Zerah the Cushite

2 Chronicles 14

The book of 2 Chronicles contains the sole mention of an otherwise unknown battle between King Asa of Judah and Zerah the Cushite around 895 B.C. Prior to his description of the battle, the Chronicler notes that Asa had undertaken a campaign to fortify many of the towns throughout Judah, since the land was at peace and afforded them the means to do so. Apparently these efforts raised concerns among the Cushite peoples who dwelt along the western coast of Arabia (see Genesis 10:6-7), who likely feared that Asa was trying to tighten his control over important international trade routes that passed through southern Judah. The Arabian Cushites were well known for their gold, incense, and precious stones (1 Kings 9:28; 10:10-11; 22:48; 1 Chronicles 29:4; 2 Chronicles 8:18; 9:1-10; Job 22:24; 28:16; Psalm 45:9; Isaiah 13:12; 60:6; Jeremiah 6:20; Ezekiel 27:22), which they transported along the Incense Route and other roads to reach eager markets in the coastal cities of Philistia. So a Cushite named Zerah gathered a massive army and met Asa in battle at the Valley of Zephathah just north of Mareshah (see map of the Shephelah). During the battle the Lord struck down the Cushites, and they fled in the direction of Gerar, which may have been where the Cushites had camped in preparation for battle. Asa’s forces pursued them to Gerar and destroyed them completely, carrying off a great deal of plunder. Asa’s troops then destroyed and looted all the villages surrounding Gerar, which had likely hosted some of Zerah’s troops as well.

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