Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam the son of Nebat reigned Abijam over Judah.B.—The reigns of Abijam and Asa
1 KINGS 15:1–24 (2 CHRON. 13, 14)
1Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam the son of Nebat reigned 2Abijam1 over Judah. Three2 years reigned he in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Maachah, the daughter of Abishalom. 3And he walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him: and his heart was not perfect with 4the Lord [Jehovah] his God, as the heart of David his father. Nevertheless, for David’s sake did the Lord [Jehovah] his God give him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him,3 and to establish Jerusalem: 5because David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord [Jehovah], and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life,4 save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. 6And there was war between Rehoboam5 and Jeroboam all the days of his life. 7Now the rest of the acts of Abijam, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Judah? And there was war between Abijam and Jeroboam. 8And Abijam slept with his fathers6; and they buried him in the city of David: and Asa his son reigned in his stead.
9And in the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel reigned Asa over Judah. 10And forty and one years reigned he in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Maachah,7 the daughter of Abishalom. 11And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did David his father. 12And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. 13And also Maachah his mother, even her he removed from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove8; and Asa destroyed her idol, and burnt it by the brook [in the valley of] Kidron. 14But the high places were not removed: nevertheless Asa’s heart was perfect with the Lord [Jehovah] all his days. 15And he brought in the things which his father had dedicated, and the things which himself had dedicated,9 into the house of the Lord [Jehovah], silver, and gold, and vessels. 16And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days. And 17Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah, and built Ramah, that he might not suffer any to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. 18Then Asa took all the silver and the gold that were left10 in the treasures of the house of the Lord [Jehovah], and the treasures of the king’s house, and delivered them into the hand of his servants: and king Asa sent them to Ben-hadad, the son of Tabrimon, the son 19of Hezion, king of Syria, that dwelt at Damascus, saying, There is a league between me and thee, and between my father and thy father: behold, I have sent unto thee a present of silver and gold; come and break thy league with 20Baasha king of Israel, that he may depart from me. So Ben-hadad hearkened unto king Asa, and sent the captains of the hosts which he had against the cities of Israel, and smote Ijon, and Dan, and Abel-beth-maachah, and all Cinneroth, with all the land of Naphtali. 21And it came to pass, when Baasha heard thereof, that he left off building of Ramah, and dwelt in Tirzah. 22Then king Asa made a proclamation throughout all Judah; none was exempted11: and they took away the stones of Ramah, and the timber thereof, wherewith Baasha had builded; and king Asa built with them Geba of Benjamin, and Mizpah.12 23The rest of all the acts of Asa, and all his might, and all that he did, and the cities which he built, are they not written in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Judah? Nevertheless in the time of his old age he was diseased in his feet. 24And Asa slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father: and Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his stead.
Exegetical and Critical
1 Kings 15:1–5. Abijam king of Judah. Instead of אֲבִיָּם Chronicles has always אֲבִיָה (2 Chron. 13:1 sq.), ’Αβιά in the Sept. The latter seems to be the right and original name, composed of אבי and יה, which mean אֲבִיאֵל (1 Sam. 9:1), not, therefore, father of the sea, vir maritimus (Gesenius), but whose father (benefactor) is God. According to 2 Chron. 11:20 sq. Abijam was the eldest son of Rehoboam’s second wife Maacha, who was his favorite, for which reason he set Abijam above his brothers, and appointed him for his successor. As there is no mention made of an Absalom except of him known as the son of David, בַּת must mean the granddaughter here, as אָב means grandfather in 1 Kings 15:3. Maacha must then have been the daughter of Tamar (2 Sam. 14:27), as Absalom had no sons (2 Sam. 18:18). The same name is no doubt meant in 2 Chron. 13:2, where Abijam’s mother מִיכָיָהוּ is called a daughter of Uriel of Gibeah; see on 1 Kings 15:13. In all the sins, &c, is not to be taken in a universal sense, but of all the sins which Rehoboam committed regarding the service of Jehovah; in these he followed the example of his father (לְפָנָיו). He was in his own person Jehovah’s servant, but he did not oppose the idol-worship; he permitted it, and therefore in no respect resembled his great-grandfather David, who therefore for all kings continued to be the pattern and model of right conduct towards Jehovah. Thenius thinks that 1 Kings 15:4 and 5 are the addition of an “elaborator”; they are certainly not useless, but stand in a very proper connection. Abijam was the third king on David’s throne who allowed idol-worship to exist side by side with that of Jehovah. Such kings had, in fact, deserved to lose their land and throne, because they had not acted as servants of the true king of Israel; but for David’s sake, to whom God had promised that a descendant of his should always reign in Jerusalem (for נִיר see on 1 Kings 11:36), Jehovah suffered even such kings of the house of David, who, like this one, were not wholly and undividedly devoted to Him. The sin of David against Uriah was great indeed (2 Sam. 11 and 12), but apart from the fact that he repented of it bitterly, it was not one which broke the fundamental law of the theocracy, the covenant and its chief commandment, and it did not therefore undermine the foundation of the Israelite nationality. 1 Kings 15:4 and 5 serve, then, to explain 1 Kings 15:3, and in a certain measure to justify what is said there.
