Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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.Ch. 2 Chronicles 14:1-5 (cp. 1 Kings 15:8-12). The Religious Policy of Asa
1. ten years] These ten years of rest are naturally to be assigned to the beginning of Asa’s reign; later on there was a rest of twenty years (cp. 2 Chronicles 15:10 with 2 Chronicles 15:19). The number ten here makes a discrepancy with 1 Kin., for Baasha became king of Israel in the third year of Asa (1 Kings 15:28; 1 Kings 15:33), and “there was war between Asa and Baasha all their days” (ib. 1 Kings 15:32). If, however, we allow some latitude to the language both of 1 Kin. and of Chron., the discrepancy becomes unimportant.
And Asa did that which was good and 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:3. the altars of the strange gods] R.V. the strange altars.
the images] R.V. the pillars, LXX. τὰς στήλας. The “pillar” or “obelisk,” Heb. Maçççbâh, was a monolith standing by an altar as a symbol of the god worshipped at the altar. In later days an image took the place of the pillar, i.e. the mere symbol was succeeded by the likeness of the god. (W. R. Smith, Religion of the Semites, p. 203 ff.)
and cut down the groves] R.V. and hewed down the Asherim. An Ashêrah (pl. Ashêrim and Ashêroth) was probably a wooden pole which was planted beside an altar as the symbol of a deity. It appears to have been a survival of tree-worship, as the Maçççbâh was a survival of stone-worship. The ashêrah of itself did not represent any particular deity, but it could be carved to bear the symbol of any special god or goddess, e.g. of Astarte. (W. R. Smith, Religion of the Semites, p. 186 ff.)
And commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment.4. to seek the Lord] Cp. 2 Chronicles 15:12-13.
Also he took away out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the images: and the kingdom was quiet before him.5. the images] R.V. the sun-images. Cp. 2 Chronicles 34:4; Isaiah 17:8; Isaiah 27:9, The Heb. word (“ḥamman”) is of uncertain meaning, and it is possible that no kind of image is meant, but rather the hearth on which the sacred fire was kept. The Heb. root means “to be hot.” (W. R. Smith, Religion of the Semites, p. 489.)
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. in those years] Cp. 2 Chronicles 14:1.
6–8 (cp. 1 Kings 15:17-22). The Defensive Measures of Asa
According to 1 Kin., Asa being threatened by Baasha, king of Israel, secured himself a respite by inducing Ben-hadad of Syria with a heavy bribe to invade Baasha’s dominions. On the retirement of Israel Asa built himself two fortresses on his northern frontier to secure himself against Baasha. The Chronicler seems to be referring to the same occasion, but he says nothing of Baasha, nor of the intervention of Ben-hadad, and speaks of Asa building fortresses without mentioning their number.
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 he said] R.V. For he said.
and bars, while the land is yet before us; because, etc.] R.V. and bars; the land is yet before us, because, etc.
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. that bare targets and spears … that bare shields and drew bows] LXX., δύναμις ὁπλοφόρων (= ὁπλιτῶν) αἰρόντων θυρεοὺς καὶ δόρατα … πελτασταὶ καὶ τοξόται. The Chronicler divides Asa’s army into the heavy-armed men belonging to Judah and the light-armed bowmen belonging to Benjamin. Asa apparently had no chariots, “targets” and “shields” should be transposed as in 2 Chronicles 9:15.
of Judah three hundred thousand … of Benjamin … two hundred and fourscore thousand] The total is 580,000. Under Asa’s successor, Jehoshaphat, the numbers are (2 Chronicles 17:14-18), Judah 780,000, Benjamin 380,000, making a total of 1,160,000, i.e. the double of the total given above. Whether the Chronicler drew these numbers from any ancient document is not known, but his main point seems to be that Judah was strong in the early days of Asa, while Asa shewed faith in God, and that Judah became still stronger under his really religious successor, Jehoshaphat. It is to be noted that it is not said that Asa brought these 580,000 men into the field against the Ethiopians; cp. note on 2 Chronicles 13:3.
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] We should expect either against him (i.e. Asa) or against Judah. Perhaps this account has been torn out from some older document without regard to the context, so that the reference of them is lost. Cp. notes on 2 Chronicles 14:12-14.
