chapter fall easily into three parts:

 

1.  Asa’s conflict with Baasha (vs. 1-6; parallel, I Kings 15:16-22);

2.  Hanani’s rebuke of Asa, and Asa’s ill reception of it (vs. 7-10);

3.  Disease, death, and burial of Asa (vs. 11-14; parallel, I Kings 15:23-24).

 

1 "In the six and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa Baasha king of

Israel came up against Judah, and built Ramah, to the intent that he

might let none go out or come in to Asa king of Judah."

For the six and thirtieth year, read six and twentieth. Ramah

belonged to Benjamin (Joshua 18:21, 25, 28), and lay between Bethel

and Jerusalem, about five or six Roman miles from each; but Keil and

Bertheau, by some error, call it thirty miles from Jerusalem, having very

likely in their eye Ramah of Samuel, in Ephraim. The word signifies

lofty,” and the present history speaks the importance of its position, and

would infer also that Israel had regained Bethel, which, with other adjacent

places, Abijah had wrested from Jeroboam (ch.13:19). The reference of

Isaiah 10:28-29, 32 is exceedingly interesting, and bespeaks the fact that

Ramah commanded another intersecting route from Ephraim. When it is

said here that Baasha built (וַיִּבֶן) Ramah, the meaning is that he was

beginning to strengthen it greatly, and fortify it. The object of Baasha,

which no doubt needed no stating in the facts of the day, is now

stated by history.

 

2 "Then Asa brought out silver and gold out of the treasures of the

house of the LORD and of the king’s house, and sent to Benhadad

king of Syria, that dwelt at Damascus, saying,"  The writer of Chronicles

omits the pedigree of this Benhadad King of Syria, given in the parallel

the son of Tabrimon, the son of Hezion.Benhidri is the name of Benhadad

in the Assyrian monuments.  The Septuagint gives Ader, which tallies with it,

For Damascus, we have here Dar-mesek, instead of the more usual Dammesek

of the parallel and Genesis 15:2; the resh representing (as in Syriac) the dagesh

forte in mem. The parallel (I Kings 15:18) says that Asa took all the silver and

the gold left in the treasures, etc.; but the reading “left” should very possibly

(see Septuagint Version) be “found,” the Hebrew characters easily permitting it.

 

3 "There is a league between me and thee, as there was between my father

and thy father: behold, I have sent thee silver and gold; go, break thy

league with Baasha king of Israel, that he may departbfrom me."

The alliance of the King of Syria was sought now by one

kingdom, now by the other. On what occasion Abijah made league with the

king, the history does not say, either here or in the parallel, nor when he or

his son resigned it. For there is, read Let there be a league between me

and thee, as between my father and thy father;” the short cut which Asa

thought to take now to his object was not the safe nor right one.

 

4 "And Benhadad hearkened unto king Asa, and sent the captains of

his armies against the cities of Israel; and they smote Ijon, and

Dan, and Abelmaim, and all the store cities of Naphtali."

Benhadad was apparently not very long in making up either his

mind or his method. The bribe that tempted him, drawn from “the

treasures described, well replenished (ch. 15:18; and parallel, I Kings 15:15),

was probably large. His method was to create a diversion in favor of his new

ally, by “smiting” certain picked and highly important cities of Israel, mostly

in northern Galilee, by name Ijon, Dan, Abel-maim, and all the store-cities

of Naphtalli.” Ijon. In Naphtali, mentioned only now, in the parallel, and

when a second time taken (II Kings 15:29) by Tiglath-Pileser. Dan. The

colonizing of this city is given in Judges 18:1-2, 29-31; it was originally

called Laish, and became the northern landmark of the whole country,

as in the expression, “from Dan even to Beersheba (Judges 18:29; 20:1).

Abel-maim. This place was situate at the foot of the Lebanon; in the parallel

(I Kings 15:20) it is called Abel-beth-maachah. It is again mentioned as

attacked by Tiglath-Pileser, who wrested it from Pekah (II Kings 15:29).

In II Samuel 20:18, 14, 15 it is called Abel by itself, but in the last two of

these verses Beth-maachah is mentioned in close connection with it. After this

name the parallel gives also “all Cinneroth (Septuagint, “all the land of

Cinnereth”).  The name is the original of the New Testament Gennesaret.

It was a city (Joshua 19:35) that gave its name to the sea and western region

of the lake, sometimes called so (Numbers 34:11; Joshua 11:2; 12:3). If

there were a little more external evidence of it, we should incline to the

opinion of Movers, that the “all Cinneroth” of the parallel is the

כָּל־מִּסְכְּנות (‘‘all the store-cities”) of our present verse. But at present

we may take it that the two records supplement one another. All the

store-cities of Naphtali (see ch. 32:28; 8:6 and its parallel, I Kings 9:19).

 

5 "And it came to pass, when Baasha heard it, that he left off building

of Ramah, and let his work cease."  And let his work cease. The parallel has

not this, but follows the exact previous sentence with this, “and dwelt in Tirzah.”

It is the happy suggestion of one commentator (Professor James G. Murphy,

Handbook: Chronicles’) that this sentence may betray that it had been Baasha’s

intention to reside in Ramah.

 

6 "Then Asa the king took all Judah; and they carried away the stones

of Ramah, and the timber thereof, wherewith Baasha was building;

and he built therewith Geba and Mizpah."  The affair seems thus to have

come to an unbloody termination.  The parallel (I Kings 15:22)is so much

the more graphic that it contains the two additions that Asa “made a

proclamation throughout all Judah,” and one that “exempted none”

from joining in the duty of moving all the stones and all the timber from

Ramah, and diverting’ them to the use of building Geba and Mizpah. This

greatly contributed to command the road from the north to Jerusalem.

Geba. This was Geba of Benjamin, as clearly stated in the parallel. It was

a position north of Ramah, whether opposite Michmash and the modern

Jeba is not certain, as some think this answers to Gibeah of Saul

(I Samuel 14:2, 5). Mizpah (see Jeremiah 41:2-3, 9-10). This Mizpah

is not that of the Shefelah (Joshua 15:38), but was situate about two hours,

or a short six miles, north-west of Jerusalem, on the Samaria route, and is

probably the modern Neby Samwil (see also II Kings 25:22-26; Jeremiah

40:5 to 41:18).

 

 

Preferable Things (vs. 1-6)

 

This cannot be counted among the estimable acts of Asa; we could wish

that he had adopted other means for repelling the attack of Baasha

means more worthy of himself as a servant of Jehovah. The abstraction of

the gold and silver from the treasury of the house of the Lord may speak to

us of the preferableness of:

 

  • ACQUISITION THAT WE CANNOT LOSE. The custodians of the

temple no doubt rejoiced when Asa “brought into the house of God the

things that his father had dedicated, and that he himself had dedicated,

silver, and gold, and vessels” (ch. 15:18). But it was not many

years before they endured the mortification of seeing these valuable things

carried out again to enrich the foreigner — possibly to be taken to one of

his temples. No great acquisition was this. The temple at Jerusalem was

more truly blessed by the genuine prayers and praises and sacrifices offered

within its precincts, albeit there was nothing left of them that the eye of

man could see or his hand could finger. And what are our best, our real

possessions? Not the gold and silver, the vessels and the jewels of which

the thief may rob us, or some revolution in the market may deprive us; they

are the knowledge, the wisdom, the purer tastes and appreciations, the

higher and more ennobling affections the treasures of the spirit, which

no thief can break through and steal” (Matthew 6:19), which are not

dependent upon the chances of commerce, or the conflicts of armies, or

the passage of time.