1 Kings 15:6–8. And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam, &c. 1 Kings 15:6 says the same that was previously said in 1 Kings 14:30, only with this difference, that there the concluding words כָּל־הַיָּמִים are changed to כָּל־יְמֵי חַיָּיו here, from which it follows, at least, that this verse is not, as Thenius thinks, a mere repetition arising from the carelessness of a copyist. Instead of “Rehoboam,” the Syrian, Arabic, and several manuscripts have “Abijam;” but this would make the conclusion of 1 Kings 15:7 a mere repetition of our verse, which is even less tenable than the repetition from 1 Kings 14:30. As the words stand they can scarcely be understood in connection with 1 Kings 15:7 otherwise than as Schulz, Maurer, and Keil take them; they give their meaning to be this: that the hostile feeling which existed between Rehoboam and Jeroboam during the entire lifetime of the former, also lasted during the lifetime of his son Abijam. This interpretation is certainly rather forced, and it is very possible that the text is no longer the original one; happily, however, the substance of the narrative is in no wise affected by it, but it remains the same, howsoever those words may be read or explained.
1 Kings 15:9–11. In the twentieth year of Jeroboam, &c. 1 Kings 15:9 sq. If Abijam became king in the eighteenth and Asa in the twentieth year of Jeroboam (1 Kings 15:1 and 9), Abijam could not have reigned three full years (1 Kings 15:2). The incomplete years are here, as elsewhere (see on 1 Kings 15:25), reckoned as if complete, in statements of the length of the reigns. Maachah, the daughter of Abishalom, is named in 1 Kings 15:2 as the mother of Abijam, and as the mother of Asa in 1 Kings 15:10, but she could not, of course, have been the mother of both father and son at the same time. It has therefore been supposed “that Maachah, Abijam’s mother, was in the position of queen-mother or הַגְּבירָה, i. e., sultana Walida, under Asa, until Asa deposed her on account of her idolatrous worship (1 Kings 15:13), and that she had been such because, perhaps, Asa’s mother had died early” (Keil and Ewald after the Rabbins). אֵם (1 Kings 15:10) would then stand for grandmother, which is very questionable for the reason that, often as the name of the mother of a king is given, his grandmother is never meant thereby; besides, the mother alone, and never the grandmother of a king, had the dignity and position of the Gebirah, the name given to Asa’s mother, 1 Kings 15:13 and 2 Chron. 15:16. Other commentators, who are not insensible to these considerations, think that Maachah, the mother of Abijam, was indeed, as is said in 1 Kings 15:2, and 2 Chron. 11:20 and 21, a daughter of Abishalom, but that Maachah, the mother of Asa, was the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah. They think that the Chronicler (2 13:2) committed an oversight when he mentioned the latter (whom he names Michaiah) as the mother of Abijam instead of Asa, whilst, inversely, our author names the daughter of Abishalom (1 Kings 15:10) instead of the daughter of Uriel, as the mother of Asa (Thenius, Bertheau). This much is certain, that the mother of Asa, as well as the mother of Abijam, was called Maachah.
1 Kings 15:12–15. All the idols. 1 Kings 15:12. The designation גִּלּוּלִים for idols, includes, confessedly, the idea of something contemptible, as appears from the many passages in Ezekiel where it occurs. The Rabbins, whom several commentators follow, have derived the word from גָּלָל or גֵּלֶל, i. e., mud drained off, and translated it Dei stercorei, mudgods, which Thenius thinks the most correct interpretation. But in the Pentateuch, where the word first occurs, גָּלָל, mud, is not used, but גל, גלים, stone-heaps, masses of stone (Gen. 31:46, 48, 51, 52), hence Hävernick (Comm. über Ezechiel, s. 75) understands it to mean stone monuments, with the additional notion of what was dead and lifeless (cf.Ezra 5:8; 6:4); which translation seems better than: lumps (Keil). Cf. also Deut. 29:16; Lev. 26:30. For גְּבִירָה see on 1 Kings 11:19. מִפְלֶצֶת means horrendum, and no doubt refers to a phallus-image, which was something terrible and detestable to the Hebrews. The Vulgate gives in sacris Priapi for it. The statue of the male and generative power in nature was placed next that of the female power (Astarte). That the former was of wood, like the latter, appears from the “burning in the valley of Kidron;” the ashes were thrown into the brook, which carried them quite away. The בָּמוֹת, 1 Kings 15:14, mean here such as were dedicated to Jehovah, as in 1 Kings 3:2 therefore, and not as in 1 Kings 11:7, and 2 Chron. 14:2. These, to which the people were accustomed from ancient times, Asa did not destroy, perhaps because doing so might have given offence to many even of the true servants of Jehovah. This was the only unlawful thing he permitted; in everything else he adhered perfectly, as long as he lived, to the worship of Jehovah as enjoined in the law. He even began to fill again the treasure chambers of the Temple, which had been plundered by Shishak; to fill them partly with what his father Abijam had taken (cf.2 Chron. 13:19), partly with the plunder he himself had seized (2 Chron. 14:12; 15:18).
1 Kings 15:16. And there was war between Asa.… all their days. 1 Kings 15:16. The account of Chronicles does not agree with this, if the former be only understood in the sense as given above, 1 Kings 14:30. For, according to 2 Chron. 14:1 (13:23) the land had rest ten years under Asa; according to 2 Chron. 15:19, “there was no more war unto the five and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa,” and in 16:1 it says that Baasha did not make war on Judah till the six and thirtieth year. But these numbers cannot possibly be correct, for according to our chapter 1 Kings 15:33, Baasha became king of Israel in the third year of Asa, and only reigned four-and-twenty years, therefore he could not have made war against Asa in the six-and-thirtieth year of the latter. The number ten is also too great, and was used probably because the numeral sign ו was shortened to י. Judah had rest before Baasha’s accession to the throne of Israel, and also two years afterwards, but then, when he was properly prepared for war, Baasha undertook the invasion; this occurred, therefore, in the fifth or sixth year of Asa’s reign. The numeral sign ל = 30 of the Chronicles may very well have been taken out of the לְמַלְכוּת. Cf. Thenius and Bertheau on the same passages. The supposition of older commentators and of Keil, that the five-and-thirty, that is, the six-and-thirty years dated from the time of the separation of the two kingdoms, is not admissible, because the text in 2 Chron. 16:1 says quite positively: “in the six-and-thirtieth year of the reign of Asa.”
