by Wayne Blank
Asa's dislike for idolatry is remarkable, considering the family influences that he had - Maacah, who is sometimes (in some translations) referred to as the mother of both her son Abijah, and his son Asa (i.e. 1 Kings 15:2,10 - although she was very likely only Abijah's mother and Asa's grandmother since according to ancient custom, "mother" or "father" could include grandparents), had greatly influenced the people of Judah into paganism. Asa began his reign with her very much in mind:
"In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel Asa began to reign over Judah, and he reigned forty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. And Asa did what was right in the eyes of The Lord, as David his father had done. He put away the male cult prostitutes out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. He also removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother because she had an abominable image made for Asherah; and Asa cut down her image and burned it at the brook Kidron [see Kidron Valley]. But the high places were not taken away. Nevertheless the heart of Asa was wholly true to The Lord all his days." (1 Kings 15:9-14 RSV)
The greatest challenge to Asa came from a massive one-million man invasion force under Zerah the Ethiopian that was rolling toward Israel, but because Asa put his faith and trust in The Lord, He fought the battle for them:
"And Asa had an army of three hundred thousand from Judah, armed with bucklers and spears, and two hundred and eighty thousand men from Benjamin, that carried shields and drew bows; all these were mighty men of valor. Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and three hundred chariots, and came as far as Mareshah. And Asa went out to meet him, and they drew up their lines of battle in the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah. And Asa cried to The Lord his God, "O Lord, there is none like Thee to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on Thee, and in Thy name we have come against this multitude. O Lord, Thou art our God; let not man prevail against Thee." So The Lord defeated the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled." (2 Chronicles 14:8-12 RSV)
The lesson to Asa was one that is timeless:
"Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The Lord is with you, while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you." (2 Chronicles 15:2 RSV)
Asa of Judah also fought the northern kingdom of Israel (see Jews At War With Israel):
"And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days. Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah, and built Ramah, that he might permit no one to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. Then Asa took 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 gave them into the hands of his servants; and King Asa sent them to Ben-hadad the son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, king of Syria, who dwelt in Damascus, saying, "Let there be a league between me and you, as between my father and your father: behold, I am sending to you a present of silver and gold; go, break your league with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me." And Ben-hadad hearkened to King Asa, and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel, and conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-beth-maacah, and all Chinneroth, with all the land of Naphtali." (1 Kings 15:16-20 RSV)
In the 39th year of his reign, Asa became seriously ill with a severe disease of his feet, but he trusted only in the physicians, rather than foremost in The Lord (an incident that has led some to needlessly reject medical treatment for themselves, or their families, with sometimes tragic results - it should be kept in mind, for example, that Luke, the writer of the Gospel book that bears his name, a man of great faith and righteousness, was a practicing physician).
"In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe; yet even in his disease he did not seek The Lord, but sought help from physicians. And Asa slept with his fathers, dying in the forty-first year of his reign. They buried him in the tomb which he had hewn out for himself in the city of David. They laid him on a bier which had been filled with various kinds of spices prepared by the perfumer's art; and they made a very great fire in his honor." (2 Chronicles 16:12-14 RSV)
Fact Finder: What was the name of Asa's son who succeeded him as king?