Zerah the Ethiopian] Rather, Zerah the Cushite (“man of Cush”). Gush (Genesis 10:7) was the ancestor of certain Arabian tribes (including Saba), and Arabians and Cushites (“Ethiopians” A.V., also R.V.) are mentioned as neighbours (2 Chronicles 21:16). It is therefore not improbable that the leader of the inroad was an Arabian (Sabean) and not an Ethiopian. Zerah perhaps represents Dhirrîh (Zirrîh), a title (meaning “the magnificent”) of several of the oldest princes of Saba.
a thousand thousand] This was an inroad of the “children of the East” who were formidable from sheer weight of numbers. We may gather from 2 Chronicles 16:8 that the original invaders, starting from South Arabia, were joined by other hordes as they drew near the border of Judah. The number a thousand thousand is probably meant to signify that the host was too great to number; it is not to be taken literally.
three hundred chariots] The chariots, though comparatively few, are mentioned, (1) because Asa himself had none at all, (2) perhaps also because they represent an Egyptian contingent. This suggestion receives support from 2 Chronicles 16:8, where the Lubim (cp. 2 Chronicles 12:3) are associated with the Cushites in the invasion. The cowardly foreign policy of Egypt may have led her on this occasion to defend her own borders from the barbarian hordes, by encouraging them to invade her neighbour’s territories.
The reading three hundred is supported by the LXX. and is probably right. The reading of the Pesh., “thirty thousand,” and the wording of 2 Chronicles 16:8, “with very many chariots and horsemen,” seem like a retouching of the narrative to make the number of the chariots and horsemen correspond with the number of the whole host.
Mareshah] See note on 2 Chronicles 11:8.
9–15 (no parallel in Kings). The Battle of Mareshah
For a discussion of the historical probabilities of this account see Introduction, § 8.
Then Asa went out against him, and they set the battle in array in the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah.10. against him] R.V. to meet him.
in the valley] Probably the valley in which Beit-Jibrin now stands, one of several valleys giving access from the Shephelah into central Judah (G. A. Smith, Hist. Geography, pp. 230–233). In such a place a large force might easily be discomfited by a few resolute men (cp. 2 Samuel 17:9-10).
of Zephathah at Mareshah] Read with LXX., north of Mareshah (“Zaphonah” for “Zephathah”). No valley or town called “Zephathah” is known.
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. it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power] R.V. there is more beside thee to help, between the mighty and him that hath no strength.
we rest on thee, and in thy name we go] R.V. we rely on thee, and in thy name are we come.
So the LORD smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah; and the Ethiopians fled.12. the Lord smote] Cp. 2 Chronicles 13:15. The use of The Name, Jehovah (translated The Lord), instead of the word “God” here and in 2 Chronicles 14:13-14 is in favour of the suggestion that the Chronicler took this account from some earlier document.
the Ethiopians] Rather, the Cushites.
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. Gerar] Identified with Jerâr, ruins three hours south of Gaza; cp. 1 Chronicles 4:39 (read “Gerar,” LXX. Γέραρα).
the Ethiopians were overthrown, that they could not recover themselves] R.V. there fell of the Ethiopians (read “the Cushites”) so many that they could not recover themselves.
very much spoil] R.V. very much booty. The phrase used belongs to a style earlier than that of the Chronicler. Cp. note on 2 Chronicles 14:9 (against them).
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. the fear of the Lord] The Chronicler’s own phrase is “the fear of God” (2 Chronicles 20:29).
exceeding much spoil] R.V. om. exceeding. Again we miss a favourite expression of the Chronicler (lârôb).
They smote also the tents of cattle, and carried away sheep and camels in abundance, and returned to Jerusalem.15. the tents of cattle] These words seem to be corrupt, and it is probable that the original reading gave the name of some Arabian tribe. From a comparison of the LXX. here with the LXX. of 2 Chronicles 22:1 we conclude that this name was represented by Ἀλειμαζονεϊς in Greek. The people called Μασονῖται by Ptolemy, and Mâzin by Arabic writers are probably meant (Hommel, Expository Times, viii. 378).