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sovereign who had but just mounted the throne, and could raise an army comparatively small, while the other was an experienced king, and an able commander, with a well-disciplined and large army. There could be no doubt in the minds of the Israelites, taught as they were to see the interposition of God in all their national concerns, to what cause the victory was owing ; but the lesson was disregarded by both kings. Jeroboam continued the worship of the golden calves, and separated his people more and more from their brethren of Judah : while it is said of Abijam, that he walked in all the sins of his father, and his heart was not perfect with the LORD.
Nothing further is recorded of Abijam's reign, except that he became mighty, and there was war between him and Jeroboam: he died at the end of three years, and was succeeded by his
ASA REIGNS 41 YEARS.
“ AND Asa did that which was good and 955. right in the eyes of the Lord his God; For he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves; and commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment. Also he took out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the images; and the kingdom was quiet before him.”
“ And also Maachah his mother,* even her he removed from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove: and Asa destroyed her idol, and burnt it by the brook Kedron.”+
The peace which Asa enjoyed lasted ten years, at the end of which time there came out against him “Zerah the Ethiopian, with a host of a thousand thousand, and three hundred chariots, and came unto Mareshah."
Against this formidable array Asa went out, trusting to that power which had so often saved the Israelites from their most dreaded enemies. Having assembled all the troops he could collect, he drew them up in order of battle in the valley of Zephathah, at Mareshah: and there before all his people, he invoked the divine assistance;“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.”
* Maachah was the grandmother of Abijam, being the most beloved of Rehoboam's wives, and the mother of Abijah. But she enjoyed the title and dignity of “King's Mother,” a dignity of the first importance, conferred for life, and not necessarily on the wife or mother of the reigning king. Thus in II. Chronicles xiii. 2, it is stated, when Abijah began his reign, that "his mother's name also was Michaiah, the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah," although it before stated that he was the son of Maachah, (chap. xi. 20—22,) and that Rehoboam had given him the preference over the children of his other wives. A dignity similar to that of King's Mother, exists in most Eastern kingdoms. See on this subject Calmet, under the article King's Mother, from which the above explanation is taken.
† 1. Kings xv. I The Cushites were nomade tribes, in very early time established in Arabia, from whence some emigrated to Africa, and conquered Ethiopia, now called Abyssinia. It is probable that both divisions of the Cushites were joined together in this expedition: the exact number is not necessarily to be understood bere, though it is not incredible, if we consider the practice of nomade nations to assemble from all parts, every man with his own provisions for a certain number of days, and thus to join in overwhelming numbers for some marauding attack, or for purposes of vengeance.
The faith of Asa was rewarded by a complete victory. The overwhelming host of the Ethiopians fled; and the Israelites took many cities round, and returned laden with spoil, carrying away sheep and camels in abundance.
Thus was again manifested the protecting power of Jehovah, in this deliverance of his people from the desolating inroad of the Ethiopians, and to render the event yet more impressive on the triumphant return of Asa to Jerusalem, Azariah the prophet came forth to meet him, and addressed him in these words :-*
“ Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you."
-“ Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded.”
Warned and encouraged by the exhortations * Azariah, son of Oded, called Oded in the 8th verse of the same chapter.
of the prophet, Asa purified the land yet farther from idolatry, and restored the rites and sacrifices which had been neglected ; for himself and his people he publicly entered into a solemn engagement to serve the LORD only, declaring that whosoever would not seek the God of Israel should be put to death, “Whether small or great; whether man or woman.”
The piety of the king and his people was rewarded by a long period of peace and prosperity. During these years of rest the historian has little to record, except the gradual improvement of the country, and the happiness enjoyed by the people. At length this state of peaceful security was disturbed by an act of aggression on the side of the rival kingdom of Israel. In the twenty-sixth year of Asa's reign, Baasha, king of Israel, came against Judah and built Ramah, a city on the frontier,* in order to prevent his subjects from going up to Jerusalem at the feasts, and holding friendly intercourse with their brethren the subjects of Asa.
To divert Baasha from his design of establishing himself in Ramah, Asa had recourse to the unworthy, and, in an Israelite, the unlawful expedient of inciting the king of Syria to attack him. Taking out of the Temple the treasures which yet remained there, he sent them to Benhadad, king of Damascus, and reminding him of the league which existed between them, and had also existed between their fathers, he prayed him to break his league with Baasha, king of Israel, and force him to depart out of Ramah by compelling him to defend his own kingdom. Benhadad accepted the presents, and agreed to do as Asa required. He dispatched an army against Baasha, who, as Asa anticipated, immediately withdrew his forces from Ramah, whereupon Asa marched against it, and took it; he carried away the stones and wood which had been prepared for its fortification, and built with them two other cities, Geba and Mizpah.
* Ch, ü. 16. “In the six and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa”-it is supposed to have been originally, “in the six and twentieth year of the reign of Asa," as Baasha died in the end of that year.-See Calmet and other Commentators on this passage.
Before Asa could reap all the advantages he expected from this, his insidious policy, the prophet Hanani was sent to reprove him for his sin, and announce its punishment. Because he had relied on the king of Syria and not on Jehovah, who had given him so signal a deliverance from the host of the Ethiopians, therefore, said the prophet, “from henceforth thou shalt have wars.” Asa, like too many others, appears to have been injured by prosperity. Instead of confessing his error, and humbling himself before the messenger of God," he was wroth with the Seer, and put him in a prison house, for he was in a rage with him because of this thing."
This act of daring impiety was followed by a change of conduct such as might be expected.