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(1) So Abijah slept . . . in his stead.—Verbatim as 1 Kings 15:8 (Abijam).
In his days the land was quiet ten years.—Mentioned here as a result of Abijah’s great victory. “The land was quiet,” or “had rest” (Judges 3:11; Judges 5:31). The phrase is explained in 2 Chronicles 14:6, “He had no war in those years.”
During this period of repose Asa strengthened the defences of his country (2 Chronicles 14:5, comp. 2 Chronicles 15:19).
The name Asa may perhaps mean “healer;” (comp. the Syriac ’ôsç “physician,” and 2 Chronicles 16:12); or “spices” (Syriac ‘ôsô; comp. 2 Chronicles 16:14).
REIGN OF ASA (2 Chronicles 14-16.)
(a) EFFORTS TO ROOT OUT ILLEGITIMATE WORSHIPS, AND TO STRENGTHEN THE SYSTEM OF NATIONAL DEFENCES (2 Chronicles 14:2-7; comp. 1 Kings 15:9-15).
(2) That which was good and right.—Literally, The good and the right, an expression defined in 2 Chronicles 14:3-4. It is used of Hezekiah, 2 Chronicles 31:20. See 1 Kings 15:11, “And Asa did the right in the eyes of the Lord, like David his father.”
For (and) . . . the altars of the strange gods.—Literally, altars of the alien. Vulg., “altaria peregrini cultus.” Comp. the expression, gods of the alien (Gen. xxxv, 2, 4). (Comp. 1 Kings 15:12 b, and he took away all the idols that his fathers had made; a summary statement, which is here expanded into details.) But both here and in 2 Chronicles 12:1-2, the chronicler has omitted to mention the qedçshîm (Authorised Version, “Sodomites”) (1 Kings 15:12 a)
And the high places.—i.e., those dedicated to foreign religions. It is clear from 2 Chronicles 15:17, as well as 1 Kings 15:14, that high places dedicated to the worship of Jehovah were not done away with by Asa.
Brake down the images.—Brake in pieces (or shattered) the pillars. They were dedicated to Baal, and symbolised the solar rays, being, no doubt, a species of obelisk. (See Genesis 28:18; Exodus 34:13; Judges 3:7.)
The “high places, images, and groves” of this verse are all mentioned in 1 Kings 14:23.
(4) And commanded Judah to seek.—‘amar with infinitive. (Comp. 1 Chronicles 21:17.) The chronicler’s own style is visible in this verse.
To seek the Lord God of their fathers.—The same phrase recurs in 2 Chronicles 15:12.
The law and the commandment.—Exodus 24:12, “That I may give thee the tables of stone, and the law and the commandment that I have written” (Deuteronomy 6:25).
And the images.—Hammanîm. (Comp. the word hammah, “sun.”) Pillars or statues to the sun-god, standing before or upon the altars of Baal, are intended (see Leviticus 26:30; Isaiah 17:8; 2 Chronicles 34:4.) Comp. the Phenician deity Baal-hamman.
The kingdom was quiet before him.—Enjoyed peace under his oversight. Compare the use of the word “before,” in Numbers 8:22; Psalms 72:5 (“before the moon”).
(6) And he built fenced cities.—See 2 Chronicles 11:5; 2 Chronicles 12:4; and for the expression “had given him rest,” 2 Samuel 7:1.
These cities.—The “fenced cities” of last verse. Their names are unknown. Geba and Mizpah were fortified by Asa; but that was after the war with Baasha, which began in the twenty-sixth year of Asa (1 Kings 15:33); see 2 Chronicles 16:6. A general system of defence, like that of Rehoboam, who fortified as many as fifteen cities, seems to be indicated.
Gates (doors) and bars.—1 Samuel 23:7, and 2 Chronicles 8:5, supra, where “bars” is, as usual, singular, bariach. Here it is plural.
While the land is yet before us.—Is open to us, free from hostile occupation. The phrase is apparently borrowed from Genesis 13:9. (Is yet, ‘odennû, masculine pronoun, instead of feminine; probably a clerical error). Omit while, and put a stop at bars. “The land is still before us, for we have sought the Lord,” appears to be the connection of thought.
So they built and prospered—i.e., built prosperously, without let or hindrance.
(8) Targets and spears.—Shield (or buckler) and lance. The large shield is meant (see 2 Chronicles 9:15). The same phrase is used to describe the warriors of Judah. (1 Chronicles 12:24.)
That bare shields—i.e., the short or round shield (2 Chronicles 9:16).
Drew bows.—(1 Chronicles 8:40; 1 Chronicles 12:2.) The Judæans were the hoplites, or heavy-armed; the Benjaminites the light-armed, or peltasts, as a Greek writer would have said.
Three hundred thousand . . . two hundred and fourscore thousand.—A total of 580,000, warriors. (Comp. Abijah’s 400,000, 2 Chronicles 13:3.) The entire male population capable of bearing arms must be included in these high figures. Of course, such a thing as a standing army of this strength is not to be thought of.
