The Pulpit Commentaries
2 Chronicles 13
The career of Abijah begins and ends with this chapter, the twenty-one verses of which are paralleled by only eight in 1 Kings 15:1-8. The difference is caused by the fact that the writer of Kings only mentions that there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam, while the writer of Chronicles, besides giving particulars of the war, rehearses the splendid, dramatic, rhetorical address and appeal of Abijah on Mount Zemaraim to the people of the ten tribes.
2 Chronicles 13:1
In the eighteenth year. Reading this literally, it will appear that Rehoboam had completed a full seventeen years.
2 Chronicles 13:2
Michaiah the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah. As before noted (2 Chronicles 11:20), and as in the parallel (1 Kings 15:2), this name is one with "Maachah, daughter of Absalom'' (parallel, Abishalom). The different alphabetic characters may be attributed to error, and that error the error of transcription merely. As in our note (2 Chronicles 11:20), the word "daughter," as in many similar cases, stands for granddaughter. Thus the father of Maachah was Uriel of Gibeah, and her mother Tamar, daughter of Absalom. Josephus ('Ant.,' 8.10. § 1) proffers us this connecting link of explanation. On the other hand, Rabbi Joseph's Targum on Chronicles says that Uriel means Absalom, but was a name used to avoid the use of Absalom. We have no clue as to which out of many Gibeahs is here intended. The Hebrew word ( גִבְעָח ) signifies a hill with round top, and hence would easily give name to many places. The following are the chief places of the name (as classified by Dr. Smith's 'Bible Dictionary,' 1.689-691):
1. Gibeah in the mountain district of Judah (Joshua 15:57; 1 Chronicles 2:49).
2. Gibeath among the towns of Benjamin (Joshua 18:28).
3. The Gibeah (1 Samuel 7:1; 2 Samuel 6:3, 2 Samuel 6:4).
4. Gibeah of Benjamin ( 19:1-30; 20:1-48.), between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. This should strictly be quoted either as "Gibeah belonging to Benjamin," or "Geba ( גֶּבַע ) of Benjamin" (see also 1 Samuel 13:1-23; 1 Samuel 14:1-52.; 2 Samuel 23:29; 1 Chronicles 11:31; Hosea 5:8; Hosea 9:9; Hosea 10:9).
5. Gibeah of Saul (1 Samuel 10:26; 1 Samuel 15:34; 2 Samuel 21:6). Josephus ('Bell, Jud.,' 5.2. § 1) states what helps to the identifying of the place as the modern Tuleil-el-ful, about thirty stadia from Jerusalem (see also Isaiah 10:28-32). The Gibeah of 1 Samuel 22:6; 1 Samuel 23:19; 1 Samuel 26:1, is this Gibeah of Saul.
6. Gibeah in the field ( 20:31). Lastly, our Authorized Version gives us seven other Gibeahs, only translating this word, e g. "The hill of the foreskins" (Joshua 5:3); "The hill of Phinehas" (Joshua 24:33); "The hill of Moreh" ( 7:1); "The hill of God" (1 Samuel 10:5); "The hill of Haehilah" (1 Samuel 23:19; 1 Samuel 26:1); "The hill of Ammah" (2 Samuel 2:24); "The hill Gareb" (Jeremiah 31:39).
2 Chronicles 13:3
It is not within the province of an expositor to assert dogmatically that numbers like these in this verse should be deprived of one cipher, and that the slaughter of 2 Chronicles 13:17 must be, consequently, similarly discounted. It would be, however, a great relief to faith to be able to give proof that this treatment would be true to fact. At present the numbers can be shown to be consistent with other numbers, such as those of the entire man-population (1 Chronicles 21:5; 2 Chronicles 11:13-17); and this seems the best that can be said in support of them. It does not, however, suffice to bring comfortable conviction. It is remarkable, among the difficulties that the question entails, that we do not get any satisfactory explanation as to how such vast numbers of slain bodies were disposed of in a compass of ground comparatively so small.
2 Chronicles 13:4
Mount Zemaraim. This mount is not mentioned elsewhere. Presumably it was a mountain or hill above the place called Zemaraim, mentioned in Joshua 18:22 as in Benjamin's allotment, and mentioned between the places called Beth ha-Arabah (i.e. the Jordan valley) and Bethel. Accordingly, it may be that itself lay between these two, or near enough to them one or both. This will quite suit our connection as placing the hill near the borders of Benjamin and Ephraim. It is said to be in Mount Ephraim; i.e. in the range of Mount Ephraim, which was one of considerable length, running through the midst of what was afterwards called Samaria, from the Plain of Esdraelon to Judah. Zemaraim may be so named from the Zemarite tribe, who were Hamites, and related to the Hittites and Amorites (Genesis 10:18; 1 Chronicles 1:16), descendants of Canaan; there are some faint traces of their having wandered from their northern settlements into mid and south Palestine. The Septuagint render Zemaraim by the same Greek as Samaria, σομόρων.
2 Chronicles 13:5-12
The idea of Abijah in this religious harangue, addressed or supposed to be addressed to the kingdom of the ten tribes, was good, and the execution was spirited. While, however, he preaches well to others, there are not wanting signs that he can blind himself as to some failure of practice on his own part. The points of the argument running through his harangue are correct, skilfully chosen, and well and religiously thrust home on the heart of his supposed audience. The practical trust of himself and his army are testified to in 2 Chronicles 13:14, 2 Chronicles 13:15, and abundantly rewarded. This sequel-practical trust is the best credential of the sincerity of his foregoing appeal and harangue.
