1 Kings 15 – The Reigns of Abijam, Asa, Nadab and Baasha
A. Two kings of Judah.
1. (1-8) The reign of King Abijam (known as Abijah in 2 Chronicles 13).
In the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam the son of Nebat, Abijam became king over Judah. He reigned three years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Maachah the granddaughter of Abishalom. And he walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him; his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David. Nevertheless for David’s sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, by setting up his son after him and by establishing Jerusalem; because David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life. Now the rest of the acts of Abijam, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? And there was war between Abijam and Jeroboam. So Abijam rested with his fathers, and they buried him in the City of David. Then Asa his son reigned in his place.
a. Abijam became king over Judah: This son of Rehoboam only reigned three years, showing that God did not bless his reign.
i. From comparing this account with 2 Chronicles 13 we learn that Abijam knew something of the LORD and knew how to preach – but he did not uproot the idolatry and sexual immorality that was introduced by Rehoboam. The successor of Abijam (Asa) removed the centers of the sexually-charged idolatry that was so common in this land (1 Kings 15:12-13).
b. His heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David: This was the real problem with Abijam’s reign – his lack of a real personal relationship with God. David sinned during his reign, but his heart stayed loyal to the LORD his God.
i. 2 Chronicles 13 fills in more interesting details about the reign of Abijam (called Abijah in 2 Chronicles). It tells us how there was war between Jeroboam of Israel and Abijam of Judah, and how Abijam challenged Jeroboam on the basis of righteousness and faithfulness to God. Jeroboam responded with a surprise attack, and victory seemed certain for Israel over Judah – but Abjiam cried out to the LORD, and God won a victory for Judah that day. 2 Chronicles 13:18 says of that war, Thus the children of Israel were subdued at that time; and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the LORD God of their fathers.
ii. “For David’s sake and in response to his faith, he was allowed a spectacular victory over the encircling Israelites whom he had challenged, for being even more apostate than he… This is an instance of God blessing the unworthy for the sake of the worthy.” (Wiseman)
iii. Yet Chronicles also tells us his standing at the end of his brief reign: But Abijah grew mighty, married fourteen wives, and begot twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters (2 Chronicles 13:21). In the midst of his victory and good leadership for Judah, he never had the relationship with the LORD he should have had.
c. For David’s sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem: God preserved the dynasty of David in Jerusalem for the sake of David, not because of the character or quality of his descendants.
i. “Chronicles spells his name Abijah, which means ‘Yahweh is my father.’ Kings spells the name Abijam, which means ‘my father is Yam.’ Yam was a Canaanite sea-god. Could it be that he started out as Abijah, a follower of Yahweh, and ended up as Abijam, a follower of a false god?” (Dilday)
2. (9-11) Summary of the reign of King Asa of Judah.
In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa became king over Judah. And he reigned forty-one years in Jerusalem. His grandmother’s name was Maachah the granddaughter of Abishalom. Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as did his father David.
a. Asa became king over Judah: This great-grandson of Solomon took the throne of Judah at the end of Jeroboam’s reign in Israel, after his father’s brief reign.
b. Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as did his father David: The kings of Judah were usually measured against David, the founder of their dynasty. In contrast to his father Abijah (1 Kings 15:3), Asa followed in the same heart as David.
i. The phrase his father David shows us that in Hebrew literature the word father can be used of an ancestor in general, instead of strictly referring to one’s father. David was actually the great-great-grandfather of Asa.
3. (12-15) The reforms of King Asa of Judah.
And he banished the perverted persons from the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. Also he removed Maachah his grandmother from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah. And Asa cut down her obscene image and burned it by the Brook Kidron. But the high places were not removed. Nevertheless Asa’s heart was loyal to the LORD all his days. He also brought into the house of the LORD the things which his father had dedicated, and the things which he himself had dedicated: silver and gold and utensils.
a. He banished the perverted persons from the land: These state-sanctioned homosexual idol-temple prostitutes were introduced into Judah during the reign of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:24). Asa’s father Abijam didn’t remove these perversions and idols, but King Asa did.
b. Also he removed Maachah his grandmother from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah: This demonstrates the thoroughness of Asa’s reforms. He was able to act righteously even when his family was wrong, in particular his own grandmother. “It is in a man’s own family circle that his faithfulness is put fairly to the test” (Knapp).
