Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
3 Kings (1 Kings) 15:1
Reign of Abijam (cf., 2 Chron 13). - Abijam reigned three years, and his mother's name was Maacah, daughter (i.e., grand-daughter) of Absalom. We have the same in Ch2 11:20-21; but in Ch2 13:2 she is called Michajahu, daughter of Uriel of Gibeah. If אבישׁלום was without doubt Absalom, the well-known son of David, as we may infer from the fact that this name does not occur again in the Old Testament in connection with any other person, since Absalom had only one daughter, viz., Thamar (Sa2 14:27), who was fifty years old when Solomon died, Maacah must have been a daughter of this Thamar, who had married Uriel of Gibeah, and therefore a grand-daughter of Absalom. This is sustained by Josephus (Ant. viii. 10, 1). The form of the name מיכיהוּ is probably an error in copying for מעכה, as the name is also written in Ch2 11:20, Ch2 11:21, and not a different name, which Maacah assumed as queen, as Caspari supposes (Micha, p. 3, note 4).
3 Kings (1 Kings) 15:3
Abijam walked as king in the footsteps of his father. Although he made presents to the temple (Kg1 15:15), his heart was not שׁלם, wholly or undividedly given to the Lord, like the heart of David (cf., Kg1 11:4); but (כּי, after a previous negative) for David's sake Jehovah had left him a light in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him and to let Jerusalem stand, because (אשׁר) David had done right in the eyes of God, etc., i.e., so that it was only for David's sake that Jehovah did not reject him, and allowed the throne to pass to his son. For the fact itself compare Kg1 11:13, Kg1 11:36; and for the words, "except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite," see 2 Sam 11 and 12.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 15:6
"And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all his life;" i.e., the state of hostility which had already existed between Rehoboam and Jeroboam continued "all the days of his life," or so long as Abijam lived and reigned. If we take חיּיו כּל־ימי in this manner (not כּל־ימיהם, Kg1 15:16), the statement loses the strangeness which it has at first sight, and harmonizes very well with that in Kg1 15:7, that there was also war between Abijam and Jeroboam. Under Abijam it assumed the form of a serious war, in which Jeroboam sustained a great defeat (see 2 Chron 13:3-20). - The other notices concerning Abijam in Kg1 15:7, Kg1 15:8 are the same as in the case of Rehoboam in Kg1 14:29, Kg1 14:31.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 15:9
Reign of Asa (cf., 2 Chron 14-16). - As Asa ascended the throne in the twentieth year of the reign of Jeroboam, his father Abijam, who began to reign in the eighteenth year of Jeroboam (Kg1 15:1), can only have reigned two years and a few months, and not three full years.
Asa reigned forty-one years. "The name of his mother was Maacah, the daughter of Absalom." This notice, which agrees verbatim with Kg1 15:2, cannot mean that Abijam had his own mother for a wife; though Thenius finds this meaning in the passage, and then proceeds to build up conjectures concerning emendations of the text. We must rather explain it, as Ephr. Syr., the Rabbins, and others have done, as signifying that Maacah, the mother of Abijam, continued during Asa's reign to retain the post of queen-mother or הגּבירה, i.e., sultana valide, till Asa deposed her on account of her idolatry (Kg1 15:13), probably because Asa's own mother had died at an early age.