2 Chronicles 13:5
Gave the kingdom … to David for ever. With the thrice-repeated "for ever" of what we call 2 Samuel 7:13-16, and the very emphatic language of the fifteenth verse in that passage, in the memory of Abijah, no one can say he was not justified by the letter and to the letter in what he now says. At the same time, how is it that Abijah does not in all fairness quote the matter of 2 Chronicles 6:16 last clause, and of its parallel, 1 Kings 8:25 last clause, and of Psalms 89:28-37; Psalms 132:12? Covenant of salt. The use of salt was ordered first for the meal offerings, which, consisting mainly of flour, did not need it as an antiseptic; afterwards it was ordered for "all" offerings, including the "burnt offering:" as surely as leaven was proscribed, salt was prescribed (Le Psalms 2:11). "The covenant of salt" meant the imperish-ableness and irrevocableness of the engagement made between the two parties to the covenant The widespread and deeply significant use of it among other and heathen nations is remarkable indeed, and is attested by Pliny ('Hist. Natal 31.41) in forcible words: "Nulla (sacra) conficiuntur sine mola salsa" (Her; 2 Sat. 3.200; Virgil, 'AEn.,' 2.133; Hom; ' Iliad,' 1.449). Some think it a sufficient explanation of the text, "covenant of salt," that, especially in the East, solemn engagements and vows were often recognized and strengthened by hospitalities, as shown to guests, and of these salt was an indispensable element. It is true that some of the ancient indications and descriptions of friendship and close friendships turned on phrases (similar ones, indeed, still existing) into which the word "salt" entered, but that these phrases arose from the fact that salt was so general a constituent of human food seems insufficient explanation, where we can find one of a more direct and more directly religious, or, as the case might be (e.g. with heathen sacrifices), superstitious birth. Religion and superstition between them have been the most world-wide, incalculable, and untraceable originators and disseminators of half the possible phrases of human language!
2 Chronicles 13:6
The servant of Solomon. 1 Kings 11:28 is evidently the apter reference for this verse, rather than 26, as generally given.
2 Chronicles 13:7
Are gathered … have strengthened themselves. The aorist tense is needed for the rendering in both these cases; e.g. "And vain men gathered to him, and strengthened themselves against him." Vain men; Hebrew, רֵקִים . This word, and one very slightly different in form, and their adverb, occur in all forty-one times; rendered in the Authorized Version "empty" nineteen times, "vain" eighteen times, and "without cause," "to no purpose," and "void" the remaining four times. It is the word that is used of the "empty" pit of Joseph (Genesis 37:24); of the "empty ears" of corn (Genesis 41:27); of "empty" pitchers and other vessels ( 7:16; 2 Kings 4:3; Jeremiah 14:3; Jeremiah 51:34; Ezekiel 24:11). And in all the other cases expresses metaphorically the emptiness of head, of heart, or of reason, with the same simple force of language appropriate, it appears, then as now. Children of Belial; Hebrew, בְלִיַּעַל . This word is found twenty-seven times, and, including seven marginal options, is rendered in the Authorized Version "Belial" twenty-three times; the four exceptions being "wicked" three times, and "naughty" once. The derivation of it marks the one expressive meaning of "without profit." Young and tender-hearted. Hard as it is to put these objections to the credit of a man forty-one years of age (see our note, 2 Chronicles 10:8; 2 Chronicles 12:13) at all, yet, if so, they can only be explained as some do explain them, of a blamable ignorance, inexperience, and instability.
2 Chronicles 13:8, 2 Chronicles 13:9
The five succeeding thrusts of these two verses, prefaced by the somewhat self-conscious but, nevertheless, validly pleaded orthodoxy of his own position, are well delivered by Abijah. Jeroboam is scathed
2 Chronicles 13:10, 2 Chronicles 13:11
The professions summarized in these two verses were confessedly formally true of the king and priests and nation, although Abijah and kingdom certainly did not carry a clean conscience in them. They were, moreover, beyond a doubt really true of multitudes of individuals in the kingdom of Judah and Benjamin. And these were "the salt of the" kingdom (Matthew 5:13). They burnt … sweet incense (so our 2 Chronicles 2:4; Exodus 30:7; Revelation 8:3, Revelation 8:4). The pure table … the candlestick. Although ten of each of these were made, only one was used, or only one at the time (see our note on 2 Chronicles 4:8, compared with 2 Chronicles 29:18; 1 Kings 7:48). We have not forsaken him … ye have forsaken him. If all the difference that these words have it in them to express could have been put to the credit of Abijsh, what tremendous strength would have now belonged to his position and to his heart!
2 Chronicles 13:12
The concluding utterances of Abijah certainly did not fall below what had preceded or the occasion in itself; and the echoes of them, while they died on the ear, must have lived, indeed, and stirred life in the hearts of many (Joshua 5:14; Numbers 10:9; Numbers 31:6; our Numbers 31:14, and Numbers 5:12, Numbers 5:13).
2 Chronicles 13:13-16
These verses purport to tell how Jeroboam, with all his vastly preponderating numbers (2 Chronicles 13:3), left nothing undone to secure the victory, and resorted even to the ambushment described; how, on the other hand, Abijah and his people honoured God by their cry and confident shout, and were delivered because they trusted in him (1 Samuel 17:45-47), and as follows, 2 Chronicles 13:18, "relied upon the Lord God of their fathers."
2 Chronicles 13:17
Slain; Hebrew, חֲלָלִים . Even if we accept for a moment the immense numbers written here and elsewhere as authentic, a considerable deduction may be made from our difficulty by virtue of the fact that this word need not mean to describe the actually slain. It occurs about ninety-one times. Of these, in our Authorized Version, it is found rendered, including marginal options, as many as fifteen times "wounded," or by even a less severe meaning. However, whether "slain" or "wounded and slain," the alleged, numbers of our present text are, in our opinion, incredibly enormous.
