Containing The Interval Of One Hundred And Sixty-Three Years.
From The Death Of David To The Death Of Ahab.
How Zerah, King Of The Ethiopians, Was Beaten By Asa And How Asa, Upon Baasha's Making War Against Him, Invited The King Of The Damascens To Assist Him; And How, On The Destruction Of The House Of Baasha Zimri Got The Kingdom As Did His Son Ahab After Him.
1. Now Asa, the king of Jerusalem, was of an excellent character, and had a regard to God, and neither did nor designed any thing but what had relation to the observation of the laws. He made a reformation of his kingdom, and cut off whatsoever was wicked therein, and purified it from every impurity. Now he had an army of chosen men that were armed with targets and spears; out of the tribe of Judah three hundred thousand; and out of the tribe of Benjamin, that bore shields and drew bows, two hundred and fifty thousand. But when he had already reigned ten years, Zerah, king of Ethiopia, (31) made an expedition against him, with a great army, of nine hundred thousand footmen, and one hundred thousand horsemen, and three hundred chariots, and came as far as Mareshah, a city that belonged to the tribe of Judah. Now when Zerah had passed so far with his own army, Asa met him, and put his army in array over against him, in a valley called Zephathah, not far from the city; and when he saw the multitude of the Ethiopians, he cried out, and besought God to give him the victory, and that he might kill many ten thousands of the enemy:
"For," said he, (32) "I depend on nothing else but that assistance which I expect from thee, which is able to make the fewer superior to the more numerous, and the weaker to the stronger; and thence it is alone that I venture to meet Zerah, and fight him."
2. While Asa was saying this, God gave him a signal of victory, and joining battle cheerfully on account of what God had foretold about it, he slew a great many of the Ethiopians; and when he had put them to flight, he pursued them to the country of Gerar; and when they left off killing their enemies, they betook themselves to spoiling them, (for the city Gerar was already taken,) and to spoiling their camp, so that they carried off much gold, and much silver, and a great deal of [other] prey, and camels, and great cattle, and flocks of sheep. Accordingly, when Asa and his army had obtained such a victory, and such wealth from God, they returned to Jerusalem.
Now as they were coming, a prophet, whose name was Azariah, met them on the road, and bade them stop their journey a little; and began to say to them thus: That the reason why they had obtained this victory from God was this, that they had showed themselves righteous and religious men, and had done every thing according to the will of God; that therefore, he said, if they persevered therein, God would grant that they should always overcome their enemies, and live happily; but that if they left off his worship, all things shall fall out on the contrary; and a time should come, wherein no true prophet shall be left in your whole multitude, nor a priest who shall deliver you a true ,answer from the oracle; but your cities shall be overthrown, and your nation scattered over the whole earth, and live the life of strangers and wanderers. So he advised them, while they had time, to be good, and not to deprive themselves of the favor of God. When the king and the people heard this, they rejoiced; and all in common, and every one in particular, took great care to behave themselves righteously. The king also sent some to take care that those in the country should observe the laws also.
3. And this was the state of Asa, king of the two tribes. I now return to Baasha, the king of the multitude of the Israelites, who slew Nadab, the son of Jeroboam, and retained the government. He dwelt in the city Tirzah, having made that his habitation, and reigned twenty-four years. He became more wicked and impious than Jeroboam or his son. He did a great deal of mischief to the multitude, and was injurious to God, who sent the prophet Jehu, and told him beforehand that his whole family should be destroyed, and that he would bring the same miseries on his house which had brought that of Jeroboam to ruin; because when he had been made king by him, he had not requited his kindness, by governing the multitude righteously and religiously; which things, in the first place, tended to their own happiness, and, in the next place, were pleasing to God: that he had imitated this very wicked king Jeroboam; and although that man's soul had perished, yet did he express to the life his wickedness; and he said that he should therefore justly experience the like calamity with him, since he had been guilty of the like wickedness.
But Baasha, though he heard beforehand what miseries would befall him and his whole family for their insolent behavior, yet did not he leave off his wicked practices for the time to come, nor did he care to appear other than worse and worse till he died; nor did he then repent of his past actions, nor endeavor to obtain pardon of God for them, but did as those do who have rewards proposed to them, when they have once in earnest set about their work, they do not leave off their labors; for thus did Baasha, when the prophet foretold to him what would come to pass, grow worse, as if what were threatened, the perdition of his family, and the destruction of his house, (which are really among the greatest of evils,) were good things; and, as if he were a combatant for wickedness, he every day took more and more pains for it: and at last he took his army and assaulted a certain considerable city called Ramah, which was forty furlongs distant from Jerusalem; and when he had taken it, he fortified it, having determined beforehand to leave a garrison in it, that they might thence make excursions, and do mischief to the kingdom of Asa.