As ruler Asa walked in the ways of his pious ancestor David: he banished the male prostitutes out of the land, abolished all the abominations of idolatry, which his fathers (Abijam and Rehoboam) had introduced, deposed his grandmother Maacah from the rank of a queen, because she had made herself an idol for the Ashera, and had the idol hewn in pieces and burned in the valley of the Kidron. גּלּלים is a contemptuous epithet applied to idols (Lev 26:30); it does not mean stercorei, however, as the Rabbins affirm, but logs, from גּלל, to roll, or masses of stone, after the Chaldee גּלל (Ezr 5:8; Ezr 6:4), generally connected with שׁקּצים. It is so in Deu 29:16. מפלצת, formido, from פּלץ, terrere, timere, hence an idol as an object of fear, and not pudendum, a shameful image, as Movers (Phniz. i. p. 571), who follows the Rabbins, explains it, understanding thereby a Phallus as a symbol of the generative and fructifying power of nature. With regard to the character of this idol, nothing further can be determined than that it was of wood, and possibly a wooden column like the אשׁרים (see at Kg1 14:23). "But the high places departed not," i.e., were not abolished. By the בּמות we are not to understand, according to Kg1 15:12, altars of high places dedicated to idols, but unlawful altars to Jehovah. It is so in the other passages in which this formula recurs (Kg1 22:24; Kg2 12:4; Kg2 14:4; Kg2 15:4; and the parallel passages Ch2 15:17; Ch2 20:33). The apparent discrepancy between the last-mentioned passages and Ch2 14:2, Ch2 14:4, and Ch2 17:6, may be solved very simply on the supposition that the kings (Asa and Jehoshaphat) did indeed abolish the altars on the high places, but did not carry their reforms in the nation thoroughly out; and not by distinguishing between the bamoth dedicated to Jehovah and those dedicated to idols, as Thenius, Bertheau, and Caspari, with many of the earlier commentators, suppose. For although Ch2 14:2 is very favourable to this solution, since both בּמות and הגּכר dna בּמו מזבּחות are mentioned there, it does not accord with Ch2 17:6, where הבּמות cannot be merely idolatrous altars dedicated to the Canaanitish Baal, but unquestionably refer to the unlawful altars of Jehovah, or at any rate include them. Moreover, the next clause in the passage before us, "nevertheless Asa's heart was wholly given to the Lord," shows that the expression סרוּ לא סרוּ nois does not mean that the king allowed the unlawful Jehovah-bamoth to remain, but simply that, notwithstanding his fidelity to Jehovah, the bamoth did not depart, so that he was unable to carry the abolition of them thoroughly out.
He brought the sacred offerings of his father and his own sacred offerings into the house of Jehovah; probably the booty, in silver, gold, and vessels, which his father Abijam had gathered in the war with Jeroboam (Ch2 13:16-17), and he himself on the conquest of the Cushites (Ch2 14:12-13). The Keri וקדשׁי is a bad emendation of the correct reading in the Chethb קדשׁו, i.e., קדשׁו (קדשׁיו); for יהוה בּית is an accusative, and is to be connected with ויּבא.
The state of hostility between Judah and Israel continued during the reign of Asa; and Baasha the king of Israel advanced, etc. These statements are completed and elucidated by the Chronicles. After the great victory obtained by Abijam over Jeroboam, the kingdom of Judah enjoyed rest for ten years (Ch2 14:1). Asa employed this time in exterminating idolatry, fortifying different cities, and equipping his army (Ch2 14:1-7). Then the Cushite Zerah invaded the land of Judah with an innumerable army (in the eleventh year of Asa), but was totally defeated by the help of the Lord (Ch2 14:8-14); whereupon Asa, encouraged by the prophet Azariah, the son of Oded, proceeded with fresh zeal to the extermination of such traces of idolatry as still remained in the kingdom, then renewed the altar of burnt-offering in front of the temple-hall, and in the fifteenth year of his reign held, with the whole nation, a great festival of thanksgiving and rejoicing to the Lord at Jerusalem (Ch2 15:1-15). The next year, the sixteenth of his reign and the thirty-sixth from the division of the kingdom (Ch2 16:1), Baasha commenced hostilities, by advancing against Judah, taking possession of Ramah, the present er Rm (see at Jos 18:25), which was only two hours and a quarter from Jerusalem, and fortifying it. The occupation of Ramah is not expressly mentioned indeed, but it is implied in יהוּדה על ויּעל על יה, which affirms the hostile invasion of Judah. For Ramah, from its very situation in the heart of the tribe of Benjamin and the immediate neighbourhood of Jerusalem, can neither have been a border city nor have belonged to the kingdom of Israel. The intention of Baasha, therefore, in fortifying Ramah cannot have been merely to restrain his own subjects from passing over into the kingdom of Judah, but was evidently to cut off from the kingdom of Judah all free communication with the north. וגו תּת לבלתּי, "that they might not give one going out or one coming in to Asa;" i.e., to cut off from the others all connection with Asa, and at the same time to cut off from those with Asa all connection with this side. The main road from Jerusalem to the north passed by Ramah, so that by shutting up this road the line of communication of the kingdom of Judah was of necessity greatly disturbed. Moreover, the fortification of Ramah by Baasha presupposes the reconquest of the cities which Abijam had taken from the kingdom of Israel (Ch2 13:19), and which, according to Ch2 13:19, were still in the possession of Asa.