 

  • SERVICE THAT CANNOT BE RECALLED. Of little use, indeed, to

the temple at Jerusalem was the treasure which Asa first carried in and then

brought out.” Of comparatively little service to our friends and neighbors

is the temporary service we render them — the money which we require

again soon, the favor which is to be “returned,” the “friendship” which the

first small misunderstanding will disturb and perhaps dissolve. But there are

services which, once rendered, cannot be recalled, cannot be “brought out”

of the treasury, under any change of mood or circumstance:

 

Ø      knowledge, and the power which it imparts for all the after-duty and

struggle of life;

 

Ø      counsel, which guided the feet through some labyrinth of difficulty

and led them into “a large room;”

 

Ø      comfort, which sustained the spirit in darkest and most dangerous hours,

delivering from despair, restoring to equanimity and hope;

 

Ø      influence, gently and graciously constraining the soul to enter “the

kingdom which cannot be moved”  (Hebrews 12:28)

 

within whose blessed boundaries are found present peace and immortal joy.

Live to do good which cannot be undone; to impart that which no mortal

hand can take back again (Matthew 6:20); to confer that gift which is secure

for ever.

 

  • A FEARLESS FAITH RATHER THAN A DUBIOUS EXPEDIENCY.

It is true that Asa achieved a certain triumph; his plan succeeded —

for the time. He bought Benhadad’s help with this consecrated treasure, and

obliged Baasha to retire, leaving some spoil behind him (vs. 4-6). But might

he not have succeeded in another way and by worthier means. If he had

committed his cause, his country’s security, to the strength and faithfulness

of his God, would he not have prevailed at least as well as he did by taking

consecrated wealth out of the temple of Jehovah? Would not He who

delivered the vast hordes of the Ethiopians into his hands (ch.14:12) have

saved him from the designs of Baasha? (see vs. 7-8). And would he not

have prospered in that way, without having this act of violation on his

conscience, without having this blot upon his record? A fearless faith in God

is better than recourse to a doubtful expediency. The latter very often fails to

accomplish the purpose in hand; and it always does some injury to the

character, lowering the standard of behaviour, and leaving some blemish

on the life. Take the higher road in the journey of life — the way of perfect

uprightness, of simple, childlike trust in God. That is the path which leads

to true success; even if there should be present apparent defeat, it is sure to

conduct to a glorious victory in the end.

 

 

King’s Asa’s Mistake (vs. 1-6)

 

  • WHEN IT HAPPENED. “In the six and thirtieth year of the reign of

Asa(v. 1).

 

Ø      An obvious error. Baasha ascended the throne of Israel in Asa’s third

year (I Kings 15:33), and died in his twenty-sixth (ibid. ch. 16:8).

Yet it follows not that this blunder was in the original text. Most likely it

crept in through transcription. The existence of such mistakes is not fatal to

the claim of Scripture to be regarded as inspired.

 

Ø      A probable solution. Different explanations have been given.

 

o        The thirty-six years of v. 1 should be reckoned from the separation of

the kingdoms (Usher, Jamieson); but against this stands the fact that the

thirty-six years are stated to have belonged to the reign of Asa, while

the assertion that no war occurred in Judah for thirty-five years after its

commencement as a separate kingdom is incorrect (ch.13:2).

 

o        In ch.15:19, instead of “thirty-five” should be read “five,”

and in ch. 16:1, instead of “thirty-six” should be inserted “six”

(Vaihinger in Herzog, Thenius, Bahr). Thus the war with Zerah

would be later than the attack of Baasha, though reported before it;

and the connection of the verses would be, “There was no war unto

the fifth year of the reign of Asa; but in the sixth year Baasha came

up.” This shatters itself upon the two facts that Asa’s reign began with

ten years of quiet (ch. 14:1), and that Zerah’s invasion must have been

before Baasha’s attack (ch. 16:8). To be sure, as numbers are being

altered generally, the “ten” of ch. 14:1 might be changed into

five;” but Hanani, in ch. 16:8, could hardly speak of the

Ethiopian invasion as an historical fact if it had not then taken place.

 

o        The six and thirtieth year should be the five and twentieth (Adam

Clarke). In favor of this may be urged that it is a fair guess.

 

o        The text should be “in the sixteenth year of the reign of Asa

(Bertheau, Keil, Ewald, Kleinert in Riehm). The chronology

of Asa’s reign would thus run:

 

§         Ten years of quiet (ch. 14:1), in the third of which Baasha

usurps the supreme authority in Israel (I Kings 15:33);

§         the invasion of Zerah (ch.14:9) between the tenth

and fifteenth years, probably in the fourteenth;

§         the national covenant in the fifteenth year (ch.15:10);

§         in the sixteenth the threatening advance of Baasha (ch. 16:1).

 

The statement that Judah was exempt from war until the thirty-fifth

year of Asa (ch. 15:19) may be harmonized with that in I Kings

15:16, 32, that “there was war between Asa and Baasha King of

Israel all their days,” by assuming that there was latent hostility

between the two kingdoms from the first, but no outbreak of war

until Asa’s thirty-fifth year (Keil) — the attack here recorded not

having culminated in any collision between the two powers on the

field of battle, the work of causing Baasha to withdraw having been

entrusted to Benhadad.

 

  • HOW IT WAS OCCASIONED. By Baasha’s advance against Judah (v. 1).

 

Ø      The history of Baasha. The son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar

not of Ahijah the prophet, who was an Ephraimite of Shiloh (I Kings

11:29) — Baasha appears to have been originally a person of obscure

station, though he afterwards rose to be a captain in the army of Nadab,

Jeroboam’s son, as Zimri subsequently was in that of Elah, Baasha’s son

(ibid. ch. 16:9). During the siege of Gibbethon he conspired against his

master, smote him and usurped his throne. Not content with this, he put

the whole house of Jeroboam to the sword — an act of cruelty which

rebounded on himself and his house (ibid. v.12). In the twelfth year of his

reign he formed the plan here narrated for inflicting a blow upon Judah and

Asa.

 

Ø      The character of Baasha. More than likely a soldier of distinguished

bravery (I Kings 16:5), he was little other than a monster of cruelty

(ibid. ch. 15:29) — two qualities not often allied. The true hero is

seldom cruel; the cruel man is seldom brave. A faithful follower of

Jeroboam in the matter of religion, he was an ardent idolater and a

persistent corrupter of the people (ibid. ch. 16:2).

 

Ø      The project of Baasha. To fortify Ramah, the modern Er-Ram, in

Benjamin (Joshua 18:25), about five miles north of Jerusalem.

This town, which properly belonged to Judah — not to Israel

(Bahr, Bertheau) — but which Abijah had taken from Jeroboam

(ch. 13:19), Baasha had not previously conquered (Ewald), but at that

time seized. His object probably was:

 

o        to cut off all traffic between the kingdoms — in fact, blockade

Jerusalem — that the southern kingdom might be forced to

capitulate (Ewald, Bahr);

o        to prevent alliance between Judah and any power north of Israel

(Bertheau); and

o        to obtain a footing within the territory of Judah as a basis for

future operations (Josephus).

