Upon Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam took the throne. He was unrighteous, and early in his reign the ten tribes of the North broke away from the house of David. Rehoboam reigned 17 years and upon his death, his son Abijah took the throne. Abijah reigned only three years and upon his death his son Asa took the throne. Asa, the great-grandson of Solomon, was a righteous man.
The Bible tells us:
So Abijah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David: and Asa his son reigned in his stead. In his days the land was quiet ten years. And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God: For he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves: And commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment. Also he took away out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the images: and the kingdom was quiet before him. And he built fenced cities in Judah: for the land had rest, and he had no war in those years; because the LORD had given him rest (2 Chr. 14:1-6).
For any religious reformation to take place, not only must there be support from the upper class, there must be grass roots support of the people. This support must be pervasive, so Asa’s success was remarkable. Because of his faith and courage, God greatly blessed him, and gave him rest from all his enemies. Peace and blessings come from righteousness; curses and war come from disobedience to God (Prov. 16:7, Isa. 57:21). The entire nation was benefited by the actions of this righteous king.
During the time of peace Asa built up his defenses.
Therefore he said unto Judah, Let us build these cities, and make about them walls, and towers, gates, and bars, while the land is yet before us; because we have sought the LORD our God, we have sought him, and he hath given us rest on every side. So they built and prospered. And Asa had an army of men that bare targets and spears, out of Judah three hundred thousand; and out of Benjamin, that bare shields and drew bows, two hundred and fourscore thousand: all these were mighty men of valour (2 Chr. 14:7-8).
In spite of these preparations, the Ethiopians under a leader named Zerah, attacked Judah. He came against Judah with an army of one million. It is believed Zerah was Amenhutpe II, the son of Thutmose III, of the 18th Egyptian dynasty.
Then Asa went out against him, and they set the battle in array in the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah. And Asa cried unto the LORD his God, and said, 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. O LORD, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee. So the LORD smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah; and the Ethiopians fled. And Asa and the people that were with him pursued them unto Gerar: and the Ethiopians were overthrown, that they could not recover themselves; for they were destroyed before the LORD, and before his host; and they carried away very much spoil. And they smote all the cities round about Gerar; for the fear of the LORD came upon them: and they spoiled all the cities; for there was exceeding much spoil in them. They smote also the tents of cattle, and carried away sheep and camels in abundance, and returned to Jerusalem (2 Chr. 14:10-15).
God delivered Asa and his people because he trusted Him. Asa’s army was only half the size of the Ethiopians, and it required great courage to meet for battle in the field. Because he relied on God, Asa was granted a great victory.
God now greatly encouraged Asa. He sent a prophet. “And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded: And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The LORD is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you” (2 Chr. 15:1-2). Asa now intensified his national reformation.
And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from mount Ephraim, and renewed the altar of the LORD, that was before the porch of the LORD. And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and the strangers with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon: for they fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that the LORD his God was with him (2 Chr. 15:8-9).
And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made (1 Kings 15:12).
And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul (2 Chr. 15:12).
And all Judah rejoiced at the oath: for they had sworn with all their heart, and sought him with their whole desire; and he was found of them: and the LORD gave them rest round about. And also concerning Maachah the mother of Asa the king, he removed her from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove: and Asa cut down her idol, and stamped it, and burnt it at the brook Kidron (2 Chr. 15:15-16).
Because of this zeal the reformation was largely complete, “But the high places were not taken away out of Israel: nevertheless the heart of Asa was perfect all his days” (2 Chr. 15:17).
Throughout the years war had been a constant threat and occurrence between the house of Judah and the house of Israel. It threatened to break out again. “In the six and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah, and built Ramah, to the intent that he might let none go out or come in to Asa king of Judah” (2 Chr. 16:1).
But this time Asa failed to trust God and sought for help from the Syrians. He bribed them to attack the northern kingdom. Asa’s heart was perfect before God, but on this occasion he fell into a lapse and relied upon human reasoning.
Then Asa brought out silver and gold out of the treasures of the house of the LORD and of the king’s house, and sent to Benhadad king of Syria, that dwelt at Damascus, saying, There is a league between me and thee, as there was between my father and thy father: behold, I have sent thee silver and gold; go, break thy league with Baasha king of Israel, that he may depart from me. And Benhadad hearkened unto king Asa, and sent the captains of his armies against the cities of Israel; and they smote Ijon, and Dan, and Abelmaim, and all the store cities of Naphtali. And it came to pass, when Baasha heard it, that he left off building of Ramah, and let his work cease. Then Asa the king took all Judah; and they carried away the stones of Ramah, and the timber thereof, wherewith Baasha was building; and he built therewith Geba and Mizpah (2 Chr. 16:2-6).
While the strategy may have pleased Asa, it did not please God. Perhaps it was Asa’s age. Perhaps he was so occupied in physical administration, he neglected his relationship with God. Whatever the reason, this mistake cost him the peace and prosperity Judah had been so accustomed to.
God sent the prophet, Hanani, to rebuke Asa.
Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? yet, because thou didst rely on the LORD, he delivered them into thine hand. For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars (2 Chr. 16:8-9).
Because Asa relied on the Syrians, he lost the opportunity to gain God’s blessings and deliverance, not only from Israel, but also from future problems with the Syrians. Asa did not take well to this rebuke. “Then Asa was wroth with the seer, and put him in a prison house; for he was in a rage with him because of this thing. And Asa oppressed some of the people the same time” (2 Chr. 16:10). Asa lost his temper. His example was not good. In spite of this mistake and his treatment of God’s prophet, there is no indication that Asa turned from God or ceased in his efforts to turn his people toward God. Nor was he deterred in his determination to reform the corrupt religious system set up by his forebears. Asa ruled a number of years after this, and while we have no record of any wars, we can assume the threat of war was ever present. Since his heart was right, he must have repented of his treatment toward God’s prophet and the people who had displeased him. He was loved by his people and respected as their king. But he was human and did make mistakes.
In his old age he seemed to be unaware of the frame of mind into which he had lapsed. “And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians. And Asa slept with his fathers, and died in the one and fortieth year of his reign” (2 Chr. 16:12-13).
In spite of his lapses, Asa affected a great reformation. It was so effective that his son-Jehoshaphat-who followed him, walked in his footsteps. Asa had accomplished much good in Judah. He brought the people back to God, and the nation prospered and had no war most of the time. Asa was bold and courageous, and a man whose heart was right with God. He must be considered great.