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THE REIGN OF ABIJAH
Jereboam outlived Rehoboam, though not for long (v.20). He died after reigning 22 years (1 Kings 14:20), five years longer than Rehoboam. But Abijah, son of Rehoboam, reigned only for three years in Judah (v.2). 1 Kings 15:3 tells us that Abijah wa1ked in all the sins of his father and his heart was not loyal to the Lord. Yet Chronicles does not mention this, but emphasises rather what was to his credit in regard to overcoming Jereboam, in battle. The guilt of Jereboam. was far greater than that of Abijah. We are not told what occasioned the great battle between Judah and the ten tribes, but Abijah gathered an army of 400,000 to fight against 800,000 chosen warriors of Israel (v.3). Then Abijah took the opportunity of standing on Mount Zemaraim in Ephraim to address Jereboam and his men. He must have had a loud voice, and called upon them to hear what he said (v.4).
He first insists that the Lord's covenant with Judah that David and his descendants were the royal line was absolute and unchangeable (v.5), Secondly, he says that Jereboam had rebelled not only against the king, but against God, and had collected worthless rogues to boldly refuse Rehoboam's authority while Rehoboam was still young and inexperienced (vv.6-7). This too was true, though Abijah did not mention that Rehoboam had treated the ambassadors of the ten tribes with cruel contempt.
Thirdly, Abijah tells them they think to withstand the kingdom of the Lord, having a great multitude of followers and depending on the golden calves that Jereboam had adopted as idolatrous gods (v.8). This was a deeply incriminating fact.
But as a fourth matter of serious importance, Israel had totally refused the worship of the Lord. casting out the priests, the sons of Aaron and ordaining priests of any men they desired, if these men virtually bought their way into the priesthood by bringing a bull and seven rams (v.9).
In contrast to Israel's rebellion, Abijah tells them that Judah had continued to faithfully practice the worship of the Lord. "We have not forsaken Him," he says, "and the priests who minister to the Lord are the sons of Aaron, and the Levites attend to their duties. And they burn to the Lord every morning and evening burnt sacrifices and sweet incense; they also set the showbread in order on the pure gold table, and the lampstands of gold with its lamps to burn every evening; for we keep the command of the Lord our God" (v.11). No doubt all this was true as regards the formal worship of Judah, though the spiritual significance of this worship did not have any real effect on the heart of Abijah.
What a picture of the state of things in the professing church today! People may be champions of orthodoxy, may be able to expose the evils of idolatrous worship that are prevalent in many denominations. But though their forms are in measure orthodox, their hearts may still be far from God. This is hypocrisy. May we judge it absolutely and seek grace to honestly walk with God. Abijah thought that he was righteous in comparison with the evil of Israel, but he ought to have considered himself as under the eye of God rather than comparing himself with others.
Jereboam had no answer to the charges of Abijah, but determined to attack by sending an ambush to circle around behind the Judean army (v.13). This was good military strategy, but God is greater than Jereboam. The men of Judah were taken by surprise in finding the battle on both sides of them. But they cried out to the Lord and the priests sounded the trumpets (v.14). Even though God's people were not in a good spiritual state, yet God heard their prayer of distress. The men of Judah shouted and God intervened by putting Israel in fear of Judah (v.25), so that they turned and fled.
Abijah and his army defeated them with a tremendous slaughter, with 500,000 choice warriors of Israel killed (v.17). No other battle in history has been so devastating as this. Even today, with the world's greatly increased population, it would be unheard of that one half a million men should be killed in one battle. But how much more sad it is to consider that this battle was between brethren!
In this engagement Abijah depended on the Lord, and was able also to capture cities and villages in Israel, including Bethel, Jeshanah and Ephraim. Thus, the strength of Jereboam was greatly weakened and he did not recover from the effects of his defeat. By the Lord's intervention he was struck with an illness that took his life. This was evidently soon after the death of Abijah, for Jereboam reigned 22 years (1 Kings 14:20) and it was in his 18th year that Abijah became king of Judah (ch.13:1), and Abijah reigned only three years. In that short time he grew mighty (v.21), married fourteen wives and had 22 sons and 16 daughters! Of course he might have had some of his wives and children before he began to reign. Other activities of Abijah were recorded in the writings of the prophet Iddo, but these are not scripture.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 13". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29