Avraham ben Yaakov
II CHRONICLES CHAPTER 16
The last verse of the previous chapter said, "And there was no war until the thirty-fifth year of the reign of Asa" (II Chron. 15:19). The first verse of our present chapter then continues: "In the THIRTY-SIXTH YEAR of the reign of Asa, Ba'sha king of Israel came up against Judah ." (II Chron. 16:1).
As the Midrash Seder Olam points out, it is impossible to take these verses literally, because Ba'sha king of Israel had already died in the twenty-sixth year of the reign of Asa (see I Kings 16:8). As explained by Seder Olam and the commentators (Rashi on II Chron. 15:19, Metzudas David and RaDaK on II Chron. 16:1), Ba'sha's attack on Judah actually took place in the SIXTEENTH YEAR of Asa's reign, which was THIRTY-SIX YEARS after the death of King Solomon (because Rehav'am reigned 17 years and Avi-yah for 3 years. 17 + 3 + 16 = 36).
Solomon had married Pharaoh's daughter in the fourth year of his reign, and since he died after reigning forty years, he was with her for THIRTY-SIX YEARS. Because of this sin, it was originally decreed that the kingdom would be split into two, Judah and Israel , for THIRTY-SIX YEARS, ending in the SIXTEENTH YEAR of Asa's reign. Had Asa stood up properly to the test when Ba'sha attacked Judah, trusting only in God for deliverance, our rabbis say that He would have given him victory not only over the Ten Tribes but over the Arameans as well, and Asa would have been able to restore the kingdom of the House of David over all the Twelve Tribes of Israel, thereby bringing complete redemption. But instead of relying on prayer and faith alone, Asa employed material means to try to overcome Ba'sha through bribing Ba'sha's Aramean allies to attack him from the rear (vv 2-3). As a result the opportunity for the reconciliation of Judah-Benjamin and the Ten Tribes was lost, and at the end of his Asa became angry, tyrannical and physically sick.
Ba'sha apparently wanted to recover the areas of Mount Ephraim that King Avi-yah had captured (II Chron. 13:19; 15:8). Ba'sha imposed a blockade on the northern border of Judah by fortifying Ramah to the north of Jerusalem , south of the Ephraimite cult center of Beth El (our present chapter, v 1). Asa's bribe to Ben Hadad king of Aram in Damascus (vv 2-3) persuaded the latter to stage predatory attacks on the tribes Dan and Naftali way up in the north of Israel (v 4), and news of these attacks caused Ba'sha to end his blockade of Judah (v 5).
V 6: "And King Asa took ALL JUDAH and they carried away the stones and timbers of Ramah that Ba'sha built." In the parallel account in I Kings 15:22 we learn that not only did Asa take ALL JUDAH but also that "NO ONE WAS EXEMPT" (EYN NAKI). Our rabbis explain that he considered the work so urgent that he mobilized all the Torah scholars despite the law that Torah scholars are not required to go out in person when the public is mobilized to carry out building and excavation works in the country (Rambam Talmud Torah 6:10), and he even mobilized brides and grooms from their marital canopies, contrary to the Torah law that a groom is exempt from any wartime duties in his first year after marriage in order to be "clean" and free for his house (=his wife, NAKI LE-VEISO, Deut. 24:5).
At exactly this time Hanani the Seer came to reprove Asa for having relied on the stratagems of this world in bribing the king of Aram to attack Ba'sha instead of relying only on God. Had Asa put all his trust in God as he had done when Zerach the Kushi attacked with his million-strong army (II Chron. 14: 9ff), the king of Aram would have been delivered into his hands as well as the king of Israel, "for the eyes of HaShem run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is perfect towards Him" (v 9). Instead, the Arameans continued as hostile enemies of Judah and Israel until the time of King Ahaz, when they and the Ten Tribes fell into the hands of Pilessar king of Assyria (see Rashi on our present chapter verse 4).
Having failed in his test, King Asa was in no mood to hear the reproof of the prophet, whom he angrily imprisoned, after which he subjected part of his own population to tyrannical oppression, presumably in order to stamp out protests.
