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It is worth remembering that here we still find principles related to the kingdom of God, as it is in the present dispensation to people and what they have done with it. We see what the kings do with their responsibility. We see in 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles what the grace of God brings about despite the failure. Restoration is always the result of that grace through which God maintains His work. We see this principle clearly in this chapter.
War Between Abijah and Jeroboam
Abijah becomes king (2 Chronicles 13:1). This is not because he is appointed by the LORD – as is the case with David and Solomon – but because his father has appointed this (2 Chronicles 11:22). Although he was not appointed by the LORD, we see that God fulfills His plan through all human actions and thus maintains the kingship of the house of David. He does so in view of the great Son of David.
Abijah reigns for three years (2 Chronicles 13:2), from 913-911 BC. In 1 Kings 15 we also have the history of Abijah (his name means ‘Yahweh is my Father’). There – he is called there Abijam – the emphasis is on the evil character of Abijah. There we see that his heart does not have the right mind (1 Kings 15:3). We do not read there about his battle with Jeroboam, which is being measured out broadly here.
What the LORD has forbidden his father Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:1-Numbers :), does Abijah do: he begins the battle with Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 13:3). He does not resign himself to a situation of which the LORD said it came from Him (1 Chronicles 11:4). So when he begins the battle with Jeroboam, he does something for which he has not received a commission from the LORD. Nor are we called upon to fight against fellow Christians to subjugate them to us. We must defend the truth, but not impose it. Our struggle is a defensive struggle, not an offensive one.
The force ratio between the two armies is 1 to 2 (cf. Luke 14:31). Any thinking should have stopped Abijah from that battle. After all, he will lose hopeless if he relies on his own strength. He only sees his desperate situation when Jeroboam has enclosed him (2 Chronicles 13:13). Then he calls to the LORD.
Abijah’s Speech to Israel
Before the battle is fought, Abijah tries to convince his opponent that he has the right on his side. He does so by means of a speech he gives while standing on Mount Zemaraim. We can therefore call it a ‘sermon on the mount’. He addresses “Jeroboam and all Israel”. He speaks to Jeroboam in the first place, but the whole of Israel must hear it. The speech he gives seems to be propaganda for the imminent battle. What he says must justify the battle he wants to wage.
His speech is special. Its content is largely in accordance with the truth. Unfortunately, for Abijah this is only an external matter. He uses religious arguments to pursue his own political goals. His speech comes down to the fact that he and his people are the faithful and Jeroboam and his people the apostate. This pretense can be heard in the contrast of “you” (2 Chronicles 13:8-1 Samuel :) on the one hand and “we” and “us” (2 Chronicles 13:10-2 Kings :) on the other.
Abijah points to:
1. The salt covenant with David. God gave him and his sons after him the kingship of the twelve tribes (2 Chronicles 13:5). Salt covenant means that it is an eternal covenant (Numbers 18:19). What Abijah says is true, but at the same time it is an accusation against himself, because he himself does not take this covenant into account.
2. The revolt of Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 13:6). Abijah humiliates Jeroboam in his indictment of him and does not do justice to the matter, for God has promised Jeroboam the kingdom.
3. The weakness of his father (2 Chronicles 13:7). He seems to suggest that while his father may have been too weak to defeat Jeroboam – as if God’s will did not underlie his father’s decision not to fight –, Jeroboam now faces a man of a different caliber, someone who is strong enough.
4. The introduction of idolatry by Jeroboam and the creation of a priestly service (2 Chronicles 13:8-1 Samuel :). What Abijah says about it is true.
5. The true priestly service (2 Chronicles 13:10-1 Kings :). Regardless of Abijah’s person and mind, he gives a magnificent summary of the contents of the true priestly service. From his mouth it unfortunately sounds like “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1), because he lacks love for the LORD.
6. God is with them at their head. He claims the presence of God here, without considering what his own attitude towards God should be. Instead of humbling him, his language sounds like the language of the Pharisee who also declares high about his relationship to God and claims God for himself (Luke 18:11-2 Kings :).
