In the book, “Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions” by Roland Devaux, there is a great description of who the Givorah (mistress, great lady) in the courts of Judah really was, and what they really did. Devaux spells it “g’birah” but we will use “givorah” to simplify it. Also, his spelling of the king’s names will be different than what we would use, but we will keep Devaux’s spellings. In a subsection called “The Great Lady” on p.117-119 Devaux says, “On the other hand, at the court of Judah, official rank was accorded to the givorah. In ordinary speech the word means ‘mistress’ as opposed to servant, and corresponds to ‘adon’, ‘lord’, the feminine of which is not used in Hebrew (2 Kings 5.3; Isa 24.2; Psa 123.2; Prov 30.23). In 1 Kings 11.19 it is applied the the Pharaoh’s wife and consort, but it is never used of the wife of a king of Judah; under Asa, the givorah is his grandmother Maakah (1 Kings 15.13; 2 Chr 15.6). The givorah carried into captivity in Jer 29.2 is the king’s mother, according to the parallel in 2 Kings 24.15. The sons of the givorah mentioned in 2 Kings 10.13 along with the sons of the king must be distinct from them; they are the sons of the queen-mother (and therefore the king’s brothers). In Jer 13.18 the king and the givorah are Joiakin and his mother. Etymology and usage suggest that the title should be rendered as Great Lady.”
“This title implied a certain dignity and special powers. Bathsheba was certainly givorah under Solomon; he receives her with great honor and seats her on his right (1 Kings 2.19). The power of the Great Lady did not proceed merely from the influence of a mother over a son, as with Bathsheba; it was more extensive, and for abusing it, Maakah was deprived by Asa of her dignity of Great Lady (1 Kings 15.13). This authority of the queen-mother explains how Athaliah could so easily seize power on the death of Ochoziah (2 Kings 11.1); the queen-mother had an official position in the kingdom, and hence the Nooks of Kings always mentions the name of the king’s mother in the introduction to each reign in Judah-except in the cases of Joram and Achaz, where no woman is named, and of Asa, where his grandmother’s name takes the place of his mother’s. It is possible that the Great Lady was accorded her rank on the accession of her son, which would explain the career of Hamital, wife of Josias, who was queen-mother under Joachaz, was set aside under Joiaqim and Joiakin, and returned under Sedecias, the brother of Joachaz (2 Kings 23.31,36; 24.8,18). It is also possible that the mother became givorah as soon as her son was designated heir to the throne, as is suggested by 2 Chr 11.22-22. The story of Bathsheba does not enable us us to decide this point, since Solomon’s sacring took place immediately after his nomination; but it does at least prove that before his nomination Solomon’s mother had not the dignity which she subsequently enjoyed (cf. 1 Kings 1.15-16,31 and 2.13-19). Bathsheba was the first Great Lady in Israel. On the other hand it seems that the Great Lady could keep her position after her son’s death; Maakah, wife of Roboam, was still givorah under her grandson Asa, after the short reign of her son Abiyyam (1 Kings 15.13). From the same passage we see the the givorah could be dismissed by the king: Maakah had favoured the cult of Asherah.”
“Hittite parallels may help to elucidate this rather complicated question. The tavannana was the lawful queen, the mother of the heir-apparent, and played an important part in policy and religion. If she survived the king she retained the same position during the reign of her son (or sons, if two brothers succeeded to the throne); and only on her death did the dignity pass to her daughter-in-law, the wife of the reigniong king. Like Maakah, she could be dismissed for a serious offence against the king or the state; but, as in Judah, this seems to habe been exceptional. The queen-mother must have held a similar position un Ugarit, where several letters are addressed to the king’s mother, also called the ‘adath’, which is feminine of ‘adon’, and therefore the equivalent of givorah. The Akkadian texts of Ras Shamra indicate that this queen-mother intervened in political affairs, and they also mention a Great Lady of Amurru. For Assyria the evidence is less clear, but we should remember the part played by the queens Sammuramat and Naqi’a during the reigns of their husbands and then their sons. This tradition is preserved in the Greek legends of Semiramis and Nitokris. One may allso point to the in fluence of Ada-guppi, the mother of Nabonidus.”
“There is no direct evidence of the existence of a Great Lady in the northern kingdom. In the introductions to the reigns in Israel, the name of the king’s mother is never given. 2 Kings 10.13 mentions a givorah who can only be Jezebe, but the word is put in the mouth of the princes of Judah. The institution, moreover, presupposes a dynastic stability which was not usually found in the kingdom of Israel. But we must draw attention to a rare term, which is perhaps the Israelite equivalent of the givorah of Judah. In Psa 45.10, the ‘shegal’ is mentioned as standing on the right hand of the king; she is not classed with the other women of the harem, for she is the queen consort. Now, Psa 45 has been interpreted as a wedding-hymn composed for a king of Israel. It is also very tempting to restore the word shegal at the end of Judges 5.30 in the Hymn of Devorah, in place of the impossible shalal, ‘booty.’. The word is parallel to Sisera, and would denote the queen or queen-mother, cf. v. 28. Once again, the Hymn of Deborah is a composition of northern Israel. The only other examples of the term in the Old Testament, Neh 2.6 (the queen of Persia) and Dan 5.2,3,23 (the Aramaic plural form: the wives of Balthazar) do not prove that the word was an official term in Judah before the exile.”
