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Bible Commentaries
2 Chronicles 13

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Introduction

Second Chronicles Chapter 13

2 Chronicles 13:1 "Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam began Abijah to reign over Judah."

It appears, from this, that Rehoboam and Jeroboam began to reign the same year. They had both finished their 17 years of reign, when Rehoboam died and his son Ahijah took his place.

2 Chronicles 13:2 "He reigned three years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also [was] Michaiah the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah. And there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam."

Abijah is the same as Abijam and Abia. This Michaiah is the same as Maachah. During this 3 year period it seemed there was war between Jeroboam and Abijah. This was not like the skirmishes they had earlier. It was the desire of Abijah to force the ten tribes back under the control of the house of Judah.

2 Chronicles 13:3 “And Abijah set the battle in array with an army of valiant men of war, [even] four hundred thousand chosen men: Jeroboam also set the battle in array against him with eight hundred thousand chosen men, [being] mighty men of valour.”

It would appear that 800,000 men would destroy 400,000, but that does not take God into account. Abijah’s 400,000 actually killed 500,000 of Jeroboam’s men.

2 Chronicles 13:4 "And Abijah stood up upon mount Zemaraim, which [is] in mount Ephraim, and said, Hear me, thou Jeroboam, and all Israel;"

This seemed to be a mountain area over the battlefield. This had to be an area where his voice would carry. He was speaking to Jeroboam, but, also, to all of the men of the ten tribes, as well.

2 Chronicles 13:5 "Ought ye not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, [even] to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?"

This kingdom over Israel was given to David and his descendents on a conditional basis. They must remain faithful to God. The people had broken covenant with God. The "covenant of salt" was to show its preserving factor. It was a sign that this covenant would not go bad.

2 Chronicles 13:6 "Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, is risen up, and hath rebelled against his lord."

This is just saying, that Jeroboam had no right to rule over the Israelites. He was not of the family of David.

2 Chronicles 13:7 "And there are gathered unto him vain men, the children of Belial, and have strengthened themselves against Rehoboam the son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and tenderhearted, and could not withstand them."

Rehoboam was 41 years old, when he began to reign. He was not a youngster. This seems so strange that he continues to be spoken of as a child. Perhaps, he was one of those men who never grew up. We do know that Rehoboam was a weak person. He was very unsure of himself.

2 Chronicles 13:8 "And now ye think to withstand the kingdom of the LORD in the hand of the sons of David; and ye [be] a great multitude, and [there are] with you golden calves, which Jeroboam made you for gods."

Jeroboam had done a terrible thing in making the two golden calves to symbolize God. Jeroboam did this to cause the people to have a point of contact, so they would not feel the had to come back to the temple in Jerusalem to worship. They were actually mixing their worship of Jehovah with paganism. Jeroboam thought that his army which was twice as large as the army of Judah, would easily destroy Judah. He had overlooked the power of God. Abijah told the army of Jeroboam that Judah was the kingdom of the LORD.

2 Chronicles 13:9 "Have ye not cast out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and have made you priests after the manner of the nations of [other] lands? so that whosoever cometh to consecrate himself with a young bullock and seven rams, [the same] may be a priest of [them that are] no gods."

There is a question of whether they cast the priests out, or whether the priests left, because they refused to add the golden calves to the worship services. They had not remained with the Levitical tribe for priests. They chose men who wanted to be priest, and anointed them. Some of the things they did were Scriptural, but most of the things they did were pagan practices.

2 Chronicles 13:10 "But as for us, the LORD [is] our God, and we have not forsaken him; and the priests, which minister unto the LORD, [are] the sons of Aaron, and the Levites [wait] upon [their] business:"

These priests of Levi, who were descended from Aaron, were the chosen of God for this purpose. The purpose of the priests was to keep the people worshipping God in an acceptable manner. The priest had great power over the people. He would even speak to a king of the errors in his reign, if God had him to. He was the spiritual guide for the nation. God had prepared the office of priest to keep His people following Him, and not worshipping false gods.

2 Chronicles 13:11 "And they burn unto the LORD every morning and every evening burnt sacrifices and sweet incense: the showbread also [set they in order] upon the pure table; and the candlestick of gold with the lamps thereof, to burn every evening: for we keep the charge of the LORD our God; but ye have forsaken him."

