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of its being the highway to Syria. Asa met him at Zephathah, in the plain of Judah, with an army which was as nothing to that of the invader ; but the king cried aloud to God in a beautiful prayer, worthy of a true son of David : “It is nothing to Thee to help with many or with few ;” and help was given. The Ethiopians were utterly discomfited, and driven not only out of the Philistine country, through which they had advanced, but could not even retain their hold on Egypt, and had to retreat to their own country beyond the cataracts of the Nile. Such was the blessing upon heart-whole trust in God.

LESSON VIII.

THE REFORMATION UNDER ASA IN JUDAH.

B.C. 941.—2 CHRON. xv. 1—19.

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.

Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law.

But when they in their trouble did turn unto the LORD God of Israel, and sought him, he was found of them.

And in those times there was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in, but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the countries.

And nation was destroyed of nation, and city of city : for God did vex them with all adversity.

Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak : for your work shall be rewarded.

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.

So they gathered themselves together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa.

And they offered unto the LORD the same time, of the spoil which they had brought, seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep.

And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul;

That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.

And they sware unto the LORD with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets.

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.

But the high places were not taken away out of Israel : nevertheless the heart of Asa was perfect all his days.

And he brought into the house of God the things that his father had dedicated, and that he himself had dedicated, silver, and gold, and vessels.

And there was no more war unto the five and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa.

COMMENT.-When Asa was returning from his great victory over the Ethiopians,—that victory gained in the name of the Lord of Hosts,-the prophet Azariah was sent by the Lord to meet him and his army, and remind them how trouble and disaster had uniformly followed whenever the Law of God and His appointed form of worship had been forsaken, and how a blessing had always come whenever He was called upon in His own way. Asa, as has been already seen, had been trying to purify the land of idols and high places since the beginning of his reign, but had apparently been much hindered by the opposition of his subjects and of his grandmother, Queen Maachah. The prophet therefore calls on him to be strong, and let not his hands be weak; and the exhortation, made before the whole army of Judah, immediately after the great victory, and their king's prayer, had a great effect upon the warriors, who no longer withstood his reformations : nor was it only the men of his own kingdom, but many even from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon became convinced that only at Jerusalem would God accept their service, and joined in putting away the idols and restoring true religion. Probably Simeon, which was to the south of Judah, at a distance from the other tribes, did ever after

hold with it, since we several times find Simeonites mentioned at Jerusalem. Really good and religious persons living in the bounds of Israel continued to make their way to the Temple for the festivals, though often with great danger. There was a great gathering at Jerusalem for, as it seems, the Feast of Weeks, an offering of the spoil and a solemn renewal of the covenant ; and indeed the hearts of the people seem to have been thoroughly touched, and they rejoiced in the blessing of the Lord and the prosperity He had given theni.

Asa now ventured on carrying the reformation into his own family. It was the custom in Judah, as in other Eastern kingdoms, that the king's mother should be regarded as queen rather than the king's wife, and Maachah, or Michaiah, the favourite wife of Rehoboam, had retained her position as queen after her s02 Abijah's early death, either from · her rank as a descendant of David, or because Asa's own mother, whose name is never giver at all, may have died early. The Hebrew language has no distinctive word for “grandparents” or “grandchildren,” and thus, where the grandfather is the more distinguished person, the parentage is often ascribed to him, passing over the intermediate generation. Maachah had maintained her favourite worship of the moongoddess Ashtoreth, and her wooden pillar, till Asa, convinced that her evil example ought no longer to be tolerated, removed her from her royalty, and destroyed her image, letting its remnants be washed away to the Dead Sea by the brook Kidron. He was able in great measure to restore the treasures that had been taken from the Temple during Shishak's invasion, and remained peaceful and prosperous till the thirty-fifth year, not of his own reign, but of the kingdom of Judah, i.e. B.C. 940, the thirteenth of his own reign, The Book of Kings says he had peace for ten years. This must have been from B. C. 950 to B. C. 940—from Zerah's invasion to the war with Baasha of Israel,

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And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days.

And Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah, and built Ramah, that he might not suffer any to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah.

Then Asa tuok all the silver and the gold that were left in the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king's house, and delivered them into the hands of his servants: and king Asa sent them to Ben-hadad, the son of Tabrimon, the son of Hezion, king of Syria, that dwelt at Damascus, saying,

There is a league between me and thee, and between my father and thy father : behold, I have sent unto thee a present of silver and gold ; come and break thy league with Baasha king of Israel, that he may depart from me.

So Ben-hadad hearkened unto king Asa, and sent the captains of the hosts which he had against the cities of Israel, and smote ljon, and Dan, and Abel-beth-maachah, and all Cinneroth, * with all the land of Naphtali.

And it came to pass, when Baasha heard thereof, that he left off building of Ramah, and dwelt in Tirzah.

And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said unto him, Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the LORD thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand.

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.

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.

Then the word of the LORD came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying,

Forasmuch as I exalted thee out of the dust, and made thee prince over my people Israel ; and thou hast walked in the way of Jeroboam, and hast made my people Israel to sin, to provoke me to anger with their sins ; Behold, I will take away the posterity of Baasha, and the posterity of his

* The land about the Sea of Gennesareth.

house; and will make thy house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

Him that dieth of Baasha in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth of his in the fields shall the fowls of the air eat.

So Baasha slept with his fathers, and was buried in Tirzah: and Elah his son reigned in his stead.

In the twenty and sixth year of Asa king of Judah began Elah the son of Baasha to reign over Israel in Tirzah, two years.

And his servant Zimri, captain of half his chariots, conspired against him, as he was in Tirzah, drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza, steward of his house in Tirzah.

And Zimri went in and smote him, and killed him, in the twenty and seventh year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned in his stead.

And it came to pass, when he began to reign, as soon as he sat on his throne, that he slew all the house of Baasha : he left him not one, neither of his kinsfolks, nor of his friends.

Thus did Zimri destroy all the house of Baasha, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake against Baasha by Jehu the prophet,

For all the sins of Baasha, and the sins of Elah his son, by which they sinned, and by which they made Israel to sin, in provoking the LORD God of Israel to anger with their vanities.

COMMENT.—After Asa's ten years of peace, Baasha of Israel began a war that lasted between the two kings for the rest of their lives. His aggression seems to have been the fortifying Ramah, Samuel's city, a priestly town only five miles from Jerusalem. Perhaps he meant it as a fortress whence to annoy the pilgrims to Jerusalem, as we find was done later by the wicked kings of Israel. This time Asa failed. He did not turn away to idols, but he had lost his heart-whole trust in the Lord, and looked to man instead. He sent messengers, and a present collected from the treasury of the Temple, to the power which had arisen in the rich city of Damascus since its revolt from Solomon-Ben-hadad (Son of the Sun), king of Syria-begging him for his alliance and assistance against Baasha. Accordingly, Ben-hadad invaded Israel to the north, took the northern Dan, where the golden calf was, and overcame the lands of Naphtali, round about the Lake of Gennesareth, while Asa himself attacked Baasha, forced him to leave off building Ramah, and carried off the materials to construct two forts of his own at Geba and Mizpeh (the watch-tower), thus guard. ing the approach to Jerusalem.

But schismatic and rebellious as the Israelites were, they were the brethren of Judah, and it was ill done to call in a heathen foe

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