Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE NATIONAL ASPECT OF THE SUBJECT. A nation has "rest on every side" when it
(1) is at peace will all surrounding powers; and
(2) is enjoying internal tranquillity, its various subjects living in concord, one class with another. To obtain and to preserve such a desirable condition, there need to be
(1) a "foreign policy" that is not aggressive in aim or provocative in address; and
(2) an internal administration that is based on justice, that promotes wholesome and fruitful labour, that encourages and rewards merit and ability, that observes a strict impartiality amidst all differences of custom and belief. Then there is likely to be "rest on every side," more especially if the citizens of the land are serving the Lord according to their conscientious convictions, and are continually seeking his blessing and asking for "peace in their time" (ver. 6). But let us rather consider -
II. THE INDIVIDUAL ASPECT OF IT. HOW shall we have "rest on every side"?
1. Not by securing outward and temporal success. A man may clasp the goal of honour, or of wealth, or of affection, and may think himself possessor of complete and lasting rest, and he may awake any morning to find that all his pleasant conditions are disturbed, and that the prize of peace is snatched ruthlessly from his brow. The heavens may be cloudless and the sun be shining in its full light and warmth to-day; but to-morrow those heavens may be draped in gloom, and the rain may be pelting pitilessly upon us. Not that way lies "rest on every side."
2. Nor by going down into the grave. The "rest of the grave" is only a false poetical metaphor. That is not rest which excludes all present consciousness and provides no refreshment and invigoration for the future. The darkness of death which the despairing suicide seeks and finds is not rest at all; it is entirely undeserving of the name; the word is a complete misnomer as thus applied. It is not rest on any side; it is defeat; it is loss; iris destruction.
3. It is found in holy, filial service; in the happy, honourable, rightful service of a Divine Redeemer. There is
(1) peace with God - the rest that looks upward;
(2) peace in our own heart - rest within, all our spiritual faculties consenting to the condition - the reason, the conscience, the will, the affections;
(3) rest in relation to those that are without - a prevailing spirit of good will and of love toward all men - "rest on every side." - C.
I. A GREAT BLESSING.
1. Its character. No war (ver. 6). Few, reflecting on the untold calamities of war, the expenditure of blood and treasure, the sorrow and desolation sent into many homes, the interruption of the arts of peace, the bad passions kindled by it in the breasts even of the victors, will doubt that peace is one of the foremost blessings a nation can enjoy. This was the condition of Judah during the first ten years of Asa's reign. Compare Shakespeare's description of "peace after a civil war" ('King Henry IV.,' Part I. act 1. sc. 1).
2. Its source. Jehovah (ver. 7). "Every good and every perfect gift is from above" (James 1:17) - true of national peace (Joshua 21:44; 1 Chronicles 22:18) no less than of other things (Psalm 29:11; Isaiah 45:7; Jeremiah 14:13; Haggai 2:9). As no king or people can stir up war until God permits, so can none extinguish its flames without his help. But "when he giveth quietness, who can make trouble?" (Job 34:29). Hence national peace should be prayed for (Jeremiah 29:7; 1 Timothy 2:1, 2).
3. Its medium. Righteousness. The peace of Asa's opening years was due, not to Abijah's successful campaigns (2 Chronicles 13:15), though successful campaigns are of God's giving (Psalm 144:1, 2, 10); or to his own skilful diplomacy, since skilful diplomacy is not always from above (2 Samuel 16:20, etc.); or to his fenced cities, which would have been poor fortifications had they not been defended by Jehovah's battalions (Psalm 127:1); but to his and his people's following after that righteousness which is a nation's best defence (Proverbs 14:34) and a sovereign's surest security (Proverbs 16:12). Asa and his people sought the Lord their God, and he gave them "rest on every side." The annals of Israel show that peace ever went hand-in-hand with piety, and war with disobedience (Psalm 81:11-16; Isaiah 68:18, 19). Always when the people chose new gods there was war in the gates (Judges 5:8). When they forsook God, he forsook them, with the result that "there was no peace to him that went out or to him that came in" (2 Chronicles 15:5). So, in modern times, the military spirit exists in Christian men and nations in proportion as they depart from the religion of Jesus. If at any time "Christianity, socially regarded, does almost nothing to control the state of expectant war and the jealousies of nations," that is not because Christianity is a "failure," and "criminally complacent to these (and other)evils," or "because the religion of heaven and supernatural visions" is "powerless to control this earth and its natural realities" (Harrison's ' New Year's Address to English Positivists,' 1889), but because its professed disciples do not honestly obey its precepts (John 13:34; Romans 13:8; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 5:2) and carry out its principles (Matthew 7:12; Romans 13:10; James 2:8). The reign of Christianity in any nation would put an end to civil feuds and wars of aggression. With the extinction of these, wars of defence would cease.
