Fairview Baptist Church
2040 Main Street WW - Ashland, Kentucky 41102
"Where Everybody Is Somebody and Jesus is Lord"

 

Sunday School Archives
The lessons below are for the current month

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week5

To send an email regarding the Lesson Study Guide follow the link below:

Email Link: baileysadlerlesson@hotmail.com


This Sunday School Study Guide is provided free of cost for personal study and as an aid for Sunday School teachers.  It contains copyright material and may not be reproduced in any form for sale, without permission from the copyright holders.

 


 

 

 

Bailey Sadler Class

SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – Summer 2019

 

Study Theme:  Living a Godly Life in an Ungodly World

What This Lesson Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

The focus for this week’s study is on our need to continually ask God to be our guide in this stage of our lives.

   

July 21

Pursue Godliness

 

July 28

Depend on God

 

Aug. 4

Act with Courage

 

Aug. 11

Worship Continually

X

Aug. 18

Remember God’s Faithfulness

 

Aug. 25

Leave a Legacy

 

 

 

 

LIFE IMPACT:

The God who guided you in the past will guide you now and in the future.

FOCAL PASSAGE:

2 Chronicles 16:1-13

LESSON OUTLINE:

I.    

II.

III.

Don’t depend on others for what you should depend on God to do (2 Chron. 16:1-6)

Don’t forget what God has done & can do (2 Chron. 16:7-9)

Don’t let pride or self-centeredness dictate your behavior (2 Chron. 16:10-13)

THE SETTING:  

King Asa, the third king of Judah, had a track record of success in leading God’s people. He lived a life of integrity, and that allowed him to challenge the religious idols of his day (2 Chron. 14:2-7). He led the people competently in battle, overcoming an attack from Zerah the Cushite who was a mercenary of Egypt (vv. 8-15). Though they were badly outnumbered, he battled the enemy and won. The people were beginning to understand that they could depend upon Asa. After the people slipped back into some of their bad worship practices, Asa tore down the idols again and even destroyed the items of cultic worship held dear by his own grandmother. With such a long track record of faithfulness, God had granted peace to Judah for thirty-five years (15:19). But in the thirty-sixth year, King Baasha of Israel would threaten Judah’s existence. The clouds of war hung over the land, and everyone looked to dependable Asa to help.

King Baasha had ascended to the throne through violence. He conspired against Nadab who was in line to succeed Jeroboam I while they were in battle against the Philistines (1 Kings 15:27). After killing Nadab, Baasha exterminated the entire line of Jeroboam I, killing all those who might have a claim to the throne (1 Kings 15:29). God had used Baasha’s violence to bring judgment against Jeroboam’s reign, but instead of walking in the ways of God, Baasha continued embracing the same sins as Jeroboam (1 Kings 16:2). One of Baasha’s most aggressive movements as king was to attack Asa and the southern kingdom of Judah. This is the point where the focal passage begins.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

INTRODUCTION:

Some people have a green thumb. Their plants thrive and survive through the leanest of times. Lush ferns hang from their porches, lovely flower beds line their yards, and gardens filled with fresh vegetables supply their pantry. On the other hand, every plant I purchase or plant dies. One of the women in our church was asked what was the opposite of a green thumb. She answered, “My husband.”

I suspect that the ability to grow plants is not an inherited skill. It takes time, dependability, and a love for gardening. Those are three things I do not possess. Plants need gardeners who are faithful and dependable. My problem is that I get distracted and go a few weeks without watering the plants or weeding the garden. I have a past history with plants, and it is not good. However, I suspect that the green-thumb person is the opposite. They have a track record of faithfulness. They have a watering routine and stick with it. They have a weeding schedule and make sure that nothing overtakes them.

What makes a person faithful and dependable? Certainly if we think in terms of the gardener, we would say that a faithful and dependable person must love the plant or garden that depends on him. We do not care properly for the things that we do not love. A gardener also needs a routine that will be productive for the plant. If we are dependable, we must have a routine that allows us to care for the things most important to us. A gardener must also have some amount of skill. They need to know how much water and fertilizer to spread. Without the skill, they appear unfaithful or undependable.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


I.

Don’t depend on others for what you should depend on God to do (2 Chron. 16:1-6)

1 In the thirty-sixth year of Asa, Israel’s King Baasha went to war against Judah. He built Ramah in order to keep anyone from leaving or coming to King Asa of Judah. 2 So Asa brought out the silver and gold from the treasuries of the Lord’s temple and the royal palace and sent it to Aram’s King Ben-hadad, who lived in Damascus, saying, 3 “There’s a treaty between me and you, between my father and your father. Look, I have sent you silver and gold. Go break your treaty with Israel’s King Baasha so that he will withdraw from me.” 4 Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies to the cities of Israel. They attacked Ijon, Dan, Abel-maim, and all the storage cities of Naphtali. 5 When Baasha heard about it, he quit building Ramah and stopped his work. 6 Then King Asa brought all Judah, and they carried away the stones of Ramah and the timbers Baasha had built it with. Then he built Geba and Mizpah with them.

  1.   When has a guide helped you reach a goal?

  2.   What does this statement mean to you: “The God who guided you in the past will guide you now and in the future.” ? Explain!

  3.   Do you think it is important for believers to take time to remember God’s past faithfulness to strengthen their faith?  If so, why?

  4.   After 35 years of peace, what has happened to change things? (See The Setting, pg. 1)

  5.   Who was King Baasha and what do we know about him? (See Digging Deeper.)

  6.   What was Ramah and why would Baasha build it (v. 1)? (See Digging Deepoer, & “Baasha built Ramah . . . “ )

  7.   How did Asa respond to this threat from Baasha? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 4, “Asa was the third . . . “ )

  8.   Do you think believers sometimes tend to panic in the face of threats on their faith or safety? If so, why? (See Adv. Comm., pg 4, “Asa panicked and . . . “ )

  9.   How would you explain how Asa sought protection from Aram’s King Ben-hadad of Damascus? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 4, “Asa called upon . . . “ )

10.   How would you describe how Asa’s treaty was supoose to work? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 4, “From a purely human . . . “ )

11.   How would you explaini what Asa had to gain by finding his protection in Ben-Hadad? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, “Asa’s treaty with  Aram . . . “ )

12.   Why do you think that success in the world’s eyes does not always equal success in the eyes of God? (See Adv. Comm., pg 5,  “Again, it looked like  . . . “ )

 

Lasting Lessons in 2 Chronicles 16:1-13:

1. Trusting in God is better than trusting in people.

2. Trusting in the flesh can have results, but it is better to trust in the Lord.

3. Compromising one’s faith in God is never a good option.

 

II.

Don’t forget what God has done & can do (2 Chron. 16:7-9)

7 At that time, the seer Hanani came to King Asa of Judah and said to him, “Because you depended on the king of Aram and have not depended on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from you. 8 Were not the Cushites and Libyans a vast army with many chariots and horsemen? When you depended on the Lord, he handed them over to you. 9 For the eyes of the Lord roam throughout the earth to show himself strong for those who are wholeheartedly devoted to him. You have been foolish in this matter. Therefore, you will have wars from now on.”

  1.   How would you explain to a new believer the importance of understand his/her need to remember what God has done in the past and what He can and will do in the future?

  2.    Who was Hanani and what do we know about him? What is a seer (v.7)? (See Digging Deeper, & “Adv. Comm., pg. 5,  “Hanani is the second . . . “ &“The source of God’s . . . “ )

  3.   What was Hanani’s message to Asa (vv. 7b,8 & 9)? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 5, Because Asa refused . . . “ )

  4.   What are some ways we can remember God’s faithfulness when we have a tendency to ignore God and what He has done for us?

  5.   What are some things we tend to put our trust and confidence in besides Almighty God?

  6.   What was God’s ultimate punishment for Asa’s unfaithfulnessn (9b)?

  7.   Based pm this Scripture passage, how would you explain how God is all-knowing and identifies those who are wholeheartedly devoted to Him?

  8.   What message does this passage from God have for your life today? Explain your answer!

  9.   How do you think the results of God’s punishment on Asa impacted him?

10.   Do you think the threat of negative consequences cause us to trust God?  Why, or why not?

11.   What does this statement impact your life: “Don’t depend on others when you should depend on God.”?

12.   When have you seen fear or worry lead to an unwise decision?

13.   How do you tend to respond when you feel threatened because you profess Jesus as your Savior?

 


Lasting Lessons in : 2 Chronicles 16:1-13:

1. Looking at what God has done in the past can help us make better decisions.

2. Trusting the sovereignty of God instead of taking matters into our own hands is the better option. 

3. We often have direct consequences when we forget what God has done in the past.

 

III.

Don’t let pride or self-centeredness dictate your behavior (2 Chron. 16:10-13)

10 Asa was enraged with the seer and put him in prison because of his anger over this. And Asa mistreated some of the people at that time. 11 Note that the events of Asa’s reign, from beginning to end, are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa developed a disease in his feet, and his disease became increasingly severe. Yet even in his disease he didn’t seek the Lord but only the physicians. 13 Asa rested with his fathers; he died in the forty-first year of his reign.

  1.   How did Asa respond to the Lord’s message from Hannai (v. 10)?

  2.   What are some dangers we face if we let our pride dictate our behavior?

  3.   How did Asa respond to God’s message from the seer, Hanani?

  4.   How would you explain Asa’s behavior when he heard God’s message? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 6, Asa didn’t like . . . “  & “Asa’s pride dictated . . . “ )

  5.   What do you think was the underlying reason Asa flew into a rage when he heard God’s message?

  6.   Why do you think Asa lost his faith in God to deliver him at this point in his life?

  7.   How would you wxplain the tragedy of Asa’s downfall? 

  8.   What part do you think his health problems played in his behavior at this point in his life?

  9.   How do we usually respond to the counsel of the Lord in obedience, pride, hesitation, other?

10.   How did Asa’s rage impact others around him? (See Adv. Comm., pg 6, “In addition to . . . “ )

11.   How can pride in our lives have a negative impact on others we come in contact with every day?

12.   What are some signs that should alert us that we need to seek God’s help in ridding ourselves of prideful behavior?

13.   How would you describe Asa’s foot disease and prideful response?

14.   How did Asa’s last five years of his reign compare with his first 36 years?

15.   What can help remind us that because God has been good in the past, we can trust Him today and in the future?

 

Lasting Lessons in:  2 Chronicles 16:1-13:

1. Pride can lead us to anger and mistreatment of others.

2. Trying situations should lead us to evaluate ourselves and let go of pride.

3. People should always look back and remember the faithfulness of God.

 

CONCLUSION:

  What a sad ending to Asa’s story.  And it could all have been avoided had he maintained his focus on the Lord who had been so faithful to him.  Asa’s storyhas been the story of many others.  It could become our story if we choose to walk the same path of drifting from the Lord.

