Asa of Judah

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Asa - Hebrew: ’Asa ben ’Aviyam
King of Judah - Hebrew: Melekh Yehudah - אסא בן-אבים מלך יהודה
Asa of Judah.jpg
Asa from Guillaume Rouillé's Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum
Reign c. 911 - 870 BCE
Born unknown
Died 870 BCE
Place of death Jerusalem
Predecessor Abijam, his father
Successor Jehoshaphat, his son
Consort Azubah
Royal House House of David
Father Abijam
Mother Annas

Asa (Hebrew: אָסָא, Modern Asa Tiberian ʾĀsâ; Greek: Ασα; Latin: Asa) was, according to the Hebrew Bible, the third king of the Kingdom of Judah and the fifth king of the House of David. He was the son of Abijam, grandson of Rehoboam, and great-grandson of Solomon. The Hebrew Bible gives the period of his reign as 41 years. His reign is dated between 913-910 BC to 873-869 BC. He was succeeded by his son by Azubah, Jehoshaphat. According to Thiele's chronology,[1] when Asa became very ill, he made Jehoshaphat coregent. Asa died two years into the coregency.

Asa was zealous in maintaining the traditional worship of God, and in rooting out idolatry, with its accompanying immoralities. After concluding a battle with Zerah of Egypt in the 10th year of his reign, there was peace in Judah (2 Chronicles 14:1,9) until the 35th year of Asa's reign (2 Chronicles 16:1). In his 36th year he was confronted by Baasha, king of Israel. He formed an alliance with Ben-Hadad I, king of Aram Damascus, and using a monetary bribe, convinced him to break his peace treaty with Baasha and invade the Northern Kingdom. (2 Chronicles 16:2-6) It is also recorded of Asa that in his old age, when afflicted with a foot disease, he “sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians”.[2] He died greatly honoured by his people, and was considered for the most part a righteous king. However, his reign was said to have been marred by his reliance on Ben-Hadad.

Purging of idolatry[edit]

Azariah son of Oded, a wiseman and prophet, exhorted Asa [3] to reinforce strict national observance of Judaism, and Asa paid heed. He purged the land of former religious worships; all the sites of non-Judaic worship were destroyed and the nation entered into a covenant or oath together.[4] The Queen Mother, Maacah, was also deposed for having been involved with local, non-Judaic gods, worships, and beliefs, which were practiced by neighboring peoples. He also banned prostitution and prosecuted all offenders. Finally, when the religious transition was completed in Asa's fifteenth year, a great feast was held in Jerusalem at Solomon's Temple (2 Chronicles 15:10-11). At that time, many northerners, particularly from the tribes Ephraim and Manasseh, migrated to the Kingdom of Judah because of the fruitful golden age in Judah, and the internal conflict in Israel after the fall of the dynasty of Jeroboam I.

Illustration of Asa destroying the idols, in the Bible Historiale, 1372.

Wars and defense projects[edit]

Taking advantage of 35 years of peace, Asa revamped and reinforced the fortresses originally built by his grandfather Rehoboam. Asa also repelled a raid by the Egyptian-backed chieftain Zerah the Ethiopian[5] and his million men and 300 chariots was defeated by Asa's 580,000 men (these figures come from 2 Chronicles) in the Valley of Zephath, near Mareshah (2 Chronicles 14:9-15). The Bible does not state whether Zerah was a pharaoh or a general of the army. The Ethiopians were pursued all the way to Gerar, in the coastal plain, where they stopped out of sheer exhaustion. The resulting peace kept Judah free from Egyptian incursions until the time of Josiah, some centuries later.

In Asa's 36th year, King Baasha of Israel attacked the Kingdom of Judah (2 Chronicles 16:1; the Seder Olam and some later commentators take this as the 36th year since the division of the kingdom, not the 36th year of Asa's reign[6]). Baasha built the fortress of Ramah on the border, less than ten miles from Jerusalem. The result was that the capital was under pressure and the military situation was precarious. Asa took gold and silver from the Temple and sent them to Ben-Hadad I, king of Aram Damascus, in exchange for the Damascene king canceling his peace treaty with Baasha. Ben-Hadad I attacked Ijon, Dan, and many important cities of the tribe of Naphtali, and Baasha was forced to withdraw from Ramah. Asa tore down the unfinished fortress and used its raw materials to fortify Geba and Mizpah, on his side of the border.[5]

Later years[edit]

Hanani the Seer, a prophet, admonished Asa for relying on the King of Syria as opposed to Divine help in defeating Baasha (2 Chronicles 16:7-10). Asa became very angry and threw Hanani in jail. Asa was also not as just as he had been and oppressed some of the people. In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa developed a severe disease in his feet, for which he sought the help of physicians, not the Lord (2 Chronicles 16:12). In Thiele's chronology, Asa made his son Jehoshaphat coregent in the year that saw the onset of his disease. Asa died two years later and was buried with his ancestors in Jerusalem, in the grave that he had dug for himself (2 Chronicles 16:13-14).

Chronological notes[edit]

William F. Albright has dated his reign to 913 BC – 873 BC, while E. R. Thiele offers the dates 911/910 – 870/869 BC.[7] Thiele's chronology for the first kings of Judah contained an internal inconsistency that later scholars corrected by dating these kings one year earlier, so that Asa's dates are taken as 912/911 to 871/870 BC in the present article. 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles describe his reign in a favorable manner. They both give his reign as lasting 41 years.

According to Thiele, the calendars for reckoning the years of kings in Judah and Israel were offset by six months, that of Judah starting in Tishri (in the fall) and that of Israel in Nisan (in the spring). Cross-synchronizations between the two kingdoms therefore often allow narrowing of the beginning and/or ending dates of a king to within a six-month range. For Asa, the Bible allows the narrowing of his accession to some time between Tishri 1 of 912 BC and the day before Nisan 1 of the 911 BC. For calculation purposes, this should be taken as the Judean year beginning in Tishri of 912/911 BC, or more simply 912 BC. His death occurred at some time between Tishri 1 of 871 BC and Nisan 1 of 870 BC, i.e. in 871 (871/870) BC. These dates are one year earlier than those given in the third edition of Thiele's Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, thereby correcting an internal inconsistency that Thiele never resolved.

Asa of Judah
Cadet branch of the Tribe of Judah
Contemporary Kings of Israel: Jeroboam I, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Abijam
King of Judah
912 – 871 BC
Succeeded by
Jehoshaphat

References[edit]

  1. ^ Edwin Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951; 2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965; 3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983). ISBN 0-8254-3825-X, 9780825438257
  2. ^ 2 Chronicles 16:12; cf. 1 Jeremiah 17:5
  3. ^ 2 Chronicles 15:1-7
  4. ^ 2 Chronicles 15:12-15
  5. ^ a b "Asa", Jewish Encyclopedia
  6. ^ Thiele, Mysterious Numbers 84
  7. ^ Edwin Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951; 2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965; 3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983). ISBN 0-8254-3825-X, 9780825438257, p 217.