CRITICAL NOTES.] Asa succeeds, suppresses idols, and defends his kingdom (2Ch ; cf. 1Ki 15:8-12; 1Ki 15:14-15). Gains victory over Zerah and spoils Ethiopians.
2Ch .—Asa destroys idol. Reigned, mounted the throne very young. Quiet, continued effect of the great battle of Zemaraim (cf. 1Ki 15:11-14). Good (ch. 2Ch 31:20). Strange, gods of foreign origin. Idolatry of Judah now detailed for first time. High places first mentioned (Num 23:3). Images, statues in stone of Baal. Groves, trunks or stocks of trees, dedicated to Ashtoreth, the Venus of Phœnicians. 2Ch 14:5. Images, sun-images of Baal, different from images in 2Ch 14:3 (cf. 2Ch 34:4; Lev 26:30).
2Ch .—Asa's military defences. Built, fortresses dismantled when Shishak made successful invasion. Judæa had been a dependency upon Egypt (ch. 2Ch 12:8), and dared not to erect fresh fortifications. Now Egypt weak, Asa grew bold, strengthened himself against his southern and northern neighbours. Among cities restored, probably most of those fortified by Rehoboam (ch. 2Ch 11:6-10) [Speak. Com.]. 2Ch 14:7. Land, i.e., unoccupied by the foe; free and open to go where we please. 2Ch 14:8. Targets, Judah heavy armed; Benjamin, a warlike tribe, light armed, using sling and bow (Jud 20:16; 1Ch 8:40). The number embraced all capable of carrying arms and liable to service.
2Ch .—Asa defeats the Ethiopians or Cushites. So called by Greeks, because their faces were burned or blackened by sun. Zerah, supposed to be Osorken (Usarken) II., third King of Egypt after Shishak, second king of twenty-second dynasty. Object of invasion to chastise Asa and bring Judah under yoke again. 2Ch 14:9. Mar., one of cities fortified by Rehoboam (ch. 2Ch 11:8), in line of march from Egypt. 2Ch 14:10. Went out, lit. before him, sensible of inferiority but confident in God. Nothing with thee, "it is alike to thee to help the powerful or the weak, thou canst as easily, i.e., help the weak as the strong" [Speak. Com.]. There is none beside thee to help between the mighty and the powerless, i.e., no other than thou can help in an unequal conflict; meaning, of course, give help to the weaker side [Keil]. 2Ch 14:12. Smote, gave strength to smite. 2Ch 14:13. Destroyed, broken before his camp. Enemy unable to rally, pursued to Gerar, south, twenty miles at least from scene of battle. Cities of Philistines spoiled, because they likely accompanied Zerah in his expedition. 2Ch 14:15. Tents, nomadic tribes in neighbourhood of Gerar conquered, and camels and sheep taken as prey. Besor flows through this region, hence fertility and food for man and beast. All terrified at Asa's victory and unable to resist.
ASA THE REFORMER.—2Ch
Asa as a constitutional monarch acted like David, endeavoured to abolish the traces and polluting customs of idolatry. Pursued his purpose with earnestness and impartiality.
I. The reforms which he introduced. Regarding God himself, he took advantage of his authority and tranquillity, tried to undo the evil left by his father (1Ki ), and by his grandfather (1Ki 14:22).
1. He destroyed idolatry. Altars and high places pulled down; broke images of Baal; destroyed public objects and relics of idolatry in Jerusalem and other cities. "When God lets loose upon the world a thinker, let men beware," says one. When God raises up a true Reformer, he will secure attention and accomplish a great work.
2. He revived religious worship. Useless to put down evil without setting up good. Outward reformation defective, A revived religion.
(1.) By personal example. He "did that which was good and right, &c."
(2.) By the use of his authority. "He commanded Judah, &c." (2Ch ). Religion requires no human edicts and decrees to support it. But those in authority may recommend it.
II. The spirit in which he carried out the reforms.
1. A spirit of self-consecration. Self first. He did not engage in work to which he had not devoted himself. Many work for God who are not consecrated unto God. Reform self before you reform others.