 

  • IN WHAT IT CONSISTED. In three things.

 

Ø      Not repairing to Jehovah for assistance against Baasha, as he had

formerly done against Zerah (ch. 14:11). Perhaps he deemed

Baasha a more manageable opponent than the Ethiopian leader had been

an adversary that might be coped with successfully by his own craft,

without calling in the battalions of Jehovah. Or, his preceding prosperity

may have been his ruin, and this may have been the turning-point on that

downward path of spiritual degeneracy which he pursued until he died.

On any supposition it was an act of unbelief, and as such a sin; and,

considering the success of his former application to Jehovah, an act of

folly, and therefore a blunder as well as a sin. This he afterwards learned

from Hanani (v. 9).

 

Ø      Seeking a league with Benhadad of Syria. (v. 2.) This Benhadad, or

son of Ader (Septuagint) — in the Assyrian inscriptions Bin-hidri, the son of

Hadar, the supreme divinity of Damascus (Schrader, Die Keilinschriften,’

p. 200) — was the son of Tabrimon, the son of Hezion, the King of Syria

(I Kings 15:18). Damascus, his capital — in Hebrew Dammesek, in

Assyrian Dimaski and Dimmaska, in Arabic Dimesch-eseh-Schdm, or

shortly, esch-Scham — had been a town in the days of Abraham

(Genesis 14:15; 15:2), and is still one of the few towns of antiquity that

have never lost their primitive splendor and renown. (If I am not mistaken,

to this day, Damascus is the oldest continuous inhabited city in the world!

CY – 2016).  It has been styled:

 

o        “the pearl of the Orient,

o        the beautiful as Eden,

o        the fragrant Paradise,

o        the plumage of the Paradise peacock,

o        the colored collar of the ring-dove,

o        the necklace of beauty,

o        the door of Caaba,

o        the eye of the East,

o        the Eden of the Moslem,”

 

with other such hyperbolical expressions (Riehm’s Handworter-buch,’ art.

Damascus;” cf. Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine,’ pp. 414, etc.; Picturesque

Palestine,’ 3:143, etc.). Its king was at this time in league with Baasha,

who hoped with his assistance to subdue the southern kingdom. He was thus

an enemy to Judah, as his predecessor Rezon had been to the united empire

(I Kings 11:25); and Asa might have reasoned, that not much help of a

genuine kind could be obtained from him, least of all by such a stratagem

as that adopted.

 

Ø      Resorting to bribery in order to gain his end. Those who use

dishonorable methods to procure any advantage generally overestimate

the advantage they are willing in this way to buy; and, as a consequence,

discover in the long run they have been miserably duped. Even had Asa not

been at fault in the value he put upon Benhadad’s alliance, the means he

took to gain it were bad. The argument addressed to Baasha should never

have been employed by Asa. The league of Abijah with Tabrimon should

never have existed to lend countenance to the proposed league between

Asa and Benhadad. But bad actions once done are easily repeated by the

doers of them, and imitated by the children of those doers; while children

find less difficulty in copying the evil than in following the good examples

of their parents. Then Asa, while justified in attempting to dissolve the

league between Benhadad and Baasha, should not have resorted to bribery.

“A gift destroyeth the heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:7) of him that gives as of

him that receives it. Far less for such an unhallowed purpose should he

have robbed the temple, even if it had been permissible to raid the

palace. But not even “the treasures of the palace” should have been

employed in dishonorable schemes (the secret-service money of modern

governments falls under this condemnation); and much less “the treasures

of the Lord’s house.” Upon the gold and silver of both Church and state

should be inscribed, “Holiness unto the Lord,”

 

  • TO WHAT IT CONDUCTED. Seeming success. Wicked schemes

often appear to prosper for a season (Psalm 37:1; 92:7). Three things

resulted from Asa’s statecraft.

 

Ø      Benhadad accepted the bribe. (v. 4.) The golden and silvern keys of

mammon can unlock the doors of most hearts. Great grace is needed to

resist the power of money. “Wealth maketh many friends,” and “every man

is a friend to him that giveth gifts” (Proverbs 19:4, 6). Sometimes

others besides wicked persons are guilty of “taking gifts out of their

bosom(Proverbs 17:23). Asa’s present was too much for Benhadad’s

virtue. The King of Syria deserted his ally, the King of Israel for the King

of Judah, as he would by-and-by desert the King of Judah for the next

highest bidder. Nor did he merely not assist Baasha, maintaining as it were

an attitude of armed neutrality between the hostile powers, but he

treacherously “sent the captains of his armies against the cities of Israel;

and they smote Ijon and Dan, and Abel-maim, and all the store-cities of

Naphtali(see Exposition). Bad as Baasha was, and infamous as was his

project, the character and conduct of Benhadad were equally reprehensible

and offensive. But it is no part of wicked men’s creed that they should

change not when they swear to their own hurt (Psalm 14:4), or that

they should keep faith with one another longer than appears for their

advantage so to do. Modern kings and statesmen are sometimes charged

with acting on similar lines in the making and the breaking of treaties. If the

charge is true, it is not to their credit, and must ultimately turn to their

people’s hurt.

 

Ø      Baasha desisted from his fortifications. He left off building Ramah, and

allowed his work to cease (v. 5). Had Baasha been engaged upon a good

work, upon God’s work, the falling away of Benhadad would have

mattered nothing; but being a wicked man himself, and occupied with a

wicked enterprise, when the prop which supported him fell, he also was

precipitated to the ground. When creature-arms fail the saints, the saints

lean the heavier on the Almighty Arm; when wicked men are deprived of

that in which they trust, they have nothing else to trust to.

 

Ø      Asa despoiled Bamah, and turned its stones and timber to his own use.

He built therewith Geba and Mizpah (v. 6); i.e. he fortified them. Both

were in Benjamin, the former two miles and a half north of Ramah, on the

road to Michmash; the latter, thirteen miles and a half from Ramah, on the

north road from Jerusalem. Thus what Baasha had collected for the injury,

Asa employed in the defense, of Judah. So believers may legitimately use

the arguments and learning of heretics and unbelievers to establish the truth

which these seek to overthrow (Bossuet). Again. whereas Baasha intended

to despoil Judah, he was himself despoiled by both Benhadad (v. 4) and

Asa (v. 6). Mischief-makers often find their mischief return upon their

own heads, and violent dealers see their violence descend upon their own

pates (Psalm 7:15-16; Proverbs 26:27; Matthew 7:2).

 

  • Lessons.

 

Ø      The lust of acquiring the true parent of war (James 4:1-2).

Ø      The wickedness of bribery (Proverbs 17:23)

Ø      The certainty of retribution (Numbers 32:23; Galatians 6:7).

Ø      The baseness of treachery (Proverbs 25:19; 27:6; Obadiah 1:7).

 

7 "And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and

said unto him, Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and

not relied on the LORD thy God, therefore is the host of the king

of Syria escaped out of thine hand.  8 Were not the Ethiopians and the

Lubims a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? yet, because

thou didst rely on the LORD, He delivered them into thine hand."

