1 Kings 15:17
And Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah, and built Ramah, that he might not suffer any to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) Built Ramah.—Ramah, or properly, the Ramah—the word signifying only “elevation”—is mentioned in Joshua 18:25 as a city of Benjamin, situated (see Jos. Ant. viii. 12, 3) about five miles north of Jerusalem. It is mentioned in Judges 4:5; Judges 19:13; Isaiah 10:29; Jeremiah 40:1, and is identified with the village known as Er-Ram at the present day.

This fortification of Ramah close to the hostile capital—like the fortification of Decelea, near Athens, in the Peloponnesian war—was a standing menace to Judah. Baasha, who was a military chief, seems to have been warned by the ill-success of former attempts to invade and subjugate Judah, and to have used this easier means of keeping the enemy in check, and provoking a conflict—if a conflict there was to be—on his own ground. The text, however, implies a further design to blockade the road between the kingdoms, perhaps explained by the statement, in 2Chronicles 15:9-10, of the falling away of many from Israel to Asa, now in the height of his prosperity. The new fortress was, no doubt, supported by all the military force of Israel, which Asa, in spite of his increased strength, dared not attack.

1 Kings 15:17. Baasha built Ramah — That is, repaired and fortified it. It was a city in the tribe of Benjamin, which either belonged to the kingdom of Israel, or he had taken it from Judah. That he might not suffer any to go out, &c. — That he might hinder all communication between his people and the people of Judah, and that his people might not go up to Jerusalem to worship. For this place lay in the confines of both kingdoms; and in such a strait, that a fortification being made there, none could pass to or fro without a license from Baasha.15:9-24 Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. That is right indeed which is so in God's eyes. Asa's times were times of reformation. He removed that which was evil; there reformation begins, and a great deal he found to do. When Asa found idolatry in the court, he rooted it out thence. Reformation must begin at home. Asa honours and respects his mother; he loves her well, but he loves God better. Those that have power are happy when thus they have hearts to use it well. We must not only cease to do evil, but learn to do well; not only cast away the idols of our iniquity, but dedicate ourselves and our all to God's honour and glory. Asa was cordially devoted to the service of God, his sins not arising from presumption. But his league with Benhadad arose from unbelief. Even true believers find it hard, in times of urgent danger, to trust in the Lord with all their heart. Unbelief makes way for carnal policy, and thus for one sin after another. Unbelief has often led Christians to call in the help of the Lord's enemies in their contests with their brethren; and some who once shone brightly, have thus been covered with a dark cloud towards the end of their days.Ramah (perhaps "Er-Ram;" marginal reference) was situated halfway between Bethel and Jerusalem. Its distance from Jerusalem was no more than five miles so that its occupation was a menace to that capital. Baasha's seizure of Ramah implies a previous recovery of the towns taken by Abijam from Jeroboam, namely, Bethel, Jeshanah, and Ephrain 2 Chronicles 13:19, and was a carrying of the war into the enemy's country. Could his conquest have been maintained, it would have crippled Judah seriously, and have almost compelled a transfer of the capital to Hebron.

That he might not suffer any to go out or come in - Baasha, in seizing Ramah, professed to be acting on the defensive. His complaint seems to have been well founded (compare 2 Chronicles 15:9); but it was more than a defensive measure - it was the first step toward a conquest of the southern kingdom.

16, 17. there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days—Asa enjoyed a ten years' peace after Jeroboam's defeat by Abijam, and this interval was wisely and energetically spent in making internal reforms, as well as increasing the means of national defense (2Ch 14:1-7). In the fifteenth year of his reign, however, the king of Israel commenced hostilities against him, and, invading his kingdom, erected a strong fortress at Ramah, which was near Gibeah, and only six Roman miles from Jerusalem. Afraid lest his subjects might quit his kingdom and return to the worship of their fathers, he wished to cut off all intercourse between the two nations. Ramah stood on an eminence overhanging a narrow ravine which separated Israel from Judah, and therefore he took up a hostile position in that place. Baasha went up against Judah; perceiving Asa’s great success, of which see 2Ch 14 2Ch 15, and the defection of many of his own subjects to him upon that occasion, 2 Chronicles 15:9, he began to bestir himself, and commenceth a war against him.

Built, i.e. repaired and fortified, Ramah, a city of Benjamin; which either belonged to the kingdom of Israel, from the division, (as some other places of that tribe are supposed to have done; of which See Poole "1 Kings 11:13",) or belonged to Judah, but was now invaded and taken by Baasha, and fortified.

That he might not suffer any to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah; therefore he chose this place, because it was in the way from his kingdom to Jerusalem, and, as some add, in or near the straits of the mountains, where they could easily discover and hinder all passengers that way. And Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah,.... Which, in 2 Chronicles 16:1 is said to be in the thirty sixth year of Asa's reign, or rather of his kingdom; for it can never mean the year of his reign, for Baasha was dead many years before that, since his reign began in the third of Asa, and he reigned but twenty four years, and therefore must die in the twenty seventh of Asa; but it is to be understood of the kingdom of Judah, when it was divided from Israel; from that time to this were thirty six years, seventeen under Rehoboam, three under Abijam, so that this year must be the sixteenth of Asa; thus it is calculated in the Jewish chronology (u), and which is followed by many of the best of our chronologers:

and built Ramah; a city in the tribe of Benjamin, Joshua 18:25, but taken by the king of Israel, which he rebuilt or fortified:

that he might not suffer any to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah; that his people might not go to and from Jerusalem, and worship at the temple there; this garrison lying on the borders of both kingdoms, he thought hereby to cut off all communication between them.

