- ASA (Heb. אָסָא; etymology uncertain), king of Judah, 908–867 B.C.E. According to I Kings 15:8 and II Chronicles 13:23, Asa was the son of abijah . maacah is listed in I Kings 15:2 as the mother of Asa and in II Chron. 15:16 as the mother of Abijah. Some scholars assume, therefore, that Asa and Abijah were brothers. Apparently, Asa acceded to the throne while still comparatively young, upon the death of Abijah; for some time Maacah, the queen mother, served as regent (cf. II Chron. 13:2). Upon reaching his majority, Asa removed her from the regency, along with her followers. The author of the book of Kings attributes this punishment by her son to her having made an image to an asherah (I Kings 15:11–13). According to II Chronicles 15:10–16, her removal was part of a general reform that reached its climax in the 15th year of his reign with an assembly in Jerusalem of the people who covenanted to "seek the Lord, the God of their fathers." It appears that Asa made genuine efforts to remove pagan influences and to restore the worship of the Lord in Jerusalem. It is also possible that the religious reformation in Judah resulted from a policy that sought to attract those circles in the kingdom of Israel who were favorable to the Temple in Jerusalem, and thus make possible the reunification of the two kingdoms. The beginning of Asa's reign was peaceful (II Chron. 13:23; 14:5), leaving him free to strengthen his position against possible attacks by outside enemies. He built fortified cities in Judah (14:5–6) adding to the chain of the kingdom's defenses which had been begun by his ancestors (see: rehoboam ). The northern boundary of Judah had not been fortified at all prior to his reign. After the years of quiet, Asa, like Rehoboam his grandfather, was faced with an incursion from the south which forced him to go to war. The invader was zerah the Nubian ("Cushite"; cf. 14:8–14) who acted either on his own initiative or in collaboration with baasha , king of Israel (900–877 B.C.E.). From the fortified border post of Mareshah (cf. 11:8), Asa pushed Zerah and his armies back as far as Gerar, capturing much spoil in the process. As a result of this victory, the tribe of Simeon was able to establish itself more fully in the Negev, seizing the most important wells and pasture lands. According to I Kings 15:16, there was warfare between the kingdoms of Judah and Israel during all of Asa's reign. Baasha evidently recovered most of the territory seized by abijah and proceeded to fortify Ramah (I Kings 15:16–22), only five miles north of Jerusalem, which was thus, so to speak, held in check. This threat caused Asa to turn to ben-hadad I, son of Tabrimon, son of Hezion, king of aram (I Kings 15:18–19). In response, Ben-Hadad invaded Galilee from the north, breaking the defense chain of Naphtali from Ijon and Dan to the western shore of kinneret (cf. II Chron. 16:4). As a result of this two-front war, Israel probably lost northern Galilee and was compelled, in the south, to withdraw from the Ramah area, and Asa occupied Ramah, destroying its fortifications, reusing their materials to strengthen the defenses of Gibeah and Mizpah. In so doing he secured his northern boundary, removing the danger to the capital. H.L. Ginsberg is of the opinion that Asa understood that Judah could not expand northward at the expense of Israel in the foreseeable future. Further, it was clear to him that the new defense line represented a reasonable division between the two kingdoms. II Chronicles 15:8 and 17:2 seem to imply the contrary, but Rudolph has suggested an alternative interpretation. See Rudolph also on the unfavorable picture of the final phase of Asa's reign that is painted by II Chronicles 15:19–16:12. It has long been suggested that the Chronicler's account of Asa's sin as a reliance on physicians rather than on YHWH (II Chronicles 16:12) resulted from a midrash on the name Asa, Aramaic for "physician." -In the Aggadah During the early part of his reign, Asa performed many good deeds. Together with Jehoshaphat he destroyed all the idolatrous cults (Shab. 56b); and he refortified the cities of Lydda, Ono, and Gei ha-Harashim (Meg. 4a). As a reward, he was one of the four kings whose wish to defeat his enemies was immediately granted (Lam. R., introd. 30). The disease of his feet with which he was afflicted (I Kings 15:23), however, was his punishment for having pressed even students of the Law and newly marrieds into military service (Sot. 10a); his was the disease referred to in David's curse of Joab (II Sam. 3:29) "Let there not faileth from the house of Joab one… that leaneth on a staff" (Sanh. 48b). Although Asa retained the magnificent throne of Solomon from among the treasures which he took from Zerah the Ethiopian (Esth. R. 1:2), he gave the rest to Hadrimon the son of Tabrimon (Pes. 119a), which was accounted a grievous sin (SOR 17). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Bright, Hist, 214–6, 220, 232; Albright, Arch Rel, 157 ff.; J. Morgenstern, Amos Studies (1941), 224 ff.; Noth, Hist Isr, index; Ginsberg, in: Fourth World Congress of Jewish Studies, 1 (1967), 91; Yeivin, in: BJPES, 10 (1944), 116 ff.; Kittel, Gesch, index; W. Rudolph, Chronikbuecher (1955). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. Japhet, I & II Chronicles (1993), 701–13; M. Cogan, I Kings (AB, 2000), 395–404.
Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.