2 Chronicles 14:3
For he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves:
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2 Chronicles 14:3. He took away the altars of the strange gods — Since the time when Solomon admitted idolatry, in the latter end of his reign, it appears, nothing had been done till now to suppress it; so that it may be presumed it had gained ground. Strange gods were worshipped, and had their altars, images, and groves: and the temple-service, though kept up by the priests, was neglected by many of the people. As soon as Asa had power in his hands, he made it his business to destroy those idolatrous altars and images, they being a great provocation to the jealous God, and a great temptation to a careless and unthinking people. He hoped, by destroying the idols, to reform the idolaters, which he had in view, and not their destruction.

14:1-15 Asa's piety, He strengthens his kingdom. - Asa aimed at pleasing God, and studied to approve himself to him. Happy those that walk by this rule, not to do that which is right in their own eyes, or in the eye of the world, but which is so in God's sight. We find by experience that it is good to seek the Lord; it gives us rest; while we pursue the world, we meet with nothing but vexation. Asa consulted with his people how to make a good use of the peace they enjoyed; and concluded with them that they must not be idle, nor secure. A formidable army of Ethiopians invaded Asa's kingdom. This evil came upon them, that their faith in God might be tried. Asa's prayer is short, but it is the real language of faith and expectation from God. When we go forth in God's name, we cannot but prosper, and all things work together for the good of those whom he favours.Asa his son reigned - If Rehoboam was (1 Kings 12:8 note) not more than 21 years old at his accession, Asa, when he mounted the throne, must have been a mere boy, not more than 10 or 11 years of age.

The land was quiet ten years - The great blow struck by Abijah 2 Chronicles 13:15-19, his alliance with Syria 1 Kings 15:19, and the rapid succession of sovereigns in Israel during the earlier part of Asa's reign 1 Kings 15:25-33, would naturally prevent disturbance on the part of the northern kingdom. The tender age of Asa himself would be a bar to warlike enterprises on the part of Judah.

3. brake down the images—of Baal (see on [436]2Ch 34:4; [437]Le 26:30).

cut down the groves—rather, "Asherim."

No text from Poole on this verse.

For he took away the altars of the strange gods,.... Or of a strange people, of the Zidonians, Ammonites, and Moabites, which had remained from the times of Solomon, and which he built for his wives, 1 Kings 11:7.

and the high places; built for idols; for as for those on which the true God was worshipped, they were not removed in his days, 1 Kings 15:14.

and brake down the images: or statues, or pillars, erected to the honour of idols, and on which the images of them were placed:

and cut down the groves; in the midst of which they stood.

For he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the {a} groves:

(a) Which were planted contrary to the Law, De 16:21.

3. the altars of the strange gods] R.V. the strange altars.

the images] R.V. the pillars, LXX. τὰς στήλας. The “pillar” or “obelisk,” Heb. Maçççbâh, was a monolith standing by an altar as a symbol of the god worshipped at the altar. In later days an image took the place of the pillar, i.e. the mere symbol was succeeded by the likeness of the god. (W. R. Smith, Religion of the Semites, p. 203 ff.)

and cut down the groves] R.V. and hewed down the Asherim. An Ashêrah (pl. Ashêrim and Ashêroth) was probably a wooden pole which was planted beside an altar as the symbol of a deity. It appears to have been a survival of tree-worship, as the Maçççbâh was a survival of stone-worship. The ashêrah of itself did not represent any particular deity, but it could be carved to bear the symbol of any special god or goddess, e.g. of Astarte. (W. R. Smith, Religion of the Semites, p. 186 ff.)

Verse 3. - 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. Comp. ver. 5 and 2 Chronicles 15:17, which says, "But the high places were not taken away out of Israel;" and 1 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 (2 Chronicles 17:6; 2 Chronicles 20:33), in case these may reflect any light on the question. Firstly, we will remove out of our way the parallel in 1 Kings 15:14, with the observation that it is evident from its immediate context that it corresponds with the last statement of our Chronicles (2 Chronicles 15:17), savouring of a retrospective summarizing of the compiler, not with the first statements (2 Chronicles 14:3, 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 vers. 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. Ver. 3 finds Asa as much master of "Judah" as ver. 5. Therefore the natural interpretation of ver. 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 2 Chronicles 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 (2 Chronicles 17:7 compared with 2 Chronicles 20:33), and we find there that the very key with which to unlock the difficulty is provided to our hand. Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:6) "took away the high places;" "the people" (2 Chronicles 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 1 Kings 15:14! "Nevertheless Asa's heart was perfect with the Lord all his days;" and with our 2 Chronicles 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 people's 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 2 Kings 3:2; 2 Kings 10:26, 27, with his name expressed; and in 2 Chronicles 18:4; 2 Chronicles 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 red (Zechariah 11:10), of an arm (1 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, ἄλσος; 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 cf. 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" (1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 17:10; see also 1 Kings 15:13; 2 Kings 21:7; 2 Kings 23:6; 2 Chronicles 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 Judges 2:13; 10:6; 1 Samuel 7:4); 1 Kings 18:19; 2 Kings 21:3; 2 Kings 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, 2 Chronicles 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" (2 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). 2 Chronicles 14:3Asa's efforts for the abolition of idolatry and the establishment of the kingdom. - 2 Chronicles 14:1-4. The good and right in God's eyes which Asa did is further defined in 2 Chronicles 14:2-4. He abolished all the objects of the idolatrous worship. The "altars of the strangers" are altars consecrated to foreign gods; from them the בּמות, high places, are distinguished-these latter being illegal places of sacrifice connected with the worship of Jahve (see on 1 Kings 15:14). The מצּבוה are the statues or monumental columns consecrated to Baal, and אשׁרים the wooden idols, tree-trunks, or trees, which were consecrated to Astarte (see on 1 Kings 14:23 and Deuteronomy 16:21). Asa at the same time commanded the people to worship Jahve, the God of the fathers, and to follow the law.
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