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.
Verse 1. - 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 (2 Chronicles 13:19). The reference of Isaiah 10:28, 29, 82 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.
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,
Verse 2. - 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 men. The parallel (1 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.
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.
Verse 3. - 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 Area thought to take now to his object was not the safe nor right one.
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.
Verse 4. - 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 (2 Chronicles 15:18; and parallel, 1 Kings 15:15), was probably large. His method was to create a diversion in favour 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 (2 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 17:29; 20:1). Abel-maim. This place was situate at the foot of the Lebanon; in the parallel (1 Kings 15:20) it is called Abel-beth-maachah. It is again mentioned as attacked by Tiglath-Pileser, who wrested it from Pekah (2 Kings 15:29). In 2 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; Joshua 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 2 Chronicles 32:28; 2 Chronicles 8:6 and its parallel, 1 Kings 9:19).
And it came to pass, when Baasha heard it, that he left off building of Ramah, and let his work cease.
Verse 5. - 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.
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.
Verse 6. - The affair seems thus to have come to an unbloody termination. The parallel (1 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 (1 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 2 Kings 25:22-26; Jeremiah 40:5-41:18).
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.
Verses 7, 8. 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 (1 Kings 16:1, 7) and to Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 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 (2 Chronicles 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" (see particularly same Hebrew verb used of a bird escaped in Psalm 124:7).
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.
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.
Verse 9. - 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?
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.
Verse 10. - 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 1 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."
And, behold, the acts of Asa, first and last, lo, they are written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.
Verse 11. - This verse, with the following three, is represented by the very summarized but sufficiently significant parallel of 1 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.
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.
Verse 12. - 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!
And Asa slept with his fathers, and died in the one and fortieth year of his reign.
Verse 13. - 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 (1 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, 2 Kings 22:1; 2 Kings 24:1-3). 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 (2 Chronicles 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.
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.
Verse 14. - In his own sepulchres; Hebrew, קִבְרֹתָין; fem. plur. 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 masc. plur. is used, קְבָרִים לִי. In the city of David (see note on 2 Chronicles 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 doubt-leas led to the analogy by considerations mere 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 odours; 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 Vermon "spices" twenty-four times, "sweet cinnamon" once, "sweet calamus" once, and "sweet odours" or "sweet smell" three times. The chief and determining references are those in Exodus 25:6; Exodus 30:23; Exodus 35:8, 28. And divers kinds; Hebrew, וּזְנִים; plur. of זַן; from the root, זָנַן; unused, but probably one with an Amble 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; Exodus 37:29; 1 Chronicles 9:30; Ecclesiastes 10:1); and in hiph. infin. 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 skilfully 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 1 Samuel 31:12, 13 (comp. 2 Samuel 21:10-12; 1 Chronicles 10:12), but the burning of spices, indicated by the language of our 2 Chronicles 21:19 and Jeremiah 34:5.