New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary

2Ch 15:1 The Spirit of God came on Azariah the son of Oded-
I hinted throughout 2 Chron. 14 that things were not quite as spiritually rosy with Asa and Judah as Asa liked to present. And so this message from God was to warn Asa of the conditionality of God's help, implying Asa was tempted to forsake Him. "Azariah", 'Yah has helped', was the son of Oded, 'repetition'; it was as if the message that God had helped win the victory of 2 Chron. 14 needed to be repeated. It seems from :2 that Azariah went out to meet Asa as he returned to Jerusalem from the victory of 2 Chron. 14:15.

2Ch 15:2 and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin! Yahweh is with you, while you are with Him; and if you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you-
The whole way of life of the righteous man is described as seeking God, knowing we will eventually find Him when the Lord returns to change our natures. So many times does David parallel those who seek God with those who keep His word (e.g. Ps. 119:2). We will never achieve perfect obedience; but seeking it is paralleled with it. Perfection is simply not achieved by God's people. Therefore the idiom of 'seeking Yahweh' is used, and is made parallel with obedience to His laws (2 Chron. 14:4) and not forsaking Him, just holding on to Him in faith, 'being with Him'. 

The Lord Jesus was well aware of the connection between God's refusal to answer prayer and His recognition of sin in the person praying (2 Sam. 22:42 = Ps. 2:2-5). It is emphasized time and again that God will not forsake those who love Him (e.g. Dt. 4:31; 31:6; 1 Sam. 12:22; 1 Kings 6:13; Ps. 94:14; Is. 41:17; 42:16). Every one of these passages must have been well known to our Lord, the word made flesh. He knew that God forsaking Israel was a punishment for their sin (Jud. 6:13; 2 Kings 21:14; Is. 2:6; Jer. 23:33). God would forsake Israel only if they forsook Him (Dt. 31:16,17; 2 Chron. 15:2). We can therefore conclude that His desperate “Why have You forsaken me?” was because He was so intensely identified with our sins that in the crisis of the cross, He indeed felt forsaken because of sin. He did not sin, but felt like a sinner; He thereby knows how sinners feel.

Asa had a wife called Azubah, who was the mother of the generally righteous Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:42). The mother may be mentioned because of her great influence upon the spiritual path of her children. However, there is also the theme that believers arise from unbelieving backgrounds. "Azubah" means "forsaken". It is the same word used here in 2 Chron. 15:2, where Jehoshaphat's father Asa was told of God "If you forsake Him, He will forsake you". It could be that Asa forsook Azubah and she was effectively a divorced woman; or perhaps the wife was renamed this because Asa felt she had forsaken Yahweh, which is how the word "forsaken" ('Azubah') is usually used.

2Ch 15:3 Now for a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law-
Although this can be read as a general comment upon Israel's history at the time of the judges (:4), it clearly has relevance to the time of Asa (see on 2 Chron. 17:9). It would also have been perceived by the exiles as relevant to them. This again suggests that the spiritual picture of Asa and Judah in 2 Chron. 14 was presented there in a very rosy way. Things were not spiritually so wonderful. The main priestly duty was to teach God's word to the people. A whole string of texts make this point: Dt. 24:8; 2 Kings 17:27; 2 Chron. 15:3; Neh. 8:9; Mic. 3:11. Note too the common partnership between priests and prophets. Because of their role as teachers, it is understandable that the anger of the first century priesthood was always associated with Christ and the apostles teaching the people: Mt. 21:33; Lk. 19:47; 20:1; Acts 5:21. The priests felt that their role was being challenged. As part of the priesthood, our duty is to all teach or communicate the word of God to each other. It was God's intention that natural Israel should obey the spirit of this, so that they would "teach every man his neighbour and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord" (Heb. 8:11). That was how God intended Israel of old to fulfil this idea of being a priestly nation.

2Ch 15:4 But when in their distress they turned to Yahweh the God of Israel and sought Him, He was found by them-
The point was that Asa must learn the lesson from the history of God's people at the time of the judges, and continue seeking God in distress as he had done in the conflict of 2 Chron. 14. Sadly at the end of his life, Asa in his distress didn't turn to Yahweh (2 Chron. 16:12).

