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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

2 Chronicles 16

 

 

Verses 1-14

EXPOSITION

The contents of this chapter fall easily into three parts: Asa's conflict with Baasha (2 Chronicles 16:1-6; parallel, 1 Kings 15:16-22); Hanani's rebuke of Asa, and Asa's ill reception of it (2 Chronicles 16:7-10); the disease, death, and burial of Asa (2 Chronicles 16:11-14; parallel, 1 Kings 15:23, 1 Kings 15:24).

2 Chronicles 16:1

For the six and thirtieth year, read six and twentieth. Ramah belonged to Benjamin (Joshua 18:21, Joshua 18:25, Joshua 18:28), and lay between Bethel and Jerusalem, about five or six Roman miles from each; but Keil and Bertheau, by some error, call it thirty miles from Jerusalem, having very likely in their eye Ramah of Samuel, in Ephraim. The word signifies "lofty," and the present history speaks the importance of its position, and would infer also that Israel had regained Bethel, which, with other adjacent places, Abijah had wrested from Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 13:19). The reference of Isaiah 10:28, Isaiah 10:29, 82 is exceedingly interesting, and bespeaks the fact that Ramah commanded another intersecting route from Ephraim. When it is said here that Baasha built ( וַיִּבֶן ) Ramah, the meaning is that he was beginning to strengthen it greatly, and fortify it. The object of Baasha, which no doubt needed no stating in the facts of the day, is now stated by history.

2 Chronicles 16:2

The writer of Chronicles omits the pedigree of this Benhadad King of Syria, given in the parallel "the son of Tabrimon, the son of Hezion." Benhidri is the name of Benhadad in the Assyrian monuments. The Septuagint gives Ader, which tallies with it, For Damascus, we have here Dar-mesek, instead of the more usual Dammesek of the parallel and Genesis 15:2; the resh representing (as in Syriac) the dagesh forte in mem. The parallel (1 Kings 15:18) says that Asa took all the silver and the gold left in the treasures, etc.; but the reading "left" should very possibly be "found," the Hebrew characters easily permitting it.

2 Chronicles 16:3

The alliance of the King of Syria was sought now by one kingdom, now by the other. On what occasion Abijah made league with the king, the history does not say, either here or in the parallel, nor when he or his son resigned it. For there is, read "Let there be a league between me and thee, as between my father and thy father;" the short cut which Area thought to take now to his object was not the safe nor right one.

2 Chronicles 16:4

Benhadad was apparently not very long in making up either his mind or his method. The bribe that tempted him, drawn from "the treasures" described, well replenished (2 Chronicles 15:18; and parallel, 1 Kings 15:15), was probably large. His method was to create a diversion in favour of his new ally, by "smiting" certain picked and highly important cities of Israel, mostly in northern Galilee, by name "Ijon, Dan, Abel-maim, and all the store-cities of Naphtalli." Ijon. In Naphtali, mentioned only now, in the parallel, and when a second time taken (2 Kings 15:29) by Tiglath-Pileser. Dan. The colonizing of this city is given in 18:1, 18:2, 18:29-31; it was originally called Laish, and became the northern landmark of the whole country, as in the expression, "from Dan even to Beersheba" ( 17:1-13 :29; 20:1). Abel-maim. This place was situate at the foot of the Lebanon; in the parallel (1 Kings 15:20) it is called Abel-beth-maachah. It is again mentioned as attacked by Tiglath-Pileser, who wrested it from Pekah (2 Kings 15:29). In 2 Samuel 20:18, 2 Samuel 20:14, 2 Samuel 20:15 it is called Abel by itself, but in the last two of these verses Beth-maachah is mentioned in close connection with it. After this name the parallel gives also "all Cinneroth". The name is the original of the New Testament Gennesaret. It was a city (Joshua 19:35) that gave its name to the sea and western region of the lake, sometimes called so (Numbers 34:11; Joshua 11:2; Joshua 12:3). If there were a little more external evidence of it, we should incline to the opinion of Movers, that the "all Cinneroth" of the parallel is the כָּל־מִּסְכְּנוֹת (''all the store-cities") of our present verse. But at present we may take it that the two records supplement one another. All the store-cities of Naphtali (see 2 Chronicles 32:28; 2 Chronicles 8:6 and its parallel, 1 Kings 9:19).

2 Chronicles 16:5

And let his work cease. The parallel has not this, but follows the exact previous sentence with this, "and dwelt in Tirzah." It is the happy suggestion of one commentator (Professor James G. Murphy, 'Handbook: Chronicles') that this sentence may betray that it had been Baasha's intention to reside in Ramah.

2 Chronicles 16:6

The affair seems thus to have come to an unbloody termination. The parallel (1 Kings 15:22)is so much the more graphic that it contains the two additions that Asa "made a proclamation throughout all Judah," and one that "exempted none" from joining in the duty of moving all the stones and all the timber from Ramah, and diverting' them to the use of building Geba and Mizpah. This greatly contributed to command the road from the north to Jerusalem. Geba. This was Geba of Benjamin, as clearly stated in the parallel. It was a position north of Ramah, whether opposite Michmash and the modern Jeba is not certain, as some think this answers to Gibeah of Saul (1 Samuel 14:2, 1 Samuel 14:5). Mizpah (see Jeremiah 41:2, Jeremiah 41:3, Jeremiah 41:9, Jeremiah 41:10). This Mizpah is not that of the Shefelah (Joshua 15:38), but was situate about two hours, or a short six miles, north-west of Jerusalem, on the Samaria route, and is probably the modern Neby Samwil (see also 2 Kings 25:22-26; Je 40:5-41:18).

