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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 15

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-24



The Reign of Abijam.

1 Kings 15:1

Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, reigned Abijam [see note on 1 Kings 14:31. It is implied in 2 Chronicles 11:20-22 that he was not the firstborn among Rehoboam's twenty-eight sons, but the eldest son of the favourite wife. As he left behind him thirty-eight children (2 Chronicles 13:21) at his decease, some three years later, he must have been of considerable age at his accession. This consideration rather favours the idea that Rehoboam was "forty and one years old when he began to reign" (2 Chronicles 12:13)] over Judah.

1 Kings 15:2

Three years [The Alex. LXX. says δεκὰεξ, sixteen. The" three years" are not to be interpreted strictly. As he ascended the throne in the eighteenth and died in the twentieth year of Jeroboam's reign, he cannot have completed three years. But it does not follow that "he cannot have reigned much more than two years" (Rawlinson, and similarly Keil). He may have reigned all but three] reigned he in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Maachah [in 2 Chronicles 13:2 called Michaiah, Heb. Michajahu. That the same person is meant is proved as well by the context as by 2 Chronicles 11:21, where the name is given as here. Keil (cf. Dict. Bib. 2:162) ascribes the discrepancy to an error of the copyist; but the names are so unlike in the original as to discountenance this assumption. I venture to suggest that Michajahu was the significant form—the word means "Who is like Jehovah?"—which the name Maachah, "oppression," borne by the Geshurite princess who married David (2 Samuel 3:3) assumed when she joined the Lord's people, and embraced, as no doubt she would do, the religion of Jehovah. Such a change would be quite in accordance with the genius and traditions of the Semitic races (Genesis 17:5, Genesis 17:15; Genesis 30:1-43. passim; Genesis 32:28; Genesis 41:45; Exodus 6:3, etc. Cf. 2Ki 23:34; 2 Kings 24:17; Hosea 1:4, Hosea 1:6), and there may well have been special reasons in this case, apart from the piety of David, why it should be made. For the name Maachah appears to have been taken Iron the town and district of that name near Geshur—a part of Syria was called Syria Maachah (1 Chronicles 19:6; cf. 2 Samuel 10:6-8). In 2 Samuel 20:14, 2 Samuel 20:15 we read of a district of Beth Maachah—and it not improbably witnessed to unhappy memories. How natural it would be that David's bride should take a name of better omen and of a religious import, and how natural that the grand-daughter who bore her name should be called by that name in both its forms. Since writing the above, I find that a somewhat similar idea has occurred long since to others. Both Kimchi and Jarchi hold that she had two names. It is supposed by some that she assumed the name Michaiah, as more dignified, on becoming queen. Wordsworth thinks that Michaiah was her real name, and that it was degraded into Maachah when she was deposed for idolatry. This latter view dovetails with the one suggested above. It would be quite in accordance with Jewish usages and habits of thought that the name which had been changed into Michaiah when the grandmother became a proselyte, should be changed back into Maachah when this princess apostatized], the daughter [rather, grand-daughter. בַּת includes all female descendants, as אֵם (see 2 Samuel 20:10) all anxestresses] of Abishalom. We can hardly doubt that Absalom, the son of David, is meant here. We have

(1) the express statement of 2 Chronicles 11:21, "Rehoboam loved Maachah, the daughter of Absalom," etc.

(2) The fact that two of Rehoboam's other wives were of the family of David, which shows that it was part of his policy to marry the daughters of that house.

(3) The mother of Absalom was named Maachah (2 Samuel 3:3).

(4) The name is so uncommon—in fact, it is ἅπαξ λεγ—that another person can hardly be intended. Moreover the variation in spelling is extremely slight. It has been held, however, that a different person is designated by the name, principally because Absalom had hut one daughter whose name was Tamar (2 Samuel 14:27), whereas Abijah's mother is said to have been the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah (2 Chronicles 13:2). But this difficulty admits of an easy solution. Tamar was doubtless married to Uriel, and Maachah was the fruit of this marriage. And with this explanation agrees the account of Josephus (Ant. 8.10, 1).

1 Kings 15:3

And he walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him [sins, i.e; from the theocratic standpoint. See 1 Kings 14:22, 1 Kings 14:25. It does not appear that either Abijah or Rehoboam was a vicious man, and from his pious language on Mount Zemaraim (2 Chronicles 13:10-12) we should certainly have thought that Abijah was a god-fearing prince. But 1 Kings 14:13 proves that he had sanctioned idolatry, and this was no doubt his principal sin, as the next words explain]: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord and his God, as the heart of David his father [the words used of Solomon. 1 Kings 2:4].

1 Kings 15:4

Nevertheless [כִי but, sed, sondern, Gesen. 393] for David's sake did the Lord his God give him a lamp [Better than margin, candle. The word is "always used figuratively of progeny." See note on 1 Kings 2:26; and of 2 Samuel 21:17; Job 18:5, Job 18:6; Psalms 132:17] in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him, and to establish Jerusalem [But for David's piety, that is to say, his family would have been dethroned, if not destroyed, as was that of Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:10), of Baasha (1 Kings 16:2), of Ahab (2 Kings 10:11), etc. Abijah was the third prince of that line who had permitted idolatrous worship, so that that dynasty had richly deserved to forfeit its position. The stability of the family of David on the throne for nearly 400 years, amid all the changes and chances of that period, and whilst in Israel there were "nine changes of dynasty within 250 years" is, as Rawlinson remarks, very "difficult to account for on mere grounds of human reason"]:

1 Kings 15:5

Because [אֲשֶר, here causative for יַעַן אי. Comp. quod] David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, 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. [2 Samuel 2:4. But this last clause is not found in the LXX; and such a statement was more likely to be inserted by transcribers, having first appeared in the margin as a gloss, than to be omitted, had it ever formed part of the text. And in support of this view it may be alleged that

(1) the matter of Uriah was by no means David's only sin, and

(2) it is not the manner of our writer thus to qualify his words. See next verse.]

1 Kings 15:6

And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life. [Practically identical with 1 Kings 14:30, where see note. Thenius thinks the insertion of the words were due to the carelessness of some copyist, and Bähr admits that our present text is possibly not the original one. For Rehoboam, some MSS; with the Syriac and Arabic, read Abijah, but this is clearly an emendation, which in turn begets another repetition (1 Kings 14:7), and there is really no need either to alter or suspect the text. Such repetitions are quite in accordance with Eastern usage, and Rehoboam here stands for the house of Rehoboam, or the cause and kingdom which Rehoboam represented. The object of mentioning his name can hardly be "to remind the reader that Abijam inherited this war from his father" (Rawlinson), for it was only on Rehoboam's death that the slumbering hostility blazed out into actual war. That there was warfare between Abi-jam and Jeroboam we know not only from 1 Kings 14:7, but from 2 Chronicles 13:3-20 also.

1 Kings 15:7

Now the rest of the acts of Abijam and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles [see note on 1 Kings 14:29. The marginal reference to 2 Chronicles 13:1-22. misleads the casual reader] of the kings of Judah? And there was war [not only hostility, but open war (Vulgate, praelium), hence the repetition] between Abijam and Jeroboam.

1 Kings 15:8

And Abijam slept with his fathers; and they buried him in the city of David [This fact alone should negative Lightfoot's theory as to his name; see note on 1 Kings 14:31]: and Ass his son reigned in his stead.

The Reign of Asa.

1 Kings 15:9

And in the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel reigned Ass [Gesen. interprets the name to mean "physician"] over Judah. [This reign is related at much greater length in 2 Chronicles 14:1-15.—16. We are there told of the Ethiopian invasion, of the prophecies of Azariah and Hanani, of the league with Syria, etc.]

1 Kings 15:10

And forty and one years reigned he in Jerusalem [Corn. a Lapide points out that Ass saw eight kings of Israel on the throne, Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Tibni, Omri, and Ahab]. And his mother's [or grandmother's, as margin] name was Maachah, the daughter of Abishalom. [The same words as in 1 Kings 15:2, and the reference can hardly be to a different person. Bähr indeed questions whether אֵם can here stand for grandmother,

(1) because in every other case it designates the king's mother,

(2) Because the mother of the king, and not the grandmother, enjoyed the dignity and position of Gebirah (1 Kings 15:13; 2 Chronicles 15:16). Some would read for Abishalom, Uriel of Gibeah; others, strengthened by the Michaiah of 2 Chronicles 13:2, think the historian mistaken in mentioning the name of Abijam's mother (2 Chronicles 13:2; 2 Chronicles 11:21) as Maachah. The difficulty by no means admits of a ready solution, but perhaps the best explanation is that the grandmother, Maachah, Rehoboam's favourite wife, retained her position, possibly by force of character, or because Asa's mother was dead. It is not certain, however, that if the latter had lived she would have displaced Maashah, of whose influence and imperious temper we have several indications; e.g; in the appointment of her son, though not the firstborn, to succeed his father, and in her open maintenance of idol worship, and above all in the fact that she was publicly deposed by Asa.

1 Kings 15:11

And Ass did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did David his father. ["It is a wonder how Ass should be good, of the seed of Abijam, of the son of Maachah" (Hall).]