·   Think back over your life and remember the victories the Lord has given to you.  As you reflect on each, thank God for being the source.  Ask Him to give you grace to always remember.

·   How does knowing the Lord is ever aware of what is going on in your life, affect your behavior and attitude toward Him?  Toward others?

·   Who in your life do yo want and trust to deliver to you godly rebukes when you choose a path that does not reflect faith in the Lord?  Do yo need to urge a friend to be that person for you?

·   When someone has confronted you with a fault, how did you react?  In retrospect, what have you learned from the experience?

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.

 

Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


 

 

FOCAL PASSAGE: 

Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word: 2 Chronicles 16:1-13:

Biblical Translations 2 (New)

2 Chronicles 16:1-13 (KJV)

1 In the six and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah, and built Ramah, to the intent that he might let none go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. 2 Then Asa brought out silver and gold out of the treasures of the house of the LORD and of the king's house, and sent to Benhadad king of Syria, that dwelt at Damascus, saying, 3 There is a league between me and thee, as there was between my father and thy father: behold, I have sent thee silver and gold; go, break thy league with Baasha king of Israel, that he may depart from me. 4 And Benhadad hearkened unto king Asa, and sent the captains of his armies against the cities of Israel; and they smote Ijon, and Dan, and Abelmaim, and all the store cities of Naphtali. 5 And it came to pass, when Baasha heard it, that he left off building of Ramah, and let his work cease. 6 Then Asa the king took all Judah; and they carried away the stones of Ramah, and the timber thereof, wherewith Baasha was building; and he built therewith Geba and Mizpah. 7 And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said unto him, Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the LORD thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand. 8 Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? yet, because thou didst rely on the LORD, he delivered them into thine hand. 9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars. 10 Then Asa was wroth with the seer, and put him in a prison house; for he was in a rage with him because of this thing. And Asa oppressed some of the people the same time. 11 And, behold, the acts of Asa, first and last, lo, they are written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel. 12 And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians. 13 And Asa slept with his fathers, and died in the one and fortieth year of his reign.        

New American Standard Bible   

2 Chronicles 16:1-13 (NASB)

1 In the thirty-sixth year of Asa's reign Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah and fortified Ramah in order to prevent anyone from going out or coming in to Asa king of Judah. 2 Then Asa brought out silver and gold from the treasuries of the house of the LORD and the king's house, and sent them to Ben-hadad king of Aram, who lived in Damascus, saying, 3 "Let there be a treaty between you and me, as between my father and your father. Behold, I have sent you silver and gold; go, break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so that he will withdraw from me." 4 So Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel, and they conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-maim and all the store cities of Naphtali. 5 When Baasha heard of it, he ceased fortifying Ramah and stopped his work. 6 Then King Asa brought all Judah, and they carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber with which Baasha had been building, and with them he fortified Geba and Mizpah. 7 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, "Because you have relied on the king of Aram and have not relied on the LORD your God, therefore the army of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand. 8 "Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim an immense army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, He delivered them into your hand. 9 "For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars." 10 Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him for this. And Asa oppressed some of the people at the same time. 11 Now, the acts of Asa from first to last, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but the physicians. 13 So Asa slept with his fathers, having died in the forty-first year of his reign.   

 

English Standard Version

 2 Chronicles 16:1-13 (ESV)

1 In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and built Ramah, that he might permit no one to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. 2 Then Asa took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the LORD and the king’s house and sent them to Ben-hadad king of Syria, who lived in Damascus, saying, 3 “There is a covenant between me and you, as there was between my father and your father. Behold, I am sending to you silver and gold. Go, break your covenant with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me.” 4 And Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel, and they conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-maim, and all the store cities of Naphtali. 5 And when Baasha heard of it, he stopped building Ramah and let his work cease. 6 Then King Asa took all Judah, and they carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber, with which Baasha had been building, and with them he built Geba and Mizpah. 7 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. 8 Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, he gave them into your hand. 9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.” 10 Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in the stocks in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this. And Asa inflicted cruelties upon some of the people at the same time. 11 The acts of Asa, from first to last, are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians. 13 And Asa slept with his fathers, dying in the forty-first year of his reign.

 

(NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from four sources: “Advanced Bible Study Commentary,” Bible Study For Life Commentary,and “The Pulpit Commentary” and is provided for your study.)

 

Lesson Outline — Remember God’s Faithfulness” — 2 Chronicles 16:1-13

I.

II.

III.

Don’t depend on others for what you should depend on God to do (2 Chron. 16:1-6)

Don’t forget what God has done & can do (2 Chron. 16:7-9)

Don’t let pride or self-centeredness dictate your behavior (2 Chron. 16:10-13)

COMMENTARY:

Advanced Bible Study Commentary: 2 Chronicles 16:1-13:

I. Don’t depend on others for what you should depend on God to do (2 Chron. 16:1-6)

Asa was the third king of Judah, and Baasha was the third king of Israel. Unlike the Southern Kingdom, Israel could not maintain a straight family line. Baasha killed Nadab, the successor to Jeroboam, and he eliminated the entire family line (1 Kings 15:29). Therefore, a new dynasty started with Baasha. Although Baasha started a new line of dynasty, he kept the same practices of idolatry. As a new king of Israel, Baasha had bold intentions to extend his influence and his reign. Baasha and Asa had a history of hostility toward each other (v. 16). They constantly had to protect their shared border, and at times Asa got the better of Baasha as people defected to the Southern Kingdom (2 Chron. 15:9). Perhaps this is what led Baasha to get more aggressive.

Baasha built Ramah, a city that sat on the main highway between the two countries along the Palestinian central ridge, only five miles from Jerusalem. By doing so, he stopped access to Jerusalem from Israel, effectively blockading all movements into Judah. These aggressive actions so close to Jerusalem probably stirred up the people of Judah and created panic in Asa.

Asa panicked and removed silver and gold from the treasuries of the Lord’s temple. Perhaps he justified his actions by saying God had given the wealth to Asa through the conquest of Zerah, and now God expected him to use it to defend the nation. But he apparently did so without consulting the Lord. Asa also took some of the money from the royal palace, his own wealth, to strike a treaty with a neighboring nation for protection against Baasha. Asa sent the money to Aram’s King Ben-hadad, who lived in Damascus.

Asa called upon Ben-hadad to break his treaty with Israel’s King Baasha. Israel, being closer to Aram, had reached out to their enemy in the north to protect them from their enemy in the south. They bought peace and protection from Aram, and they felt secure in their alliance with the emerging kingdom. If Asa were to attack Israel, Baasha felt sure that his neighbors to the north would protect him and fight for his cause. However, Asa reminded Ben-hadad, “There’s a treaty between me and you, between my father and your father.” This was probably a reference to a treaty between Asa’s father Abijah and Ben-hadad’s father, Hezion (1 Kings 15:18). Evidently the treaty was not active, meaning that Judah was not paying their tribute to obtain the protection of the Syrians. Perhaps this accounted for the large price required by Aram to protect Judah. It cost Asa the temple treasury, his own wealth, his integrity, and his standing with God. The price was extremely high.

Aram, on the other hand, had much to gain. They had already received tribute from Baasha, and now they received tribute and back payments from Asa. All they had to do was keep the peace and they would come out of the negotiations in a position of wealth. Asa had begun to play politics rather than seeking the Lord God.

From a purely human perspective, the treaty seemed to work. Ben-hadad took the bounty from Asa and sent the commanders of his armies to the cities of Israel. While Baasha was fixated on his southern borders, Ben-hadad entered into the towns of the north and ransacked the cities there, further lining his pockets with wealth. Ijon lay just inside the border of Israel from Aram, and Abel-maim was only eight miles south of there. Dan was located four miles east of Abel-maim at the headwaters of the Jordan River. 1 Then they took all the storage cities of Naphtali. These were fortified cities just south of Dan. Asa’s decision left his nation plundered in wealth and Israel plundered in its fortified cities. The only one that came out stronger was Aram.

Asa’s treaty with Aram appeared to work. Baasha heard about Ben-hadad’s invasion into his territory. This was distressing news because Ben-hadad’s destruction in Israel followed the major international highway. Those traveling from Mesopotamia to Egypt traveled that highway, and whoever controlled the highway controlled the region. Baasha was not willing to risk falling to the Syrians while trying to conquer Judah. So, he quit building Ramah and stopped his work. At first glance, it appears that Asa’s treaty was a success, but was the price too high? And more importantly, how would he be known as the king who seeks after God when he had run to Aram for protection instead of turning to God? Asa took advantage of the diversion and brought all Judah to destroy the stronghold Baasha was building in the south. He carried away all the stones of Ramah and the timbers Baasha had built it with.

Asa took the timbers and stones and pushed the borders of Judah northward. In the absence of Baasha and his troops, he went three miles farther north than Ramah and built the towns of Geba and Mizpah, which were eight miles from Jerusalem and three miles north of Ramah. Again, it looked like the treaty with Aram was effective. Baasha seized his work and Asa extended his borders. But was it a success in God’s eyes? God would send a prophet to tell Asa he should not have depended upon others but should have depended upon God.

II. Don’t forget what God has done & can do (2 Chron. 16:7-9)

Hanani is the second otherwise unknown prophet to arise and deliver a message to King Asa. “Azariah son of Oded” had done so upon Asa’s return from battle against Zerah (2 Chron. 15:1). Azariah’s message was encouraging, but Hanani’s message was convicting. Hanani is called a seer in the passage. One of three Old Testament words used for prophet, it was based on the verb “to see.” This term emphasized receiving a vision that was to be communicated to others. God had revealed a message to Hanani that he needed to communicate to Asa.

The source of God’s displeasure with Asa was that he had not depended on the Lord but rather had depended on the king of Aram. The Hebrew word for depended carried the idea of security. Judah and Asa had taken their security from an alliance with a nearby country rather than from the God who had constantly defended them throughout Asa’s reign. This was an offense to God.

Because Asa refused to depend on the Lord, Hanani revealed that the army of the king of Aram has escaped from you. Apparently if he would have trusted the Lord, Asa could have conquered both Israel and Aram. God was the one who delivered their enemies into their hands, so he could have delivered both of the troubling nations to Asa. The prophet of God reminded Asa of a time earlier in life where he depended on the Lord and God delivered him. The two periods of Asa’s life provided quite a contrast. Hanani reminded Asa of the Cushites and Libyans who came against him, a similar distance from Jerusalem in the opposite direction. Like Baasha, who set up camp in Ramah, the army under the direction of Zerah had set up camp in Mareshah (2 Chron. 14:9). Both were only miles away from taking Jerusalem. In Asa’s younger days, he depended on the Lord. When he did so, God handed them [his enemies] over to Asa. This happened even though the Cushites and Libyans were a vast army with many chariots and horsemen. Asa stood a better chance of defeating Baasha or Ben-hadad than he did of defeating Zerah. Asa’s trust in the Lord enabled him to win the battle. Yet, when he refused to the trust the Lord he became a pawn in the hands of an inferior enemy.