II. A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY.
1. For the furtherance of true religion. Besides setting an example of personal religion - the most effective way in which kings can promote national religion - Asa laboured with promptitude, decision, and assiduity in the work of abolishing the prevalent idolatry.
(1) He demolished the "strange altars," i.e. altars to foreign divinities which had been erected by his predecessors, Solomon and Rehoboam, and left standing by his father Abijah.
(2) He removed the "high places" dedicated to idolatrous worship, though he allowed those which had been consecrated to Jehovah to remain (ch. 15:17; 1 Kings 15:14).
(3) He brake down the "pillars," obelisks or monumental columns dedicated to Baal. (2 Kings 3:2; 2 Kings 10:26), resembling that erected by Jacob at Bethel (Genesis 35:14), and perhaps also those set up by Moses at Sinai (Exodus 24:4) in honour of Jehovah.
(4) The Asherim, wooden idols or tree trunks, consecrated to Astarte (see Keil on 1 Kings 14:23), he hewed down.
(5) From all the cities of Judah he removed the high places and the sun-images, i.e. pillars or statues consecrated to Baal as the sun-god, and erected near or upon the altars of Baal (2 Chronicles 34:4). So Christian kings and statesmen should labour at the destruction of all false forms of religion within their domains; not, however, by forcible suppression, which, though permitted and even demanded of Ass, is not allowed to sovereigns or, indeed, to any under the gospel, but by fostering in all legitimate ways what they believe to be the absolute and only true religion.
2. For promulgating useful laws. When nations are distracted by internecine feuds within themselves or between each other, it is hopeless to expect the work of good legislation to proceed. Hence the value of a "long peace" to any country, permitting, as it does, the cultivation of the peaceful arts, the development of trade and commerce, the spread of learning and culture, the growth of domestic institutions, and the promotion of measures for the welfare of the state. Asa, in the ten years of rest, "commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to do the Law and the commandment" (ver. 4); and though under the New Testament dispensation it is not required of kings to command their subjects to worship and obey God - that being an obligation already laid on men by the gospel - and far less to punish them should they disobey, it is, nevertheless, allowed kings to follow in Asa's footsteps so far as to utilize the years of rest their countries may enjoy in legislating for the comfort and happiness of their subjects.
3. For securing the safety of the realm. Asa did so by
(1) erecting military fortresses, "fenced cities" in the land of Judah, surrounding them with walls and towers, and securing them with gates and bolts; and
(2) by collecting around him a well-equipped army - from Judah 300,000 targeteers and spearmen, with heavy shields and lances (1 Chronicles 12:24); and from Benjamin 280,000, bearing light shields and furnished with bows (1 Chronicles 8:40). So should Christian states employ times of peace in constructing such bulwarks as their lands require, whether in the shape of garrison cities, regiments of soldiers, or fleets of war-vessels, since self-preservation is an instinct of nature as much for nations as for individuals, and is not forbidden to either by the gospel, while to be prepared for war is sometimes an effective means of securing peace (Luke 11:21).
LESSON. The duty of individuals and nations to shun war and follow peace. - W.