2 Chronicles 16:7, 2 Chronicles 16:8

The very impressive episode of four verses begun by the seventh verse is not found in the parallel. The fact furnishes clear indication that our compiler was not indebted to the writer of Kings for material. And the moral aspects of the matter here preserved by the compiler of Chronicles show the paramount reasons why he would not miss bringing it to the front for the returned people's better religious education. Presumably Hanani the seer is the father of that other faithful seer and prophet Jehu, who appeared to Baasha (1 Kings 16:1, 1 Kings 16:7) and to Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 19:1, 2 Chronicles 19:2). Therefore is the host of the King of Syria escaped out of thy hand It is plain that, reading the lines only, this expression (remarkable considering its following close upon successful help given by Benhadad, and help unaccompanied, so far as we are told, by any infidelity or untoward circumstance), suggests option of explanation, and would engender the supposition that something very threatening was on the horizon, at any rate. But reading between the lines, and giving due weight to the significance of the illustration adduced of the combined Ethiopians and Lubim (2 Chronicles 14:9-15), we may warrantably judge that Hanani's inspired language went a cut deeper, and meant that if the alliance had been not broken between Benhadad and Baasha, both would surely have been taken in one net (Psalms 124:7), as they would have entered into the conflict in alliance. A decisive victory over the King of Syria would have been any way a grand day in the history of Judah; But such a victory over the Kings of Syria and of the northern schismatic kingdom would have been more than a doubly grand day; it would have been a tenfold demonstration of God's judgment, that "though hand join in hand, yet shall not the wicked go unpunished" (see particularly same Hebrew verb used of a bird escaped in Psalms 124:7).

2 Chronicles 16:9

Thou shalt have wars. Although this language at first seems to be intended for very specific application to Asa, yet as we do not read of individual wars occurring after this in his own time, it is quite within a just interpretation of it if we read it as referring to the inevitable experience of the kingdom. Its head and king had just thrown away the opportunity of blocking out one ever-threatening enemy. What more natural consequence than that wars should rush in the rather as a flood, in the after-times?

2 Chronicles 16:10

A prison-house; literally, Hebrew, the house of the מַהְפֶכֶת ; i.e. "of the twisting or distortion;" i.e. "the stocks." The word occurs three other times only, all of them in Jeremiah viz. Jeremiah 20:2, Jeremiah 20:3; Jeremiah 29:26. (For a forcible parallel, see 1 Kings 22:27.) And Asa oppressed some of the people the same time. This may throw some explanatory, though no exculpatory, light on Asa's wrath and violence towards Hanani; for it probably marks that either some goodly portion of the wiser of the people had anticipated of their own common sense the matter of the message of Hanani the seer, or that they had not failed to follow it with some keenly sympathetic remarks For our Authorized Version, "oppressed," read a stronger verb, as "crushed."

2 Chronicles 16:11

This verse, with the following three, is represented by the very summarized but sufficiently significant parallel of 1 Kings 15:23, 1 Kings 15:24. Note that the reference work cited in this verse as the book of the kings of Judah and Israel, is in the paralled cited as "the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah." Of course, the latter citation was much the earlier in point of time.

2 Chronicles 16:12

His disease was exceeding great Perhaps a somewhat more literal rendering will more correctly express the emphasis of the original, e.g. his disease was great even to excess. For yet, read emphatically, and also; the historian purposing to say that as, in his fear of Baasha, he had not sought the Lord, but Benhadad, so, in his excessive illness also, he had not sought the Lord, but the physicians!

2 Chronicles 16:13

Amid the frequent uncertainties of the chronology, we are glad to get some dates fixed by the agreement of testimonies. E.g. this place and the parallel state clearly that Asa's reign was one that lasted to its forty-first year. The parallel, however (1 Kings 15:23), makes this date one and the same thing with his "old age," while no manipulation of dates can make him (the grandson of Rehoboam and son of Abijah) more than about fifty. And it is somewhat remarkable that, when introduced to us as succeeding to the throne, nothing is said of his tender youth (as, for instance, is said in the case of Josiah, 2 Kings 22:1; 2 Kings 24:1-3). Nevertheless, the apparent prominence of Maachah awhile would tally with the circumstance of Asa's youth at his accession. Another correspondence in Josiah's career is noticeable; for it is distinctly said that when he was only twelve years of age (2 Chronicles 34:3) "he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places," etc. At a similarly youthful age Asa, therefore, may be credited with doing the like, while later on he took more stringent measures, as for instance with Maachah, the queen-mother.

2 Chronicles 16:14

In his own sepulchres; Hebrew, קִבְרֹתָין ; fem. plur. of קֶבֶר. The plural designates, of course, the range of burial compartments that formed the tomb of one person or family. So Job 17:1, where the masc. plur. is used, קְבָרִים לִי. In the city of David (see note on 2 Chronicles 12:16). In the bed; Hebrew, מִשְׁכָּב . The use or associations of this word (found about fifty times) are almost entirely, if not entirely, those of the bed of nightly rest, even when not at the time speaking of nightly rest; and this is the first and only occasion that it is employed to link the grave in kindly analogy with the couch of bodily repose during lifetime. The fact might have suggested Bishop Ken's lines in the evening hymn—

"Teach me to live, that I may dread

The grave as little as my bed."