2Ch 15:5 In those times there was no peace to him who went out, nor to him who came in; but great troubles were on all the inhabitants of the lands-
This clearly describes how things were at the time of the judges. But Asa is being bidden see parallels between that period and his time. And this invitation surely reveals that things were not well with Judah spiritually, and Asa was being set up as similar to the judges who revived God's people. 

2Ch 15:6 They were broken in pieces, nation against nation, and city against city; for God troubled them with all adversity-
This may be a reference to the fighting within Israel which went on in the period of the judges (e.g. Jud. 9:44-47; 20:35-45). Asa is being bidden understand that circumstances repeat, exactly because we are intended to learn from Biblical history. He was to see that his conflict with the ten tribes was a repeat of those situations. And to act as the Godly judges did, in faith.

2Ch 15:7 But you be strong, and don’t let your hands be slack; for your work shall be rewarded-
"Work" here is put for "faith". For it is faith and not works which is being appealed for from Asa (:2). This continues the purposeful confusion between faith and works which is found in James.  

2Ch 15:8 When Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominations out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from the hill country of Ephraim; and he renewed the altar of Yahweh that was before the porch of Yahweh-
This purging of idolatry which took place after the victory against the Ethiopians in 2 Chron. 14 shows that Asa's claims that Judah were totally loyal to Yahweh, and therefore as it were deserved victory, were somewhat hollow. But he was given the victory, and in fact that elicited from him an awareness that this was by grace, and his claims to total devotion to Yahweh in 2 Chron. 14:7,11 had been exaggerated. We too are sometimes given blessing and victory which is inappropriate to our faith, and the experience elicits in us self examination and repentance.   

2Ch 15:9 He gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and those who lived with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon; for they fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that Yahweh his God was with him-
AV "And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and the strangers with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon". "The strangers" reflects how religious division soon leads to those divided from being considered as foreigners. This makes the account absolutely psychological reality, and is true to observed experience in Christian divisions. Simeon had inheritance within Judah (Josh. 19:1), so it is unsurprising that people from there came over to Judah.

2Ch 15:10 So they gathered themselves together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa-
The feast of weeks began on the sixth day of the third month.  

2Ch 15:11 They sacrificed to Yahweh in that day, of the spoil which they had brought, seven hundred head of cattle and seven thousand sheep-
Remember that 'hundred' and 'thousand' are not always to be taken as literal numbers, but can refer to groups. The sacrifices often feature offerings in groups of seven (Num. 29:32; 1 Chron. 15:26). Presumably these were offered as peace offerings, although there is no evidence of the burnt offerings and sin offerings which were intended to precede peace offerings.  

2Ch 15:12 They entered into the covenant to seek Yahweh the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul-
2 Chron. 15:12,15 parallels seeking God with having our whole desire for Him, giving all our heart and soul to Him. God judges a man’s life with regard to where the essential, dominant desire of his heart is focused. This is why some of the kings of Judah are introduced with the comment that they did right in God’s sight- even though it becomes apparent that they did many wrong things, and sometimes died committing wrong acts. But surely they were judged on their dominant desire, where their heart was, and not on their specific acts of failure. For David, the salvation promised to him through Christ was “all my desire” (2 Sam. 23:5). The direction of his life was towards that end.

2Ch 15:13 and that whoever would not seek Yahweh the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman-
This smacks of hypocrisy and a commitment made on the cusp of religious extremism, rather than humble spirituality. For as noted throughout 2 Chron. 14 and 2 Chron. 15:3,5,8, they themselves had not wholly sought Yahweh. And now they condemn such persons to death. But not so many years later they needed to be brought back to Yahweh (2 Chron. 19:4). See on :14.  

2Ch 15:14 They swore to Yahweh with a loud voice, and with shouting, trumpets and cornets-
The loudness of their voice corroborates the impression noted on :13, that this was unspiritual religious extremism.

