Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Asa's Reign - 2 Chronicles 14-16
In 1 Kings 15:9-24 it is merely recorded of Asa, that he reigned forty-one years, did that which was right as David did, removed from the land all the idols which his fathers had made, and, although the high places were not removed, was devoted to the Lord during his whole life, and laid up in the temple treasury all that had been consecrated by his father and himself. Then it is related that when Baasha marched against him, and began to fortify Ramah, he induced the Syrian king Benhadad, by sending to him the treasures of the temple and of his palace, to break faith with Baasha, and to make an inroad upon and smite the northern portion of the land; that Baasha was thereby compelled to abandon the building of Ramah, and to fall back to Tirzah, and that thereupon Asa caused the fortifications of Ramah to be pulled down, and the cities Geba and Benjamin and Mizpah to be fortified with the materials; and, finally, it is recorded that Asa in his old age became diseased in his feet, and died. The Chronicle also characterizes Asa as a pious king, who did that which was right, and removed the high places and sun-pillars in the land; but gives, as to other matters, a much more detailed account of his reign of forty-one years. It states that in the first years, as the land had rest, he built fortified cities in Judah, and had an army fit for war (Ch2 14:1-7); that thereupon he marched against the Cushite Zerah, who was then advancing upon Judah with an innumerable host, prayed for help to the Lord, who then smote the Cushites, so that they fled; and that Asa pursued them to Gerar, and returned with great booty (Ch2 14:8-14). Then we learn that the prophet Azariah, the son of Oded, came to meet him, who, pointing to the victory which the Lord had granted them, called upon the king and the people to remain stedfast in their fidelity to the Lord; that Asa thereupon took courage, extirpated all the still remaining idolatrous abominations from the land, and in the fifteenth year of his reign held with the people a great sacrificial feast in Jerusalem, renewed the covenant with the Lord, crushed out all the remains of former idolatry, although the high places were not destroyed, and also deposited in the temple treasury all that had been consecrated by his father and himself (2 Chron 15). Thereafter Baasha's inroad upon Judah and the alliance with Ben-hadad of Syria are narrated (Ch2 16:1-6), as in the book of Kings; but it is also added that the prophet Hanani censured his seeking help from the king of Syria, and was thereupon put into the prison-house by Asa (Ch2 16:7-10); and then we have an account of the end of his reign, in which several additions to the account in 1 Kings are communicated (Ch2 16:11-14).
2 Chronicles 14:1
Asa's efforts for the abolition of idolatry and the establishment of the kingdom. - Ch2 14:1-4. The good and right in God's eyes which Asa did is further defined in Ch2 14:2-4. He abolished all the objects of the idolatrous worship. The "altars of the strangers" are altars consecrated to foreign gods; from them the בּמות, high places, are distinguished-these latter being illegal places of sacrifice connected with the worship of Jahve (see on Kg1 15:14). The מצּבוה are the statues or monumental columns consecrated to Baal, and אשׁרים the wooden idols, tree-trunks, or trees, which were consecrated to Astarte (see on Kg1 14:23 and Deu 16:21). Asa at the same time commanded the people to worship Jahve, the God of the fathers, and to follow the law.
He removed from all the cities of Judah the altars of the high places, and the חמּנים, sun-pillars, pillars or statues consecrated to Baal as sun-god, which were erected near or upon the altars of Baal (Ch2 34:4; see on Lev 26:30). In consequence of this the kingdom had rest לפניו, before him, i.e., under his oversight (cf. Num 8:22). This ten-years' quiet (Ch2 14:1) which God granted him, Asa employed in building fortresses in Judah (Ch2 14:5). "We will build these cities, and surround them with walls and towers, gates and bolts." It is not said what the cities were, but they were at any rate others than Geba and Mizpah, which he caused to be built after the war with Baasha (Ch2 16:6). "The land is still before us," i.e., open, free from enemies, so that we may freely move about, and build therein according to our pleasure. For the phraseology, cf. Gen 13:9. The repetition of דּרשׁנוּ, Ch2 14:6, is impassioned speech. "They built and had success;" they built with effect, without meeting with any hindrances.
Asa had also a well-equipped, well-armed army. The men of Judah were armed with a large shield and lance (cf. Ch1 12:24), the Benjamites with a small shield and bow (cf. Ch1 8:40). The numbers are great; of Judah 300,000, of Benjamin 280,000 men. Since in these numbers the whole population capable of bearing arms is included, 300,000 men does not appear too large for Judah, but 280,000 is a very large number for Benjamin, and is founded probably on an overestimate.
