2 Chronicles 16
Even in the wake of military success, during a period when most kings would become conceited, Asa continues to focus on God. Eliminating the remnants of idol worship and practicing the festivals in the Southern Kingdom are not enough for him—he insures that all political leaders are role models of proper worship. Asa punishes his own mother and makes an example of her apostasy by stripping her title and destroying her cultic objects in front of the nation. This sends a strong message to the people that everyone is accountable for his actions.
But not even Asa is perfect. He neglects to destroy the high places in the areas he conquers in the Northern Kingdom, so his reign will not be completely peaceful.
There are two significant reasons why the Eternal is always opposed to the Northern and Southern Kingdoms forging alliances with other nations, even if for self-preservation. First, any political alliance is also a religious alliance. Each king and his group of diplomats bring their national deities to witness and support the treaty. The Eternal never stands for setting up other divine rivals, even to witness military agreements. Often treaty members recognize and worship their respective patron idols to show political and religious friendship between the countries.
Second, a political alliance is also a spiritual alliance. King Asa—and the majority of Israelite and Judean kings—demonstrates a lack of trust in the Eternal’s provision and protection when seeking out pragmatics (such as food and land) from the surrounding Gentile nations. It is a constant challenge to seek God for personal and national existence when all the other nations are bigger and stronger. The sad reality is that Judah is often a vassal people to the more wealthy and powerful Israel, and both nations are taken captive and deported by those in whom they will seek refuge: Assyria and Babylonia.
16 But in the 36th year of Asa’s reign, King Baasha of Israel invaded Judah, conquered Ramah, and fortified it as his outpost in the Southern Kingdom. By controlling Ramah, Baasha controlled access to Jerusalem and to Asa king of Judah.
Asa retaliates by hiring out Aram to fight Baasha.
2 Asa took silver and gold from the treasuries of the Eternal’s temple and his own palace, and he sent them to Ben-hadad, king of Aram, who lived in Damascus.
Asa (in a letter to Ben-hadad): 3 Let’s renew the treaty which our fathers shared with each other. Please take this silver and gold which I have sent to you, and use it to attack Baasha, king of Israel. If you will break your treaty with him, then he will withdraw his troops from my country.
4 Ben-hadad accepted King Asa’s offer and sent the commanders of his armies to conquer cities in Israel and to add them to the nation of Aram: Ijon (a fortified city in Naphtali), Dan, Abel-maim, and all the store cities in the region of Naphtali. 5 When Baasha heard that Aram was attacking him, he stopped his work of strengthening Ramah and returned to the Northern Kingdom to fight. 6 Then King Asa and his people in Judah pillaged Ramah, removing Baasha’s stones and wood and using them to fortify Geba and Mizpah.
These cities are along the Israelite border, so they guard major trade routes between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.
7 At that time, Hanani the seer shared his vision with Asa, king of Judah, interpreting the king’s mistakes and predicting Israel’s future.
Hanani: Because you trusted the king of Aram instead of the Eternal One, your True God, you missed your opportunity to conquer the Aramean army! 8 Do you remember that the Cushites[a] and the Libyans had immense armies with many chariots and horsemen? You could not have conquered them with your own army or your own cunning, but because you trusted the Eternal, He gave them to you so you could crush them. 9 The Eternal watches everything that happens on earth so that He may strongly support those who follow Him. By hiring mercenaries, you have acted foolishly and proven that you are not following Him. From now on, peace will elude you and you will surely fight wars.
10 Asa was enraged by the seer’s vision. He imprisoned Hanani and cruelly oppressed some of his people.
11 The actions of Asa, from his birth to his death, are recorded in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel. 12 In the 39th year of his reign, Asa contracted a severe foot disease. Once again, he had the opportunity to look to the Eternal, but instead he relied on physicians.
What happens to Asa’s faith at the end of his life? As Hanani points out, Asa began his reign as a devoted follower of God who trusted Him in battles and worshiped Him in peace. But after neglecting to destroy the altars in the Northern Kingdom, Asa’s faith diminishes. He trusts foreign armies and human physicians over his own God, so he dies a painful death.
13 So Asa joined his ancestors in death three years later, in the 41st year of his reign. 14 The people buried him in his own tomb, which he had cut out for himself in the city of David, Jerusalem, and filled with spices prepared by a perfumer. Then the people built a large fire honoring him.
- 16:8 May refer to the people of Ethiopia in Africa or Cushan (a.k.a. Gerar) in southwest Judah.