In the present instance, however, the writer, whoever he was (query, was he the compiler of our Chronicles, or his original?), is doubt-leas led to the analogy by considerations mere earthly than those enshrined in Ken's hymn, viz. by the somewhat "vain show" of attractiveness and fragrance (probably designed partly for preservative purposes) with which the place was filled, and which were among even patriarchal indications of faith in a future state. Sweet odours; Hebrew, כְּשָׂמִים . Of the twenty-nine times that this word occurs in Exodus, Kings, and Chronicles, Esther, Canticles, Isaiah, and Ezekiel, it is rendered in the Authorized Vermon "spices" twenty-four times, "sweet cinnamon" once, "sweet calamus" once, and "sweet odours" or "sweet smell" three times. The chief and determining references are those in Exodus 25:6; Exodus 30:23; Exodus 35:8, Exodus 35:28. And divers kinds; Hebrew, וּזְנִים ; plur. of זַן; from the root, זָנַן ; unused, but probably one with an Amble root, meaning "to shape;" hence our noun, meaning a kind or species, used here and Psalms 144:13, and in the Chaldee of Daniel 3:5, Daniel 3:7, Daniel 3:10, Daniel 3:15. Prepared; Hebrew, מְרֻקָּחִיס ; solitary occurrence of pual conjugation of the root רָקַח, "to spice," i.e; to spice, season, or prepare oil for ointment purposes. This root occurs in kal future once (Exodus 30:33); in kal part. poel five times (Exodus 30:25, 85; Exodus 37:29; 1 Chronicles 9:1-44 :80; Ecclesiastes 10:1); and in hiph. infin. once (Ezekiel 24:10). By the apothecaries' art; Hebrew, בְמִרְקַחַת מַעֲשֲׂה. Translate the clause, and divers kinds compounded by the compounding of art, which means to say spices skilfully treated and wrought into ointments by professional hands. A very great burning; literally, and they burned for him a burning great even to an exceeding extent. The burning is not the burning of 1 Samuel 31:12, 1 Samuel 31:13, but the burning of spices, indicated by the language of our 2 Chronicles 21:19 and Jeremiah 34:5.

HOMILETICS

2 Chronicles 16:1-14

The disappointing relapse of what had seemed tried worth, knowledge, and proved goodness.

Mournful to the last degree is the impression made on us by what we are given to learn last of the career of King Asa. It is a reversal—not the reversal from bad to good, but of what seemed good and seemed sure, to bad. The humiliating lesson and fresh illustration of human caprice and weakness must be in like spirit and with proportionate humility noted and learned by ourselves. It is, indeed, a chapter of biography which brings again to our lips the reproving and stirring question of the apostle, "Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?' and which reminds us also of language of far lower inspiration (Keble's 'Christian Year:' Eighth Sunday after Trinity)—

"The grey-haired saint may fail at last,

The surest guide a wanderer prove;

Death only binds us fast

To the bright shore of love."

Among all uncertainties, mournful is the certainty of human uncertainty, and necessary the prolongation of human probation to the extreme limit of life. Let us listen with fresh veneration to the just expression of the virtual beatitude of final perseverance, as pronounced by the lips of Jesus Christ himself, "He that endureth to the end shall be saved." Side by side with the broad lesson of human fickleness and liability in the very end to fall, there seem to be peculiarities attending the present history which may yield something to careful notice and analysis, which are replete indeed with instruction, and with the finer of the suggestions of caution and warning. Thus, for instance—

I. THAT ASA WAS WICKED AND TEMPTED TO DEFECTION WAS PROBABLY LARGELY DUE TO THE CLOSENESS OF THE PRESSURE OF APPREHENSION IN A DOUBLE SENSE. Family quarrels are, to a proverb, the bitterest. The foe, the competing king, the dissentient people, were abiding neighbours—nay, of one and the same house, though that a house divided against itself. All this, no doubt, should have had exactly the contrary effect, but did not. As in great stress of illness, and under great pressure of mortal apprehension brought close home, men will often resort to the trial of remedies, and flee to medical aid they had been the first to disdain and the loudest to condemn under milder and less domestic circumstances, so, strange though it were, the subtle influence worked upon Asa, which was powerless to delude him when it was Zerah of Ethiopia, and not Baasha of Israel, who was the confronting enemy.

II. CONVERSELY, ASA WAS PROBABLY DELUDED INTO SUPPOSING THAT THE NEARER DANGER FROM THE NEARER FOE AND NEIGHBOUR FOE, WAS A DANGER HE COULD BETTER COPE WITH BY HIS OWN UNAIDED RESOURCES, HIS OWN SUPPOSED WISDOMS AND HIS OWN SUFFICIENT DIPLOMACY. It is too true that the more distant enemy we are prone to fear more than the enemy, who is really tenfold dangerous because he u Be near us, and very probably has this great and subtle consequent advantage, that he knows us and our weak points better than we know them or know ourselves. There is oven such a thing as the Church having greater zeal for the heathen far off than for those worse heathen (and more to be pitied for themselves) who are dread corrosion and canker to the whole body politic at home. It means that men have greater fear of the enemy at a distance than of the serpent in their own bosom! Even Christian men am unconsciously the victims of such beguilement. Distance lends enchantment sometimes; distance lends large-looming apprehension sometimes. But in the matter of our enemy sin, it is ever one thing that constitutes our chiefest danger—its nearness; the great risk of our overlooking it, because of familiarity with its countenance; of our trifling with it, because we underrate its power to hurt; and of our flattering ourselves that we must be a match for so near a neighbour.

III. ASA IN AN EVIL MOMENT FALLS BACK UPON A MISCHIEVOUS MEMORY OF A FATHER'S ERROR INSTEAD OF A HOLY MEMORY OF A FATHER'S EXCELLENCE. He recalls his father's league with the King of Syria to copy it, and adopt it, and furbish up afresh its dishonourable conditions. He relies on that king, and forgets to "rely on the Lord his God," who had but so lately shown him such wonderful deliverance. He relies on that King of Syria, and gets his work done apparently; but it was done also but very partially, very slightly, very temporarily, and at this immense penalty that "the host of that King of Syria would escape out of his hand;" the meaning of which sentence was only too plain, taught by too many an analogy. The help God gives he does give. The help we buy of sin, of guilty compromise, of doubtful friendship, we buy dear often to begin with; but before we have done with our bargain, we find it dear indeed, wastefully dear, exhaustingly dear, ruinously dear!

IV. ASA BOUGHT HIS HELP AT GRIEVOUS AND SACRILEGIOUS EXPENDITURE. The things he should have kept for God, his people, and his temple and its worship, he takes from them.