1 Kings 15:17. Ramah (1 Kings 15:17) was not in the mountains of Ephraim (1 Sam. 10:2) but in the tribe of Benjamin (Josh. 18:25; Jud. 19:3), somewhat more than two hours’ distance from Jerusalem: it is the modern Er-Ram. The fortification of Ramah presupposes that Baasha had recovered the towns that belonged to the kingdom of Israel (2 Chron. 13:19) which had been taken by Abijam. The conjectural reading הֱיוֹת instead of תֵּת (Thenius) is unnecessary; it is literally: “to the end that one should not give (or send) any one coming in or going out, to Asa” (Bertheau) i. e., ut non posset quispiam egredi vel ingredi de parte Asœ (Vulg.). As the principal road from Jerusalem to the north passed through Ramah, Baasha wished to cut off all traffic, and in fact to blockade Jerusalem completely. The הַנּוֹתָרִים, 1 Kings 15:18, does not mean here, in the strict sense of the word, the remainder, for Shishak had taken all (1 Kings 14:26); Asa, after his victories and those of his father, filled the treasure chambers again with the plunder he took (1 Kings 15:5), and this, when compared with the former treasure, was the remainder. The Sept., therefore, gives τὸ εὑρεθὲν, i. e., what he then found.
1 Kings 15:18–22. Benhadad (1 Kings 15:18) means “son of the sun,” for the sun received divine honors from the Syrians, under the name of Adad (Macrob. Saturn. i. 23). Three kings of Damascene-Syria bore this name; the one named here was the first of them, and he who is mentioned in 1 Kings 20:1 sq.34 was his son. The name could scarcely have been a general royal title (Keil), for the name Tabrimmon is certainly the name of a person, but it is, in composition, like “good is Rimmon” (2 Kings 5:18). Thenius identifies Hezion with the Rezon mentioned in 1 Kings 11:23, who was called so originally (?). The phrase “king of Syria” is certainly in opposition with Benhadad. There is a league, &c. (1 Kings 15:19), i. e., as between our fathers there was a league, let it continue between us also. Syria must have increased rapidly in power since the days of Solomon; for both kingdoms, Israel and Judah, sought its friendship, although it was the natural foe of both. There is no doubt that Benhadad was induced to break his league with Baasha by the larger sum that Asa offered him. The Syrian army, which came from the north, overran the whole land of Naphtali to the lake of Genesareth; the towns which it laid waste lay in a line from north to south. Ijon was the most northern, and is nowhere else named, except in the parallel passage 2 Chron. 16:4; according to Robinson (Researches, &c. II. p. 438), it is situated in the well-watered district of Merj Ayun. Dan could not have been far south of it. Abel-beth-maachah (2 Chron. 16:4; Abel-maim) is the same town as that mentioned in 2 Sam. 20:14 and 18, and was situated at the mouth of the Merj Ayun; it is the modern Abil el Kamh (see Thenius on the place). Cinneroth, “evidently a district, not a town; it was the basin which stretches from the lake of Merom to the head of the lake of Genesareth” (the same). Although then Benhadad only disturbed the northern parts of the kingdom, Baasha saw himself induced to obey the demand to leave Judah (probably made to him) in order to prevent further losses. He left off building the fortifications of Ramah which he had begun, and returned to his residence Tirzah (1 Kings 14:17) without disturbing Asa any more. The latter now had the building materials at Ramah removed, and he fortified Geba of Benjamin and Mizpeh with them; the former was one-half mile [two and a quarter Eng. miles] from Ramah, and the latter about three miles [thirteen and a half Eng.]. These two fortresses overlooked each side of the road that led northwards from Jerusalem.
1 Kings 15:23–24. His might and … the cities.גְּבוּרָה, not so much potestas as deeds of might, i. e., brave deeds, as appears from chap, 16, 27; 22:46. Besides Geba and Mizpah, Asa erected other fortresses in Judah (2 Chron. 14:5, 6), which were probably designed to protect the southern part of his kingdom. He was on the whole prosperous, “only in his old age” he suffered much, and did not show a right trust in God (2 Chron. 16:12). It is uncertain if his disease were gout (Thenius). Chron. says that he had caused his tomb to be hewn out in the city of David; probably the place of sepulture hitherto used was not large enough.
