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2 Chronicles 13:1-16:14 – Abijah and Asa

Summary

Two kings illustrate the necessity of reliance upon the Lord for the Chronicler, whose favorable judgment on Abijah is at odds with that of Kings, where he is known as Abijam. His famous speech (13:4-12) is often seen as the clearest exposition of the Chronicler's distinctive theology. Asa begins his reign trusting in God and is successful. The closing portion of his reign, however, illustrates the dire consequences of Asa's lack of trust.

Analysis

The fivefold repetition of the verb "rely" (13:18; 14:11; 16:7 [twice], 8), unique to chapters 13-16, suggests that the reigns of Abijah and Asa are to be treated as a unit concerned with reliance upon God. In contrast to the utter condemnation of Abijah/Abijam in 1 Kings 15:3-6, the Chronicler uses Abijah, foolish Rehoboam's son and successor, as illustrative of the faithful king whose address (2 Chronicles 13:4-12) has long been seen as a compendium of the Chronicler's theological themes: David's throne, Solomon's temple, and "all Israel."

This famous address clearly differentiates between Israel (addressed as "you" in verses 5-9) and Judah (the "we" of verses 10-12a):
  • Judah is ruled by a descendant of David whom God chose by a "covenant of salt" (v. 5). The covenant of salt refers to God's promise to the Aaronide priests (Numbers 18:19) and attests the eternal nature of God's election of David's house. Israel, however, by following Jeroboam's rebellion, has rejected God (2 Chronicles 13:5-8a).
  • Judah continues to worship in the Jerusalem temple led by priests who are descendants of Aaron and attended by Levites. Israel, however, by driving out the priests and worshiping Jeroboam's golden calves, has once again abandoned God (8b-12a).
As a result of Rehoboam's foolish handling of Jeroboam's rebellion, both north and south have fallen short of the Chronicler's ideal. But now, with a pious Davidic king on the throne and proper worship in the Jerusalem temple, there was no need for Israel to continue its understandable rebellion (v. 12b). Abijah here invites the north to return, reconstituting "all Israel" as in the days of the united monarchy of David and Solomon. Hezekiah will later offer a similar invitation to the north following the fall of Samaria to the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E. (2 Chronicles 30:6-9).

The rest of the text illustrates Abijah's reliance upon God. Despite being outnumbered two to one (2 Chronicles 13:3) and outflanked (v. 13), the Judean forces succeed "because they relied on the LORD" (v. 18). The victory provides tangible proof that Abijah's address had correctly assessed the situation.

The theme of reliance continues with the account of Asa (14:2-16:14). Within these chapters, two Hebrew roots of crucial importance to the Chronicler, each meaning "to seek" (darash and biqqesh), appear a total of nine times (darash: 14:4, 7 [twice]; 15:2, 12, 13; 16:12; biqqesh: 15:4, 15). The Chronicler may have been troubled by references in his source to a foreign alliance with Ben-Hadad of Damascus (1 Kings 15:19) and Asa's diseased feet (1 Kings 15:23), both of which seemed to contradict the evaluation that Asa's heart "was true to the LORD all his days" (2 Kings 15:14). To resolve the contradiction, the Chronicler has recast his account of Asa into two periods: one typifying the blessings of faithfulness (14:2-15:19) and a second typifying the consequences of apostasy (16:1-14). The Chronicler frequently recasts the reigns of kings in this way when he disagrees with the evaluation offered in his source (see Rehoboam, Joash, Amaziah, and Uzziah for examples of good kings gone bad; and Manasseh, the only example of a bad king gone good).

Another of the Chronicler's favorite techniques, concentric arrangement of material, highlights the contrasts for us: At the heart of the text is the contrast between Asa's covenant renewal (2 Chronicles 15:9-19) and his disastrous covenant ("alliance," NRSV) with Ben-Hadad (16:1-3). This contrast is flanked by the positive elements of his victory over Zerah and the Ethiopians (a direct consequence of his "reliance" upon God) and his religious reforms in response to Azariah's prophetic word (14:8-15:8), and by the negative contrast of his later lack of "reliance" and Hanani's prophetic rebuke (16:7-10). Framing the whole is the stark contrast between the report of Asa's prosperity as a result of seeking the Lord (14:1b-8) and the report of his gangrenous feet and his failure to seek the Lord (16:11-14).

