Filling the large cistern pit with dead people (Jer 41:9-41:9)

“Now the cistern

Into which Ishmael

Had thrown

All the bodies

Of the men

Whom he had struck down

Was the large cistern

That King Asa

Had made for defense

Against King Baasha

Of Israel.

Ishmael,

The son of Nethaniah,

Filled that cistern

With those

Whom he had killed.”

Jeremiah explains that this big cistern was able to hold 80 bodies because this cistern was more like a pit or a trench that King Asa of Judah (911-870 BCE) had built over 300 years earlier. At that time he was having a war standoff with King Baasha of Israel (909-886 BCE) about Ramah. Thus, he built the city of Mizpah according to 1 Kings, chapter 15. This was then some kind of large trench pit rather than a simple well, so that it was able to hold all these bodies. There was no mention of the bodies of the other Judeans and Chaldeans who had been killed a couple of days earlier.

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The predicted punishment of King Jehoram (2 Chr 21:11-21:15)

“Moreover King Jehoram made high places in the hill country of Judah. He led the inhabitants of Jerusalem into unfaithfulness. He made Judah go astray. A letter came to him from the prophet Elijah, saying.

‘Thus says Yahweh,

The God of your father David.

Because you have not walked in the ways

Of your father King Jehoshaphat

Or in the ways of King Asa of Judah,

But have walked in the way of the kings of Israel,

You will be punished.

You have led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem

Into unfaithfulness,

As the house of Ahab led Israel into unfaithfulness.

You also have killed your brothers,

Members of your father’s house,

Who were better than you.

See! Yahweh will bring a great plague on your people,

Your children, your wives, and all your possessions.

You yourself will have a severe sickness with a disease of your bowels, Until your bowels come out,

Day after day,

Because of the disease.’”

This section was not found in 2 Kings. In fact, the insertion of the letter from the prophet Elijah seems like an anachronism. This was an attempt to condemn King Jehoram with a major prophet. There was no other mention of Elijah in the 2 books of Chronicles. In fact, he had been taken up to heaven during the reign of King Ahaziah of Israel, the father of King Jehoram of Israel. Most of Elijah’s dealings were with the northern kingdom of Israel and King Ahab, not with Judah. Nevertheless, the condemnation is clear. King Jehoram has not walked in the ways of his ancestor King David, nor his father or grandfather, King Asa and King Jehoshaphat, but like the kings of Israel and his father-in-law. He has led Judah and Jerusalem astray.   Note that they are considered separate. There is not mention of Benjamin anymore. He had built those high places in the countryside instead of protecting the Temple in Jerusalem. He had killed his 6 brothers, his father’s children. He and his people would suffer a plague. This seems to be a common punishment. He himself will have a disease of the bowels.

The power of King Jehoshaphat (2 Chr 17:1-17:2)

“The son of King Asa Jehoshaphat succeeded him. He strengthened himself against Israel. He placed forces in all the fortified cities of Judah. He set garrisons in the land of Judah and in the cities of Ephraim which his father King Asa had taken.”

There was not that much about King Jehoshaphat in 1 Kings, as this biblical author expanded on his role. Right from the beginning, he strengthened himself against the northern Israel kingdom. He fortified all the cities of Judah like his father and grandfather. He also sent troops to these cities and those in Ephraim that his father had taken. It sounds like the civil war between the north and south is about to heat up.

The dispute with King Baasha of Israel (2 Chr 16:1-16:6)

“In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of King Asa, King Baasha of Israel went up against Judah. He built Ramah to prevent anyone from going out or coming into the territory of King Asa of Judah. Then King Asa took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the Yahweh and the king’s house. He sent them to King Ben-hadad of Aram, who resided in Damascus, saying. ‘Let there be an alliance between me and you, like between my father and your father. I am sending to you silver and gold. Go! Break your alliance with King Baasha of Israel that he may withdraw from me.’ King Ben-hadad listened to King Asa. He sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel. They conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-maim, and all the store-cities of Naphtali. When Baasha heard of it, he stopped building Ramah, and let his work cease. Then King Asa brought all Judah together. They carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber, with which King Baasha had been building. With them he built Geba and Mizpah.”