4. Whereupon Asa was afraid of the attempts the enemy might make upon him; and considering with himself how many mischiefs this army that was left in Ramah might do to the country over which he reigned, he sent ambassadors to the king of the Damascenes, with gold and silver, desiring his assistance, and putting him in mind that we have had a friendship together from the times of our forefathers. So he gladly received that sum of money, and made a league with him, and broke the friendship he had with Baasha, and sent the commanders of his own forces unto the cities that were under Baasha's dominion, and ordered them to do them mischief. So they went and burnt some of them, and spoiled others; Ijon, and Dan, and Abelmain (33) and many others.
Now when the king of Israel heard this, he left off building and fortifying Ramah, and returned presently to assist his own people under the distresses they were in; but Asa made use of the materials that were prepared for building that city, for building in the same place two strong cities, the one of which was called Geba, and the other Mizpah; so that after this Baasha had no leisure to make expeditions against Asa, for he was prevented by death, and was buried in the city Tirzah; and Elah his son took the kingdom, who, when he had reigned two years, died, being treacherously slain by Zimri, the captain of half his army; for when he was at Arza, his steward's house, he persuaded some of the horsemen that were under him to assault Elah, and by that means he slew him when he was without his armed men and his captains, for they were all busied in the siege of Gibbethon, a city of the Philistines.
5. When Zimri, the captain of the army, had killed Elah, he took the kingdom himself, and, according to Jehu's prophecy, slew all the house of Baasha; for it came to pass that Baasha's house utterly perished, on account of his impiety, in the same manner as we have already described the destruction of the house of Jeroboam. But the army that was besieging. Gibbethon, when they heard what had befallen the king, and that when Zimri had killed him, he had gained the kingdom, they made Omri their general king, who drew off his army from Gibbethon, and came to Tirzah, where the royal palace was, and assaulted the city, and took it by force. But when Zimri saw that the city had none to defend it, he fled into the inmost part of the palace, and set it on fire, and burnt himself with it, when he had reigned only seven days.
Upon which the people of Israel were presently divided, and part of them would have Tibni to be king, and part Omri; but when those that were for Omri's ruling had beaten Tibni, Omri reigned over all the multitude. Now it was in the thirtieth year of the reign of Asa that Omri reigned for twelve years; six of these years he reigned in the city Tirzah, and the rest in the city called Semareon, but named by the Greeks Samaria; but he himself called it Semareon, from Semer, who sold him the mountain whereon he built it. Now Omri was no way different from those kings that reigned before him, but that he grew worse than they, for they all sought how they might turn the people away from God by their daily wicked practices; and oil that account it was that God made one of them to be slain by another, and that no one person of their families should remain. This Omri also died in Samaria and Ahab his son succeeded him.
6. Now by these events we may learn what concern God hath for the affairs of mankind, and how he loves good men, and hates the wicked, and destroys them root and branch; for many of these kings of Israel, they and their families, were miserably destroyed, and taken away one by another, in a short time, for their transgression and wickedness; but Asa, who was king of Jerusalem, and of the two tribes, attained, by God's blessing, a long and a blessed old age, for his piety and righteousness, and died happily, when he had reigned forty and one years; and when he was dead, his son Jehoshaphat succeeded him in the government. He was born of Asa's wife Azubah. And all men allowed that he followed the works of David his forefather, and this both in courage and piety; but we are not obliged now to speak any more of the affairs of this king.
(31) The reader is to remember that Cush is not Ethiopia, but Arabia. See Bochart, B. IV. Ch. 2.
(32) Here is a very great error in our Hebrew copy in this place, 2 Chronicles 15:3-6, as applying what follows to times past, and not to times future; whence that text is quite misapplied by Sir Isaac Newton.
(33) This Abelmain, or, in Josephus's copy, Abellane, that belonged to the land of Israel, and bordered on the country of Damascus, is supposed, both by Hudson and Spanheim, to be the same with Abel, or Ahila, whence came Abilene. This may he that city so denominated from Abel the righteous, there buried, concerning the shedding of whose blood within the compass of the land of Israel, I understand our Savior's words about the fatal war and overthrow of Judea by Titus and his Roman army;
"That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the land, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zacharias son of Barnchins, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily, I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation," (Matthew 23:35-36; Luke 11:51).