2 Chronicles 13:19
Bethel. Abijah was, perhaps, the rather permitted to take this city as the head-quarters of Jeroboam's irreligious worship. Jeshanah. A place not known elsewhere in Scripture by this name, which by derivation means "old." Grove quotes Josephus ('Ant.,' 14.15.§ 12) as speaking of a place so named, the scene of a battle between Herod and Antigonus's general, Pappus, but Josephus does not assign its site. Ephrain; or, according to Chethiv, Epron. Grove says that conjecture has identified it with the Ephraim of 2 Samuel 13:23, with the Ophrah of Joshua 18:23, and with the Ephraim of John 11:54; possibly the modern El-Taiyibeh (Dr. Robinson, 1.44), about five miles from Bethel.
2 Chronicles 13:20
The Lord struck him; and he died. The writer of Chronicles here, for brevity's sake, and not to recur to his name again, records the death of Jeroboam, which, however, did not happen till after Abijah's death, in the second year of Asa's reign (1 Kings 14:20; 1 Kings 15:25). That the Lord struck him, may glance at the fearful announcement conveyed to him through his wife by Ahijah (1 Kings 14:6-16).
2 Chronicles 13:21
Waxed mighty. For this our Authorized Version reads, "waxed fat and wanton" (Hebrew, יִתְחַזֵּק ), and grew too like his father Rehoboam and his grandfather Solomon, forgetting the "Law" (Deuteronomy 17:17).
2 Chronicles 13:22
The story of the Prophet Iddo, If this be the same work as that mentioned in 2 Chronicles 12:15 (see our note there), it is, at any rate, not called by the same title, but by the name well known for memoirs, of Midrash.
2 Chronicles 13:1-22
A royal and manly manifesto in the rights of godly truth.
The narrative of Abijah's short reign of three years is distinguished by one clear account, at any rate, of the wars that had arisen and were prevailing between the two parts of the recently rended and bleeding kingdom, of which a very brief statement only had been made, at the close of the history of Rehoboam's reign, whether here or in the parallel. It is also, and most chiefly, distinguished by the graphic description of the very forcible manifesto, so dramatically delivered as well, in the name and right of religion, and of the truth handed down to him by his fathers, by Abijah King of Judah, before, as it were, all the dissenting and separate congregation of Israel and their king. This subject awaits below some further analysis. And once more, so far as our Book of Chronicles goes, the narrative of this short reign and public career of Abijah is remarkable, in that we should have supposed certainly, when we shut our book, that they were, as nearly as might be, immaculate every way to the honour of God, and by his grace to the credit of the man and the king, with his heroic challenge to all Israel's conscience, towering in the midst of all the rest. The parallel, meanwhile, in Kings undeceives us unwelcomely in this impression, and mournfully disabuses our mind, where with startling precision it is recorded that "Abijah walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father," Whether the unrelated sins of his private life, or the chances of war, or the director judgment of God, brought his career to so early a close, we are not told. Meanwhile the contents of this chapter are most interesting. They read like an episode almost unique among even the many and varied, the concise and telling monographs that abound in the pages before us. War is waged, armies are ready, and are already face to face; battle itself is ready to begin, or has already begun, when—no spectral figure—King Abijah himself stands on Mount Zemaraim; the King of Israel, and the army of Israel, and, as it were, all the rended-off nation of Israel, fortunately and conveniently congregated before him. If ever man "preached," Abijah preached, and for the day and the occasion lifted up his voice worthily, and was "not afraid." Truth and facts are unmistakably on his side. We seem, for a moment, to be under the spell of an Old Testament Demosthenes, and to be listening to the snatch of an earlier philippic. If we seek some analysis of this mingled argument, denunciation, appeal, we notice—
I. THE SAFE GROUND OF THE CASE MADE AGAINST ISRAEL AND JEROBOAM. "The Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever—to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt." Perhaps, indeed, Abijah remembered well the solemn proviso of that covenant, emphatically made, and put into psalm as well, "If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore" (Psalms 132:12). Though he neglected to quote it into his argument, and let us say probably by design, yet it was substantially true that the perpetual kingdom was made over so, by divinest engage-merit, to Judah, as against all other comers whomsoever, and up to the coming of the Lord Jesus himself, of whose kingdom there should be indeed no end. For Abijah might, if challenged, have gone on also to quote (Psalms 89:33-37), "Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven." So Abijah begins successfully, putting Israel and Jeroboam essentially in the wrong.
II. THE MORAL ELEMENT FLUNG SO EFFECTIVELY AND OPPORTUNELY BY ABIJAH. INTO THE ARGUMENT. "Ought ye not to know this, that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever?" Israel and Jeroboam did know it, knew it well; and Abijah and all Judah knew that their separated brethren knew it, and knew it well. It was a well-conceived addition to the argument of the king of the true line. How many persons know the right most assuredly, to whom, for neglecting to do it, the most telling and most stinging expostulation and rebuke might well be couched in the same form of question, "Ought ye not to know?"
III. THE PATENT AGGRAVATIONS OF THE CONDUCT OF JEROBOAM. Viz. that:
1. It was a case of a subject rebelling against his own king (2 Chronicles 13:6), not of one foreign to the kingdom obtaining sway by conquest over a portion of it.
2. It was a case of that subject also taking advantage of the youth and inexperience of the rightful monarch Rehoboam, who was actually in possession of the throne at the time of the schism.
3. It was a case of the usurper relying on a "multitude" (2 Chronicles 13:8)—a mere majority! Nothing of a moral kind can safely be decided, on the strength merely of a majority, in this world; or, at any rate, up to the present time, in this world. And often the decision of something of a physical kind, on the strength of a majority, is most uncertain—the very ground beneath the feet of that majority being so liable to be undermined on a large scale (as is so notable in the sequel of this very history, 2 Chronicles 13:18), or otherwise honeycombed by invisible moral forces. God's selection of Israel, his whole conduct of them, of their education, of their government and their legislation, was and is one protest against reliance on the many.
4. It was a most iniquitous and crying case of idolatry in the setting up of the golden calves. This most glaring instance of the basest sort of supposed expedience did not bear that a word be said on its behalf or in its defence. Had there been not another weak point in the conduct or tactics of Jeroboam and Israel, this carried the sentence of death in itself.
