Judah vs Israel

One suggested explanation is that in 2 Chronicles 14:5 it is noted that Asa “took away out of all the cities of Judah the high places…” while 2 Chronicles 15:17 declares that “…the high places were not taken away out of Israel…” Some, in putting this as the solution, suggest that Judah was Asa’s area of responsibility while he had no jurisdiction in Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and so of course he did not remove the high places located there. In his work the Kings of Israel and Judah, Brother Jim Cowie notes: “It seems that Asa removed the high places out of the cities of Judah but only curtailed activity at those in the rest of the land.”

Idols vs Yahweh

A further explanation put forward is that Asa took away those high places where false gods were worshipped while leaving intact those where the people gathered to worship Yahweh. Such worship was common in Israel before the Temple of Solomon was built (1 Kings 3:2,3,4). We might leave this as a possible explanation, though noting there is no substantive evidence in support of it.

A Timing Difference

We are told that in life we ought to “begin as we mean to continue”. Asa started well. He “did that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God” (2 Chron 14:2). Further, he acted to remove the taint of corruption and false worship in Judah and “commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment” (2 Chron 14:3-4). As part of this focused program of renewal, “he took away out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the images” with the result that “the kingdom was quiet before him” (2 Chron 14:5-6).

These actions belonged to the early part of his reign. Asa’s early enthusiasm extended to a wonderful display of faith when the Ethiopians with a huge army came against Judah. Asa appealed to his God who responded to his faithful leadership by putting the enemy to flight (2 Chron 14:12-15).

We are disappointed to observe that in later life, Asa did not continue to display the humility and faith of his early years (2 Chron 16). It seems reasonable to assume that it was in this later period that the worship in the high places crept back into the land and that now “the high places were not taken away out of Israel” (2 Chron 15:17).

So there are a number of possible explanations for the high places “discrepancy” of King Asa, but the change of circumstances of the king from faith to pride and rebellion seems to me to provide the most reasonable explanation.