(Aʹsa) [perhaps, physician; or contraction for Jehovah has healed].
1. The third king of Judah following the division of the nation into two kingdoms. Asa was the son of Abijam and grandson of Rehoboam. Since his father’s three-year rule began in the eighteenth year (980 B.C.E.) of the reign of Jeroboam, king of Israel, and Asa’s began in the twentieth year of Jeroboam, apparently Abijam died before completing his third full year and Asa completed that year as an accession period, followed by his forty-one-year rule (977-936 B.C.E.).—1 Ki. 15:1, 2, 9, 10.
ASA’S ZEAL FOR PURE WORSHIP
The twenty years since the national split had steeped Judah and Benjamin in apostasy. Asa demonstrated a zeal for pure worship “like David his forefather,” and courageously set about to clean the male temple prostitutes and the idols out of the land. He removed his grandmother, Maacah, from her position as a sort of ‘first lady’ of the land because of her making a “horrible idol” to the sacred pole or Asherah, and he pulverized the religious idol.—1 Ki. 15:11-13.
The record at 2 Chronicles 14:2-5 states that Asa “removed the foreign altars and the high places and broke up the sacred pillars and cut down the sacred poles.” However, 2 Chronicles 15:17 and 1 Kings 15:14 say that ‘the high places he did not remove.’ It therefore appears that the high places referred to in the earlier Chronicles account were those of the adopted pagan worship that infected Judah, while the Kings account refers to high places at which the people engaged in worship of Jehovah. Even after the setting up of the tabernacle and the later establishment of the temple, occasional sacrificing was done to Jehovah on high places, which was acceptable to him under special circumstances, as in the cases of Samuel, David and Elijah. (1 Sam. 9:11-19; 1 Chron. 21:26-30; 1 Ki. 18:30-39) Nevertheless, the regular approved place for sacrifice was that authorized by Jehovah. (Num. 33:52; Deut. 12:2-14; Josh. 22:29) Improper modes of high-place worship were also carried on in Jehovah’s name (compare Exodus 32:5), and such may have continued in spite of the removal of the pagan high places, perhaps because the king did not pursue their elimination with the same vigor as the removal of the pagan sites. Or it is possible that Asa did effect a complete removal of all high places but that such cropped up again in due time and were not removed at the time of the conclusion of his reign, allowing for their being smashed by his successor Jehoshaphat.
Asa’s zeal for right worship brought blessings of peace from Jehovah during the first ten years of his reign. (2 Chron. 14:1, 6) Later Judah was subjected to attack by a force of a million warriors under Zerah the Ethiopian. Though greatly outnumbered, Asa went out to meet the invasion at Mareshah to the SW of Jerusalem in the Judean lowlands. His fervent prayer before the battle was joined acknowledged God’s power to deliver and pleaded for Jehovah’s help, saying: “Upon you we do lean, and in your name we have come against this crowd. O Jehovah, you are our God. Do not let mortal man retain strength against you.” Total victory resulted.—2 Chron. 14:8-15.
Asa is thereafter met by the prophet Azariah, who reminds him that “Jehovah is with you as long as you prove to be with him,” and that “if you leave him he will leave you.” He calls to mind the internecine strife the nation experienced when alienated from Jehovah and urges Asa to continue his activity courageously on behalf of pure worship. (2 Chron. 15:1-7) Asa’s ready response and strengthening of the nation in true service to Jehovah results in a great number of persons from the northern kingdom abandoning that region to join in a grand assembly at Jerusalem in Asa’s fifteenth year of rule (963 B.C.E.), at which assembly a covenant is made declaring their determination to seek Jehovah and providing the death penalty for those not keeping this covenant.—2 Chron. 15:8-15.
INTRIGUE AND WARFARE AGAINST BAASHA
King Bassha of Israel set out to block the path of any inclining toward a return to Judah by fortifying the frontier city of Ramah, located on the main road to Jerusalem and only a short distance N of that city. Asa, by some process of human reasoning or due to heeding bad counsel, now failed to rely solely on Jehovah and resorted to diplomacy and conspiratorial maneuvering to remove this threat. He took the temple treasures and those from the royal house and sent them as a bribe to King Ben-hadad of Syria to induce him to divert Baasha’s attention through an attack on Israel’s northern frontier. Ben-hadad accepted, and his raid on Israelite cities in the N disrupted Baasha’s building work and brought a withdrawal of his forces from Ramah. Asa now conscripted all the available manpower from the entire kingdom of Judah and carried off all Baasha’s supplies of building materials, using them to build up the cities of Geba and Mizpah.—1 Ki. 15:16-22; 2 Chron. 16:1-6.
For this, Asa was confronted by Hanani the seer, who pointed out Asa’s inconsistency in not leaning upon the God who had delivered him from the vast Ethiopian force, reminding Asa that “as regards Jehovah, his eyes are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him.” For his foolishness, Asa would now face continued warfare. Resenting correction, Asa unjustly jailed Hanani and showed himself oppressive others of the people.—2 Chron. 16:7-11.
The statement at 2 Chronicles 16:1 that Baasha came up against Judah “in the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa” has caused some question, since Baash’s rule, beginning in the third year of Asa and lasting only twenty-four years, had terminated ten years prior to Asa’s thirty-sixth year of rule. (1 Ki. 15:33) While some suggest a scribal error and believe the reference is to the sixteenth or the twenty-sixth year of Asa’s reign, the assumption of such error is not required to harmonize the account. Jewish commentators quote the Seder Olam, which suggests that the thirty-sixth year was reckoned from the existence of the separate kingdom of Judah (997 B.C.E.) and corresponded to the sixteenth year of Asa (Rehoboam ruling seventeen years, Abijah three years and Asa now in his sixteenth year). (Soncino Books of the Bible, footnote on 2 Chronicles 16:1) This was also the view of Archbishop Ussher. So, too, the apparent difference between the statement at 2 Chronicles 15:19 to the effect that, as for “war, it did not occur down to the thirty-fifth [actually, the fifteenth] year of Asa’s reign,” and the statement at 1 Kings 15:16 to the effect that “warfare itself took place between Asa and Baasha the king of Israel all their days,” may be explained in that once conflicts began between the two kings they were thereafter continuous, even as Hanani had foretold.—2 Chron. 16:9.
ILLNESS AND DEATH
Asa’s last three years brought suffering due to an illness of the feet (perhaps gout), and he unwisely sought physical healing over spiritual healing. At his death he was given an honorable burial in his personally prepared tomb in the city of David.—1 Ki. 15:23, 24; 2 Chron. 16:12-14.
Despite the unwisdom he displayed and the lack of spiritual insight he manifested at times, Asa’s good qualities and freedom from apostasy evidently outweighed his errors, and he is viewed as one of the six faithful kings of the line of Judah. (2 Chron. 15:17) The forty-one-year reign of Asa touched or covered the reigns of eight kings of Israel: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Tibni (who ruled a segment of Israel in opposition to Omri) and Ahab. (1 Ki. 15:9, 25, 33; 16:8, 15, 16, 21, 23, 29) Upon Asa’s death his son Jehoshaphat became king.—1 Ki. 15:24.
2. A son of the Levite Elkanah and the father of Berechiah, who is listed as dwelling in the “settlements of the Netophathites” following the return from the Babylonian exile.—1 Chron. 9:16.