Asa's reign consisted of thirty-five good years and six other years. In fairness, the Chronicler reports that Asa was buried with honors despite his fall from grace.

2 Chronicles 13:1-16:14

Abijah Reigns over Judah

13In the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam, Abijah began to reign over Judah. 2He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Micaiah daughter of Uriel of Gibeah.

Now there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. 3Abijah engaged in battle, having an army of valiant warriors, four hundred thousand picked men; and Jeroboam drew up his line of battle against him with eight hundred thousand picked mighty warriors. 4Then Abijah stood on the slope of Mount Zemaraim that is in the hill country of Ephraim, and said, ‘Listen to me, Jeroboam and all Israel! 5Do you not know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel for ever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt? 6Yet Jeroboam son of Nebat, a servant of Solomon son of David, rose up and rebelled against his lord; 7and certain worthless scoundrels gathered round him and defied Rehoboam son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and irresolute and could not withstand them.

8 ‘And now you think that you can withstand the kingdom of the Lord in the hand of the sons of David, because you are a great multitude and have with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made as gods for you. 9Have you not driven out the priests of the Lord, the descendants of Aaron, and the Levites, and made priests for yourselves like the peoples of other lands? Whoever comes to be consecrated with a young bull or seven rams becomes a priest of what are no gods. 10But as for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not abandoned him. We have priests ministering to the Lord who are descendants of Aaron, and Levites for their service. 11They offer to the Lord every morning and every evening burnt-offerings and fragrant incense, set out the rows of bread on the table of pure gold, and care for the golden lampstand so that its lamps may burn every evening; for we keep the charge of the Lord our God, but you have abandoned him. 12See, God is with us at our head, and his priests have their battle trumpets to sound the call to battle against you. O Israelites, do not fight against the Lord, the God of your ancestors; for you cannot succeed.’

13 Jeroboam had sent an ambush around to come on them from behind; thus his troops* were in front of Judah, and the ambush was behind them. 14When Judah turned, the battle was in front of them and behind them. They cried out to the Lord, and the priests blew the trumpets. 15Then the people of Judah raised the battle shout. And when the people of Judah shouted, God defeated Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. 16The Israelites fled before Judah, and God gave them into their hands. 17Abijah and his army defeated them with great slaughter; five hundred thousand picked men of Israel fell slain. 18Thus the Israelites were subdued at that time, and the people of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the Lord, the God of their ancestors. 19Abijah pursued Jeroboam, and took cities from him: Bethel with its villages and Jeshanah with its villages and Ephron* with its villages. 20Jeroboam did not recover his power in the days of Abijah; the Lord struck him down, and he died. 21But Abijah grew strong. He took fourteen wives, and became the father of twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters. 22The rest of the acts of Abijah, his behaviour and his deeds, are written in the story of the prophet Iddo.

Asa Reigns

14*So Abijah slept with his ancestors, and they buried him in the city of David. His son Asa succeeded him. In his days the land had rest for ten years. 2*Asa did what was good and right in the sight of the Lord his God. 3He took away the foreign altars and the high places, broke down the pillars, hewed down the sacred poles,* 4and commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and to keep the law and the commandment. 5He also removed from all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars. And the kingdom had rest under him. 6He built fortified cities in Judah while the land had rest. He had no war in those years, for the Lord gave him peace. 7He said to Judah, ‘Let us build these cities, and surround them with walls and towers, gates and bars; the land is still ours because we have sought the Lord our God; we have sought him, and he has given us peace on every side.’ So they built and prospered. 8Asa had an army of three hundred thousand from Judah, armed with large shields and spears, and two hundred and eighty thousand troops from Benjamin who carried shields and drew bows; all these were mighty warriors.

