Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded:The prophet Azariah's exhortation to faithful cleaving to the Lord, and the solemn renewal of the covenant. - 2 Chronicles 15:1-7. The prophet's speech. The prophet Azariah, the son of Oded, is mentioned only here. The conjecture of some of the older theologians, that עודד was the same person as עדּו (2 Chronicles 12:15; 2 Chronicles 9:29), has no tenable foundation. Azariah went to meet the king and people returning from the war (לפני יצא, he went forth in the presence of Asa, i.e., coming before him; cf. 2 Chronicles 28:9; 1 Chronicles 12:17; 1 Chronicles 14:8). "Jahve was with you (has given you the victory), because ye were with Him (held to Him)." Hence the general lesson is drawn: If ye seek Him, He will be found of you (cf. Jeremiah 29:13); and if ye forsake Him, He will forsake you (cf. 2 Chronicles 24:20; 2 Chronicles 12:5). To impress the people deeply with this truth, Azariah draws a powerful picture of the times when a people is forsaken by God, when peace and security in social intercourse disappear, and the terrors of civil war prevail. Opinions as to the reference intended in this portrayal of the dreadful results of defection from God have been from antiquity very much divided. Tremell. and Grot., following the Targ., take the words to refer to the condition of the kingdom of the ten tribes at that time; others think they refer to the past, either to the immediately preceding period of the kingdom of Judah, to the times of the defection under Rehoboam and Abijah, before Asa had suppressed idolatry (Syr., Arab., Raschi), or to the more distant past, the anarchic period of the judges, from Joshua's death, and that of the high priest Phinehas, until Eli and Samuel's reformation (so especially Vitringa, de synag. vet. p. 335ff.). Finally, still others (Luther, Clericus, Budd., etc.) interpret the words as prophetic, as descriptive of the future, and make them refer either to the unquiet times under the later idolatrous kings, to the times of the Assyrian or Chaldean exile (Kimchi), or to the condition of the Jews since the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans up till the present day. Of these three views, the first, that which takes the reference to be to the present, i.e., the state of the kingdom of the ten tribes at that time, is decidedly erroneous; for during the first thirty years of the existence of that kingdom no such anarchic state of things existed as is portrayed in vv. 5 and 6, and still less could a return of the ten tribes to the Lord at that time be spoken of (2 Chronicles 15:4). It is more difficult to decide between the two other main views. The grounds which Vitr., Ramb., Berth. adduce in support of the reference to the times of the judges are not convincing; for the contents and form (2 Chronicles 15:4) do not prove that here something is asserted which has been confirmed by history, and still less is it manifest (2 Chronicles 15:5) that past times are pointed to. Whether the statement about the return to Jahve in the times of trouble (2 Chronicles 15:4) refers to the past or to the future, depends upon whether the past or future is spoken of in 2 Chronicles 15:3. But the unquiet condition of things portrayed in 2 Chronicles 15:5 corresponds partly to various times in the period of the judges; and if, with Vitr., we compare the general characteristics of the religious condition of the times of the judges (Judges 2:10.), we might certainly say that Israel in those times was without אמת אלהי, as it again and again forsook Jahve and served the Baals. And moreover, several examples of the oppression of Israel portrayed in 2 Chronicles 15:5 and 2 Chronicles 15:6 may be adduced from the time of the judges. Yet the words in 2 Chronicles 15:6, even when their rhetorical character is taken into account, are too strong for the anarchic state of things during the period of the judges, and the internal struggles of that time (Judges 12:1-6 and 2 Chronicles 20). And consequently, although Vitr. and Ramb. think that a reference to experiences already past, and oppressions already lived through, would have made a much deeper impression than pointing forward to future periods of oppression, yet Ramb. himself remarks, nihilominus tamen in saeculis Asae imperium antegressis vix ullum tempus post ingressum in terram Canaan et constitutam rempubl. Israel. posse ostendi, cui omnia criteria hujus orationis propheticae omni ex parte et secundum omnia pondera verbis insita conveniant. But, without doubt, the omission of any definite statement of the time in 2 Chronicles 15:3 is decisive against the exclusive reference of this speech to the past, and to the period of the judges. The verse contains no verb, so that the words may just as well refer to the past as to the future. The prophet has not stated the time definitely, because he was giving utterance to truths which have force at all times,
(Note: As Ramb. therefore rightly remarks, "Vatem videri consulto abstinuisse a determinatione temporis, ut vela sensui quam amplissime panderentur, verbaque omnibus temporum periodis adplicari possent, in quibus criteria hic recensita adpareant.")
and which Israel had had experience of already in the time of the judges, but would have much deeper experience of in the future.