The very impressive episode of four verses begun by the

seventh verse is not found in the parallel. The fact furnishes clear indication

that our compiler was not indebted to the writer of Kings for material. And

the moral aspects of the matter here preserved by the compiler of

Chronicles show the paramount reasons why he would not miss bringing it

to the front for the returned people’s better religious education.

Presumably Hanani the seer is the father of that other faithful seer and

prophet Jehu, who appeared to Baasha (I Kings 16:1, 7) and to

Jehoshaphat (here, ch. 19:1-2). Therefore is the host of the King

of Syria escaped out of thy hand It is plain that, reading the lines only,

this expression (remarkable considering its following close upon successful

help given by Benhadad, and help unaccompanied, so far as we are told, by

any infidelity or untoward circumstance), suggests option of explanation,

and would engender the supposition that something very threatening was

on the horizon, at any rate. But reading between the lines, and giving due

weight to the significance of the illustration adduced of the combined

Ethiopians and Lubim (ch. 14:9-15), we may warrantably judge that Hanani’s

inspired language went a cut deeper, and meant that if the alliance had been not

broken between Benhadad and Baasha, both would surely have been taken in one

net (Psalm 124:7), as they would have entered into the conflict in alliance. A

decisive victory over the King of Syria would have been any way a grand day

in the history of Judah; But such a victory over the Kings of Syria and of the

northern schismatic kingdom would have been more than a doubly grand day;

it would have been a tenfold demonstration of God’s judgment, that “though

hand join in hand, yet shall not the wicked go unpunished” (Proverbs 11:21,

see particularly same Hebrew verb used of a bird escaped in Psalm 124:7).

 

9 "For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole

earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is

perfect toward Him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore

from henceforth thou shalt have wars." Thou shalt have wars. Although this

language at first seems to be intended for very specific application to Asa, yet as

we do not read of individual wars occurring after this in his own time, it is quite

within a just interpretation of it if we read it as referring to the inevitable

experience of the kingdom. Its head and king had just thrown away the

opportunity of blocking out one ever-threatening enemy. What more natural

consequence than that wars should rush in the rather as a flood, in the after-times?

 

 

Divine Observation and Interposition (v. 9)

 

Hanani the seer was evidently a man who was not only bold and brave

enough to confront the king with a rebuke, but he was one who had a keen

sense of the near presence and power of the Lord “before whom he stood.”

We may very well believe that it was the latter which explained the former.

Let us heed his doctrine while we admire his fidelity.

 

  • GOD’S ACTIVE OBSERVANCE OF INDIVIDUAL MEN. These

vigorous words (of the text) indicate the prophet’s belief that God was

observing men everywhere, was actively observing them “run to and fro,”

and was drawing distinctions between the life of one man and another.

God’s particular and individual observation has been, not unnaturally,

objected to on the ground of our human littleness. How can we expect,

how can we believe, that the Eternal One would concern himself with the

doings or negligences of creatures so remote, so unimportant, so

infinitesimally minute as we are? Surely, it is said, such consideration is

beneath Him. But there are two thoughts which meet this objection and

correct this conclusion.

 

Ø      The infinitude of God. For that includes the infinitely small as well as the

infinitely great; it is a distinct denial of this attribute of God, for it is a

limitation of His infinity, to maintain that there is one direction to which His

power and action do not extend. The infinitude of God positively requires

us to believe that He is observant of the hearts and lives of individual men.

 

Ø      The fatherhood of God. Granted that our human spirits are nearly allied

to Him, share His own likeness, stand in conscious relation to Him; are

capable of loving, serving, following Him; can live on earth the life He lives

in heaven, are this and do this in such sense and degree that we can be

rightly called and considered His sons and daughters, — and there is no

more objection to be taken. Shall not the Divine Father of His human family

take particular notice of each one of His children? What fatherhood is that

which considers his own child to be unworthy of his notice?

 

  • THE DISTINCTIONS HE DRAWS BETWEEN THEM.

 

Ø      He divides all men into two classes — the evil and the good (see

Proverbs 15:3); between those “who fear him and those who fear him

not;” between those “who are righteous” and those who “do evil” (see

Psalm 34:15-16).

 

Ø      He divides the good into two classes — the imperfectly and the perfectly

devoted. There are those who seek not the Lord “with their whole heart,”

and those who do thus seek Him; those whose “heart is not perfect,” and

those whose “heart is perfect” toward Him. This distinction is not absolute.

The less devoted of the servants of God have their better hours and their

nobler impulses; while the more devoted have their lapses and their

blemishes. Asa “did that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord”

(ch. 14:2); he and his people “sought the Lord… with all their

heart and with all their soul” (ibid. ch. 15:12); yet here we find him

erring, lacking confidence in God, and “going down” to Syria for help. But

taking this into account, it remains true that God distinguishes clearly

between those of His servants who are but faint-hearted and feeble in His

service, and those who give themselves to Him “with their whole desire.”

Let there be so thorough and so complete a dedication of ourselves, of our

powers and of our resources and of our time, to the Person and the cause

of our Divine Saviour, that we shall be counted by Him among those

whose heart is perfect toward Him.” We may attain to this, although we

may have much still to learn and to acquire as His disciples (see

Philippians 3:12-15).

 

  • HIS INTERPOSITION ON OUR BEHALF. God would certainly

have interposed on behalf of Asa, would have “shown Himself strong” in

his behalf. He would, said Hanani, have given him a far greater success

than that which he attained by his gifts and negotiations with Benhadad

(v. 7). God always succors His faithful ones.

 

Ø      He may deliver them from their distress; as he had delivered Asa already,

and did afterwards deliver Hezekiah. He may give us the victory over our

enemies from without — over bodily ill, over opposing circumstances; He

may cause us to triumph as “men count” triumph.

 

Ø      Or He may grant us deliverance in our distress; He may grant us such

spiritual elevation that we shall “glory in our infirmity,” shall “rejoice that

we are counted worthy to suffer,” shall bear the noble testimony of perfect

contentment with the inferior position (John 3:29); and thus (literally)

“show Himself strong in those whose heart is devoted to Him’ (Keil’s

translation).

 

 

The Eyes of the Lord (v. 9)

 

  • A MOMENTOUS DECLARATION. “The eyes of the Lord run to and

fro throughout the whole earth.” The words teach the doctrines of:

 

Ø      The Divine omniscience; since “the eyes of the Lord” not only see to the

ends of the earth, and “run to and fro throughout the earth,” but are in

every place at the same time.

 

Ø      The Divine vigilance; since God not merely knows all that transpires on

the earth and beneath the heavens, but, as it were, lies in wait to discover

opportunities for interposing on His people’s behalf. Contrast with this

exalted doctrine the teaching of the Odyssey’ (17. 485): “The gods, in the

likeness of strangers from far countries, put on all manner of shapes, and

wander through the cities, beholding the violence and the righteousness of

men.” 

 

  • A CHEERING CONSOLATION. “To show Himself strong on behalf

of them whose hearts are perfect towards Him.” The object of the Divine

interposition is not so much to punish and destroy the wicked, although

that is indirectly implied, as it is to rescue and succor His people.

 

Ø      In times of danger; like that of:

 

o        Israel at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:15-30),

o        Asa on the field of Zephathah (ch.14:12),

o        Judah when the army of Sennacherib besieged Jerusalem

(II Kings 19:35),

o        David when pursued by Saul (Psalm 18:17),

o        Elisha, in Dothan (II Kings 6:17),

o        Daniel in Babylon (Daniel 6:22).