5. Although it were a corollary most readily to be understood, that the priests and Levites of the true religion's ministry should find themselves no longer in place or at home in such an Israel, yet Abijah notes this also, probably that first prominence may be given (as great historic interest has certainly been given) to the fact that of the same priests and Levites were found none to sympathize with Jeroboam's evil doings, to countenance them, or to consent, under any pretext of policy, to uphold them; and secondly, that the flagitious, sacrilegious, and absolutely reckless defiance of the true religion, of which Jeroboam was guilty, in the sham consecration of sham priests, in imitation of heathen nations and in observance of heathen precedents, might be openly made to confront him, and publicly be hurled as the last aggravating charge against him. Jeroboam "cast out the priests of the Lord … and the Levites … and made priests after the manner of the nations of other lands."
IV. THE PRONOUNCED DECLARATION, UNBOASTFUL BECAUSE TRUE, AND READILY ACKNOWLEDGED TO BE ONLY THEIR DUTY AND PRIVILEGE UNITED, WHICH ABIJAH MAKES ON BEHALF OF HIMSELF AND KINGDOM.
1. They scorned golden calves, and had not forsaken the one Lord their God.
2. Their priests and Levites are the divinely appointed and consecrated ministers of the sanctuary and altar. They do their work. The altar smokes morning and evening, and the odour of the sweet incense ascends. The shewbread is in its place and duly renewed. The golden candlestick burns every evening. They have received the charge of the Lord God, and they keep it faithfully, obediently in each respect, and to each time punctually.
3. God is practically looked to as their Captain, and his ministers are looked to to sound the alarm alike to themselves and for them "against" their foes.
V. THE SHORT PARTING APPEAL. The whole argument, remonstrance, rebuke, has been in an eminent degree addressed to the conscience, and to the distinct and undoubted knowledge of revealed religion, which had been equally the portion of Israel with Judah. And now the parting brief appeal is fully charged with the same spirit. It is an appeal to conscience and religious knowledge and feeling, and legitimately concludes with that warning which has so long been, which is still, the divinely foreshadowed sanction of command or of prohibition. It depends on the faculty of faith, it is part of the discipline of faith, and—to be mindfully remembered by all—it is some of the most critical and tremblingly anxious exercises of faith. He who believes in nothing but the present does not believe in warning, and he who does not believe in warning is, in one word, the infatuated, and ever liable to be the reckless. In this brief pregnant appeal we seem to notice
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
2 Chronicles 13:1-20
The folly of unnatural severance, etc.
The whole chapter presents to us a number of lessons, not very closely connected with one another.
I. THE FOLLY OF AN UNNATURAL SEVERANCE. The first thing we read about the reign of Abijah is that there "was war between him and Jeroboam" (2 Chronicles 13:2). What else was to be expected? How, in those times, or indeed in any time, could it be otherwise? Tribes descended, as they were, from a common ancestor, speaking the same language, holding the same faith, having the same history, under a sacred obligation to worship at the same sanctuary, with no natural boundary between them, were bound to be united together and form one strong nation, or else to be at perpetual variance. There are two great mistakes, of which one is as foolish and as mischievous as the other—to insist upon organic union when everything in constitution and providential ordering points to separation; and, on the other hand, to attempt separation when everything clearly points to union. Whom God hath joined together let no man try to put asunder; if he does, he will certainly reap mischief and misery for his harvest. This will apply not only to nations, but to Churches, to social communities, to families, to individuals.
II. THE DUTY AND WISDOM OF REMONSTRANCE, It was right enough of Abijah to utter the strong and effective remonstrance here recorded (2 Chronicles 13:4-12). Perhaps, as one descended by both parents from David, he had a very strong sense of the disloyalty of the two tribes; but he certainly made a very vigorous appeal to them, urging them, by considerations of duty to God and of regard for their own interests, to rally to his side. He did not succeed in the attempt; probably he did not expect to do so. When men have carried disloyal or disobedient thought so far as to be guilty of actual rebellion or active opposition, they are not often moved even by the most cogent and persuasive words. Nevertheless, it is always right to try to move them before resorting to violent measures. We may succeed, as men have succeeded before now, in saving sanguinary strife, or in averting that which is, "in all but the bloodshed, a duel." Remonstrance should be made
III. THE PLACE FOR STRATAGEM IN THE BATTLE OF THE LORD, Jeroboam seems to have been in the way of succeeding by his stratagem (2 Chronicles 13:13, 2 Chronicles 13:14), and had there been no strong and special reason for Divine interposition, he would undoubtedly have prevailed against Abijah. Persuasiveness of speech is good, but sagacity in action is better still in any serious campaign. And while simple straightforwardness is the weapon we should commonly use, there is a guile we may employ when our spirit is wholly unselfish, and when we do not invade inviolable truth (see 2 Corinthians 12:16).
IV. THE SUCCESS OF FAITHFULNESS. After all, it was not the cleverness of the crafty Jeroboam, but the faithfulness, thus far, of the obedient Abijah which secured the victory. The men of Judah "cried unto the Lord," and "God smote Jeroboam and all Israel." As we read the chronicles of the two kingdoms, we are amazed that kings and people failed to see that just as they were obedient to Jehovah they prospered, and just as they were disobedient they were overtaken with national calamity. But it is so much easier to distinguish other people's duty than to perceive our own, to see where others missed their way than to find or to keep our own. Continually are we tempted to abandon the path of simple Divine wisdom for that which has its own fascinations, but to which no finger-post of duty points us; and invariably we find that "the end thereof" is sorrow and disillusion. Often the path of righteousness is unattractive and unpromising at the outset; but in that way lies success. Further on the prospect brightens; and at the end of that road is victory and joy. Be faithful unto death, and you may make quite sure of the crown of life.—C.
2 Chronicles 13:12
Four reasons for surrender.