Acts 20:19). Destructive godliness sometimes indicates a devotedness, and sometimes renders a service which deserves to take high rank amongst the excellences and even the nobilities of human worth. We look at -
I. THE DESTRUCTIVE PIETY SHOWN BY THE KING. He removed the high places set apart for idolatrous worship, also the altars of false gods; he "cut down the groves" where moral and devotional abominations were likely to be committed; he "took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made" (1 Kings 15:12). And that which was, perhaps, more than all this, as evidencing a sincerity and thoroughness of heart toward God, and justifying the language used by the Chronicler (ver. 2) concerning him, he destroyed the idol of Maachah, and even removed that idolatrous queen from the official dignity she had been enjoying. Asa, therefore, struck a very decisive and damaging blow at the idolatry of his time; he powerfully and effectually discouraged iniquity and immorality in three ways:
1. He showed his own personal and royal hatred of them.
2. He rebuked and punished the perpetrators of them.
3. He took away the means of indulging in them.
By these measures he strove well and wrought successfully for the truth of God and for the purity of his people.
II. OUR OWN ACTION IN THE SAME DIRECTION, In what ways shall we serve God by a destructive piety?
1. By promoting wise legislative measures. There arc evils which it is needless to name from which large numbers of people need to be protected. To be tempted by them is to be overcome, is to be slain by them; they are active sources of evil and of suffering, of ruin and of death; they ought to be suppressed; and one part of a Christian man's duty is to join his fellow-citizens in cutting down or "removing those high places" of the land.
2. By excluding evil things and evil persons from the home. There are men and there is literature concerning whom and concerning which we can only say that they arc sources of defilement; and if we have not power, like an Oriental monarch, to forbid them the land, we can forbid them the home; we can see that, in respect of those who are in our charge and for whose well-being we are responsible, that these men and these books are well beyond reach.
3. ,By putting down evil language. This we may do, in many quarters, by firmly discountenancing and fearlessly condemning it; the voice of righteous reprobation will soon silence the profane and lascivious tongue.
4. By expelling from our own life that which imperils our moral or spiritual integrity. Every man must know, or should know, what habits (in eating or drinking, in recreation, etc.) are fascinating, absorbing, dangerous to himself; must know in what direction it is perilous to set out, lest he should go too far. There let him determinately bar the way; that threatening habit let him exclude rigorously from his life (see Matthew 5:29, 30). - C.
(1) encouraging all Judah to seek God in worship and to obey his Law, and in
(2) fortifying his territory against the enemy while the land was in his full possession (while the land was "yet before" them). The patriotism and the piety that expended themselves in spiritual and in material edification were of the best. We shall find their analogue among ourselves in -
I. BUILDING UP OURSELVES on our holy faith (Jude 1:20). A man's first duty is that which he owes to his own spirit; for God has given him that, above all things, to have in charge and to present pure and perfect before him at the last. We are, therefore, most sacredly bound to build up ourselves in faith, in love, in purity, in truthfulness, in moral and spiritual integrity, in mercy and magnanimity. And this we shall do
(1) by the study of our Lord Jesus Christ (of his life and character);
(2) by the worship of him and fellowship with him, both in the home and in the sanctuary;
(3) by an earnest and prayerful endeavour to do and bear his will, and to follow his example until we attain to his likeness.
II. EDIFYING THOSE WHOM WE CAN INFLUENCE; bringing to bear upon the inmates of our home, upon those whom we employ (or by whom we are employed), upon our nearer neighbours, upon our fellow-townsmen, upon our fellow-worshippers and fellow-workers in the kingdom of God, all the strengthening, stimulating, elevating influence we can possibly command.
III. CARING FOR CONSULTING THE WELFARE OF OUR COUNTRY. Asa built those "fenced cities in Judah" that he might make timely provision against the enemy and thus keep him off, or repel him if he attacked. What are the enemies of our native land? These are not to be found (chiefly) in invading hosts; there is but little to be feared from them. We find our national enemies in intemperance, in impurity, in dishonesty and fraud, in unconscientious and unfaithful labour, and, therefore, in poor and unsound production, in political charlatanism and pretence, in ecclesiastical bitterness. We want to call into the field forces that will expel these evils from the land. Where shall we find them?