1 Kings 15:12

And he took away the Sodomites [see on 1 Kings 14:24, and Romans 1:23-27. It appears from 1 Kings 22:46 that this abomination was not wholly suppressed] out of the land, and removed all the idols [גִּלֻּלִים from גָּלַל volvit A term of contempt (see Deuteronomy 29:17, where it is coupled with "abominations; "Ezekiel 23:37); but whether the word is to be interpreted by גֵּלֶל a ball of dung, in which case these idols (Dei stereorei) would have a designation like Beelzebul ("the lord of dung"), or with גַּל a heap of stones (Genesis 31:46, Genesis 31:48), Dei lapidei, is uncertain. Keil would translate logs, Gesenius trunks, stocks, which from being rolled might well bear this name] that his fathers had made.

1 Kings 15:13

And also Maachah his mother, oven her he removed from being queen [Rather, queen-mother. Gebiruh, as already pointed out on 1 Kings 2:19, answers to the Sultana Valide. The Vulgate reads, Ne esset princeps in sacris Priapi. Wordsworth reminds us of the position which the queen-mother Atossa holds in the Persae. A queen consort is hardly possible in a polygamous household; see Kitto, 4:177] because [Heb. which, as in verse 5] she had made all idol [מִפְלֶצֶת from פָמלץ terruit, signifies an object of fear, formido—not pudendum, a thing of shame, as the Rabbis and others have held, i.e; a phallic image (simulacrum obscoenum, Jerome), but horrendum. The devout Jew could not but regard such objects with horror] in a grove [Heb. for (i.e; to serve as) an Asherah. See note on 1 Kings 14:15, 1 Kings 14:23. Asherah is not the name of the goddess (= Astarte), as Wordsworth thinks, but of the image], and Asa destroyed [Marg. cut off, Heb. simply cut, which here must mean cut down. The image was, no doubt, planted erect in the ground] her idol [horror, as above], and burnt it [this shows that it was made of wood] by the brook Kidron. [Cf. Exodus 32:20. Here, as in 1 Kings 17:3 (where see note), our translators have been unable to adhere strictly to the original "in the brook," etc; from not knowing that נַחַל, which primarily means "brook," also means" watercourse," wady. It is probable that the brook was at this time flowing, and that the ashes of the wooden Asherah were cast into it; but the burning also took place in the Wady, or valley. We read of another similar burning in 2 Kings 23:4, 2 Kings 23:6; but in this ease the ashes were either carried to Bethel or cast upon the graves, to defile them. It is a fair inference that on this latter occasion the Kedron was dry. The valley, "the fields of the Kedron" (2 Kings 23:4 l.c.), is conveniently placed for such a purpose.]

1 Kings 15:14

But the high places [evidently such as are referred to in 1 Kings 3:1-28, i.e; unauthorized shrines of Jehovah; cf. 2 Kings 14:4] were not taken away [lit; departed not. Yet we read in 2 Chronicles 45:3, that Asa "took away the high places (cf. verse 5). But it is clear, even from 2 Chronicles 15:17, that all of them were not re moved, and the discrepancy arises from the well-known Eastern idiom of putting the whole for the part, of which we have in stances in Genesis 7:19; Exodus 9:25, etc. Cf. Exodus 9:32; 2 Kings 9:35, and see below. Asa probably aimed at removing all, and he may have removed all out of the cities (2 Chronicles 14:5), but some remained in the country districts or in remote places. Or he may have swept them away for a short time, and they may have been stealthily and gradually reintroduced. It may be interesting to remark here that down to the present day the cultus of the high places exists—under a modified form, it is true—in Palestine. Every traveller will remember the Mukama which crown almost every hill. The religion of the Fellahin, though nominally Mohammedan, is really, like that of China, a worship of the dead. "In almost every village of the country a small building, surmounted by a whitewashed dome, is observable, being the sacred chapel of the place; it is variously called Kubbeh, "dome," Mazor, "shrine," or Mukam, "station," the latter being a Hebrew word, used in the Bible for the places of the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 2:2)… Just as in the time of Moses, so now the position chosen for the Mukam is generally conspicuous This Mukam represents the real religion of the peasant"]: nevertheless Asa's heart was perfect with the Lord all his days. [We have here a notable instance of the Oriental exaggeration just referred to. For the very same expression is used by the chronicler (2 Chronicles 15:17), who in the next chapter (2 Chronic;es 2 Kings 16:7-12) tells us of Asa's unfaithfulness in his old age.]

1 Kings 15:15

And he brought in the things which his gather had dedicated [Heb. the holy things of his father. These were probably the spoils Abijah had taken in his war with Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 13:18)], and the things which himself had dedicated [These were probably the spoils of the Ethiopians (2 Chronicles 14:15; cf. 2 Chronicles 15:11)], into [the Hebrew omits this word. Keil says that "house" is an accusative governed by "brought"], the house of the Lord, silver and gold, and vessels.

1 Kings 15:16

And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days [This statement must be compared with 2 Chronicles 14:1, 2 Chronicles 14:6, from which we gather that during the first ten years of Asa's reign there cannot have been war, properly so called, between them. Indeed, it would seem from 2 Chronicles 15:19, 2 Chronicles 16:1, that it was not until the 36th year of Asa's reign that it first broke out. But these numbers have clearly not escaped corruption (see note there), as at the date last mentioned Baasha must have been dead. It is probable that war is to be taken here, as elsewhere (1 Kings 14:30), in the sense of hostility, and in any case we have here another instance of the hyperbolical habit of the Eastern mind.]

1 Kings 15:17

And Baasha, king of Israel, went up against Judah [This statement probably refers to the reconquest of the three cities which Abijah had taken from Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 13:19), as Ramah could hardly have been rebuilt whilst Bethel remained in the hands of Judah], and built Ramah [Heb. the Ramah, i.e; "the elevation," or "high place." Now er Ram (= the height), in Benjamin (Joshua 18:25; Judges 19:18, Judges 19:14), five miles distant from Jerusalem, near the frontier of the two territories, and also then, as now, on the great north road. It was the key, consequently, to both kingdoms. Hence the struggles to possess it, vers, 21, 22; 2 Chronicles 16:1, etc.], that he might not suffer any to go out [Heb. not to give any going out, etc.] or come in to Asa, king of Judah. [The object of Baasha in fortifying this place is evident. It was not merely to have an advanced post as a menace to Jerusalem (Rawlinson), but primarily, by its command of the high road, to prevent his subjects from falling away to the kingdom of Judah, or even from going up to Jerusalem to worship; in fact, to isolate Judah and to blockade its capital. That there was a great defection to Ass at this time we know from 2 Chronicles 15:9. This was an exodus which Baasha felt must be checked. Blunt has happily shown from 2 Chronicles 16:6, etc; how the primary object must have been to "stop the alarming drainage of all that was virtuous out of their borders." Rawlinson sees in the fortification of this place "the first step towards a conquest of the southern kingdom." But as to this the text is silent, or rather it assigns an entirely different reason.]

1 Kings 15:18

Then Asa took all the silver and the gold that were left [LXX. τὸ σὑρεθὲν, which Rawlinson thinks points to a corruption of our text. He says, "The Jewish treasuries should now have been tolerably full," because

(1) of the long peace (2 Chronicles 14:1-6), and

(2) the "very much spoil" they had taken from the Ethiopians (ib; 1 Kings 15:13). Compare 1 Kings 15:15 above. But the historian has in mind the depletion of the treasury by Shishak (1 Kings 14:26). It is true there was nothing "left" on that occasion, but the treasures since accumulated are referred to under this term. It may be the phrase is not strictly accurate, but the LXX. reading looks suspiciously like an emendation] in the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king's house, and delivered them into the hand of his servants: and king Asa sent them [cf. 2 Kings 16:8. For this act of faithlessness he was reproved by Hanani the seer (2 Chronicles 16:7): "O Asa, where was thy piety, while thou robbedst God to corrupt an infidel for the slaughter of the Israelites?" (Hall)] to Ben-hadad ["the son of the sun" (see note on 1 Kings 11:23). Three kings of Damascus at least bore this name, viz; this king, his son (1 Kings 20:1), and the son of Hazael (2 Kings . 24)], the son of Tabrimon [the name means, Good is Rimmon, as to which deity see note on 2 Kings 5:18], the son of Hezion [by some identified with Rezin (1 Kings 11:23), but on insufficient grounds] king of Syria, that dwelt at Damascus ["The centre of the Aramaean power west of the Euphrates" (Ewald)], saying,

1 Kings 15:19

There is a league [Rawlinson would render, "Let there be a league… as there was," but the A.V. is equally good. Asa claims that a league does exist, and, in fact, has never been broken] between me and thee, and between my father and thy father [Syria would seem to have been the first of the possessions of Solomon to regain its independence (1 Kings 11:24). Its friendship would naturally be sought by Judah, as a counterpoise, perhaps, to the alliance between Israel and Egypt (Ewald)]: behold, I have sent unto thee a present [elsewhere a bribe. Psalms 15:5; Psalms 26:10; 1 Samuel 8:3] of silver and gold; come and break [Heb. come, break now, עַל cohortative] thy league with Baasha king of Israel, that he may depart from me. [Heb. go up from upon me.]

