Asa reigned as king of Judah from 911-to 870 B.C. Maakah was the grandmother of Asa, 2 Chronicles 13:2, and she was the favourite wife of Rehoboam, and, as may be inferred from the statement in 1 Kings 15:9-10, she held the important post of queen-mother, a very distinctive office in the Jewish government. It’s important to note that the Jews called any female ancestor mother and any male ancestor father.
Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, 1 Kings 15:11, he was obedient to God because he rejected the idolatrous practices and everything related to those practices, 1 Kings 15:12.
He removed his mother from her political position 1 Kings 15:11-15, because she had the audacity of making an image of the Canaanite goddess Asherah. Asa destroyed all these images as God commanded, Deuteronomy 16:21-22 / Deuteronomy 7:5 / Deuteronomy 12:3.
It appears that the reforms that Asa made at the beginning of his reign weren’t effective in ridding Judah of all the places of worship where people went to pay homage to false gods, 2 Chronicles 15:17.
When Asa initially reigned, it was a time of prosperity for Judah, and because it was a time of peace they could easily develop economically, 1 Kings 15:14.
Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.
‘The great blow struck by Abijah, 2 Chronicles 13:15-19, his alliance with Syria, 1 Kings 15:19, and the rapid succession of sovereigns in Israel during the earlier part of Asa’s reign, 1 Kings 15:25-33, would naturally prevent disturbance on the part of the northern kingdom. The tender age of Asa himself would be a bar to warlike enterprises on the part of Judah.’
The men of Judah served as heavy-armed troops, while the Benjamites were light-armed. Their numbers accord well with those of 2 Chronicles 13:3.
As the boundaries of Judah had been enlarged, 2 Chronicles 13:19, and as for ten years at least there had been no war, 2 Chronicles 14:1, the effective force had naturally increased.
Cook, in his commentary, says the following, the vast number in the army.
‘This is the largest collected army of which we read in Scripture but it does not exceed the known numbers of other Oriental armies of ancient times. Darius Codomannus brought into the field of Abela a force of 1,040,000 and Xerxes crossed the Hellespont with more than a million combatants.’
Zerah the Cushite, marched against Judah, and they were able to stand their ground because God was with them, 2 Chronicles 13:3.
Mareshah was in the valley that marks the entrance into the hills, halfway between Gaza and Jerusalem. This was one of the cities that Rehoboam had fortified in anticipation of just such an attack.
In his prayer Asa knows the power of God, he knows the battle belongs to the LORD and so, he calls upon God to defend His honour.
Their battle against the Cushites is probably the greatest battle of all battles that Israel fought throughout her history. The battle of 580,000 men against one million would certainly have resulted in a great carnage for humanity.
Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.
‘The defeat of Zerah is one of the most remarkable events in the history of the Jews. On no other occasion did they meet in the field and overcome the forces of either of the two great monarchies between which they were placed. It was seldom that they ventured to resist, unless behind walls. Shishak, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, Nebuchadnezzar, were either unopposed or only opposed in this way. On the one other occasion on which they took the field, under Josiah against Necho, their boldness issued in a most disastrous defeat, 2 Chronicles 35:20-24. Now, however, under Asa, they appear to have gained a complete victory over Egypt. The results which followed were nicest striking. The Southern power could not rally from the blow, and, for above three centuries made no further effort in this direction. Assyria, growing in strength, finally, under Sargon and Sennacherib, penetrated to Egypt itself. All fear of Egypt as an aggressive power ceased and the Israelites learned instead to lean upon the Pharaohs for support, 2 Kings 17:4 / 2 Kings 18:21 / Isaiah 30:2-4, etc.). Friendly ties alone connected the two countries: and it was not until 609 B.C. that an Egyptian force again entered Palestine with a hostile intention.’
Clarke, in his commentary, says the following.
‘The spoil was immense because the multitude was prodigious, indeed almost incredible, a million of men in one place is almost too much for the mind to conceive, but there may be some mistake in the numerals, it is evident from the whole account that the number was vast and the spoil great.’