1. In Christ-like men; in men imbued with the spirit, possessed of the principles, living the life, of Jesus Christ.
2. In Christian institutions; in earnest, working Churches; in Sunday schools; in temperance societies; in guilds for the inculcation of all that is pure and wholesome; in philanthropic associations of many kinds.
3. In Christian literature. Not only that which is distinctively religions, but that also which is sound in tone and spirit, which imparts and infuses a true idea of human character and human life. Our patriotic work must be found in building up these; building up these men in our homes and circles by the influence of our Christian character; sustaining these institutions by generous gifts of time and strength and money; countenancing and supporting this wholesome, edifying literature. So shall we also "build and prosper." - C.
I. THAT OUR UPMOST PREPARATION WILL NOT SECURE US FROM ATTACK. Asa endeavoured to make his little kingdom impregnable to assault by
(1) fortifying the outposts, and
(2) training and equipping a large army (vers. 7, 8).
Nevertheless, the Ethiopians came up against him with an army far stronger than his. The military and naval preparations of one country usually incite to greater preparations in another, and instead of war becoming impossible because each nation is invulnerable, it becomes probable because the combative spirit has been developed; one nation considers itself challenged by another, and because a large number of professional men are eager to exert their power and improve their position. But not only does "history repeat itself" thus; we have here an illustration of a wider truth - that whatever efforts we may make to guard ourselves against the inroad of evils, we shall surely fail. Sickness of some kind will attack us; disappointment and disillusion will find their way to our heart; sorrow will surprise us; loss and separation will befall us; death will knock at our door. There are no fortifications we can construct, there are no forces we can raise, Be we never so vigilant and alert, which will keep all enemies from the gate. Spite of fenced cities and many thousands of Jewish spears and Benjamite bows, the Ethiopian army comes up against Jerusalem.
II. THAT IN THE PATH OF MORAL AND SPIRITUAL RECTITUDE WE ARE IN THE WAY OF SAFETY. Asa had no need to be alarmed. Had he wickedly departed from the Lord he might well have been in the greatest consternation, for then the severe warnings of sacred Scripture would have been as a knell in his ears; but as it was, his fidelity to Jehovah was an assurance of safety. He was God's servant; he was in a position to "cry unto the Lord his God" (ver. 11); to say, "O Lord our God;" to claim that the Ethiopian's triumph would be a prevailing against the Lord himself: "Let not man prevail against thee." The king could hide in the cleft of the rock; he could fall back on almighty power; he was safe Before a blow was struck. He did the right thing on the occasion.
(1) He brought his army into the field, well equipped and well arrayed (ver. 10); and then
(2) he made his earnest, Believing appeal to the Lord his God. This is the path of safety, the place of wisdom. Let us, in days of peace and plenty, in the time of joy and honour, seek and serve the Lord our God, and then, when the darkness falls, when the enemy appears, when such power is needed as goes far beyond our small resources, we can turn with a holy confidence and with Christian calmness tot he sucoour of the faithful and the mighty Friend. We shall indeed do as Asa did; we shall summon all our own powers and wisdom to confront the danger, to meet the difficulty; but, like the King of Judah, we shall feel that our true hope is in the living God, and we shall hide in him, our Refuge and our Strength. "In his Name" we shall "go against this multitude."
III. THAT AS THOSE WHO FIGHT FOR GOD WE HAVE A POWERFUL PLEA. As those who are enlisted and engaged in the great campaign against moral evil in this world, we have a strong plea to urge when we draw nigh to God in prayer and seek his conquering power.