In order to avert the danger with which his kingdom was threatened, Asa endeavoured to induce the Syrian king, Benhadad of Damascus, to break the treaty which he had concluded with Baasha and to become his ally, by sending him such treasures as were left in the temple and palace.
(Note: Asa had sought help from the Lord and obtained it, when the powerful army of the Cushites invaded the land; but when an invasion of the Israelites took place, he sought help from the Syrians. This alteration in his conduct may probably be explained in part from the fact, that notwithstanding the victory, his army had been considerably weakened by the battle which he fought with the Cushites (Ch2 14:9), although this by no means justified his want of confidence in the power of the Lord, and still less his harsh and unjust treatment of the prophet Hanani, whom he caused to be put in the house of the stocks on account of his condemnation of the confidence which he placed in the Syrians instead of Jehovah (Ch2 16:7-10).)
הגּותרים may be explained from the face that the temple and palace treasures had been plundered by Shishak in the reign of Rehoboam (Kg1 14:26); and therefore what Asa had replaced in the temple treasury (Kg1 15:15), and had collected together for his palace, was only a remnant in comparison with the former state of these treasures. The name בּן־הדד, i.e., son of Hadad, the sun-god (according to Macrobius, i. 23; cf., Movers, Phniz. i. p. 196), was borne by three kings of Damascus: the one here named, his son in the time of Ahab (Kg1 20:1, Kg1 20:34), and the son of Hazael (Kg2 13:24). The first was a son of Tabrimmon and grandson of Hezyon. According to Kg1 15:19, his father Tabrimmon (good is Rimmon; see at Kg2 5:18) had also been king, and was the contemporary of Abijam. But that his grandfather Hezyon was also king, and the same person as the Rezon mentioned in Kg1 11:23, cannot be shown to be even probable, since there is no ground for the assumption that Hezyon also bore the name Rezon, and is called by the latter name here and by the former in Kg1 11:23.
Benhadad consented to Asa's request, and directed his captains to advance into the kingdom of Israel: they took several cities in the north of the land, whereby Baasha was compelled to give up fortifying Ramah and withdraw to Thirza. Ijon (עיּון) is to be sought for in all probability in Tell Dibbin, on the eastern border of Merj Ayun; and in Ajun, although Ajun is written with Aleph, the name Ijon is probably preserved, since the situation of this Tell seems thoroughly adapted for a fortress on the northern border of Israel (vid., Robinson, Bibl. Res. p. 375, and Van de Velde, Mem. p. 322). Dan is the present Tell el Kadi; see at Jos 19:47. Abel-Beth-Maachah, the present Abil el Kamh, to the north-west of Lake Huleh (see at Sa2 20:14). "All Chinneroth" is the district of Chinnereth, the tract of land on the western shore of the Lake of Gennesareth (see at Jos 19:35). כּל־ארץ נ על, together with all the land of Naphtali (for this meaning of על fo gninaem compare the Comm. on Gen 32:12). The cities named were the principal fortresses of the land of Naphtali, with which the whole of the country round was also smitten, i.e., laid waste.