1 Kings 15:20

So [Heb. and] Ben-hadad hearkened unto king Asa, and sent the captains [or princes; same word as in 1 Kings 22:31; cf. 1 Kings 20:24] of the hosts which he had against the cities of Israel, and smote Ijon [now represented by Tell Dibbin, a mound near the north end of the Merj 'Ayun (which probably preserves the name), a "meadow of fountains," a few miles northwest of Daniel This hill would offer a commanding site for a stronghold, and traces are found there of a large and ancient city Now certainly identified with Tell el Kadi the "hill of the Judge" (which preserves the meaning of the name), near the main source of the Jordan. The Tell, apparently an extinct crater, is covered with ruins. Stanley, S. and P; p. 395-6. Thomson, "Land and Book," 1. p. 320. Van de Velde, if. p. 420. The situation is described as superb, and the country as extremely fertile. This is the last mention of the place in Scripture. Retribution has soon fallen on one of the centres of Jeroboam's schism], and Abel-beth-maachah [now known as Abil el Kamh All these towns are in the neighbourhood of Lake Huleh (Merom), and all being in the extreme north, bore the brunt of the invasion. The name Maachah is to be noticed in connection with 2 Chronicles 16:2], and all Cinneroth [in Numbers 34:11; Deuteronomy 3:17, Cinnereth; in the New Testament, Gennesaret." "The expression 'all Cinneroth' is unusual, and may be compared with 'all Bithron,' probably like this, a district and not a town". It is the district on the western shore of the lake of Galilee, north of Tiberias, which gave its name to the adjoining sheet of water. A city Chinnereth, perhaps the capital of the district is mentioned Jos 19:1-51 :85], with [עַל not uncommonly has this meaning. Cf. Genesis 32:12 (Hebrews), "the mother with the children;" Exodus 35:22, "men with women."] all the land of Naphtali [Not only were the fortresses of Naphtali just mentioned smitten by the Syrians, but they laid waste all the surrounding district.]

1 Kings 15:21

And it came to pasta, when Baaaha heard thereof, that he left off building of Ramah [He could not prosecute it when he had enemies on every side. He at once assumes the defensive], and dwelt in Tirzah. [1 Kings 14:17. He retired to his capital It is not implied that he had entertained the idea of dwelling at Ramah.]

1 Kings 15:22

Then king Asa made a proclamation [Heb. made all to hear] throughout all Judah; none was exempted [Heb. none free], and they took away [Heb. took up] the stones of Ramah, and the timber thereof, wherewith Baasha [It is noticeable that it is generally "king Asa," but never "king Baasha"] had bullded; and king Asa built with them Geba of Benjamin [Sometimes "the Geba," i.e; height; in Joshua 18:24, Gaba; now Jeba, only 45' northeast of Ramah. This was the northern limit of the southern kingdom (2 Kings 23:8). It occupied a striking position, standing on a rocky knoll on the south side of the great gorge of Michmash (now known as the Wady Suweinit), a "great crack or fissure in the country, with vertical precipices some 800 feet high". As Geba would command the pass, it is easy to understand why Asa fortified it, the more so as this defile "appears to have been more than once the meeting place between the Jews and their enemies" (Conder)], and Mizpah. [Heb. the Mizpah, i.e; watch tower (Genesis 31:49). The name points to an eminence, but it is remarkable that while so many sites of minor importance have been recovered, this old gathering place of the tribes (Judges 21:1; 1 Samuel 7:5; 1 Samuel 10:17-25), and the seat of Gedaliah's government (Jeremiah 40:6), cannot be identified with certainty. It has been conjectured that it is now represented by the commanding eminence of Nebi Samwil,but Stanley and Grove argue in favour of Seopus, and "the survey has done little to throw light on this question". It is to be hoped that the "pit," or well, which Asa made (Jeremiah 41:9), probably "to provide Mizpah with a plentiful supply of water in ease of a siege" (Ewald), may yet be brought to light.

1 Kings 15:23

And the rest of all the acts of Asa, and all his might [see 2 Chronicles 14:1-15; 2 Chronicles 15:1-19.], and all that he did, and the cities which he built [during the peace in the earlier part of his reign (2 Chronicles 14:5, 2 Chronicles 14:6)], are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? Nevertheless [Heb. only. There was one exception to his otherwise happy and prosperous reign] in the time of his old age [see notes on 1Ki 1:1; 1 Kings 11:4. "Old age" means here, as them, the end of life. Asa cannot well have been more than fifty. It was in the 39th year of his reign (2 Chronicles 16:12) that this disease attacked him] he was diseased in his feet. [It is generally supposed that this disease was the gout. In the Chronicles (l.c.) he is reproached for seeking "not to the Lord but to the physicians." We must remember what the art of medicine at that day was like, and that the Jews regarded sickness and healing as alike the immediate acts of God.

1 Kings 15:24

And Asa slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers ["in his own sepulchre which he had made for himself" (2 Chronicles 16:14, which also notices "the bed filled with sweet odours," in which he was laid and the "very great burning" made for him)] in the city of David his father: and Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his stead.


1 Kings 15:11-26

The Reign of Asa.

Though this prince reigned forty and one years—a longer period than any of his predecessors, and, with two exceptions, a longer period than any of the kings who came after him—yet his reign, so far as it is recorded here, may be summed up in few words. "Happy is the nation," it has been said, "which has no history." But happier still the nation whose history, like that of Judah in the time of Asa, may be comprehended under these two heads—internal reforms, and external discipline.

I. INTERNAL REFORMS. Two questions present themselves for consideration here. First, What were Asa's reforms? Secondly, In what way were they accomplished?

1. His reforms were practically of two kinds: (a) Moral, and (b) Religious. It is not implied that he either put morality before religion, or believed that the one could be separated from the other. It may be a question in these days—it is at least hotly disputed—whether morality can long support itself without a religious basis and religious sanctions; but it was no question in that dark age, or for many hundred years afterwards. Then it was a choice between the one true religion and the most shameful immoralities practised under the name of religion. All that is meant here, therefore, is that Asa's reforms resulted in purging and raising the tone of public morality by suppressing the idolatry which sanctioned and consecrated impurity.

(1) The moral reformation is suggested, to our minds by the words "He took away the Sodomites out of the land (1 Kings 15:12). What an abyss of corruption does this one brief sentence reveal to us. "It is a shame even to speak of those things which" were "done of them in secret" (Ephesians 5:12). And this among the holy people, the bride of the Lord! No wonder that Asa's first effort was directed against these horrible enormities. This suppression of the Sodomites was a first step towards—

(2) The religious reformation. He next "removed all the idols that his fathers had made." "His fathers." Solomon, as well as Rehoboam and Abijah. Probably none of the three had himself reared idol shrines. But all the three had, to say the least, permitted idolatry, and connived at it. It was sin enough that they had not vigorously and promptly suppressed it. They were, each in his turn, the representative of the mighty God of Jacob. What were they doing that they permitted any rivalry between the bestial gods of the heathen and the Holy One of Israel? But probably we see here the bitter fruits of Solomon's sin—so true it is that "the evil that men do lives after them." When that powerful prince had once granted to foreign deities and shameful superstitions a footing in Tmmanuel's land, it was more than his comparatively feeble successors could do to dislodge them. The people loved to have it so, and neither Rehoboam nor Abijah was strong enough to say them nay. Thus did Solomon, down to Asa's days, yes, and down to the time of the captivity (2 Chronicles 36:14), go on sinning in his grave.

And let us notice here an instructive contrast between Asa and Solomon. It was the wise king, the most magnificent of the monarchs of the earth, at the height of his prosperity; and towards the end of a long and peaceful reign, built altars for the abominations of neighbouring nations. It was a young prince, unknown to fame, with no special gifts or endowments, with a restricted dominion, and encompassed with difficulties, who was the first to stem this tide of sin and shame with which his great ancestor had flooded the land. "The first last, and the last first." Compare 1 Corinthians 1:27-29. Wealth has greater dangers than adversity.

2. But let us now consider the way in which these great reforms were brought about.

(1) He began at the right place. "Even Maachah his mother he removed," etc. The Gebirah, the first lady in the land, whose conduct would of course be an example to all the women of his realm (Esther 1:17, Esther 1:18), was deposed from her lofty station. The history of Israel shows repeatedly how the country took its tone, as indeed every country must do, more or less, from the court. It is not only in dress that the queen sets the fashion. The Japanese have a striking proverb, "Fish begin to stink at the head." If the court be corrupt, profligate, irreligious, the commonalty will soon follow suit, for we all imitate our superiors. In this sense is that word true, corruptio optimi pessima. It would consequently have been of little use for Asa to put down idols elsewhere had he tolerated them in the harem, the nursery of his successors. This hydra could not be slain by hewing its feet, or piercing its body; it was only mortal in its head. Maachah's "horror" must be destroyed or idolatry will live and flourish. Moreover in beginning with her, Asa shows that he appraised aright the power of female influence. He might have realized that those who "rock the cradle, rule the world." The sinister influence of the harem had ruined Rehoboam; it should not ruin Jehoshaphat. Here, again, let us mark the contrast between the conduct of Asa and that of Solomon; between the cases of Maachah and Naamah. Solomon built idol altars for his wives: Asa burnt the idol of his mother. The strong king was brought into subjection by weak and foolish women; the weak king humbled and degraded the proudest and strongest woman of her time. The former could not resist the blandishments of one of his many foreign mistresses when she petitioned for the gods and rites of her native country; the latter was deaf to the entreaties of his mother when she prayed to retain, not her idol, but her place. It must have cost him an effort to deal with the queen-mother who had exercised so great an influence in former reigns.

