2 CHRONICLES 14-16: ASA
When reading a narrative a reader must look for clues, themes, etc that foreshadow what will happen at the end of the story. After reading the whole story, those clues and themes make greater sense, and are read in light of the rest of the story. When reading stories like Romeo and Juliet, The Odyssey, or The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, etc we do not dissect the earlier episodes without putting them in the context of the entire story. It would be like analyzing act two of Romeo and Juliet without seeing the clues and themes that foreshadow the tragic movement of the plot. The same must be done when reading the OT, because there are “clues” and themes that point forward to fulfillment in Christ. This is true in the life of King Asa
The story of Asa is found in 2 Chronicles 14-16. Asa begins as a righteous king who does “good and right in the eyes of the Lord (14:2).” The land is quiet and at rest under his kingship, and even when Zerah the Ethiopian marches against Asa with a million man army, he is defeated. Asa is granted a miraculous victory from God and rest because he trusts in the Lord and cries out to Him for deliverance (14:11-12). This is a fulfillment of Yahweh’s promises to David (2 Sam 7). David’s sons are to be warrior-kings who fight for His people, in dependence upon God. God promises to cut off David’s enemies and give rest to the people and the land. David’s Son will be a Son of God (i.e. Adam, ruling as God’s representative). There is conditionality. When David’s sons are disobedient, they will be chastened with the rod. When they are faithful, there will be blessings of power, peace, etc. Asa’s humble dependence upon Yahweh as a faithful son is already bringing those blessings.
A prophet, Azariah, comes to Asa and preaches to him. He tells Asa that “The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” The King is the representative head for the people. When the kings are faithful the nation is blessed. When the kings are unfaithful the nation is cursed (i.e. sins of Manasseh eventually responsible for the exile). The head-body relationship of King Jesus with his church is not something that just shows up in the NT. The King embodies the nation as its head. So, there is ALWAYS a need in Israel for a king who obeys God wholly (i.e. who seeks Yahweh and does not forsake Him) so as to bring victory and peace for the people. Asa applies Azariah’s preaching and brings religious reform to Judah and removes idolatry. He even removes the Queen Mother. Leithart writes, “Asa is a true disciple, who hates his mother to follow Yahweh (Lk 14:26; Leithart, 1 & 2 Kings, pg. 116).” His reform is bringing a reunification of Israel and Judah (e.g. Ezek. 37), because some from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon see that “the Lord his God [is] with him (15:9).”
Yet, the story takes a bad turn, when Asa ends up relying on man, not God. King Baasha of Israel comes up against Judah (with a much smaller army than Zerah the Ethiopian). Asa makes a treaty with Syria, giving the treasures of the Temple to form an alliance with Ben-Hadad. Syria defeats Baasha and Israel. It is not stated why Asa relies on Syria rather than God. Two possibilities as I see it: 1) He thought he could handle a smaller army with his own ingenuity rather than God (pride) or 2) He was afraid.
Hanani, the seer, confronts and condemns Asa for his action. God’s judgment on Asa is that from now on war will characterize his kingdom rather than peace (i.e. cursing and chastening of 2 Sam 7). Asa relied on God against the Ethiopians, but in this matter he relied on the King of Syria. How could he do such a thing? “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 (16:9).” Asa is no longer a humble Son of God. He is depending upon man (the arm of the flesh). Asa does not receive the rebuke. He throws Hanani in prison.
Asa ends up getting a foot disease, and the Bible says that “even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians (16:12).” A sick king symbolizes a sick nation. All the stability of his earlier reign is gone. Asa actually ends up having his own tomb constructed for himself, and he is buried there after his death in Jerusalem.
Instead of reading this episode merely as an historical portrait of a Davidic King, we should read it as one episode in the big storyline of the Bible. This storyline is dominated with the theme (clues) of the Son of God/David/King of Israel/Messiah. Asa is a messiah, an anointed king. Israel is looking for and needs a faithful Son of David to rise up, who will be loyal to Yahweh, relying on Him only, who will defeat their enemies and bring peace. Yahweh will answer His Son in times of trouble, if the Son will only rely on Him. The problem is that David’s sons are loyal and humble and dependent only for a little while. They all fall short, and the people’s hopes for a warrior-king lie dead in Jerusalem tombs.
There is a promise that a man will come along who will crush this power of death (Gen 3:15). He will be a Son of David (2 Sam 7), who sits on an eternal throne. Yet, every single king in the OT ends up dead and rotting in their own tombs because the wages of sin is death. Asa starts off so well with victory and peace, relying on God. Yet, he ends up digging his own tomb, where he lies dead, embalmed with spices (16:14).
In the big storyline we see the familiar refrain of a Son of David buried in Jerusalem, and yet you come to the NT and there is a Son of David who does not need his own tomb. He borrows one for three days only. And when the ladies come to embalm him with spices on Sunday morning, as the Jews had done with every other King who died before, all they found were grave clothes because he was not there. Why? Because eyes of the Lord had run to and fro over the whole earth seeking to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart was loyal to Him, and those eyes rested on one man, Jesus Christ. He had every opportunity to rely on the arm of the flesh as Asa had (Wilderness, Garden of Gethsemane, Cross, etc.), but he relied on God. He did not forsake the Lord; he was found by the Lord. God lifted up his dependent child, out of the dust of death, and seated him on a throne where all of his enemies are being put under his feet. He is the warrior king defeating his enemies and bringing quiet to the land (Heb. 2). As this king’s great, great, great, great……….Grandfather had written, “Now I know that the LORD saves His Messiah (anointed); He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They have bowed down and fallen; But we have risen and stand upright (Psa 20:6-8).”