1. God is our God; the God of our choice and of his own faithful Word.
2. God is able to give us the victory even against the greatest odds: "It is nothing with thee to help" (ver. 11). "If thou wilt, thou canst." "All things are possible" with him,
3. We do all that we do in his Name, for the extension of his kingdom.
"The work is thine, not mine, O Lord, IV. THAT, GOD WITH US, ANXIOUS FEAR WILL CHANGE TO JOYOUS VICTORY. "The Lord smote the Ethiopians ... and Asa and the people pursued them," etc. (vers. 12-15). The king and the people of Judah went out of Jerusalem with the most grave concern in their hearts; they re-entered the royal city with their souls full of joy and their arms full of spoil. Their courage and, more especially, their fidelity were crowned with a true and a great success. So in due time will ours also. It is true that our fight with wrong and woe is not (like this one of Asa's) a short sharp battle; it is a long campaign; it is a campaign in which fortune wavers, or seems to waver, from side to side; in which many good soldiers of Christ are seen to fall. But there can be no doubt about the issue. The Lord is on our side. Victorious Love is our great Captain, and the time will come when we too shall "return to Jerusalem," with songs of joy and triumph on our lips. - C.
IV. THAT, GOD WITH US, ANXIOUS FEAR WILL CHANGE TO JOYOUS VICTORY. "The Lord smote the Ethiopians ... and Asa and the people pursued them," etc. (vers. 12-15). The king and the people of Judah went out of Jerusalem with the most grave concern in their hearts; they re-entered the royal city with their souls full of joy and their arms full of spoil. Their courage and, more especially, their fidelity were crowned with a true and a great success. So in due time will ours also. It is true that our fight with wrong and woe is not (like this one of Asa's) a short sharp battle; it is a long campaign; it is a campaign in which fortune wavers, or seems to waver, from side to side; in which many good soldiers of Christ are seen to fall. But there can be no doubt about the issue. The Lord is on our side. Victorious Love is our great Captain, and the time will come when we too shall "return to Jerusalem," with songs of joy and triumph on our lips. - C.
I. THE INVADER AND HIS ARMY. (Ver. 9.)
1. The invader. Zerah, the Ethiopian (or Cushite), commonly identified with Osorkhon (Usarkon) I. king of Egypt, the second sovereign of the twenty-second or Bubastio dynasty (Rossellini, Wilkinson, Champollion, Lepsius, Rawlinson, Ebers); but, inasmuch as no Ethiopian appears among the monumental kings of this dynasty, a claim to be regarded as the Zerah of Scripture has been advanced in behalf of Azerch-amen, an Ethiopian conqueror of Egypt (Schrader, Brugseh), who, in the reign of Osorkhon, overran the entire dominion of the Pharaohs, and, though unable at that time to retain his hold, nevertheless paved the way for the subsequent conquest of the country by Pianchi, of the twenty-fifth or Ethiopian dynasty. If, however, the former identification be provisionally accepted, Zerah's designation as "the Cushite" may be explained by supposing that his mother was an Ethiopian (Rawlinson), or that he bore the title "king's son of Cush" as crown prince of Egypt and viceroy of the south or Ethiopia (Ebers).
2. His army - 1,000,000 men - 900,000 infantry, with 100,000 cavalry (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 8:12. 1), and 300 chariots. This immense host of Ethiopians and Libyans (2 Chronicles 16:8), only 100,000 fewer than all the fighting men of Israel, and. more than twice as many as the warriors of Judah in the time of David (1 Chronicles 21:5), so far outnumbers the army of Shishak (2 Chronicles 12:3), that it has been set down to popular exaggeration in making a rough estimate (Keil), or to legendary embellishment (Ebers), suggested by the vast armies of the Persians, with which the Chronicler was familiar (Ewald). The largest army o! invasion of which history speaks was probably that of Xerxes, which, when numbered on the Doriscan plain, amounted to nearly two millions and a half of fighting men, military and naval (Herod., 7:60, etc.; Smith's ' History of Greece,' p. 189). Recent calculations show that "the total strength of the German army on a war footing is now rather over three millions and a half of men' (Scottish Leader, January 1, 1889).
3. His camp. At Mareshah, or Marissa, one of Rehoboam's garrison cities, between Hebron and Ashded (2 Chronicles 11:8, which see).