In a declaration to remind Asa of God’s sovereignty, Hanani delivered the message that the eyes of the Lord roam through the earth. He sees everything and knows everything. He knows every nation and the intentions of their leaders. God had delivered Asa from the hand of Zerah, and He would have delivered him from the hand of Baasha. But instead of trusting God, Asa turned to another nation for protection.

As God’s eyes roamed the earth, he also desired to show himself strong for those who are wholeheartedly devoted to him. The key is the word “wholeheartedly,” which in Hebrew means “whole” or “integrated.” Based upon the word for Shalom, this word described a heart at peace because it was not fractured in its loyalty. If Asa had looked back to what God had done and thought about what He could do for him, Asa’s heart would have been at peace. He would not have panicked and reached out to Aram for help. He would have stood steadfast and waited upon God to give him instruction, just as He did earlier in life when Zerah attacked him.

Hanani told the king he had been foolish in this matter. The word for foolish described a person who lacked spiritual direction or moral sense. Because of his foolishness, he would have wars from now on. This began with war against Baasha (1 Kings 15:32) and continued against Israel’s successors after Baasha died. Only when Asa’s son, Jehoshaphat, ascended to the throne did God give them relief.

III. Don’t let pride or self-centeredness dictate your behavior (2 Chron. 16:10-13)

Asa didn’t like the message that Hanani delivered to him. He could have ignored it or dismissed it as the ramblings of a fool. He could have sent the prophet along, promising to consider his message. Instead, Asa was enraged; he became extremely agitated or frustrated. This was proof of the pride that dominated the latter days of Asa’s reign. Asa couldn’t believe someone would dare to threaten his sovereignty, when he had totally disregarded the sovereignty of God by trusting a human alliance rather than the hand of God. 

Asa’s pride dictated his behavior as he took the seer and put him in prison. The word for prison in Hebrew was literally the “house of stocks.” Instead of merely placing him in prison, he put him in stocks to punish him. This is the first recorded royal persecution of a prophet, though others would follow (2 Chron. 18:26; 24:21; Mark 6:17-18). Asa’s pride opened a door that should have remained shut.

In addition to imprisoning Hanani, Asa also mistreated some of the people at that time. These were presumably people that sided with Hanani’s prophetic message to Asa. Asa’s life had been a light that shined brightly for so long, but this negative episode in his life cast a shadow on a man who had once been wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord. Self-centered behavior hurts both the prideful person who displays it and those around him.

The chronicler referred to the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel, which he promised would detail the events of Asa’s reign, from beginning to end. Was this book the canonical Book of 1 Kings? That is unlikely. The parallel account of Asa’s reign in 1 Kings contains only a fraction of the material found in 2 Chronicles (1 Kings 15:9-24). 2 The account in 1 Kings only details the attack of Baasha and neglects the reforms, the repair of the temple, and the battle with Zerah. Neither does it tell of his encounter with Hanani and problems that led to his death. If 1 Kings were the source, then how did the Chronicler get all the additional details of Asa’s reign. The “Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel” was another source that is not in existence today.

Asa’s turning from God was tragic, and it paralleled his health problems at the end of his life. In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, two years before his death, Asa developed a disease in his feet. Over the next two years his disease became increasingly severe. Instead of trusting in the Lord with his foot disease, he sought the help of physicians. Seeking help from physicians was not wrong, but even in his disease he didn’t seek the Lord; especially since that is what he had been known for throughout his life, here was yet another revelation of a prideful heart.

The reign of Asa that had been so faithful for thirty-six years before turning sour came to an end in the forty-first year of his reign. He had reformed the religious faith of the Jews and repaired the temple. He had defeated Zerah the Cushite who came to his doorstep in Jerusalem but was turned away by the power of God. He removed the shrines and focused worship in the temple, where God was at the center. But near the end of his life he had taken a tragic turn. He had trusted in Ben-hadad rather than trusting in the Lord. He had persecuted the prophet of God and those who sided with him, opening the door for future persecution of the prophets by the king. Finally, he had sought only the help of physicians while failing to seek the Lord in battling a crippling disease in his feet. After a full life and long reign, Asa rested with his fathers. How would he be remembered? Would the people remember the first thirty-six years of his reign or the last five? Would they honor him for his faithfulness to God or vilify him for his poor decisions in his final years?

The verses following the focal passage describe what happened after Asa’s death. He was “buried in his own tomb that he had made for himself in the city of David” (2 Chron. 16:14). The people filled his tomb with “spices and various mixtures of prepared ointments” (v. 14). This was costly and a measure of honor. Finally, the people “made a great fire in his honor” (v. 14). The fire, spices, and burial all reflected the great esteem in which Asa was held by the people. The fire was a special ceremony only given to those who were worthy of honor (2 Chron. 21:19). Unlike Asa at the end of his life, the people chose to look back and remember the faithfulness of God.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Bible Study For Life Commentary: 2 Chronicles 16:1-13:

I. Don’t depend on others for what you should depend on God to do (2 Chron. 16:1-6)

Verse 1. If there is one common denominator in the history of the human race it is war. In nearly every generation and in every corner of the earth humanity has engaged in war. In this session we find King Asa and the people of Judah again facing the terrible prospect of war. Unfortunately, Asa’s strategy for defending his country was not what God intended for His people.

The people of Judah were living in peace, but things suddenly turned dangerous again in the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s rule. [Note: The dating of Asa’s rule in 2 Chronicles is difficult to harmonize with the rule of King Baasha of the Northern Kingdom of Israel given in 1 Kings (15:33; 16:8). Some scholars suggest that “the thirty-sixth year” was the length of time since the division of the United Monarchy into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah, not the beginning of Asa’s rule. Using that method, the chronology for both kings works. Otherwise the chronology is difficult to harmonize.1] Baasha, the king of Israel, declared war on Judah. Baasha had taken the throne of Israel through palace intrigue. He had arranged the assassination of his predecessor, Nadab, the son of Jeroboam I. To solidify his position, Baasha killed the entire royal line of Jeroboam (1 Kings 15:27-29). Baasha ruled the Northern Kingdom for twenty-four years (908–886 BC). His hostility toward Asa may have been in part due to so many of his people from the northern tribes defecting to the south (2 Chron. 15:9). First Kings 15:32 notes that there was hostility between Asa and Baasha throughout Baasha’s reign.

Baasha led his forces south. He captured and fortified the city of Ramah (meaning “high”; 1 Kings 15:1617), which was situated on a major north-south road along a ridge. Ramah was part of Benjamin’s territory and only about five miles north of Jerusalem. This strategic action blockaded all movements in and out of Judah, threatening their commerce, communications, and security. 

Verse 2. Asa sought a political solution and looked for an ally. He removed the silver and gold from the Jerusalem temple and his palace to bribe the king of Aram, Ben-Hadad I (meaning “son of [the god] Hadad”; Hadad was a storm god similar to Baal). The Arameans were a loose confederation of cities and settlements in what is now modern Syria. They were known to forge temporary alliances if the circumstances warranted it or if opportunities for conquest presented themselves. Aram’s capital was Damascus.

The Arameans were long-time enemies of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Asa obviously saw the chance to open a second front against Baasha’s army. From a military perspective, this seemed like a strategically and politically shrewd move on Asa’s part.

Verse 3. Asa invoked an earlier treaty Asa’s father, Abijah, had made with Ben-hadad’s father, Tabrimmon. Asa wrote a letter to Ben-Hadad reminding him of their fathers’ pact and asking him to renew it. By sending Ben-Hadad gold and silver, Asa sought to bribe the pagan ruler into breaking a non-aggression treaty he had made with Baasha of Israel. Apparently Asa knew the Arameans’ history of switching alliances when it was to their advantage. Asa’s strategy was that having Aram attack Israel from the north would force Baasha to withdraw his troops from the south. Asa’s cunning act against Israel served to only be a temporary alliance with the Arameans. The Arameans would war against and interfere in the affairs of both Israel and Judah for decades to come.

Verse 4. Ben-Hadad agreed to Asa’s offer and accepted the gifts of silver and gold. Ben-Hadad immediately ordered his military commanders to invade Israel and attack its northern cities in the region of Upper Galilee as far south as the Sea of Galilee, traveling into Israel on the strategic main international highway. The Arameans, in sort of a blitzkrieg attack, quickly took the town of Ijon (“ruin”) which lay on the route into Israel. From there they marched on the cities of Dan (“judge”) and Abel-maim (“brook of the waters”).

Finally they attacked the storage cities of Naphtali. Storage cities were cities built with storehouses to gather, preserve, and protect harvested crops from the weather and animals. Royal storage facilities were located in various regional locations where farmers went to pay their taxes of flour, oil, grain, and/or wine. Some storage facilities were specially reserved for the army and the royal villas. Full storage cities were regarded as a sign of God’s blessings. Naphtali (“wrestler”) was an Israelite tribe named for the sixth son of Jacob (Gen. 30:7-8). The tribe’s land was located north of the Sea of Galilee along the northwest side of the Jordan River.

Verse 5. When Baasha heard about the Aramean invasion he immediately ceased his combat operations in the south and abandoned his fortifications at Ramah. From a human perspective, Asa’s strategy had worked. By engaging Israel on its northern front, the Arameans took most of the pressure off Judah.

Verse 6. King Asa rushed to take advantage of the situation. Without delay, his troops demolished Baasha’s defensive fortifications at Ramah. They took the stones and timbers from the fortifications and moved them north to build up the defenses of Geba and Mizpah. Geba (“hill”) was in the territory of Benjamin (Josh. 18:24), about six miles to the northeast of Jerusalem. It had once been a base camp for King Saul and his son Jonathan in their wars with the Philistines in the early years of the United Monarchy (1 Sam. 13:16–14:18). Mizpah (“watchtower” or “lookout”) was also located in Benjamin, though where is not known, some have suggested it was eight miles north of Jerusalem. Mizpah was a provincial capital of Babylon after the fall of Judah/Jerusalem in 586 BC (Jer. 40).