V 12: "And Asa was diseased. in his LEGS, UP TO ABOVE WAS HIS ILLNESS." The saintly Asa, whose early career had been filled with such promise, was one of five who were "created with a semblance of the supernal form" and all of whom were punished accordingly. These were Samson, who suffered with the loss of his STRENGTH; Saul, whose NECK was above everyone else's but who eventually fell with it on his own sword; Absalom, who died hanging by his Nazirite HAIR, Tzedekiah, whose EYES were gouged out, and Asa who became sick in his LEGS (Sotah 10a).
Asa's "podagra" (=gout), which is said to cause pain like pins in raw flesh (ibid.) was not only a physical illness. It was UP TO ABOVE, i.e. it had spiritual ramifications at the highest levels, because Asa had been destined to be the LEGS upon which the House of David would rise and stand again but for his flaw of employing the Torah scholars, who are TOMCHEY ORAISO, the LEGS and supporting pillars of the Torah, in demeaning physical labor together with the unlearned common people. This flaw was the spiritual root of his illness, but Asa did not want to go to the prophet in order to seek out what God was teaching him through this illness. Instead he tried to cure it by physical means, turning to the doctors.
Despite this tragic end, Asa was buried with the utmost honor, having in his earlier career succeeded in swinging Judah around from its descent into idolatry and immorality and bringing about a spiritual revival among the people that lasted into the reign of his son Yehoshaphat.
The time of Yehoshaphat, who reigned in Jerusalem for twenty-five years, was a golden age in comparison with the clouded times of Yerav'am, Avi-yah and the later years of Asa. This was because "HaShem was with Yehoshaphat because he walked in the first ways of his father David." (v 3) - i.e. as David had walked in righteousness before his sin with Batsheva and in conducting a census of the population. Solomon's reign had been marred because his foreign lives led him astray; Rehav'am had abandoned the Torah, and Asa had not depended on HaShem in war, but Yehoshaphat was like his "father" David, who was wholeheartedly devoted to HaShem (see Rashi on verse 3). At a time when the prestigious kingdom of Israel under Ahab were worshipping the Baal, Yehoshaphat remained loyal to the God of his "father" and followed His commandments (vv 3-4).
V 6" "And his heart was lifted up in the ways of HaShem." (v 6). Despite the material support that Yehoshaphat enjoyed from all Judah giving him enormous wealth and glory (v 5), he did not become arrogant as a result. For him wealth and glory were of no significance at all compared to the ways of HaShem (Metzudas David ad loc.).
THE OUTREACH KING
The rabbis said of Yehoshaphat that when he would see a Torah scholar, he would rise from his throne and hug and kiss him, calling him "My teacher! My teacher! My master! My master" (Maccos 24a). His father, King Asa, had demeaned the Torah scholars in taking them out of the study halls to work side by side with the common people, carrying, digging and building. But King Yehoshaphat now took the Torah itself out to the ordinary people in order to teach and elevate them. "In the third year of his reign he sent his ministers. to teach in the cities of Judah, and with them the Levites. and with them the Sefer Torah of HaShem, and they went around all the cities of Judah and they taught the people" (vv 7-9).
This mass arousal to the study of the Torah was sufficient to throw all of the surrounding kingdoms into FEAR: "And the fear of HaShem was on all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah and they did not fight with Yehoshaphat" (v 10). Here in a nutshell is Israel 's true and lasting solution to the entire Middle East problem and the hostility of all the surrounding countries: send outreach rabbis with Sefer Torahs into all the cities and gather the people to teach them the Torah! Simple!!! Even the Philistines (=Palestinians?) and the Arvee-im (=Arabs?) sent gifts of gratitude to Yehoshaphat (v 11) for saving them from having to make war with Israel !!!
"And Yehoshaphat was continuously getting greater (HOLECH VE-GADEL) up above" (v 12). "Three were described with this same expression (i.e. using the continuous present verbal form GADEL, instead of the adjective GADOL, which would suggest that they had attained absolute greatness): Isaac, Samuel and Yehoshaphat. The reason in Yehoshaphat's case is because it says that he was getting greater UP ABOVE, and it would not be appropriate to say that he was 'great' compared to Hashem. Similar reasons necessitate the use of the same phrase in the cases of Samuel and Isaac. But three were described with the adjective GADOL, 'great' in absolute terms: Moses, David and Mordechai." (see Rashi on v 12).
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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