The high priest represented the people to God, and represented God to the people. The burning of the incense twice a day symbolized the prayers of the saints which rose to heaven. The "shewbread" symbolized the presence of the Lord Jesus, who is the Bread of Life. When the temple was there and the priests did as God had charged them to do. Judah was blessed. It was when they became unfaithful to God, that the blessings of God were taken away.

2 Chronicles 13:12 "And, behold, God himself [is] with us for [our] captain, and his priests with sounding trumpets to cry alarm against you. O children of Israel, fight ye not against the LORD God of your fathers; for ye shall not prosper."

This was a tremendous closing statement by Abijah. Those who are not with God, are against Him. If Jeroboam had built the golden calves, he was not with God. God puts great importance to His people obeying Him. To have priests that are not of the Levicial tribe, would be in total disobedience to God. Abijah is trying to tell them, if they were against Judah, they were against God.

2 Chronicles 13:13 "But Jeroboam caused an ambushment to come about behind them: so they were before Judah, and the ambushment [was] behind them."

This did not effect Jeroboam at all. He totally disregarded what was said. While Abijah was speaking, the troops of Jeroboam ambushed him from behind and from in front.

2 Chronicles 13:14 "And when Judah looked back, behold, the battle [was] before and behind: and they cried unto the LORD, and the priests sounded with the trumpets."

God is our very present help in trouble, and He was their help, as well. The blowing of the trumpet was for war, but it was the sound of victory, also. The people would come to the trumpet blown. God heard their prayers.

2 Chronicles 13:15 "Then the men of Judah gave a shout: and as the men of Judah shouted, it came to pass, that God smote Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah."

This was a shout of triumph. Notice, God smote Jeroboam and his troops.

2 Chronicles 13:16 "And the children of Israel fled before Judah: and God delivered them into their hand."

The power of God was with Judah, and these of Israel knew it, and fled for their lives.

2 Chronicles 13:17 "And Abijah and his people slew them with a great slaughter: so there fell down slain of Israel five hundred thousand chosen men."

The men that fell of the ten tribes of Israel that day were more than the entire army of Judah. This left no doubt that God was fighting for Judah.

2 Chronicles 13:18 "Thus the children of Israel were brought under at that time, and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied upon the LORD God of their fathers."

Judah had put their trust in God, and not in their own strength. Their victory was in God.

2 Chronicles 13:19 "And Abijah pursued after Jeroboam, and took cities from him, Beth-el with the towns thereof, and Jeshanah with the towns thereof, and Ephrain with the towns thereof."

These are cities that had belonged to Judah, which had been taken in the time of Rehoboam. Now, God had restored them to Judah. Beth-el had been one of the two places where Jeroboam had set up the golden calf to be worshipped. The taking of Beth-el, was not only a defeat for Jeroboam, but for the false god, too.

2 Chronicles 13:20 "Neither did Jeroboam recover strength again in the days of Abijah: and the LORD struck him, and he died."

He was a very sinful king, who caused Israel to sin with the golden calves. Jeroboam reigned 22 years. He was very evil, and the LORD killed him.

2 Chronicles 13:21 "But Abijah waxed mighty, and married fourteen wives, and begat twenty and two sons, and sixteen daughters."

Abijah followed in Solomons’s and his father’s footsteps, and married many wives. In the latter days of his reign, he drifted away from the law of God.

2 Chronicles 13:22 "And the rest of the acts of Abijah, and his ways, and his sayings, [are] written in the story of the prophet Iddo."

We have heard a great deal about these historical records that were kept, which were not part of the Bible.

2 Chronicles 13 Questions

1. When did Abijah begin to reign?

2. Who was his mother?

3. What are two other names for him?

4. What was the desire of Abijah?

5. How many men of war did Abijah have?

6. How many men did Jeroboam have?

7. Why did Abijah stand on this point of the mountain to speak?

8. Who did he say, God gave all of Israel to, to rule over?

9. What did the "salt covenant" mean?

10. Who did he say, Jeroboam had rebelled against?

1. What did he call the men, that were with Jeroboam?

12. How old was Rehoboam, when he began to reign?

13. What had Jeroboam made for them, to symbolize God to them?

14. Why were there no Levitical priests in the ten tribes of Israel?

15. What kind of religion were they practicing?

16. Who had chosen the descendents of Aaron to be the priests?

17. What was the real purpose of a priest?

18. What were some of the things the priests did, mentioned in verse 11?

19. What did the "shewbread" symbolize?

20. Who did Abijah say was with them?

21. Who did he tell them they were really fighting against?

22. What did Jeroboam do, while Abijah was talking?

23. What did Judah do, when they realized they were ambushed?

24. What did the priests do, that frightened the troops of Jeroboam?

25. How many men fell of Jeroboam?

26. What cities did Abijah take from Jeroboam?

27. How long did Jeroboam reign?

28. How many wives and children did Abijah have?

29. Where is there more written about this?

30. What kind of records would they be called?

Verses 1-3

2Ch 13:1-3

2 Chronicles 13:1-3

SAVAGE CIVIL WAR BETWEEN NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN ISRAEL