V. ASA LOST ALL COMMAND OVER HIMSELF. He is wroth with the faithful seer; he was "in a rage" with him for "this very thing," that he was faithful; he imprisons him, because he cannot imprison the truth; "and oppresses some of the people at the same time." All went wrong with him, for all was wrong in him. Disease, exceeding great, overtakes him; but he had lost moral force, for even then "he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians." A long life and a very long reign close under the cloud. These had been good in him; and though he dies an unhonoured death, he goes to a not unhonoured burial and sepulchre; but they were what "he had made for himself," and the fragrance and perfume of which were "of the apothecaries' art"!

HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON

2 Chronicles 16:1-6

Preferable things.

This cannot be counted among the estimable acts of Asa; we could wish that he had adopted other means for repelling the attack of Baasha—means more worthy of himself as a servant of Jehovah. The abstraction of the gold and silver from the treasury of the house of the Lord may speak to us of the preferableness of—

I. ACQUISITION THAT WE CANNOT LOSE. The custodians of the temple no doubt rejoiced when Asa "brought into the house of God the things that his father had dedicated, and that he himself had dedicated, silver, and gold, and vessels" (2 Chronicles 15:18). But it was not many years before they endured the mortification of seeing these valuable things carried out again to enrich the foreigner—possibly to be taken to one of his temples. No great acquisition was this. The temple at Jerusalem was more truly blessed by the genuine prayers and praises and sacrifices offered within,; its precincts, albeit there was nothing left of them that the eye of man could see or his hand could finger. And what are our best, our real possessions? Not the gold and silver, the vessels and the jewels of which the thief may rob us, or some revolution in the market may deprive us; they are the knowledge, the wisdom, the purer tastes and appreciations, the higher and more ennobling affections—the treasures of the spirit, which "no thief can break through and steal," which are not dependent upon the chances of commerce, or the conflicts of armies, or the passage of time.

II. SERVICE THAT CANNOT BE RECALLED. Of little use, indeed, to the temple at Jerusalem was the treasure which Asa first carried in and then "brought out." Of comparatively little service to our friends and neighbours is the temporary service we render them—the money which we require again soon, the favour which is to be "returned," the "friendship" which the first small misunderstanding will disturb and perhaps dissolve. But there are services which, once rendered, cannot be recalled, cannot be "brought out" of the treasury, under any change of mood or circumstance—knowledge, and the power which it imparts for all the after-duty and struggle of life; counsel, which guided the feet through some labyrinth of difficulty and led them into "a large room;" comfort, which sustained the spirit in darkest and most dangerous hours, delivering from despair, restoring to equanimity and hope; influence, gently and graciously constraining the soul to enter "the kingdom which cannot be moved," within whose blessed boundaries are found present peace and immortal joy. Live to do good which cannot be undone; to impart that which no mortal hand can take back again; to confer that gift which is secure for ever.

III. A FEARLESS FAITH RATHER THAN A DUBIOUS EXPEDIENCY. It is true that Asa achieved a certain triumph; his plan succeeded—for the time. He bought Benhadad's help with this consecrated treasure, and obliged Baasha to retire, leaving some spoil behind him (2 Chronicles 16:4-6). But might he not have succeeded in another way and by worthier means. If he had committed his cause, his country's security, to the strength and faithfulness of his God, would he not have prevailed at least as well as he did by taking consecrated wealth out of the temple of Jehovah? Would not he who delivered the vast hordes of the Ethiopians into his hands (2 Chronicles 14:12) have saved him from the designs of Baasha? (see 2 Chronicles 16:7, 2 Chronicles 16:8). And would he not have prospered in that way, without having this act of violation on his conscience, without having this blot upon his record? A fearless faith in God is better than recourse to a doubtful expediency. The latter very often fails to accomplish the purpose in hand; and it always does some injury to the character, lowering the standard of behaviour, and leaving some blemish on the life. Take the higher road in the journey of life—the way of perfect uprightness, of simple, childlike trust in God. That is the path which leads to true success; even if there should be present apparent defeat, it is sure to conduct to a glorious victory in the end.—C.

2 Chronicles 16:9

Divine observation and interposition.

Hanani the seer was evidently a man who was not only bold and brave enough to confront the king with a rebuke, but he was one who had a keen sense of the near presence and power of the Lord "before whom he stood." We may very well believe that it was the latter which explained the former. Let us heed his doctrine while we admire his fidelity.

I. GOD'S ACTIVE OBSERVANCE OF INDIVIDUAL MEN. These vigorous words (of the text) indicate the prophet's belief that God was observing men everywhere, was actively observing them "run to and fro," and was drawing distinctions between the life of one man and another. God's particular and individual observation has been, not unnaturally, objected to on the ground of our human littleness. How can we expect, how can we believe, that the Eternal One would concern himself with the doings or negligences of creatures so remote, so unimportant, so infinitesimally minute as we are? Surely, it is said, such consideration is beneath him. But there are two thoughts which meet this objection and correct this conclusion.

1. The infinitude of God. For that includes the infinitely small as well as the infinitely great; it is a distinct denial of this attribute of God, for it is a limitation of his infinity, to maintain that there is one direction to which his power and action do not extend. The infinitude of God positively requires us to believe that he is observant of the hearts and lives of individual men.

2. The fatherhood of God. Granted that our human spirits are nearly allied to him, share his own likeness, stand in conscious relation to him; are capable of loving, serving, following him; can live on earth the life he lives in heaven, are this and do this in such sense and degree that we can be rightly called and considered his sons and daughters,—and there is no more objection to be taken. Shall not the Divine Father of his human family take particular notice of each one of his children? What fatherhood is that which considers his own child to be unworthy of his notice?

II. THE DISTINCTIONS HE DRAWS BETWEEN THEM.

1. He divides all men into two classes—the evil and the good (see Proverbs 15:3); between those "who fear him and those who fear him not;" between those "who are righteous" and those who "do evil" (see Psalms 34:15, Psalms 34:16).

