Asa

The king of Judah must exile his mother after she builds a shrine for the goddess Asherah.
“She has slipped away under the silent gaze of the moon to a place where she will be hidden, safe from capture, safe from harm, safe from me.”

Maacah, the mother of King Asa, is a fascinating figure. Since the Biblical text concerning her is even more confused than usual, it is unclear whether what is written about her concerns one person or several. The name reoccurs throughout the Bible and refers to men as well as to women.

It appears that Maacah was the daughter of Absalom (who appears in the stories of King Davidand Zadok) and the wife of Rehoboam (the cruel king who appears in the story of Jeroboam). She is listed as the mother of both King Asa and his predecessor Abijah. Another reference, however, identifies Abijah’s mother as someone else with a similar name who may have been Absalom’s granddaughter. And Abijah (whose is also referred to as Abijam) may have been Asa’s father, rather than his brother. (Confused yet?)

But what is clear is that Maacah had quite a powerful position as “Gevirah” or Queen Mother, and that she did construct something used to worship Asherah. What it was isn’t clear; apparently the word used for it, מִפְלָצֶת, doesn’t appear elsewhere in the Bible. Some translators say that it was a pole used in worship.

(There’s actually a term for a word that appears only once: hapax legomenom. But that’s just Greek for “(something) said (only) once.”)

The core of the situation is clear, though: Asa had the thing taken down and burnt, and Maacah was removed from her position. He did, however, allow the “high places” at which other gods were worshipped to remain.

Asa faced a difficult choice. Much as he may have loved his mother, he saw that his duty to hisGod took priority over that connection. The choice pitted his responsibilities under the first and second of the Ten Commandments against his responsibilities under the fifth. Later Jewish writings appear to find honoring the parents of lesser importance in this rare case. But it couldn’t have been an easy choice for Asa.

Many of us have found that we have needed, at the end of romantic relationships, to break off contact with a person that we might still have loved. How much more difficult it might have been, then, to banish one’s mother, even in these clear circumstances.

Questions

Have you ever had to break off contact with someone that you loved? Did you choose to do so, or was it demanded by circumstances or other people in positions of authority? Did you feel that it was the right thing to do at the time? Looking back, do you feel now that doing so was right? How might life have proceeded if you hadn’t done so? How has that choice affected your life since then?

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