Historical and Ethical
1. Chronicles gives not only more extended accounts of king Abijam, but some also which recent criticism declares to be utterly irreconcilable with the representation here. “According to the earlier narrative,” says Winer (R.-W.-B. I. s. 6), “Abijam walked in the footsteps of his idolatrous father (1 Kings 15:3); according to the later one, he appears to be a very zealous guardian of the worship of Jehovah and of the levitical system (2 Chron. 13:8 sq.). We must bear in mind that the Chronicler elsewhere endeavors to acquit the Judah-state from idol-worship, as much as possible.” De Wette, Thenius, and others hold similar views. But against this we remark, that the presupposition that Rehoboam was addicted to idolatry, and that Abijam followed in his ways, is erroneous, and Winer contradicts himself, for (in the work already cited, II. s. 312, note) he himself declares, that “the older (i. e., our) narative says nothing of the personal participation of Rehoboam with the untheocratic worship, rather, see 1 Kings 15:28.” Now we have already proved above that Chron. does not accuse him of it. Ewald therefore justly says (Gesch. Isr. III. s. 460 sq.): “Rehoboam indeed permitted or encouraged the exercise of foreign forms of worship, from his own predilections,” and in this respect “Abijam walked completely in Rehoboam’s footsteps; he shared his father’s religious views and principles.” It is no contradiction when in Chron. he is represented as a worshipper of Jehovah, for this he really was. The words he uttered before the beginning of hostilities to the opposite host of “all Israel” were not merely edifying and “exceedingly pious expressions” (Thenius), they quite correspond with the political and theocratic stand-point which Abijam took as king of Judah. He reproaches the ten tribes with their revolt from the house of David, and at the same time with all that Jeroboam had done, out of his own mind, against the divine fundamental law, given to the whole people. The evident purpose of the entire discourse was to win over Israel again to the house of David, to attach those who, being faithful to Jehovah, had already left the other tribes and settled in Judah, and also to attract and encourage such as still remained in Israel. Abijam had probably observed that his best support in a war with Israel was not to be found in the idolaters of his kingdom, but in the faithful servants of Jehovah. His very brief reign did not allow him any larger experience in this respect.
2. The long reign of king Asa, which lasted forty-one years, is treated with great brevity by our author; but the Chronicler devotes three whole chapters to it (2 Chron. 14, 15, 16). The former, however, lays especial emphasis on what is most important to the history of the theocracy, and what the Chronicler also esteems the principal thing, namely, that Asa energetically and sternly put down the idol-worship, which had been suffered to remain side by side with that of Jehovah since Solomon’s time, together with all the abominations the former included, and that he even deprived his idolatrous mother of her dignity as the Gebirah. How it happened that he entered with such decision on an entirely different course, immediately after his accession, is not told in either of the narratives; we can only form suppositions on the subject. After the separation of the ten tribes from Judah, the latter must have plainly perceived the injurious results of the religious liberty, which had been granted from political motives (see above, Histor. and Eth. on chap. 11). This already small kingdom lacked unity, and therefore a firm bond. The more that danger threatened it from Israel under Jeroboam, through the continual wars that went on, the more people must have become convinced of the necessity of making an end of the schism which had arisen from the various forms of idolatry, of restoring the lost unity, and of thus giving full sway to the theocratic fundamental law through which Judah had become great and strong, and so making the kingdom firm, both in its internal and external relations. Besides this, the number of those who, from true affection to the divine law, emigrated from all the other tribes to Judah, increased (2 Chron. 15:9), and all these abhorred the idol-worship which still existed in juxtaposition with that of Jehovah. Besides, some powerful and influential prophets were not wanting, who exhorted the king and the people to be faithful to Jehovah, and not to forsake the God of Israel, who had always helped His people (2 Chron. 15:1 sq.; 16:7 sq.). These circumstances may have convinced Asa that nothing could secure stability and permanence for his kingdom but the return to the fundamental law and firm adherence to the same; and the great victory which the Lord had given him over Zerah the Ethiopian must have tended not a little to strengthen him in that conviction (2 Chron. 14:7 sq.). From Asa’s subsequent conduct, it seems very uncertain whether his strict proceedings against the idol-worship were really the result of genuine conversion to Jehovah and of true piety, as might appear from his prayer (2 Chron. 14:10); political motives, if not principally, no doubt partially, influenced him. The Chron., which has been accused of giving a too partial and favorable view of Asa’s character, lays especial stress on some facts which do not seem to show a true conversion and godly mind, such as David had. For instance, Asa took away the Temple-treasures that were consecrated to Jehovah, and had been lately gathered anew (this our author also mentions), and sent them to the king of Syria (who was growing continually more dangerous to both kingdoms) in order to induce him to break his league with Baasha. Also that when the prophet Hanani reproved him for doing so he threw the latter into prison, which no king of Judah had yet ventured to do to a prophet; and he even punished others who took the prophet’s part; finally, that he showed no resignation to the will of the Lord or trust in Him during his last sickness (2 Chron. 16:10, 12). How completely different was David’s conduct after the report of the prophet Nathan, and a short time before his end (2 Sam. 12:13; 23:1 sq.)! When, notwithstanding all this, both narratives say that Asa’s heart was שָׁלֵם עִם־יְהוָֹה, it follows that this often repeated expression only means: he never wavered between God’s service and that of idols or images, but was unreservedly devoted to the lawful worship of Jehovah, which was an exclusive one; and by being so he rendered his people a great service.
Homiletical and Practical
1 Kings 15:1–8. The fruit falls not far from the tree. What the old sing, the young chirp (Was die Alten sungen, das zwitschern die Jungen). The parental house is, for the child, the preparatory school of life; what he there sees and hears is never forgotten through life. No example is so weighty and important as that of the parents: how great, then, is their responsibility. Abijam followed not after the example of David, great and glorious as it was, but after that of his father Rehoboam, which he saw immediately before him.
1 Kings 15:4. The blessing of pious, God-fearing fore-fathers often falls to the advantage of even degenerate children, through the mercy of God.