The proportion of Benjamin relatively to Judah appears much too high. It must, however, be remembered that Benjamin was always famous as a tribe of warriors. (See Genesis 49:27; 1 Chronicles 7:6-11.)
(b) INVASION OF THE CUSHITE ZERAH, AND HIS SIGNAL OVERTHROW (2 Chronicles 14:9-15)—This Section has no Parallel in Kings.
(9) Against them.—Against the army described in last verse. Literally, unto them (Genesis 4:8; Judges 12:3).
Zerah the Ethiopian.—Heb., ha-Kûshî. (See Note on 1 Chronicles 1:8 [Cush].) Zerah is identified with Osorchon II., hieroglyphic Uasarken, who succeeded Shishak as king of Egypt. The name of this king is curiously like that of Sargon, the great Assyrian conqueror of the eighth century. (See Note on 2 Chronicles 12:2.) The object of the expedition appears to have been to bring Judah again under the yoke of Egypt. Shishak had made Rehoboam tributary (2 Chronicles 12:8), after reducing his fortresses and plundering Jerusalem. But now Asa had restored the defences of his country, and apparently reorganised the fighting material; steps indicating a desire for national independence.
A thousand thousand.—This very large and symmetrical number would probably be best represented in English by an indefinite expression, like “myriads.” It is otherwise out of all proportion to the three hundred chariots, which last seems a correct datum. Syriac and Arabic say “20,000 chariots.”
Mareshah.—One of the fortresses of Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:8). It lay in the lowland of Judah, about twenty-six miles south-west of Jerusalem.
Against him.—Before him (1 Chronicles 12:17; 1 Chronicles 14:8).
In the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah.—This valley is not identified. The LXX. reads: ἐν τῇ φάραγγι κατὰ βορρᾶν Μαρισης, “in the ravine north of Mareshah.” This would involve a change of one letter in the present Hebrew. [Çaphônah “northward,” for Ç’phathah.] Syriac and Arabic, “in the wady of Mareshah.”
(11) Lord, it is nothing to thee . . . have no power.—Rather, Lord, there is none beside, or like literally, along witli] thee to help between strong and powerless, i.e., in an unequal conflict to interpose with help for the weaker side. Between strong and [literally, to] ‘powerless. The same construction occurs Genesis 1:6, “between waters to waters.” Others assume between . . . to, to mean whether . . . or, which would be in accordance with Rabbinic rather than ancient usage. A very plausible view is that of Kamphausen, who proposes to read la’çôr for la‘zôr (“to retain strength” for “to help”), an expression which actually occurs at the end of the verse, and to render the whole: “Lord, it is not for any to retain (strength) with (i.e., to withstand) Thee, whether strong or powerless.” (Comp. 2 Chronicles 13:20; 1 Chronicles 29:14). The Syriac paraphrases thus: “Thou art our Lord, the helper of thy people. When thou shalt deliver a great army into the hands of a few, then all the inhabitants of the world will know that we rightly trust in thee.” This is much more like a Targum than a translation. The difficulty of the text is evaded, not explained.
We rest.—Rely (2 Chronicles 13:18).
We go.—We are come.
This multitude.—Hâmôn; a term used of Jeroboam’s army (2 Chronicles 13:8), and usually denoting an armed multitude.
Let not man prevail.—Literally, Let not mortal man retain (strength) with thee.
With.—Against, as in the phrase “to fight with.”
(12) So the Lord smote . . . before Judah.—(Comp. 2 Chronicles 13:15-16.) Thenius remarks that the words of 1 Kings 15:15, about the spoils dedicated by Asa, help to establish the chronicler’s accounts of this victory and that of Abijah.
(13) Pursued them unto Gerar.—(Genesis 20:1.) Kirbet-el-Gerar, in the Wady Gerar, about eight miles S.S.E. of Gaza, on the route to Egypt (LXX. Gedor).
And the Ethiopians were overthrown, that they could not recover themselves.—Literally, And there fell of Kushites until they had no revival, or survival (Ezra 9:8-9). The latter seems preferable, as a vivid hyperbole, like 2 Kings 19:35, “When men arose in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.” So Vulg., “usque ad internecionem.”
Before his host.—Or camp. Asa’s army is the Lord’s army.
(14) And they smote all the cities round about Gerar.—Philistine cities hostile to Judah. Perhaps they had helped Zerah.
For the fear of the Lord came upon them.—Or, A divine panic had fallen upon them (1 Samuel 11:7; 2 Chronicles 17:10; comp. also 1 Samuel 4:7-8).
Spoil.—Plunder, booty. Heb. bizzah, a late word, occurring Ezekiel 29:19. The word in the last verse was shâlâl, a classical expression.
(15) They smote also the tents of cattle.—And cattle tents (or encampments), also they smote, i.e., hordes of nomad Bedawin whom they encountered in the desert about Gerar. (Comp. 1 Chronicles 4:41, “smote their tents.”)
Sheep and camels in abundance.—Sheep in abundance, and camels. The LXX. adds, καὶ τοὺς αλιμαζονεις, apparently as the name of a tribe. Syriac and Arabic render, “And the tents of the Arabs.”
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 14". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29