Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
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.XIV.
(1) So Abijah slept . . . in his stead.—Verbatim as 1Kings 15:8 (Abijam).
In his days the land was quiet ten years.—Mentioned here as a result of Abijah’s great victory. “The land was quiet,” or “had rest” (Judges 3:11; Judges 5:31). The phrase is explained in 2Chronicles 14:6, “He had no war in those years.”
And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God:REIGN OF ASA (2 Chronicles 14-16.)
(2) That which was good and right.—Literally, The good and the right, an expression defined in 2Chronicles 14:3-4. It is used of Hezekiah, 2Chronicles 31:20. See 1Kings 15:11, “And Asa did the right in the eyes of the Lord, like David his father.”
For (and) . . . the altars of the strange gods.—Literally, altars of the alien. Vulg., “altaria peregrini cultus.” Comp. the expression, gods of the alien (Gen. xxxv, 2, 4). (Comp. 1Kings 15:12 b, and he took away all the idols that his fathers had made; a summary statement, which is here expanded into details.) But both here and in 2Chronicles 12:1-2, the chronicler has omitted to mention the qedēshîm (Authorised Version, “Sodomites”) (1Kings 15:12 a)
And the high places.—i.e., those dedicated to foreign religions. It is clear from 2Chronicles 15:17, as well as 1Kings 15:14, that high places dedicated to the worship of Jehovah were not done away with by Asa.
Brake down the images.—Brake in pieces (or shattered) the pillars. They were dedicated to Baal, and symbolised the solar rays, being, no doubt, a species of obelisk. (See Genesis 28:18; Exodus 34:13; Judges 3:7.)
The “high places, images, and groves” of this verse are all mentioned in 1Kings 14:23.
And commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment.(4) And commanded Judah to seek.—‘amar with infinitive. (Comp. 1Chronicles 21:17.) The chronicler’s own style is visible in this verse.
To seek the Lord God of their fathers.—The same phrase recurs in 2Chronicles 15:12.
And the images.—Hammanîm. (Comp. the word hammah, “sun.”) Pillars or statues to the sun-god, standing before or upon the altars of Baal, are intended (see Leviticus 26:30; Isaiah 17:8; 2Chronicles 34:4.) Comp. the Phenician deity Baal-hamman.
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.(6) And he built fenced cities.—See 2Chronicles 11:5; 2Chronicles 12:4; and for the expression “had given him rest,” 2Samuel 7:1.
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.(7) Therefore.—And.
These cities.—The “fenced cities” of last verse. Their names are unknown. Geba and Mizpah were fortified by Asa; but that was after the war with Baasha, which began in the twenty-sixth year of Asa (1Kings 15:33); see 2Chronicles 16:6. A general system of defence, like that of Rehoboam, who fortified as many as fifteen cities, seems to be indicated.
While the land is yet before us.—Is open to us, free from hostile occupation. The phrase is apparently borrowed from Genesis 13:9. (Is yet, ‘odennû, masculine pronoun, instead of feminine; probably a clerical error). Omit while, and put a stop at bars. “The land is still before us, for we have sought the Lord,” appears to be the connection of thought.
So they built and prospered—i.e., built prosperously, without let or hindrance.
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 valour.(8) Targets and spears.—Shield (or buckler) and lance. The large shield is meant (see 2Chronicles 9:15). The same phrase is used to describe the warriors of Judah. (1Chronicles 12:24.)
That bare shields—i.e., the short or round shield (2Chronicles 9:16).
Three hundred thousand . . . two hundred and fourscore thousand.—A total of 580,000, warriors. (Comp. Abijah’s 400,000, 2Chronicles 13:3.) The entire male population capable of bearing arms must be included in these high figures. Of course, such a thing as a standing army of this strength is not to be thought of.
(b) INVASION OF THE CUSHITE ZERAH, AND HIS SIGNAL OVERTHROW (2Chronicles 14:9-15)—This Section has no Parallel in Kings.
And there came out against them Zerah the Ethiopian with an host of a thousand thousand, and three hundred chariots; and came unto Mareshah.(9) Against them.—Against the army described in last verse. Literally, unto them (Genesis 4:8; Judges 12:3).
Zerah the Ethiopian.—Heb., ha-Kûshî. (See Note on 1Chronicles 1:8 [Cush].) Zerah is identified with Osorchon II., hieroglyphic Uasarken, who succeeded Shishak as king of Egypt. The name of this king is curiously like that of Sargon, the great Assyrian conqueror of the eighth century. (See Note on 2Chronicles 12:2.) The object of the expedition appears to have been to bring Judah again under the yoke of Egypt. Shishak had made Rehoboam tributary (2Chronicles 12:8), after reducing his fortresses and plundering Jerusalem. But now Asa had restored the defences of his country, and apparently reorganised the fighting material; steps indicating a desire for national independence.
A thousand thousand.—This very large and symmetrical number would probably be best represented in English by an indefinite expression, like “myriads.” It is otherwise out of all proportion to the three hundred chariots, which last seems a correct datum. Syriac and Arabic say “20,000 chariots.”
Mareshah.—One of the fortresses of Rehoboam (2Chronicles 11:8). It lay in the lowland of Judah, about twenty-six miles south-west of Jerusalem.
Then Asa went out against him, and they set the battle in array in the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah.(10) Then.—And.
In the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah.—This valley is not identified. The LXX. reads: ἐν τῇ φάραγγι κατὰ βορρᾶν Μαρισης, “in the ravine north of Mareshah.” This would involve a change of one letter in the present Hebrew. [Çaphônah “northward,” for Ç’phathah.] Syriac and Arabic, “in the wady of Mareshah.”
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 not man prevail against thee.(11) Lord, it is nothing to thee . . . have no power.—Rather, Lord, there is none beside, or like literally, along witli] thee to help between strong and powerless, i.e., in an unequal conflict to interpose with help for the weaker side. Between strong and [literally, to] ‘powerless. The same construction occurs Genesis 1:6, “between waters to waters.” Others assume between . . . to, to mean whether . . . or, which would be in accordance with Rabbinic rather than ancient usage. A very plausible view is that of Kamphausen, who proposes to read la’çôr for la‘zôr (“to retain strength” for “to help”), an expression which actually occurs at the end of the verse, and to render the whole: “Lord, it is not for any to retain (strength) with (i.e., to withstand) Thee, whether strong or powerless.” (Comp. 2Chronicles 13:20; 1Chronicles 29:14). The Syriac paraphrases thus: “Thou art our Lord, the helper of thy people. When thou shalt deliver a great army into the hands of a few, then all the inhabitants of the world will know that we rightly trust in thee.” This is much more like a Targum than a translation. The difficulty of the text is evaded, not explained.
We rest.—Rely (2Chronicles 13:18).
We go.—We are come.
This multitude.—Hāmôn; a term used of Jeroboam’s army (2Chronicles 13:8), and usually denoting an armed multitude.
Let not man prevail.—Literally, Let not mortal man retain (strength) with thee.
With.—Against, as in the phrase “to fight with.”
So the LORD smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah; and the Ethiopians fled.(12) So the Lord smote . . . before Judah.—(Comp. 2Chronicles 13:15-16.) Thenius remarks that the words of 1Kings 15:15, about the spoils dedicated by Asa, help to establish the chronicler’s accounts of this victory and that of Abijah.
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.(13) Pursued them unto Gerar.—(Genesis 20:1.) Kirbet-el-Gerar, in the Wady Gerar, about eight miles S.S.E. of Gaza, on the route to Egypt (LXX. Gedor).
And the Ethiopians were overthrown, that they could not recover themselves.—Literally, And there fell of Kushites until they had no revival, or survival (Ezra 9:8-9). The latter seems preferable, as a vivid hyperbole, like 2Kings 19:35, “When men arose in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.” So Vulg., “usque ad internecionem.”
Before his host.—Or camp. Asa’s army is the Lord’s army.
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.(14) And they smote all the cities round about Gerar.—Philistine cities hostile to Judah. Perhaps they had helped Zerah.
Spoil.—Plunder, booty. Heb. bizzah, a late word, occurring Ezekiel 29:19. The word in the last verse was shālāl, a classical expression.
They smote also the tents of cattle, and carried away sheep and camels in abundance, and returned to Jerusalem.(15) They smote also the tents of cattle.—And cattle tents (or encampments), also they smote, i.e., hordes of nomad Bedawin whom they encountered in the desert about Gerar. (Comp. 1Chronicles 4:41, “smote their tents.”)
Sheep and camels in abundance.—Sheep in abundance, and camels. The LXX. adds, καὶ τοὺς αλιμαζονεις, apparently as the name of a tribe. Syriac and Arabic render, “And the tents of the Arabs.”