II Chronicles 13

 

 

The career of Abijah begins and ends with this chapter, the twenty-one

verses of which are paralleled by only eight in I Kings 15:1-8. The

difference is caused by the fact that the writer of Kings only mentions that

there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam, while the writer of

Chronicles, besides giving particulars of the war, rehearses the splendid,

dramatic, rhetorical address and appeal of Abijah on Mount Zemaraim to

the people of the ten tribes.

 

1 “Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam began Abijah to reign

over Judah.”  In the eighteenth year. Reading this literally, it will appear that

Rehoboam had completed a full seventeen years.

 

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.”  Michaiah the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah. As before

noted (ch.11:20), and as in the parallel (I Kings 15:2), this name is one with

Maachah, daughter of Absalom’’ (parallel, Abishalom). The different alphabetic

characters may be attributed to error, and that error the error of transcription merely.

As in our note (ch. 11:20), the word “daughter,” as in many similar cases, stands for

granddaughter. Thus the father of Maachah was Uriel of Gibeah, and her

mother Tamar, daughter of Absalom. Josephus (‘Ant.,’ 8:10. § 1) proffers

us this connecting link of explanation. On the other hand, Rabbi Joseph’s

Targum on Chronicles says that Uriel means Absalom, but was a name

used to avoid the use of Absalom. We have no clue as to which out of

many Gibeahs is here intended. The Hebrew word (גִבְעָח) signifies a hill

with round top, and hence would easily give name to many places. The

following are the chief places of the name (as classified by Dr. Smith’s

‘Bible Dictionary,’ 1:689-691):

 

Ø      Gibeah in the mountain district of Judah (Joshua 15:57; 1 Chronicles 2:49).

Ø      Gibeath among the towns of Benjamin (Joshua 18:28).

Ø      The Gibeah (I Samuel 7:1; II Samuel 6:3-4).

Ø      Gibeah of Benjamin (Judges 19., 20.), between Bethlehem and

Jerusalem. This should strictly be quoted either as Gibeah belonging to

Benjamin,” or Geba (גֶּבַע) of Benjamin” (see also I Samuel 13., 14.;

II Samuel 23:29; I Chronicles 11:31; Hosea 5:8; 9:9; 10:9).

Ø      Gibeah of Saul (I Samuel 10:26; 15:34; II Samuel 21:6).

Josephus (‘Bell, Jud.,’ 5:2. § 1) states what helps to the identifying of the

place as the modern Tuleil-el-ful, about thirty stadia from Jerusalem (see

also Isaiah 10:28-32). The Gibeah of  I Samuel 22:6; 23:19; 26:1,

is this Gibeah of Saul.

Ø      Gibeah in the field (Judges 20:31). Lastly, our Authorized Version

gives us seven other Gibeahs, only translating this word, e g.

 

o        The hill of the foreskins” (Joshua 5:3);

o        “The hill of Phinehas (Joshua 24:33);

o        The hill of Moreh (Judges 7:1);

o        The hill of God” (I Samuel 10:5);

o        The hill of Haehilah (1 Samuel 23:19; 26:1);

o        The hill of Ammah (II Samuel 2:24);

o        The hill Gareb (Jeremiah 31:39).

 

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 valor.”  It is not within the province of an expositor

to assert dogmatically that numbers like these in this verse should be deprived of

one cipher, and that the slaughter of v. 17 must be, consequently,

similarly discounted. It would be, however, a great relief to faith to be able

to give proof that this treatment would be true to fact. At present the

numbers can be shown to be consistent with other numbers, such as those

of the entire man-population (I Chronicles 21:5; here, ch. 11:13-17); and this

seems the best that can be said in support of them. It does not, however,

suffice to bring comfortable conviction. It is remarkable, among the difficulties

that the question entails, that we do not get any satisfactory explanation as to

how such vast numbers of slain bodies were disposed of in a compass of ground

comparatively so small.

 

4 “And Abijah stood up upon mount Zemaraim, which is in mount

Ephraim, and said, Hear me, thou Jeroboam, and all Israel;”

Mount Zemaraim. This mount is not mentioned elsewhere.

Presumably it was a mountain or hill above the place called Zemaraim,

mentioned in Joshua 18:22 as in Benjamin’s allotment, and mentioned

between the places called Beth ha-Arabah (i.e. the Jordan valley) and

Bethel. Accordingly, it may be that itself lay between these two, or near

enough to them one or both. This will quite suit our connection as placing

the hill near the borders of Benjamin and Ephraim. It is said to be in

Mount Ephraim; i.e. in the range of Mount Ephraim, which was one of

considerable length, running through the midst of what was afterwards

called Samaria, from the Plain of Esdraelon to Judah. Zemaraim may be so

named from the Zemarite tribe, who were Hamites, and related to the

Hittites and Amorites (Genesis 10:18; I Chronicles 1:16), descendants of

Canaan; there are some faint traces of their having wandered from their

northern settlements into mid and south Palestine. The Septuagint render

Zemaraim by the same Greek as Samaria, ΣομόρωνSomoron.

 

Vs. 5-12. The idea of Abijah in this religious harangue, addressed or

supposed to be addressed to the kingdom of the ten tribes, was good, and

the execution was spirited. While, however, he preaches well to others,

there are not wanting signs that he can blind himself as to some failure of

practice on his own part. The points of the argument running through his

harangue are correct, skillfully chosen, and well and religiously thrust home

on the heart of his supposed audience. The practical trust of himself and his

army are testified to in vs. 14-15, and abundantly rewarded. This sequel-

practical trust is the best credential of the sincerity of his foregoing appeal

and harangue.

 

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?” 