i. “Maacah was apparently the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah (2 Chronicles 13:2) and Tamar (2 Samuel 14:27), hence the granddaughter of Absalom, David’s rebellious son.” (Patterson and Austel)
ii. By the Brook Kidron: “The Kidron Valley east of Jerusalem was then the city’s main rubbish dump” (Wiseman).
iii. An obscene image: “This image is described as ‘obscene’ in our English translation, but the Hebrew word is closer in meaning to ‘frightening,’ ‘horrible,’ or ‘abominable.’ Some commentators believe it was some sort of phallic symbol consistent with the fertility cult of Asherah” (Dilday).
iv. “From the whole, it is pretty evident that the image was a mere Priapus, or something of the same nature, and that Maachah had an assembly in the grove where the image was set up, and doubtless worshipped it with the most impure rites. What the Roman Priapus was I need not tell the learned reader; and as to the unlearned, it would not profit him to know.” (Clarke)
c. But the high places were not removed: 2 Chronicles 14:3 says that Asa did remove the high places, but it mentions these high places in connection with altars of the foreign gods. Therefore, Asa removed the high places that were dedicated to idols, but not the ones that were dedicated to the LORD.
d. Nevertheless Asa’s heart was loyal to the LORD all his days: Asa’s loyal heart was shown in his reforms against idolatry and state-sanctioned perversion, and in his restoration of certain silver and gold utensils to the temple.
4. (16-24) Asa buys the favor of Ben-Hadad, King of Syria.
Now there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days. And Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah, and built Ramah, that he might let none go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. Then Asa took all the silver and gold that was left in the treasuries of the house of the LORD and the treasuries of the king’s house, and delivered them into the hand 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 treaty between you and me, as there was between my father and your father. See, I have sent you a present of silver and gold. Come and break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel, so that he will withdraw from me.” So Ben-Hadad heeded King Asa, and sent the captains of his armies against the cities of Israel. He attacked Ijon, Dan, Abel Beth Maachah, and all Chinneroth, with all the land of Naphtali. Now it happened, when Baasha heard it, that he stopped building Ramah, and remained in Tirzah. Then King Asa made a proclamation throughout all Judah; none was exempted. And they took away the stones and timber of Ramah, which Baasha had used for building; and with them King Asa built Geba of Benjamin, and Mizpah. The rest of all the acts of Asa, all his might, all that he did, and the cities which he built, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? But in the time of his old age he was diseased in his feet. So Asa rested with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the City of David his father. Then Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place.
a. Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah, and built Ramah, that he might let none go out or come in to Asa king of Judah: This continues the struggle for dominance between the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Baasha gained the upper hand in the days of Asa because he effectively blocked a main route into Judah at the city of Ramah. He hoped this military and economic pressure on Judah would force Asa into significant concessions.
b. Asa took all the silver and gold that was left in the treasuries of the house of the LORD and the treasuries of the king’s house: Asa used this treasure to buy the favor of Ben-Hadad of Syria, so that he would withdraw support from Israel. Apparently, Baasha of Israel could not stand against Judah by himself – he needed the backing of Syria.
i. 2 Chronicles 16:7-10 tells us that God was not pleased by this, and delivered this word by the prophet Hanani: “Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the LORD your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand. Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the LORD, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars” (2 Chronicles 16:7-9).
ii. Sadly, Asa did not respond to this word properly. Then Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him because of this. And Asa oppressed some of the people at that time (2 Chronicles 16:10). Asa shows us the tragedy of a man who rules well and seeks the LORD for many years, yet fails in a significant challenge of his faith and then refuses to hear God’s correction.
iii. “Wherein he committed three great faults, amongst many others. First, He alienated things consecrated to God without necessity. Secondly, He did this out of carnal fear and distrust of that God whose power and goodness he had lately experienced. Thirdly, He did this for an ill intent, to hire him to the breach of his league and covenant with Baasha, and to take away part of that land which by right, and the special gift of God, belonged to the Israelites.” (Poole)
c. The rest of all the acts of Asa… are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah: 2 Chronicles 14-16 provides many more details regarding the reign of Asa.
· He encouraged national piety: He commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and to observe the law and the commandment. (2 Chronicles 14:4).