II. Don’t forget what God has done & can do (2 Chron. 16:7-9)

Verse 7. Believers must not forget what God has done in the past and what He can do in the present and the future. Furthermore, we must never forget that the omniscient God sees everything. This was true for Asa. Because he succeeded in his plan to push Baasha’s army out of the land, he must have believed God was pleased. It was not so. God sent a seer to confront Asa. Other than his dealings with Asa, nothing more is known about the seer Hanani (“my grace” or “Yahweh is gracious”) except that he had a son Jehu (2 Chron. 19:2; 20:34).

Seer is the English translation for two different Hebrew terms (roeh; hozeh). The Hebrew terms are interchangeable. The related Hebrew term nabi (probably means “one who is called to speak”) is more often rendered “prophet” . All three Hebrew terms refer to someone called and inspired by God to reveal His word. In both ancient Israel and Judah, such individuals called by God as prophets/seers were involved in every aspect of national life, particularly the political and religious. They were also often the objects of contempt by the people, kings, and religious establishment. At various times seers/prophets were put in jail (Jer. 37:13-16), persecuted (1 Kings 19:1-2), or just plain ignored as nuisances (Isa. 6:9-13; Jer. 37:1-2). Their two most common messages were criticizing the failures of the religious and/or political leaders and calling God’s people to covenant faithfulness. Often they acted as intercessors on the people’s behalf. Occasionally they performed miracles.

Hanani delivered a scathing message of rebuke to Asa. He told Asa it did not please God that Asa had relied on his alliance with the pagan king of Aram instead of Yahweh to battle Baasha. The Hebrew term for depended on is the same term used in 2 Chronicles 14:11 that described Asa’s reliance on the Lord to defeat Zerah the Cushite. The seer stated that because Asa had not relied on God, though he had beaten Baasha, the Arameans had escaped Asa. Hanani’s words imply that if Asa had trusted the Lord he would not only have repelled Israel, but also conquered Aram. It is likely Aram would have aided Israel, but with the Lord’s help Judah would have crushed them both. Although not stated in the text, Asa also would not have forfeited the gold and silver he spent to bribe Ben-Hadad.

Verse 8. Hanani continued his dressing-down of Asa. He asked rhetorically if it was not true that the Cushites and the Libyans were a formidable enemy. They had been an enormous army with chariots and horsemen (2 Chron. 12:3; 14:9,11). The seer reminded Asa that, despite his overwhelming military disadvantage, when Asa put his full trust in the Lord he had won! Asa’s victory over Zerah the Cushite was not due to Asa’s clever strategy, but entirely because of his dependence upon God’s power. So why had he forgotten? The greatest tragedy of this whole situation was that Asa totally compromised his trust in God for his nation’s security by not seeking God and instead putting his confidence in an alliance with a pagan king.

Verse 9. Hanani then made a significant theological statement. He said, “For the eyes of the Lord roam throughout the earth to show himself strong for those who are wholeheartedly devoted to him.” This description signified God’s omnipresence and omniscience (Pss. 33:18; 34:15; Prov. 15:3). No problem exists that the Lord is not aware of and from which He cannot rescue His people. God is watching and waiting for opportunities to help those who wholeheartedly trust in Him.

Asa’s scheme to involve Ben-hadad and the Arameans was reckless. The Hebrew term translated, “You have been foolish,” is the very same word the prophet Samuel used to admonish King Saul. Due to Samuel’s late arrival,  the men of the Israelite army began deserting. Saul rashly made an illegitimate burnt offering before fighting against the Philistines (1 Sam. 13:7-10). His arrogance cost him and his progeny their claim to Israel’s royal throne (vv. 11-14).

Asa’s alliance with the king of Aram cost Judah the peace and security they had long enjoyed under God’s watchful eye. Hanani declared that Asa would suffer wars from that point onward in his reign as king of Judah.

III. Don’t let pride or self-centeredness dictate your behavior (2 Chron. 16:10-13)

Verse 10. Pride is a hard emotion to resist. Asa was now facing the challenge of pride. Would he humbly accept the admonishment of Hanani, or would he step over the line to self-congratulating pomposity?

Apparently, and sadly, Asa took the latter course. He became enraged at Hanani and threw him in prison. Possibly Asa felt his strategy against Baasha had worked pretty well and was incensed by the seer’s complaint and criticism of his actions. Maybe he thought Hanani was just a crazed fanatic. Unfortunately, such actions of imprisonment and even execution would be a recurring event in Israel’s and Judah’s history as nations (2 Chron. 18:26; 24:21; Mark 6:17-18). Prophets sent from God were imprisoned for various reasons: denouncing official policy (as in this case); making negative predictions about the king (for example, Micaiah by King Ahab; 1 Kings 22:13-27); or being accused of treason (for example, Jeremiah by King Zedekiah; Jer. 37:11-21).

Ezra stated that Asa’s fury was not limited just to Hanani. Other people suffered the king’s wrath. It’s possible Asa was so enraged at Hanani’s message that he brutally oppressed other people who were Hanani’s supporters.2 Another possibility is such actions were due to the king exhibiting symptoms of irrational paranoia that sometimes afflicts kings and dictators whose actions are challenged. Rather than humbling himself and admitting his sin, Asa became enraged that Hanani would question the king’s actions. Apparently Asa erroneously thought incarcerating the seer would, in effect, shut him up and alleviate the problem. However, history demonstrates trying to silence God’s spokesmen or other defenders of justice through persecution rarely works. It only enhances the influence of the one being persecuted. We have seen this fact demonstrated even in America. Courageous men and women like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks stood strong in the face of brutality to challenge the unjust status quo of society.

Verse 11. The Chronicler closed this section with what amounts to a footnote on the life of King Asa. He noted that the events of Asa’s reign were written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. Ezra also referenced other works in 1 and 2 Chronicles such as: “the Events of the Seer Samuel, the Events of the Prophet Nathan, and the Events of the Seer Gad” (1 Chron. 29:29), and “the Events of the Prophet Shemaiah and of the Seer Iddo” (2 Chron. 12:15). Unfortunately, no copies of those books survive. Nonetheless, Ezra’s references show how he, like any good historian, carefully researched many sources to verify his facts.

Verse 12. Ezra documented the final, tragic days of King Asa’s life. In Asa’s thirty-ninth year as king, he developed a foot disease. The text does not state the disease was punishment for his sin as were the wars. The exact nature of the disease is not stated. In those days the diagnosis and treatment of most ailments was limited. Physicians had little understanding of human anatomy and even less about the nature of disease. Salves, ointments, and herbs were about the extent of the medicine available.

The saddest part of these final years of Asa was that he would not turn to the Lord for the cure of his disease. Instead, almost inexplicably, he relied exclusively on physicians, even as the disease worsened in its severity. Asa had fallen a long way from his early days when he unwaveringly depended on God for everything. The explanation for his arrogant attitude is difficult to discern. Perhaps it was his stubborn pride, or maybe he felt he was being punished unjustly for his lack of faith.We simply do not know; but, it inevitably led to his final demise.

Verse 13. Ezra concluded his account of the life of Asa with the king’s death. Asa died in his forty-first year of rule. The length of his reign was a long time for a monarch to rule even by modern standards. He was laid to rest in a tomb he had hewn for himself in Jerusalem, the city of David (16:14). His people built a fire in his honor, signifying the esteem they held for him (see 21:19; Jer. 34:5).

The life and reign of Asa was a mixed bag, as is true for most great men. He had led his people to worship and love the true God, Yahweh. He had removed from Judah the shrines and idols of the false gods. However, late in his life, he compromised his faith in the Lord. Five principles we can learn from Asa’s story are to: (1) worship and serve only the true God; (2) depend on Him and His grace when facing all of life’s issues; (3) be courageous in following the Lord; (4) renew our relationship with Him regularly in worship and confession of sin; and (5) not forget what God has done and can do for us.

1. For more information on this issue of chronology, see J. A. Thompson, 1, 2 Chronicles, vol. 9, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 273–74.

2. Ibid., 275.

SOURCE: Bible Studies For Life: Life Ventures Leaders Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234

 

The Pulpit Commentary: (2 Chronicles 16:1-13)

I. Don’t depend on others for what you should depend on God to do. (2 Chron. 16:1-6)

The contents of this chapter fall easily into three parts: Asa's conflict with Baasha (vers. 1-6; parallel, 1 Kings 15:16-22); Hanani's rebuke of Asa, and Asa's ill reception of it (vers. 7-10); the disease, death, and burial of Asa (vers. 11-14; parallel, 1 Kings 15:23, 24).

Verse 1.  For the six and thirtieth year, read six and twentieth. Ramah belonged to Benjamin (Joshua 18:21, 25, 28), and lay between Bethel and Jerusalem, about five or six Roman miles from each; but Keil and Bertheau, by some error, call it thirty miles from Jerusalem, having very likely in their eye Ramah of Samuel, in Ephraim. The word signifies “lofty,” and the present history speaks the importance of its position, and would infer also that Israel had regained Bethel, which, with other adjacent places, Abijah had wrested from Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 13:19). The reference of Isaiah 10:28, 29, 32 is exceedingly interesting, and bespeaks the fact that Ramah commanded another intersecting route from Ephraim. When it is said here that Baasha built (וַיִּבֶן) Ramah, the meaning is that he was beginning to strengthen it greatly, and fortify it. The object of Baasha, which no doubt needed no stating in the facts of the day, is now stated by history.

Verse 2.  The writer of Chronicles omits the pedigree of this Ben-hadad King of Syria, given in the parallel “the son of Tabrimon, the son of Hezion.” Benhidri is the name of Ben-Hadad in the Assyrian monuments. The Septuagint gives Ader, which tallies with it, For Damascus, we have here Dar-mesek, instead of the more usual Dammesek of the parallel and Genesis 15:2; the resh representing (as in Syriac) the dagesh forte in men. The parallel (1 Kings 15:18) says that Asa took all the silver and the gold left in the treasures, etc.; but the reading “left” should very possibly (see Septuagint Version) be “found,” the Hebrew characters easily permitting it.

Verse 3.  The alliance of the King of Syria was sought now by one kingdom, now by the other. On what occasion Abijah made league with the king, the history does not say, either here or in the parallel, nor when he or his son resigned it. For there is, read “Let there be a league between me and thee, as between my father and thy father;” the short cut which Area thought to take now to his object was not the safe nor right one.

