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Asa was the third king of Judah (reigned 908-867 BC). He was the son and successor of Abijah. Asa became King of Judah in the 20th year of the reign of Israel's King Jeroboam, and reigned 41 years.[1] For the most part, Asa was a good and righteous king.

Reign[]

Early Reign[]

Unlike his father Abijam and grandfather Rehoboam, Asa was committed to following God in the way that his ancestor David had done.[2] For the first ten years of Asa's reign, Judah had peace on every side, for God had given them rest.[3] Asa wisely used this time of peace to strengthen Judah's defences. He fortified several cities and raised a well-equipped army of 580,000 men.[4]

Battle of the Valley of Zephathah[]

After this decade of peace, Judah was attacked by an army of 1,000,000 troops from Ethiopia under the leadership of Zerah.[5] Despite Asa's efforts to strengthen Judah's defenses, Judah was badly outnumbered. Asa cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord defeated the Ethiopians, and Asa and the army of Judah triumphed as the Ethiopians fled.[6] The Ethiopian army was completely annihilated, and Judah captured much spoil.[7] After defeating the Ethiopians, Asa attacked the Philistine city of Gerar and its region, which had allowed the Ethiopians to pass through to attack Judah. Judah was again victorious and plundered the Philistines, bringing treasures, sheep, and camels back to Jerusalem.[8]

Religious reforms[]

After Asa had defeated the Ethiopians and the Philistines, the prophet Azariah the son of Oded came to meet him and gave him a message. He told Asa and all Judah that "The LORD is with you while your are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you."[9] He gave Asa a message of encouragement to continue following God, saying that if he continued he would be rewarded.[10]

Azariah's prophecy sparked Asa into further action. Asa then cleared the land of Judah and Benjamin of all idols.[11] In the fifteenth year of his reign, he called an assembly of the whole nation, including members from the northern tribes of Israel which had fled to Judah from the wickedness of the Kingdom of Israel.[12] They offered a great sacrifice of sheep and oxen to God, and entered into a covenant that the whole nation would seek God with all their hearts and souls.[13] Anyone who refused to seek God would be put to death.[14] When they ratified the covenant, all Judah rejoiced and shouted and blew trumpets. Asa did not force this covenant onto the people; he initiated it, but the people wholeheartedly supported it.[15]

In addition to removing idolatry from the land, Asa rid the nation of cult prostitution which had been occurring since the time of Rehoboam.[16] He removed the high places used as sites to worship foreign gods,[17] but failed to remove the high places where people worshipped the real God.[18] These sites were not as evil as the ones dedicated to idolatry, but still violated God's commandment that the people offer sacrifices only in Jerusalem. Asa even removed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother (in the Bible she is referred to as his "mother", but she was the mother of his father Abijam[19] and the Hebrew word can refer to a female ancestor), because she had made an idolatrous image dedicated to the false goddess Asherah. Asa knocked the image down, crushed it up, and set in on fire to destroy it.[20]

Conflict with Israel[]

Asa and Judah were often in conflict with Baasha king of Israel.[21] The conflict between Israel and Judah extended from the time of Rehoboam and Jeroboam. Late in Asa's reign, the king of Israel advanced into Judah and built up the city of Ramah, which is only 8 kilometres north of Jerusalem. He sought to prevent anyone from coming in to or going out of Jerusalem.[22] Asa was alarmed by the Israelite threat, but instead of seeking God's help like he did when the vast army of the Ethiopians invaded, Asa sent envoys to Ben-Hadad king of Syria in Damascus, offering tribute of silver and gold to Ben-Hadad from the Temple and Asa's palace.[23] He asked that Ben-Hadad would break the treaty he had with Israel, and instead ally with Judah.[24] Ben-Hadad agreed and launched a surprise attack on Israel, conquering several cities in Israel's north.[25]

At first, it seemed like Asa's plan was successful, as the Syrian invasion forced Israel to abandon Ramah and turn their attention towards the north. Judah was then able to carry away all the stones and timber that Israel had left at Ramah, and Asa used them to build the cities of Geba and Mizpah.[26]

However, God was not pleased with Asa's actions, and the prophet Hanani came to Asa informing him that he should not have allied with Syria, but should have again relied on God, and said that if Asa had asked God for help instead, He would have given both Israel and Syria into Asa's hand.[27] Because Asa had not sought God, Hanani told him that the rest of his reign would be full of wars.[28] These words enraged Asa, and instead of listening to God's word spoken through Hanani, he arrested him and mistreated him.[29]

Last years[]

In his final years Asa no longer acted righteously, and he began oppressing his people. In the 39th year of his reign, he became diseased in his feet, but even through this ordeal he did not seek God's help, but only sought help from the physicians, who were unable to help him.[30]

Death and descendants[]

Asa died in the 41st year of his reign, and Jehoshaphat his son succeeded him as king.[31] Even though the final years of Asa's reign were bad, he was still remembered as a good and righteous king. The people gave him an honourable funeral and made a very great fire in his honour.[32]

As a member of the royal line of Judah, Asa was an ancestor of Jesus, the ultimate and eternal king.[33]

Verses[]

  1. 1 Kings 15:9-11, 2 Chronicles 14:1-2 (Link)
  2. 1 Kings 15:11 (Link)
  3. 2 Chron. 14:16 (Link)
  4. 2 Chronicles 14:7-8 (Link)
  5. 2 Chronicles 14:9 (Link)
  6. 2 Chronicles 14:10-12 (Link)
  7. 2 Chron. 14:13 (Link)
  8. 2 Chron. 14:14 (Link)
  9. 2 Chron. 15:2 (Link)
  10. 2 Chron. 15:7 (Link)
  11. 2 Chronicles 15:1-8 (Link)
  12. 2 Chron. 15:9 (Link)
  13. 2 Chron. 15:12 (Link)
  14. 2 Chron. 15:13 (Link)
  15. 2 Chron. 15:15 (Link)
  16. 1 Kings 15:12 (Link)
  17. 2 Chron. 14:3 (Link)
  18. 1 Kings 15:14 (Link)
  19. 2 Chron. 11:21 (Link)
  20. 2 Chron. 15:16 (Link)
  21. 1 Kings 15:16 (Link)
  22. 1 Kings 15:17 (Link)
  23. 2 Chron. 16:2 (Link)
  24. 2 Chron. 16:3 (Link)
  25. 2 Chron. 16:4 (Link)
  26. 2 Chron. 16:6 (Link)
  27. 2 Chron. 16:7 (Link)
  28. 2 Chron. 16:9 (Link)
  29. 2 Chron. 16:10 (Link)
  30. 2 Chron. 16:12 (Link)
  31. 1 Kings 15:24 (Link)
  32. 2 Chron. 16:14 (Link)
  33. Matt. 1:8 (Link)
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