It has been said that the devil often "comes to a man in the shape of his wife and children" (J. Hinton), and truly a man's real foes are not unfrequently those of his own household. Just as their flattery is the most insidious and mischievous (Whately), so are their faults too often considered venial, and their sins, when manifest, are the hardest to reprove (cf. 1 Kings 1:6; 1 Samuel 3:13). These are the "hand" and the "eye," which cause men to offend, and which they must cut off or pluck out and cast from them (Matthew 5:29 sqq.) Hence the charge of Deuteronomy 13:6 sqq.; cf. Matthew 10:37.

And the moral effect of this act, the public deposition of the queen-mother, can hardly be overestimated. It showed the country that the king was in real earnest; that he was no respecter of persons; that no idolatry could expect tolerance at his hands. Probably but for this he could neither have taken away the Sodomites nor removed the idols. Possibly it was because neither Rehoboam (see 2 Chronicles 11:21) nor Abijam dared to deal with the idolatries of Maachah, who would seem to have been a woman of imperious will, that these foreign superstitions had defiled the land so long. Asa struck at their root in removing her from being queen.

(2) He did not stop halfway. He destroyed "with both hands earnestly" (Micah 7:3). He not only cut down her idol, he burnt it in the valley of the Kedron. There was no place left her for repentance. He had burnt his ships behind him; had destroyed the nests, so that the rooks might not return. This public burning, witnessed, no doubt, by crowds of spectators, spoke louder than any words or ordinances could do. When they saw the "horror" reduced to ashes, and the ashes cast into the brook, they could have no doubt as to the purpose of their king. They would remember how Moses had acted before (Exodus 32:20).

(3) He did what he could. It is no reproach to him that "the high places were not removed" (Matthew 10:14), for the chronicler (1 Kings 14:5; 1Ki 15:12, 1 Kings 15:18, 1 Kings 15:17), as well as our author, testifies that this was no fault of his. "His heart was perfect all his days." He did what in him lay, and his service was accepted accordingly (2 Corinthians 8:12). "The fleetest horse cannot escape from its tail."

(4) His reformation was followed by a restitution.

It was not merely destructive, as too many so-called reforms have been.

(1) He gave up to the sacristy of God the silver and gold he had taken from the Ethiopians. It was his happiness to restore to it some of the treasure of which it had been denuded in the reign of Rehoboam. (Observe: When idolatry came in, the treasures went out of the land. When idolatry was expelled, prosperity returned. Godliness has the promise of the life that now is.) His, consequently, was no cheap reform. He offered of that which cost him something (2 Samuel 24:24). He might have converted his spoil into drinking vessels of pure gold (1 Kings 10:21), but he surrendered it to the service and keeping of the Most High.

(2) He induced his people to dedicate themselves anew to the Lord (2 Chronicles 15:12 sqq.; cf. 2 Corinthians 8:5). This was the crown and blossom of his reformation. "They sware unto the Lord with a loud voice."

And, as the fruit of this righteous policy, we find that he enjoyed, for a part of his reign at least,

(1) quietness (2 Chronicles 14:1)," The Lord gave him rest" (Matthew 10:6)—the effect of righteousness is quietness and assurance (Isaiah 32:17);

(2) prosperity (Matthew 10:7), and

(3) growth, in the shape of a large accession of God-fearing, law-abiding subjects. "They fell to him out of Israel in abundance when they saw that the Lord his God was with him." Not all the numerical superiority of Israel, not all its fruitful territory, availed against the attraction of a realm, in one sense a rival kingdom, where respect for God's law promised security, liberty, and peace.

But let us now observe that these reforms and this courageous piety did not exempt him from—

II. EXTERNAL TROUBLES. The quiet only lasted ten years His fenced cities did not save him from invasion. He had to encounter, first, the invasion of Zerah (2 Chronicles 14:9), and secondly, the aggression of Baasha (1 Kings 15:17). He may have been tempted to think when that overwhelming host of swart barbarians marched against him that his piety profited him nothing. He may have argued, when he saw the fortress of Ramah threatening his very capital—the city God had chosen to put His name there—that God made no difference between the righteous and the wicked, between His faithful people and the calf-worshipping Israelites. But observe: both these troubles were really blessings in disguise. Afflictions and adversities may be either punitive or disciplinary. Solomon's were of the former, Asa's of the latter class. For

(1) when Asa had learned his own weakness, and learnt whither to look for help (2 Chronicles 14:11)—lessons both of them of singular blessedness—the Lord smote the Ethiopians. This invasion resulted in the enrichment of the country. The spoil was enormous. And the victory ministered, not to pride, but to piety (2 Chronicles 15:8).

(2) The only result, so far as we know, of the menaces of Baasha was that that king drew upon himself an invasion of Syrians (in which it is to be observed, Dan, one of the seats of the calf worship, was smitten), and Asa gained two fortresses as a protection against future inroads (Matthew 10:22). It is true that Asa betrayed a want of faith in taking the consecrated gold and silver wherewith to bribe the northern barbarians (2 Chronicles 16:7, 2 Chronicles 16:8), and that he was chastised for the deed (Matthew 10:9), but, all the same, his generally "perfect heart" was rewarded by more than deliverance. If he ever cried with Jacob, "All these things are against me," he must have subsequently exclaimed with Joseph, "Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good" (Genesis 1:20). His troubles must have taught him this lesson, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all" (Psalms 34:19).

And so we see in the dangers and assaults which this reformer underwent proofs of the loving discipline of God—trials intended for his reformation and for the chastening of his country. It is difficult at first sight to see how so brutal and hateful a thing as war can ever be for the good of any people, especially when we remember that a "victory is the next worst thing to a defeat." But those have some reason on their side who tell us that war is the purgatory of nations, and that battles in the moral are something like thunderstorms in the physical world. There are victims in either case—what hecatombs of victims in some cases—but the atmosphere is all the clearer afterwards. The campaign of Zerah probably taught him and his people to bridle their ambition, and to leave their neighbours alone; it certainly taught Asa and Israel to trust in the Lord and to cling closer to Him. They learned that "Providence does" not "always help the biggest battalions"—that everything turns on the blessing of God.£ They proved the truth of that promise," Five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight," etc. (Le Matthew 26:8). Psalms 20:1-9. might have been penned with reference to this war. It certainly breathes the spirit of that time. "Deo adjuvante"—this is its keynote. And this, too, is the burden of Asa's prayer (2 Chronicles 14:11), of Azariah's prophecy (2 Chronicles 15:2 sqq.), of Judah's praises (verses 12, 14, 15). It has been remarked that in the history of the covenant people we may see pourtrayed the trials, deliverances, etc; of the covenant soul (Keble). And certainly the prosperous reign of Asa is a picture of what a truly Christian life involves. Happy are those whose lives, in their main features, may be thus characterized: "Internal reforms," "external discipline." The three things which, Luther said, made the minister also make the man, "Prayer, meditation, and temptation." The idols must be utterly abolished by "the expulsive force of a new affection;" "the horror," the fear and horrible dread that possesses the unreconciled, must be cast out by perfect love; "everything that defileth" must be consumed by its ardent flames; the heart must be "dedicated," and then the loving correction of God will do the rest, and after we have suffered awhile, in the battle of life, in the chamber of sickness (1 Kings 15:28), will make us perfect (1 Peter 5:10), and grant us "quietness and assurance forever."

1 Kings 15:22

Church and Dissent.

The building and subsequent demolition of Ramah—its building by Baasha to check the defection of his subjects to the southern kingdom and the Jewish Church; its removal by Asa in order that the highway to Judah and the temple of Jerusalem might be open to returning schismatics—this incident may serve to introduce a comparison between the kingdom of Asa and the kingdom of Christ; or rather, the history and relations of the two kingdoms of Palestine after the schism may suggest some thoughts as to the proper attitude and relations of the Catholic Church towards her separated children.

And that our view of those relations, so far as it is disclosed to us by this history, may not be partial and incomplete, it is proper that we should begin the survey, not with the accession of Asa, but some two decades earlier; in fact, with the commencement of the schism. And we may learn—

I. THAT IT IS NOT TO BE WONDERED AT THAT HERESY SHOULD BE STRONG AND AGGRESSIVE. Ten tribes worshipped the calves; only two were faithful to the Lord. Jeroboam's novelties carried "all Israel" away after them. Even so "the churches of Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, and Rome have erred" (Art. 19.) Donatists, Montanists, Arians, Apollinarians—how many were the sects of the first days! And now, out of the two hundred millions of Christendom, how many are there whom with the profoundest sorrow we must pronounce either heretical or schismatical. And no wonder, for

"The search for truth is not one half so pleasant,
As sticking to the views we hold at present."

