By Daniel L. Sonnenberg
As Christians, we have received a measure of God’s blessing in our deliverance from sin and death by Christ on the cross. For some Christians, that is as far as they want to go. However, that is not God’s will for our lives. Scripture urges us to continue to press forward in a life of obedience. As we continue to seek to obey God’s will in our lives, he blesses us for the purpose of expanding His kingdom on earth. We have the high calling as co-participants in Christ’s rule and reign of the earth that will one day be fully completed. In 2 Chronicles 15:1-19, the Chronicler sought to convince his audience that a life of obedience to God is rewarded by God’s blessing. This paper will begin by giving an overview of the writer of the passage and his audience and how this passage fits into the larger scheme of the writer’s purpose. This will be followed by an analysis of the structure of the passage and its dramatic symmetry. This will be followed by an analysis of the individual parts of the passage summarizing their relation to one another, the basic content of each section, the main concerns of the writer’s original meaning, its relation to Christ’s work in the inauguration, continuation and consummation of the kingdom, and its relation to the lives of Christians today in light of Christ’s work. Because God allows those who seek him to find Him and forsakes those who forsake Him, we, like the post-exilic community, should spare no effort to live lives of obedience to God.
Some have considered Ezra to be the author of Chronicles because it was composed near his lifetime and because of similarities in theology with Ezra-Nehemiah. However, there is a growing number who believe that another unknown writer is the author for even more compelling reasons. The purpose of the book of Chronicles was to guide the rebuilding of the Jewish kingdom in Palestine after their return from Babylon as they faced opposition from other nations, internal struggles and a weak economy. The narrative in 2 Chronicles 15.1-19 served the author’s purpose as a positive example of an obedient and therefore blessed King of Judah, a model he his wanted his audience to emulate.
The structure of 2 Chronicles 15.1-19 is a simple three-part scheme with a beginning, a middle and an end as seen below.
Beginning: Prophet’s Approval, Warning and Promise of Reward (1-7)
Step 1: The prophet’s approval, warning and promise of reward (1-2a)
Phase 1: The Spirit came on the prophet who went out to meet Asa (1-2a)
Scene 1: The Spirit came on the prophet Azariah who went out to meet Asa, 1-2a
Phase 2: The prophet spoke to Asa (2b-7)
Scene 2: Prophet announced doctrinal principle. 2b
Scene 3: Prophet made historical illustration. 3-6
Scene 4: Prophet made contemporary application. 7
Middle: Asa’s Obedient Response
Step 2: Asa removed idols and restored the altar (8)
Scene 5: Asa responded by removing the idols from the land, 8a
Scene 6: Then he restored the altar of the Lord at the temple, 8b
Step 3: Asa called assembly and the people gathered for covenant renewal (9-15)
Scene 7: Asa called for an assembly of “all Judah.” 9
Scene 8: The people gathered at Jerusalem. 10
Scene 9: The people offered sacrifices and made oaths to seek God. 11-14
Scene 10: The people rejoiced in the sense of God’s presence among them. 15a
Scene 11: So the Lord gave them rest from war on every side. 15b
STEP 4: Asa removed queen mother and destroyed Asherah image (16)
Scene 12: Asa removed his mother Maacah from her position as queen mother. 16a
Scene 13: Asa cut down, crushed and burned at the brook Kidron the Asherah image the queen had made. 16b
End: Asa’s Reward (19) Developmental ending: cessation of war extended due to reforms
STEP 5: Asa pronounced blameless, rewarded with extended cessation of war (17-18)
Scene 14: Though the high places were not removed from Israel, Asa remained blameless all his days. 17
Scene 15: Asa brought the dedicated things into the temple. 18
Scene 16: And there was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of Asa’s reign. 19
The beginning section describes the prophet’s announcement of approval, warning and promise of reward for obedience. The longer middle section describes Asa’s obedient response. The end section describes Asa’s reward for obedience. Upon returning from war after a period of ten years of peace, Asa is reminded by the prophet of God’s design of reward for obedience and retribution for sin (beginning section). In response, Asa administered reforms in Judah and other territories under his rule (middle section). As a result of these reforms, God blessed Asa with over twenty years cessation of war (end section).
Part by Part
The beginning section, vss. 1-7, containing one step in four scenes, describes the prophet’s approval, warning and promise of reward to Asa. It is naturally separated from the middle section, vss. 8-16, which describes Asa’s response to the prophet’s words and the end section, vss. 17-19, which describes the fulfillment of the reward. Step one, vss. 1-7, then, is divided into two phases. The first phase, vss. 1-2a, containing just one scene describes the prophet’s reception of the Spirit and meeting with Asa. The second phase, vss. 2b-7, describes the content of the prophet’s message. In it, he approves Asa’s past obedience, warns him of the consequences of disobedience and promises to reward his continued faithfulness.
