Tuesday, April 14, 2009

More on Asa - His first religious reforms

Asa is much on my mind these days. I'm spending much more time on him than is justified by the length of the lesson series I'm going to teach, only two weeks. But I'm finding Asa to be a fascinating story. His time as good king-bad king are perfect for the lessons. And trying to find the reason why he went bad is a good thing. I had planned today to write about something I discovered in the letters of C.S. Lewis, but I shall hold off on that. All the time I've had to spend on taxes has made my mind unable to fully appreciate CSL.

Asa was a young man when he became king. The scripture doesn't tell us how young exactly. Some commentators say perhaps ten or eleven years old. After studying 1st King 15 and 2nd Chronicles 14-16, I think he more likely was 18 or 20. Rehoboam, Asa's grandfather, was 41 when he became king. The Bible does not tell us how old his son, Abijah, was when he became king, but it was 17 years later. Assuming the successors were the first sons, and assuming these men had their first children at a normal age, say between 20 and 25, the timeline works out like this, setting the year of Rehoboam's birth as year zero.

Birth.........................yr of coronation/
Year.....King.............age at coronation...yrs of reign...age at death


Edited on 16 April 2009: I found, in 2nd Chronicles 11:18-25 the story of Rehoboam's family. Abijah was the first son of his second wife, Maacah, daughter of Absalom. All together Rehoboam had eighteen wives and sixty concubines who bore him twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters. So this would tend to drive Asa's age down just a little. If Rehoboam waited a year or two before taking his second wife, this would put Asa's probable age at ascension at 16-18. Of course, Rehoboam, being crown prince at the time, may have taken wives in rapid succession, and Asa still could have been close to 20 when he became king.

All of this is only for the purpose of figuring out how old Asa was when he became king. Certainly, if Rehoboam and Abijah had their first children at an older age, Asa could have been as young as 10. I go for an older age for Asa because of what the Bible says about Abijah's family: "He married fourteen wives and had twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters." [2nd Chronicles 13:21] Clearly he began this polygamy quite a while before he became king. So Asa was a young man when he began his reign.

The scripture tells us something about Asa's reforms.

Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as his father David had done. He expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his fathers had made. He even deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive Asherah pole. Asa cut the pole down and burned it in the Kidron valley. Although he did not remove the high places, Asa's heart was fully committed to the LORD all his life. He brought into the temple of the LORD the silver and gold and the articles that he and his father had dedicated. 1st Kings 15:11-15

That is a pretty good report about Asa's personal piety, and how that became part of his public policy. He followed two kings who were foolish, taking bad advice, and not having any particular religious convictions. Somehow Asa turned it around. The account in 2nd Chronicles has this a little different.

Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God. He removed the foreign altars and the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asharah poles. He commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to obey his laws and commands. He removed the high places and incense altars in every town in Judah and the kingdom was at peace under him. 2nd Chronicles 14:2-5

Although these two accounts differ concerning the high places, and whether Asa removed them or not (although 2nd Chronicles has more information about that later, and about Maacah), it is clear that Asa began well. How does a young man, with bad examples in his father and grandfather (and his great-grandfather Solomon, for that matter), with a grandmother or mother who builds an Asherah pole and worships that foreign god, turn his life around?

We are not told how, but I think it had to be some godly tutors. His father was busy with all those wives and with training to become king when Rehoboam died. That happened somewhat sooner than expected. Asa was likely in the care of his mother, and under the tutelage of someone appointed by Abijah. This unknown, unsung person seems to have done his job exceedingly well. Asa, 20 years old at the most, proves to have more wisdom and fortitude than his two immediate predecessors.

This leads me to think of the many unsung heroes in the Christian community, in the church down through the ages. We hear about a few of these, such as in the oft told story of the chain of conversions from Dwight L. Moody to Billy Graham. But most remain unsung.

Today, I sing their praises.

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