Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
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.XVI.
THE WAR WITH BAASHA—(2Chronicles 16:1-6).
Comp. 1Kings 15:17-22.
(1) In the six and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa Baasha king of Israel came up.—According to 1Kings 15:33; 1Kings 16:8, Baasha began to reign in the third year of Asa, reigned twenty-four years, and died in the twenty-sixth year of Asa. These statements are obviously irreconcilable with that of our verse. We must suppose either that the chronicler has accepted a different calculation from that of the Kings—a calculation which he may have found in one of his documents; or that the text here is unsound, and thirty-six has been substituted by an error of transcription for sixteen, or twenty-six; and that in 2Chronicles 15:19 by a similar mistake thirty-five has taken the place of fifteen or twenty-five. Upon the whole, the latter alternative appears preferable; and if we assume twenty-five and twenty-six to be the correct numerals, we get the following chronology for the reign :—First, ten years of peace (2Chronicles 14:1), during which Asa strengthened his defences (2Chronicles 14:6-8); then the invasion of Zerah, at what precise date is not clear, but at some time between the eleventh and the fifteenth year (2Chronicles 14:9; 2Chronicles 15:10); then the reformation of religion and renewal of the covenant in Asa’s fifteenth year (2Chronicles 15:10); and lastly, another ten years of peace, until the outbreak of the war with Baasha, in the twenty-fifth or twenty-sixth year.
The idea of the ancient commentators, that the phrase “five and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa” might mean “five and thirtieth year of the kingdom of Judah,” is absurd. The phrase “bishnath . . . lemalkûth” always denotes the year of a king’s reign, not of the duration of his kingdom. (See 2Chronicles 16:12 infra.)
And built Ramah.—Er-Râm, about five miles north of Jerusalem. Baasha had probably retaken the cities annexed by Abijah. (See on 2Chronicles 15:8.)
Built = fortified it. (See 1Kings 15:17 for the rest of the verse.)
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,(2) Then Asa brought out silver and gold.—This verse is abridged as compared with 1Kings 15:18, but the substance of it is the same. The differences are characteristic. In the first clause Kings reads: “And Asa took all the silver and the gold that were left in the treasures of the house of the Lord.” The chronicler has purposely weakened this statement. He has also omitted the pedigree of Benhahad (“ben Ta- brimmôn ben Hezyôn”), and written the Aramaizing form Darmeseq for Dammèseg. (Syriac, Darmĕsûq.)
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 depart from me.(3) There is a league.—Bĕrîth, “covenant.” The verse is the same as 1Kings 15:19, omitting the word “a present” before “silver and gold,” and making two or three other minute verbal changes.
Depart.—Go up. See the Notes on Kings.
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.(4) Abel-maim.—Kings, “Abel - beth - maachah” (comp. 2Samuel 20:14-15, and 2Kings 15:29). This city is nowhere else called Abel-maim, which is, per haps, an early mistake. The Syriac reads Abel-beth- maachah.
And all the store-cities (miskĕnôth, 2Chronicles 8:4).—Literally, And all the stores (magazines) of the cities of Naphtali. Kings: “And all Cinneroth, with all the land of Naphtali.” Cinneroth is mentioned (Joshua 19:35) as a town of Naphtali, and the Sea of Galilee was called the Sea of Cinneroth (Joshua 12:3). Probably the fertile district west of the lake was also called Cinneroth, and this was the country which Benhadad’s army laid waste. The present reading of Chronicles may be either a mere textual corruption, or a paraphrase of that of Kings. Some critics assume its originality, which is less likely. We prefer to regard it as a paraphrase or explanation.
And it came to pass, when Baasha heard it, that he left off building of Ramah, and let his work cease.(5) And it came to pass.—See 1Kings 15:21.
And let his work cease.—Vay-yashbêth ’ethmelakhtô. Kings: “vay-yêsheb bëthirzah, “and dwelt in Tirzah.” The partial similarity of the Heb. is obvious. Kings appears to be correct, and the tautologous reading of the chronicler is to be ascribed to a fault in the writer’s MS.
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.(6) Then.—And.