 

Ø      In seasons of affliction; such as befell:

 

o        the Israelites in Egypt (Exodus 2:23-25),

o        the Jews in Babylon (Ezra 1:1);

o        Jacob in Hebron (Genesis 37:34; 45:28),

o        Job in Uz (Job chapters 1, 2, 3, 42),

o        David in Jerusalem (Psalm 6:8), and

o        the Hebrew children in Babylon (Daniel 3:19-25).

 

Ø      In moments of trial; which oftentimes come upon His people as they

came upon:

 

o        Abraham (Genesis 22:1-12),

o        Joseph (Genesis 38:20),

o        David (I Samuel 26:9), 

o        Job (Job 2:9),

 

and in which God’s people could hardly hope to stand without

Divine assistance.

 

  • A SEARCHING APPLICATION. Have we those perfect hearts to

whom this Divine succor is promised?

 

Ø      This means not we are sinless!  Noah was “perfect” Genesis 6:9),

and yet “he drank of the wine, and was drunken” (ibid. ch. 9:21); Job

was perfect (Job 1:1), and yet God charged him with offences which

caused Job to say, Behold, I am vile” (ibid. ch. 40:4); David’s heart was

perfect(I Kings 11:4), yet David was guilty of grievous sins (II Samuel

11:4); Asa’s heart also was perfect (ch. 15:17), and yet Asa went astray

in the war with Baasha (v. 2). In the New Testament the Corinthians are

designated perfect (I Corinthians 2:6), and yet some of them were so far

from sinlessness that they committed very gross offences against morality

(ibid. ch. 5:1; 6:1).

 

Ø      This means we are sincere in our profession of religion!  Where

sincerity is wanting, religion is impossible. Nothing is more reprehensible

in itself, or more offensive to both God and man, than hypocrisy —

pretending to be a servant of God when one is really a slave of Satan; to be

a lover of righteousness when one is secretly a doer of unrighteousness.

Scripture in both its parts pronounces woe against hypocrites (Job

8:13; 15:34; Matthew 23:13; Luke 11:44).

 

10 "Then Asa was wroth with the seer, and put him in a prison house;

for he was in a rage with him because of this thing. And Asa oppressed some

of the people the same time." A prison-house; literally, Hebrew, the house of

the מַהְפֶכֶת; i.e. “of the twisting or distortion;” i.e. “the stocks.” The word

occurs three other times only, all of them in Jeremiah viz. 20:2-3; 29:26.

(For a forcible parallel, see I Kings 22:27.) And Asa oppressed some of the

people the same time. This may throw some explanatory, though no exculpatory,

light on Asa’s wrath and violence towards Hanani; for it probably marks

that either some goodly portion of the wiser of the people had anticipated

of their own common sense the matter of the message of Hanani the seer,

or that they had not failed to follow it with some keenly sympathetic remarks

For our Authorized Version, “oppressed,” read a stronger verb, as “crushed.”

 

 

The King and the Prophet (vs. 7-10)

 

  • THE PROPHET’S MESSAGE TO THE KING (vs. 7-9.)

 

Ø      The prophets name. Hanani, Favourable (Gesenius); otherwise

unknown, though conjectured to be the father of Jehu the son of Hanani,”

who announced to Baasha the ruin of his house (I Kings 16:1), and

afterwards appeared at the court of Jehoshaphat (here, ch. 19:2),

having probably been obliged to flee from the northern kingdom on

account of his ill-omened communication.

 

o        This was the second time God had sent a prophet to Asa. God usually

gives to men “line upon line, and precept upon precept” (Isaiah 28:10).

 

o        This was a second prophet God had sent to Asa. God has no lack of

messengers to run upon His errands. When a word wants speaking to

the Church or to the state, He can always find the man to speak it

(Psalm 68:11).

 

o        The message God sent by Hanani was different from that sent by

Azariah. That was a word of counsel; this, of rebuke. God always suits

His communications to the needs of His hearers. All Scripture

inspired by God “is profitable.......for reproof, for correction,” etc.

(II Timothy 3:16).

 

o        Those who serve God faithfully as His messengers are sure to find

ample remuneration. Because of this mission well executed, Hanani

has obtained a posthumous renown, which will carry his name

throughout the world and to the end of time (compare Mark 14:9).

 

Ø      The prophets sermon.

 

o        A great opportunity lost, with the reason of it. The Syrians might have

been crushed, whereas they had escaped, because, instead of relying on

Jehovah, he, Asa, had relied upon Benhadad (v. 7). Compare Elisha’s

language to Joash of Israel (II Kings 13:19). Nothing commoner than

for men to be blind to their own best interests; to be neglectful of the

opportunities Providence sets before them for advancing these; and to

call in the aid of enemies rather than of friends — of their worst enemy,

the devil, rather than of their best friend, Jehovah — when they find

themselves placed in some critical situation.

 

o        A great victory recalled, with the secret of it. The mighty host of the

Ethiopians and the Libyans had been defeated; their horsemen and chariots

routed by Judah’s spearmen and bowmen, and that, as Asa knew, not by

their own prowess or by his generalship, but because, in answer to prayer,

Jehovah had entered the field upon his side (v. 8). It is strange how

easily and quickly men forget Divine interpositions on their behalf, and

how readily, almost how naturally, they put these to their own credit

rather than to God’s. “Time hath, my lord, a wallet on his back”

(Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida,’ act 3. sc. 3). No example better

to be followed by a Christian than that of David (Psalm 103:2). A good

memory would often save a Christian from foolish blunders.

 

o        A great doctrine stated, with the lesson of it. Asa should have known

that the eyes of the Lord were ever running to and fro throughout the

earth, to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose hearts were

perfect before Him, and that all he had to do was to see that his heart

was perfect before God, and to show the same by trusting in Him

(v. 9). See homily following this one on “The eyes of the Lord.”

 

o        A great sin committed, with the disastrous result of it. In turning his

back upon Jehovah and repairing to Benhadad, Asa, had acted foolishly

(v. 9). He had not only blundered, perpetrated an error in judgment, but

done what was inherently wicked; and, as a consequence both of his

blunder and of his sin, he “would have wars” — which he had in the

continued hostility of the northern kingdom. Observe the double aspect

of sin, as an act of folly and a deed of wickedness, and the double

aspect of retribution, as at once the natural outcome or result of

human folly and the positive infliction of a judicial sentence.

 

  • THE KING’S ANSWER TO THE PROPHET (v. 10.)

 

Ø      He was angry with the prophet. Good men as well as bad may fall into

danger, but in both it is sin. If Asa’s “heart was perfect all his days,” it is

clear his life was not. He was “wroth with the seer.” Anger is a work of

the flesh (Galatians 5:20), the passion of a foolish heart (Ecclesiastes

7:9), and the foam of an unbridled tongue (Proverbs 25:28; Hosea 7:16).

Outrageous in any (Proverbs 27:4), it is unbecoming in all, but

especially in kings, and not allowable in Christians (Colossians 3:8).