Most of our schisms have had their origin in pride and emulation; most of our heresies spring out of our corrupt human nature. It is every way pleasanter to choose among doctrines than to take them as revealed by God.

II. THAT THERE MUST, NEVERTHELESS, BE NO FIGHTINGS AMONGST CHRISTIANS. The armies of Judah were solemnly forbidden to attack those of Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:24). Though a host of near two hundred thousand armed men had mustered for battle, yet they must "return every man to his house." They were reminded that the children of Israel were their "brethren," and that the division in the kingdom—not that in the Church—was ordained of God. A special messenger is entrusted with a special revelation (1 Kings 15:22) to prevent the unseemly spectacle of brethren, the children of the same Father, meeting in the shock of battle. And observe that, though there was undoubtedly war at a later period between the divided branches of the Hebrew family (1Ki 14:30; 1 Kings 15:6, 1 Kings 15:16, etc.; 2 Chronicles 13:8), yet it is by no means certain that these wars ever had the Divine sanction. Observe, too, that hostility and antagonism, short of actual organized warfare, is here described as "war" (1 Kings 14:30, note). Now may we not justly infer—what, indeed, is certain on other grounds—that, whatever their heresies, there must be no hostilities between the divided sections of the Christian family? There have been "wars and fightings" amongst them, it is true, but this is against the will and prayer of their head (John 17:21; John 13:35; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:11; 1 Corinthians 11:18; James 4:1). For they are "brethren" (Matthew 23:8) by a much closer bond than were the Jews. Spiritual ties are far more real and binding than those of flesh, of mere matter (Matthew 12:48, Matthew 12:49; Romans 16:13; Titus 1:4; Phmon Titus 1:10). And if it was unseemly and unnatural for Jew to lift up hand against Jew, how much more for members of the same body (Ephesians 5:30; Romans 12:5), professors of the same gospel of love? And not only the hand, but the tongue. There must be no stabbing and wounding of brethren by words any more than by swords. "There is nothing," says Whichcote, "more unnatural to religion than contentions about it." Christians have fighting enough to do without falling upon each other. There are the common enemies of the Christian life—the world, the flesh, and the devil. There are the enemies of the faith, the hosts of devilry, and uncleanness, and unbelief, and indifference. It is well when disputing about "modes of faith" that we should remember that there are untold millions of men still worshipping cows and even demons. It is well, too, that we should consider that we are none of us infallible, and may easily confound friends and foes. It has been justly said that many of our disputes are like that midnight conflict at Syracuse, where each party mistook the watchword of the other, and all was hopeless confusion (Stanley.) We must "contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered," etc; it is true, but there are two ways of doing that. "It is not the actual differences of Christians that do the mischief, but the mismanagement of those differences" (P. Henry). "Nous avons eu assez de polemique," said a French ecclesiastic; "il nous reste a avoir un peu d'irenique."

III. THAT THERE MUST BE NO SACRIFICE OF TRUTH OR COMPROMISE OF PRINCIPLE FOR THE SAKE OF CONCILIATING HERETICS. Asa, like Rehoboam, was only too glad to welcome deserters from Jeroboam's Church and kingdom; his action with respect to Ramah proves that. But neither of them ever thought of accommodating the worship or polity of Jerusalem to suit the wishes or prejudices of the schismatic Israelites. To neither of them did it occur to allow that calf worship was right worship; neither would admit that there was any true Church but that of Judah, or any sanctuary but that of Jerusalem; neither could or would recognize the orders or ministrations of Jeroboam's man-made priests. In fact, it would have been impolitic, as well as unfaithful, to have done so. It was because Judah was true to its convictions, and consistently repudiated the schism, and stood resolutely on the old paths, that such numbers of pious Israelites came over to its side. Even so now, nothing but harm can come of sacrificing one iota of principle for the sake of the union of Christendom. We may be branded as illiberal and bigots if we ask for the credentials of every soi-disant minister of Christ; if we deny the name of "Church" to each of the manifold sects and societies of human origin; if we repudiate an unorganic Christianity, a religion of mere emotionalism. But all the same, we have no right to exercise a spurious charity and to give what is not ours; we have no right to surrender one jot of Catholic truth for the sake of conciliating outsiders. That would be indeed to "make a solitude and call it a peace." In that way our religion might soon be watered down so that truth and life and efficacy would all be gone, and the thin residuum would be stale, fiat, and unprofitable. Only the infidel could ultimately gain by such a process. Our answer, then, to the separatist must be his: "All that thou desirest of me I will do, but this thing I may not do." Deeply as we desire unity, we dare not purchase it at such a price. "Amicus Plato, amiens Socrates, sed magis amica veritas."

IV. THAT THERE MUST RE NO CALLING IN THE AID OF UNBELIEVERS AGAINST SEPARATED BRETHREN. This was done more than once in Jewish history, but the result was always disastrous. If Jeroboam called in the aid of Shishak against Rehoboam, he suffered himself, as we have seen (note on 1 Kings 14:25), from the Egyptian invasion. Nor was Asa's appeal to Ben-hadad less ill-advised. In the first place, it betrayed a lack of faith in God; then

(2) he had to rob the Lord's treasury of the gifts he had recently dedicated thereto; and

(3) the bands of Syria, having once tasted the sweets of conquest, were ever afterwards threatening or ravaging (1 Kings 20:1-43; 1 Kings 22:1-53.; 2Ki 5:2; 2 Kings 6:8, etc.) the Holy Land. Asa's son, Jehoshaphat, found it necessary, as he thought, to join forces with those of Israel against this very power which Asa invoked. And how often have Christians pursued the same policy. How often have the armies of the Ottomans, e.g; been employed by Christians against Christians. The cannon by means of which Constantinople was taken were cast by Christian engineers. For four centuries have Mussulman legions been largely officered by Christian renegades, and recruited from Christian lands—Albania, Wallachia, etc. The "unspeakable Turk" has only been tolerated in Europe because of the divisions of Christendom. And is not the same thing being done in another way at the present time? There are Christians who think it right to make common cause with atheists, secularists, etc; against their brethren. If the example of Asa (2 Chronicles 16:7-9) is not decisive against such a proceeding, surely that of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 19:2) and Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25:6-10) prove that we should neither help, nor seek help from, the ungodly. The result of such alliances, as Asa found to his cost, will be, "From henceforth thou shalt have wars." The mercenaries we have hired against one another will end by doing battle against all who bear the Christian name. The Britons who called in the Saxons to their aid presently found their new allies settled in their homes and themselves driven forth into the wilderness.

V. THAT NO OBSTACLES MUST BE RAISED IN THE PATH OF REUNION. That this should be done by the separatists need cause us no surprise. Baasha could not afford to have the highway to Judah open. His occupation would be gone if the breach were healed and the nation or the Church again became one. And, alas! there are similar "vested interests" in the perpetuation of division amongst Christians. But just as it was Asa's care to pull down the frontier fortress of Ramah, just as the stones and timber were carried away bodily by the labour of all his subjects, so should it be the great concern of the Church and of every Christian to remove the barriers which separate those for whom Christ died. The national Church, for example, should be as wide and comprehensive as possible. Sects must of necessity have narrow and restricted boundaries; for their raison d'etre is almost invariably to he found, not in the propagation of error, but in the assertion of some forgotten or neglected truth, which they have made their peculium, and treat as if it were the sum total of revelation to the neglect of the "proportion of faith." But why should we multiply our tests and articles of membership? The Apostles' Creed was thought to embody everything of necessity to salvation in the first age of the Church; and when at a later period truth had become mixed with error, the Nicene symbol was still the only test of the Christian layman. Why should it not be a sufficient test of Catholicity now? Why must we refine and define, and so make intercommunion almost impossible?

"Must it be Calvin, and not Christ?
Must it be Athanasian Creeds,
Or holy water, books, and beads?
Must struggling souls remain content
With councils and decrees of Trent?"

It is partly because we have built Ramahs round our Zion that our schisms are so many. We have insisted on forcing our shibboleths on those who could not receive them, forgetting that, however true any dogma may be in itself, still, if it is not of necessity to be believed, and we make it an essential part of our system of doctrine, it may straightway become a source of discord and division. There are many such barriers and obstacles of our own creation—sometimes in the shape of practical abuses—which require to be removed, and no Christian should be "exempt" from the work of "building silver bridges for flying enemies and golden bridges for returning friends."

VI. THAT, INSTEAD OF RAISING BARRIERS BETWEEN BRETHREN, WE SHOULD STRENGTHEN OUR DEFENCES AGAINST THE COMMON ENEMY. The stones and timber of Ramah, Asa used to build Geba of Benjamin and Mizpah. Thereby the road to Jerusalem was left open to friends, whilst these two fortresses commanded it against foes. Against Baasha, if he would wage war against his kinsmen; against the Assyrian at a later date (Isaiah 10:28, Isaiah 10:29). And is there no lesson for Christians here? Too often they are fighting amongst themselves about the "infinitely little"—about the date of Easter, about unleavened bread, about the "five points," about lights and vestments, about wafer bread, or about unfermented wine in the Holy Communion—while the enemy is marshalling his forces. Intemperance, sensuality, devilry in every form, are destroying the Church's children by thousands, and her watchmen the while are fencing with each other. The siege of Jerusalem (Jos; Bell. Jud. 1 Kings 5:1) is reproduced amongst ourselves. The enemy is thundering at our gates, and the Church is paralyzed by factions. We keep raising barricades in the streets of Zion whilst hostile legions are swarming on the adjoining heights. We have our Geba, our Mizpah to build, and we perversely build Ramahs instead.

