Read 2 Chronicles chapter 16 and 1 Kings 15:16-24
Verse one starts out with “In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah….”. I’ll be honest, the dates given here and in 1 Kings 15 don’t match. 1 Kings says Baasha died in the 27th year of Asa’s reign whereas 2 Chronicles 16 is taking place in the 36th year of Asa’s reign. I have read several commentaries and they all seem to have a different explanation for the time discrepancy. One says the author of 2 Chronicles is dating from the split of Israel and Judah, not when Asa’s reign began. If we use that reasoning, this upcoming conflict happened in Asa’s 16 year of reigning. We just learned that in his 15th year, God gave him peace from his enemies. Also, the rest of his reign was not dated using this method, therefore this explanation does not sit well with me. Another reason given was perhaps the author was using a dating method unknown to us. Or possibly this is just a typographical error. Before modern equipment, all copies had to be made by hand and man is quite imperfect. I don’t know the reason for the date discrepancy, I’ll chalk it up to another Bible mystery. I don’t get caught up in minor contradictions like these. The Bible is far too complex, beautiful, and meaningful to get in a tizzy over things I can’t explain. For the sake of trying to stay on a timeline, we’ll use the dates in 1 Kings 15 but we’ll use the text in 2 Chronicles 16 because it goes further into detail.
Back to what happened……
Ramah is in northern Judah, right on the Israel/Judah border. Baasha, king of Israel, started building it up so it was difficult for people to leave Judah. Just like we have roads to get us places, so did they, way back then. Since Judah and Israel split, there had been ‘turf wars’ at the border. Baasha decided to take it a step further and block the road from Judah. Asa felt he needed help stopping Baasha’s plan. He didn’t call on God (of course not, that would be too easy), he tried to figure it out himself. Instead of bringing sacrifices to God and asking for help, Asa robbed the treasury and sent it to Ben-Hadad, king of Aram who ruled in Damascus. At the time, Ben-Hadad was allied with Baasha but Asa sent all the gold and silver he could get his hands on to Ben-Hadad and asked him to break his treaty with Baasha. Knowing a good deal when he sees it, Ben-Hadad did just that and took the treasure. Ben-Hadad sent forces into Israel and they conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel Maim, and all the store cities in Naphtali. King Baasha heard what was happening in his country so he had no choice but to stop the building at Ramah and send all available troops to push Ben-Hadad out of Israel. King Asa was able to go in behind him and dismantle what Baasha had built and use all the supplies for Judah’s benefit, building up their own towns of Geba and Mizpah.
Why didn’t Asa ask God for help? I have no clue. Maybe complacency? Perhaps he was so comfortable with the peace and prosperity God gave Judah over the years that he just forgot to ask. Maybe he just assumed God would bless any plans he had? Some of this is sounding familiar on how I’ve operated. Ouch.
King Asa thinks his plan went off without a hitch. Only it didn’t. God sent Hanani to Asa with a message. Hanani is a prophet and seer (he sees visions from God). God was not happy Asa relied on himself to fix his problem with Baasha. God reminded him about his war with the Cushites, how they were delivered into his hands because he relied on God. Hanani also said “the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand.” This means God had plans to use Asa to bring down Ben-Hadad. Ben-Hadad and his army were obviously a force to be reckoned with since they so easily overtook those Israelite towns and the fact that Asa turned to him in the first place. Asa’s name should have gone down in history as the ruler who took down Ben-Hadad! But it didn’t because he thought he knew more than God. This is just another example of whatever plans we make for ourselves, God’s got even bigger and better plans. Our tiny brains can’t comprehend what the creator of the universe has in store for us! Every aspect of our lives must be turned over to Him. Ask for His guidance, ask that He make decisions clear. It may not make sense to you, but if you ask for peace when making the correct decision, He’ll give it to you. Asa didn’t ask for God’s help and now God sentences him to war for the rest of his days. Y’all, I want God’s help. I NEED God’s help. I only have one chance here on this giant blue marble to make a difference for His kingdom. I don’t want to waste it but be all in, all the time for whatever He needs here.
This message from God made Asa mad. Not just mad but enraged. In his rage, he put Hanani in prison and “brutally oppressed some of the people.” We’re not exactly sure which people, but the commentaries think it was Hanani’s friends, associates, and family.
Asa’s story comes to a pitiful end. The last couple years of his life find him afflicted with what is probably gout in his feet. Matthew Henry said it best in his commentary, “He had put the prophet in the stocks, and now God put him in the stocks; so his punishment answered his sin.” Asa never sought relief of his illness from God, only earthly physicians. After suffering for two years, he died in the 41st year of his reign. He was buried in Jerusalem and laid to rest with spices and perfumes.
Reading and studying King Asa’s story reminded me of something a highly respected pastor friend says frequently. He wants to finish well. Finish this life, finish his work on Earth, end well. 2 Timothy 4:7-8 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.” When Paul penned those words, he knew his time on Earth was coming to an end and that end was not going to be pleasant. But still he held fast to the Word, to all the promises. I don’t want to be like Asa, on fire in my youth but then grumpy and know it all in my old age. I want my Lord to say “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I’ve wasted enough years being mediocre, of failing when I thought I knew best. I want to finish well.