The Word Made Fresh
1Abijah died and was buried with his ancestors in the city of David. His son Asa was king after him, and when he began to reign the land had peace for ten years. 2Asa was faithful and true in the eyes of the LORD his God. 3He removed the foreign altars and hilltop shrines and columns and tore down the totem poles. 4He ordered the people of Judah to turn to the LORD, the God of their ancestors, and to keep the laws and commandments. 5He removed the shrines and incense altars from all the cities around Judah, and the kingdom was at peace under his rule.
6While there was peace he built walled cities in Judah, but he had no wars during those years for the LORD gave him rest. 7He told the people, “Let’s build these cities and put walls and towers around them with barred gates. The land still belongs to us because we have sought the LORD and the LORD has given us peace on every border.” So, they built the cities, and the land was prosperous.
8Asa had an army of three hundred thousand from the tribe of Judah and armed them with large shields and spears, and two hundred eighty thousand from Benjamin armed with bows and shields. All of them were well trained.
9Zerah the Ethiopian attacked with an army of a million men and three hundred chariots. They advanced as far as Mareshah 10where Asa met them. The lines of battle were drawn in the valley of Zephathiah at Mareshah. 11Asa cried out to the LORD his God, “LORD, you can defend against the mighty and the weak. Help us, LORD our God. We depend on you. In your name we have come out against this numerous foe. You are our God; don’t allow any mortal to defeat you!”
12The LORD routed the Ethiopians before Asa and Judah and they fled. 13Asa and his army chased them as far as Gerar. The Ethiopians were utterly defeated until none were left because the LORD enabled the army to overcome them. The army of Judah captured a huge quantity of spoils. 14They overran all the cities near Gerar for the fear of the LORD was upon them, and they took a huge amount of plunder. 15They defeated those who guarded the livestock and carried away a huge number of sheep and goats and camels. Then they returned to Jerusalem.
1-8: Asa assumes the crown upon the death of his father Abijah. The record of his reign will take up the next 3 chapters (in 1 Kings Asa’s reign is summarized in 15 verses – 1 Kings 15:9-24). He will rule Judah and Benjamin for 41 years. He is judged to have been a good king who returned Judah to the worship of the LORD. During the first 10 years there is peace in the region, and he devotes himself to building up the country’s defenses, walling in a number of cities and equipping an army of 580,000.
9-15: Zerah the Ethiopian (or Cushite) is mentioned nowhere else in the Bible. He brings a massive army into southern Judah and a battle takes shape at Mareshah, about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem. Asa puts his army’s fate in the hands of the LORD and the LORD grants them victory over the Ethiopians, routing and utterly destroying them. They pursue the Ethiopian army as far south as Gerar, one of the principal Philistine cities about 15 miles inland from Gaza. Asa’s forces ravage the whole region around Gerar, including non-combatants who are living peacefully in tents, and carry off great quantities of booty from the enemy and from the countryside.
Perhaps you have noticed that the chronicler attributes both successes and failures to the LORD. If they honor God, they prevail. If they neglect the LORD, they fail.