Asa was angry with Hanani because Hanani told him of his fault. Even

good men require large grace before they can say, “Let the righteous

smite me,” etc. (Psalm 141:5). Yet the rebukes of the righteous should be

received submissively (Leviticus 19:17) and with grateful affection

(Proverbs 9:8). He who so welcomes them shall:

 

o       be honored (ibid. ch. 13:18);

o       get understanding (ibid. ch. 15:32);

o       exhibit prudence (ibid. v. 5); and

o       abide among the wise (ibid. v. 31).

 

Ø      He put the prophet in a prison-house; literally, “in a house of stocks,”

thestock” being “an instrument of torture, by which the body was forced

into an unnatural, twisted position, the victim, perhaps, being bent double,

with the hands and feet fastened together” (Keil). Into some such place of

confinement Jeremiah was thrust Jeremiah 20:2; compare 29:26), and Paul

and Silas (Acts 16:24). “The king’s wrath is as the roaring of a lion”

(Proverbs 19:12). If, in Hanani’s case, it did not turn out “messengers

of death” (ibid.  ch. 16:14), it was because Asa was at bottom a good

man, whose hand as well as heart were in the keeping of the Lord

(Psalm 76:10).

 

Ø      He oppressed those who took the prophets side. These were, doubtless,

the pious section of the people who had not approved of the Syrian

alliance. It is seldom that a wicked policy can be entered on by kings or

parliaments (at least in a Christian land) without some voice or voices

being raised against it. Unhappily, these have often to share obloquy and

oppression, as Hanani’s supporters did. Yet nothing is more calamitous for

a country than to see the best people in it persecuted by its rulers for

protesting against their crooked ways. When a policy cannot be defended

or carried through without imprisoning those who are opposed to it, that

policy is wrong!

 

  • LESSONS.

 

Ø      The certainty that God sees everything that is done beneath the sun.

Ø      The goodness of God in reproving wrong-doers.

Ø      The folly of leaning upon an arm of flesh instead of upon God.

Ø      The source of all calamity among men, viz. sin.

Ø      The sign of an evil conscience — anger against an accuser.

Ø      The uselessness of force as a remedy for evils of any kind.

Ø      The courage required of them who would champion the cause of

truth and right.

 

11 "And, behold, the acts of Asa, first and last, lo, they are written in

the book of the kings of Judah and Israel."  This verse, with the following

three, is represented by the very summarized but sufficiently significant parallel

of I Kings 15:23-24.  Note that the reference work cited in this verse as the book

of the kings of Judah and Israel, is in the paralled cited as “the book of the

chronicles of the kings of Judah.” Of course, the latter citation was much the

earlier in point of time.

 

12 "And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in

his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he

sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians."  His disease was exceeding

great Perhaps a somewhat more literal rendering will more correctly express

the emphasis of the original, e.g. his disease was great even to excess. For yet,

read emphatically, and also; the historian purposing to say that as, in his fear

of Baasha, he had not sought the Lord, but Benhadad, so, in his excessive

illness also, he had not sought the Lord, but the physicians!

 

13 "And Asa slept with his fathers, and died in the one and fortieth

year of his reign.”  Amid the frequent uncertainties of the chronology, we are

glad to get some dates fixed by the agreement of testimonies. E.g. this place and

the parallel state clearly that Asa’s reign was one that lasted to its forty-first

year. The parallel, however (I Kings 15:23), makes this date one

and the same thing with his “old age, while no manipulation of dates can

make him (the grandson of Rehoboam and son of Abijah) more than about

fifty. And it is somewhat remarkable that, when introduced to us as

succeeding to the throne, nothing is said of his tender youth (as, for

instance, is said in the case of Josiah, II Kings 22:1).  Nevertheless, the

apparent prominence of Maachah awhile would tally with

the circumstance of Asa’s youth at his accession. Another correspondence

in Josiah’s career is noticeable; for it is distinctly said that when he was

only twelve years of age (ch. 34:3) “he began to purge Judah

and Jerusalem from the high places,” etc. At a similarly youthful age Asa,

therefore, may be credited with doing the like, while later on he took more

stringent measures, as for instance with Maachah, the queen-mother.

 

14 "And they buried him in his own sepulchers, which he had made for

himself in the city of David, and laid him in the bed which was

filled with sweet odors and divers kinds of spices prepared by the

apothecaries’ art: and they made a very great burning for him."

In his own sepulchers; Hebrew, קִבְרֹתָין; feminine plural of קֶבֶר.

The plural designates, of course, the range of burial compartments that

formed the tomb of one person or family. So Job 17:1, where the masculine

plural is used, קְבָרִים לִי.   In the city of David (see note on ch.12:16).

In the bed; Hebrew, מִשְׁכָּב. The use or associations of

this word (found about fifty times) are almost entirely, if not entirely, those

of the bed of nightly rest, even when not at the time speaking of nightly

rest; and this is the first and only occasion that it is employed to link the

grave in kindly analogy with the couch of bodily repose during lifetime.

The fact might have suggested Bishop Ken’s lines in the evening hymn —

 

Teach me to live, that I may dread

The grave as little as my bed.

 

In the present instance, however, the writer, whoever he was (query, was

he the compiler of our Chronicles, or his original?), is doubtless led to the

analogy by considerations more earthly than those enshrined in Ken’s

hymn, viz. by the somewhat “vain show” of attractiveness and fragrance

(probably designed partly for preservative purposes) with which the place

was filled, and which were among even patriarchal indications of faith in a

future state. Sweet odors; Hebrew, כְּשָׂמִים.   Of the twenty-nine times

that this word occurs in Exodus, Kings, and Chronicles, Esther, Canticles,

Isaiah, and Ezekiel, it is rendered in the Authorized Version:

 

  • “spices” twenty-four times,
  • “sweet cinnamon” once,
  • “sweet calamus once, and
  • sweet odors” or “sweet smell” three times.

 

The chief and determining references are those in Exodus 25:6; 30:23; 35:8, 28.

And divers kinds; Hebrew, וּזְנִים; plural of זַן; from the root, זָנַן; unused, but

probably one with an Arabic root, meaning “to shape;” hence our noun, meaning a

kind or species, used here and Psalm 144:13 (where the margin renders

literally, “from kind to kind”), and in the Chaldee of Daniel 3:5, 7, 10, 15.

Prepared; Hebrew, מְרֻקָּחִיס; solitary occurrence of pual conjugation

of the root רָקַח, “to spice,” i.e., to spice, season, or prepare oil for

ointment purposes. This root occurs in kal future once (Exodus 30:33);

in kal part. poel five times (Exodus 30:25, 35; 37:29; I Chronicles 9:30;

Ecclesiastes 10:1); and in hiphel infinite once (Ezekiel 24:10).

By the apothecaries’ art; Hebrew, בְמִרְקַחַת מַעֲשֲׂה. Translate the

clause, and divers kinds compounded by the compounding of art, which

means to say spices skillfully treated and wrought into ointments by

professional hands. A very great burning; literally, and they burned for

him a burning great even to an exceeding extent. The burning is not the

burning of I Samuel 31:12-13 (compare II Samuel 21:10-12; I Chronicles 10:12),

but the burning of spices, indicated by the language of our ch. 21:19 and

Jeremiah 34:5.