2. He divides the good into two classes—the imperfectly and the perfectly devoted. There are those who seek not the Lord "with their whole heart," and those who do thus seek him; those whose "heart is not perfect," and those whose "heart is perfect" toward him. This distinction is not absolute. The less devoted of the servants of God have their better hours and their nobler impulses; while the more devoted have their lapses and their blemishes. Asa "did that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord" (2 Chronicles 14:2); he and his people "sought the Lord … with all their heart and with all their soul" (2 Chronicles 15:12); yet here we find him erring, lacking confidence in God, and "going down" to Syria for help. But taking this into account, it remains true that God distinguishes clearly between those of his servants who are but faint-hearted and feeble in his service, and those who give themselves to him "with their whole desire." Let there be so thorough and so complete a dedication of ourselves, of our powers and of our resources and of our time, to the Person and the cause of our Divine Saviour, that we shall be counted by him among those "whose heart is perfect toward him." We may attain to this, although we may have much still to learn and to acquire as his disciples (see Philippians 3:12-15).

III. HIS INTERPOSITION ON OUR BEHALF. God would certainly have interposed on behalf of Asa, would have "shown himself strong" in his behalf. He would, said Hanani, have given him a far greater success than that which he attained by his gifts and negotiations with Benhadad (2 Chronicles 16:7). God always succours his faithful ones.

1. He may deliver them from their distress; as he had delivered Ass already, and did afterwards deliver Hezekiah. He may give us the victory over our enemies from without—over bodily ill, over opposing circumstances; he may cause us to triumph as "men count" triumph.

2. Or he may grant us deliverance in our distress; he may grant us such spiritual elevation that we shall "glory in our infirmity," shall "rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer," shall bear the noble testimony of perfect contentment with the inferior position (John 3:29); and thus (literally) "show himself strong in those whose heart is devoted to him' (Keil's translation).—C.

2 Chronicles 16:10-14

Lessons from last years.

We could well wish the account of the last days of Asa to have been different from what it is. Sombre clouds, casting a chill shadow, gathered in the evening sky. Not that there was actual defection, but there was an amount of infirmity that detracts from the honour which his earlier years had laid up for him. We cannot help feeling—

I. THAT AGE IS NOT ALWAYS AS VENERABLE AS IT SHOULD BE; not even a "good old age;" not even Christian old age. Having enjoyed so much of privilege, and having passed through so much discipline, it ought to exemplify the lessons it has had opportunity to learn—it ought to be calm, pure, steadfast, reverent, godly, pervaded with a Christian spirit. But it is not always thus. Men may be always learning, but never wise; men may pass through a very forest of privileges and of opportunities, and never pluck any fruit from its trees. And if we do not gather the good which is to be gained as we go on our way through life, we shall sink into an old age in which we have attained nothing and lost much. We must see to it that we do grow as we live; that we are laying up a store of wisdom and of worth that will make old age honourable and beloved. It is sometimes bare and unbeautiful enough; but it may "still bring forth fruit," and be fair to see as it stands in the garden of the Lord.

II. THAT ONE FALSE STEP IS VERY LIKELY TO LEAD TO ANOTHER. Asa, having made the serious mistake of resorting to the Syrian king instead of trusting in the Lord, now violently resents the rebuke of the prophet of Jehovah; and he even proceeds to an act of positive persecution; and, having gone thus far, he goes yet further by some acts of severity, probably directed against those who sympathized with the imprisoned prophet. Thus wrong leads to wrong, sin to sin. It is the constant course of things. Equivocation leads to falsehood; impurity of thought to indelicacy of speech and licentiousness of action; sternness of spirit to cruelty of conduct; irregularity in worship to ungodliness, etc. And not only does faultiness commonly lead to sin in the same direction, but, as in this case, it often leads to wrong-doing in another direction. When the heart is led astray from God, and his will is disregarded in one thing, it is only too likely that that holy will will be defied in another thing. We may well shun the first wrong step, for we have no conception of the consequences it may entail. A wrong act, and still more a wrong courser leaves the heart exposed to the designs of the enemy; it is often found to be the first of a series.

III. THAT RECTITUDE IS PARTLY, EVEN LARGELY, A MATTER OF PROPORTION. (2 Chronicles 16:12.) Asa rightly enough consulted his physicians and leaned on their professional skill; he was wrong in placing too implicit and too great a reliance upon them; he did not remember, as he should have done, that all human means avail nothing without the blessing of God. He had not enough of the spirit of the psalmist in him (Psalms 33:17-21). To trust in God and to neglect the various sources of health and strength he offers us—this is a foolish fanaticism which will bear its penalty in suffering and weakness. To resort to human science and to trust it, forgetful of the truth that we can do nothing at all independently of the Divine power—this is impiety. True godliness is found in a wise admixture, a true proportion, of diligence and devotion, of self-reliance and self-surrender, of accepting the help of man and looking for the blessing of God.

IV. THAT WE SHOULD JUDGE OUR CONTEMPORARIES, NOT BY THE LAST THING THEY DID, BUT BY ALL THAT THEY WERE. His subjects, when he died, did not remember against him the infirmities of his last days; they considered what had been his character and his course all through his long reign, and "they made a very great burning for him" (2 Chronicles 16:14). Here they were right. Whether they be of the living or the departed, we should not judge our fellow men by one or two exceptional acts, which may be unlike them and unworthy of them; but by the spirit of their life, by the principles by which they were guided throughout, by the character they built up.—C.

HOMILIES BY T. WHITELAW

2 Chronicles 16:1-6

A king's (Asa's) mistake.