(u) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 16.

And Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah, and built {f} Ramah, that he might not suffer any to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah.

(f) For the same reason that Jeroboam did, because the people should not go up to Jerusalem, least they follow Asa.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. went up against Judah and built Ramah] This act of Baasha’s shews us that Israel must by this time have recovered some of the power and territory which had been taken from them in Jeroboam’s reign (2 Chronicles 13:19). Ramah, though lying in the hill country of Ephraim, was among the places allotted to the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:25), so that it must have been very near to Jerusalem, and to make a fortress of it, as Baasha was now doing, was like making a blockade of Jerusalem, a condition which is described in the words which immediately follow.Verse 17. - And Baasha, king of Israel, went up against Judah [This statement probably refers to the reconquest of the three cities which Abijah had taken from Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 13:19), as Ramah could hardly have been rebuilt whilst Bethel remained in the hands of Judah], and built Ramah [Heb. the Ramah, i.e., "the elevation," or "high place." Now er Ram ( = the height), in Benjamin (Joshua 18:25; Judges 19:18, 14), five miles distant from Jerusalem, near the frontier of the two territories, and also then, as now, on the great north road. It was the key, consequently, to both kingdoms. Hence the struggles to possess it, vers, 21, 22; 2 Chronicles 16:1, etc.], that he might not suffer any to go out [Heb. not to give any going out, etc.] or come in to Asa, king of Judah. [The object of Baasha in fortifying this place is evident. It was not merely to have an advanced post as a menace to Jerusalem (Rawlinson), but primarily, by its command of the high road, to prevent his subjects from falling away to the kingdom of Judah, or even from going up to Jerusalem to worship; in fact, to isolate Judah and to blockade its capital. That there was a great defection to Ass at this time we know from 2 Chronicles 15:9. This was an exodus which Baasha felt must be checked. Blunt ("Coincidences," pp. 176-8) has happily shown from 2 Chronicles 16:6, etc., how the primary object must have been to "stop the alarming drainage of all that was virtuous out of their borders." Rawlinson sees in the fortification of this place "the first step towards a conquest of the southern kingdom." But as to this the text is silent, or rather it assigns an entirely different reason.] As ruler Asa walked in the ways of his pious ancestor David: he banished the male prostitutes out of the land, abolished all the abominations of idolatry, which his fathers (Abijam and Rehoboam) had introduced, deposed his grandmother Maacah from the rank of a queen, because she had made herself an idol for the Ashera, and had the idol hewn in pieces and burned in the valley of the Kidron. גּלּלים is a contemptuous epithet applied to idols (Leviticus 26:30); it does not mean stercorei, however, as the Rabbins affirm, but logs, from גּלל, to roll, or masses of stone, after the Chaldee גּלל (Ezra 5:8; Ezra 6:4), generally connected with שׁקּצים. It is so in Deuteronomy 29:16. מפלצת, formido, from פּלץ, terrere, timere, hence an idol as an object of fear, and not pudendum, a shameful image, as Movers (Phniz. i. p. 571), who follows the Rabbins, explains it, understanding thereby a Phallus as a symbol of the generative and fructifying power of nature. With regard to the character of this idol, nothing further can be determined than that it was of wood, and possibly a wooden column like the אשׁרים (see at 1 Kings 14:23). "But the high places departed not," i.e., were not abolished. By the בּמות we are not to understand, according to 1 Kings 15:12, altars of high places dedicated to idols, but unlawful altars to Jehovah. It is so in the other passages in which this formula recurs (1 Kings 22:24; 2 Kings 12:4; 2 Kings 14:4; 2 Kings 15:4; and the parallel passages 2 Chronicles 15:17; 2 Chronicles 20:33). The apparent discrepancy between the last-mentioned passages and 2 Chronicles 14:2, 2 Chronicles 14:4, and 2 Chronicles 17:6, may be solved very simply on the supposition that the kings (Asa and Jehoshaphat) did indeed abolish the altars on the high places, but did not carry their reforms in the nation thoroughly out; and not by distinguishing between the bamoth dedicated to Jehovah and those dedicated to idols, as Thenius, Bertheau, and Caspari, with many of the earlier commentators, suppose. For although 2 Chronicles 14:2 is very favourable to this solution, since both בּמות and הגּכר dna בּמו מזבּחות are mentioned there, it does not accord with 2 Chronicles 17:6, where הבּמות cannot be merely idolatrous altars dedicated to the Canaanitish Baal, but unquestionably refer to the unlawful altars of Jehovah, or at any rate include them. Moreover, the next clause in the passage before us, "nevertheless Asa's heart was wholly given to the Lord," shows that the expression סרוּ לא סרוּ nois does not mean that the king allowed the unlawful Jehovah-bamoth to remain, but simply that, notwithstanding his fidelity to Jehovah, the bamoth did not depart, so that he was unable to carry the abolition of them thoroughly out.
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