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CRITICAL NOTES.] This chapter parallel to 1 Kings 15:1-8. Abijah succeeds and wars against Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 13:1-4); declares the right of his cause (2 Chronicles 13:4-12); his victory and end (2 Chronicles 13:13-22).
2 Chronicles 13:1-3.—The opening war of Abijah. Abijah, Abijam in Kings. 2 Chronicles 13:2. Michaiah, variation of Maachah (2 Chronicles 11:10; 1 Kings 15:2); daughter of Uriel and Tamar, daughter of Absalom. Hence called daughter, i.e., granddaughter of Absalom. 2 Chronicles 13:3. War. Probably Jeroboam sought to wrest whole country from Abijah. Array, i.e., took the field and began war. “The numbers are doubtless large, considering the smallness of the two kingdoms. It must be borne in mind, however, that Oriental armies are mere mobs, vast numbers accompanying the camp in hope of plunder; so that the gross numbers described as going upon the Asiatic expedition are often far from denoting the exact number of the fighting men. But in accounting for the large number of soldiers enlisted in the respective armies of Abijah and Jeroboam, there is no need of resorting to this mode of explanation; for we know, by the census of David, the immense amount of the population that was capable of bearing arms (2 Chronicles 21:5; cf. ch. 2 Chronicles 14:8; 2 Chronicles 17:14) [Jamieson].
2 Chronicles 13:4-12.—Abijah’s address to Jeroboam. 2 Chronicles 13:4. Zemaraim, a mount not identified, amid the great range of Central Palestine; upon borders of the two kingdoms. 2 Chronicles 13:5. Gave. Divine right claimed, but conditions omitted (Psalms 132:12; Psalms 89:30-32). Salt, i.e., a covenant inviolable, irrevocable (Leviticus 2:13; Numbers 18:19). Salt emblem of perpetuity. 2 Chronicles 13:6. Rebelled. Jeroboam upbraided as a usurper, and his subjects as rebels. 2 Chronicles 13:7. Vain men, i.e., “low fellows,” “persons of the baser sort” (cf. Judges 9:4; 2 Samuel 6:20). Belial, profitless and evil (Deuteronomy 13:13). Young, i.e., new to his work, inexperienced. Tender-hearted, wanting in resolution and spirit. 2 Chronicles 13:8. Religious condition of two kingdoms now contrasted. Enemy proud of a great multitude, and with them golden calves, proofs of apostasy. 2 Chronicles 13:9. Cast out (ch. 2 Chronicles 11:14). Seven, “a bullock and two rams” the offering required at original consecration of sons of Aaron (Exodus 29:1; Leviticus 8:2). It appears that Jeroboam, for reasons of his own, enlarged the sacrifice and required it at the consecration of every priest [Speak. Com.]. 2 Chronicles 13:10. Judah had pure and regular observance of ordinances of Moses. Not forsaken. God with them (only in a certain degree). They had daily sacrifice with all its accompaniments. 2 Chronicles 13:11. God himself their captain. Priests with their trumpets brought to war in remembrance of God’s command (Numbers 10:9), and example of Moses (Numbers 31:6). The war, therefore, sacred war.
2 Chronicles 13:13-20.—Abijah’s victory. Ambush. To surprise in front and rear; made while Abijah was haranguing. 2 Chronicles 13:14. Cried. A panic might have ensued if leaders had not looked to God and “sounded trumpets,” which was a pledge of victory and help to the men (Numbers 10:9; Numbers 31:6). Judah responded, and the rush was resistless. 2 Chronicles 13:17. Great slaughter. Nothing in original to indicate this was all in one day. The writer is probably compressing into a few words the circumstances of the whole war [Speak. Com.]. 2 Chronicles 13:18. Under. Humbled, defeated, not made tributary. 2 Chronicles 13:19. Bethel. Frontier town in which one of calves placed. Towns, villages or suburbs. 2 Chronicles 13:20. Defeat so great that Jeroboam did not recover in Abijah’s time. He died in second year of Asa (1 Kings 15:25). Struck. Probably the message of the prophet Ahijah (1 Kings 14:10; 1 Kings 12:15).
2 Chronicles 13:21-22.—Abijah’s end. Mighty. “Took courage, grew bold,” after security; like his father and grandfather, gave himself to indulgence and multiplied wives. 2 Chronicles 13:22. Story, commentary, “the midrash or memoir, which was extant in the time of the chronist, or the original form from which he drew his information” [Murphy].
