And laid him in the bed - It is very likely that the body of Asa was burnt; that the bed spoken of here was a funeral pyre, on which much spices and odoriferous woods had been placed; and then they set fire to the whole and consumed the body with the aromatics. Some think the body was not burned, but the aromatics only, in honor of the king.
How the ancients treated the bodies of the illustrious dead we learn from Virgil, in the funeral rites paid to Misenus.
Nec minus interea Misenum in littore Teucri
Flebant, et cineri ingrato suprema ferebant.
Principio pinguem taedis et robore secto
Ingentem struxere pyram: cui frondibus atris
Intexunt latera, et ferales ante cupressas
Constituunt, decorantque super fulgentibus armis, etc.
Aen. vi. 214.
"Meanwhile the Trojan troops, with weeping eyes,
To dead Misenus pay their obsequies.
First from the ground a lofty pile they rear
Of pitch trees, oaks, and pines, and unctuous fir.
The fabric's front with cypress twigs they strew,
And stick the sides with boughs of baleful yew.
The topmost part his glittering arms adorn:
Warm waters, then, in brazen caldrons borne
Are poured to wash his body joint by joint,
And fragrant oils the stiffen'd limbs anoint.
With groans and cries Misenus they deplore:
Then on a bier, with purple cover'd o'er,
The breathless body thus bewail'd they lay,
And fire the pile (their faces turn'd away).
Such reverend rites their fathers used to pay.
Pure oil and incense on the fire they throw,
And fat of victims which their friends bestow.
These gifts the greedy flames to dust devour,
Then on the living coals red wine they pour.
And last the relics by themselves dispose,
Which in a brazen urn the priests enclose.
Old Corineus compass'd thrice the crew,
And dipp'd an olive branch in holy dew;
Which thrice he sprinkled round, and thrice aloud
Invoked the dead, and then dismiss'd the crowd."
All these rites are of Asiatic extraction. Virgil borrows almost every circumstance from Homer; (see Iliad, xxiii., ver. 164, etc.); and we well know that Homer ever describes Asiatic manners. Sometimes, especially in war, several captives were sacrificed to the manes of the departed hero. So, in the place above, the mean-souled, ferocious demon, Achilles, is represented sacrificing twelve Trojan captives to the ghost of his friend Patroclus. Urns containing the ashes and half-calcined bones of the dead occur frequently in barrows or tumuli in this country; most of them, no doubt, the work of the Romans. But all ancient nations, in funeral matters, have nearly the same rites.
The explanation of the plural - “sepulchres” - will be seen in 1 Kings 13:30 note.
The burning of spices in honor of a king at his funeral was customary (compare the marginal references).
Asa's long record of faithful service was marred by some mistakes, made at times when he failed to put his trust fully in God. When, on one occasion, the king of Israel entered the kingdom of Judah and seized Ramah, a fortified city only five miles from Jerusalem, Asa sought deliverance by forming an alliance with Benhadad, king of Syria. This failure to trust God alone in time of need was sternly rebuked by Hanani the prophet, who appeared before Asa with the message: PK 113.1
“Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the Lord thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? yet, because thou didst rely on the Lord, He delivered them into thine hand. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.” 2 Chronicles 16:7-9. PK 113.2
Instead of humbling himself before God because of his mistake, “Asa was wroth with the seer, and put him in a prison house; for he was in a rage with him because of this thing. And Asa oppressed some of the people the same time.” Verse 10. PK 113.3Read in context »