2 Chronicles 13:3. Four hundred thousand—eight hundred thousand chosen men. This would seem incredible, did we not know that the manner of the Hebrews at that time was to bring all their people from twenty to fifty years of age into the field. Yet such a multitude must form an unwieldy and ungovernable army. If the sword fail to destroy them, they must soon be routed by hunger and thirst. These, like the five hundred thousand under Xerxes, that invaded Greece, melted away like snow in the warmer beams of the sun.
2 Chronicles 13:5. A covenant of salt, that is, incorruptible. “I will make an everlasting covenant with you, and I will give you the sure mercies of David.” Isaiah 55:4, Thus the Messiah was the soul of the covenant, whenever it was renewed, as in Genesis 12:3. But as all covenants with men were accompanied with a feast, our Harmer proves that this word designates a feast: so is the Hebrew reading of Ezra 4:14.
2 Chronicles 13:17. There fell down slain five hundred thousand men. The Vulgate diminishes the number of the slain to fifty thousand; but as the LXX, and the complute edition, agree with the Hebrew, and as Josephus affirms that there never was a battle recorded by either Greek or Barbarian writer, in which there was so great a number slain, the modern versions have done right in disregarding the authority of the Vulgate.
The particulars of this great battle and prodigious carnage, not being mentioned in the book of Kings, we must here stay a moment for reflection. Rehoboam, on the revolt of the ten tribes, had raised an army to recover the whole of his father’s kingdom; but God had graciously prevented him by a prophet, and that message sufficiently indicated the good pleasure of heaven that the two kingdoms should exist together in quiet and concord. The rent of the kingdom was of God, as a punishment for Solomon’s fall, and Israel’s sins. But Jeroboam had not followed peace: he had skirmishes with Judah all the days of Rehoboam: his day however came at last, and he went not without his reward. Abijah, on coming to the throne, levied his people en masse, to the number of four hundred thousand, and entered his rival’s country. Jeroboam did the same; and his numbers were twice as many as those of Judah. What a sight for those huge and hostile multitudes, all brethren, all the seed of Jacob, to contemplate one another. Ah, Israel, thy day was come, thine iniquities were ripe, and heaven was resolved to thrust in the sickle.
Before Abijah struck the blow, he wished to parley, of course that he might prevent the bloody affair by a covenant, for the decision of national disputes by the sword indicates generally a contempt of reason and of moral justice. In this previous step he was highly commendable; but his speech, as might naturally be expected, in a young king, religiously educated, is highly monarchical, and strictly religious: yet there were afterwards many defects in his reign.
Jeroboam, instead of hearkening to a noble speech, relied too much on his numbers and his talents, and sent an army to surround and totally to exterminate Judah, in case of defeat. The late ruler of France, confident of victory, almost invariably adopted this mode of fighting; but he miscalculated the Russian canon at Eylau, and his surrounding division of fifteen thousand men, were like Jeroboam’s ambush, cut off.
We have the effects which Jeroboam’s stratagem produced on the men of Judah. Finding themselves surrounded, and no retreat left, they cried to the Lord, and animated one another with courage for the battle. So fervent were their shouts, so impetuous their charge, that the men of Israel scarcely waited the first assault; and the immensity of the multitude obstructing the flight, the carnage was without a parallel. Oh what a sight! Half a million bleeding on the plain. Oh what a multitude of widows, of orphans, of mothers at home, pouring torrents of unavailing tears; nor could they forget the anguish of Ephron, till death had numbered them with those for whom they wept. Had those men fallen gloriously in a war against a foreign foe, it had been some consolation to the children; but to fall fighting against brethren, it seemed a day of infatuation, and we fear, a day to people hell, and to be lamented with eternal tears. Jeroboam indeed escaped the sword of Abijah, but God smote him with a languishing disease for two whole years, and his kingdom never recovered its population after so dreadful a scourge. So the Lord had said, that on forsaking his covenant, they should be few in number.
By these events we may be put in remembrance, that Satan sometimes makes a grand effort to destroy a soul, or to exterminate the influence of religion; that he surrounds us before and behind, as Jeroboam’s multitude surrounded Judah. Let us, whenever so circumstanced, cry like Judah mightily to the Lord. Let us take heart, raise a shout of courage, and fight the good fight of faith; so shall the confusion of fear designed by the enemy recoil on his own head. Let us place a firm confidence in the promises of Israel’s God, and then we shall say not only of the difficulties of life, but of death itself, thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 13". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
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