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CRITICAL NOTES.] As a prevents Baasha from invading Judah (2 Chronicles 16:1-6); Asa reproved by Hanani (2 Chronicles 16:7-10); Asa’s sickness and end (2 Chronicles 16:11-14; cf. parallel in 1 Kings 15:16-24).
2 Chronicles 16:1-6.—Baasha invades Judah. Six and thirtieth. Baasha died before this date (1 Kings 15:33). Critics consider the date calculated from the separation of the kingdoms, and coincident with 16th year of Asa’s reign. A mode of reckoning generally followed in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel, the public annals of the time (2 Chronicles 16:11), the source from which the inspired historian drew his account (cf. Jamieson and Keil). Built, i.e., fortified. Go out, to prevent all communication between the countries. “The fortification of Ramah by Baasha presupposes his recovery of the cities, which had been taken by Abijah from the northern kingdom, and which, according to ch. 2 Chronicles 15:8, were still in Asa’s possession” [Keil]. Benhadah, Benhidri in Assyrian monuments; Ader in Sept., to whom smaller provinces round Damascus (Heb. Darmesck) were subject. 2 Chronicles 16:3. There is, let there be a league, &c. 2 Chronicles 16:4. Ijon, city of Naphtali (1 Kings 15:20). Dan colonised (Judges 18:0; Joshua 19:47). Abel-maim, “meadow of waters,” supposed to be situated on marshy plain near uppermost lake of Jordan. Store or “all Cinneroth and all the land of Naphtali” in 1 Kings 15:20. Both statements true and supplementary. 2 Chronicles 16:5. Cease. Baasha might intend to reside in Ramah. Unexpected hostilities from his son and ally prevented further progress, and Baasha’s death soon after interrupted work of fortifying. 2 Chronicles 16:6. No actual engagement mentioned. Geba (Joshua 18:24). Mizpah (Genesis 31:45-55).
2 Chronicles 16:7-10. Asa reproved by prophet Hanani. Hanani, father of Jehu the prophet (2 Chronicles 19:2) Relied not on God, from whom prosperity and former victory, but on man. Escaped. That is, if he had trusted in God he would not only have defeated the army of Baasha, but that of Benhadad. His conduct in parting with temple treasures and bribing an ally of the King of Israel most foolish and lost him a splendid victory. 2 Chronicles 16:8. The huge host of the Ethiopians overcome by God’s help. Assyria would have been, had Asa trusted in God 2 Chronicles 16:9. For, a striking description of divine providence over the man whose heart is perfect with God. 2 Chronicles 16:10. This address vexed Asa, and spread discontent among his people, whom he oppressed, tried to crush in some form or other. He maltreated the prophet. Prison, house of stocks, a sort of torture for crime—Heb., house of distortion, because limbs were so set and fixed as to be twisted and distorted in it.
2 Chronicles 16:11-14.—Asa’s sickness and end. Book of Kings, a public record of civil events. Diseased, a kind of gout, but uncertain, began two years before death (2 Chronicles 16:13), became greatly “moved upwards” in body and proved violent in nature. Yet, as in war, so in sickness, he put undue confidence in man. Physicians, Egyptians in high repute at foreign courts, who pretended to expel disease by charms and mystic rites. Buried him in a rock tomb; made, digged by himself, in his lifetime, as often done by Oriental kings, with special funeral magnificence; odours to neutralise offensive smells of corpse exposed on “the bed” to public view, or to embalm with aromatic spices in great profusion. Great burning. According to some, consuming spices customary at funerals of kings; according to others, for cremation of the body, “a usage which was at that time, and long after, prevalent among the Hebrews, and the omission of which in the case of royal personages was reckoned a great indignity (ch. 2 Chronicles 21:19; 1 Samuel 31:12; Jeremiah 34:5; Amos 6:10)” [Jam.].
THE FOLLY OF BRIBERY.—2 Chronicles 16:1-10
Asa hired the help of a heathen neighbour, the powerful King of Syria, to defend himself against the attack of Baasha. This considered prudent, a good stroke of policy, but trust in man, not in God, and met with condemnation from Hanani the seer.
I. It led to sacrilege in religious things. Treasures of the temple were diverted from sacred to worldly use. The sanctuary and the palace robbed to bribe an earthly king to help! Religious ordinances desecrated, justice sold, and men bribed often by “silver and gold”; gifts bestowed or promised with a view to prevent judgment or corrupt morals abominable. Bribery a canker in constitutional governments, a disgrace in all departments of life. He who presents a bribe perpetuates moral evil, sacrifices both truth and right to selfish interests. Absalom bribed the people to become the king. Judas bribed by high priests to effect the death of Christ.