VII. THAT A HOUSE DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF CANNOT STAND. First Samaria, then Jerusalem fell before the enemy. Christianity is now comparatively powerless for aggressive purposes; indeed, it hardly keeps pace with the population; and its enemies are asking how much longer it can stand on its defence. Divide et impera, thus have many empires fallen. True, the Catholic Church cannot perish, but national Churches have fallen again and again. There has been some talk amongst the Brahmins of sending a mission to England. And we may see in France, in Germany, a foreshadowing of what is in store for us here. "The class which has recently attained supreme political power is alienated from Christianity in its present forms." Are the Church and the seers alike to be broken up one by one? Or shall we lay aside our "fratricidal dissensions," and combine against the legion of foes—Atheism, Agnosticism, Socialism, and the rest? Of one thing we may be sure, that as long as our "unhappy divisions" last we shall never win England, much less the world, for Christ.


1 Kings 15:1-8

The succession of Abijam

to the throne of Judah appears to have had one limiting principle, viz; that the successor should be of the house and lineage of David (see 2 Chronicles 13:8). Within this limit it seems—


1. The principle of primogeniture was not considered.

(1) Else Abijam could not have ascended the throne: for he had elder brothers, sons of Mahalath and Abihail, and we know not how many besides (see 2 Chronicles 11:18-21).

(2) These were deliberately set aside by the choice of the king. The reason given for that choice is arbitrary. Rehoboam "loved Maachah, the daughter of Absalom, above all his wives," and therefore he "made Abijah, the son of Maachah, the chief ruler among his brethren: for he thought to make him king" (2 Chronicles 11:22, 2 Chronicles 11:23).

(3) For this he had precedent. We have no proof that Rehoboam was not the only son of Solomon; but Solomon was a younger son of David (see 2 Samuel 3:2-5; 2 Samuel 13:13, 2 Samuel 13:14), and was preferred before his elder brethren upon the designation of his father (see 2 Chronicles 1:1-17 2 Chronicles 1:13, 32-35).

2. Abijam represented Rehoboam by walking in his sins.

(1) He recognized the God of Israel. This he did formally in his address to Jeroboam before engaging him in battle (see 2 Chronicles 13:4-12). So did Rehoboam recognize the God of Israel (see 2 Chronicles 12:10-12.

(2) "But his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father." David never followed idols; but Rehoboam forsook not the sins of Solomon, and Abijam forsook not the sins of Rehoboam.

(3) Their mixed worship was like that of the Samaritans of later times, who "feared the Lord and served their own gods" (2 Kings 17:32). If this was not worshipping other gods "before the Lord," it was worshipping them "beside Him" (see 2 Corinthians 6:16). Yet—


1. Primogeniture, therefore, cannot plead Divine right.

(1) Else would not God have set aside the choice of Rehoboam in favour of his elder son, or rather, of the representative of the elder son of David?

(2) David himself was a younger son in the family of Jesse. And if we go back to earlier times, Judah, a younger son, was preferred before Reuben, in the family of Jacob. Jacob himself was chosen to the prejudice of Esau, and Isaac before him to the prejudice of Ishmael.

(3) God had His own reasons for confirming the election of Rehoboam, which, however, were different from those which moved the king.

3. God had respect to His servant David.

(1) "Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord." He had no complicity with idolatry, but worshipped the one true God with pure delight. When away from the courts of the Lord he longed for them with vehement desire. What a worthy example! How it rebukes the half day worshippers of modem times!

(2) He failed only "in the matter of Uriah." That was a foul blot. How sad so grand a life should have been so darkly blurred!

(3) Yet "his heart was perfect with the Lord his God." For he heartily repented of that sin, and was forgiven (see 2 Samuel 12:18; Psalms 32:1-5; Psalms 51:1-19.) God giveth liberally and upbraideth not.

3. Therefore for David's sake Abijam reigned.

(1) "That he might always have a lamp"—a man of his line. Abijam was a son of David by an unbroken male descent, and also by a female descent. "His mother's name was Maachah, the daughter of Abishalom." Abishalom is written "Absalom" in 2 Chronicles 11:21. Maachah was the daughter of Absalom as Abijam was the son of David, viz; as being descended from him. Her father's name was "Uriel of Gibeah," who appeared to have married a daughter of Absalom, who left no son (2 Chronicles 13:2). She bore the name of her grandmother, who was" Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur" (2 Samuel 3:3).

(2) Christ is the true lamp of David (see Psalms 132:17). For His sake the line of David must be preserved.

(3) The lamp, too, must shine in Jerusalem. "God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up a son after him, and to establish Jerusalem." The Redeemer must come to Zion, there to turn away iniquity from Jacob. So before the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, and the family of David had lost their genealogies, Jesus came and became an expiatory sacrifice for sin.—J.A.M.

1 Kings 15:9-15


The moral condition of Judah was fearful when Asa came to the throne. The apostasy of Solomon had inaugurated a retrogression which was aggravated in the reigns following, so that for three generations the abominations of the heathens were increasing. The condition of Israel was even worse, under the system introduced by Jeroboam, to which the successors of that monarch tenaciously held. When the Holy Land was in such a state of degeneracy, what was the condition of the world at large! There was, therefore, the greatest need for reformation.

I. OF THIS ASA BECAME THE SUBJECT AND SPECIMEN. Reformations have ever been inaugurated by individuals who have embodied and exemplified their principles. Witness Luther in Germany, Knox in Scotland, etc. Such also was Asa.

1. He "did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord."

(1) To do right in the eyes of the world is praiseworthy. For wicked men "know better;" and they have keen vision to discover inconsistencies in professors of religion (see Philippians 2:15 : 1 Peter 2:11-15).

(2) To do right in the eyes of good men is a higher commendation. They have a purer light, and consequently a finer appreciation of moral qualities. Things which the world will allow they. cannot approve.

(3) But to do right in the "eyes of the Lord" is the highest praise. He reads the heart—surveys the motives—requires "truth in the inward parts." What a searching vision shall we pass under in the day of judgment I If that vision approve us now we shall then have nothing to fear.

2. In this he is compared with David.

(1) David never followed idols. The one blur of his life was the matter of Uriah, of which he heartily repented. Who amongst us has nothing to repent of?

(2) David's loyalty to God was sincere and fervent. What a warm spirit of piety breathes in the Psalms I are they not, even in our gospel age, a fine vehicle for spiritual worship?

(3) David was a prophet. This Asa was not. He had the grace, not the gifts, of the founder of his house. Gifts are not equally within the reach of all; graces are.

3. Such commendation was eminently creditable to Asa.

(1) He stands out in remarkable contrast to his father. Abijam was wicked; Asa was good. The influence of the father was vicious; the son resisted it and was virtuous.

(2) Asa's mother seems to have died early, for Maachah, the daughter of Absalom, who was his grandmother, is here mentioned as his mother. Under the influence of Maachah, Abijah developed badly; notwithstanding that evil influence Asa developed well.

(3) We must not ignore, but fully recognize, individual moral responsibility. The will cannot be compared to a pair of scales which is mechanically moved by weights.

II. OF THIS ALSO HE BECAME THE INSTRUMENT. This is God's order (1 John 1:3). What he felt he tried to promote.

1. Beginning with his own house.

(1) He removed the idols which his father had made. He felt especially bound to do this in order to cut off the entail of sin from his house.

(2) He frowned also upon the idolatry of his grandmother. "She made an idol in a grove" (מפלצת לאשרה) a glory for an Ashere. The word is used for terribleness or majestic glory Jeremiah 49:16. Setting an image in the cloud of glory was setting it on an ark or chariot of cherubim to be worshipped. (See Psalms 50:3, where נשערה is used for the cloud of glory about Jehovah.) Asa demolished this nimbus, or glory, together with the Ashere, or idol, and probably threw the ashes into the Kedron in contempt (compare Deuteronomy 9:21; 2 Kings 23:12; 2 Chronicles 15:16).

(3) Furthermore, he removed Maachah from being queen (dowager). He thus merited the commendation of Levi (see Deuteronomy 33:9; see also Matthew 10:37).

2. Then influencing the nation.

(1) He removed the Sodomites out of the land. What prosperity can there be in any state where public immorality is tolerated by the magistrates?

(2) He destroyed the high places of idolatry with their altars and idols, in the country and in the cities (see 2 Chronicles 14:3, 2 Chronicles 14:5).

(3) The high places used in the worship of Jehovah after the fashion of the patriarchs, he spared. For this he is but lightly censured; to have limited the ordinances of public worship to the temple would have been the more excellent way.

