Judahs beginning is no better than Israels, but for Davids sake Yahweh keeps a light lit in Jerusalem (15:4) and sends a reforming king to turn back the evils of Rehoboam. Meanwhile, Israel dissolves into political chaos, and becomes a veritable Africa of revolving door regimes, conspiracy, and assassination.
In the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam the son of Nebat, Abijam became king over Judah. He reigned three years in Jerusalem. His mothers name was Maachah the granddaughter of Abishalom. . . .E(1 Kings 15:1-16:14).
ABIJAH OF JUDAH
We learn little about Abijah of Judahs life, other than the fact that he did not walk in the ways of David (15:3-5). In fact, the account of Abijams reign tells us more about David than about Abijam. But a few details are intriguing. We know from chapter 14 that Jeroboams dead son is named Abijah, but this is the first time we learn that Rehoboam has a son by the same name (Abijam is a variant of Abijah; cf. 2 Chronicles 13:1). Its a sign that Judah and Israel are in many respects indistinguishable.
Also, we are told that Abijam was the son of Rehoboam and Maacah, the daughter [or granddaughter] of AbishalomE(15:2). Abishalom is a variant of the name Absalom; thus, Abijam married his cousin, the daughter of his father Solomons brother. There is nothing immoral about this, but 15:10 is shocking: Asa, Abijams son (v. 8) is also the son of Maacah the daughter of AbishalomE(v. 10). This can only mean that Abijam had children by his mother. Incestuous royal marriages were known elsewhere in the ancient world (e.g., Egypt), but the Torah forbids it (Leviticus 18:7; 20:11). Incest is the kind of abominationEthat will cause the land to spew Judah out (Leviticus 18:24-29). Abijam is a true son of Absalom,Ewho takes his fathers wife (cf. 2 Samuel 16:20-23). Abijam is not complete withE(Heb. shelem) Yahweh (v. 3), but instead follows the ways of his father Abi-shalom.
ASA, A REFORMING KING
By contrast with his father, Asa does follow the ways of David (15:11), with his heart complete withEYahweh (v. 14). Anticipating the reforms of Jehoshaphat, Joash, and Josiah, he reverses many of the evils that Rehoboam had instituted (15:12-13; cf. 14:23-24; cf. 1 Kings 22:46; 2 Kings 23:7), though he fails to remove the high places (15:14; cf. 1 Kings 22:43; 2 Kings 12:3). He shows his devotion to Yahweh by taking a stand against his own mother, removing her from being queen mother and destroying the Asherah she made (v. 13; cf. 2 Kings 23:6). Asa is a true disciple, who hates his mother to follow Yahweh. He was able to restore the golden splendor of the temple, which had been tarnished under Rehoboam (15:15).
We have been told already that Judah and Israel have been at odds for two generations (14:30; 15:6-7), and here we learn of a specific incident in that conflict (15:16-22). Baasha, whom we learn about later in the chapter, fortifies Ramah, located some ten miles Northwest of Jerusalem in the territory of Judah. With a regiment of Israelite soldiers stationed there, it would prevent access in and out of Judah (going out or coming inEusually refers to military movements, v. 17). This is a threat to Judah, and Asa cannot let it stand.
Asa approaches the crisis by sending money to the Arameans, who attack Baasha from the north and force him to abandon the fortification of Ramah (vv. 18-21). Though this is politically shrewd, it does not display genuine wisdom. First, the prophets regularly condemn kings for relying on aid from Gentiles rather than on the Lord. Second, he proposes a treatyEor covenantEwith the Arameans, and covenants with unbelieving Gentiles are also condemned by the law and prophets. Third, he gets the money from his recently refurbished temple (v. 18). Rehoboam lost gold to Shishak, but at least he didnt plunder the temple himself; Asa does. Fourth, the Arameans later become one of the great enemies of the Northern Kingdom, and we know that they are supplied and egged on by Judah. Like Solomon, Asa supplies the enemies of Israel (cf. 1 Kings 10:29). Finally, 2 Chronicles 16:7-10 includes a prophet of Hanani that explicitly condemns Asas action. It is perfectly consistent for Asa to rely on physicians rather than Yahweh when his feet become diseased (v 23; cf. 2 Chronicles 16:12). Relying on man is already an established pattern of life.