1. Jesus Christ has taught us that in the great spiritual campaign in which we are engaged there can be no neutrality; he that is not with the Lord is against him (Matthew 12:30). We have, therefore, to include among those who are in arms against Christ, not only
2. Before these there come the prophets of the Lord, summoning them to leave the ranks in which they stand, and to surrender themselves to him and his service. These speakers for God entreat them to lay down their arms and to serve under Christ. Their reasons are, at least, fourfold. To be where they are is—
I. To BE OVERTHROWING THAT WHICH THEIR FATHERS BUILT UP. "Fight ye not against the Lord God of your fathers." Long and patiently, with many tears and prayers, often in the face of the most determined opposition, in health and sickness, in youth and in strength and in decline, on to old age and even unto death, our fathers fought for the truth they loved; they built up the Church, the institution, the Christian stronghold in which we found ourselves when we awoke to life and thought. And now are we going to take that sacred building down; stone by stone, are our hands—their children's hands—going to demolish it? Are we content to lower the flag they held' high so bravely and so nobly? Shall it be our function to undo the large and long result of all their toil? Shall we bring into disrepute the name they honoured far above their own? Shall we fight against the Lord God of our fathers?
II. TO BE OPPOSING THAT WHICH THE BEST MEN ARE SUSTAINING. "God's priests … cry alarm against you." Invested in the sacred garments, with the appointed signals in their hands (Numbers 10:8), the holiest in the land are urging the people to maintain their ground. The cause of Christian truth has not only the presence of a noble host of good and holy men; it is led by the best of the good and wise. Those who are clothed with righteousness, whose voice is the sound of earnest and irresistible conviction, are summoning all who love God and man to oppose themselves to the enemies of Christ. If we league ourselves "with these his enemies" we must make up our mind to contend with the worthiest and the wisest, with the most pure and brave and devoted, that ever drew mortal breath, that ever sounded the note of battle.
III. TO BE FIGHTING AGAINST GOD. "God himself is with us for our Captain." In the Christian Church it is the assured conviction that the invisible Lord is not the absent One; he is the very present One. "Lo, I am with you alway," etc. (Matthew 28:20). We who fight for him fight under him—under his eye, his observant eye; under his direction—the direction of a hand that is not seen, but that is felt. They who fight against his cause are fighting against him himself. They have to overcome the Almighty.
IV. TO BE ARRAYED AGAINST A FORCE THAT MUST PROVE VICTORIOUS. "You shall not prosper." Many times has Christianity seemed to be doomed to defeat and even to extinction, but out of every terrible contest it has emerged successful, even triumphant. Persecution, ridicule, argumentation, corruption,—these have done their worst, and they have failed. To-day the friends of Christ are more numerous, and the cause of Christ is more advanced, than ever. And he who is in arms against the Lord of all love and power, who is seeking to undermine his influence, who is contemptuous of his holy will, who is opposing his own indifference or his worldliness to the commands and the invitations of a Divine Saviour, he is in the ranks of the army that will be defeated; no voice of victory will greet his dying ear, no hope of commendation and award will then fill his heart.—C.
2 Chronicles 13:19, 2 Chronicles 13:20
Jeroboam: career, character, reputation.
There are three things which belong to every man, with the shaping of which he himself has much, though not everything, to do, and which are of the first importance to him. We look at them in connection with Jeroboam.
I. HIS CAREER. At first, and for some time, we find him steadily rising; beginning low, he distinguishes himself by the character of his work, is promoted to a post of some importance (1 Kings 11:28); he gains the confidence and good will of the people, is regarded as one who may aspire to the highest position in the state; he has to retire for a time from the presence of Solomon, who suspects his loyalty, but upon the death of that sovereign he returns, takes advantage of the inexperience and foolhardiness of Rehoboam, and mounts the throne, reigning over ten-twelfths of the whole land. Then he maintains his position for some nineteen years, keeping up a chronic war with royal rival at Jerusalem, and apparently holding his own. Then he has a pitched battle with Abijah, and, spite of clever generalship (2 Chronicles 13:13, 2 Chronicles 13:14), he is signally defeated; his troops are utterly muted, and he has to sacrifice three important places. From that time he declines in strength and spirit, until, cowed if not crushed by his defeat, he dies of disappointment and chagrin. "The Lord struck him."
II. HIS CHARACTER. He was evidently an active and able workman, competent to undertake the more difficult and responsible posts in the building of fortifications; he was a man of ambition as well as of resource, willing to enter the open door to mount the "fiery courser of opportunity; ' he was capable of patience as well as of vigorous action; he could bide his time in Egypt as well as strike the blow when the hour was ripe; he was courageous and self-confident, not shrinking from the dangerous position of heading a revolt against the rightful ruler of the land (2 Chronicles 13:6); he was utterly unscrupulous as to the measures he adopted to retain the loyalty of his people (2 Chronicles 13:8-10); he was prepared to abolish the accepted and true faith, and import a false and low religion; also to rid himself of the best men as priests, introducing the lowest to take their place (1 Kings 12:31). All piety and principle he subordinated to the one end of preserving his throne and his dynasty. Thus he made shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience.
III. HIS REPUTATION. For reputation is to be very carefully distinguished from character. A man may have a good reputation, and, in the sight of him who is the Truth, a very bad character; such were the Pharisees of our Lord's time, and such have been hypocrites of all time. Or a man may have a bad reputation and a noble character; such was Paul amongst his countrymen; such have been the reformers and martyrs of all ages. But Jeroboam's reputation has answered to his character. He was, indeed, regarded as a man of considerable ability (1 Kings 11:24); but the one chief and continual association with his name is that of the great mischief-maker, the man who wrought dire evil to his country; he was known, and is known, as the man "who made Israel to sin." From his character, career, and reputation we may be reminded:
1. That it is right to be concerned about our career, right to wish for one that is bright and pleasant and honourable; and with this desire in our heart we should
2. That it is of more importance that we should possess a good reputation; not that we need trouble ourselves about what the sinful or the foolish are saying of us, but that we should care much to win the esteem of the good and wise.