I. WHEN IT HAPPENED. "In the six and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa" (2 Chronicles 16:1).

1. An obvious error. Baasha ascended the throne of Israel in Asa's third year (1 Kings 15:33), and died in his twenty-sixth (1 Kings 16:8). Yet it follows not that this blunder was in the original text. Most likely it crept in through transcription. The existence of such mistakes is not fatal to the claim of Scripture to be regarded as inspired.

2. A probable solution. Different explanations have been given.

(a) Ten years of quiet (2 Chronicles 14:1), in the third of which Baasha usurps the supreme authority in Israel (1 Kings 15:33);

(b) the invasion of Zerah (2 Chronicles 14:9) between the tenth and fifteenth years, probably in the fourteenth;

(c) the national covenant in the fifteenth year (2 Chronicles 15:10);

(d) in the sixteenth the threatening advance of Baasha (2 Chronicles 16:1).

The statement that Judah was exempt from war until the thirty-fifth year of Asa (2 Chronicles 15:19) may be harmonized with that in 1 Kings 15:16, 1 Kings 15:32, that "there was war between Asa and Baasha King of Israel all their days," by assuming that there was latent hostility between the two kingdoms from the first, but no outbreak of war until Asa's thirty-fifth year (Keil)—the attack here recorded not having culminated in any collision between the two powers on the field of battle, the work of causing Baasha to withdraw having been entrusted to Benhadad.

II. HOW IT WAS OCCASIONED. By Baasha's advance against Judah (1 Kings 15:1).

1. The history of Baasha. The son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar—not of Ahijah the prophet, who was an Ephraimite of Shiloh (1 Kings 11:29)—Baasha appears to have been originally a person of obscure station, though he afterwards rose to be a captain in the army of Nadab, Jeroboam's son, as Zimri subsequently was in that of Elah, Baasha's son (1 Kings 16:9). During the siege of Gibbethon he conspired against his master, smote him and usurped his throne. Not content with this, he put the whole house of Jeroboam to the sword—an act of cruelty which rebounded on himself and his house (1 Kings 16:12). In the twelfth year of his reign he formed the plan here narrated for inflicting a blow upon Judah and Asa.

2. The character of Baasha. More than likely a soldier of distinguished bravery (1 Kings 16:5), he was little other than a monster of cruelty (1 Kings 15:29)—two qualities not often allied. The true hero is seldom cruel; the cruel man is seldom brave. A faithful follower of Jeroboam in the matter of religion, he was an ardent idolater and a persistent corrupter of the people (1 Kings 16:2).

3. The project of Baasha. To fortify Ramah, the modern Er-Ram, in Benjamin (Joshua 18:25; 19:3), about five miles north of Jerusalem. This town, which properly belonged to Judah—not to Israel (Bahr, Bertheau)—but which Abijah had taken from Jeroboam (1 Kings 13:19), Baasha had not previously conquered (Ewald), but at that time seized. His object probably was

III. IN WHAT IT CONSISTED. In three things.

1. Not repairing to Jehovah for assistance against Baasha, as he had formerly done against Zerah (2 Chronicles 14:11). Perhaps he deemed Baasha a more manageable opponent than the Ethiopian leader had been—an adversary that might be coped with successfully by his own craft, without calling in the battalions of Jehovah. Or, his preceding prosperity may have been his ruin, and this may have been the turning-point on that downward path of spiritual degeneracy which he pursued until he died. On any supposition it was an act of unbelief, and as such a sin; and, considering the success of his former application to Jehovah, an act of folly, and therefore a blunder as well as a sin. This he afterwards learnt from Hanani (1 Kings 15:9).

2. Seeking a league with Benhadad of Syria. (1 Kings 15:2.) This Benhadad, or son of Ader (LXX.)—in the Assyrian inscriptions Bin-hidri, the son of Hadar, the supreme divinity of Damascus—was the son of Tabrimon, the son of Hezion, the King of Syria (1 Kings 15:18). Damascus, his capital—in Hebrew Dammesek, in Assyrian Dimaski and Dimmaska, in Arabic Dimesch-eseh-Schdm, or shortly, esch-Scham—had been a town in the days of Abraham (Genesis 14:15; Genesis 15:2), and is still one of the few towns of antiquity that have never lost their primitive splendour and renown. It has been styled "the pearl of the Orient, the beautiful as Eden, the fragrant Paradise, the plumage of the Paradise peacock, the coloured collar of the ring-dove, the necklace of beauty, the door of Caaba, the eye of the East, the Eden of the Moslem," with other such hyperbolical expressions. Its king was at this time in league with Baasha, who hoped with his assistance to subdue the southern kingdom. He was thus an enemy to Judah, as his predecessor Rezon had been to the united empire (1 Kings 11:25); and Asa might have reasoned, that not much help of a genuine kind could be obtained from him, least of all by such a stratagem as that adopted.

3. Resorting to bribery in order to gain his end. Those who use dishonourable methods to procure any advantage generally overestimate the advantage they are willing in this way to buy; and, as a consequence, discover in the long run they have been miserably duped. Even had Asa not been at fault in the value he put upon Benhadad's alliance, the means he took to gain it were bad. The argument addressed to Baasha should never have been employed by Asa. The league of Abijah with Tabrimon should never have existed to lend countenance to the proposed league between Asa and Benhadad. But bad actions once done are easily repeated by the doers of them, and imitated by the children of those doers; while children find less difficulty in copying the evil than in following the good examples of their parents. Then Asa, while justified in attempting to dissolve the league between Benhadad and Baasha, should not have resorted to bribery. "A gift destroyeth the heart" (Ecclesiastes 7:7) of him that gives as of him that receives it. Far less for such an unhallowed purpose should he have robbed the temple, even if it had been permissible to displenish the palace. But not even "the treasures of the palace" should have been employed in dishonourable schemes (the secret-service money of modern governments falls under this condemnation); and much less "the treasures of the Lord's house." Upon the gold and silver of both Church and state should be inscribed, "Holiness unto the Lord,"

IV. TO WHAT IT CONDUCTED. Seeming success. Wicked schemes often appear to prosper for a season (Psalms 37:1; Psalms 92:7). Three things resulted from Asa's statecraft.