Verse 4.  Ben-Hadad was apparently not very long in making up either his mind or his method. The bribe that tempted him, drawn from “the treasures” described, well replenished (2 Chronicles 15:18; and parallel, 1 Kings 15:15), was probably large. His method was to create a diversion in favour of his new ally, by “smiting” certain picked and highly important cities of Israel, mostly in northern Galilee, by name “Ijon, Dan, Abel-maim, and all the store-cities of Naphtalli.” Ijon. In Naphtali, mentioned only now, in the parallel, and when a second time taken (2 Kings 15:29) by Tiglath-Pileser. Dan. The colonizing of this city is given in Judges 18:1, 2, 29-31; it was originally called Laish, and became the northern landmark of the whole country, as in the expression, “from Dan even to Beersheba” (Judges 18:29; 20:1). Abel-maim. This place was situate at the foot of the Lebanon; in the parallel (1 Kings 15:20) it is called Abel-beth-maachah. It is again mentioned as attacked by Tiglath-Pileser, who wrested it from Pekah (2 Kings 15:29). In 2 Samuel 20:18, 14, 15 it is called Abel by itself, but in the last two of these verses Beth-maachah is mentioned in close connection with it. After this name the parallel gives also “all Cinneroth” (Septuagint, “all the land of Cinnereth”). The name is the original of the New Testament Gennesaret. It was a city (Joshua 19:35) that gave its name to the sea and western region of the lake, sometimes called so (Numbers 34:11; Joshua 11:2; 12:3). If there were a little more external evidence of it, we should incline to the opinion of Movers, that the “all Cinneroth” of the parallel is the כָּל־מִּסְכְּנוׄת (‘‘all the store-cities”) of our present verse. But at present we may take it that the two records supplement one another. All the store-cities of Naphtali (see 2 Chronicles 32:28; 8:6 and its parallel, 1 Kings 9:19).

Verse 5.  And let his work cease. The parallel has not this, but follows the exact previous sentence with this, “and dwelt in Tirzah.” It is the happy suggestion of one commentator (Professor James G. Murphy, Handbook: Chronicles’) that this sentence may betray that it had been Baasha's intention to reside in Ramah.

Verse 6.  The affair seems thus to have come to an unbloody termination. The parallel (1 Kings 15:22)is so much the more graphic that it contains the two additions that Asa “made a proclamation throughout all Judah,” and one that “exempted none” from joining in the duty of moving all the stones and all the timber from Ramah, and diverting’ them to the use of building Geba and Mizpah. This greatly contributed to command the road from the north to Jerusalem. Geba. This was Geba of Benjamin, as clearly stated in the parallel. It was a position north of Ramah, whether opposite Michmash and the modern Jeba is not certain, as some think this answers to Gibeah of Saul (1 Samuel 14:2, 5). Mizpah (see Jeremiah 41:2, 3, 9, 10). This Mizpah is not that of the Shefelah (Joshua 15:38), but was situate about two hours, or a short six miles, north-west of Jerusalem, on the Samaria route, and is probably the modern Neby Samwil (see also 2 Kings 25:22-26; Jeremiah 40:5-41:18).

II. Don’t forget what God has done & can do. (2 Chron. 16:7-9)

Verses 7, 8.  The very impressive episode of four verses begun by the seventh verse is not found in the parallel. The fact furnishes clear indication that our compiler was not indebted to the writer of Kings for material. And the moral aspects of the matter here preserved by the compiler of Chronicles show the paramount reasons why he would not miss bringing it to the front for the returned people's better religious education. Presumably Hanani the seer is the father of that other faithful seer and prophet Jehu, who appeared to Baasha (1 Kings 16:1, 7) and to Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 19:1, 2). Therefore is the host of the King of Syria escaped out of thy hand It is plain that, reading the lines only, this expression (remarkable considering its following close upon successful help given by Ben-hadad, and help unaccompanied, so far as we are told, by any infidelity or untoward circumstance), suggests option of explanation, and would engender the supposition that something very threatening was on the horizon, at any rate. But reading between the lines, and giving due weight to the significance of the illustration adduced of the combined Ethiopians and Lubim (2 Chronicles 14:9-15), we may warrantably judge that Hanani's inspired language went a cut deeper, and meant that if the alliance had been not broken between Ben-Hadad and Baasha, both would surely have been taken in one net (Psalm 124:7), as they would have entered into the conflict in alliance. A decisive victory over the King of Syria would have been any way a grand day in the history of Judah; But such a victory over the Kings of Syria and of the northern schismatic kingdom would have been more than a doubly grand day; it would have been a tenfold demonstration of God's judgment, that “though hand join in hand, yet shall not the wicked go unpunished” (see particularly same Hebrew verb used of a bird escaped in Psalm 124:7).

Verse 9.  Thou shalt have wars. Although this language at first seems to be intended for very specific application to Asa, yet as we do not read of individual wars occurring after this in his own time, it is quite within a just interpretation of it if we read it as referring to the inevitable experience of the kingdom. Its head and king had just thrown away the opportunity of blocking out one ever-threatening enemy. What more natural consequence than that wars should rush in the rather as a flood, in the after-times?

III. Don’t let pride or self-centeredness dictate your behavior. (2 Chron. 16:10-13)

Verse 10.  A prison-house; literally, Hebrew, the house of the מַהְפֶכֶת; i.e. “of the twisting or distortion;” i.e. “the stocks.” The word occurs three other times only, all of them in Jeremiah viz. 20:2, 3; 29:26. (For a forcible parallel, see 1 Kings 22:27.) And Asa oppressed some of the people the same time. This may throw some explanatory, though no exculpatory, light on Asa's wrath and violence towards Hanani; for it probably marks that either some goodly portion of the wiser of the people had anticipated of their own common sense the matter of the message of Hanani the seer, or that they had not failed to follow it with some keenly sympathetic remarks For our Authorized Version, “oppressed,” read a stronger verb, as “crushed.”

Verse 11.  This verse, with the following three, is represented by the very summarized but sufficiently significant parallel of 1 Kings 15:23, 24. Note that the reference work cited in this verse as the book of the kings of Judah and Israel, is in the paralled cited as “the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah.” Of course, the latter citation was much the earlier in point of time.

Verse 12.  His disease was exceeding great Perhaps a somewhat more literal rendering will more correctly express the emphasis of the original, e.g. his disease was great even to excess. For yet, read emphatically, and also; the historian purposing to say that as, in his fear of Baasha, he had not sought the Lord, but Ben-Hadad, so, in his excessive illness also, he had not sought the Lord, but the physicians!

Verse 13.  Amid the frequent uncertainties of the chronology, we are glad to get some dates fixed by the agreement of testimonies. E.g. this place and the parallel state clearly that Asa's reign was one that lasted to its forty-first year. The parallel, however (1 Kings 15:23), makes this date one and the same thing with his “old age,” while no manipulation of dates can make him (the grandson of Rehoboam and son of Abijah) more than about fifty. And it is somewhat remarkable that, when introduced to us as succeeding to the throne, nothing is said of his tender youth (as, for instance, is said in the case of Josiah, 2 Kings 22:1; 24:1-3). Nevertheless, the apparent prominence of Maachah awhile would tally with the circumstance of Asa's youth at his accession. Another correspondence in Josiah's career is noticeable; for it is distinctly said that when he was only twelve years of age (2 Chronicles 34:3) “he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places,” etc. At a similarly youthful age Asa, therefore, may be credited with doing the like, while later on he took more stringent measures, as for instance with Maachah, the queen-mother.

SOURCE: The Pulpit Commentary; Volume 6: Chronicles; Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.

 

DIGGING DEEPER: Key Word(s)

Storage cities (v. 4)— Cities containing storehouses built to gather, preserve, and protect harvested crops from the weather and animals.

Seer (v. 7)—Seer in this context is another word for a prophet of God.

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

Seer (v. 7)—The word in English Versions of the Bible represents two Hebrew words, ‏רֹאֶה‎, ʾeh (1 Samuel 9:9, 11, 18-19; 2 Samuel 15:27; 1 Chron. 9:22, etc.), And ‏חֹזֶה‎, ḥōzeh (2 Samuel 24:11; 2 Kings 17:13; 1 Chron. 21:9; 1 Chron. 25:5; 1 Chron. 29:29, etc.). The former designation is from the ordinary verb "to see"; the latter is connected with the verb used of prophetic vision. It appears from 1 Samuel 9:9 that "seer" (ʾeh) was the older name for those who, after the rise of the more regular orders, were called "prophets." It is not just, however, to speak of the "seers" or "prophets" of Samuel's time as on the level of mere fortune-tellers. What insight or vision they possessed is traced to God's Spirit. Samuel was the ʾeh by preëminence, and the name is little used after his time. Individuals who bear the title "seer" (ḥōzeh) are mentioned in connection with the kings and as historiographers (2 Samuel 24:11; 1 Chron. 21:9; 1 Chron. 25:5; 1 Chron. 29:29; 2 Chron. 9:29; 2 Chron. 12:15; 2 Chron. 19:2, etc.), and distinction is sometimes made between "prophets" and "seers" (2 Kings 17:13; 1 Chron. 29:29, etc.). Havernick thinks that "seer" denotes one who does not belong to the regular prophetic order (Introductions to Old Testament, 50ff, English translation), but it is not easy to fix a precise distinction.

SOURCE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James Orr, M.A., D. D., General Editor; Parsons Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Baasha: (‏בַּעְשָׁא‎, baʿshāʾ, "boldness"): King of Israel. Baasha, son of Ahijah, and of common birth (1 Kings 16:2), usurped the throne of Nadab, the son of Jeroboam, killed Nadab and exterminated the house of Jeroboam. He carried on a long warfare with Asa, the king of Judah (compare Jeremiah 41:9), began to build Ramah, but was prevented from completing this work by Ben-hadad, the king of Syria. He is told by the prophet Jehu that because of his sinful reign the fate of his house would be like that of Jeroboam. Baasha reigned 24 years. His son Elah who succeeded him and all the members of his family were murdered by the usurper Zimri (1 Kings 15:16ff; 1 Kings 16:1ff; 2 Chron. 16:1ff). The fate of his house is referred to in 1 Kings 21:22; 2 Kings 9:9.

SOURCE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James Orr, M.A., D. D., General Editor; Parsons Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Ramah: Codex Vaticanus Ῥαμᾶ, Rhamá; Codex Alexandrinus Ἰαμά, Iamá, and other forms: A city in the territory of Benjamin named between Gibeon and Beeroth (Joshua 18:25). The Levite thought of it as a possible resting-place for himself and his concubine on their northward journey (Judges 19:13). The palm tree of Deborah was between this and Bethel (Judges 4:5). Baasha, king of Samaria, sought to fortify Ramah against Asa, king of Judah. The latter frustrated the attempt, and carried off the materials which Bassha had collected, and with them fortified against him Geba of Benjamin and Mizpah (1 Kings 15:17; 2 Chron. 16:5). Here the captain of Nebuchadnezzar's guard released Jeremiah after he had been carried in bonds from Jerusalem (Jeremiah 40:1). It figures in Isaiah's picture of the Assyrians' approach (Isaiah 10:29). It is named by Hosea in connection with Gibeah (Hosea 5:8), and is mentioned as being reoccupied after the exile (Ezra 2:26; Neh. 7:30). It was near the traditional tomb of Rachel (Jeremiah 31:15; compare 1 Samuel 10:2; Matthew 2:18, the King James Version "Rama").

