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BRIEF SUMMARIES OF THE REIGNS OF CERTAIN KINGS OF ISRAEL AND OF JUDAH
The spiritual decline of Israel quickly followed the Division of the kingdom, and the principal interest of the sacred narrator was focused upon the question of whether or not this or that king did what was right or what was evil in the sight of God. In keeping with the general absence of any intense Christian interest in this list of kings, most of whom were evil, we shall discuss each of these very briefly.
THE REIGN OF ABIJAM; THE SON OF REHOBOAM
"Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam the son of Nebat, began Abijam to reign over Judah. Three years reigned he in Jerusalem: and his mother's name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. And he walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him; and his heart was not perfect with Jehovah his God, as the heart of David his father. Nevertheless for David's sake did Jehovah his God give him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him, and to establish Jerusalem, because David did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah, and turned not aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. Now there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life."
Abijam's three years on the throne of Judah made no difference at all. The war between Israel and Judah was not settled, and Abijam walked in the sinful excesses of his father Rehoboam. In 1 Kings 15:3, David is referred to as his father, but there it means grandfather.
"For David's sake" (1 Kings 15:4). God had promised David a continuing dynasty, and that meant that God would necessarily accommodate himself to the extreme wickedness of some of the members of that dynasty to achieve God's ultimate purpose of bringing the Messiah into the world.
This, of course, is also the explanation of God's preservation of the people of Israel, the posterity of the patriarchs to whom God had promised that "in their seed" all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). Israel became worse than Sodom and Gomorrah and deserved to be exterminated from the earth as much as Sodom and Gomorrah deserved it, but, as we have frequently pointed out, "God was stuck with Israel until the Messiah came."
Abijam's wickedness, the same as that of Jeroboam, deserved the same punishment that Jeroboam received, namely, the destruction of his house for ever, but it was for David's sake that God allowed his son Asa to stand in the dynasty. Cook's comment on this is instructive:
"Few things are any more remarkable than the stability of David's dynasty in Jerusalem and the excessive instability of the dynasties in northern Israel. A single family, that of David, held the throne in Jerusalem for almost four centuries, but in Israel there were nine changes in the dynasty in the space of 250 years." Indeed, this is an eloquent comment upon the effectiveness of God's promise to David.
A SUMMARY OF ABIJAM'S REIGN
"And 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. And Abijam slept with his fathers; and they buried him in the city of David: and Asa his son reigned in his stead."
THE REIGN OF ASA OVER JUDAH
"And in the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel began Asa to reign over Judah. And forty and one years reigned he in Jerusalem: and his mother's name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah, as did David his father And he put away the sodomites of the land, and removed all the idols that his father had made. And also Maacah his mother he removed from being queen, because she had made an abominable image for an Ashera; and Asa cut down her image, and burnt it at the brook Kidron. But the high places were not taken away: nevertheless the heart of Asa was perfect with Jehovah all his days. And he brought into the house of Jehovah the things that his father had dedicated, and the things that himself had dedicated, silver, and gold, and vessels."
"His mother's name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom" (1 Kings 15:10). "The Jews called any female ancestor mother and any male ancestor father." This woman was actually the grandmother of Asa (1 Kings 15:2). She was the favorite wife of Rehoboam, and, as may be inferred from the statement here, she held the important post of queen-mother, a very distinctive office in Jewish government.
"Abishalom" (1 Kings 15:10). This name is the same as Absalom, but as Absalom apparently had but one daughter Tamar (2 Samuel 14:27), Maacah was probably his granddaughter.
"Maacah ... he removed from being queen" (1 Kings 15:17). Her sin and the reason for this was the abominable image that she made for an Ashera. "This pagan goddess was hailed as the mother of 70 different gods, including Baal ... She was also called by a title that meant, She who walks on the sea." This action of Asa, along with his throwing the sodomites out of Judah, were powerful evidences of his loyalty to the Lord. Of all the people on earth who might be entitled to such a nickname as "gay," none could be less entitled to it than the contemptible sodomites!
"But the high places were not taken away" (1 Kings 15:14). The idolatry of Israel was already so deeply entrenched and supported by popular opinion that king Asa was powerless to do anything about it. This is adequate proof that even the most righteous of rulers cannot always accomplish all that they would like to do in leading the people in the right way.
"He brought into the house of Jehovah the things that his father had dedicated, and the things that he had dedicated" (1 Kings 15:15). It is surprising that Abijam had made any dedications to the Lord, but the explanation is found in 2 Chronicles 14:9ff. God had given him a victory over Jeroboam. Asa's dedications were probably those which he pledged following his victory over the Cushites in the eleventh year of his reign.
ASA'S ALLIANCE WITH DAMASCUS AGAINST BAASHA
"And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days. And Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah, and built Ramah, that he might not suffer any one to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. Then Asa took all the silver and the gold that were left in the treasures of the house of Jehovah, and the treasures of the king's house, and delivered them into the hand of his servants; and king Asa sent them to Benhadad, the son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, king of Syria, that dwelt in Damascus, saying, There is a league between me and thee, between my father and thy father: behold, I have sent unto thee a present of silver and gold; go, break thy league with Baasha king of Israel, that he may depart from me. And Benhadad hearkened unto Asa, and sent the captains of his armies against the cities of Israel, and smote lion, and Dan, and Abel-beth-maacah, and all Chinneroth, with all the land of Naphtali. And it came to pass when Baasha heard thereof, that he left off building Ramah, and dwelt in Tirzah. Then king Asa made a proclamation unto all Judah; none was exempted: and they carried away the stones of Ramah, and the timber thereof wherewith Baasha had builded; and king Asa built therewith Geba and of Benjamin, and Mizpah."