Asa the king took all Judah.—1Kings 15:22 : “And the king Asa called together all Judah; none was exempted.” The chronicler has modified an obscure sentence. The rest of the verse coincides with Kings, save that the latter reads “Geba of Benjamin.”
Mizpah.—Jeremiah 41:9-10, mentions a great cistern which Asa made in Mizpah “for fear of Baasha king of Israel.”
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.HANANI THE SEER REBUKES ASA, AND IS IMPRISONED
(7) Hanani the seer.—Ha-rô’eh. (See on 1Samuel 9:9.) The use of this term seems to point to an ancient source of this narrative which is peculiar to the chronicler. Nothing beyond what is here told is known of Hanani. He was perhaps the father of the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani, who prophesied against Baasha (1Kings 16:1 sqq.) and rebuked Jehoshaphat (2Chronicles 19:2).
Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria.—Hanani’s words are in perfect accord with the teachings of the greater prophets, a fact which favours their authenticity. (Comp. Isaiah 30:2; Isaiah 30:7; Isaiah 30:15 sqq., Isaiah 31:1; Isaiah 31:3; Jeremiah 17:5; Hosea 5:13; Hosea 7:11; Hosea 8:9; Hosea 12:1.)
Therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand.—Asa had doubtless been afraid that Benhadad would co-operate with Baasha his ally in hostilities against Judah, and therefore bribed the Syrian king at the expense of the Temple treasury (2Chronicles 16:3). This politic act secured its object, but from the prophetic point of view such success was no better than loss and failure; for it had deprived Asa of an assured triumph over the combined forces of Israel and Syria. Not only the defeat of Baasha’s schemes, but victory over his formidable ally, would have been conceded to faith (comp. 2Kings 13:14-19). The Syriac renders, “Therefore shall the army of Adûm (Aram) fly from thee.” Then follows the curious addition: “And they shall go, and become strong, they and the Hindoos [Hendewoye], and the kings that are with them, and they shall become armies and chariots and horsemen, a great multitude; and when thou shalt ask of the Lord God, He will deliver them into thy hands.” It continues: “Because the eyes of the Lord see in all the earth. And show yourselves strong, and let your heart be devoted to his fear, and understand ye all his wonders, because the Lord your God maketh war for you. And Asa was wroth against the Seer, and put him in the prison, because he told what he saw not, and stirred the heart of the people.” So also the Arabic.
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.(8) Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims (Kûshîm and Lûbîm) a huge host?—An instance confirming what was said in 2Chronicles 16:7. Cushites and Lybians were banded together in Zerah’s great army, just as Syrians and Israelites might have united in assailing Judah, yet the victory had fallen to Asa (2Chronicles 14:9-15).
Cushites and Libyans were among the constituents of Shishak’s army (2Chronicles 12:3). Clearly, therefore, Zerah was master of Egypt.
(The Heb. of this and next verse is unmistakably the chronicler’s own. Literally it runs: “Did not the Cushites and the Libyans come to an army, to abundance, (as) to chariots and to horsemen, to abounding greatly?”)
Neither the Libyan contingent nor the horsemen are mentioned in 2 Chronicles 14. Apparently the writer is making extracts from fuller sources.
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.(9) For the eyes of the Lord.—Literally, For Jehovah, his eyes run, &c. Run to and fro (comp. Job 1:7; Job 2:2). In Zechariah 4:10 we find this very phrase: “The eyes of Jehovah, they run to and fro in all the earth.” (Comp. also Jeremiah 5:1.) The Lord is ceaselessly watchful for occasions of helping the faithful. “He that keepeth Israel neither slumbereth nor sleep-eth.”
In the behalf of.—With, i.e., on the side of. The phrase “to shew oneself strong with,” i.e., strongly to support, occurred in 1Chronicles 11:10. (For the Heb. construction, which omits the relative, see 1Chronicles 15:12). Out of the twenty-seven occurrences of the form hithchazzaq, “to show oneself strong,” fifteen are found in the Chronicle.
Therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.—Instead of peace (2Chronicles 14:6; 2Chronicles 15:15). Liter-ally, For (the proof of thy folly) from henceforth, &c. The sense appears to be that the peace secured by Asa’s worldly policy would not be permanent; a prediction verified over and over again in the after-history of the kingdom of Judah (see 2Chronicles 28:20-21). The record is silent as to any future wars in which Asa himself was involved, simply because the writer, having already fulfilled his didactic purpose so far as concerns this reign, presently draws its history to a close.