We must take the words in this general sense, and supply neither a preterite nor a future in 2 Chronicles 15:3, neither fuerant nor erunt, but must express the first clause by the present in English: "Many days are for Israel (i.e., Israel lives many days) without the true God, and without teaching priests, and without law." רבּים ימים is not accus. of time (Berth.), but the subject of the sentence; and אלה ללא is not subject - "during many days there was to the people Israel no true God" (Berth.), - but predicate, while ל expresses the condition into which anything comes, and לא forms part of the following noun: Days for Israel for having not a true God. ללא differs from בּלא, "without," just as ל differs from בּ; the latter expressing the being in a condition, the former the coming into it. On אמת אלהי, cf. Jeremiah 10:10. אמת כּהן is not to be limited to the high priest, for it refers to the priests in general, whose office it was to teach the people law and justice (Leviticus 10:10; Deuteronomy 33:10). The accent is upon the predicates אמת and אמת. Israel had indeed Elohim, but not the true God, and also priests, but not priests who attended to their office, who watched over the fulfilment of the law; and so they had no תּורה, notwithstanding the book of the law composed by Moses.
And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, 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.
Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law.
But when they in their trouble did turn unto the LORD God of Israel, and sought him, he was found of them.
And in those times there was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in, but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the countries."And in these times is no peace to those going out or to those coming in." Free peaceful intercommunication is interfered with (cf. Judges 5:6; Judges 6:2), but great terrors upon all inhabitants of the lands (הערצות are, according to the usage of the chronicler, the various districts of the land of Israel).
And nation was destroyed of nation, and city of city: for God did vex them with all adversity."And one people is dashed in pieces by the other, and one city by the other; for God confounds them by all manner of adversity." המם denotes confusion, which God brings about in order to destroy His enemies (Exodus 14:24; Joshua 10:10; Judges 4:15). Days when they were without the true God, without teaching prophets, and without law, Israel had already experienced in the times of defection after Joshua (cf. Judges 2:11.), but will experience them in the future still oftener and more enduringly under the idolatrous kings in the Assyrian and Babylonian exile, and still even now in its dispersion among all nations. That this saying refers to the future is also suggested by the fact that Hosea (Hosea 3:4) utters, with a manifest reference to 2 Chronicles 15:3 of our speech, a threat that the ten tribes will be brought into a similar condition (cf. Hosea 9:3-4); and even Moses proclaimed to the people that the punishment of defection from the Lord would be dispersion among the heathen, where Israel would be compelled to serve idols of wood and stone (Deuteronomy 4:27., Deuteronomy 28:36, Deuteronomy 28:64), i.e., would be without the true God. That Israel would, in such oppression, turn to its God, would seek Him, and that the Lord would be found of them, is a thought also expressed by Moses, the truth of which Israel had not only had repeated experience of during the time of the judges, but also would again often experience in the future (cf. Hosea 3:5; Jeremiah 31:1; Ezekiel 36:24.; Romans 11:25.). בּצּר־לו refers back to Deuteronomy 4:30; the expression in 2 Chronicles 15:4 is founded upon Deuteronomy 4:29 (cf. Isaiah 55:6). - Of the oppression in the times of defection portrayed in 2 Chronicles 15:5., Israel had also had in the time of the judges repeated experience (cf. Judges 5:6), most of all under the Midianite yoke (Judges 6:2); but such times often returned, as the employment of the very words of the first hemistich of 2 Chronicles 15:5 in Zechariah 8:10, in reference to the events of the post-exilic time, shows; and not only the prophet Amos (Amos 3:9) sees רבּות מהוּמות, great confusions, where all is in an indistinguishable whirl in the Samaria of his time, but they repeated themselves at all times when the defection prevailed, and godlessness degenerated into revolution and civil war. Azariah portrays the terrors of such times in strong colours (2 Chronicles 15:6): "Dashed to pieces is people by people, and city by city." The war of the tribes of Israel against Benjamin (Judges 20:.), and the struggle of the Gileadites under Jephthah with Ephraim (Judges 12:4.), were civil wars; but they were only mild preludes of the bellum omnium contra omnes depicted by Azariah, which only commenced with the dissolution of both kingdoms, and was announced by the later prophets as the beginning of the judgment upon rebellious Israel (e.g., Isaiah 9:17-20), and upon all peoples and kingdoms hostile to God (Zechariah 14:13; Matthew 24:7). With הממם אלהים כּי cf. רבּה יי מהוּמת, Zechariah 14:13. To this portrayal of the dread results of defection from the Lord, Azariah adds (2 Chronicles 15:7) the exhortation, "Be ye strong (vigorous), and show yourselves not slack, languid" (cf. Zephaniah 3:16; Nehemiah 6:9); i.e., in this connection, proceed courageously and vigorously to keep yourselves true to the Lord, to exterminate all idolatry; then you shall obtain a great reward: cf. on these words, Jeremiah 31:16.
Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded.
And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from mount Ephraim, and renewed the altar of the LORD, that was before the porch of the LORD.Completion of the reform in worship, and the renewal of the covenant. - 2 Chronicles 15:8. The speech and prophecy of the prophet strengthened the king to carry out the work he had begun, viz., the extirpation of idolatry from the whole land. In 2 Chronicles 15:8 the words הנּניא עדד are surprising, not only because the prophet is called in 2 Chronicles 15:1, not Oded, but Azariah the son of Oded, but also on account of the preceding הנּבוּאה in the absolute state, which cannot stand, without more ado, for the stat. constr. נבוּאת (cf. 2 Chronicles 9:29). The view of Cler. and Ew., that by an orthographical error בּן עזריהוּ has been dropped out, does not remove the difficulty, for it leaves the stat. absol. הנּבוּאה .lo unexplained. This is also the case with the attempt to explain the name Oded in 2 Chronicles 15:8 by transposing the words Azariah ben Oded, 2 Chronicles 15:1, so as to obtain Oded ben Azariah (Movers); and there seems to be no other solution of the difficulty than to strike out the words Oded the prophet from the text as a gloss which has crept into it (Berth.), or to suppose that there is a considerable hiatus in the text caused by the dropping out of the words בּן עזריהוּ דּבּר אשׁר.
(Note: C. P. Caspari, der Syrisch-ephraimitische Krieg, Christian. 1849, S. 51, explains the absol. הנּבוּאה by an ellipse, as in Isaiah 3:14; Isaiah 8:11, "the prophecy (that) of Oded," but answers the question why Oded is used in 2 Chronicles 15:8 instead of Azarjahu ben Oded by various conjectures, none of which can be looked upon as probable.)
התחזק corresponds to חזקוּ. Asa complied with the exhortation, and removed (ויּעבר, as in 1 Kings 15:12) all abominations (idols) from the whole land, and from the cities which he had taken from Mount Ephraim: these are the cities which Asa's father Abijah had conquered, 2 Chronicles 13:19. "And he renewed the altar before the porch," i.e., the altar of burnt-offering, which might stand in need of repairs sixty years after the building of the temple. The Vulg. is incorrect in translating dedicavit, and Berth. in supposing that the renovation refers only to a purification of it from defilement by idolatry. חדּשׁ is everywhere to renew, repair, restaurare; cf. 2 Chronicles 24:4. - But in order to give internal stability to the reform he had begun, Asa prepared a great sacrificial festival, to which he invited the people out of all the kingdom, and induced them to renew the covenant with the Lord. 2 Chronicles 15:9. He gathered together the whole of Judah and Benjamin, and the strangers out of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon, who dwelt among them. Strangers, i.e., Israelites from the ten tribes, had come over as early as Rehoboam's reign to the kingdom of Judah (2 Chronicles 11:16); these immigrations increased under Asa when it was seen that Jahve was with him, and had given him a great victory over the Cushites. It is surprising that Simeon should be mentioned among the tribes from which Israelites went over to the kingdom of Judah, since Simeon had received his heritage in the southern district of the tribal domain of Judah, so that at the division of the kingdom it would not well separate itself from Judah, and join with the tribes who had revolted from the house of David. The grouping together of Simeon, Ephraim, and Manasseh, both in our verse and in 2 Chronicles 34:6, can consequently scarcely be otherwise explained than by the supposition, either from the cities assigned to them under Joshua into districts in the northern kingdom (Berth.), or that the Simeonites, though politically united with Judah, yet in religious matters were not so, but abstained from taking part in the Jahve-worship in Jerusalem, and had set up in Beersheba a worship of their own similar to that in Bethel and Dan. In such a case, the more earnest and thoughtful people from Simeon, as well as from Ephraim and Manasseh, may have gone to Jerusalem to the sacrificial festival prepared by Asa. In favour of this last supposition we may adduce the fact that the prophet Amos, Amos 5:5; Amos 4:4; Amos 8:14, mentions Beersheba, along with Bethel and Gilgal, as a place to which pilgrimages were made by the idolatrous Israelites.