Once again, this is almost based word for word like 1 Kings, chapter 15. King Baasha (909-886 BCE) was the contemporary king of Israel. Instead of a continual war with Kings Asa and King Baasha, here the war begins in the 36th year of the rule of King Asa. King Baasha set up some kind of barricade in Ramah, which was about 6 miles north of Jerusalem that kept King Asa from coming and going into Jerusalem. King Asa of Judah had an idea to get the Aramean King Ben-hadad of Damascus on his side against King Baasha of Israel. He sent envoys to Damascus with gold and silver from the temple and palace treasuries. He wanted King Ben-hadad to break his alliance with King Baasha and invade the northern territories. King Ben-hadad took the gold and silver. Then he sent his armies to take over the northern area around Dan and Naphtali. Here there is no mention of Galilee. When this happened, King Baasha stopped his work at Ramah and went to defend his cities. There is no mention of Tirzah here. Meanwhile, King Asa sent all his people out from Jerusalem to Ramah to take all the stones and timbers. Then they rebuilt the cities of Geba, 6 miles northeast of Jerusalem in the Benjamin territory, and Mizpah, about 4 miles northwest of Jerusalem. These towns had existed before, but now they were refortified. Mizpah was a common name for many towns.

 

Queen mother Maacah and Yahweh worship (2 Chr 15:16-15:18)

“King Asa even removed his mother Maacah from being queen mother because she had made an abominable image for Asherah. King Asa cut down her image, crushed it, and burned it at the Wadi Kidron. But the high places were not taken out of Israel. Nevertheless the heart of King Asa was true all his days. He brought into the house of God the votive gifts of his father and his own votive gifts of silver, gold, and utensils. There was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of the reign of King Asa.”

This is based on 1 Kings, chapter 15. More importantly, King Asa walked in the ways of Yahweh with a heart true to Yahweh. He removed his Queen Mother Maacah from her place of prominence. The exact implications of this are not clear. He also burned her picture of the goddess Asherah. Here he also crushed it. However, he did leave the high places of worship alone, but this is in contradiction to the previous chapter that said he removed all the high places. Perhaps this biblical author was just repeating what was in 1 Kings. Yet it in other places he had no trouble expanding or even changing what the author of 1 Kings had said. Anyway, King Asa probably had no control over Israel. Nevertheless both biblical writers held that King Asa made many votive gifts to the temple of gold and silver. Clearly King Asa was a religious reformer who tried to elevate the unique Yahweh cult.

 

The monotheistic worship of Yahweh (2 Chr 15:8-15:15)

“When King Asa heard these words, the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded, he took courage. He put away the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns that he had taken in the hill country of Ephraim. He repaired the altar of Yahweh that was in front of the vestibule of the house of Yahweh. He gathered all Judah and Benjamin. He also gathered those from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon who were residing as aliens with them. Great numbers had deserted to him from Israel when they saw that Yahweh his God was with him. They were gathered at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of the reign of King Asa. They sacrificed to Yahweh on that day, from the booty that they had brought, seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep. They entered into a covenant to seek Yahweh, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul. Whoever would not seek Yahweh, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman. They took an oath to Yahweh with a loud voice. They were shouting with trumpets and horns. All Judah rejoiced over the oath. For they had sworn with all their heart. They had sought him with their whole desire. He was found by them. Yahweh gave them rest all around.”

King Asa reacted right away to this prophecy in the 15th year of his reign as king of Judah. He got rid of all the false idols from Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim. He repaired the altar at the vestibule to the Temple. Interesting enough there were people from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon that lived in Judah as aliens. These people who had deserted Israel to be in Judah and Jerusalem were not good enough to be considered Judahites. They held a great sacrifice offering where most of the animals came from the booty that they got from the Ethiopians. They sacrificed 700 oxen and 7,000 sheep for this great feast day to Yahweh with great rejoicing and music. They entered into a new covenant with Yahweh, the God of Israel. Here comes the kicker in this theocratic state. Anyone who would not seek Yahweh would be put to death. It did not matter their age or gender. Only Yahweh worship was tolerated here. Your other choice was death. Now they finally figured out a way to be monotheistic.

The invasion of Zerah the Ethiopian in the south (2 Chr 14:8-14:10)

“King Asa had an army of three hundred thousand from Judah, armed with large shields and spears. He also had two hundred and eighty thousand troops from Benjamin, who carried shields and drew bows. All these were mighty warriors. Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and three hundred chariots. He came as far as Mareshah. King Asa went out to meet him. They drew up their lines of battle in the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah.”

Despite all this tranquility in Judah, King Asa had an army of over half a million mighty warriors from Judah and Benjamin, 300,000 from Judah and 280,000 from Benjamin.   Zerah, the Ethiopian had a million man army with 300 chariots that invaded the south of Judah at Mareshah. Wow! Did they have big armies? These numbers are mind boggling. This invasion is not found elsewhere in the biblical literature. However, there was a 9th century BCE ruler of Egypt called Osorkon I or II. He actually fought against Assyria and may have come through Judah. He might have been a Cushite or Ethiopian with a darker skin. King Rehoboam had fortified this city western Judah city of Mareshah. The battle was in the valley of Zephathah, which is only mentioned here and nowhere else in biblical literature.