“Judges and senates have been bought for gold:
Esteem and love were never to be sold” [Pope].
II. It brought down Divine reproof. God not bribed, comes on the scene in the person of the prophet, “At that time Hanani the seer came” (2 Chronicles 16:7). Wrong must be condemned, right declared, and severe reproof administered to evil-doers.
1. Asa acted unworthy of God’s representative. Kings, priests, and judges God’s vicegerents, must be free from corruption and bribery. “Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift.”
2. Asa sought not God’s help. “Because thou hast relied on the King of Syria and not relied on the Lord thy God.” When God is forsaken he will assert his supremacy and claims in conscience, in providence, in affliction. Wicked men not allowed to indulge in excuses and selfish pleas; nor to plead the power of circumstances, the force of reason, and the probability of success. Never put money before duty, man before God!
II. It defeated its own ends. “Herein thou hast done foolishly.” Man’s foresight not always wise.
1. Asa missed the opportunity of a double victory. “Therefore is the host of the King of Syria escaped out of thine hand.” A victory over the combined forces of Baasha and Benhadad more splendid than that over the Ethiopians lost by his conduct Possible by unnecessary and improper alliances to hinder our good and prevent God from granting deliverance.
2. Asa exposed himself to greater danger. “Therefore from henceforth thou shalt have war” (2 Chronicles 16:9). The cupidity of the one increased the hostility of the other (1 Kings 15:32). Those who bribe and those bribed not to be depended upon. Money will dissolve the most solemn league. For gold men will sell their votes, their conscience, and themselves. Cato complained that M. Cœlius the Tribune “might be hired for a piece of bread to speak or to hold his peace.” Never rule conduct by the fear of man instead of trust in God. “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe (may set on high above danger, &c.)” (Proverbs 29:25).
THE INFLUENCE OF MONEY.—2 Chronicles 16:2-4
There seems much to excuse Asa’s conduct. In his days it was often thought right to buy oneself out of danger. But the bribery of Benhadad condemned and cannot be justified. Learn the influence of money.
I. There is a lawful use of money. Used for educational and philanthropic purposes, to encourage industry, arts, and sciences, to relieve distress and advance the cause of God, it is better than fleets and armies. Rightly used, “money answereth all things.”
II. There is an unlawful use of money. Used for selfish ends, to frustrate right and bribe men to wrong. It may buy men in limbs, intellect, and conscience; make peace and create war. It is one of the mightiest rulers, one of the most popular gods in the world! “A man furnished with the arguments from the mint will convince his antagonist much sooner than one who draws them from reason and philosophy. Gold is a wonderful clearer of the understanding, it dissipates every doubt and scruple in an instant; accommodates itself to the meanest capacities; silences the loud and clamorous, and brings over the most obstinate and inflexible” [Addison].
III. The unlawful use of money becomes a curse. Put against duty, virtue, and God, its power is pernicious. It breaks up alliances, prepares for temptations, corrupts human nature, and influences to injustice. “Benhadad hearkened unto King Asa” and was a striking contrast to Hanani. True religion only begets love for truth, upholds commercial honesty, social order, and just government. God rewards the man who resists bribes and acts uprightly. “He that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil, he shall dwell on high; his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks; bread shall be given him his waters shall be sure.”
ASA’S VAIN HELP.—2 Chronicles 16:2-4; 2 Chronicles 16:12
Years of prosperity did not make Asa a better man. “In all time of our wealth, &c.” He forgot need of help, and in times of danger resorted to worldly policy and trusted not to God.
I. In time of war he relied upon human help. In northern kingdom, Baasha exterminated posterity of Jeroboam, ruled upon the throne, and menaced Jerusalem. Ramah, on the dividing lines of the two kingdoms, built and held in defence. Baasha strengthened himself in his bold designs by league with King of Syria, but was bought off, bribed to help Asa. This political wisdom, but spiritual folly; prospered for a time, but costly in its triumph. It might be prevalent custom, but not the path of duty. Is our code of honour any purer? Do we seek to get out of difficulties by questionable means? Give money for leagues, covenants, and deliverance? Such reliance is vain help, entails mischiefs in social and spiritual matters which outweigh all apparent gains. Better confide in God than in our own schemes. “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.”
II. In time of sickness he relied upon foreign physicians. No harm in physician’s, but physicians without scientific training, physicians with only charms and mystic arts, are “physicians of no value.” (Heathen doctors and witchcraft.)
1. This foolish conduct. “Sought not to the Lord,” after his former experience of God’s faithfulness and truth, after his stern reproof by the prophet. What avails physicians of greatest skill and kindness without God? Entire confidence in creature, misplaced and dishonours God.