And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and the strangers with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon: for they fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that the LORD his God was with him.
So they gathered themselves together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa.At this festival, which was held on the third month of the fifteenth year of Asa's reign, they offered of the booty, i.e., of the cattle captured in the war against the Cushites (2 Chronicles 14:14), 700 oxen and 7000 sheep. הביאוּ מן־השּׁלל defines the ויּזבּחוּ more closely: they sacrificed, viz., from the booty they offered. From this it seems to follow that the sacrificial festival was held soon after the return from the war against the Cushites. The attack of the Cushite Zerah upon Judah can only have occurred in the eleventh year of Asa, according to 2 Chronicles 14:1; but it is not stated how long the war lasted, nor when Asa returned to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 14:14) after conquering the enemy and plundering the towns of the south land. But Asa may quite well have remained longer in the south after the Cushites had been driven back, in order again firmly to establish his rule there; and on his return to Jerusalem, in consequence of the exhortation of the prophet Azariah, may have straightway determined to hold a sacrificial festival at which the whole people should renew the covenant with the Lord, and have set apart and reserved a portion of the captured cattle for this purpose.
And they offered unto the LORD the same time, of the spoil which they had brought, seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep.
And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul;And they entered into the covenant, i.e., they renewed the covenant, bound themselves by a promise on oath (שׁבוּעה, 2 Chronicles 15:14) to hold the covenant, viz., to worship Jahve the God of the fathers with their whole heart and soul; cf. Deuteronomy 4:29. With בּבּרית בּוא, cf. Jeremiah 34:10.
That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.To attest the sincerity of their return to the Lord, they determined at the same time to punish defection from Jahve on the part of any one, without respect to age or sex, with death, according to the command in Deuteronomy 17:2-6. ליהוה דרשׁ לא, not to worship Jahve, is substantially the same as to serve other gods, Deuteronomy 17:3. This they swore aloud and solemnly, בּתרוּעה, with joyful shouting and the sound of trumpets and horns.
And they sware unto the LORD with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets.
And all Judah rejoiced at the oath: for they had sworn with all their heart, and sought him with their whole desire; and he was found of them: and the LORD gave them rest round about.This return to the Lord brought joy to all Judah, i.e., to the whole kingdom, because they had sworn with all their heart, and sought the Lord בכל־רצונם, with perfect willingness and alacrity. Therefore Jahve was found of them, and gave them rest round about. - In 2 Chronicles 15:16-18, in conclusion, everything which still remained to be said of Asa's efforts to promote the Jahve-worship is gathered up. Even the queen-mother Maachah was deposed by him from the dignity of ruler because she had made herself an image of Asherah; yet he did not succeed in wholly removing the altars on the high places from the land, etc. These statements are also to be found in 1 Kings 15:13-16, and are commented upon at that place. Only in the Chronicle we have אסא אם instead of אמּו (Kings), because there Maachah had just been named (2 Chronicles 15:10); and to the statement as to the abolition of idolatry, ירק, crushed, is added, and in 2 Chronicles 15:17 מיּשׂראל; while, on the other hand, after שׁלם, יהוה עם is omitted, as not being necessary to the expression of the meaning.
And also concerning Maachah the mother of Asa the king, he removed her from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove: and Asa cut down her idol, and stamped it, and burnt it at the brook Kidron.
But the high places were not taken away out of Israel: nevertheless the heart of Asa was perfect all his days.
And he brought into the house of God the things that his father had dedicated, and that he himself had dedicated, silver, and gold, and vessels.
And there was no more war unto the five and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa.2 Chronicles 15:19 is different from 1 Kings 15:16. In the latter passage it is said: war was between Asa and Baasha the king of Israel כּל־ימיהם, i.e., so long as both reigned contemporaneously; while in the Chronicle it is said: war was not until the thirty-fifth year of Asa's reign. This discrepancy is partly got rid of by taking מלחמה in the book of Kings to denote the latent hostility or inimical attitude of the two kingdoms towards each other, and in the Chronicle to denote a war openly declared. The date, until the thirty-fifth year, causes a greater difficulty; but this has been explained in 2 Chronicles 16:1 by the supposition that in the thirty-sixth year of Asa's reign war broke out between Asa and Baasha, when the meaning of our 16th verse would be: It did not come to war with Baasha until the thirty-sixth year of Asa's rule. For further remarks on this, see on 2 Chronicles 16:1.