· He built fortified cities and presided over a long period of peace (2 Chronicles 14:6).
· In response to Asa’s prayer, God defeated a huge Ethiopian army that came against Judah (2 Chronicles 14:9-13).
· He had an encouraging word from the prophet Azariah that encouraged him to continue his reforms (2 Chronicles 15:1-9).
· Asa led a national re-commitment to the covenant (2 Chronicles 15:10-15).
d. But in the time of his old age he was diseased in his feet: 2 Chronicles gives us the more complete analysis: his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but the physicians. (2 Chronicles 16:12). This happened after he refused to hear God’s word of correction through Hanani the seer.
i. Some think that Asa’s foot ailment was gout, “but gout was uncommon in Palestine and ancient Egypt and it is more likely, in view of Asa’s age, the severity of the disease and death within two years, to have been a peripheral obstructive vascular disease with ensuing gangrene” (Wiseman).
ii. Morgan on Asa: “It is the record of a faulty life, but one in which the deepest thing, that of desire, was right; and so it is the record of a life, the influence of which was a blessing rather than a curse. It is a revealing story.”
iii. All in all, Asa was a good man who did not finish well. The last years of his life were marked by unbelief, hardness against God, oppression against his people, and disease. Age and time do not necessarily make us better; they only do if we continue to follow God in faith.
iv. “Jeremiah 41:9 refers to a pit (or cistern) made by Asa ‘for fear of Baasha king of Israel.’ God would thus, in this incidental way, remind us by this late and last historical notice of King Asa what was the beginning of his decline – ‘the fear of man, which bringeth a snare.’” (Knapp)
B. Two kings of Israel.
1. (25-32) The short reign of Nadab, king of Israel.
Now Nadab the son of Jeroboam became king over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel two years. And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin by which he had made Israel sin. Then Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar, conspired against him. And Baasha killed him at Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines, while Nadab and all Israel laid siege to Gibbethon. Baasha killed him in the third year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned in his place. And it was so, when he became king, that he killed all the house of Jeroboam. He did not leave to Jeroboam anyone that breathed, until he had destroyed him, according to the word of the LORD which He had spoken by His servant Ahijah the Shilonite, because of the sins of Jeroboam, which he had sinned and by which he had made Israel sin, because of his provocation with which he had provoked the LORD God of Israel to anger. Now the rest of the acts of Nadab, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days.
a. And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father: Nadab, this son of Jeroboam, did as his father did continuing in his idolatry and hardness towards God.
i. 2 Chronicles 11:14 specifically tells us that both Jeroboam and his sons were responsible for driving God’s priests out of the land of Israel. In this, Nadab directly shared in the sins of his father Jeroboam.
ii. “Nadab’s name means willing; and he appears to have been too willing to continue in, and perpetuate, the sin of his iniquitous father.” (Knapp)
b. Baasha killed him in the third year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned in his place. And it was so, when he became king, that he killed all the house of Jeroboam: This was the end of the dynasty of Jeroboam. Had Jeroboam remained obedient to the LORD, God promised him a lasting dynasty like the house of David (1 Kings 11:38). Because of Jeroboam’s sin, though he enjoyed a long reign, his son only reigned two years before the assassination of Nadab and the murder of all Jeroboam’s descendants.
i. “Thus God made use of one wicked man to destroy another.” (Clarke)
ii. “Nadab was king little more than one year, but since it covered parts of two years, Hebrew time measurement reckons his reign as two years.” (Dilday)
c. According to the word of the LORD which He had spoken by His servant Ahijah: This word is recorded in 1 Kings 14:7-16.
i. “So ended the first of the nine dynasties that for two hundred and fifty years ruled (or misruled) the kingdom of Israel.” (Knapp)
2. (33-34) The reign of Baasha, king of Israel.
In the third year of Asa king of Judah, Baasha the son of Ahijah became king over all Israel in Tirzah, and reigned twenty-four years. He did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin by which he had made Israel sin.
a. Baasha the son of Ahijah became king over all Israel: As expected with a man who came to the throne through assassination, Baasha was a wicked man and ushered in a dreadful period for Israel, both spiritually and politically.
b. He did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of Jeroboam: The summary puts it simply. Though Baasha was not a genetic descendent of Jeroboam (having murdered his family), he was certainly a spiritual descendent of Jeroboam.
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