ABIJAH (915-913 B.C.)

VAST ARMIES CONFRONT EACH OTHER

"In the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam began Abijah to reign over Judah. Three years reigned he in Jerusalem: and his mother’s name was Micaiah the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah. And there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam, And Abijah joined battle with an army of valiant men of war, even four hundred thousand chosen men: and Jeroboam set the battle in array against him with eight hundred thousand chosen men, who were mighty men of valor."

There are a number of variations here as compared with 1 Kings 15:1-8, for different spellings of the king’s name and the names of his mother and of her father; and we have no good explanation of this. As frequently noted, many people in that day were known by more than one name. His mother’s name, as given here, is that of a man.

For some, these tremendously large numbers of the troops on each side of the conflict are also considered to be a problem. One common understanding of it is the very great possibility that the word thousand was from a technical word that really meant a military unit that could have been much smaller than a literal thousand. We accept the numbers as given here, because they are far more trustworthy than 20th-century guesses by critical scholars.

The big point in this paragraph is that Jeroboam’s army outnumbered Abijah’s two to one.

E.M. Zerr:

2 Chronicles 13:1. A brief reference to the reign of Jeroboam is made only to show the date of the reign of Abijah. The narrative will concern the kingdom of Judah primarily. But in giving us that history it will be necessary to report some things pertaining to the 10 tribes, since the two kingdoms never were on peaceful terms.

2 Chronicles 13:2. His mother’s name, etc. Such an expression is found in the history of Israel very frequently. It is because the kings had a plurality of wives and the reader was to be informed as to which of a man’s wives was the mother of the man considered.

2 Chronicles 13:3. Set the battle in array denotes that Abijah got his forces together, consisting of brave and strong men to the number of 400,000. Jeroboam did likewise with twice the number of select soldiers. The division of the 12 tribes into separate kingdoms was by the ordinance of God, and it was in vain that any attempt was made to prevent it. Yet the Lord always had a preference for the kingdom of Judah because it was the inheritance from David. In the wars which took place between the two kingdoms, God took a hand frequently and helped the side that was worthy. When the Lord was with a certain side, great numbers or other apparent advantages possessed by the other side would avail them nothing.

Verses 4-12

2Ch 13:4-12

2 Chronicles 13:4-12

ABIJAH’S ADDRESS BEFORE THE ARMY OF JEROBOAM

"And Abijah stood up upon mount Zemaraim, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, and said, Hear me, O Jeroboam and all Israel: Ought ye not to know that Jehovah, the God of Israel, gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and his sons by a covenant of salt? Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, rose up, and rebelled against his lord. And there were gathered unto him worthless men, base fellows, that strengthened themselves against Rehoboam the son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and tender-hearted, and could not withstand him. And now ye think to withstand the kingdom of Jehovah in the hand of the sons of David; and ye are a great multitude, and there are with you the golden calves which Jeroboam made you for gods. Have ye not driven out the priests of Jehovah, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and made you priests after the manner of other lands? so that whosoever cometh to consecrate himself with a young bullock and seven rams, the same may be a priest of them that are no gods. But as for me, Jehovah is our God, and we have not forsaken him; and we have priests ministering unto Jehovah, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites in their work: And they burn unto Jehovah every morning and every evening burnt-offerings and sweet incense: the showbread also set they in order upon the pure table; and the candlestick of gold with the lamps thereof, to burn every evening; for we keep the charge of Jehovah our God; but ye have forsaken him. And, behold, God is with us at our head, and his priests with the trumpets of alarm to sound an alarm against you. O children of Israel, fight ye not against Jehovah, the God of your fathers; for ye shall not prosper."