The writer’s main concerns here were to remind the post-exilic community of God’s practice of immediate retribution which states, “If you will seek God, He will let you find Him. If you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” This so-called “Levitical speech” formula is found earlier in 1 Chron. 28.9 in the narrative of Solomon and David as well as other places. In contrast to the author of Kings, who held to a view that allowed for delayed blessing and curses, the Chronicler held a view of more immediate retribution that shows up in this account. Therefore, in his view, seeking God would result in immediate blessings, and forsaking God would result in immediate curses. Further emphasis is placed on seeking God by the use of the Hebrew verbs darash and biquesh, meaning to seek God himself. They are each found one time in this step. Darash appears in the prophet’s doctrinal principal in verse 2. Biquesh appears in the prophet’s historical illustration in verse 4. These verbs reappear three times later in the passage in verses 12, 13 (darash) and 15 (biquesh). To further highlight the importance of seeking God, the writer included historical references from before the time of Asa, which many commentators believe are accounts from the tumultuous time of the judges in which Israel had previously faced distressing situations such as those in which the post-exilic readers now found themselves. The post-exilic reader, then, was to be encouraged by the story of faithful Asa, who was in turn encouraged by those who were faithful before him. When Asa’s ancestors turned to seek the Lord’s help, His help was found. The post-exilic community, whose situation was as bad or worse than in the time of the judges, were reminded that restoration was still possible through seeking God. Another important concept brought out in the Hebrew is the word, ‘im, meaning “with.” The prophet pointed out in vs. 2 that “the Lord is with (‘im) you, when you are with (‘im) Him” to underline the importance of God’s presence in their midst. This word reappears again in vs. 9 in reference to those who defected from unbelieving Israel to faithful Asa because “they saw that the Lord… was with (‘im) him.” The prophet then concluded his message to Asa by promising a reward for his continued faithfulness. In so doing, the prophet urged Asa to apply what he had learned in his contemporary setting.
We find the word “with” (‘im) appearing once again in the inauguration of the kingdom in the birth of Christ who was referred to as Im-manuel, translated “God with us” (Mat. 1.23, cf. Is. 7.14). Christ was the ultimate form of help sent by the Father to deliver mankind from sin and death. In the continuation of His kingdom, Christ sent the Holy Spirit to live in His people to comfort and strengthen them, and as the Great High Priest Jesus ever intercedes on behalf of his bride. In the consummation, Christ will rule completely as King, having fully conquered temptation and suffering and utterly defeating our enemies.
In light of the work of Christ, the contemporary believer also receives help from God when He is sought in times of distress. The Apostle Paul taught that believers are to pray for help (1 Tim. 5.5). Jesus sent His Spirit to help us (Acts 1.8). The believer is to seek God’s kingdom (Mat. 6.33) and remember that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Heb. 11.6). We look forward to the hope of living forever with God when His kingdom comes in its fullness.
The middle section, vss. 8-16, describes Asa’s obedient response to the prophet’s words. It contains steps two, three and four. Steps two (vs.8) and four (vs. 16) describe Asa’s individual reform efforts, both of which involved removing idols. This pair stands in contrast to step three, located between them (vss. 9-15), which describes reforms led by Asa that included the entire faith community. Certainly he did not accomplish steps two and four single handed, but in contrast to the assembly in step three, the whole nation was not involved in these two. As stated before, step two describes Asa’s individual responses, two in particular. He removed the idols from the land and restored the altar of the Lord at the temple.
The main concern of the writer in step two (vs. 8) involved restoring proper worship in the post-exilic community. The actions of Asa, along with other exemplary kings of the past found in Chronicles, were intended to initiate worship reforms in the post-exilic community.]
In the inauguration of the kingdom, Christ emphasized the importance of worship in his attendance at the temple as a young boy (Luke 2.46), in His encounter with Satan in wilderness (Mat. 4.10) and with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4.24).
In light of Christ’s work, Christians today are to offer themselves as living sacrifices in worship to God (Rom. 12.1). In the consummation we will see and participate in worship of Christ the King (Rev. 5.14).
Step three (vss. 9-15), which is symmetrically in the center of the middle section, is separated by the corporate nature of Asa’s reforms in contrast to the more individual nature of the two surrounding steps. This step describes Asa’s calling of the assembly for covenant renewal, the gathering of the people at Jerusalem, their offering of sacrifices and making of oaths, and the two-fold results of renewal. The first result was rejoicing. The second was rest from war on every front. The central position of this portion of the passage highlights its importance in the message to the post-exilic community. The call to assembly is seen as the “climax” of Asa’s response to the prophet.
The main concerns of the writer for his original audience were to impress on them the importance of corporate covenant renewal, to offer them a model of religious assembly for how it might be done in their day and to present the benefits of such renewal: rejoicing and rest from war. To re-establish the unity of the divided kingdom under one Davidic ruler was felt to be part of Judah’s mission. One method of accomplishing this was assembling for worship. The assembly recorded here during “the third month of the fifteenth year of Asa’s reign” likely coincided with the holy celebration of the Feast of Weeks or Ingathering or Booths previously recorded in Ex. 23.16 and Lev. 23.15-43 in which the nation assembled in Jerusalem to commemorate the exodus from Egypt by living in tents and offering sacrifices to the Lord. The Chronicler’s report of music and rejoicing at the assembly were intended to encourage the post-exilic reader to seek the same through whole-hearted covenant renewal in their own day. Secondly, the reference to rest from war at the conclusion of the assembly stands in contrast to the warning of the prophet in vss. 5 and 6 for those who forsake God: “no peace” and “nation was crushed by nation”. The Chronicler uses the device of contrast to highlight the benefits of seeking God. The Hebrew brings out another aspect that highlights the author’s point. By repeating similar terms, biqesh (seek) matsa (find) here in vs.15 found previously in vs. 2 darash (seek) and matsa (find) the writer intended the readers to notice that rejoicing and rest from war was a result of the assembly’s seeking and finding God. The Chronicler wanted them to model their lives after Asa and his people who obeyed the word of the prophet and did in fact receive the blessings of God.