From the passages cited we gather that Ramah lay some distance to the North of Gibeah, and not far from Gibeon and Beeroth. The first is identified with Tell el-Ful, about 3 miles North of Jerusalem. Two miles farther North is er-Ram. Gibeon (el-Jib) is about 3 miles West of er-Ram, and Beeroth (el-Bireh) is about 4 miles to the North Eusebius, Onomasticon places Ramah 6 Roman miles North of Jerusalem; while Josephus (Ant., VIII, xii, 3) says it lay 40 furlongs from the city. All this points definitely to identification with er-Ram. The modern village crowns a high limestone hill to the South of the road, a position of great strength. West of the village is an ancient reservoir. In the hill are cisterns, and a good well to the South.

SOURCE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James Orr, M.A., D. D., General Editor; Parsons Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

HANANI (Huh nay' ni) Personal name meaning, “my grace” or a shortened form of “Yahweh is gracious.” 1. Prophetic seer who condemned King Asa of Judah (910-869 B.C.) for paying tribute to King Ben-hadad of Damascus rather than relying on God (2 Chron. 16:7). Asa imprisoned Hanani (2 Chron. 16:10).

SOURCE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James Orr, M.A., D. D., General Editor; Parsons Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Bible Background Commentary for the Focal Passage: 2 Chronicles 16:1-13

16:1. Ramah. Located just five miles north of Jerusalem, Baasha's incorporation of Ramah (er-Ram) into his territory would have been a cause of great concern for Judah. Just as Rehoboam had extended his control of the main north-south arteries between Israel and Judah five extra miles (see comment on 13:19), so now Baasha pushes his control of the same arteries five miles south of the traditional line between the nations. There have been no excavations on the site.

16:2-3. treaty with Ben-Hadad. Based on the manner in which this treaty is described here and in the parallel text in 1 Kings 15:18-19, it would appear that Aram had been maintaining a policy of nonintervention, perhaps awaiting the best offer from the warring parties. Ben-Hadad I ruled during the first part of the ninth century, though no precise dating is possible. For information concerning the difficulties of Aramean history of the ninth century see comment on 1 Kings 20:1.

16:4. conquests of Aram. Ben-Hadad's attack on northern Israel, at the instigation of Asa, cost Baasha an important trade corridor. The cities captured in this campaign (see 1 Kings 15:20) include Dan (the northern cult shrine), Ijon (‘Ayyun) at the northern end of the Huleh Basin (about ten miles north of Dan), Abel Maim (Abel Beth-Maacah in 1 Kings), all of which are on the road between Syria and the Phoenician coastal cities of Tyre, Sidon and Acco. The fact that Ijon is mentioned first suggests an attack from the west and ranging south. It is unknown how long Aram was able to hold these towns, but they are clearly back in Jehu's hands a few decades later, according to 2 Kings 10:29. The inscription from Dan mentioning another Syrian campaign against northern Israel suggests that this was a continual threat that had to be faced by Israel's rulers.

16:6. Geba and Mizpah. These two cities, now refortified by Asa with materials taken from the defenses at Ramah, guard the northern border of Judah. Geba (modern Jaba‘, four miles northeast of Jerusalem) appears elsewhere as the northern limit of Judah (2 Kings 23:8) and functions as the guardian of the Micmash Pass. Mizpah (Tell en-Nasbeh, eight miles north of Jerusalem) stood as the fortress dominating the watershed highway on the frontier between Israel and Judah. By fortifying these cities Asa cut off further action against Ramah. Mizpah is about three miles north of Ramah guarding the road from Bethel to Ramah. The excavations at the site have uncovered a wall with eleven towers dating to this period. The wall was twelve to fifteen feet thick and thirty-five to forty feet high. Geba is about two miles east of Ramah blocking access from that direction.

16:7. seer. Although Hanani the seer only appears in this passage, he is mentioned as the father of Jehu the prophet in 1 Kings 16:1; 2 Chronicles 19:2; 20:34. The title seer, roʾeh, apparently was an alternative term for prophet (nabiʾ; see the comment on 1 Sam 9:9).

16:9. eyes of the Lord. This imagery provides a sense of the universality of Yahweh's vision (equivalent to omnipresence) and involvement (reflecting his sovereign control). A Babylonian boundary stone from the end of the second millennium speaks of the moon god Sin as “the eye of heaven and earth.”

16:12. foot disease. Some attempts have been made to diagnose Asa's foot disease as gout (uncommon in biblical times) or gangrene brought on by the obstruction of blood flow. The fact that Asa chose to consult only physicians, who were at times associated with magical rituals or, at best, herbal remedies, further demonstrates his failure to seek God's aid and thereby contributed to his own death.

SOURCE: The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener © 1993 by Craig S. Keener published by InterVarsity Press; P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515.

 

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING:

It Began With Hanani

By Francis X. Kimmitt

Francis X. Kimmitt is professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, coordinator of institutional effectiveness, and assistant vice president of academics at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee..

T

HE PROPHETS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT were spokespersons for Yahweh.  They were His messengers, delivering a word from God to His people.  The prophetic literature is a mixture of prose and poetry, containing colorful figures of speech and frequent satirical attacks on the upper echelons of Israelite and Judahite society ( the priests, kings, nobles, and court prophets ).1  As a result, the Hebrew prophets had a tenuous relationship with the kings of Judah and Israel.

Old Testament prophets confronted the people and leaders of Judah and Israel in the context of the covenant that Yahweh had made with Hid people at Mount Sinai ( Ex.19:5-6 ).  Yahweh would be their God and they would be His people.  With this relationship, though, came God’s call for His people to be obedient and keep His commandments.  In Deuteronomy 28, He spoke through Moses and told Israel that if they kept His commandments they would be blessed.  But if they disobeyed Him, they would be punished.  We find throughout the Books of Kings and Chronicles that Yahweh sent prophet after prophet to the people and their leaders because they broke the covenant, disobeyed His commandments, and abandoned Him to pursue the false gods of their neighbors.  Some leaders received the prophet and his message from God.  Others rejected both.  This article looks a three prophets and how the kings rejected their messages from God.

Hanani with Asa

In 2 Chronicles 16, we read of the first prophet to “cross swords” with a king of Judah and bear the king’s wrath.  Asa was the first of eight “good” kings of Judah after David, according to the writer of Kings.  He reigned about 911-870 BC.2  When Asa had trusted Yahweh previously, the Lord had delivered the armies of the Cushites and Libyans over to Judah.  But in this episode, Asa displayed a lack of trust in Yahweh’s faithfulness.  When Israel’s King Baasha ( ruled 908-886 BC ) besieged Judah, Asa sought out King Ben-Hadad of Aram ( modern Syria ) and asked him to honor the treaty their fathers had brokered.  Asa sent Ben-Hadad silver and gold, and the king of Aram attacked and conquered severa northern cities in Israel.  The resulted in baasha calling off his siege and withdrawing his forces.  From a military perspective, Asa’s tactic was successful; but, as Hanani told him, Yahweh had planned to hand over the Aramean army to him  ( 2 Chron. 16:7 ).  Aram would continue to be a threat to Israel for many years because of Asa’s lack of faith.

Hanani courageously faced the king: “For the eyes of the Lord roam throughout the earth to show himself strong for those who are wholeheartedly devoted to him.  You have been foolish in this matter.  Therefore, you will have wars from now on.”3  How did Asa respond to this word from God?  He was angry with the seer and put him in prison.  Asa even oppressed others who may have supported the prophet.  Why?  He was enraged at this word from Yahweh.  Confronted with the truth of his sin, Asa chose to prersecute the messenger rather than confess and repent.

What can we learn from this biblical episode?  The lesson is two-fold.  For most of his life, Asa was a good and faithful king.  But at this point in his life, Asa wavered and chose to try to fix the problem himself, instead of relying of what he knew to be true that God is faithful.  How many times do we try to fix our problems ourselves instead of trusting God? 

However, God loves us so much that He will put people in our lives who will call us back to His plan for us.  Then we have a choice to make.  Will we accept His correction, or will we become defensive and lash out at His messenger as Asa did?

The second lesson concerns the obedient prophet, Hanani.  Obedience sometimes results in undesirable outcomes.  God does not promise that when we obey Him, life will be wonderful.  But throughout His Word, He does promise that He will never leave or forsake us.

Elijah with Ahab and Jezebel

In 1 Kings 17, we are introduced to one of the most famous Old Testament prophets, Elijah. Two extraordinary people in Scripture opposed him: Israel’s King Ahab and his Phoenician wife, Jezebel.  Ahab reigned 874-853 BC.  Jezebel brought Baal worship to all Israel.  Baal was the storm-god of the Canaanite pantheon; worshipers believed he brought rain, which was essential for agriculture.  Israel forsook Yahweh as the provider of rain and embraced instead the false god Baal.  This was the backdrop of the confrontation between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.  Who could bring the rain for the drought-stricken land—Yahweh or Baal?  Who could the people serve?  Elijah’s dramatic victory as Yahweh’s servant should have settled the issue once for all, but it did not.4  Ahab viewed Elijah as his enemy and saw him as the “troubler of Israel” ( 1 Kings 18:17, ESV ).  After this episode and when Yahweh sent the rains after the drought, Jezebel swore to take Elijah’s life.  Fearing for his life, Elijah fled to Beersheba and then walked for forty days to Mount Sinai ( 19:2-8 ).

The story of this confrontation between Elijah and Ahab and Jezebel teaches us about the power, might, and faithfulness of Yahweh in a time when most of His people had abandoned Him.  The Israelites had minimized Yahweh, believing He was powerless and faithless.  Likewise, many people today have lost faith in God for similar reasons.  They believe Him to be absent or powerless or even faithless.  This biblical story reminds us, though, that the Lord can use one person standing strong on his or her faith to accomplish God-sized tasks.

Jeremiah with Jehoiakim and Zedekiah

The Lord sent Jeremiah to Judah during the final days before the Babylonians destroyed the nation in 586 BC.  His prophetic ministry was tempestuous, particularly with two of the kings: Jehoiakim ( 609-598 BC ) and Zedekiah ( 597-586 BC ).

Jeremiah 36 contrasts Jehoiakim’s response to the reading of the Word of Yahweh with that of his father Josiah in 2 Kings 22.  When Josiah heard the Word of the Lord, he ripped his clothes and grieved, knowing that Judah had disobeyed the covenant requirements.  Josiah’s response led to the greatest revival in Judah’s history.  He cleansed the Temple and removed all the high places throughout the land.