"Upon mount Zemaraim in the land of Ephraim" (2 Chronicles 13:4). By penetrating that far into Israel’s territory, Abijah had made a very stupid move, giving Jeroboam the opportunity to surround him and cut him off from retreat. Perhaps God allowed him to do this in order that Judah could not claim a victory that was solely due to God’s intervention.

"When Jeroboam was young and tender-hearted" (2 Chronicles 13:7). This was a falsehood, for the Chronicler tells us that Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he began to reign (2 Chronicles 12:13). The falsehood here was not that of the Chronicler but of Abijah. The Chronicler accurately reported the speech as it was recorded in the commentary of the prophet Iddo.

There can be no doubt that whatever portion of Jeroboam’s vast army was in hearing distance of this address by Abijah was thoroughly demoralized and intimidated by it. What Abijah said here was known to be true by everyone in Israel.

The great significance of the passage is its reference to the sacred religious regalia that God through Moses had ordained in the Pentateuch for the tabernacle, and which had been incorporated by Solomon into the temple. It should be remembered that all of this knowledge of the Pentateuch and its contents was common public information centuries before the discovery of that alleged document in the reign of Josiah.

Abijah was an evil king (1 Kings 15:3); but the speech he made here was loaded with significant truth. It is of special interest that Abijah knew nothing of the critical canard that those golden calves were in any manner symbols of Jehovah. They were indeed no gods, as Abijah said; and everything pertaining to the true worship of Jehovah, even its priesthood, had been thrown out of the country by Jeroboam. Note also that Jeroboam’s army had brought along their golden calves into the battle.

E.M. Zerr:

2 Chronicles 13:4. Mount Zemaraim . . . in . . . Mount Ephraim. It would be confusing to read of one mount being in another. But the last term had reference to a large territory which included the specific mount of the same name. The territory contained also the mount where Abijah stood to make this speech.

2 Chronicles 13:5. The covenant God gave to David was indeed intended to be perpetual, but it was based on the condition that all the subjects be obedient to the law of the Lord. Covenant of salt is figurative, and means that the covenant was to be perpetual, even as material would be that is preserved by salt. In Numbers 18:19 and Mark 9:49 salt is used figuratively to indicate something perpetual.

2 Chronicles 13:6. Servant of Solomon and son of David. Note the contrast in the standing of the two persons. Jeroboam was but a servant of Solomon, while the latter was a son of David. And this son was to have his father’s throne in peace, and transmit it to future generations in the same condidition.

2 Chronicles 13:7. Vain men means "empty" or "worthless" men. Belial in the Old Testament is not a proper noun, but is descriptive of any men who are low and wicked. The king charged that men such as he had described had brought the conspiracy against Rehoboam. Young and tender denotes one who is inexperienced because of his youth.

2 Chronicles 13:8. Abijah further charged that a multitude of evil men had a mind to withstand the kingdom of the Lord, and that, too, when it was in the hands of the sons of David. The golden calves are the idols that Jeroboam had set up at Bethel and Dan, to keep his people from Jerusalem, the place for the lawful sacrifices.

2 Chronicles 13:9. See the comments at 2 Chronicles 11:13-14. It was fortunate for the true worship that the Levites came back to the kingdom of Judah; however, the motive of the 10 tribes in casting them off was sinful. Their sin was especially great in that the priests they ordained to take the place of the lawful ones officiated in vain worship. No gods was said in reference to the golden calves mentioned above.

2 Chronicles 13:10. This verse is a picture of the lawful service. The Levites in general were for the service indirectly connected with the priesthood, and the sons of Aaron the particular ones of the Levites who were to officiate in the priesthood.

2 Chronicles 13:11. Not only did Judah have the lawful priests, but their service was in connection with the divinely ordained articles of furniture.

2 Chronicles 13:12. Abijah made a final appeal by the warning that God was with him and his people to be their captain in battle. Trumpets to cry alarm referred to the instructions of Moses in Numbers 10:9. The significant statement is made that the battle of the 10 tribes would not prosper because it would be against the Lord God of your fathers. This great principle of truth is taught by Paul in Romans 8:31.