1 Kings 15:5. No human example, however glorious it may be, is perfect, for even the greatest and best are wanting in the sight of God, and miserable sinners. Therefore we are referred to the example of Him who alone is sinless, and out of whose mouth proceeds no guile. He alone can say: He who follows me, walketh not in darkness, but has the light of life (1 Pet. 2:21; John 8:12). The children of this world often quote and excuse their sins by citing the example of good and holy men who have fallen, but never take pattern after their repentance and humiliation, and refuse to know anything of the wrung and smitten heart of a David (Ps. 51:19), or of the tears of a Peter (Matt. 26:75).
1 Kings 15:6–8. The enmity, strife, and war between the sister-kingdoms was the result of their broken covenant with the Lord God. Wheresoever, be it amid a nation, a community, or a family, the fear of the living God, and the bond of union with Him is destroyed, there will ever be strife and discord; peace is only to be found where the God of peace reigns in the heart (Col. 3:15). To go out of the world at enmity is not a blessed death.
1 Kings 15:9–24. The reign of Asa the king, (a) in its religious aspect (1 Kings 15:9–15); (b) in its political aspect (1 Kings 15:16–24).
1 Kings 15:11. It is to be regarded as a merciful providence of God, when a son who has grown up with evil surroundings, and the bad example of a father and mother, yet holds steadily to His word and commandments, and resists firmly all ungodly influences.
1 Kings 15:12–13. Against sins of licentiousness no authority can be powerful enough, for where this evil has crept in, there comes a moral corruption which works destructively upon all relations of life. Authority being ordained of God, as the Apostle says, its duty and task is to oppose with severity all godless conduct, without fear or favor of man, and to vindicate the eternal divine laws. Therefore it is that we have the church prayer for those in authority.
1 Kings 15:13. CALW. B.: Thus it is: A man must first cleanse his own house if he would be an example to others. Therefore says the Apostle, “if a man know not how to rule his own house he cannot take care of the church of God” (1 Tim. 3:5). Where the honor of God or the salvation of the soul comes in question, there even a mother must not prevail. I am come, says our Lord (Matt. 10:35 sq.), to set at variance, &c.
1 Kings 15:14. To remove deep-rooted and long-standing evils suddenly and completely is impossible, even for a well-intentioned and powerful ruler; for in that case he would bring about resistance to the good rather than further it.
1 Kings 15:15. Hence noble and pious princes should bethink themselves of using their gold and silver not only for worldly objects, but to enrich churches and schools, necessary to the accomplishment of godly designs.
1 Kings 15:16 sq. The enemies who rise up against us, and bring us into straits, must often serve, in the hand of God, to try and prove whether our faith is rooted in the deepest soil of the heart, and our zeal in religious things no fleshly one, but a high and holy one.
1 Kings 15:17–18. What is bestowed in faith must be regarded as sacred, and under no pretext must it be diverted to worldly purposes. Nothing but a rude power, knowing neither fear nor awe of God, could commit such a robbery, and no blessing can ever rest upon it. He who gives with one hand and takes back with the other, has his just recompense therein.
1 Kings 15:19. This is the curse resting upon the strife of brethren—each forms a league with the common enemy rather than resolve upon peace with each other. The least reliable friend and companion in need is he who can be bought with gold, and is always at the disposal of the highest bidder. He who persuades another to break faith must be prepared to find that he will not maintain the word given to him. In every strait, seek first the support and aid of thy God, without whom no man can help thee. Asa was indeed right believing, but he was not right believing.
1 Kings 15:20 sq. Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein, and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him (Prov. 26:27). Baasha wished to become possessed of an additional city, and thus lost a series of his own cities; with the same stones with which he purposed to strengthen Ramah, Asa built two strong cities.
1 Kings 15:24. Sickness in old age, previous to death, is a divine chastisement and trial, to wean men from the world and ripen them for eternity. How many men would die unconverted if God did not visit them before death with sickness! Well is it for all who through such visitations turn unto the Lord, as did Asa in 2 Chron. 16:12.
1 Kings 15:1.—[Many MSS. and Ed. read throughout this narrative אֲבִיָּה instead of אֲבִיָּם as in 2 Chron. 11:22; 13:1, &c. (Cf. 2 Chron. 13:20 אֲבִיּהוּ) and so the Sept. Αβιού, and the Syr.
1 Kings 15:2.—[The Alex. Sept. makes his reign sixteen years.
1 Kings 15:4.—[In the author’s translation the name Rehoboam is inserted in brackets as explanitory of the pronoun him. The natural reference to Abijam may, however, as well be preserved.
1 Kings 15:5.—[The Vat. Sept. omits the mention of this exception, and also omits the following verse.
1 Kings 15:6.—[For Rehoboam eight MSS., followed by the Syr. and Arab., substitute Abijah. The Alex. Sept. puts the last pronoun of 1 Kings 15:6 in the plural—a variation in the opposite direction.
1 Kings 15:8.—[The Vat. Sept. adds, “in the twenty-fourth year of Jeroboam,” and in 1 Kings 15:9 changes the number to correspond—a manifest error.
1 Kings 15:10.—[The Vat. Sept. escapes the difficulty connected with the queen-mother’s name, here and in 1 Kings 15:13, by substituting Ana for Maachah. The Arab. omits the name here, but gives Maachah in 1 Kings 15:13.
1 Kings 15:13.—[מִפְלֶצֶת לַאֲשֵׁרָה. The meaning of these words has been much discussed and is variously given in the VV.—The most probable sense seems to be “an idol of Asherah.” See Exeg. Com.