2. A spirit of zeal. He began early, executed boldly and spared no dignity. The "king's mother" deposed from her position, her idol destroyed, and its ashes thrown into the brook Kidron (1Ki ). "See, I have set thee over (appointed thee to the oversight of) the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, &c." (Jer 1:10).
III. The rule by which he was guided in the reforms. "Asa did good and right in the eyes of the Lord." Not what was expedient, pleasing to himself, or to his courtiers. He sought to please God. God discerns conduct; dishonoured by the zeal of some; susceptibility to be influenced by him should be cultivated. Act ever under "the Great Taskmaster's eye." "Thou God seest me." Thus Asa the reformer an example to us in purpose, spirit, and conduct—in pulling down Popery, Ritualism, and idolatry, in setting forth true religion by personal life and public teaching.
ASA THE PRUDENT.—2Ch
In time of peace he strengthened his kingdom with fortifications and armies.
I. Prudent in tracing peace to the right source. "The Lord had given him rest." Not gained by his valour and success over Abijah. No foes at hand, progress undisputed because God protected. "When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble" in the land? When God bestows comfort and peace in the home and in the heart, who can take away? But when he hideth the face (condemns), who then can behold him (enjoy his power or remove the sentence of death)? Whether it be done against (towards) a nation, or against a man only? (Job ).
II. Prudent in making the best use of peace. Like a wise king he observed "the land before him" free and needing improvements.
1. Mindful of danger, he prepared for defensive war. "To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace," said Washington.
2. Conscious of weakness, he raised an army. Not perhaps a standing army, but militia, trained-bands of the country. Judah mustered a share. Benjamin, formerly little Benjamin (Psa ), had greatly increased. The little one by God's blessing had become a thousand. These tribes, armed offensively and defensively, were ready for action.
3. Depending upon his people, he enlisted their efforts. "Therefore he said, Let us build" (2Ch ). Many rulers raise an army, levy taxes, and govern without consent of the people. This arbitrary conduct will create tumult and endanger the throne (Chas. 1.). Self-willed monarchs have destroyed kingdoms and ruined themselves. "For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war; and in multitude of councillors there is safety."
"But war's a game which, were their subjects wise,
Kings would not play at" [Cowper].
ASA THE CONQUEROR.—2Ch
"Zerah the Ethiopian mistook quietness for languor, and made the vulgar mistake of supposing that silence was indifference. He did not know that repose is the very highest expression of power" [Dr. Parker]. An expedition prepared, a million soldiers gathered to subjugate Asa and bring Juda under Egyptian yoke. Asa shrank not from war, met and conquered the foe.
I. The source to which, he looked for help. "Asa cried unto the Lord his God."
1. To God's strength. He knew God in peace and looked to him in war—believed in God's power to help with few or many, to weak or strong. Man, mortal man, could not prevail against him. God omnipotent, works how he likes, and depends not upon numbers. "For there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few."
2. To God's strength gained by prayer. Help ever ready, only available by seeking. Prayer before battle short, earnest, and intense. Notice ground of confidence, "Thou art our God," well tried and ever sufficient; active reliance, "We rest on thee." Thus can we only overcome in temptations and spiritual conflicts.
II. The spirit in which he entered the fight. Not cowardly and fearful. God gives not the spirit of fear, but of courage. "Be thou strong and courageous." The war not aggressive, but sacred; for God's glory, not his own, "In thy name." "Jehovah-Nissi, the Lord my banner," the standard or ensign around which we must rally to indicate our party, define our cause, and march to victory. He is the captain of our salvation, fights our battles, and wins our victories. He bids us to fight, not his will that we should be timorous and weak, "In the name of our God we will set up our banner."
III. The victory by which it was distinguished. "The Lord smote the Egyptians before Asa." The foe driven like straw before the wind; pursued and overcome. Cities smitten, cattle taken, and booty enormous. "The defeat of Zerah is one of the most remarkable events in the history of the Jews. On no other occasion did they meet in the field or overcome the forces of either of the two great monarchies between which they were placed. Under Asa they appear to have gained a complete and most glorious victory, over the entire force of Egypt, or of Ethiopia wielding the power of Egypt" [Speak. Com.].