When the scroll was read in the presence of Jehoiakim, he responded by cutting up the scroll with a knife and then tossing the columns of text into the fire until the entire scroll was consumed ( Jer. 36:23 ).  Neither the king nor his attendants showed any fear nor ripped their garments ( v. 24 ).  Apparently, Jehoiakim believed he could negate the power of Yahweh’s Word by removing it from his presence.  But he did not stop there.  He ordered his servants to find Jeremiah and Baruch ( Jeremiah’s friend and scribe ) and throw them into prison.  The two were not to be found, however, because Yahweh had hidden them ( v. 26 ).

Judah’s final king ( Zedekiah ) had an unusual relationship with Jeremiah.  The king sought a favorable word from Yahweh when the Babylonian army temporarily withdrew from its siege of Jerusalem in 588 BC.  Zedekiah perhaps believed that Yahweh was going to deliver Judah just as He had in 701 BC when the Assyrians threatened Jerusalem during Hezekiah’s reign.  This type deliverance was not to occur, though, during the Babylonian threat.  Jeremiah had already prophesied the end of Jerusalem ( 34:1-7 ).5  After the Babylonian army had withdrawn, Jerusalem was free to move about the city even though his message was that the city would fall and all who stayed in it would die ( chs. 37—38 ).  Authorities soon put Jeremiah into prison because they considered him to be a traitor, but edekiah protected him and even provided daily fool until all the food in the city was gone ( 37:21 ).

Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry is a lesson in faithful, obedient service.  The takeaway for us is that success in Christian ministry is not about numbers, budgets, or buildings—but obedience.  Jeremiah prophesied to disobedient Judah and its rebellious kings for forty years prior to the nation’s ultimate destruction.  History has no recorded signs of the people repenting or returning to Yahweh.  Jeremiah continued in his ministry because of God’s call on his life.  He continued to confront the people and leaders and bring the message of truth to them as long as he lived.  Many leaders or workers in the kingdom of God today may not achieve a visible meansure of success as the world would count it.  The reality, though, is that the “well done, good and faithful servant” from Jesus is the only measure of success that matters ( Matt. 25 ).

Faithful service as a prophet was no guarantee that life would be trouble free.  Hanani was the first prophet to face the king’s wrath; he was not, however, the last.  The examples of these three prophets—Hanani, Elijah, and Jeremiah—teach us that obedience to God’s will sometimes does lead us to direct conflict and negative consequences, even with God’s people.  As we read these stories and reflect on the biblical messages, we recognize, however, that “trust and obey” is not a trite phrase, but the truth for a life well lived.           

1.  J.D. Hays, The Message of the Prophets: A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 47.

2.  All dates in this article are from E.R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1983), 217.

3.  2 Chron. 16:9.  Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).

4.  P.R. House, 1, 2 Kings, The New American Commentary, vol. 8 (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1995), 210.

5.  J.A. Thompson, The Book of Jeremiah, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 631.

SOURCE:  Biblical Illustrator; Lifeway Christian Resources Of The Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234, Fall 2018.

Prophets, Diviners, and Seers

By Harry Hunt

Harry Hunt is professor of Old Testament, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.

P

ROPHETIC FIGURES OF VARIOUS KINDS have been around for a long time.  However, we have not known much about them until recent years.

Extra-biblical Prophecy

The largest collection of ancient Near Eastern material regarding prophecy comes to us from the upper Mesopotamian area (around Mari); however, some material is beginning to appear from the lower Mesopotamian area (around Babylon).1 Basically, these texts reflect many prophets who communed with a wide variety of deities.  Though some of the prophets apparently did not have titles, the titles of those who did (such as “answerer,” “cultic servant,” “messenger,” and “diviner”) seem to be more descriptive than anything else.  Moreover, the prophets apparently could be either male or female.  Finally, though the prophets do not seem to have been directly attached to the court, many of their oracles were responses to requests from the king for a word of assurance of something good to come or the prophet’s warning to the king about something ominous.

Prophetic references have also been found in texts from the Anatolian area of the Old Hittite kingdom.  In addition to titles, these texts also tell us some of the means (such as incubation, liver divination, dreams, and lots) the prophets used in order to obtain divine revelations.  Unfortunately, to this point little information has come to light from Egypt concerning its prophets and their activities.

The texts that are most important to us are those that have been found in Israel.  Material from northern Syria (and Ebla in particular) exists, though it is not yet available to us.  However, a great deal of material is available from the Phoenician area (particularly the Ugaritic material).  Though this material includes many predictions, it does not include any direct references to prophets themselves.  However, an Egyptian text (known as the “Report of Wen-Amun”) refers to a Phoenician prince’s attendant who became ecstatic and delivered an oracle of support for Wen-Amun.  There are many biblical references to prophets of Baal in the Phoenician area.  Thus, though we may not know as much about them as we would like to know, clearly prophets and prophetesses had a prominent role in ancient Near Eastern society.

Prophecy in the Old Testament

There are essentially three descriptive titles used for prophets in the Old Testament.2 The most common word for prophet or prophetess is nabi’  [nah VEE].  Nabi’  is used to refer to a prophet about 306 times and to a prophetess about 6 times.  Unfortunately, there is little agreement as to the word’s origin.  Some think it derives from a root meaning “to bubble forth” and thus describes someone who spoke from an ecstatic experience.  Others think the word derives from a root meaning “to announce.”  Thus the prophet would be one who simply announced (or spoke) the word of the deity.  Others believe it is more passive and refers to the “one called out” by God.  Neither the exact meaning of the word nor its origin can be determined with any certainty.

Nabi’  is used to refer to prophets in every book of the Old Testament except for those books more commonly thought of as wisdom material.3 Moreover, it is used of the genuine prophets (1 Sam. 9:9; Jer. 1:5) as well as the false (Jer. 2:26) or pagan prophets (1 Kings 18:20).  Finally, it is used to refer to those in an ecstatic state (1 Sam. 10:11) as well as those who were not (1 Kings 22:18).

The second most common word for prophet or prophetess in the Old Testament is the word hozeh  [HOE zch].  It comes from a root word meaning “to see” or “to perceive.”  It is used only 19 times in the biblical text to refer to prophets, and all but one of those (a reference to a collective group of disbelievers) is in reference to males.  Interestingly, the word is primarily used in a derogatory sense, such as in Amaziah’s description of Amos (Amos 7:12) or in God’s description of the false prophets (Isa. 29:10).  However, its uses are not always negative, for it is not only used in a positive way to refer to Gad (2 Sam. 24:11) but also to refer to Amos (Amos 7:14-15).  The basic idea of hozeh  seems to be that of one who could make an interpretation from some type of inner vision.  Thus the word has often been translated as “seer.”

The third word used for prophet or prophetess in the Old Testament (and the one least frequently used) is the word ro’eh  [ROW eh], which comes froma common root in the Old Testament meaning “to see” or “observe.”  Because of this, some have thought of the ro’eh  as the one who received his or her insight or revelation in a more concrete manner (such as looking at the clouds, casting lots, or examining livers) than the hazeh.  However, the word is only used 12 times in the biblical text to refer to prophetic entities.  Though such a distinction may be true, the evidence for it at this point is skimpy.  The word does refer to prophetic figures.  Basically, the word is used to refer to four entities: Samuel (1 Sam. 9:9,11,18-19); Hanani (2 Chron. 16:7,10); Zadok (2 Sam. 15:27); and the seers in general (Isa. 30:10).  Thus, like hozeh, ro’eh  has primarily been translated as “seeer.”

Though much has been made about the distinction among the three terms, apparently not as much distinction existed in the biblical text as in extra-biblical literature.  As a matter of fact, nabi’  and ro’eh  are used in a parallel sense in Isaiah 29:10 while ro’eh  and hozeh  are used in a parallel sense in Isaiah 30:10.  Neverthless, the primary word used in the Old Testament for prophet is nabi’.

Relationship to the Court

Like the extra-biblical prophets, some of the biblical prophets, such as Gad and perhaps Isaiah, were associated with the royal courts (see 2 Sam. 24:11; Isa. 6:1).  However, apparently most of them either were associated with local shrines (see 1 Sam. 9:6-27; 1 Kings 14:1-2; Jer. 1:1) or just roamed about as isolated individuals (see 1 Kings 20:38) or as a part of some group (see 1 Sam. 10:5; 2 Kings 2:3; 4:38).

Means of Revelation

Unfortunately, we often are not told how the true prophets received their communication from God but simply that it was from Him (see Jer. 1:4).  However, in some cases the method of revelation is clearly mentioned (such as through some type of dream [Num. 12:6]; vision [Ezek. 8:1-18]; audible voice [1 Kings 19:12]; ecstatic state [1 Sam. 19:24]; or musical mood [2 Kings 3:15]).4

The story is really not much different for the false or pagan prophets.  Apparently their main method of revelation was the process of divination.5 This involved consulting supernatural powers to determine what might or might not happen in the future.  Evidently, it included many different aspects such as augury (or the foretelling of events by means of signs such as the flight of birds), hydromancy (or the mixing of liquids [Gen. 44:5]), astrology (2 Kings 21:5), necromancy (1 Sam. 28:7-25), and hepatoscopy (of the consulting of the liver [Ezek. 21:21]).6 However, they also used other means to receive their revelations such as soothsaying, sorcery, charming, becoming a medium, practicing wizardry (Deut. 18:10-11), becoming drunk (Isa. 28:7; Mic. 2:11), and entering into some kind of ecstatic state (1 Kings 18:28).  Though such practices were quite common in extra-biblical circles (1 Sam. 6:2; Isa. 19:3; Ezek. 21:21), they were strongly condemned among God’s people (Lev. 19:26; Deut. 18:9-14; Mic. 5:11).

Forthtelling and Foretelling

Though we normally think of the prophets as predicting , or foretelling, things such as the events predicted by Elisha in 2 Kings 6:12 or the birth of Josiah in 1 Kings 13:2, more often they were simply proclaiming, or forthtelling, some revelation.  In fact, they did far more proclaiming than they did predicting.

Prophetic Activity

The first person to be called a prophet in the Old Testament is Abraham (Gen. 20:7).  However, other prophetic characters such as Aaron (Ex. 7:1), Miriam, the first prophetess (Ex. 15:20; Num. 12), and Moses, who became something of an ideal prophetic figure (Deut. 18:15-19; 34:10), came along quickly.

Before long, prophets and prophetesses were numerous in the biblical account.  Primary among those during the days of the Former Prophets were Deborah (Judg. 4:4); Samuel (1 Sam. 8:7,10; 10:24); Nathan (2 Sam. 7:13); Elijah (1 Kings 19:15-16); and Elisha (2 Kings 4:4-7).  By the time of the Latter Prophets, the whole prophetic movement seems to have hit its zenith among God’s people. Thus there were not only the Major Prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, but also the Minor Prophets (Amos, Hosea, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Obadiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Joel, and Jonah) as well as Daniel.