1 Kings 15:15.—For וקדשו must be read with 2 Chron. 15:18 וְקָדָשָׁיו. [The k’ri is קדשי, which Kiel says “is a bad emendation for the above correct קדשו, which is to be read קָדְשׁוֹ, or more correctly perhaps קָדְשָׁו.]
1 Kings 15:18.—[The Sept. in translating by τὀ εὑρεθέν give the sense as expressed in the Exeg. Com. All the other VV., like the A.V. translate literally.
1 Kings 15:22.—[The adverbial use of אֵין נָקִי = nemine immuni i. e., excepto is peculiar to this passage. Keil refers for its source to such passages as Deut. 24:5; Num. 32:22. The Sept., not understanding the phrase, has rendered it as a proper name, εἰς ’Ενακίμ (Alex. ’Αννακείμ.)
1 Kings 15:22.—[The Sept. has undertaken to translate the names Geba and Mizpah as common nouns, πᾶν βουνὸν Βενιαμὶν καὶ τὴν σκοπιάν.—F. G.]
And Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned over Israel two years.FOURTH SECTION
THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL UNDER NADAB AND HIS SUCCESSORS UNTIL AHAB
1 KINGS 15:25–16:28
A.—The reign of Nadab and Baasha
1 KINGS 15:25–16:7
25And Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned over Israel two years. 26And he did evil in the sight of the Lord [Jehovah], and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin 27[sins13] wherewith he made Israel to sin. And Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar, conspired14 against him; and Baasha smote him at Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines; for Nadab and all Israel laid siege to Gibbethon. 28Even in the third year of Asa king of Judah did Baasha slay him, and reigned in his stead. 29And it came to pass, when he reigned, that he smote all the house of Jeroboam; he left not to Jeroboam any that breathed,15 until he had destroyed him, according unto the saying of the Lord [Jehovah], which he spake by his servant Ahijah the Shilonite: 30because of the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned, and which he made Israel sin, by his provocation wherewith he provoked the Lord [Jehovah] God of Israel to anger. 31Now the rest of the acts of Nadab, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Israel? 1632And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days.
33In the third year of Asa king of Judah began Baasha the son of Ahijah to reign over all Israel in Tirzah, twenty and four years. 34And he did evil in the sight of the Lord [Jehovah], and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin [sins] wherewith he made Israel to sin.
16:1THEN the word of the Lord came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying, 2Forasmuch as I exalted thee out of the dust, and made thee prince over my people Israel; and thou hast walked in the way of Jeroboam, and hast made my people Israel to sin, to provoke me to anger with their sins; 3behold, I will take away the posterity of Baasha, and the posterity of his house; and will make thy house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. 4Him that dieth of Baasha in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth of his in the fields shall the fowls of the air eat. 5Now the rest of the acts of Baasha, and what he did, and his might, are they not written in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Israel? 6So Baasha slept with his fathers, and was buried in Tirzah: and Elah his son reigned in his stead.17 7And also by the hand of the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani came the word of the Lord [Jehovah] against Baasha, and against his house, even for all the evil that he did in the sight of the Lord [Jehovah], in provoking him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam; and because he killed him.
Exegetical and Critical
1 Kings 15:25–26. In the second year of Asa. We see clearly from this verse, compared with the time given in 1 Kings 15:28 and 33, as in all the statement regarding the length of reigns, that years not fully complete are considered as whole ones. “For if Nadab ascended the throne in the second year of Asa’s reign (1 Kings 15:28), and Asa ascended the throne in the twentieth year of Jeroboam’s (1 Kings 15:9), Jeroboam could not have reigned quite twenty-two years, but only twenty-one and some months; and if Baasha succeeded to Nadab in the third year of Asa’s reign (1 Kings 15:28 and 33) Nadab could not have reigned two years (1 Kings 15:25), in fact not much more than one and a half year or perhaps a little shorter time” (Keil).
1 Kings 15:27–31. Baasha … of the house of Issachar,i. e., of the tribe of Issachar; he cannot therefore have been the son of the prophet Ahijah, as Menzel supposes, for he was an Ephraimite of Shiloh. The city of Gibbethon belongs to the tribe of Dan (Josh. 19:44), and was one of the four cities of the levites which belonged (i. e., the cities) to this tribe (Josh. 21:23); it must have been on the borders of Philistia. It is very doubtful if it had always been occupied by the Philistines, and was now for the first time besieged by the Israelites (Winer); it rather appears that the Philistines, after the partition of the kingdom, again took possession of it as an important border fortress; whereupon the Israelites under Nadab and Elah (1 Kings 16:15) tried to recover it. As Nadab met his death on this occasion, it seems that Baasha’s conspiracy was of a military description, and that the latter was an army chief like Zimri (1 Kings 16:9). Thenius supposes that Gibbethon was the same as the modern Muzeiri’ah, or Elmejdel (Tower) (cf. Robinson, Pal. III. p. 282). How the conspiracy arose is not stated; perhaps Nadab was still very young, and not a match for Baasha, who was very enterprising. It seems that he was not satisfied with exterminating the male relatives of Jeroboam, but murdered the whole of his race. The כִּדְבַר 1 Kings 15:29, does not, of course, mean: as the Lord had promised him, but: so that the word of prophecy was fulfilled. For 1 Kings 15:29, 30 see above on 1 Kings 14:10 sq.