WARFARE AND PRAYER.—2Ch
Notice in the prayer—
I. A devout acknowledgment of the Divine government. From God alone he received the kingdom, and by him alone could he defend it. He was supreme, and could help against "a great multitude." "He breaketh down" kingdoms and cities—Sodom, Babylon, Petra, and Pompeii—and "they cannot be built again;" He builds up and none can "pull down"—God's agency is traced over man and nations, in nature and religion.
II. The obedient method in which he conducted the war. The spirit of dependence upon God; the spirit of hope and prayer. The spirit of Moses, Samuel, and David. In prayer he may expect courage and help, such reinforcements "the gift of the knees."
"Hast thou not learned what thou art often told,
A truth still sacred, and believed of old,
That no success attends on spears and swords
Unblest, and that the battle is the Lord's?" [Cowper].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
2Ch . Right.
1. Right is good (acceptable) to God, when the heart is put into it. Its Right is good to man, helpful to temporal and spiritual interests. But right implies rule, law of rectitude. The rule followed, constantly obeyed, to be acceptable. God's law must be path of duty and this path pursued firmly, without pause or retrograde step.
2Ch . Given him rest.
1. God the sovereign dispenser of quietness or comfort to individuals. Gives peace to awakened sinners in Christ. Peace and rest the fruit of faith in him.
2. God the sovereign dispenser of quietness and comfort to nations and churches. To nations (1Ch ). To churches (Act 4:31). He makes peace in our borders (Psa 147:7-14); causes wars to cease to the ends of the earth (Psa 46:9). 2Ch 14:7. Rest. It did his heart good to think how piously they had purchased their present peace; and therefore he repeateth it (Zec 8:19) [Trapp].
2Ch . The Holy War. Undertaken for a sacred purpose—with confidence of divine help, to maintain the honour and service of God. The parties most unequally matched. The Lord Jehovah and mortal, feeble man. How can man prevail against his Maker! The folly of opposing God. The war-cry most stimulating. Assurance in God's name gives comfort in trouble, triumph in conflict. It is strength impregnable and sufficient for greatest dangers. Only under this one ensign, lifted above all other banners of the sacramental host, bearing this one name, can we ascribe the words: In hoc vinces.
2Ch . Before his host. Before his camp; the army of Asa, the camp of Jehovah, who resided in it, defended it, and led it to victory. "Earlier expositors fancied that the reference was to a heavenly, a host of angels, according to Gen 32:2 seq." [Keil].
2Ch . Fear of the Lord. Its effect upon men now renders them fearful and helpless, what hereafter! Who can stand before him? Resist not, but humbly submit and be saved.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 14
2Ch . High places. No sooner is a temple built for God, but the Devil builds a chapel hard by [Geo. Herbert]. Man is a born idol-worshipper, sight-worshipper, so sensuous, imaginative is he; and also partakes much of the nature of an ape [Carlyle].
"'Tis to make idols, and to find them clay"
2Ch . Built. Prudence is an ability of judging what is best in the choice both of the end and of the means [Groves]. No evil can surprise us if we watch, no evil can hurt us if we pray [Bp. Hall].
2Ch . This is the largest collected army of which we hear in Scripture; but it does not exceed the known numbers of Oriental armies in ancient times. Darius Codomannus brought into the field at Arbela a force one million and forty thousand. Xerxes crossed into Greece with certainly above a million of combatants. Artaxerxes Mnemon collected one million two hundred and sixty thousand men, to meet the attack of the younger Cyrus [Speak. Com.].
2Ch . Fled. The results which follow are most striking. The southern power cannot rally from the blow, but rapidly declines, and for above three centuries makes no further effort in this direction. Assyria grows in strength, continually pushes her arms further, and finally under Sargon and Sennacherib, penetrates to Egypt itself. All fear of Egypt as an aggressive power ceases; and the Israelites learn instead to lean upon the Pharaohs for support (2Ki 17:4; 2Ki 18:21; Isa 30:2-4). Friendly ties alone connect the two countries; and it is not till B.C. 609 that an Egyptian force again enters Palestine with a hostile intention [Ibid.]
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 14". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Easter