II. THE MONARCH AND THE PEOPLE OF JUDAH. (Vers. 10,11.)
1. A display of splendid courage. "Asa went out against him." On either hypothesis as to Zerah's person, it was an exhibition of noble daring on the part of the King of Judah to confront him, much more to stand up against a million of highly disciplined troops, with only little more than half that number of spearmen and archers (ver. 8). As an instance of heroic fortitude, it was worthy to be placed alongside of the most brilliant feats of valour recorded in either sacred or profane history, as e.g. the pursuit of the victorious kings by Abraham (Genesis 14:14-16), the discomfiture of the Midianitee by Gideon with 300 men (Judges 7:21), the invasion of the Philistines' garrison at Miehmash by Jonathan and his armour-bearer (1 Samuel 14:13-16), the combat of David with Goliath (1 Samuel 17:49, 50), the defeat of the Persians under Darius at Marathon by Miltiades, with a small body of Athenians and Plataeans (s.c. 490), and under Xerxes at Thermopylae, by Leonidas and 300 Spartans (s.c. 480), the victory of Bruce with 80,000 Scotch over Edward II. with 100,000 English (A.D. 1314), of the Black Prince over an army seven times as large as his own at Poictiers (A.D. 1356), of Clive with 3000 men over 50,000 led by the Nabob of Moorshedabad at Plassey (A.D.). 1757).
2. An example of commendable prudence. Asa selected, as the spot on which to join issue with the enemy, the valley of Zephathah, near Mareshah, probably because there the advantage to be derived from superior numbers would less operate. He also disposed his troops in such a fashion as to enable them most efficiently to resist the onset of the foe. In so doing, he only discovered his sagacity and sense both as a general and a man. He knew that, while it was hopeless to expect victory without God's help, it was folly to cry for Divine assistance while neglecting to put his battalions in order. So in ordinary matters and in matters of religion. Prayer cannot supersede the use of common means.
3. A pattern of lofty faith. Having marshalled his forced, Asa prayed - prayed upon the battle-field, as Moses did on the Red Sea shore when pursued by the Philistines (Exodus 14:10), as Jehoshaphat did when invaded by the Ammonites and Moabites (2 Chronicles 20:18), as Cromwell and his Ironsides, Gustavus Adolphus and his Swedes, Colonel Gardiner and his Scotch dragoons, and other God-fearing generals with their regiments have been accustomed to do before entering into engagements with their enemies. Asa's prayer was remarkable for two things.
(1) For the brevity and directness of its petitions. Necessitated in his case by the situation, these qualities are excellent in all petitioners (Matthew 6:7). Asa asked the help of Jehovah against his foes, as David before him had often done (Psalm 59:4; Psalm 71:12; Psalm 35:2), and as Christians may still do (Hebrews 4:16), especially against such foes as are spiritual and threaten the destruction of their souls (Psalm 71:12; Isaiah 49:8; Hosea 13:9; Mark 9:22, 24; Acts 26:22).
(2) For the excellence and strength of its arguments. invites those who address him in prayer to fill their mouths with arguments (Job 23:4), to bring forth their strong reasons (Isaiah 41:21), and to plead with him (Isaiah 43:26). Asa urged:
(a) Jehovah's covenant relation to him and his people. Jehovah was God and their (ver. 11) - a good argument for a Christian suppliant.
(b) The multitude of the foe arranged against them. David derived a plea from the number of his adversaries (Psalm 25:19, 56:2), and so may David's brethren (Ephesians 6:18). Compare the English king's prayer at Agincourt, "O God, of battles," etc. ('Henry V.,' act 4. sc. 1).
(c) The fact that the war was Jehovah's even more than theirs (2 Chronicles 20:15). They were going out against Zerah in his Name, as in his Name David had advanced to meet Goliath (1 Samuel 17:45). In this Name all Christian warfare should be carried on (Psalm 20:5; Acts 4:30; Acts 16:18; Colossians 3:17); when it is, a claim is thereby established upon God to uphold the honour of his Name (Psalm 71:9; John 12:28).