(4) He encouraged the worship of Jehovah (see 2 Chronicles 14:4). Not by precept only, but by example also. He dedicated to the Lord the things which his father had vowed, but either neglected to pay or died before he could carry his purpose into effect. Also the spoil which he himself had taken from the Ethiopians (see 2 Chronicles 15:11, 2 Chronicles 15:12). Where the heart of God's people is loyal the treasuries of His house will be full.—J.A.M.

1 Kings 15:16-24

The War Policy of Asa.

"Forty and one years reigned he in Jerusalem" (1 Kings 15:10). The evil kings of Judah were about as numerous as the good, but their reigns were shorter. "The wicked do not live out half their days." But though the reign of Asa was long and glorious, his war policy with Baasha was not creditable.


1. The war was provoked by the enemy.

(1) Baasha was the aggressor (1 Kings 15:17). War is such a fearful evil that whoever provokes it is greatly culpable.

(2) Therefore on Asa's part it was defensive. If human war is ever defensible it is when defensive.

2. It was provoked by impious intention.

(1) Asa had set his heart upon the reformation of true religion, in which he was blessed by God with peace and prosperity (2 Chronicles 14:1-7).

(2) The more pious Ephrathites were attracted in great numbers to Jerusalem to join in the pure worship of the temple; and the reformation was influencing the northern kingdom (2 Chronicles 15:9).

(3) Baasha now feared, as Jeroboam did when he set up his calves (1 Kings 12:26-28), that his people would return to the house of David. To prevent this he proceeded to fortify the frontier town of Ramah (2 Chronicles 16:1).

(4) This was to coerce the Ephrathites to transgress the law of God (see Deuteronomy 12:11; Deuteronomy 14:23-26; Deuteronomy 16:2). To resist this persecution was as pious in Asa as the persecution was impious in Baasha.


1. They were human.

(1) Asa did not rely upon the Lord. This was the less excusable since God had wrought such signal deliverance for him from the vast multitude of the Ethiopians (see 2 Chronicles 14:9-15). What was the host of Baasha compared with that army?

(2) He did not even inquire of the Lord. Had God sanctioned his recourse to Ben-hadad then had he been blameless.

(3) Though in other particulars he had listened to the advice of Azariah, the son of Oded, with blessed advantage, yet in this he had disregarded that advice (see 2 Chronicles 15:1, 2 Chronicles 15:2).

2. They were unworthy.

(1) What right had he to engage a heathen to fight with his brethren?

(2) What right had he to bribe a heathen to break his covenant (ברית purification) with Baasha, in which the blood of sacrifice had been sprinkled to express his purity of intention, as we now take the sacrament? What opinion could the heathen form of the religion of one who could offer a bribe for such a purpose?

(3) What right had he to take the treasure of the temple for such a purpose?


1. The end was answered.

(1) The Syrians attacked Israel in the north. The news of this drew Baasha away from Ramah (verses 20, 21).

(2) This gave Asa the opportunity to demolish the fortifications in progress so as to open the road Baasha sought to close. He also removed the material so that the road might be kept open.

(3) The material was useful to him in building Geba of Benjamin and Mizpah.

2. But the price was too great.

(1) He missed an opportunity of spoiling the Syrians as he had spoiled the Ethiopians. This fact is revealed, though by what means Providence purposed to have brought it about is not disclosed (2 Chronicles 16:7).

(2) The treasures of the temple and of the palace were therefore needlessly alienated.

(3) His brethren in "Ijon, and Dan, and Abel-beth-Maachah, and all Cinneroth," or Gennesaret, "with all the land of Naphtali," were exposed to the horrors of the Syrian invasion. The heart of Israel would be alienated from Asa in consequence, and the reformation hindered.

(4) Asa's own heart became hardened, else he would not have imprisoned Hanani, and oppressed some of his people (who probably sympathized with the prophet).

(5) And he inherited the judgment of wars to the end of his days. Also a disease in the feet, respecting which he sought to "physicians rather than the Lord" (2 Chronicles 16:10, 2 Chronicles 16:12).

Note: Asa's blunders followed upon his prosperity. Few abide this test. Loss of spirituality and religious zeal accompanies the growing worldly prosperity of churches!—J.A.M.


1 Kings 15:1-8

Beloved for the father's sake.

I. THE STORY OF A MISUSED OPPORTUNITY. Even in a three years' reign much might have been done. Israel had its troubles, the past its lessons of wisdom; but there was no ear to hear the one, and no heart to attempt redress of the other.

1. The secret of failure.

(1) He was content with things as he found them. It is not said that he introduced any new idolatries: "He walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him." The sin and responsibility of those who continue to walk in the paths of sinful, though general and time-honoured, customs, and who do not forsake the idolatries and iniquities of their fathers.

(2) His love was not set upon God. The worship of Jehovah was still continued. Abijah had experienced the signal mercy of God (2 Chronicles 13:1-22.) His heart might have been won, but it "was not perfect with the Lord his God as the heart of David his father." There was no thirsting after God, no delight in the sense of the favour which is life, and the loving-kindness which is better than life. The love of God the only source of work for God.

2. The sinful was also a troubled reign: "there was war," etc; and it was war with brethren.

3. The opportunity was soon ended: "he reigned three years." Opportunities abused may be soon removed. The life which sin has marred death may swiftly seal.

II. A RIGHTEOUS LIFE AN UNDYING POWER WITH GOD. "For David's sake did the Lord his God give him," etc. Our good does not die with us or with our generation. The memory of it dwells, and prevails, with God.

1. The sinful king has a son to succeed him, and one whom God directs and blesses.

2. The city is preserved and the flood of evil driven back—"to establish Jerusalem." God's promises, our prayers, and our purposes are alike remembered. They bloom amid our dust. Our love and loyalty to God will fall in blessing upon ages yet to come.

III. SIN LEAVES ITS STAIN ON THE FAIR RECORD OF A RIGHTEOUS LIFE. "Save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite." God will not wink at or cloak our iniquity. Is there any matter of which thou and all will hear when the books are opened? If there be, is it not a call for humiliation and for prayer?—J.U.

1 Kings 15:9-24

Zeal without trust.

AN OPPORTUNITY RECOGNIZED AND USED. The need of the time was manfully met. Brought up in an idolatrous home, he nevertheless saw that this sin was sapping the foundation of the nation's stability and strength, and he set himself to root it out.

1. The land was cleansed from .filthy abomination, from legalized, and even sanctified, sin ("And he took away the Sodomites," etc.) The nation that legalizes sin will reap corruption and shame: that which suppresses it by righteous enactment will pass up into purity and strength and truest glory.

2. He put down idolatry with unflinching faithfulness. He "removed ALL the idols which his father had made.', "And also Maachah his mother, even her he removed from being queen," etc. Neither reverence for the dead not tear of the living was suffered to stand in the way of his obedience to God. It is easy to condemn sin in the abstract. It is hard to stand face to fete with him who is its servant and say, "Thou art the man." Is our faithfulness afar the pattern of Asa's?

3. His failure was one of ability, not of will (1 Kings 15:14). We may not be able to accomplish all we desire, or that is needful, but if our heart be "perfect with the Lord" all is well.

4. He did not keep back the Lord's portion. The "silver and gold and vessels," which his father and he himself had vowed, were brought into the Lord's house. His faithfulness was shown in what he gave as well as in what he condemned.

II. THERE MAY BE ZEAL FOR GOD WITHOUT PERFECT TRUST IN GOD. The man of action is not always a man of prayer.

1. Baasha's attempt (see 2 Chronicles 16:7, etc.) The danger was great, but to the politician there seemed a way out of it. He was not shut up to God's help, as in the invasion by the Ethiopian king, and therefore God was not sought.

(1) Forsaking the path of trust, he entered the crooked ways of worldly policy. He bribed Ben-hadad to break faith with Baasha. How often is self help stained with meanness and unrighteousness!

(2) God does not always forsake His people when they forsake Him. Asa's plan succeeded. The fortress that was being built against him became two for him. If unbelief was so blessed, what mercies might have crowned faith!

2. The disease which embittered his latter days. "Nevertheless in the time of his old age he was diseased in his feet." Here, again, his faith was tried and found wanting. "In his disease he sought not to the Lord but to the physicians" (2 Chronicles 16:12); and he found no relief. There is a limit to God's forbearance even with His people. How much is there of our weakness and trouble and distress over which the words are written, "Ye have not, because ye ask not"!—J.U.


1 Kings 15:14

Religious sincerity.

A beautiful flower often springs from the midst of corruption. The more we realize the moral condition of Asa's surroundings the more we wonder at the grace which made him what he was. His father was Abijam (or Abijah), the second king of Judah, of whom it is said, "He walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him." His education appears to have been entrusted to Maachah, his grandmother, a daughter of Absalom the rebel, and herself a gross idolatress. The remembrance of these facts makes the statement respecting this young prince the more surprising—"Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did David his father." An independent spirit and a resolute will must have been coupled with his piety. [Show from this the possibility of triumphing over the most adverse circumstances by those who sincerely seek to serve God.] It is not, however, to his manly resolution, to his vigour, or to his political wisdom that our attention is specially called by the text, but to his RELIGIOUS SINCERITY.