2. This useless conduct. Physicians could not cure; the disease spread, and recovery impossible. Physicians, ministers, and friends but men, not to be despised, only used as servants of God, and not as sum-totals. In all extremities, sickness, and death, call upon the Lord for help. “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help (salvation)” (Psalms 146:3). “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of?”
THIS MINISTRY OF TRUTH.—2 Chronicles 16:7-10
I. Exercised by a Divine messenger. “Hanani the seer came to Asa, King of Judah”—specially qualified and commissioned by God. “The Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes and sending, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling-place.”
II. Revealing the true source of help. Asa overcame Ethiopians with very many chariots and horsemen. “Because thou didst rely on the Lord, he delivered them into thine hand.” Men could not be reproved for doing wrong if they knew no right—for not trusting God, if God was not revealed to them.
III. Treated with injustice. “Asa was wroth with the seer and put him in a prison, &c.” Rejection of Divine reproof sadly common and self-ruinous. Message despised and messenger persecuted. “He that refuseth instruction (correction) despiseth his own soul.”
IV. Justified by its results. Truth may be kept down, but never crushed; prophets imprisoned or put to death, but right prevails. Divine reproofs attested by conscience, vindicated by providence. Revenge is impotent. God’s purpose cannot be frustrated.
GOD’S PROVIDENCE IN THE WORLD.—2 Chronicles 16:9
God would have helped Asa if he had called upon him; for he is everywhere present in time of need—specially ready to help those who trust Him.
I. Providence benevolent in its design. “To show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” He not only sees danger, but delivers from it, keeps and defends his people. If King Philip could sleep safely because his friend Antipater watched over him, how much more kind and efficient the providence of God!
II. Providence personal in its exercise. “We learn from observation of others. God inspects and rules of himself—not by abstract laws and principles merely, not by secondary causes, not by the eyes and agencies of inferior creatures. “He shews himself strong” in purpose and proceedings.
III. Providence minute in its inspection. “To and fro,’ publicly and privately, in thought and act. His vigilance ever active and never worn out. Nothing escapes his notice nor eludes his grasp. “For his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings.”
IV. Providence universal in its extent. “Through the whole earth.” Diana’s temple was burnt down when she was busied at Alexander’s birth. “I cannot be everywhere present,” cried Napoleon when he lost one battle in trying to gain another. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place”—on sea and land, in society and solitude. We cannot go from his spirit nor flee from his presence. In heaven above and hell beneath (Psalms 139:0).
“What can ’scape the eye
Of God, all-seeing, or deceive his heart
V. Providence swift in its operation. “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro.” Implying celerity, swiftness in giving relief. Delay only when needful and good for us. In promise and fulfilment, “his word runneth very swiftly.” Lessons—Encouragement for the believer, a warning to the wicked, a reason for circumspection to all.
THE EYES OF THE LORD.—2 Chronicles 16:9
I. The description of providence. “Eyes of the Lord” in Scripture signify—
1. His knowledge.
2. His providence.
(1) The immediateness of providence—His own eyes.
(2) Its celerity and speed.
(3) Its extent.
(4) Its diligence.
(5). Its efficacy.
II. The design of providence. “To show himself strong, &c.”
1. He has strong understanding, and wisdom to contrive.
2. Strong affection to love.
3. Strong words to cheer and fortify.
4. A strong arm to exert almighty power. The persons for whom those who are truly gracious and sincere [J. Ryland, sen., 1750].
ASA’S PERTINACITY IN WRONG-DOING
I. When reproved for sin he did not confess it. In consequence he committed one evil after another. David reproved by Nathan was conscience-stricken, melted to penitence and confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Not so Asa.
II. He added greater guilt by trying to hide his sin. He denied it, got into a rage with the seer, and persecuted him. Reproved, probably in the presence of courtiers; he was haughty, took advantage of his circumstances, and adopted severe measures in apparent refutation of his sin. “To hide a sin with a lie is like a crust of leprosy over an ulcer,” says Jeremy Taylor. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
III. When he would neither confess nor forsake his sin God sent affliction, which did not at first humble him. Man could not lodge Asa from his hiding-place, but God’s resources are never exhausted. What the final issue was appears uncertain. From Scripture references the last expedient might humble the king and bring him to God. But at beginning of sickness not in right state of mind, and applied to wrong source for help. “This is a striking example of pertinacity in sin, which carries with it a solemn warning. Who would have expected this of the once pious Asa! What an urgent enforcement does this example furnish of the exhortation of the apostle: ‘Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, &c.’ That, indeed, must be a most treacherous and deceitful thing which could lead a rational and religious being so far away from the truth and piety as thus to persist in his iniquity, and attempt to justify himself before God—yea, more than that, virtually to engage in an unequal warfare with Heaven, and to accomplish, by unblessed means, what God had pronounced impracticable” [Rev. W. Sparrow].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