ויּשׁב, and remained at Thirza, his place of residence (see at Kg1 14:17).
Asa thereupon summoned all Judah נקי אין, nemine immuni, i.e., excepto, no one being free (cf., Ewald, 286, a.), and had the stones and the wood carried away from Ramah, and Geba and Mizpah in Benjamin built, i.e., fortified, with them. Geba must not be confounded with Gibeah of Benjamin or Saul, but is the present Jeba, three-quarters of an hour to the north-east of Ramah (see at Jos 18:24). Mizpah, the present Nebi Samwil, about three-quarters of a geographical mile to the south-west of Ramah (see at Jos 18:26).
Of the other acts of Asa, the building of cities refers to the building of fortifications mentioned in Ch2 14:5-6. The disease in his feet in the time of his old age commenced, according to Ch2 16:12, in the thirty-ninth year of his reign; and he sought help from the physicians, but not from the Lord; from which we may see, that the longer he lived the more he turned his heart away from the Lord (compare Ch2 16:10).
3 Kings (1 Kings) 15:25
The Reign of Nadab lasted not quite two years, as he ascended the throne in the second year of Asa, and was slain in his third year.
He walked in the ways of his father (Jeroboam) and in his sin, i.e., in the calf-worship introduced by Jeroboam (Kg1 12:28). When Nadab in the second year of his reign besieged Gibbethon, which the Philistines and occupied, Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house, I the family or tribe, of Issachar, conspired against him and slew him, and after he became king exterminated the whole house of Jeroboam, without leaving a single soul, whereby the prediction of the prophet Ahijah (Kg1 14:10.) was fulfilled. Gibbethon, which was allotted to the Danites (Jos 19:44), has not yet been discovered. It probably stood close to the Philistian border, and was taken by the Philistines, from whom the Israelites attempted to wrest it by siege under both Nadab and Baasha (Kg1 16:16), though apparently without success. לא השׁאיר כּל־נשׁמה as in Jos 11:14 (see the Comm. on Deu 20:16).
Kg1 15:32 is simply a repetition of Kg1 15:16; and the remark concerning Baasha's attitude towards Asa of Judah immediately after his entrance upon the government precedes the account of his reign, for the purpose of indicating at the very outset, that the overthrow of the dynasty of Jeroboam and the rise of a new dynasty did not alter the hostile relation between the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 15:33
The Reign of Baasha is described very briefly according to its duration (two years) and its spirit, namely, the attitude of Baasha towards the Lord (Kg1 15:34); there then follow in Kg1 16:1-4 the words of the prophet Jehu, the son of Hanani (Ch2 16:7), concerning the extermination of the family of Baasha; and lastly, in Kg1 16:5-7, his death is related with the standing allusion to the annals of the kings. The words of Jehu concerning Baasha (Kg1 16:1-4) coincide exactly mutatis mutandis with the words of Ahijah concerning Jeroboam.
(Note: "There was something very strange in the perversity and stolidity of the kings of Israel, that when they saw that the families of preceding kings were evidently overthrown by the command of God on account of the worship of the calves, and they themselves had overturned them, they nevertheless worshipped the same calves, and placed them before the people for them to worship, that they might not return to the temple and to Asa, king of Jerusalem; though prophets denounced it and threatened their destruction. Truly the devil and the ambition of reigning blinded them and deprived them of their senses. Hence it came to pass, through the just judgment of God, that they all were executioners of one another in turn: Baasha was the executioner of the sons of Jeroboam; Zambri was the executioner of the sons of Baasha; and the executioner of Zambri was Omri." - _C. a Lapide.)
The expression "exalted thee out of the dust," instead of "from among the people" (Kg1 14:7), leads to the conjecture that Baasha had risen to be king from a very low position. גּבוּרתו (his might) in Kg1 16:5 refers, as in the case of Asa (Kg1 15:23), less to brave warlike deeds, than generally to the manifestation of strength and energy in his government.