True and False Prophets

As one might expect, the question of distinguishing between a true and a false prophet was always an important one (Deut. 13:1-5; 18:20-22).  Though apparently there was not a hard and fast rule, the two main criteria seem to have been whether the prophecy supported the Law (Mic. 3:5a) and whether or not it came to pass (Deut. 18:22; Mic. 3:5b,11b-12).  As one might expect, the false prophets had no vision but simply said what he people wanted to hear or were willing to pay for (Mic. 3:5c).  Thus they were constantly preaching peace when in reality there was not going to be any peace Mic. 3:5; Jer.6:14).  The true prophets, like Micah, not only gave lengthy discourses against them, but they also predicted that there would come a time when their revelation would cease and they would be exposed for the charlatans they really were (Isa. 29:9-12; Mic. 3:5-8; Jer. 14:13-18; 23:9-32; 28:1-17; Ezek. 13:1-13).  Moreover, those who used the false prophets’ message as a rationale for exploiting the poor and perverting justice would have their own kingdoms taken away from them (Mic. 3:9-12).  Thus, in the end, the true prophets would be vindicated.

1.   “Ancient Near Eastern Prophecy,” The Anchor Bible Dictionary,  vol. 5, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 477-82.

2.   Though it is a bit dated, the best discussion of biblical prophecy is that found in R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament  (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1969), 741-63.

3.   Francis I. Andersen and A. Dean Forbes,  The Vocabulary of the Old Testament  (Roma: Editrice Pontificio Instituto Biblico, 1989), 371.

4.   F. B. Huey, Jr., Yesterday’s Prophets for Today’s World  (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1980), 60-66.

5.   “Divination and Magic,” Holman Bible Dictionary, ed. Trent C. Butler (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1991), 371-72.

6.   Ibid

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Summer 1995.

Who Were The Arameans?

By Joel F. Drinkard, Jr.

Joel F. Drinkard, Jr., is senior scholar and professor of Old Testament at Campbellsville Universiy, Campbleesville, Kentucky.

B

EFORE ANSWERING THE QUESTION in the title, let’s consider a second query: Where are the Arameans in the Bible?  A survey of the occurrences of “Aram” and “Aramean” in several English treaslations of the Old Testament reveals som interesting statistics.  The Hebrew Bible ( BHS ) has 125 occurrences of “Aram and 13 of “Aramean.”  But the King James Version ( KJV ) only has 8 or “Aram” and none of “Aramean.”  The Revised Standard Version ( RSV ): 41 “Aram” and 12 “Aramean.”  By comparison the New Revised Standard Version ( NRSV ): 144 “Aram” and 68 “Aramean.”  The Holman Christian Standard Bible ( HCSB ): 143 “Aram” and 65 “Aramean.”  Why do these translations differ so?  The KJV says Naaman was captain of the army of “the king of Syria” ( 2 Kings 5:1 )    But, the Hebrew text has king of Ara,”  A check of ancient versions shows the Septuagint ( Greek Old Testament ) has “king of Syria” and uses “Syria” or “Syrian” 130 times.  The Latin Vulgate also had “Syria” and uses “Syria” and “Syrian” 104 times.  In addition both the Septuagint and Vulgate translate 17 of the Hebrew occurrences of “Aram” as “Mesopotamia.”  The result is that many Hebrew occurrences of “Aram” and “Aramean” come to us in English Bibles as “Syria” or “Syrians” and “Mesopotamia” because of the Septuagint’s and Vulgate’s influence on English translations.  Neither NRSV nor HCSB have any occurrences of “Syria” or “Syrian.”  So where are the Arameans?  They are in Syria and Mesopotamia—both in many English translations and , as we will see, also in history!

Who were the Arameans?  The Arameans were the neighbors of Israel to the north and east, primarily east of the Jordan River and the Rift Valley as far as the Middle Euphrates and its tributaries.  They even lived as far east as some of the upper parts of the Tigris River tributaries.1  The Arameans were Semitic tribes who were closely related to the Israelites.  The Old Testament says Abraham’s brother Nahor lived in Aramnaharaim ( literally, “Aram of the two rivers”—also translated as “Mesopotamia”; Gen. 24:10 ).  Nahor’s son Bethuel is specifically called an Aramean ( 25:20 ) who lived in Paddan-Aram ( translated as the field, garden, or country of Aram ).  Isaac’s wife Rebekah was the daughter of Bethuel and sister of Laban the Aramean ( 29:16 ).  Abraham was living in the region of Aram or Mesopotamia, at Haran on one of the major tributaries of the Euphrates, when God called him to go to Canaan ( 11:31—12:1 ). 

The biblical description of Abraham and his Aramean relatives closely matches what we learn from other ancient Near Eastern sources.  The Arameans were spread over a large territory extending into Babylonia and Assyria.2  They were both pastoralists and inhabitants of cities and towns.  Genesis 24 describes Abraham as a tent-dwelling pastoralist who moved with the flocks.  Bethuel, Laban, and Rebekah were city-dwellers, who lived in a house in the city of Nahor. 

The Bible also indicates that the Aramaic language the Arameans spoke was a Semitic language closely related to Hebrew.  When Laban and Jacob made a covenant together ( 31:47-54 ), they both invoked the names of their God, and they named the place of the covenant in their own dialect Jegarsahadutha  in Aramaic and Galeed  in Hebrew.  Both mean “heap ( or pile ) of witness ( or testimony ).”

The Arameans occupied much of the territory that linked trade and commerce between Egypt and Assyria-Babylon.  They lived north of Cannan-Israel and east of Phoenicia.  The primary god of the Arameans was Hadad, a storm god.  The Arameans eventually became strong enough that they controlled much of the region of eastern Syria and Assyria.  Partly because their language was alphabetic ( unlike the cuneiform-syllabic languages of Assyria and Babylon ).  Aramaic became a common language of trade and commerce as well as diplomacy during the Assyrian and Babylonian empires of the late eighth to sixth centuries BC.  Aramaic then became the lingua franca  for almost all the Near East during the Persian and Hellenistic periods.3  Aramaic eventually replaced many of the other Semitic languages of the region.  Aramaic and Greek were the two primary languages of the New Testament Era thoughout the Near East.

The earliest specific mention of the Arameans was in Assyrian texts dated to the time of Tiglath-pileser I ( reigned 1115-1077 BC ).  In one text Tiglath-pileser I mentions that he crossed the Euphrates River 28 times, two of which were in a single year.  He fought against the Ahlanu and the Arameans and he defeated them from Tadmor ( Palmyra ) in modern Syria as far as Babylonia.4  Thus by this time the Arameans were spread from central Syria eastward across the Euphrates River at least as far as the Babylonian territory.  This ancient text also shows that the Arameans were a constant problem for Tiglath-pileser I throughout his reign.  As does Scripture, the Assyrian texts describe the Arameans both as pastoral tribal groups and also as ones who dwelled in towns or villages.

The Arameans mentioned in our focal text were those who lived west of the Euphrates in what is modern Syria.  They never formed a unified nation.  Instead they had a series of independent city-states, including Aram-Damascus, Aram-Zobah ( 2 Sam. 8:3-6 ), Aram Beth-Rehob, and Aram-Maacah ( 10:6 ).

David occupied Aram-Damascus (  8:6 ), and it remained under Israel’s control during his reign.  Rezon, an Aramean who  served Hadad-ezer of Aram-Zobah, fled, however, from Zobah, gathered a band of mercenaries, and captured Damascus form Solomon.  Rezon reigned as king of Aram from Damascus ( 1 Kings 11:23-27 ).  According to 1 Kings 15, the Aramean king Bar-Hadad I ( Hebrew, Ben-Hadad  ) had a treaty with Israel’s King Baasha, but Judah’s King Asa bribed Bar-Hadad I to break the treaty and attack Israel ( 1 Kings 15:16-21 ).

Bar-Hadad II ( who is probably also named Hadadezer ) along with Israel’s King Ahab fought against Assyria’s King Shalmaneser III at the Battle of Qarqar in 853 BC .  Bar-Hadad II had 1,200 chariots, 1,200 cavalry, and 20,000 soldiers in the battle; Ahab had 2,000 chariots and 10,000 soldiers.5  Bar-Hadad II later fought against King Ahab ( 20:26;34 ).  Hazael assassinated Bar-Hadad in 842 BC.  Both Elijah and Elisha had told Hazael that he would become king ( 1 Kings 19:15; 2 Kings 8:13 ).  Hazael is most likely the Aramean king in the Tel Dan stele.  In the stele’s inscription the king claims tohave killed both the kings of Israel and Judah, Joram and Ahaziah.6  During Hazael’s reign Aram-Damascus reached its greatest extent, into the Israelite territory east of the Jordan, and subjugated Israel and Judah ( chs. 12—13 ),  In the eighth century BC, the Assyrians expanded their control over Aramean territory.  Tiglath-pileser III ( reigned 744-727 BC ) conquered the Arameans of Damascus in 732 BC; they ceased to be a political force in Syria.  A decade later the Assyrians also conquered Israel.

To summarize, the Arameans wree Israel’s neighbors to the north.  During the monarchy they were at times allies, but more frequently adversaries.  Each subjugated the other during this time.                                                                                                                                                            

  1.  B. Mazar, “The Aramean Empire and its Relations with Israel,” Biblical Archaeologist 25, no. 4 (1962): 101.

  2.  Ibid.

  3.  Ibid., 111

  4.  J.B. Prichard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Tests Relating to the Old Testament, Third Edition with Supplement (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1969), 275.

  5.  Ibid., 278-79.

  6.  W.M. Schniedewind, “Tel Dan Stela: New Light on Aramaic & Jehu’s Revolt,” Bulletin on the American Schools of Oriental Research  302 (1996): 75-79; & M.J. Suriano, “The Apology of Hazael: A Literary & Historical Analysis of the Tel Dan Inscription,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 66, no. 3 (July 2007): 163-176.

SOURCE:  Biblical Illustrator; Lifeway Christian Resources Of The Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234, Fall 2018.

 

BIBLE CHARACTER TRIVIA

 

(08, 119)  What is the Answer To & Where in The Bible is This Week’s Trivia Question Found: What rebel sent his spies throughout Israel, telling them to wait till they heard the sound of the trumpet?  Answer Next Week:

Last Week’s Question: In what city did Crispus, the synagogue ruler, believe Paul’s message and submit to baptism? Answer: Corinth; Acts 18:8.