A number of these themes appear in the work of Christ. In the inauguration, Jesus invited all who would come to assemble into His church as worshipers. Regardless of their station in life or national or religious heritage, He bid them to enter into the Kingdom. Christ came to build His church, the assembly of those who belong to God (Mat. 16.18). Jesus instituted a New Covenant that stood on the shoulders of Abraham, Moses and David which fulfilled the hopes of complete covenant renewal after the exile. Finally, the angels rejoiced at his birth (Luke 2.10)
In light of Christ’s work, when the contemporary church gathers to worship there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, but all are one in Christ (Gal. 3.28). Where two or three are gathered He is in their midst (Mat. 18.20). He is “with” us and we look forward to worshipping with the heavenly throng in the consummation (Rev. 21.1-4). Believers participate in and benefit from the covenant blessings of eternal life (John 3.16), assurance (1 Tim. 3.13), protection (John 17.11), and abundant life (Rom. 5.17). We rejoice in the blessings of God (1 Thess. 3.9). In the consummation we will rejoice together at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19.7).
The middle section concludes with step four (vs.16) which returns to Asa’s more individual response against idol worship symmetrical to step two and in contrast to the corporate response between them in step three. This step is more personal than his actions in step two and may have been accomplished individually since it involved Asa deposing his mother, Maacah, from the position as queen mother because of idol worship. Not only did he remove his mother, he completely destroyed the idol at the brook Kidron.
The writer’s emphasis here is to demonstrate the proper mode of dealing with idol worshippers and idols: remove and destroy. The writer communicated his revulsion toward idols to his audience through descriptive language, using the term “horrid” (miphletseth) twice in one verse. This passage is parallel to 1 Kings 15:13.
The same references to proper worship as stated in step two apply here as well in Christ at the inauguration, continuation and consummation of the kingdom. Contemporary believers are warned to guard ourselves from idols (1 John 5.21).
The final step (five) stands alone as the end section in symmetry with step one in the beginning section. This step is set apart from the previous step by its frequency of authorial comments and its summary statements that contrast with the description and visual imagery of step four. In this step, Asa is rewarded for his reforms by being pronounced blameless and with a cessation of war over twice as long as he had previously enjoyed. Between these two authorial remarks stands one final demonstration of Asa’s obedience in his return of the dedicated things to the temple.
The main concerns of the writer here are to impress on his readers the rewards of obedient living. Two are identified. The first is a good reputation – Asa was said to be blameless. The second was rest from war for an extended period of time. The Chronicler concluded this passage with an idealized messianic view of a Davidic king who is “blameless and glorious, all-conquering and enjoying the undivided loyalty of the people of God.” By doing so, he answered the question of the post-exilic readers concerning God’s continued interest in them as His people after the judgment imposed by the exile. The Chronicler reassures them that they can once again achieve the same blameless reputation, victory over their enemies and national unity by continuing to seek God. Also, emphasis is placed once again on restoring proper worship in the temple.
These characteristics of a messianic King find their fulfillment in Christ. Through His blameless life and victory over sin and death through the cross and the empty tomb, He was granted all authority to rule and reign in heaven and earth (Mat. 28.18). And he will reign as an eternal King (Rev. 11.5).
Contemporary believers receive the benefits of Christ’s reign as King. As subjects of His Kingship, we benefit from His kingly “governing, bestowing grace, rewarding obedience, correcting sin, preserving and supporting under temptation and suffering, restraining and overcoming enemies, ordering all things for His glory and [our] good…”
This paper has sought to explain the Chronicler’s purpose in writing this passage to his post-exilic audience and in turn to the modern reader. The message of the prophet to Asa was the message of the Chronicler to his readers. God blesses those who seek Him and forsakes those who forsake Him. The Chronicler used King Asa as model for his readers. Asa heard the words of God through the prophet. He responded in obedience to that word. As a result he received the promised blessings. The Chronicler is telling the post-exilic community that the same is true for them. If in their own day, they will rid themselves of idols, assemble for covenant renewal and restore proper temple worship, they will enjoy the blessings of national unity, a good reputation, and rest from their enemies. The message is equally clear for the modern audience. If we will put away our own idols, give ourselves whole-heartedly to renew our covenant with God in the assembly of the church and restore proper worship, we will enjoy the blessings of unity within the church, a good reputation inside and outside the church, and rest from our enemies.
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