3. That the essential thing is a sound character in the sight of God. That is the foundation of all; on it rests a good reputation and a bright career. Therefore let us ask ourselves what we are; and let us be dissatisfied with ourselves unless we can believe that we are true disciples of Jesus Christ, "children of our Father who is in heaven," resembling him in spirit and in principle.—C.
2 Chronicles 13:21, 2 Chronicles 13:22
Abijah: the lessons of his life.
These concluding verses, which dispose of the latter end of the life of Abijah, may bring before us the lessons which are to be gathered from his career.
I. THE SLIGHTNESS AND VALUELESSNESS OF HUMAN FAME. He was a descendant of David, and a king reigning at Jerusalem, and he gained a somewhat brilliant victory over his rival at Mount Ephraim—"the rest of his acts and his ways and sayings are written in the story of the Prophet Iddo;" but who reads them there, or who can tell us anything of what is there contained? In the Book of the Kings (1 Kings 5:7) we are referred to our text for the details of his career. But how scanty we find them to be! How little do we know of this once proud and "mighty" monarch; and how content we are that we know so little! And of what entire valuelessness to him would any fuller knowledge on our part be! We need not be concerned that our name and fame will traverse so small a part of this globe, and travel so short a space of time; that we shall be so soon forgotten. Kings and statesmen, whose chances of fame were far greater than ours, have found how ephemeral and how worthless a thing is fame. To be loved by those whom we have blessed, to be esteemed by the good and true, to be honoured of God to take some part in the promotion of his glorious kingdom,—that is the heritage to be coveted and to be gained.
II. THE BRITTLENESS OF EARTHLY FORTUNE. When Abijah ascended the throne of Judah, he had, probably, good reason for expecting a long period of honour and enjoyment. But three short years brought his hopes down to the ground. Some disease showed itself in his frame, or some accident befell him, or some treacherous blow struck him, and he went down to the grave with his early hopes unfulfilled. And who shall say that the young man of our acquaintance, of our connection, of our affection, who has such bright prospects before him, will not find, by a sad disillusion, that the term of his happiness and his honour is a very brief one; that a few years, or even months, will bring him to his grave? "Love not the world, neither the things which are in the world The world passeth away … but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
III. THE DANGER OF GREAT SUCCESS. We read in the preceding verse (2 Chronicles 13:20) that Jeroboam never "recovered strength again" after his humiliating defeat at Mount Ephraim. We might with equal truth say of Abijah that he never recovered from his success. He was apparently elated by it, and, in the perilous mood of complacency, he gave himself up to culpable domestic licence (2 Chronicles 13:21). His latter days were spent in home luxuries and (it is only too likely) in revelries and follies. His success was too much for him; as, indeed, success very often proves to be. Many men can stand misfortune; comparatively few can stand prosperity. It is a "slippery place," where the unguarded human spirit falls, and is badly bruised, if not broken. If the tide of success should set in, whether of wealth, or honour, or power, or affection, let there be unusual watchfulness and multiplied devotion; for the hour of prosperity is that hour when the archers of the enemy will be busy with their arrows.
IV. THE VALUE OF WHOLE-HEARTEDNESS IN THE SERVICE OF THE SUPREME. Where shall we look to find the fatal flaw that accounts for this royal failure? We find it here (1 Kings 15:3). Abijah's heart was "not perfect with the Lord his God;" that is to say, his heart was "divided," and therefore he was "found faulty" (Hosea 10:2). He did not seek God "with his whole heart." He was willing enough to try and charm with the Divine Name and the Divine will and Law (see 2 Chronicles 13:5-10), but he was not prepared to walk uprightly and faithfully, as "the heart of David his father," before the Lord his God. If our devotion be nothing more than a desire to have God on our side in the day of battle, we shall show small consistency of conduct and little excellence of character. The religious character that will stand the test both of sunshine and shadow is that of the man who realizes the supreme claims of God, his Father and his Saviour, and who solemnly and determinately dedicates himself, heart and life, to "the Lord his God." It is only whole-heartedness in the service of Christ that will ensure us against the perils of adversity and prosperity.—C.
HOMILIES BY T. WHITELAW
2 Chronicles 13:1, 2 Chronicles 13:2, 2 Chronicles 13:21, 2 Chronicles 13:22
The successor of Rehoboam.
I. HIS NAME. Abijah, "whose father is Jehovah" (1 Kings 14:1); Abijam, "father of the sea," i.e. a maritime man (1 Kings 14:31; 1 Kings 15:1); or Abia (LXX.). If Abijam be not a clerical mistake, then the hypothesis is at least interesting that the Chronicler adopted the form Abijah because he did not intend to describe this king's reign as wicked, while the writer of the Kings, having this intention, frequently selected the form Abijam (Kitto).
II. HIS MOTHER. Micaiah, or Maacha (2 Chronicles 11:20), the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah, and the daughter (equivalent to granddaughter by the mother's side) of Absalom (2 Chronicles 11:20), or Abishalom (1 Kings 15:2). The notion (Bahr) that Abijah's wife, the mother of Asa, was also called Maacah (2 Chronicles 15:10) is not necessary, and still less the hypothesis (Bertheau) that in this place the name of Abijah's wife has been substituted for that of his mother.
III. HIS WIVES. Fourteen in number, of whom one was (on the supposition just named) Maacah, the names of the others being unknown. Like his father Rehoboam, grandfather Solomon, and great-grandfather David, Abijah practised polygamy. A parent's vices are considerably easier to copy than his virtues. Those also are likelier than these to be transmitted by heredity.
IV. HIS OFFSPRING. Twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters. Of the former only one is known, Asa his successor, the rest having disappeared from the stage of history as from that of time. Obscurity, the common lot of men; yet not always a disadvantage in itself, or a proof of inferior merit. Some of the world's greatest men have been unknown to their contemporaries; and Abijah's unnamed sons may have been superior persons to Asa.