ATTEMPT TO REVERSE DIVINE ARRANGEMENTS.—2 Chronicles 13:3-19
God permitted revolt of ten tribes and Rehoboam forbidden to regain them (ch. 2 Chronicles 10:15). Frequent skirmishes between kings of Judah and Israel (ch. 2 Chronicles 12:15). Jeroboam now takes advantage of Abijah’s youth, and judging from the speech, claims the crown and invades the territory of Judah. No prophet forbade the war, Jeroboam had forfeited all claims to protection, his effort in vain, the Divine arrangements could not be upset.
I. An attempt most daring in its design. “Now ye think to withstand the kingdom of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 13:8). A kingdom not set up by men, but established and perpetuated by Divine decree in the house of David. The design indicates pride, presumption, and impiety. Might as well withstand, resist the rolling planet or the rising tide. “If this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought (be overthrown); but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, &c.” (Acts 5:39).
II. An attempt depending upon numbers for its success. “Ye be a great multitude” (2 Chronicles 13:8). “There is no king saved by the multitude of an host; a mighty man is not delivered by much strength.” “Behold the multitude melted away” in the armies of Xerxes, Sennacherib, and Napoleon, before the presence and purpose of God. “Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces.”
III. The numbers employed in the attempt were men of worthless character. The best soldiers, men of courage and character, generally selected for daring enterprises (Cromwell’s Ironsides, Havelock’s Saints). But the army of Jeroboam composed of worthless men.
1. The king himself stained with ungodly actions. Jeroboam an idolater and innovator in past. Now found rebelling against God and taking advantage of Abijah’s youth, as he did of Rehoboam’s weakness (2 Chronicles 13:8).
2. The men employed were a mixed mob. (a) “Vain men,” loose in character and useless in war (Cataline’s comrades). Plenty such now, “empty fellows,” ready to join any cause, follow any leader who pays best. “I have not sat with vain persons.” (b) The children of Belial, wicked men, hating all control and setting up any that would carry out their wishes. Abimelech hired “vain and light persons, which followed him” (Judges 9:4).
IV. Hence the utter failure of the attempt. “God smote Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah” (2 Chronicles 13:15). “When omnipotence goes forth to war, what can be the issue of the battle? When God takes the glittering sword, and his hand lays heavy in judgment, can grasshoppers stand before him?” “There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord.” Julian the Apostate could not falsify prediction. The word was uttered and the secession a fact. The powers of earth and hell could not change that. “For he spake and it was done; he commanded and it stood fast.” Hence beware “lest haply ye be found,” in daily life and moral conduct, “even to fight against God.”
A GREAT SPEECH.—2 Chronicles 13:4-13
Abijah had entered the enemies’ territory—stood upon eminence. Jeroboam’s army at foot of the hill, and according to ancient custom Abijah harangued, poured out invective and abuse upon the enemy and extolled his own merits.
I. Its claims concerning Judah. God recognised in the gift of the kingdom; in the worship of the temple, with its legal priesthood and regular sacrifices; in the warfare of life. “The Lord is our God and we have not forsaken him.” He claims the right position and obeys the true commands. Conceptions of God affect doctrine and practice. Custom, law, and outward restraints may keep right in some things; but only feeling of dependence upon God, sense of responsibility to him and constant acknowledgment of him, will give security, strength, and dignity to inheritance.
II. Its accusations against Israel. Jeroboam a rebel and usurper, and must be put down. He was leading a revolutionary party, “sons of Belial.” He had not the beauty and established order of worship, the legal priesthood; but golden calves, illegal and heathen priests, desecrated altars, and a hopeless cause. Abijah no usurper nor idolater! Whatever the corruptions of his kingdom, it was better than Israel, &c.! Thus men may deny the power of religion and boast of its form—view themselves not in their defects and infirmities, but in their good qualities and virtues. In lofty and contemptuous tones recite their merits and condemn their adversaries. Trust in themselves that they are righteous and despise others.
III. Its passionate appeal to the people. “O children of Israel, fight ye not against the Lord God of your fathers” (2 Chronicles 13:12). Religion is appealed to. God is concerned; the war sacred and religious. History appealed to. Abijah in historic line, they were cutting themselves off from its unity, currents, and privileges, and setting the God of their fathers at nought. Humanity appealed to; why engage in a fruitless war? “For ye shall not prosper.” What folly, base ingratitude to fight against God!