(d) The circumstance that he alone was able to assist them in the tremendous crisis that had come upon them. "There is none beside thee to help, between the mighty and him that hath no strength" (Revised Version); or, "There is no difference with thee to help, whether the mighty or him that hath no strength" (margin); or, "It is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power" (Authorized Version). Whichever reading be adopted - though the first is the best - the sentiment was that Jehovah alone could assist in so unequal a combat, and that he could do so if he would, since it was not necessary for him to be "on the side of the strongest battalions" (Napoleon). He could win battles, as Jonathan long before observed, whether by many or by few. (1 Samuel 14:6). Much more is God the only Refuge to which the Christian can turn on carrying on the unequal contest to which he is called against the principalities and powers of darkness; and to his power nothing is impossible (2 Chronicles 20:6; Matthew 19:26; Mark 14:36; Ephesians 3:20; 1 Peter 1:5).
(e) The dishonour Jehovah himself would sustain through their defeat. The invasion of Zerah was practically a campaign against Jehovah. To suffer them to be overthrown would be (seemingly at least) permitting himself to be overcome by a weak mortal. Happily, God condescends to allow this in matters of grace, as in the case of Jacob (Genesis 32:29; Hosea 12:4), but not in ordinary affairs when the interest of his kingdom would be thereby injured (Romans 8:28; Ephesians 1:11). Asa's argument was good. Compare the boldness of Moses in pleading with God in behalf of Israel (Numbers 14:16).
(3) The fact that they were deliberately trusting in God. "Help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on thee." God has pledged himself never to disappoint those who trust in him (Psalm 34:22; Psalm 37:40; Isaiah 45:17).
III. JEHOVAH AND THE COMBATANTS. (Vers. 12-15.)
1. The Ethiopians were routed.
(1) They were defeated on the field of battle. Jehovah "smote" them before Asa and Judah (ver. 12).
(2) They were put to flight by the archers and spearmen that opposed them. The Ethiopians "fled."
(3) They were pursued as far as Gerar, a chief city of the Philistines, now identified as the Khirbet-el-Gerar, in the Wady Jorf-el-Gerar, three leagues south-east of Gaza (Rowland).
(4) They were massacred by the victorious monarch and his exulting warriors. They were "destroyed before the Lord and before his host," for the understanding of which there is no need to call in the help of a battalion of angels, as in Genesis 32:2. Asa's army was Jehovah's host, because Jehovah was with it and in it; and the blood of Asa's enemies was poured out before Jehovah, because the battle had been undertaken in his Name and the victory achieved through his power.
(5) They were so completely crushed that they could not recover themselves. They disappeared from Palestine, and ceased from troubling Judah. Such will be the end of the enemies of the Church of God (1 Samuel 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:9).
2. The men of Judah were victorious.
(1) The monarch's prayer was answered. So did God hear the prayer of Moses when he cried for help against the Egyptians (Exodus 14:15), and that of the Israelites when they appealed for assistance against their foes (Judges 10:11), and that of the Reubenites when they entreated succour against the Hagarites (1 Chronicles 5:20), and that of Hezekiah when he appealed to the Lord God of Israel against Sennacherib (1 Kings 19:15, etc.). So God hears the prayer of the Church's King (John 11:41, 42), and of the soldiers of the cross (Psalm 65:2; Ephesians 3:20; 1 John 4:6).
(2) The soldiers' courage was rewarded. They inflicted a decisive blow upon the enemy; they smote all the cities round about Gerar, these having probably espoused the cause of the enemy; they carried away much spoil, not only of ammunitions of war and provisions which had been laid up in those cities, but also of cattle and sheep and camels, which they had found in abundance, and which, in all likelihood, had belonged to the enemy. So did Christ, the Captain of salvation, achieve a brilliant triumph over the principalities and powers of darkness, despoiling them of victory, and making a show of them openly (Colossians 2:15); and so will Christ's followers be made more than conquerors over the same foes (Romans 8:87), and carry off from the fields of conflict where they meet their enemies much spiritual treasure (Romans 8:28).
1. The sinfulness of wars of aggression, and the lawfulness of wars of defence.
2. The duty of combining working with praying, as well as praying with working.
3. The impossibility of achieving victory either without or against God, or of suffering defeat with God upon one's side. - W.