Rehoboam did evil because he did not set his heart to seek Yehovah, he had a heart problem. He did not even have the relationship with God that his father Solomon had. His heart was the root of his problems. There is more detail about Rehoboam here than in First Kings because Rehoboam is a pattern of what repentance and God’s mercy can do for the returning exiles, to encourage them.
As we have said before, Chronicles was one book and it is a retelling of Israel’s monarchy in light of the return from Babylonian exile. The message is, despite experiencing God’s punishment through exile, Yehovah is still with his people and has not rejected them after their exile. Whatever happened to their ancestors did not change the fact that Yehovah is Israel’s God and they have hope for the future.
2 Chr 13.1-22 tells us about the rise of Abijah in Judah, and his mother’s name (the givorah) was Micaiah, the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah. He only reigned three years. The armies of Abijah and Jeroboam got ready for war, and Abijah gives an appeal to Jeroboam and Israel. He says the dynasty of David is the only true kingship to rule over the tribes, including the northern tribes. God promised this in a covenant and it was ratified in blood and salt (Lev 2.13).
But Jeroboam was accused of rebellion by Abijah, but that was not the whole story. He did rebel, but he was provoked by Rehoboam, along with the ten northern tribes, and Jeroboam was ungodly, but so is Abijah (1 Kings 15.3). Abijah compared the faithfulness of the southern tribes with the unfaithfulness of Jeroboam and Israel. He said if you fight against Abijah, you fight against the Lord. But Jeroboam did not listen and caused an ambush during negotiations for peace. Now Abijah had an army in front and in the rear, so they cried out to the Lord.
As the men of Judah shouted, God routed Jeroboam. Judah won because they depended on the Lord, and they even captured Bethel where the golden calves were (1 Kings 12.28-33). These false gods could not defend their own place of worship. This war ended Jeroboam’s threat and the Lord struck him and he died.
Abijah grew stronger but he was not Torah observant. He walked is all the sins of his father, and he was not loyal to God (1 Kings 15.3). The lesson here is just because you have a great victory does not mean your life before God is faithful. We should never trust in past victories.
Now we come to 1 Chr 14.1-15 and the reign of Asa. He is the great-grandson of Solomon and replaces Abijah, and he was more like David than his father was (1 Kings 15.11). He began to come against the paganism and idolatry in his realm. He banished the male cult prostitutes, or state-sanctioned homosexuality (1 Kings 14.24, 15.12). He also removed his grandmother Maacah from being the givorah because she made an obscene image of Asherah (1 Kings 15.13). He removed the bamot (high places) for idolatry, but not the ones dedicated to Yehovah (2 Chr 14.3, 15.14). Asa followed Yehovah (1 Kings 15.14) and God gave his kingdom peace. He concentrated on building defenses for Judah (2 Chr 14.7-8).
This account in Chronicles is included here, and not in Kings, because those returning from exile needed encouragement. They needed to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and its defenses and the writers wanted to show that they would have success if they followed Yehovah, like Asa did.
But, an army from Ethiopia came out against Judah and posed a great threat. Judah had an army of 580,000 (2 Chr 14.8) but the Ethiopians had twice that many. Asa knew that whether he was strong or weak, it had nothing to do with the Lord’s power because he was unlimited. This battle belonged to the Lord. So he cries out to God and said, “Do not let man prevail against you” and Yehovah gave him a great victory. They not only won, but became rich in the process.
2 Chr 15.1-19 tells us about a great revival in Judah. Azariah was a lesser known prophet in Judah, but God gave him a word for Asa and he came to deliver it. Asa and Judah have just won a great victory and it would be easy to get complacent and think they would always enjoy God’s favor, but the “key” is living in God’s favor. He is told that if he seeks God, he will “let” you find him. Yehovah will not hide himself from a seeking heart (Deut 4.29; Jer 29.13; Matt 7.7).
We should remember that the opposite is just as true. If we don’t seek him, we will not find him. In a way, we get what we want from him. If we don’t want to keep the Torah, then we will be with people who don’t want to keep it either. He gives the heart that rejects his ways what it desires, even eternally. When people hate to hear the Scriptures quoted to them, or don’t want to hear what King David had to say, then God will send to where the Scriptures aren’t quoted and where King David isn’t going to be.
Then the Lord says that Israel (in the time of the Judges) did not have the true God, they were without a teaching priest and without the Torah (2 Chr 15.3), but they sought the Lord in their distress, and he let them find him. This was written in Chronicles to remind those returning to the land from Babylon that Israel has been at a low point before, but Yehovah always restored them. So they were to be strong. for there is a reward for their work. That is the message here.
So Asa cleanses the land and gathers Judah, Benjamin and any others together from Manasseh, Ephraim and Simeon who had defected from Israel because they knew God was with Asa. They gathered in Jerusalem in the third month (probably around Shavuot) and they entered into a covenant with Yehovah and ratified it with korbanot, and this covenant was connected to the covenant at Sinai (Exo 24.7-8). everyone in Judah rejoiced and swore this oath with a sincere heart.
So Yehovah gave them rest on all sides. He removed Maacah from being queen mother (the givorah) because of her idolatry. He cut down, crushed and burned the “horrid image” she had and burned it in the brook Kidron. He brought into the Temple the dedicated things of his father, and his own dedicated things of silver, gold and utensils. And there was no more war until Asa’s thirty-fifth year, but there will be skirmishes with Baasha, the king of Israel, all their days.
In Part 4 we will pick up in 2 CHr 16.1-14.