Verses 13-22

2Ch 13:13-22

2 Chronicles 13:13-22

THE BATTLE; JEROBOAM’S DEFEAT; AND ABIJAH’S DEATH

"But Jeroboam caused an ambushment to come about behind them; so they were before Judah, and the ambushment was behind them; and when Judah looked back, behold, the battle was before and behind them; and they cried unto Jehovah, and the priests sounded with the trumpets. Then the men of Judah gave a shout; and as the men of Judah shouted, it came to pass, that God smote Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. And the children of Israel fled : before Judah; and God delivered them into their hand. And Abijah and his people slew them with a great slaughter: so there fell down slain of Israel five hundred thousand men. Thus the children of Israel were brought under at that time, and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied upon Jehovah, the God of their fathers. And Abijah pursued after Jeroboam, and took cities from him, Bethel with the towns thereof, and Ephron with the towns thereof. Neither did Jeroboam recover strength again in the days of Abijah: and Jehovah smote him, and he died. But Abijah waxed mighty, and took unto himself fourteen wives, and begat twenty and two sons, and sixteen daughters. And the rest of the acts of Abijah, and his ways, and his sayings, are written in the commentary of the prophet Iddo."

Regarding the huge numbers of the troops engaged in this battle, Curtis (Madsen) characterized them as `Midrash,’ which is a critcal code-word for `false.’ However the same writers admitted that, "The number of Jeroboam’s warriors is exactly the same as the number credited to Israel in the census taken by Joab." To this writer it appears to be an altogether gratuitous and unfounded allegation that, "These numbers are utterly unhistorical." Oh yes, there are unexplained discrepancies here; but, so what? one may read conflicting biographies of John F. Kennedy! The Chronicler was merely quoting the public records, in this case, the commentary of the prophet Iddo; and there is no dependable authority today for setting aside as "unhistorical" any of this material. This IS the history, as it has come down to us. It is of no importance that some do not believe it. Neither do they believe that God created heaven and earth.

A little reflection will support the proposition so eloquently propounded in this chapter that Judah’s victory was of God. They were fighting two tribes against ten! They were surrounded! Jeroboam was a conceited, mad killer determined to take the whole world if he had been able to do so. Why did he fail? This chapter has the correct answer.

Furthermore, Abijah was not the reason for God’s intervention upon behalf of Judah. He was an evil king. "He walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him; and his heart was not perfect with Jehovah ... Nevertheless for David’s sake ... God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him" (1 Kings 15:3-4). This was vitally related to God’s purpose of eventually bringing in the Messiah to provide an opportunity for all mankind to be saved. It was that fundamental truth that required the intervention of God Himself in the events of this chapter.

E.M. Zerr:

2 Chronicles 13:13. The speech of Abijah was in vain. An ambushment is a body of troops lying in concealment. Jeroboam had his main forces with him in the front of the battle, while the ambushment was in the rear.

2 Chronicles 13:14. When the action began, the men of Judah realized their situation. They resorted both to divine and human means for help. That is, they cried unto the Lord, and the priests sounded with the trumpets.

2 Chronicles 13:15-16. Shout is from RUWA and Strong defines it, "figuratively to split the ears." The shout alone could not have caused the victory. But it exhibited their faith in God who responded by smiting the forces of Jeroboam, and they fled before the men of Judah. They did not escape defeat, however, as we shall see in the next verse.

2 Chronicles 13:17. This was a remarkable battle, and, as far as I can recall, was without a parallel in all history in the point of the number of the slain. We should bear in mind the fact that no great destructive means existed at that time for warfare. The usual weapon was the sword or spear, and required hand-to-hand fighting. But the victorious army slew 100,000 more men of the enemy than it had in its own entire forces. The explanation lies in the great truth that the Lord was with them, and against him no force can prevail.

2 Chronicles 13:18. The success of the battle just ended is accounted for by the fact that Judah relied upon the Lord God of their fathers.

2 Chronicles 13:19-20. Cities and towns differ mainly in size and corresponding importance. The towns were the same as villages, and were connected in some sort of dependency with the cities named with them. Bethel is the most important city in this group, because it had one of the golden calves that Jeroboam set up. The effect of this great battle was to render the king of Israel weak the rest of the reign of Abijah. He finally was stricken with some sort of sickness and died.

2 Chronicles 13:21. While Jeroboam grew weaker, Abijah grew stronger. His marrying the 14 wives gave him the large number of children attributed to him, and that contributed to his strength as a king.

2 Chronicles 13:22. Iddo was a writing prophet, although his works were not included in the Bible. Like many others already mentioned, his writings were good history, and persons could consult them who wished a more detailed account of the various subjects than were to be found in the regular compilation.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Chronicles 13". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/2-chronicles-13.html.
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