A GREAT BATTLE.—2 Chronicles 13:13-20
Jeroboam planning while Abijah speaking. Address unheeded. A detachment sent quietly round foot of the hill. Abijah and his men found themselves surrounded. Leaders “cried unto the Lord,” Judah rallied, responded with a war-shout, which preserved from panic and led to victory.
I. Fought with unequal forces.
1. Human aid on one side. A proud king, immense multitudes, skill and generalship.
2. God’s presence on the other side. Presence in temple, on field of battle, and with symbols of victory (Numbers 10:9; Numbers 31:6). No wise king enters upon war without due preparation to stand his ground, despite formidable odds. “What king going to make war against another king sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?” Common sense should teach us not to begin any costly work without materials to finish it; not to undertake what we have neither strength nor will to achieve, nor that in which we are not prepared, if need be, to sacrifice life itself.
II. Fought for an impossible end. “For the cause was of God” (ch. 2 Chronicles 10:15). If the decree of Darius and the superscription of Pilate could not be altered, neither could the established fact, the fixed arrangements of God. All opposition abortive, can never set aside the plans and processes of Divine government, and will re-act upon the rebel himself. The Great Maker and Ruler of the universe does not act by necessity nor by caprice, but by intelligent plan. Man may change his purpose, because defective or impracticable. God is absolutely perfect. “He is in one mind, and who can turn him?”
III. Hence utter failure in the attempt. “The children of Judah prevailed” (2 Chronicles 13:18). Terrible slaughter, towns and cities captured. “The children of Israel were brought under at that time,” utterly defeated in their purpose. “Ambushment,” stratagems cannot thwart God. “Eight hundred thousand chosen men” no more avail than one thousand. Folly to resist God and harden ourselves in sin, by disobeying his commands, by rebelling against his providential dealings, and by refusing the offers of mercy. “He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength; who hath hardened himself against him and prospered?” “Ye shall not prosper” (2 Chronicles 13:12).
RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCE AND PRACTICAL APOSTASY
Abijah here at his best; eloquent in speech, religious in appearance, and victorious in conflict. Read account in Kings to form a true estimate. He walked in the sins of Rehoboam, and his heart “was not perfect before God.” He boasted of religious observances, yet guilty of idolatry and its attendant immoralities (1 Kings 14:23-24). Learn—
I. The folly of judging men by outward forms or special occasions. Forms may be assumed, put on like clothes for the occasion. Circumstances may call forth the best of the man. Religious for the occasion.
II. Men may hide their sins under the garb of religious practices. Domestic evils and personal inconsistency hidden by outward worship, liberal giving, &c. The dark side covered with the bright side, truth defended and its claims resisted.
III. Men may reproach others for sins of which they are guilty themselves. Abijah blamed Jeroboam for casting off God, when he was not right with God himself. His own character not better than that of his enemy. The Jews condemned the Gentiles for doing the same things which they virtually did themselves. Greville, in his memoirs, exhibits the very faults, critics say, which he freely condemns in kings, queens, and nobles. “Thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art, that judgest: for wherein (the matter in which) thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest (substantially) the same things” (Romans 2:1).
“Be not too rigidly censorious:
A string may jar in the best master’s hand,
And the most skilful archer miss his aim” [Roscommon].
1. Defective in its source. Springing from a divided heart. “His heart was not perfect” and “he walked in the sins of his father.”
2. Occasional in its appearance. Called into vigour by special exigency, fitful in operation, a religion for special seasons. Much loud and spurious religion now; demonstrative on extraordinary occasions, at ordinary times lukewarm and languid. In times of war many awake, put on armour; in time of quietness at home and early life they are found in enemy’s camp.
3. Prominent in its display. Great in reform, eloquent in speech, prominent in actions. Circumstances brought him to the front. But only a religion of place and occasional service.
4. Uncertain in its duration. David before the giant, Judas Maccabæus before the host of Epiphanes could not have been more prominent and more ready, but piety no vital, lasting hold upon him. A heart weakened and dissipated by double allegiance, became alienated; service a vicious compromise; religion a mere episode, an interlude in a life of flagrant idolatry!
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
2 Chronicles 13:5. Covenant of salt.
1. A bond of intimate friendship. “To eat salt together an act of sure friendship and mutual attachment,” friendship inviolable, incorruptible.