V. HIS REIGN.
1. Its sphere. Judah, the southern kingdom, Jeroboam still exercising sovereignty over the northern.
2. Its seat. Jerusalem, the capital of Israel being Samaria.
3. Its duration. Three years, beginning in the eighteenth and ending in the twentieth year of Jeroboam.
4. Its character. Troubled. "There was war between Abijah and Jeroboam."
VI. HIS END.
1. His death. "He slept with his fathers" (2 Chronicles 14:1).
2. His burial. "He was laid in the city of David."
3. His biography. The story of his life, of his acts, ways, and sayings, was written by the Prophet Iddo.
VII. HIS CHARACTER.
1. His ability. Undoubted.
2. His piety. Decided. Notwithstanding his polygamy, he was
1. Jehovah in the heart is better than Jehovah in the name.
2. A weak and wicked father may have a capable and good son.
3. The value of a man's life is not determined by the length of his days.
4. One may have faults and yet be religious.
5. Every one should strive to live so as to be remembered for good after death.—W.
2 Chronicles 13:3-19
A great war in a short reign.
I. THE CONTENDING ARMIES. (2 Chronicles 13:3.)
1. Their leaders. Of the army of Judah, Abijah; of the host of Israel, Jeroboam—both capable generals, and each the inspiring spirit of his troops.
2. Their numbers. Of Judah, four hundred thousand men—one hundred thousand fewer than Joab numbered to Judah; of Israel, eight hundred thousand—exactly the number Joab counted to Israel (2 Samuel 24:9).
3. Their quality.
(a) heroes of war, veterans experienced in former campaigns under Rehoboam, and
(b) chosen or picked men, literally, "men of youth," whose powers were at their best (Jeremiah 18:1-23 :31).
(a) chosen men and
(b) mighty men of valour. Thus both armies were well matched.
4. Their position. Over against each other, in the vicinity of Mount Zemaraim, near Bethel (Joshua 18:22)—"probably the large ruin Samrah, north of Jericho", and perhaps at that time the northern limit of Abijah's territory (Ewald); obviously so close to one another that to them the words of Shakespeare ('King Henry V.,' act
4. chorus) may be fitly applied—
"From camp to camp, thro' the foul womb of night,
The hum of either army stilly sounds,
That the fix'd sentinels almost receive
The secret whispers of each other's watch:
Fire answers fire: and through their paly flames
Each battle sees the other's umber'd face:
Steed threatens steed, in high and boastful neighs
Piercing the night's dull ear; and from the tents,
The armourers, accomplishing the knights,
With busy hammers closing rivets up,
Give dreadful note of preparation."
II. THE SPEECH OF ABIJAH. (2 Chronicles 13:4-12.)
1. Whence spoken, From Mount Zemaraim, in Ephraim, as Jotham had formerly spoken to the Shechemites from Mount Gerizim ( 9:7).
2. To whom addressed. To Jeroboam and all Israel. Generals commonly harangue their troops before going into action (1 Samuel 4:9; 2 Samuel 10:11, 2 Samuel 10:12; 2 Chronicles 18:30; cf. 'King Henry V.,' act 4. sc. 3); Abijah directs his speech to his foes, as David did to Goliath (1 Samuel 17:45), and Rabshakeh to the envoys of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:28-35; cf. 'Richard II.,' act 3. sc. 3).
3. Of what composed. Of a long, earnest argument, dissuasive, and appeal, for the purpose of inducing Jeroboam and his warriors to desist from their mad enterprise of attempting to conquer Judah. According to Abijah they could not succeed, for a variety of reasons.
III. THE AMBUSHMENT OF JEROBOAM. (2 Chronicles 13:13, 2 Chronicles 13:14.)
1. Skilfully prepared.
2. Courageously met. Though surprised, the men of Judah were not thrown into panic. Realizing their danger, they confronted it:
IV. THE VICTORY OF JUDAH. (2 Chronicles 13:15-18.)
1. The source of it. God. Not Abijah or Judah, but Eiohim smote Jeroboam and all Israel. "Safety ['victory,' Revised Version] is of the Lord" (Proverbs 21:13), and "it is he that giveth salvation [or, 'deliverance '] unto kings" (Psalms 144:10). "Jehovah is a Man of war," sang Miriam (Exodus 15:3); while David owned, "He teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight" (Psalms 18:34; Psalms 144:1).
2. The time of it. "As the men of Judah shouted." So "the Lord is nigh unto all that call upon him" (Psalms 145:18); and "whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be delivered" (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13), even while they are calling (Isaiah 65:24). Cf. the rescue of Jehoshaphat at Ramoth-Gilead (2 Chronicles 18:31).
3. The ground of it. "Because they relied upon the Lord God of their fathers' (2 Chronicles 13:18). That Jehovah should prove a Buckler to them that trusted in him accorded exactly with the representations of the Divine character furnished by Scripture (Genesis 15:1; Deuteronomy 20:1; Joshua 1:9; Psalms 17:7; Psalms 115:9), and had frequently Been verified in the experience of both sections of the kingdom-Joshua's soldiers at Jericho (Joshua 6:12, etc.), and Gideon's at the well of Harod ( 7:1, 7:21), because they trusted in the sword of Jehovah more than in their own weapons. So David prevailed over the Philistine (1 Samuel 17:45), Hezekiah over the Assyrian king, and the Philistines (2 Kings 18:5, 2 Kings 18:8) and the Reubenites over the Hagarites (1 Chronicles 5:20). Confidence in God the strongest guarantee a Christian can have of emerging triumphantly from any moral or spiritual conflict (Psalms 26:1; Psalms 33:20, Psalms 33:21; Isaiah 12:2; 2 Corinthians 1:10; Romans 8:38).