What Abijah says may all be so true, but it sounds like the “deceptive words” in the days of Jeremiah, when people boast in the same way and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the LORD (Jeremiah 7:4). What is such a confession worth if the heart is not connected to it? The service of Jeroboam is reprehensible. Abijah’s pretense is equally reprehensible. He boasts about the LORD’s service, but his heart is far from Him.
While Abijah gives his pompous speech and the arrogant “but as for us, … we have not forsaken Him” (2 Chronicles 13:10), sounds from his mouth, the people of which he is king sacrifice to the idols. That turns out when his son Asa becomes king. For immediately after his appointment King Asa holds a clean-up action and “removed the foreign altars and high places” (2 Chronicles 14:3). Where does Abijah get the courage to do so high and mighty, when there is so much idolatry in Judah at that moment?
Abijah’s statement “the LORD is our God” (2 Chronicles 13:10) is a moderation against the background of the sins in which he himself lives (1 Kings 15:3) and the idolatry committed by the people. He praises orthodoxy and tradition, but life out of and with God is strange to him. He uses the dedication of others – priests and Levites who faithfully perform their task – to maintain himself and claim the right to fight the right battle.
The fact that God is at the head (2 Chronicles 13:12) may indicate that he still trusts God for the victory (cf. Deuteronomy 20:4). However, it is not trust from a personal faith in the power God. It is very similar to the pretense of Hophni and Phinehas, who claim the ark – the symbol of the presence of the LORD – for their position and take it with them as a mascot in the battle against the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:3-Deuteronomy :).
In summary, we can say that Abijah points to
1. the false leadership of Jeroboam in the northern realm (2 Chronicles 13:6),
2. a false company (2 Chronicles 13:7),
3. false gods (2 Chronicles 13:8),
4. false priests (2 Chronicles 13:9)
1. with true priests (2 Chronicles 13:10),
2. true service (2 Chronicles 13:11) and
3. true Divine authority (2 Chronicles 13:12).
Abijah Defeats Jeroboam
While Abijah gives his speech, Jeroboam lays an ambush (2 Chronicles 13:13). When Abijah notices that, it’s over with his talk. He boasts, so to speak, of standing on the foundation of the faithful Philadelphia, while his heart is in the lukewarm state of Laodicea. Then he calls to the LORD. He only does this when He has taught him a good lesson and not before he enters into the confrontation. Yet God helps. He is never called upon in vain (Psalms 34:6-Judges :; Psalms 50:15Psalms 107:6).
When every way out is cut off around us, the way up is always open (2 Corinthians 4:8). The battle from the “front” (2 Chronicles 13:14) can be applied to fear for the future, paralyzing us to do something for the Lord. The battle from the “rear” we can apply to memories of mistakes made, the consequences of sins, the misunderstandings that alienate us from others and make it difficult for us to live as we would like to.
But when we have the battle from the front and the rear, when we are surrounded and enclosed by the battle, we may remember that God also encloses us “behind and before” (Psalms 139:5) and covers us with His hand. He then gives the victory. In the blowing of the trumpets we see the call to the LORD, as was said by Moses (Numbers 10:9).
After his defamatory defeat, Jeroboam has no strength left (2 Chronicles 13:20). He is no longer capable of a new showdown. Abijah has nothing more to fear from him. The end of Jeroboam’s bad life is attributed to an act of God. He does not fall asleep, but the LORD hits him deadly, possibly by illness or stroke (cf. Acts 5:1-2 Samuel :; Acts 12:21-Isaiah :; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:30).
Unlike Jeroboam, who is very weak, Abijah strengthens his position (2 Chronicles 13:21). His strength seems to lie in the number of children he conceives with the wives he has taken for himself.
This brings the chronicler to the end of his description of Abijah’s life. “His ways and his words”, that is to say what can still be said of him, “are written in the treatise of the prophet Iddo” (2 Chronicles 13:22). That treatise was not taken up in God’s Word, but it was recorded by a prophet of the LORD. That treatise will appear before the judgment seat of Christ on the day that all men will be revealed and will be opened to show Abijah what and how “his ways and his words” have been”. He will be judged correspondingly (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 2 Chronicles 13". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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