I. RELIGIOUS SINCERITY ASSERTS ITSELF IN REFORMING ZEAL (1 Kings 15:12, 1 Kings 15:13). It was only twenty years since the death of Solomon, yet irreligion and vice had corrupted the nation. Evil spreads more rapidly than good in a fallen world. The deadly fungus springs up in a night, the fruit tree grows slowly to perfection. A half-hearted or timid man would have been content to worship Jehovah himself, and thus silently rebuke the idolatry of his people; but Asa, being an earnest man, could not content himself with any laissez faire principle. With a strong hand he would put down evil wherever he could reach it. Often in God's sight to leave evil alone, unrebuked, and uncombated is to share the guilt of those who commit it. It is the spirit of Cain, and not of Christ, that asks, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Asa's reforming zeal contains lessons to rulers, to employers, to parents, indeed to all who can mould the circumstances of others. See, therefore, how it made itself felt.

1. Opportunities for sin were diminished. 1 Kings 15:12 implies that there were those in Judah who made a traffic of vice. Corrupt themselves, they corrupted others. There are places in Christian cities which should be swept away by the strong hand of law.

2. Incentives to sin were destroyed. The idol referred to (in 1 Kings 15:15) is literally "the horror." The obscene rites connected with its cultus will not bear investigation. Suffice it to say that this so-called worship provoked to vice of the most hideous kinds. Against provocations and incentives to sin how earnestly should parents guard their children, and masters and mistresses their servants. Impure literature is in the forefront of these; not only that which offends by its grossness, but that which secretly stains by its suggestions.

3. Influences for sin were removed. Sometimes vice is made popular by leaders of fashion or of policy. The unrighteousness of a clever man, the impurity of a leader in society are woefully far-reaching in their effects. Maachah, the queen-mother, was one of the most potent in Asa's court, was his near relation, his early instructress; yet, with as much wisdom as courage, "he removed her from being queen," and destroyed her idol publicly and shamefully. It might be said that he was indebted to her, that she was aged and should be respected, or that she could not live long, and might therefore be tolerated. Such pleas would not avail with man whose "heart was perfect with the Lord." (Apply this.)

II. RELIGIOUS SINCERITY PROCLAIMS ITSELF BY CONFIDENCE IN GOD. This confidence was at tile heart of Asa's courage. Read our text in the light of the fuller history of the king (given in 2 Chronicles), and see how his confidence displayed itself.

1. He found rest in God in peril. Many adversaries would be raised by a reformation which was ruthless in its rigour. Idolatrous priests, the party led by Maachah, etc; would rebel; but Asa was not perturbed. God was his refuge and strength.

2. He offered prayer to God in his difficulty. As an example read 2 Chronicles 14:1-15. Describe the incursion of the Ethiopian host, and this prayer of the king, "Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude." A victory followed which was unique in the history of God's people. Conquest waits on prayer in every struggle with evil

3. He consecrated himself and his people to God after their deliverance (see 2 Chronicles 14:15, and compare with it 2 Chronicles 15:1-19.) He renewed the covenant, and afresh dedicated all he possessed to the Lord. So he deserved the high commendation, "Asa's heart was perfect with the Lord all his days." It remains yet to be observed that—

III. RELIGIOUS SINCERITY MAY BE ASSOCIATED WITH IMPERFECT SERVICE. He failed to remove the high places. This Hezekiah and Josiah did. To leave them was to provide a way of return to the idolatrous practices he had put down. Beware of leaving lesser sins unconquered, after victory has been attained over grosset crimes.—A.R.

Verses 25-34


THE REIGNS OF NADAB, BAASHA, ELAH, ZIMRI, AND OMRI, KINGS OF ISRAEL.—After bringing up the history of the kings of Judah, which has engaged his pen since 1 Kings 14:21, to the date of the death of Asa, our author goes back some forty years to record the contemporary history of the kingdom of Israel, with which the rest of this book, the last thirteen verses alone excepted, is occupied. On the other hand, none of these reigns are even noticed by the chronicler, who only refers to the history of Israel, so far as it is inextricably connected with the object of his work; in other words, so far as is necessary to explain or illustrate the reigns of the kings of Judah.

1 Kings 15:25

And Nadab [= liberal] the son of Jeroboam began to reign [Heb. reigned] over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah and reigned over Israel two years. [The reigns of these five kings of Israel are related with great brevity. It was not the object of the author to chronicle secular history—for this he refers us to "the books of the days"—he is only concerned with the events of their reigns in so far as they relate to the kingdom of God.]

1 Kings 15:26

And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of his father [Jeroboam begat all his sons, save one, "in his own likeness"], and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin. [I.e; not the rebellion, but the schism. All the successors of Jeroboam it is clear, either thought themselves compelled, by the exigencies of their position, to adhere to his ecclesiastical policy, or found themselves more and more entangled in its toils.]

1 Kings 15:27

And Baasha the son of Ahijah [not the prophet of that name (1 Kings 14:2), who was an Ephraimite, whereas this Ahijah was], of the house of Issachar [This fact is perhaps mentioned to distinguish the father of Baasha from the prophet. Or it may owe its insertion to the insignificance of this tribe (Genesis 49:14, Genesis 49:15) up to this date. This change of dynasty, unlike the last, was in no way connected with tribal jealousies. Baasha owed his elevation to his own abilities or to his unscrupulous daring], conspired [The word implies associates. There was a plot formed fur Nadab's assassination] against him: and Baasha smote him at Gibbethon [= eminence. In the tribe of Dan (Joshua 19:44) and a Levitical city: one of the four assigned to the Levites in the territory of that tribe (ib; 1 Kings 21:23). It has not been identified. Evidently it was on the border of Philistia. Some would connect it with the modern Mejdel, a little to the north of Ascalon. The reader will observe how large a number of the names of towns indicate their elevation. The cities of those days were set on a hill. It was dangerous to build in the plain], which belonged to the Philistines [Blunt suggests that it was because the place had been deserted by the Levites, in the general exodus to Judah, that the Philistines availed themselves of the opportunity to seize and fortify it. But the divided and consequently weakened state of the kingdom would of itself have encouraged them to throw off the yoke of Israel (Ewald)]; for Nadab and all Israel laid siege to Gibbethon.

1 Kings 15:28

Even in the third year of Asa [We have here (as in 1 Kings 16:8, 1 Kings 16:23) a conspicuous instance of the Hebrew habit of counting parts of years as entire years. It is obvious that if Nadab succeeded to the throne in the second (1 Kings 15:25) and died in the third year of Asa, he cannot have reigned two full years] king of Judah did Baasha slay him [As the assassination took place during the siege, it is extremely probable that Baasha, like Omri, was the captain of the host], and reigned in his stead. [Probably Nadab had showed himself quite unequal to the task of governing, of which reading the army was in that age a principal function (1 Samuel 8:20). It is just possible that in the occupation of Gibbethon by Philistines we have a proof of his feebleness and incapacity. Anyhow, when the strong hand of Jeroboam is removed, the fruits of the rebellion at once begin to appear. The contempt and defiance which Jeroboam had showed towards constituted authority are now manifested towards his successor. Baasha only takes a leaf out of Jeroboam's book (1 Kings 11:26).]

1 Kings 15:29

And it cams to pass, when he reigned, that he smote all the house of Jeroboam; he left not to Jeroboam any that breathed [Same expression in Joshua 11:14; cf. Deuteronomy 20:16. Males and females alike were destroyed; see 1 Kings 14:11], until he had destroyed him according unto the saying of the Lord, which he spake by his servant AhiJah the Shilonite [1 Kings 14:10. It is not implied that it was because of this prophecy that Baasha exterminated the house of Jeroboam. It is probable that, so far from setting himself to fulfil it, he knew nothing about it, and, as he thought, merely took effectual measures for his own security. His seat could never be safe, so long as one of Jeroboam's house survived. Grotius aptly cites, with reference to these wholesale murders, the saying, ὃς πατέρα κτείνας υἱοὺς κατέλιπε]:

1 Kings 15:30

Because of the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned, and which he made Israel to sin, by his provocation wherewith he provoked the Lord God of Israel to anger. [Cf. 1 Kings 16:2, 1 Kings 16:7, 1 Kings 13:26. etc.]

1 Kings 15:31

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?

1 Kings 15:32

And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days. [Verbatim as 1 Kings 15:16, where see note. Several commentators suggest that this latter statement was copied from the chronicles of Israel, and that of 1 Kings 15:16 from those of Judah. It is held by others, however, that for Baasha we should here read Nadab, and in favour of this view is the fact that the reign of Nadab is still under consideration, the history of Baasha only beginning with the following verse.]

1 Kings 15:33

In the third year of Asa king of Judah began Baasha the son of Ahijah to reign [Practically a repetition of 1 Kings 15:28. These iterations are thoroughly in accord with Eastern usage (cf. 1 Kings 15:26, 1 Kings 15:30, 1Ki 15:34; 1 Kings 16:1, 1 Kings 16:7, etc.)] over all Israel in Tirzah, twenty and four years.

1 Kings 15:34

And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, and he walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Kings 15". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/1-kings-15.html. 1897.
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