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.(10) Then.—And. In a prison house: in the stocks. Literally, House of the stocks (Jeremiah 20:2, Jer_29:26). The word mahpèkheth literally means “turning,” “distortion,” and so an instrument of torture, by which the body was bent double, hands and feet being passed through holes in a wooden frame. (See Acts 16:24.) The Syriac and LXX. have simply “prison;” Vulgate, “nervus,” i.e., stocks. (Comp. the similar behaviour of Ahab to the prophet Michaiah, 1Kings 22:26-27.)
Because of this thing=“Herein” of 2Chronicles 16:9.
The same time.—At that time.
Some of the people.—Those who sympathised with Hanani. Asa suppressed their murmurs with violence.
And, behold, the acts of Asa, first and last, lo, they are written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.CONCLUSION OF THE REIGN (2Chronicles 16:11-14).
Comp. 1Kings 15:23-24.
(11) The acts of Asa.—Or, history.
The book of the kings of Judah and Israel.—See Introduction, and 1Kings 15:23. The mention in that verse of his “might” or “prowess,” and of “the cities that he built,” confirms the account in 2 Chronicles 14 concerning his defensive measures and the invasion of Zerah.
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.(12) Diseased in his feet.—1Kings 15:23, “only in the time of his old age he was diseased in his feet.” The nature of the disease is not specified here or in Kings.
Until his disease was exceeding great.—Unto excess was his disease: ‘ad lĕmà’lah, a clause added by the chronicler (see on 1Chronicles 22:5).
Yet.—And also in his disease, as well as in his war with Baasha.
He sought not to the Lord.—Omit to.
But to the physicians.—The preposition is expressed here (comp. 1Chronicles 10:13-14; 2Kings 1:2). Asa, like Ahaziah, neglected to consult Jehovah through his priests, and preferred to trust in the “Healers” of his day, whose art of healing probably consisted in the use of magical appliances, such as amulets, charms, and exorcisms, as we may infer from the analogous practices of Babylon and Assyria. It is not to be supposed that Israel was more enlightened in such matters than the nations to which it owed so large a share of its civilisation, or, indeed, than Christian England of the seventeenth century.
And Asa slept with his fathers, and died in the one and fortieth year of his reign.(13) And died in the one and fortieth year of his reign.—Not in 1Kings 15:24, which continues, with the usual formula, “and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father, and Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his stead.” (See 1Kings 15:10, “And forty and one years reigned he in Jerusalem.”)
And they buried him in his own sepulchres, which he had made for himself in the city of David, and laid him in the bed which was filled with sweet odours and divers kinds of spices prepared by the apothecaries' art: and they made a very great burning for him.(14) And they buried him.—The particulars of this verse are also added by the chronicler.
In his own sepulchres.—Not therefore in the ordinary tombs of the Kings. The plural sepulchres indicates a family tomb containing many cells.
Which was filled.—Literally, which one had filled.
Prepared by the apothecaries’ art.—Literally, Compounded in a compound of work (art). The participle mĕruqqah only occurs here. The word rendered compound means an ointment or compost of various spices (1Chronicles 9:30). The full phrase “compound of the work of the compounder” occurs Exodus 30:25; Exodus 30:35.
And they made.—Literally, And they burned.
Very.—‘Ad limeôd. Only here, a later equivalent of ‘ad mcud (Genesis 27:33). The burning of aromatic woods and spices was usual at the obsequies of kings (see 2Chronicles 21:19; Jeremiah 34:5, and Note on 1Chronicles 10:12). Asa’s distinction as a wealthy and powerful monarch, and the high esteem with which his subjects regarded him, are indicated by the extraordinary amount of spices burnt in his honour. There is no ground for supposing that the chronicler blames “the exaggerated splendour and lavish excess with which this custom was observed at the burial of Asa, as if it were the burial of an Egyptian Pharaoh” (Zöckler). His account of the splendour of Solomon proves that he delighted to dwell on the glory of the ancient kings of his people.