2Ch 15:15 All Judah rejoiced at the oath; for they had sworn with all their heart, and sought Him with their whole desire; and He was found of them: and Yahweh gave them rest all around-
This joy was at an oath which threatened death against anyone who didn't worship Yahweh (:13), when they themselves had not been wholeheartedly for Him. And yet despite the hypocrisy, Yahweh "was found of them". Again, we see His sensitivity to any faith and spirituality. This is not to say that He accepts just whatever we give Him, and that, by extension, we can serve God on our own terms. But it is also so that God is very sensitive to all movements towards Him and for Him. 

2Ch 15:16 Also Maacah, the mother of Asa the king, he removed from being queen, because she had made an abominable image for an Asherah. Asa cut down her image, and made dust of it, and burnt it at the brook Kidron-
This would have been difficult for him, given it was his mother. The Lord may have thought of this as He crossed the same brook, the night before His death.

2Ch 15:17 But the high places were not taken away out of Israel. Nevertheless the heart of Asa was perfect all his days-
As discussed on :15, this is not to say that we are free to serve God on our own terms, picking and choosing our issues of obedience and compliance. Rather does this reflect how human external behaviour, even if it is sinful, is not always a reflection of the basic, core position of the human heart. Human behaviour is so complex in its motivation, and there is often a connection between the heart and external behaviour which is very indirect and can even at times be inverse. In other words, we may act the opposite of what we really think. But God alone can know and judge these complexities. This is why we must not judge; because we cannot judge. We do not see the heart.

Asa and Jehoshaphat removed the high places, but in a sense they didn't (1 Kings 15:14 cp. 2 Chron. 14:5; 17:6 cp. 20:33). We read of how the land was purged of Baal, Sodomites etc.; but in a very short time, we read of another purge being necessary. Partial cleansing of idolatry amounted to no cleansing. Hezekiah, Manasseh and Josiah all made major purges within a space of 80 years. Jeremiah therefore condemns the Jews who lived at the time of Josiah's reformation for not knowing God in their hearts. Many a Western Christian has this very same tendency. We too must ask ourselves whether our spirituality is really just a product of the crowd mentality; as the crowd shouted one day "Hosanna to the Son of David", a few days later they wanted Jesus to be delivered rather than Barabbas, but within minutes they were persuaded to cry for the crucifixion of the Son of God. Church life, Bible studies, the breaking of bread... inevitably, there is a crowd mentality developed here. There is a feeling of devotion which wells up within us as a community, as an audience, as we sit there, as we stand in praise and worship together. But the real spirituality is far deeper than this. We must seriously ask whether our spirituality, our feelings of devotion, our true repentance, are only stimulated by these meetings?

As discussed on 1 Kings 15:3, Asa like David clearly sinned and seems to have suffered a decline in his faith as he got older, as the Chronicles record shows. But he was judged on the overall dominant desire of his heart, to the point that having a heart perfect with Yahweh seems to effectively mean 'He was wholeheartedly devoted to Yahweh and never worshipped other gods'. Despite all the ups and downs, of which his final faith in doctors rather than Yahweh was one of the down points (2 Kings 16:12), his overall deepest heart was for Yahweh. 

2Ch 15:18 He brought into God’s house the things that his father had dedicated, and that he himself had dedicated, silver, and gold, and vessels-
The reference is to what he captured from the Ethiopians and looted from the tribesmen around Gerar (2 Chron. 14:14,15); and to what his father Abijah had taken from Jeroboam (2 Chron. 13:16). We note that Abijah dedicated things to God, but despite that, "he walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him; and his heart was not perfect with Yahweh his God" (1 Kings 15:3). External generosity isn't anywhere near as valuable as a heart totally given over to God.

2Ch 15:19 There was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of the reign of Asa
1 Chron. 14:1 likewise notes that Asa's reign began with 10 years of peace. The land itself was at peace but that didn't mean Judah were not at war. For Baasha became king of Israel in the third year of Asa (1 Kings 15:28,33) and “there was war between Asa and Baasha all their days” (1 Kings 15:32). Then there was then this 20 years peace later on (2 Chron. 15:10, 19). The impression is given that Asa's [partial] faithfulness to Yahweh meant there was peace, and peace is a fruit of loyalty to Yahweh. See on 2 Chron. 16:1.