 

 

The Disappointing Relapse of What had Seemed Tried Worth,

Knowledge, and Proved Goodness.  (vs. 1-14)

 

Mournful to the last degree is the impression made on us by what we are

given to learn last of the career of King Asa. It is a reversal — not the

reversal from bad to good, but of what seemed good and seemed sure, to

bad. The humiliating lesson and fresh illustration of human caprice and

weakness must be in like spirit and with proportionate humility noted and

learned by ourselves. It is, indeed, a chapter of biography which brings

again to our lips the reproving and stirring question of the apostle, “Ye did

run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?’ (Galatians 5:7)

and which reminds us also of language of far lower inspiration (Keble’s Christian

Year:’ Eighth Sunday after Trinity) —

 

The grey-haired saint may fail at last,

The surest guide a wanderer prove;

Death only binds us fast

To the bright shore of love.

 

Among all uncertainties, mournful is the certainty of human uncertainty,

and necessary the prolongation of human probation to the extreme limit of

life. Let us listen with fresh veneration to the just expression of the virtual

beatitude of final perseverance, as pronounced by the lips of Jesus Christ

Himself, “He that endureth to the end shall be saved.”  (Matthew 24:13)

Side by side with the broad lesson of human fickleness and liability in the

very end to fall, there seem to be peculiarities attending the present history

which may yield something to careful notice and analysis, which are replete

indeed with instruction, and with the finer of the suggestions of caution and

warning.  Thus, for instance:

 

  • THAT ASA WAS WICKED AND TEMPTED TO DEFECTION WAS

PROBABLY LARGELY DUE TO THE CLOSENESS OF THE

PRESSURE OF APPREHENSION IN A DOUBLE SENSE. Family

quarrels are, to a proverb, the bitterest. The foe, the competing king, the

dissentient people, were abiding neighbors — nay, of one and the same

house, though that a house divided against itself. All this, no doubt, should

have had exactly the contrary effect, but did not. As in great stress of

illness, and under great pressure of mortal apprehension brought close

home, men will often resort to the trial of remedies, and flee to medical aid

they had been the first to disdain and the loudest to condemn under milder

and less domestic circumstances, so, strange though it were, the subtle

influence worked upon Asa, which was powerless to delude him when it

was Zerah of Ethiopia, and not Baasha of Israel, who was the confronting

enemy.

 

  • CONVERSELY, ASA WAS PROBABLY DELUDED INTO

SUPPOSING THAT THE NEARER DANGER FROM THE NEARER

FOE AND NEIGHBOUR FOE, WAS A DANGER HE COULD

BETTER COPE WITH BY HIS OWN UNAIDED RESOURCES, HIS

OWN SUPPOSED WISDOMS AND HIS OWN SUFFICIENT

DIPLOMACY.  It is too true that the more distant enemy we are prone to

fear more than the enemy, who is really tenfold dangerous because he is so

near us, and very probably has this great and subtle consequent advantage,

that he knows us and our weak points better than we know them or know

ourselves. There is even such a thing as the Church having greater zeal for

the heathen far off than for those worse heathen (and more to be pitied for

themselves) who are dread corrosion and canker to the whole body politic

at home. It means that men have greater fear of the enemy at a distance

than of the serpent in their own bosom! Even Christian men are

unconsciously the victims of such beguilement. Distance lends enchantment

sometimes; distance lends large-looming apprehension sometimes. But in

the matter of our enemy sin, it is ever one thing that constitutes our

chiefest danger — its nearness; the great risk:

 

Ø      of our overlooking it, because of familiarity with its countenance;

Ø      of our trifling with it, because we underrate its power to hurt; and

Ø      of our flattering ourselves that we must be a match for so near a

neighbor.

 

  • ASA IN AN EVIL MOMENT FALLS BACK UPON A

MISCHIEVOUS MEMORY OF A FATHER’S ERROR INSTEAD OF A

HOLY MEMORY OF A FATHER’S EXCELLENCE. He recalls his

father’s league with the King of Syria to copy it, and adopt it, and furbish

up afresh its dishonorable conditions. He relies on that king, and forgets

to “rely on the Lord his God,” who had but so lately shown him such

wonderful deliverance. He relies on that King of Syria, and gets his work

done apparently; but it was done also but very partially, very slightly, very

temporarily, and at this immense penalty that “the host of that King of

Syria would escape out of his hand;” the meaning of which sentence was

only too plain, taught by too many an analogy. The help God gives He does

give. The help we buy of sin, of guilty compromise, of doubtful friendship,

we buy dear often to begin with; but before we have done with our

bargain, we find it dear indeed, wastefully dear, exhaustingly dear,

ruinously dear!

 

  • ASA BOUGHT HIS HELP AT GRIEVOUS AND SACRILEGIOUS

EXPENDITURE. The things he should have kept for God, His people, and

His temple and its worship, he takes from them.

 

  • ASA LOST ALL COMMAND OVER HIMSELF. He is wroth with

the faithful seer; he was “in a rage” with him for “this very thing,” that he

was faithful; he imprisons him, because he cannot imprison the truth; “and

oppresses some of the people at the same time.” All went wrong with him,

for all was wrong in him. Disease, exceeding great, overtakes him; but he

had lost moral force, for even then “he sought not to the Lord, but to the

physicians.” A long life and a very long reign close under the cloud. These

had been good in him; and though he dies an unhonored death, he goes to

a not unhonored burial and sepulcher; but they were what “he had made

for himself,” and the fragrance and perfume of which were “of the

apothecaries’ art!”

 

 

 

Lessons from Last Years (vs. 10-14)

 

We could well wish the account of the last days of Asa to have been

different from what it is. Somber clouds, casting a chill shadow, gathered

in the evening sky. Not that there was actual defection, but there was an

amount of infirmity that detracts from the honor which his earlier years

had laid up for him. We cannot help feeling:

 

  • THAT AGE IS NOT ALWAYS AS VENERABLE AS IT SHOULD BE;

not even a “good old age;” not even Christian old age. Having enjoyed

so much of privilege, and having passed through so much discipline, it

ought to exemplify the lessons it has had opportunity to learn — it ought

to be calm, pure, steadfast, reverent, godly, pervaded with a Christian

spirit. But it is not always thus. Men may be always learning, but never

wise; men may pass through a very forest of privileges and of

opportunities, and never pluck any fruit from its trees. And if we do not

gather the good which is to be gained as we go on our way through life,

we shall sink into an old age in which we have attained nothing and lost

much. We must see to it that we do grow as we live; that we are laying up

a store of wisdom and of worth that will make old age honorable and

beloved. It is sometimes bare and unbeautiful enough; but it may “still

bring forth fruit” (Psalm 92:14), and be fair to see as it stands in the

garden of the Lord.

 

  • THAT ONE FALSE STEP IS VERY LIKELY TO LEAD TO

ANOTHER. Asa, having made the serious mistake of resorting to the

Syrian king instead of trusting in the Lord, now violently resents the

rebuke of the prophet of Jehovah; and he even proceeds to an act of

positive persecution; and, having gone thus far, he goes yet further by

some acts of severity, probably directed against those who sympathized

with the imprisoned prophet. Thus wrong leads to wrong, sin to sin. It is

the constant course of things:

 

Ø      Equivocation leads to falsehood;

Ø      impurity of thought to indelicacy of speech and licentiousness of action;

Ø      sternness of spirit to cruelty of conduct;

Ø      irregularity in worship to ungodliness, etc.