1. Benhadad accepted the bribe. (1 Kings 15:4.) The golden and silvern keys of mammon can unlock the doors of most hearts. Great grace is needed to resist the power of money. "Wealth maketh many friends," and "every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts" (Proverbs 19:4, Proverbs 19:6). Sometimes others besides wicked persons are guilty of "taking gifts out of their bosom" (Proverbs 17:23). Asa's present was too much for Benhadad's virtue. The King of Syria deserted his ally, the King of Israeli for the King of Judah, as he would by-and-by desert the King of Judah for the next highest bidder. Nor did he merely not assist Baasha, maintaining as it were an attitude of armed neutrality between the hostile powers, but he treacherously "sent the captains of his armies against the cities of Israel; and they smote Ijon and Dan, and Abel-maim, and all the store-cities of Naphtali" (see Exposition). Bad as Baasha was, and infamous as was his project, the character and conduct of Benhadad were equally reprehensible and offensive. But it is no part of wicked men's creed that they should change not when they swear to their own hurt (Psalms 14:4), or that they should keep faith with one another longer than appears for their advantage so to do. Modern kings and statesmen are sometimes charged with acting on similar lines in the making and the breaking of treaties. If the charge is true, it is not to their credit, and must ultimately turn to their people's hurt.

2. Baasha desisted from his fortifications. He left off building Ramah, and allowed his work to cease (1 Kings 15:5). Had Baasha been engaged upon a good work, upon God's work, the falling away of Benhadad would have mattered nothing; but being a wicked man himself, and occupied with a wicked enterprise, when the prop which supported him fell, he also was precipitated to the ground. When creature-arms fail the saints, the saints lean the heavier on the Almighty Arm; when wicked men are deprived of that in which they trust, they have nothing else to trust to.

3. Asa despoiled Bamah, and turned its stones and timber to his own use. He built therewith Geba and Mizpah (1 Kings 15:6); i.e. he fortified them. Both were in Benjamin, the former two miles and a half north of Ramah, on the road to Michmash; the latter, thirteen miles and a half from Ramah, on the north road from Jerusalem. Thus what Baasha had collected for the injury, Asa employed in the defence, of Judah. So believers may legitimately use the arguments and learning of heretics and unbelievers to establish the truth which these seek to overthrow (Bossuet). Again. whereas Baasha intended to despoil Judah, he was himself despoiled by both Benhadad (1 Kings 15:4) and Asa (1 Kings 15:6). Mischief-makers often find their mischief return upon their own heads, and violent dealers see their violence descend upon their own patens (Psalms 7:15, Psalms 7:16; Proverbs 26:27; Matthew 7:2).

Lessons.

1. The lust of acquiring the true parent of war (James 4:1, James 4:2).

2. The wickedness of bribery (Proverbs 17:23)

3. The certainty of retribution (Numbers 32:23; Galatians 6:7).

4. The baseness of treachery (Proverbs 25:19; Proverbs 27:6; Obadiah 1:7).—W.

2 Chronicles 16:7-10

The king and the prophet.

I. THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE TO THE KING. (2 Chronicles 16:7-9.)

1. The prophet's name. Hanani, "Favourable" (Gesenius); otherwise unknown, though conjectured to be the father of "Jehu the son of Hanani," who announced to Baasha the ruin of his house (1 Kings 16:1), and afterwards appeared at the court of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 19:2), having probably been obliged to flee from the northern kingdom on account of his ill-omened communication.

2. The prophet's sermon.

II. THE KING'S ANSWER TO THE PROPHET. (Verse 10.)

1. He was angry with the prophet. Good men as well as bad may fall into danger, but in both it is sin. If Asa's "heart was perfect all his days," it is clear his life was not. He was "wroth with the seer." Anger is a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:20), the passion of a foolish heart (Ecclesiastes 7:9), and the foam of an unbridled tongue (Proverbs 25:28; Hosea 7:16). Outrageous in any (Proverbs 27:4), it is unbecoming in all, but especially in kings, and not allowable in Christians (Colossians 3:8). Asa was angry with Hanani because Hanani told him of his fault. Even good men require large grace before they can say, "Let the righteous smite me," etc. (Psalms 141:5). Yet the rebukes of the righteous should be received submissively (Le 19:17) and with grateful affection (Proverbs 9:8). He who so welcomes them shall be honoured (Proverbs 13:18); get understanding (Proverbs 15:32); exhibit prudence (Proverbs 15:5); and abide among the wise (Proverbs 15:31).

2. He put the prophet in a prison-house; literally, "in a house of stocks," the "stock" being "an instrument of torture, by which the body was forced into an unnatural, twisted position, the victim, perhaps, being bent double, with the hands and feet fastened together" (Keil). Into some such place of confinement Jeremiah was thrust Jeremiah 20:2; cf. Jeremiah 29:26), and Paul and Silas (Acts 16:24). "The king's wrath is as the roaring of a lion" (Proverbs 19:12). If, in Hanani's case, it did not turn out "messengers of death" (Proverbs 16:14), it was because Asa was at bottom a good man, whose hand as well as heart were in the keeping of the Lord (Psalms 76:10).

3. He oppressed those who took the prophet's side. These were, doubtless, the pious section of the people who had not approved of the Syrian alliance. It is seldom that a wicked policy can be entered on by kings or parliaments (at least in a Christian land) without some voice or voices being raised against it. Unhappily, these have often to share obloquy and oppression, as Hanani's supporters did. Yet nothing is more calamitous for a country than to see the best people in it persecuted by its rulers for protesting against their crooked ways. When a policy cannot be defended or carried through without imprisoning those who are opposed to it, that policy is wrong!

LESSONS.

