Asa

ASA (ā’sa, Heb. ’āsā’, healer). 1. Third king of Judah, reigning from 911/10-870/69 b.c. (1Kgs.15.9-1Kgs.15.24; 2Chr.14.1-2Chr.14.15-2Chr.16.1-2Chr.16.14). He was the first of the five kings of Judah (Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Hezekiah, Josiah) who were outstanding for godliness, and he deserves special credit considering his idolatrous ancestors. He was the son of Abijah and grandson of Rehoboam. Asa’s grandmother was Maacah, a daughter of Absalom and a confirmed idolatress who greatly influenced Judah toward idolatry. She is spoken of as “mother” of both her son (1Kgs.15.2) and her grandson (1Kgs.15.10) in KJV, RSV. Asa began his reign by deposing his wicked and powerful grandmother and by destroying a fearful, impure image that she had set up. He then drove out the male shrine prostitutes and destroyed idols that his fathers had worshiped (1Kgs.15.12), commanding Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers (2Chr.14.4).

In the early peaceful days of his reign, he gathered into the temple the dedicated things that he and his father had dedicated to the Lord (1Kgs.15.15). Then about 897 b.c. Zerah the Ethiopian came against him with an immense force. The Lord helped Judah defeat them at Mareshah in the west-central part of Judah, because Asa trusted the Lord (2Chr.14.9-2Chr.14.15). In 2Chr.15.1-2Chr.15.13 we see how the Lord approved and encouraged Asa in his faith and in his work of reformation. Later, c. 895/94, Baasha of the northern kingdom made war against Judah. Judah this time did not put her whole trust in the Lord, but Asa bribed Ben-Hadad of Syria to break his league with Baasha so as to draw off the forces of Israel. This Ben-Hadad did, but the Lord, through his prophet Hanani, rebuked Asa for trusting in politics rather than in God (1Kgs.15.16-1Kgs.15.22; 2Chr.16.1-2Chr.16.10). In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was taken with a severe disease of the feet, and because he trusted his physicians rather than the Lord, he died two years later (2Chr.16.11-2Chr.16.14).

2. A Levite among those who had returned from captivity (1Chr.9.16).


ASA ā’ sə (אָסָא, LXX ̓Ασα, meaning uncertain; perhaps short for ’asap, gather; Noth, Israelitische Personennamen 181; BDB adduce a root ’asah, hear). The name of the third king of Judah after the division, and of a Levite of the time of the Exile (1 Chron 9:16). Asa of Judah (1 Kings 15:9-24; 2 Chron 15-17).

Family.

His mother Maacah (1 Kings 15:10) is named also as mother of Abijah (15:2; cf. 2 Chron 11:20ff., 13:2; see Abijah). Emendation of “son” (1 Kings 15:8) to “brother” has been suggested; but Maacah may have remained queen mother after Abijah’s short reign (taking ’em, v. 10, to mean “grandmother” by analogy of ’ab, male ancestor).

Chronology.


Religious policy.

Asa gave up the pagan cults supported by Rehoboam and Abijah, confiscating to the Temple their dedicated treasures (1 Kings 15:15). His victory at Mareshah enabled him to go further (2 Chron 15); encouraged by Azariah, he renovated the altar in the temple court and held a great assembly to make a fresh covenant with the Lord, using booty (presumably from the southern campaign) for sacrifices. This revival, following his military success, drew supporters from Israel. Asa even deposed the queen mother for her idolatry. His policy toward the “high places” is not clear; in 1 Kings 15:14; 2 Chronicles 15:17, they are said to have survived. 2 Chronicles 14:3 mentions the abolition of high places, but as related to “foreign” cults. The persistence of (Yahwistic) shrines is often noted in Kings.

Military campaigns.

South.

The chronicler relates Asa’s victory at Mareshah over a large invading army under one “Zerah the Ethiopian,” leading to a thanksgiving ceremony in his fifteenth year; he also remarks (14:1) that Asa’s reign began with ten years of peace. Keil thought that a series of campaigns in the S was implied; Mareshah may have been the culmination of a five-year war, or else some years were needed to exploit the victory and re-occupy the Gerar-Beer-sheba area. Certainly the war resulted in southward expansion, carried on by Jehoshaphat (note the adherence of Simeonites, 15:9; Amos 8:14 mentions a cult at Beer-sheba).

Mention of Ethiopians and Libyans in Zerah’s army (2 Chron 16:8), and of nomads in the region (14:15), may indicate that Shishak had set up a buffer state after his invasion (Albright, JPOS 4 [1931], 146ff.). Identification of Zerah with Shishak’s successor Osorkon I has been proposed, but in that case one would have expected him to be described in Chronicles as “king of Egypt.”

North.

The statement in 1 Kings 15:16, that “there was war between Asa and Baasha...all their days,” can hardly mean all-out campaigning (cf. 15:6; 2 Chron 12:15). Abijah’s victory left to Asa a temporary settlement, a frontier N of Bethel, and a hostile neighbor. Asa’s successes impelled Baasha to definite action; he began by occupying Ramah, well inside the frontier and on the ridge leading to Jerusalem. To counter this threat, Asa purchased the help of Ben-Hadad I of Syria, who invaded Galilee and drew off Baasha. Asa reoccupied Ramah, dismantled the works and used the material to fortify Geba and Mizpah (cf. Jer 41:9). The call up of every ablebodied man in Judah for this task is esp. noted.