 

And not only does faultiness commonly lead to sin in the same direction,

but, as in this case, it often leads to wrong-doing in another direction. When

the heart is led astray from God, and His will is disregarded in one thing, it is

only too likely that that holy will will be defied in another thing. We may

well shun the first wrong step, for we have no conception of the

consequences it may entail. A wrong act, and still more a wrong course

leaves the heart exposed to the designs of the enemy; it is often found to be

the first of a series.

 

  • THAT RECTITUDE IS PARTLY, EVEN LARGELY, A MATTER

OF PROPORTION. (v. 12.) Asa rightly enough consulted his physicians

and leaned on their professional skill; he was wrong in placing too implicit

and too great a reliance upon them; he did not remember, as he should

have done, that all human means avail nothing without the blessing of God.

He had not enough of the spirit of the psalmist in him (Psalm 33:17-21).

To trust in God and to neglect the various sources of health and

strength He offers us — this is a foolish fanaticism which will bear its

penalty in suffering and weakness. To resort to human science and to trust

it, forgetful of the truth that we can do nothing at all independently of the

Divine power — this is impiety. True godliness is found in a wise

admixture, a true proportion, of diligence and devotion, of self-reliance and

self-surrender, of accepting the help of man and looking for the blessing of

God.

 

  • THAT WE SHOULD JUDGE OUR CONTEMPORARIES, NOT BY

THE LAST THING THEY DID, BUT BY ALL THAT THEY WERE.

His subjects, when he died, did not remember against him the infirmities of

his last days; they considered what had been his character and his course all

through his long reign, and “they made a very great burning for him” (v. 14).

Here they were right. Whether they be of the living or the departed,

we should not judge our fellow men by one or two exceptional acts, which

may be unlike them and unworthy of them; but by the spirit of their life, by

the principles by which they were guided throughout, by the character they

built up.

 

 

The Career of Asa (vs. 11-14)

 

  • HIS LIFE.

 

Ø      The length of his reign. Forty-one years. His father, whose heart was

not perfect” towards God (I Kings 15:3), reigned only three years

(ch. 13:2). The Old Testament promised long life as a reward

to piety (Psalm 34:12-14). But, even without a special promise, a

religious life is calculated to prolong days. “Fear God, and keep his

commandments,” is the first rule of health.  (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

 

Ø      The incidents of his reign.

 

o        The reformation of religion (ch.14:3).

o        The building of fortresses (ibid. v. 6).

o        The preparation of an army (ibid. v. 8).

o        The defeat of Zerah the Ethiopian (ibid. v. 9).

o        The formation of a grand national covenant (ibid. ch.15:8-15).

o        The making of a league with Benhadad (here, vs. 2-4).

o        The oppression of his people (ibid. v.10).

 

Ø      The character of his reign.

 

o        Peaceful. It began with ten years of quiet (ch.14:1); and,

with the two exceptions above specified, it had no more hostile

invasions to repel.

 

o        Prosperous. Since the days of Solomon the kingdom had not

attained to such a pinnacle of excellence — of material strength

and religious consolidation — as it did under Asa.

 

  • HIS DEATH.

 

Ø      The date of it. In the forty-first year of his reign; most likely he was over

sixty at the time of his decease.

 

Ø      The cause of it. Twofold.

 

o        Disease.  Two years before his end he became diseased exceedingly in

his feet; probably with gout (Clarke, Jamiesen). Whatever its nature, it

was fatal. Disease a sure precursor of death, of which every ailment

should be a monitor.

 

o        Unbelief. Had he consulted Jehovah about his malady (the Chronicler

suggests), he might have been cured; but, as in repelling Baasha’s attack

he relied more on Benhadad than on JEHOVAH, so in his illness he

repaired to the physicians instead of to Jehovah. To infer from this that

Asa sinned in consulting a doctor, and that Christians should abstain

from calling in medical advisers when out of health, is unreasonable.

Asa’s error lay, not in consulting the physicians, but in reposing trust

in them to the exclusion of THE LORD, and, as Paul took Luke the

physician with him on his missionary journeys (Colossians 4:14;

II Timothy 4:11), it may be argued that he at least did not regard it

as inconsistent with religious principle to either give or accept medical

advice. Still, what the doctors could not do for Asa, Jehovah could have

done had He been consulted (Exodus 15:26; Psalm 91:9-12; 103:3); so

that unbelief was a real cause of Asa’s death. Perhaps it is the cause of

many deaths still. Without hinting that many practitioners are no better

than those of whom the Gospels tell (Mark 5:26; Luke 8:43), it is still

true that physicians cannot cure without the Divine blessing;

and, doubtless, in cases that is withheld, because it is not asked either

by the physician or his patient.

 

  • HIS BURIAL.

 

Ø      The place of his sepulture. The city of David, where his fathers slept

(I Kings 15:24), yet not in the general tomb of the kings, but in his

own sepulchres;” in a tomb he had specially caused to be excavated for

himself (v. 14). Joseph of Arimathaea hewed out a tomb for himself

(Luke 23:53). The first thing a Pharaoh of Egypt did on ascending the

throne was to construct for himself and descendants a royal mausoleum

(Harkness, Egyptian Life and History.’ p. 57).

 

Ø      The manner of his entombment.

 

o        His corpse was embalmed. The bed on which it was laid was filled with

sweet odors and spices of divers kinds, prepared by the apothecaries’ art.

Strictly speaking, this was only an imitation of the Egyptian practice (Keil,

Archaologie,’ §115; Riehm, art. Begrianis”). Compare the embalmments

of Jacob (Genesis 50:2) and of Jesus (John 19:39-40).

 

o        A very great burning was made for him. This burning was not of the

body (A. Clarke), which, among the Hebrews, was commonly interred —

the burning of the bodies of Saul and his sons (I Samuel 31:12) being

exceptional — but of the prepared spices. Other nations practiced similar

rites at the funerals of kings. Jehoram (ch. 21:19) and Jehoiakim

(Jeremiah 22:18-19), on account of their wickedness, were denied such

honors; Zedekiah was promised them (Jeremiah 34:5), perhaps, on

account of his misfortunes.

 

  • HIS CHARACTER.

 

Ø      A good man. His heart was perfect (ch. 15:17; I Kings15:14), if his life was not

(here, v. 10). The general tenor of his conduct was upright, though he erred

somewhat towards the close of his career. “It was thought a high eulogy on

Jehoshaphat his son that he walked in all the way of his father” (Rawlinson);

while the honors paid Asa on dying showed that his countrymen esteemed

him to have been an honorable prince. His “faults and follies” may suggest

that no man is perfect, and that “in many things we all offend.”  (James 3:2)

 

Ø      An ardent reformer. He removed the altars and the high places of the

strange gods or foreign divinities (ch. 14:3), though he left standing those

belonging to Jehovah (ch. 15:17; I Kings 15:14). He “commanded Judah to

seek the Lord God of their fathers” (ch. 14:4), and bound mere by a solemn

league and covenant so to do (ch. 15:14), though he himself, in old age,

declined a little from his early faith (here, vs. 2,12).

 

Ø      A valiant soldier. That with his piety he combined courage, his

encounter with Zerah the Ethiopian evinced. If he was genuinely good, he

was also conspicuously great.

 

 

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