Asa and Baasha
While Asa started his reign well, the wars with Baasha presented a trial in which he did not fare so well spiritually. Baasha, we are told, fortified Ramah. “Ramah was about five and a half miles north of Jerusalem on the main north-south commercial route through the land, and it was therefore of great importance to both kingdoms. It gave east-west access to both the foothills of Ephraim and the Mediterranean coast, so it was of strategic military importance as well. Baasha was striking a blow for control of the center of the land” (Nelson Study Bible, note on 1 Kings 15:17 1 Kings 15:17And Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah, and built Ramah, that he might not suffer any to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah.
American King James Version×). Sadly, rather than trust in God for deliverance, Asa takes all the money from the temple and palace treasuries and uses it to buy the assistance of the Syrian king, Ben-Hadad (a title shared by a number of Syrian rulers)—who does then break his alliance with Baasha by helping Judah.
There is some question about the timing of these events. Chronicles seems to state that Baasha began his embargo of Judah in Asa’s 36th year. But Baasha’s reign, which began in Asa’s third year, lasted only 24 years (1 Kings 15:33 1 Kings 15:33In the third year of Asa king of Judah began Baasha the son of Ahijah to reign over all Israel in Tirzah, twenty and four years.
American King James Version×). Thus, Baasha was not even reigning during Asa’s 36th year. So how could he have fortified Ramah at that time? The most logical explanation seems to be that what is meant in Chronicles is that this was the 36th year of Asa’s kingdom—i.e., of Judah as its own kingdom since the division of the monarchy—which would place the fortification of Ramah in the 16th year of Asa and 13th year of Baasha.
The prophet Hanani is sent to reprimand Asa and remind him of his previous reliance on God, which had resulted in an amazing victory over a million-man army instead of his shameful stooping to buy a retreat. Asa does not like the correction, imprisons Hanani, and takes his anger out on the people. In the meantime, Hanani’s son Jehu is sent to Baasha to tell him that his following Jeroboam’s sinful actions would result in his receiving Jeroboam’s punishment. And indeed, as with Jeroboam, his son reigns only two years before he is deposed and the dynasty of Baasha is wiped out.