Ethiopian Invasion Repulsed

9 Zerah the Ethiopian* came out against them with an army of a million men and three hundred chariots, and came as far as Mareshah. 10Asa went out to meet him, and they drew up their lines of battle in the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah. 11Asa cried to the Lord his God, ‘O Lord, there is no difference for you between helping the mighty and the weak. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O Lord, you are our God; let no mortal prevail against you.’ 12So the Lord defeated the Ethiopians* before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians* fled. 13Asa and the army with him pursued them as far as Gerar, and the Ethiopians* fell until no one remained alive; for they were broken before the Lord and his army. The people of Judah* carried away a great quantity of booty. 14They defeated all the cities around Gerar, for the fear of the Lord was on them. They plundered all the cities; for there was much plunder in them. 15They also attacked the tents of those who had livestock,* and carried away sheep and goats in abundance, and camels. Then they returned to Jerusalem.

15The spirit of God came upon Azariah son of Oded. 2He went out to meet Asa and said to him, ‘Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The Lord is with you, while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you abandon him, he will abandon you. 3For a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law; 4but when in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them. 5In those times it was not safe for anyone to go or come, for great disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. 6They were broken in pieces, nation against nation and city against city, for God troubled them with every sort of distress. 7But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.’

8 When Asa heard these words, the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded,* he took courage, and put away the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns that he had taken in the hill country of Ephraim. He repaired the altar of the Lord that was in front of the vestibule of the house of the Lord.* 9He gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and those from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon who were residing as aliens with them, for great numbers had deserted to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him. 10They were gathered at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa. 11They sacrificed to the Lord on that day, from the booty that they had brought, seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep. 12They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and with all their soul. 13Whoever would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman. 14They took an oath to the Lord with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with horns. 15All Judah rejoiced over the oath; for they had sworn with all their heart, and had sought him with their whole desire, and he was found by them, and the Lord gave them rest all around.

16 King Asa even removed his mother Maacah from being queen mother because she had made an abominable image for Asherah. Asa cut down her image, crushed it, and burned it at the Wadi Kidron. 17But the high places were not taken out of Israel. Nevertheless, the heart of Asa was true all his days. 18He brought into the house of God the votive gifts of his father and his own votive gifts—silver, gold, and utensils. 19And there was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of the reign of Asa.

Alliance with Aram Condemned

16In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, King Baasha of Israel went up against Judah, and built Ramah, to prevent anyone from going out or coming into the territory of* King Asa of Judah. 2Then Asa took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the Lord and the king’s house, and sent them to King Ben-hadad of Aram, who resided in Damascus, saying, 3‘Let there be an alliance between me and you, like that between my father and your father; I am sending to you silver and gold; go, break your alliance with King Baasha of Israel, so that he may withdraw from me.’ 4Ben-hadad listened to King Asa, and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel. They conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-maim, and all the store-cities of Naphtali. 5When Baasha heard of it, he stopped building Ramah, and let his work cease. 6Then King Asa brought all Judah, and they carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber, with which Baasha had been building, and with them he built up Geba and Mizpah.

7 At that time the seer Hanani came to King Asa of Judah, and said to him, ‘Because you relied on the king of Aram, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped you. 8Were not the Ethiopians* and the Libyans a huge army with exceedingly many chariots and cavalry? Yet because you relied on the Lord, he gave them into your hand. 9For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the entire earth, to strengthen those whose heart is true to him. You have done foolishly in this; for from now on you will have wars.’ 10Then Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in the stocks, in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this. And Asa inflicted cruelties on some of the people at the same time.

Asa’s Disease and Death

11 The acts of Asa, from first to last, are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 12In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe; yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but sought help from physicians. 13Then Asa slept with his ancestors, dying in the forty-first year of his reign. 14They buried him in the tomb that he had hewn out for himself in the city of David. They laid him on a bier that had been filled with various kinds of spices prepared by the perfumer’s art; and they made a very great fire in his honour.

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10 February 2011

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