2 Chronicles 14:8
The victory over the Cushite Zerah. - Ch2 14:8. "And there went forth against them Zerah." אליהם for עליהם refers to Asa's warriors mentioned in Ch2 14:7. The number of the men in Judah capable of bearing arms is mentioned only to show that Asa set his hope of victory over the innumerable host of the Cushites not on the strength of his army, but on the all-powerful help of the Lord (Ch2 14:10). The Cushite זרח is usually identified with the second king of the 22nd (Bubastitic) dynasty, Osorchon I; while Brugsch, hist. de l'Eg. i. p. 298, on the contrary, has raised objections, and holds Zerah to be an Ethiopian and not an Egyptian prince, who in the reign of Takeloth I, about 944 b.c., probably marched through Egypt as a conqueror (cf. G. Rsch in Herz.'s Realenc. xviii. S. 460). The statement as to Zerah's army, that it numbered 1,000,000 warriors and 300 war-chariots, rests upon a rough estimate, in which 1000 times 1000 expresses the idea of the greatest possible number. The Cushites pressed forward to Mareshah, i.e., Marissa, between Hebron and Ashdod (see on Ch2 11:8).
Thither Asa marched to meet them, and drew up his army in battle array in the valley Zephathah, near Mareshah. The valley Zephathah is not, as Robins., Pal. sub voce, thinks, to be identified with Tel es Safieh, but must lie nearer Mareshah, to the west or north-west of Marsch.
Then he called upon the Lord his God for help. וגו עמּך אין we translate, with Berth., "None is with Thee (on עמּך, cf. Ch2 20:6; Psa 73:25) to help between a mighty one and a weak," i.e., no other than Thou can help in an unequal battle, i.e., help the weaker side; while the Vulg., on the contrary, after the analogy of Sa1 14:6, translates, "non est apud te ulla distantia, utrum in paucis auxilieris an in pluribus;" and the older commentators (Schmidt, Ramb.) give the meaning thus: "perinde est tibi potentiori vel imbecilliori opem ferre." But in Sa1 14:16 the wording is different, so that that passage cannot be a standard for us here. "In Thy name (i.e., trusting in Thy help) are we come against this multitude" (not "have we fallen upon this multitude"). וגו יעצר אל, "Let not a mortal retain strength with Thee" (עצר = כּח עצר, Ch2 13:20; Ch1 29:14), i.e., let not weak men accomplish anything with Thee, show Thy power or omnipotence over weak men.
God heard this prayer. Jahve drove the Cushites into flight before Asa, scil. by His mighty help.
Asa, with his people, pursued to Gerar, the old ancient Philistine city, whose ruins Rowlands has discovered in the Khirbet el Gerar, in the Wady Jorf el Gerar (the torrent of Gerar), three leagues south-south-east of Gaza (see on Gen 20:1). "And there fell of the Cushites, so that to them was not revival," i.e., so many that they could not make a stand and again collect themselves, ut eis vivificatio i. e. copias restaurandi ratio non esset, as older commentators, in Annott. uberior. ad h. l., have already rightly interpreted it. The words are expressions for complete defeat. Berth. translates incorrectly: "until to them was nothing living;" for לאין does not stand for לאין עד, but ל serves to subordinate the clause, "so that no one," where in the older language אין alone would have been sufficient, as in Ch2 20:25; Ch1 22:4, cf. Ew. 315, c; and מחיה denotes, not "a living thing," but only "preservation of life, vivification, revival, maintenance." For they were broken before Jahve and before His host. מחנהוּ, i.e., Asa's army is called Jahve's, because Jahve fought in and with it against the enemy. There is no reason to suppose, with some older commentators, that there is any reference to an angelic host or heavenly camp (Gen 32:2.). And they (Asa and his people) brought back very much booty.
"They smote all the cities round about Gerar," which, as we must conclude from this, had made common cause with the Cushites, being inhabited by Philistines; for the fear of Jahve had fallen upon them. יהוה פּחד יהוה . here, and in Ch2 17:10; Ch2 20:29, as in Sa1 11:7, the fear of the omnipotence displayed by Jahve in the annihilation of the innumerable hostile army. In these cities Judah found much booty.
They also smote the tents of the herds of the wandering tribes of that district, and carried away many sheep and camels as booty.