1 Kings 15:32–34. And there was war … all their days. 1 Kings 15:32 is a literal repetition of 1 Kings 15:16, and does not seem suitable to the context here, for even if we were to read Nadab instead of Baasha (Ewald), this does not agree with “all their days,” for Nadab did not reign much longer than a year, and had war with the Philistines during that time. Nadab, too, should be named first; between Nadab and Asa; and finally Asa, whose year of accession coincided with the short period of Nadab’s reign, had, according to 2 Chron. 13:23, no war at that time. Thenius thinks that the repetition of 1 Kings 15:16 arose through a mistake of the copyist, but there is certainly no necessity for this easy but at the same time violent solution of the difficulty. Keil’s view is better. He finds (1845) the reason of the repetition in the excerptive character of these books, and in the manner of theocratic historical writing, namely, in the want of strict order in the arrangement of the historical matter. 1 Kings 15:16 is taken from the book of the acts of the kings of Judah; 1 Kings 15:32 from that of the kings of Israel. In the first instance the remark is given beforehand, because there was something special to be said about the war between Asa and Baasha; here, though it would certainly be more suitable after 1 Kings 15:33 and 34, it is not put in on account of Asa, but on account of Baasha, and is the regular mode of expression for the conditions of the State under the different reigns. For Tirzah see 1 Kings 14:17.
1 Kings 16:1–6. The word of the Lord came. The chapter is not here divided according to the accession of the king, but according to the prophetic sentence which proclaimed ruin to the whole reigning dynasty, and therefore was the beginning of all the subsequent period. The prophet Jehu is mentioned in 2 Chron. 19:2 sq. as well as in 1 Kings 15:1, 7, 12; in the above passage ho blames the conduct of the Judah-king Jehoshaphat, the successor of Asa; and in 2 Chron. 20:34 he is named as the author of the “acts of Jehoshaphat in the book of the kings of Israel.” There is no doubt that his father Hanani was the same as he who was thrown into prison because of his censure of king Asa (2 Chron. 16:7, 10). According to this, he must have belonged to the kingdom of Judah, and either pronounced his sentence there (1 Kings 15:2 and 7), or have gone over, for the purpose, into the northern kingdom. It is also uncertain whether he pronounced the threatening to Baasha personally and directly. For out of the dust (1 Kings 15:2) 1 Kings 14:7 gives “from among the people,” from which “we might conclude that Baasha had raised himself from a very low position to be a commander of the army and finally king” (Thenius). What Baasha did, of himself and by crime, the prophet ascribes in so far to Jehovah, that he could not possibly have executed his plans had they been contrary to the purposes of Jehovah. The entire sentence is evidently modelled after that of the prophet Ahijah against Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:7–11) (see Hist. and Eth. there, 1). 1 Kings 15:6 says that Baasha died a natural death, but Zimrl (1 Kings 15:12) exterminated all “his posterity” (cf.אַחֲרֵי, 1 Kings 15:3). For גְּבוּרָח, see on 1 Kings 15:23.
1 Kings 16:7. Came the word, &c. The וְגַם is not equal to and also, or yes (De Wette), neither does it mean that Jehu himself bore the message, but rather “any former thought or excuse that might be brought forward was strongly rejected” (Ewald, Lehrbuch § 354). The whole of 1 Kings 16:7 is not, as the Rabbins say, a new and further prophecy, but a supplementary remark to the prediction 1 Kings 16:2, which might be misinterpreted as meaning that Baasha had a divine commission to murder Nadab and his race. No! the word, 1 Kings 16:2, spoken by Jehu was called forth by the fact that Baasha had of his own accord destroyed the whole house of Jeroboam, and yet himself had adhered to Jeroboam’s sin. This very word “clearly shows that the extermination of the house of Jeroboam was not done by divine commission, but from selfish motives.” For הִכְעִים, see above on 1 Kings 14:15. “The work of his hands” denotes, according to Deut. 4:28, Dii factitii, whether images of Jehovah (calves) or idols.
Historical and Ethical
1. We have much less concerning the two Israelitish kings Nadab and Baasha and the acts of their reigns than of the two Judah-kings Abijah and Asa. The narrative merely says of Nadab that he walked in the ways of his father Jeroboam; i. e., that he retained unlawful institutions, and after a reign of scarcely two years was murdered in a conspiracy, by Baasha. But of the reign of Baasha, which lasted twenty-four years, our only narrative says that he destroyed all the whole house of Jeroboam after he (Baasha) became king, as was threatened to Jeroboam by the prophet Ahijah (1 Kings 14:7 sq.); that he also persisted in the sin of Jeroboam, and had the same fate as the latter announced to him by the prophet Jehu. We can see plainly from this what the principle which guided our author in his historical writing was. He does not care to give a complete account of all the facts and events of the reign of each king,—for these he refers to the authorities that lay before him,—but the thing rather which concerned him most of all, was the position each king took with regard to the Israelitish fundamental law, i. e., the covenant, which was the soul of the entire Old-Testament theocracy; and how the promises and threatenings of this law itself, or of the prophets charged with its announcements, and who spoke as the servants and ambassadors of Jehovah, became fulfilled (see Introd. § 5). The heavy judgment which overtook the house of him who first openly broke the fundamental law of the entire people, and made the image-worship (so strictly forbidden in that law) the religion of the State and people; that heavy judgment, we say, was a practical historical prediction for every royal house which persisted in “the sin of Jeroboam.” No less than nine dynasties of the kingdom of Israel, with whom this was the case, perished in like manner with the house of Jeroboam, until at last the kingdom itself was destroyed, whilst the dynasty of David continued uninterruptedly in Judah.