"There was war between Asa and Baasha" (1 Kings 15:16). Asa lived much longer than Jeroboam, and Baasha was the king who had succeeded him. The narrator would conclude his record of Asa, before returning to the history of northern Israel.
"Baasha ... built Ramah" (1 Kings 15:17). This place was not very far from Jerusalem and was situated in the heart of Benjamin. This move by Baasha was exceedingly hostile, as it indicated his desire to bottle up Asa and eventually take over the southern kingdom. Now, when the Cushites had invaded Judah, Asa had asked help and guidance from the Lord, but now, at a later time, he asked help from the king of Syria in Damascus. The prophet Hanani condemned Asa for this lack of confidence in the Lord and severely rebuked him. Asa's angry response was to imprison the prophet (2 Chronicles 16:7-10).
It should not be overlooked that Baasha's building Ramah here was in fact his fortification of the place.
"Benhadad the son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, the king of Syria" (1 Kings 15:18). We are amused that Matheney comments on this thus: "This genealogy of the royal house of Damascus has been confirmed by the discovery of an Aramaic inscribed monument of this Benhadad to the god Melqart." It is this writer's view that the inscription on that monument is confirmed by this record in the Bible. The false notion that monuments are always correct is ridiculous. If one doubts it, let him read the inscription on the grave of Robert Fulton in the old Trinity Church graveyard at the foot of Broadway in Manhattan! (It credits Fulton with the invention of the steamboat).
"A league between me and thee and between my father and thy father" (1 Kings 15:19). This is supposed to refer to a league that might have been made between Abijam and the king of Syria and which aided Abijam's great victory over Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 13:17-20).
"And all Chinneroth" (1 Kings 15:20). "This refers to the tract of land on the western shores of Lake Chinnereth." Of course, Chinnereth is one of the names of Lake Galilee (Lake Tiberius), all of these being various designations of a single body of water.
Asa's aid from Damascus thwarted Baasha's purpose against Judah and also enabled Asa to confiscate the building materials which Baasha had assembled at Ramah, with which the king of Judah fortified Geba and Mizpah, cities somewhat north of Ramah, thus securing himself against a renewal of Baasha's threat.
A SUMMARY OF THE REIGN OF ASA OVER JUDAH
"Now the 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? But in the time of his old age he was diseased in his feet. And 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."
Again we have a very brief summary of a reign that lasted over forty years. While the over-all view of Asa's reign enabled the sacred author to write that, "Asa did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah" (1 Kings 15:11), this by no means indicates the total absence of evil in his administration. The very best of the kings of Judah were weak and sinful men, because the Christ, whose death enabled people to live more perfectly, had not yet come to mankind.
"In his old age, he was diseased in his feet" (1 Kings 15:23). This disease of Asa began in the thirty-ninth year of his reign (2 Chronicles 16:12), and he sought help from the physicians but not from the Lord. "From this we may see that the longer he lived the more he turned his heart away from the Lord." The old proverb that power corrupts and that total power corrupts totally has been repeatedly proved to be the truth throughout human history.
JEROBOAM WAS SUCCEEDED BRIEFLY BY NADAB WHO WAS SLAIN BY BAASHA WHO TOOK HIS THRONE
"And Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah; and he reigned over Israel two years. And he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin. And Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar, conspired against him; and Baasha smote him at Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines; for Nadab and all Israel were laying siege to Gibbethon. Even in the third year of Asa king of Judah did Baasha slay him and reigned in his stead. And it came to pass that, as soon as he was king, he smote all the house of Jeroboam: he left not to Jeroboam any that breathed until he had destroyed him; according to the saying of Jehovah, which he spake by his servant Ahijah the Shilonite; for the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned, and wherewith he made Israel to sin, because of his provocation wherewith he provoked Jehovah, the God of Israel, to anger."
This narrative, of course, takes us back almost to the beginning of the reign of Asa, filling us in with the record of what had been happening in Israel in the meanwhile.
"Gibbethon" (1 Kings 15:27). This place is supposed to be about 16 miles southeast of Joppa. At the time of this narrative, it belonged to the Philistines. In the times of Joshua, it was assigned to the Levites (Joshua 21:23).
Nothing is any more remarkable than the arrogant and stupid perversity of the kings of Israel, who could not have been ignorant of the fact that the families of preceding kings were mercilessly liquidated upon the direct commandment of God because of their idolatry in the worship of the calves, and of the fact that the succeeding king, in each case, became God's instrument of punishment and destruction. And yet, those succeeding kings took up and promoted the very same sinful idolatry for which God had destroyed their predecessors. Surely Satan himself must have blinded such men, whose ambition to reign as king appears to have been the sole motivation that prevented their return to the true worship of God in Jerusalem and to their allegiance to the house of David.
In those nine dynasties of Israel, as Keil noted, "It came to pass through the just judgment of God, that they all were executioners of one another in turn: Baasha was the executioner of the sons of Jeroboam; Zambri was the executioner of the sons of Baasha; and the executioner of Zambri was Omri."
A SUMMARY OF THE REIGN OF NADAB OVER ISRAEL
"Now 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? And there was war between Asa and Baasha all their days."
Two years or forty years, two verses was all that God needed to summarize the reigns of any of these kings! It is important to observe in all these summaries that the sacred narrator is not quoting from some late editor but from "the book of the chronicles of the kings" of both Judah and Israel.
THE BEGINNING OF THE REIGN OF BAASHA
"In the third year of Asa king of Judah began Baasha the son of Ahijah to reign over all Israel in Tirzah, and reigned twenty and four years. And he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin."
Baasha's evil reign will be further discussed in the next chapter.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Kings 15". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany