Abijah died and was buried with his ancestors in the City of David. His son Asa became the next king. For ten years into Asa's reign the country was at peace.
Asa was a good king. He did things right in God's eyes.
He cleaned house: got rid of the pagan altars and shrines, smashed the sacred stone pillars, and chopped down the sex-and-religion groves (Asherim).
He told Judah to center their lives in God, the God of their fathers, to do what the law said, and to follow the commandments.
Because he got rid of all the pagan shrines and altars in the cities of Judah, his kingdom was at peace.
Because the land was quiet and there was no war, he was able to build up a good defense system in Judah. God kept the peace.
Asa said to his people, "While we have the chance and the land is quiet, let's build a solid defense system, fortifying our cities with walls, towers, gates, and bars. We have this peaceful land because we sought God; he has given us rest from all troubles." So they built and enjoyed prosperity.
Asa had an army of 300,000 Judeans, equipped with shields and spears, and another 280,000 Benjaminites who were shield bearers and archers. They were all courageous warriors.
Zerah the Ethiopian went to war against Asa with an army of a million plus 300 chariots and got as far as Mareshah.
Asa met him there and prepared to fight from the Valley of Zephathah near Mareshah.
Then Asa prayed to God, "O God, you aren't impressed by numbers or intimidated by a show of force once you decide to help: Help us, O God; we have come out to meet this huge army because we trust in you and who you are. Don't let mere mortals stand against you!"
God defeated the Ethiopians before Asa and Judah; the Ethiopians ran for their lives.
Asa and his men chased them as far as Gerar; so many of the Ethiopians were killed that there was no fight left in them - a massacre before God and his troops; Judah carted off loads of plunder.
They devastated all the towns around Gerar whose people were helpless, paralyzed by the fear of God, and looted the country.
They also attacked herdsmen and brought back a lot of sheep and camels to Jerusalem.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)