("healing".) Son of Abijah; third king of Judah. Faithful to Jehovah; determined in rooting out idolatry and its attendant licentiousness (1 Kings 15:9-15; 1 Kings 15:2 Chronicles 14; 15; 16). He built fenced cities, the Lord giving him and his land rest and prosperity. No respecter of persons: so much so that he deposed Maachah, the queenmother (wife of Rehoboam and Asa's grandmother), because she made an idol (Hebrew "horror," some abominable and impure object of worship) in a grove; and he cut her idol down, stamped, and burnt it at the brook Kedron, as Moses had done to the golden calf (Exodus 32:20). For "in a grove," translate" to Asherah" (Hebrew haasheerah), the Phoenician Venus (1 Kings 15:14; 2 Chronicles 15:16). The high places to idols he took away (2 Chronicles 14:3). But those to Jehovah, being an irregularity of a secondary kind, he did not take away (2 Chronicles 15:17; 1 Kings 15:14).
Moreover, the gifts dedicated by his father Abijah, in the earlier and better part of his reign, silver, gold, and vessels, but afterward appropriated by the pagan priests for idolatry, he brought into the house of God (2 Chronicles 15:18). Encouraged by the prophecy of Azariah, the son of Oded, "the Lord is with you while ye be with Him," he renewed the altar of Jehovah before the porch, after its desecration. The first ten years of his reign were occupied peacefully in such religious reforms. But in the eleventh year danger of war seems to have been anticipated, for "the land," it is said, "was quiet ten years" only (2 Chronicles 14:1-2; 2 Chronicles 14:8-15). Then follows Asa's preparation of an army with targets and spears, 300,000 of Judah and 280,000 of Benjamin, bearing shields and drawing bows. In the 14th year the threatened danger came. Zerah, the Cushite or Ethiopian, invaded Judah at Mareshah with 1,000,000 men and 300 chariots. (See ZERAH.)
The valley of Zephathah, at Mareshah (Marisse, S.W. of Judah, near the later Eleutheropolis), was the battle field. Like Judah, in his father Abijah's time, in the hour of imminent peril (2 Chronicles 13:14-15), Asa cried unto Jehovah his God: "Lord, it is nothing with Thee to help, whether with many or with them that have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on Thee. ... Let not man prevail against Thee" (compare 1 Samuel 14:6). So Jehovah smote the Ethiopians before Asa (compare Isaiah 59:19.) At this very time a king called Azerch Amen, we know from recently deciphered monuments, reigned in Ethiopia (G. Rawlinson). Ewald and Hincks identify him with Osorkon I., king of Egypt, second of the 22nd dynasty. Zerah's army is composed of much the same elements (2 Chronicles 16:8; 2 Chronicles 12:3), Ethiopians and Lubims (Libyans), as Shishak's (the Sukkiim being peculiar to the latter); mercenaries, we know, were much employed in the 22nd dynasty. Others fix on Osorkon II., son in law of his predecessor, and reigning in right of his wife. He was probably, if this view be true, an Ethiopian, ruling over both Egypt and Ethiopia.
Asa, having refused to pay the tribute imposed by Shishak on Rehoboam, was invaded. Asa on his return from the victory gathered all Judah and Benjamin and strangers out of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon, who joined his kingdom, seeing the Lord was with him, in the 15th year of his reign. At this feast of thanksgiving all "entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul." "The Lord gave them rest round about" for a time. But Baasha, king of Israel, jealous of the defections from his own kingdom and the growing prosperity of Judah, fortified Ramah on the road N. of Jerusalem, "that he might not suffer any to go out or come in to Asa" (compare 1 Kings 12:27; 1 Kings 15:17.) This is said (in 2 Chronicles 16:1; 2 Chronicles 16:11) to be in the 36th year of Asa's reign; but Baasha was at that time long dead (1 Kings 15:33), therefore this 36th year must be calculated from the separation of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. This calculation was probably drawn from "the book of the kings of Judah and Israel."
Baasha's act was probably in the 17th year of Asa's reign. Asa, instead of trusting in Jehovah, bought the help of the pagan world power, Benhadad I. king of Damascus, against Israel, with the treasures left in the temple and the palace from the tribute for Egypt, which he had ceased to pay. Benhadad smote Ijon, Dan, and Abelmaim, and the store cities of Naphtali. So Baasha had to cease fortifying Ramah, and Asa used the materials to fortify Geba (the hill) and Mizpeh (the watchtower) in Benjamin to guard against future invasion. The large cistern or pit made by Asa to obviate scarcity of water in the event of a siege by Baasha is mentioned long after in Jeremiah 41:7; Jeremiah 41:9. Hanani, the seer, reproved Asa, telling him that if he had not relied on the king of Syria, instead of on Jehovah, he should have had him as a vassal instead of being himself subordinate to Syria. Carnal policy brings on the very evil which it shuns, and which would have been completely averted by a policy of faith. So far from escaping wars by his unbelieving course, he must henceforth have them (1 Kings 15:32; 2 Chronicles 16:7-9).
Asa, instead of being humbled, was wroth, and put the seer in prison and oppressed some of the people, probably sympathizers with the man of God. It is true he succeeded in capturing cities of Ephraim (2 Chronicles 17:2), but his end was under a spiritual cloud. Diseased in his feet, after a reign of 39 years, "he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians," i.e., his trust was less in Jehovah than in human remedies (compare Jeremiah 17:5). That in the main, nevertheless, he served the Lord truly, appears from 1 Kings 15:14; "Asa's heart was perfect with the Lord (sincere) all his days." The funeral, with its "sweet odorous and divers spices" and "very great burning for him," marks how highly he was esteemed. His whole reign lasted 41 years, 956 to 915 B.C. His later blemishes warn even believers; "let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (compare Galatians 5:7).