King Asa’s Lamentable Finish

Posted on March 8, 2023


By David Ettinger

A Great King
The Bible devotes quite a bit of space to King Asa (1 Kings 15:8-24; 2 Chronicles 14:1-16:14). And for good reason: Asa was Judah’s first great king.

Asa was one of Israel’s “early” kings. Saul was first, followed by David, Solomon, then – after Israel split into the northern Kingdom of Samaria and the Southern Kingdom of Judah – Rehoboam, Abijah, and Asa in the south.

Asa reigned 41 years (911-870 B.C.) and “did what was good and right in the sight of the Lord his God” (2 Chronicles 14:2). Eight of Judah’s 19 kings were said to have been “good” (none in Samaria). This means their entire reigns were deemed as “good” by God though some of their deeds were bad (for instance, David with Bathsheba and Uriah).

Four of the 8 kings led Judah in religious reforms designed to restore the nation to a purer form of worship, and to return the people to obeying the Mosaic Law. Asa was the first king of Judah to earn the “good” designation, and was Judah’s first religious reformer.

A Great Reign
Asa began his long reign with 10 years of peace (2 Chronicles 14:1). This probably coincided with the time he instituted his first series of religions reforms (vss. 2-5).

Despite all the good Asa did, his decades’-long peace was broken by a military invasion from Zerah the Ethiopian (v. 9). Zerah’s massive army of “a million men” vastly outnumbered Asa’s, but by relying on God, Judah scored a resounding victory over the Ethiopians (9-15).

Many more years of peace ensued (2 Chronicles 15:19) as Asa embarked upon a second period of religious reformation (1 Kings 15:12-15; 2 Chronicles 15:8-18).

But Then …
Many years of peace followed Asa’s Ethiopian victory and religious reforms, and perhaps he became prideful, thinking he could handle all challenges himself.

And indeed a challenge came. King Baasha of the Northern Kingdom fortified Ramah (1 Kings 15:16-17) – an effort to establish his military might. This was something Asa could not allow as Ramah was on the Judah-Israel border, a paltry 4 miles from the Judean capital of Jerusalem.

Certainly if Asa could defeat the menacing Ethiopian horde, he could to the same to the significantly less-manned Northern Kingdom army. He simply needed to employ the same strategy he did during the prior victory, when he prayed:

Lord, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; help us, Lord our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. Lord, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You (2 Chronicles 14:11).

God responded spectacularly: “So the Lord routed the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah” (v. 12).

Now, however, a much older Asa (in the 36th year of his reign ­– 2 Chronicles 16:1) ignored the Lord. To stop Baasha, Asa emptied his treasuries to buy a treaty with Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram (vss. 2-3), who attacked Northern Israel, thus pulling Baasha away from Ramah (vss. 4-5).

The plan was successful, but it demonstrated Asa’s lack of trust in God. God sent the prophet Hanani to rebuke Asa, whose nation would pay dearly for Asa’s folly: “Indeed, from now on you [Asa] will have wars” (vss. 7-10).

Awful Response
One would expect the righteous king of Judah to fall to the ground, repent of his faithlessness, and seek God’s forgiveness, but such was not the case: “Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him for this. And Asa mistreated some of the people at the same time” (v. 10).

Three years later, Asa’s pride and anger continued to fume as he still refused to repent. Therefore, “Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians” (v. 12).

Yet, a gracious God continued to offer Asa time to repent – 2 years specifically – before the king died in the 41st year of his reign.

Despite the 5-year plunge at the end of his career, the final assessment of Asa is: “Asa’s heart was wholly devoted to the Lord all his days” (1 Kings 15:14). Indeed, he received a noble funeral (2 Chronicles 16:14).

For me, the greatest lesson gleaned from the account of Asa is that Christians never “arrive.” In other words, so long as we live and breathe on this earth as mortals, we will never get to the place where we don’t need God.

We may have won spiritual victories, but we can’t bask in the glow of them and believe everything we touch will turn to gold. We, like Asa, are but God’s servants, something we must always remember.

Spiritual victories should never make us prideful, but increase our humility. Asa’s finishing years are lamentable in light of his previous righteousness, obedience, and faithfulness; and if it could happen to him, it could happen to us if we allow it to.

Therefore, let’s remember Asa’s account that we never go down the same prideful path, but instead strive to “keep the faith” and “finish the course” (2 Timothy 4:7)!