Ramah is now er-Ram; Isaiah 10:29 suggests a site SW of Geba and near Gibeah. Mizpah might well be Tell en-Nasbeh, on a defensible spur commanding the approach to Ramah (Abel, Galling locate Geba here); this would secure the northern boundary of Benjamin (Josh 18:21-24; see Aharoni, pp. 301-303, who remarks that Jehoshaphat did not expand further, 2 Chron 17:2). Albright (AASOR 4) argues strongly for identifying Mizpah with Nebi Samwil, being in sight of Jerusalem (see 1 Macc 3:46) and making better sense in the narrative of Jeremiah 41 (v. 14 supports this argument, but his remaining evidence is less positive). The two theories go with two views of Asa’s action; Albright’s, ultra-defensive, involves pulling back from Ramah to Nebi Samwil and Gibeah (read for Geba, 1 Kings 15:22; the third fort appears to have been hastily reconstructed). It is more probable that, pursuing a defensive strategy, Asa followed up Baasha’s retreat by seizing strong frontier positions. Geba would then be modern Jaba, overlooking the Wadi es-Suweinit eastward.

Closing years.

Reliance on Syrian help earned a reproof from the prophet Hanani; Asa reacted harshly to this and to some popular opposition (2 Chron 16:10). His last years were marked by sickness (prob. dropsy) and loss of faith, but he was greatly honored at his funeral. According to Thiele, Jehoshaphat was co-regent during his father’s last four years.

Bibliography

W. F. Albright, AASOR 4 (1924), 38ff., 91-111; JPOS 4 (1931), 146ff.; BASOR 52 (1933), 6ff.; K. Galling, Biblical Reallexicon (1937), cols. 385f.; F-M Abel, Geographie II (1938), 388ff.; W. F. Albright, BASOR 87 (1942), 23ff., 100 (1945), 16ff.; C. McCown, Tell en-Nasbeh I (1947), 28-30, 202; J. Montgomery, Kings (ICC) (1951); Y. Yadin, Art of Warfare (1953), 323; K. M. Kenyon, Archaeology in the Holy Land (1960), 247f.; L. Sinclair, AASOR 34/5 (1960), 5ff.; V. Pavlovsky and E. Vogt, Biblica 45 (1964), 321-329; J. Gray, Kings (1964); E. Thiele, Mysterious Numbers2 (1965), 57ff.; J. Myers, Chronicles (1965), 79-95; Y. Aharoni, Land of the Bible (1966), 282, 293ff.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(’aca’, "healer"; Asa):

(1) A king of Judah, the third one after the separation of Judah and Israel. He was the son of Abijah and grandson of Rehoboam. Maacah, his mother, or rather grandmother, was daughter of Abishalom (Absalom) (1Ki 15:1 ff). The first ten years of his reign were prosperous and peaceful (2Ch 14:1). He introduced many reforms, such as putting away the sodomites or male prostitutes, removing idols from holy places, breaking down altars, pillars and Asherim. He even deposed the "queen mother" because of her idolatrous practices, and of the image which she had made for Asherah (1Ki 15:12 ff; 2Ch 14:3). Though the king himself, in the main, was a zealous reformer, his subjects did not always keep pace with him (1Ki 15:17). With an army of 580,000 he repelled an attack of Zerah, the Ethiopian, and routed him completely at Mareshah in the lowlands of Judah (2Ch 14:6 ff). Directed and encouraged by Azariah the prophet, he carried on a great revival. Having restored the great altar of burnt offering in the temple, he assembled the people for a renewal of their covenant with Yahweh. On this occasion 700 oxen and 7,000 sheep were offered in sacrifice.

For the next twenty years there was apparently great prosperity and peace throughout his kingdom, but in the thirty-sixth year of his reign, Judah was attacked by Baasha, king of Israel, at all times hostile to Judah (1Ki 15:32). Baasha continued to encroach and finally fortified Ramah as a frontier fortress. Asa, faint-hearted, instead of putting his entire trust in Yahweh, made an alliance with Ben-hadad, of Damascus. The Syrian king, in consideration of a large sum of money and much treasure from the temple at Jerusalem, consented to attack the northern portion of Baasha’s territory. It was at this favorable moment that Asa captured Ramah, and with the vast building material collected there by Baasha, he built Geba of Benjamin and Mizpah (1Ki 15:16-22). This lack of faith in Yahweh was severely criticized by Hanani the prophet. Asa, instead of listening patiently to this prophet of God, was greatly offended and enraged and Hanani was put in prison (2Ch 16:1-10). Three years later, Asa was attacked by gout or some disease of the feet. Here again he is accused of lack of faith, for "he sought not to Yahweh, but to the physicians" (2Ch 16:12). Having ruled forty-one years, he died and was buried with great pomp in a tomb erected by himself in the city of David, i.e. Jerusalem. On the whole his reign was very successful, but it is sad to chronicle that as the years rolled on he became less and less faithful to Yahweh and His law.

(2) A son of Elkanah, a Levite, who dwelt in one of the villages of the Netophathites (1Ch 9:16).