POLITICAL TURMOIL IN ISRAEL
The writer of Kings turns his attention to the North, recording the reigns of several kings who all rule during the long reign of Asa (15:25, 33; 16:8; 15; 23, 29). Earlier, he summarized the reigns of various Southern kings who ruled during the long reign of Jeroboam (14:25; 15; 1, 9). When we group these kings by dynasty, a pattern emerges. Jeroboams reign lasts 22 years (14:20), and hes followed by Nadab, who reigns for 2 years (15:25) before being overthrown. Baasha comes to the throne for 24 years (15:33), and hes succeeded by his son Elah, who reigns only two years before the dynasty is ended (16:8). This pattern of long reign-short reign-end of dynasty is broken by the Omride dynasty, which we will begin to examine next week. Throughout this section, we learn little about the specific work of each king. They fight some, build some, but mainly they sin. For the writer of Kings, thats about all there is to say.
A few details about Baashas coup are interesting. First, Baasha is called the son of AhijahE(v. 27). Though this is not the same Ahijah weve met before (cf. 11:29; 14:1-16), the repetition of the name points back to Ahijahs prophecies against Jeroboam. Though not biologically a son of Ahijah the prophet,Ehe is the spiritual sonE(Jerome Walsh). Second, Baasha conspires against and kills Nadab during a siege of the Philistine city of Gibbethon (cf. 16:15). This was formerly a Levitical city in the tribal area of Dan (Joshua 19:44; 21:23), but the Philistines have taken it over. (Note that Israel is still besieging Gibbethon over two decades later, 16:15, 17.) The kingdom of Israel is being contracted, and Israels kings are having to re-fight the battles that David once won (2 Samuel 5). History is again moving in reverse. As Ahijah predicted, Jeroboams house is completely destroyed, until there is no breathEin it (15:29).
Baasha doesnt last long. He is destined to end just as Jeroboam did. No sooner has he become king than a prophet confronts his sin (16:2-4, 11), in language very similar to Ahijahs prophecy against Jeroboam (14:7-11). Though he was made from the dust of the ground (like Adam), Baasha rebelled (like Adam) and will lose the kingdom. Baashas dynasty mirrors Jeroboams in its sinfulness (16:7), and it will end in the same catastrophic way as Jeroboams dynasty. Verse 7 describes the word of Yahweh through the prophet as an attacking adversary: the word came against Baasha.EYahwehs word not only tells it like it is; Yahwehs word is one of the participants, the major participant in fact, in the battles of history.
Elah is doomed before his reign begins, and he and his house rapidly falls to one of his military commanders, Zimri, who destroys his entire household (16:12). Elah is not much of a king. Like David in his worst moments (2 Samuel 11), he stays at Tirzah drinking himself drunk (16:9), while the troops continue the siege of Gibbethon (v. 15). One of the few substantive things we learn is that he provoked Yahweh with vanities.EThe word means vaporEor breathE(cf. Ecclesiastes), and refers to idols only a few times in the OT. The most important of these is Deuteronomy 32:21, where Yahweh threatens to abandon Israel for another people when they provoke Him to jealousy with their vanities.ESoon, we will see Yahweh do just this, sending the blessing of the prophets to the Gentiles of Sidon rather than to the Israelites (cf. 1 Kings 17).
For Further Study
1. There is some confusion about Abijams mother. Look up 2 Chronicles 13:2, 2 Samuel 3:3; 14:27. Who was Abijams mother? What was her relationship to Absalom?
2. Nadab takes over the kingdom in the 2d year of Asa (15:25), and reigns for two years. Yet, Baasha takes over the kingdom in the third year of AsaE(15:33). So, 2d year + 2 years = 3d year. The same thing happens with Elah: He takes over in the 26th year of Asa, and reigns for two years (16:8), but then Zimri takes over in the 27th year of Asa (16:15). Explain
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Wednesday, January 26, 2005 at 07:28 AM
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