2 Chronicles 16:5-6. He built Geba. Fortifications demolished.
1. Men prostrated in their wicked design.
2. The materials by which they carried out that design captured and used for opposite purposes. Ramah taken, “the stones and timber” used to build other defences. Voltaire’s printing press, by which he sought to deluge France with infidelity, fell into the hands of the Bible Society, and employed to spread the word of God. The strongholds of the world become the defences of the Church. I. This illustrated by the case of Ramah. II. It has been often observed since—
1. The world’s stronghold of science has been rifled by the Church for its defence, and the world defeated with its own weapons.
2. By the grace of God, men who were as Ramah—Saul of Tarsus for example—have been made as the outworks of Christianity [Bib. Museum]. It is a fine use to which Bossuet has turned this military incident as illustrating the duty, not of rejecting the materials or the arguments collected by unbelievers or by heretics, but of employing them to build up the truth, “Bâtissons les forteresses de Juda des débris et des ruines de celles de Samarie” [Stanley].
2 Chronicles 16:9. Whatever is done in the world falls under the notice of God. Not that he needs move from place to place, or run up and down from country to country to see what is done, for by one infinite, indivisible act, he beholdeth all things in all places; but the Scripture thus teaches the infallibility and particularity of his knowledge; even as we are said to know those things infallibly which we have viewed upon the place; for otherwise there is neither high nor low, far nor near, first nor last, to God all things being at once before him for ever (Jeremiah 23:23). If the Lord is everywhere, let us everywhere see the Lord. Moses saw him that was invisible. Did we but keep this common principle warm upon our spirits, The Lord seeth under the whole heaven, how heavenly would our lives be! And seeing the Lord seeth as under the whole heaven, so into the hearts of all men, how should it deter us, even from heart sins, and the closest hypocrisy! Again, the Lord seeing in all things, disposeth all things. As his hand set up all in order at first, so his eye hath kept all in order ever since, and will do for ever. Take these conclusions concerning the sight of God: First, the Lord beholdeth all things distinctly, not in gross only—the least as well as the greatest. He looks upon every parcel and opens the whole pack of human affairs. Secondly, he beholds every thing and person perfectly, fully, quite through. His is an intentive and most attentive view. Thirdly, in seeing he governs everything effectually and works it to his own ends. Fourthly, he seeth all things together, not successively, or one thing after another. He that is all eye seeth all at once, all is one. “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” Hence, take two inferences: the first serving for the instruction and consolation of all who know and fear God; and the second for conviction and terror to the wicked [Caryl].
2 Chronicles 16:12-14. Asa’s End.
1. Asa’s sickness and death. At first affliction unimproved, grew more severe. Death sad, certain, and hopeful.
2. Asa’s burial, magnificent, honoured, and admonitory. “The eminent piety and usefulness of good men,” says one, “ought to be remembered to their praise, though they have had their blemishes. Let their faults be buried in their graves, while their services are remembered over their graves. He that said, ‘There is not a just man that doeth good and sinneth not,’ yet said also, ‘The memory of the just is blessed,’ and let it be so.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 16
2 Chronicles 16:3-6. Silver. “A bribe is a price; reward, gift, or favour bestowed or promised, with a view to pervert the judgment or corrupt the conduct of a judge, witness, or other person” [Webster]. “Philip of Macedon was a man of most invincible reason this way,” says Addison. “He refuted by it all the wisdom of Athens—confounded their statesmen, struck their orators dumb, and at length argued them out of their liberties” [quoted by Dr. Thomas].
2 Chronicles 16:9. Strong. Cæsar was accustomed to write short letters. One of his generals, Quintus Cicero, was in great extremity, being besieged by fierce hordes of Gauls, when he received from him the following message: “Cæsar to Cicero: Keep up your spirits. Expect help.” Let us expect help from God, trust to him instead of relying on man in times of extremity and danger.
2 Chronicles 16:10. Wroth with the seer. The most difficult province in friendship is letting a man see his faults and errors, which should, if possible, be so contrived that he may perceive our advice is given him not so much to please ourselves as for his own advantage. The reproaches therefore of a friend should always be strictly just and not too frequent [Bacon].
2 Chronicles 16:13-14. Asa slept.
“Kings then at last have but the lot of all,
By their own conduct they must stand or fall” [Cowper].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 16". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14