4. The extent of it.
1. The sinfulness of unjustifiable rebellion.
2. The horrors of war.
3. The political value of religion.
4. The power of faith.
5. The reward of sin.—W.
2 Chronicles 13:20
The career of Jeroboam.
I. AN EXAMPLE OF DISAPPOINTED AMBITION. A striking illustration of how "vaulting ambition overleaps itself, and falls on the other side." Its stages reveal the insatiable character of that "fire and motion of the soul which will not dwell in its own narrow being, but aspires beyond the fitting medium of desire" (Byron).
1. Promoted to a position of trust. Originally a servant of Solomon, he was appointed master of works for the house of Judah, 1.e, superintendent of the Ephraimite contingent of workmen (1 Kings 11:28).
2. Plotting sedition. Invested with "brief authority," he began to meditate ambitious thoughts, which probably the Shilonite with his prophetic glance discerned (1 Kings 11:37).
3. Married to a princess. Compelled to flee from Palestine, he found in Egypt, at the court of Shishak, both a harbour of refuge and a balm for his wounds—he became the husband of a princess and the brother-in-law of Pharaoh (1 Kings 11:40).
4. Further promotion,. Recalled to Palestine, he was first elected a spokesman of the northern tribes in their diplomatic dealings with Rehoboam, and ultimately chosen to be their sovereign (1 Kings 12:20).
5. More sedition. Barely was he seated on the throne of Israel, than he adopted measures to render permanent the separation of the two kingdoms; turning his back upon Jehovah, and setting up a new and rival religion to the Jehovah-cultus in Judah (1 Kings 12:28).
6. Renewed ambition. Not content with this, he aimed at the subjugation of the southern empire.
7. Final collapse. This point reached, he hastened rapidly towards an ignominious end. Byron says—
"One breast laid open were a school,
Which would unteach mankind the lust to shine or rule."
One may be permitted to doubt this!
II. AN INSTANCE OF MISAPPLIED ABILITY. That Jeroboam as youth and man, as private person and public official, as servant and sovereign, possessed high capacities, need not be questioned. Energy, industry, enthusiasm, ambition, faculty for organization, power of impressing, directing, leading, and ruling others—qualities needful for generalship, statesmanship, kingship—appear all to have belonged to him in more than ordinary measure; yet in every situation of life in which he was placed these powers were misapplied. The governing idea of his soul was to use all, in himself and others, for the advancement of his private interest. For this end he fomented sedition amongst his countrymen, encouraged disaffection amongst the subjects of Solomon, took advantage of Rehoboam's inexperience to raise the standard of revolt, perverted to wicked purposes the high position as a sovereign to which he in providence attained, did his utmost to propagate irreligion, diffuse idolatry, foster immorality, dissolve the fabric of social order, crush and annihilate the true worshippers of Jehovah. The annals of mankind afford many illustrations of the same phenomenon—magnificent powers of body and mind prostituted to ignoble ends, e.g. Samson, Saul, and Judas from sacred, Caesar (Julius), Mark Antony, and Napoleon from profane history.
III. AN ILLUSTRATION OF NEGLECTED OPPORTUNITIES.
1. When promoted by Solomon to be master of works for the house of Joseph, he might, with his commanding talent and great force of character, have done much to soothe the ruffled spirits of his countrymen, and so have nipped the poisonous flower of revolution in the bud. But he did not; rather he acted on a contrary hint.
2. When recalled by the northern tribes to be their spokesman, had he chosen, he might have poured oil upon the troubled waters, allayed the ferment of their passions, appealed to them to give the young king a trial, and remember the danger which would accrue to the empire from disunion—might have crushed down his own ambitious thoughts, and like Caesar ('Julius Caesar,' act 3. sc. 2)—not to speak of a greater (John 6:15)—put bravely from him the crown which in the people's eyes he saw preparing for him. But he did not; rather, in the popular disaffection, he beheld that "tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune," and launched himself upon its stream without delay.
3. When favoured by Providence so far as to secure the crown, had he carried out the trust committed to him, to erect a kingdom in which the worship of Jehovah should be faithfully and purely maintained, he should have been established on his throne beyond the possibility of overthrow, and the house of Jeroboam should have shone with a lustre as brilliant as, if not excelling, that of the house of David. But he did not; rather in him was verified the sentiment—
"That lowliness is young ambition's ladder
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the utmost round,
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend."
('Julius Caesar,' act 2. sc. 1.)
Jehovah had set Jeroboam on the throne of Israel; Jeroboam when on the throne cast Jehovah behind his back (1 Kings 14:7-9).
IV. A MONUMENT OF DESERVED RETRIBUTION. Jeroboam, who might have attained to undying honour, reaped for himself a harvest of eternal infamy. To such a pitch of wickedness did he proceed, both in himself and in his people, whom he corrupted by his example and commanded by his authority, that not only did "the sin of Jeroboam become ever afterwards proverbial as an expression for the highest possible impiety in an Israelitish ruler (1 Kings 15:34; 2 Kings' 2 Kings 10:31; 2 Kings 13:6; 2 Kings 14:24; 2 Kings 17:22),. but, it drew down upon him swift and appalling retribution. "The Lord smote him."
1. In his army with defeat. His troops were routed on the field of war, his fenced cities were captured, his military power was broken.
2. In his house with bereavement. The sudden death of his child Abijah was a sore stroke, to which was added a sorer in the curse that none other of the house of Jeroboam should come to his grave in peace (1 Kings 14:12, 1 Kings 14:13).
3. In himself with disease. To this the language of veres 20 is believed by some to point (Clarke, Jamieson).
V. A VICTIM OF ALL-DEVOURING DEATH. Jeroboam succumbed to the fatal malady two years after the death of Abijah, and in the twenty-second year of his reign. He expired at Tirzah, and was buried with his fathers.
"Sceptre and crown must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade."
Friday, February 24th, 2017
the Seventh Week after Epiphany
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