2. A pledge of perpetuity. Salt consolidates and preserves. The “lamp” or “torch” of David was always to burn (1 Kings 2:36; 2 Kings 8:19). Often on verge of extinction through sins within and darkness without, but house of David never perished. “It is the struggle between these contending elements to which, after the shock of the disruption, the kingdom and church of Judah was exposed, that gives the main interest to the period of the seven first successors of Solomon. Both kingdom and church were menaced with destruction at its commencement. At its close both were established on a basis sufficiently solid to withstand the dangers of the later period for two more centuries” [Stanley].
2 Chronicles 13:6-12. Abijah’s remonstrance with Jeroboam. I. We shall consider the words of our text—
1. In reference to the contest then pending between Judah and Israel;
2. Abijah’s address was certainly striking and judicious;
3. The event justified his expectations. II. In reference to the contest now existing between God and sinners.
1. There is a contest now pending;
2. Suffer the word of exhortation;
3. From the former view of this subject we may learn how to obtain the blessing of God upon our aims;
4. From the latter view of this subject we may learn how to escape the destruction to which we are exposed [C. Simeon, M.A.].
2 Chronicles 13:13-17. Man’s extremity and God’s power to help. Judah in very great danger inveigled by ambushment. I. God’s people often brought into extremities.
1. By their own foolish enterprises.
2. By the temptations of their enemies.
3. By the providence of God leading them to test and train them. “Their defence (Heb. shadow. God a shadow from heat and tempest) departed from them (Numbers 14:9). II. God’s people delivered by him in extremities. Jeroboam had two to one against Abijah, but lost the day. Sense sees no deliverance, reason declares it unlikely, but faith assures it will come. “The Lord is with us.”
1. By prayer. “They cried unto the Lord.”
2. By supernatural power. “God delivered them into their hand.” Israel at Red Sea against the Ethiopians (2 Chronicles 14:11). In the day of great distress and great danger to God’s people in Germany, Luther cried in his closet, and came out, declaring to friends “Vicimus, vicimus,” we have overcome, we have overcome. From that day Charles the Fifth issued a proclamation that none should be further molested for religion. “Thou art my deliverer: God is the Lord of Hosts, with him alone is strength and power to deliver Israel.”
2 Chronicles 13:20-22. Death a common lot.
1. It is inevitable. Knocks with impartial step at the door of the cottage and the palace of the prince, says Horace. It is appointed unto all men. Cannot be bribed by prosperity (“Abijah waxed mighty”), nor postponed by adversity (“neither did Jeroboam recover strength”).
2. It is peculiar in method. Abijah’s a natural death, “slept with his fathers.” Jeroboam “struck.” He never survived defeat; stung by accusing conscience, or inflicted by lingering, incurable disease (like Jehoram, 2 Chronicles 21:19) which at last killed him. Death terminates all earthly glory.
“Death hath ten thousand several doors
For men to take their exits”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 13
2 Chronicles 13:5. Salt. The Orientals were accustomed to ratify their federal engagements by salt. This substance has, among the ancients, the emblem of friendship and fidelity, and therefore used in all their sacrifices and covenants. It is a sacred pledge of hospitality which they never venture to violate. Numerous instances occur of travellers in Arabia, after being plundered and stripped by the wandering tribes of the desert, claiming the protection of some civilised Arab who, after receiving him into his tent and giving him salt, instantly relieves his distress, and never forsakes him till he has placed him in safety. An agreement thus ratified is called in Scripture “a covenant of salt” [Paxton].
2 Chronicles 13:6-12. Religion. When some people talk of religion they mean they have heard so many sermons and performed so many devotions, and thus mistake the means for the end. But true religion is an habitual recollection of God, and intention to serve Him, and thus turns everything into gold [John Newton]. For in religion as in friendship, they who profess most are ever the least sincere [Sheridan]. The dispute about religion and the practice of it seldom go together [Young].
2 Chronicles 13:13-17. God delivered. The craft of the Church’s enemies is never but accompanied with cruelty, and their cruelty is seldom without craft. But in things wherein they deal proudly, God is above them, and by his presence with his people he brings all their plots, counsels, and enterprises to nought. The enemies of the Jews in Nehemiah’s time made great brags at first what they would do, but when they saw their plots discovered, and their purposes defeated, they are presently crestfallen, and have no mind nor courage to advance at all. To plotters may be applied what is said of Charles VIII., King of France, in his expedition against Naples: “That he came into the field like thunder and lightning, but went out like a snuff; more than a man at first, and less than a woman at last.” In all ages of the world, God’s signal presence with his people hath delivered them and frustrated the designs and counsels of the wicked [Thomas Brooks].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 13". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30