1. The certainty that God sees everything that is done beneath the sun.

2. The goodness of God in reproving wrong-doers.

3. The folly of leaning upon an arm of flesh instead of upon God.

4. The source of all ca]amity among men, viz. sin.

5. The sign of an evil conscience—anger against an accuser.

6. The uselessness of force as a remedy for evils of any kind.

7. The courage required of them who would champion the cause of truth and right.—W.

2 Chronicles 16:9

The eyes of the Lord

I. A MOMENTOUS DECLARATION. "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth." The words teach the doctrines of:

1. The Divine omniscience; since "the eyes of the Lord" not only see to the ends of the earth, and "run to and fro throughout the earth," but are in every place at the same time.

2. The Divine vigilance; since God not merely knows all that transpires on the earth and beneath the heavens, but, as it were, lies in wait to discover opportunities for interposing on his people's behalf. Contrast with this exalted doctrine the teaching of the 'Odyssey': "The gods, in the likeness of strangers from far countries, put on all manner of shapes, and wander through the cities, beholding the violence and the righteousness of men."

II. A CHEERING CONSOLATION. "To show himself strong on behalf of them whose hearts are perfect towards him." The object of the Divine interposition is not so much to punish and destroy the wicked, although that is indirectly implied, as it is to rescue and succour his people.

1. In times of danger; like that of Israel at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:15-30), or that of Asa on the field of Zephathah (2 Chronicles 14:12), or that of Judah when the army of Sennacherib besieged Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35), or that of David when pursued by Saul (Psalms 18:17), or that of Elisha, in Dothan (2 Kings 6:17), or that of Daniel in Babylon (Daniel 6:22).

2. In seasons of affliction; such as befell the Israelites in Egypt (Exodus 2:23-25), and the Jews in Babylon (Ezra 1:1); such as overtook Jacob in Hebron (Genesis 37:34; Genesis 45:28), Job in Uz (Job 1:1-22; Job 2:1-13; Job 3:1-26; Job 42:1-17.), David in Jerusalem (Psalms 6:8), and the Hebrew children in Babylon (Daniel 3:25).

3. In moments of trial; which oftentimes come upon his people as they came upon Abraham (Genesis 22:11), Joseph (Genesis 38:12), David (1 Samuel 26:9), and Job (Job 2:9), and in which God's people could hardly hope to stand without Divine assistance.

III. A SEARCHING APPLICATION. Have we those perfect hearts to whom this Divine succour is promised?

1. This means not—Are we sinless? Noah was "perfect" Genesis 6:9), and yet "he drank of the wine, and was drunken" (Genesis 9:21); Job was "perfect" (Job 1:1), and yet God charged him with offences which caused Job to say, "Behold, I am vile" (Job 40:4); David's heart was "perfect" (1 Kings 11:4), yet David was guilty of grievous sins (2 Samuel 11:4); Asa's heart also was "perfect' (2 Chronicles 15:17), and yet Asa went astray in the war with Baasha (verse 2). In the New Testament the Corinthians are designated "perfect" (1 Corinthians 2:6), and yet some of them were so far from sinlessness that they committed very gross offences against morality (1 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 6:1).

2. This means—Are we sincere in our profession of religion? Where sincerity is wanting, religion is impossible. Nothing more reprehensible in itself, or more offensive to both God and man, than hypocrisy—pretending to be a servant of God when one is really a slave of Satan; to be a lover of righteousness when one is secretly a doer of unrighteousness. Scripture in both its parts pronounces woe against hypocrites (Job 8:13; Job 15:34; Matthew 23:13; Luke 11:44).—W.

2 Chronicles 16:11-14

The career of Asa.

I. HIS LIFE.

1. The length of his reign. Forty-one years. His father, whose "heart was not perfect" towards God (1 Kings 15:3), reigned only three years (2 Chronicles 13:3). The Old Testament promised long life as a reward to piety (Psalms 34:12-14). But, even without a special promise, a religious life is calculated to prolong days. "Fear God, and keep his commandments," is the first rule of health.

2. The incidents of his reign.

3. The character of his reign.

II. HIS DEATH.

1. The date of it. In the forty-first year of his reign; most likely he was over sixty at the time of his decease.

2. The cause of it. Twofold.

III. HIS BURIAL.

1. The place of his sepulture. The city of David, where his fathers slept (1 Kings 15:24), yet not in the general tomb of the kings, but in "his own sepulchres;" in a tomb he had specially caused to be excavated for himself (verse 14). Joseph of Arimathaea hewed out a tomb for himself (Luke 23:53). The first thing a Pharaoh of Egypt did on ascending the throne was to construct for himself and descendants a royal mausoleum.

2. The manner of his entombment.

IV. HIS CHARACTER.

1. A good man. His heart was perfect (2 Chronicles 15:7; 1 Kings 15:14), if his life was not (2 Chronicles 16:10). The general tenor of his conduct was upright, though he erred somewhat towards the close of his career. "It was thought a high eulogy on Jehoshaphat his son that he walked in all the way of his father" (Rawlinson); while the honours paid Asa on dying showed that his countrymen esteemed him to have been an honourable prince. His "faults and follies" may suggest that no man is perfect, and that "in many things we all offend."

2. An ardent reformer. He removed the altars and the high places of the strange gods or foreign divinities (2 Chronicles 14:3), though he left standing those belonging to Jehovah (2 Chronicles 15:17; 1 Kings 15:14). He "commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers" (2 Chronicles 14:4), and bound mere by a solemn league and covenant so to do (2 Chronicles 15:14), though he himself, in old age, declined a little from his early faith (2 Chronicles 16:2, 2 Chronicles 16:12).

3. A valiant soldier. That with his piety he combined courage, his encounter with Zerah the Ethiopian evinced. If he was genuinely good, he was also conspicuously great.—W.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 16:4". The Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/2-chronicles-16.html. 1897.

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