2. The little that is told of Baasha is sufficient to show that he was an ambitious, rough, and violent, indeed even a blood-thirsty man. He did not conspire against his lord and king, and usurp the throne, in order to bring the fundamental law of Israel into force again, and to make an end to the sin of Jeroboam, for he himself adhered firmly to it all his life, in spite of all the warnings and threatenings of the prophets. He only cared for dominion thereof, and for this he esteemed the sin of Jeroboam as necessary as the latter himself had done; in short, he seems to have been a rough soldier who cared little or nothing about religion. We see from his enterprise at Ramah (1 Kings 15:17), which he wished to fortify “to reduce Judah utterly, through complete obstruction of trade” (Ewald), that he hated Judah and wished to destroy it, and therefore to reign over it also. He was the first king-murderer in Israel, and led the way, as It were, to this crime, which was afterwards so often imitated. He was the first, too, who exterminated an entire royal house with violence, and not only killed the males, but “every one that had breath,” an unheard, of cruelty, even in throne-usurpations in the ancient East. Menzel (s. 171), who wrongly takes him to have been the son of the prophet Ahijah (see above on 1 Kings 15:27), intimates that he was therefore under prophetical influence, and then says that he “disappointed the hopes which the prophets of Jehovah had placed in him.” This, however, is pure fancy. The conspiracy of Baasha was completely a military insurrection, as 1 Kings 15:27 indubitably proves, while there is not a word to show that he was influenced by the prophets. He was, no doubt, one of the leaders in Nadab’s army, but there is no evidence in the history that he was “a man distinguished for his valor” and a “skilful warrior,” as Ewald calls him (III. s. 446 sq.); the general term, too, used in 1 Kings 16:5 is no proof. There is still less ground for the further supposition, that besides the growing discontent of the prophets, the fact that the house of Jeroboam had not been able to conquer the kingdom of Judah, and other enemies, was evidently the chief root of the insurrection against it; that Baasha thought he could perform more, and in this hope he seized the throne. The text does not say the least word of all this. For the sentence announced to Baasha by the prophet Jehu, see above, Hist. and Eth. on 1 Kings 14:1–20 (4).
Homiletical and Practical
1 Kings 15:25–31. The ruin of the house of Jeroboam proclaims these two great truths: sin is the destruction of a people (Prov. 14:34), and: He who heareth not my word, of him will I require it (Deut. 18:19). God does not punish the innocent children for the sins of their fathers, but those who, despising the divine patience and long-suffering shown to their fathers, perpetuate, without any shame, the sins of the fathers (Exod. 20:5, 6). A given example of evil is rarely without imitation; as Jeroboam rebelled against the house of David, so did Baasha against the house of Jeroboam. Desire for rule and envy beget first dissatisfaction with the condition in life ordained by God, lead then to breach of faith, and end at last with murder and homicide.
1 Kings 15:29. Conspirators and rebels profess to overthrow tyranny and to throw off its yoke; but when they attain power and sovereignty they are themselves the most violent and cruel tyrants.
1 Kings 15:34. CALW. B.: Baasha trod in the footsteps of Jeroboam just as if Jeroboam had been good and upright. And yet Baasha himself was an instrument in the hands of God to punish Jeroboam on account of his sins. What folly! When Jeroboam’s son, Nadab, did as his father, we can explain it by paternal influence;—but that Baasha should have pursued the same course is a proof of monstrous blindness. The world does not allow itself to be interrupted in its purposes; vain conduct after the way of those who lived before, is always inherited (1 Pet. 1:18).—Chap 16:1. The word of the Lord in the mouth of a true servant of God is, for the pious, sweeter than honey and the honey-comb (Ps. 19:11), for the wicked and impious it is a consuming fire, and like the hammer which breaketh the rock in pieces (Jer. 23:29).
1 Kings 16:2–4. OSIANDER: The sins of the common people which they have learned from their princes, as well also as those which these do not restrain when they can, are charged to them. Those who are lifted up out of the dust are often the proudest and most arrogant because they think they must thank only themselves for their exalted position, and they forget what is written in 1 Sam. 2:7 sq. For Baasha, also, the hour struck when it was said, Behold, oh! most proud, &c. (Jer. 50:31). The throne which has been obtained by lying, deceit, and falsehood and bloodshed has no stability. The judgment of God, though delayed for a time, will not always tarry (Ps. 5:6, 7). Robbers and murderers are not always in caves and the hidden recesses of forests, sometimes they are seated upon thrones; but the Lord will “sweep them away,” and their end will be with horror: before His tribunal no people, no crown is a protection.
1 Kings 15:26.—[It is better here and in 1 Kings 15:34, &c., to retain the plural form of the Heb. Sin was doubtless intended to be understood collectively in the A. V.
1 Kings 15:27.—[The Heb. וַיִּקְשֹׁר from the root קָשַׁר, to bind or tie together, is correctly translated conspired, and implies that others were concerned with Baasha in the plot.
1 Kings 15:29.—[לֹא־הִשְׁאִיר כָּל־נְשָׁמָה, “he left not any that had breath,” i.e., he destroyed all, both male and female, of the house of Jeroboam, in contrast with the expression in 1 Kings 14:10, &c. Cf. Josh. 11:11, 14.
1 Kings 15:32.—[The Vat. Sept. omits 1 Kings 15:32, which has occasioned so much perplexity from its being an exact repetition of 1 Kings 15:16. For the reasons of its insertion see Exeg. Com.
1 Kings 16:6.—[The Alex. Sept. adds “in the twentieth year of king Asa”—an impossible date. Cf. 15:33.—F. G.]