Gave the kingdom… to David for ever. With the thricerepeated

for ever” of what we call II Samuel 7:13-16, and the very

emphatic language of the fifteenth verse in that passage, in the memory of

Abijah, no one can say he was not justified by the letter and to the letter in

what he now says. At the same time, how is it that Abijah does not in all

fairness quote the matter of here, ch. 6:16 last clause, and of its

parallel, I Kings 8:25 last clause, and of Psalm 89:28-37; 132:12?

Covenant of salt (see Leviticus 2:13; Numbers 18:19; Ezekiel 43:24;

Mark 9:49). The use of salt was ordered first for the meal

offerings, which, consisting mainly of flour, did not need it as an antiseptic;

afterwards it was ordered for “all” offerings, including the “burnt offering:”

as surely as leaven was proscribed, salt was prescribed (Leviticus 2:11).

“The covenant of salt” meant the imperishableness and irrevocableness of

the engagement made between the two parties to the covenant The

widespread and deeply significant use of it among other and heathen

nations is remarkable indeed, and is attested by Pliny (‘Hist. Natal 31:41) in

forcible words: “Nulla (sacra) conficiuntur sine mola salsa” (Her., 2 Sat.

3:200; Virgil, ‘AEn.,’ 2:133; Hom., ‘ Iliad,’ 1:449). Some think it a

sufficient explanation of the text, “covenant of salt,” that, especially in the

East, solemn engagements and vows were often recognized and

strengthened by hospitalities, as shown to guests, and of these salt was an

indispensable element. It is true that some of the ancient indications and

descriptions of friendship and close friendships turned on phrases (similar

ones, indeed, still existing) into which the word “salt” entered, but that

these phrases arose from the fact that salt was so general a constituent of

human food seems insufficient explanation, where we can find one of a

more direct and more directly religious, or, as the case might be (e.g. with

heathen sacrifices), superstitious birth. Religion and superstition between

them have been the most world-wide, incalculable, and untraceable

originators and disseminators of half the possible phrases of human language!

 

6 “Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David,

is risen up, and hath rebelled against his Lord.” The servant of Solomon.  

I Kings 11:28 is evidently the apter reference for this verse, rather than 26, as

generally  given.

 

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.”  Are gathered… have strengthened themselves.

The aorist tense is needed for the rendering in both these cases; e.g. “And

vain men gathered to him, and strengthened themselves against him.” Vain men;

Hebrew, רֵקִים. This word, and one very slightly different in form, and

their adverb, occur in all forty-one times; rendered in the Authorized

Version:

 

Ø      “empty” nineteen times,

Ø      “vain” eighteen times, and

Ø      without cause,” “to no purpose,” and “void” the remaining four times.

 

It is the word that is used of the “empty” pit of Joseph (Genesis 37:24); of the

empty ears” of corn (Genesis 41:27); of “empty” pitchers and other

vessels (Judges 7:16; II Kings 4:3; Jeremiah 14:3; 51:34; Ezekiel 24:11).

And in all the other cases expresses metaphorically the emptiness

of head, of heart, or of reason, with the same simple force of

language appropriate, it appears, then as now. Children of Belial;

Hebrew, בְלִיַּעַל. This word is found twenty-seven times, and, including

seven marginal options, is rendered in the Authorized Version “Belial”

twenty-three times; the four exceptions being “wicked” three times, and

naughty once. The derivation of it marks the one expressive meaning of

without profit.” Young and tender-hearted. Hard as it is to put these

objections to the credit of a man forty-one years of age (see our note,

cg, 10:8; 12:13)  at all, yet, if so, they can only be explained as some

do explain them, of a blamable ignorance, inexperience, and instability.

 

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 your golden calves, which Jeroboam made you for gods.

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.”  The five succeeding thrusts of these two

verses, prefaced by the somewhat self-conscious but, nevertheless, validly

pleaded orthodoxy of his own position, are well delivered by Abijah. Jeroboam

is scathed:

 

Ø      for his confidence in a great multitude;

 

Ø      for his golden calves for gods;

 

Ø      for what amounted necessarily to the excommunication and repudiation

of the priests of the Lord, time- and nation-honored;

 

Ø      for the mere manufacture of a new-fangled priesthood, and that after

the model of nations foreign and heathen;

 

Ø      for the fact that, when these were made, they that made them, and the

gods for whom they were made, were all three “like to” one another —

no true people, no true priests, and no gods at all! A young bullock and

seven rams The consecration sacrifice for the whole line of priests was

one young bullock and two rams without blemish” (Exodus 29:1,15,19;

Leviticus 8:2). Of course, Jeroboam felt his own position in the

matter so weak, that each false, illegitimate candidate for the priestly

service must bring his sacrifice, and that a larger one by five rams

than the divinely ordered one of Moses.

 

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:  11 And they burn unto

the LORD every morning and every evening burnt sacrifices and sweet

incense: the shewbread 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 professions summarized in these two verses were confessedly

formally true of the king and priests and nation, although

Abijah and kingdom certainly did not carry a clean conscience in them

(Matthew 15:8; Mark 12:33; I Samuel 15:22; Isaiah 1:11, 16, 19). They were,

moreover, beyond a doubt really true of multitudes of individuals in the kingdom

of Judah and Benjamin. And these were “the salt of the” kingdom (Matthew 5:13).

They burnt… sweet incense (so our ch. 2:4; Exodus 30:7; Revelation 8:3-4). The

pure table… the candlestick. Although ten of each of these were made,

only one was used, or only one at the time (see our note on ch. 4:8, compared

with ch. 29:18; I Kings 7:48-49).  We have not forsaken Him… ye have forsaken

Him. If all the difference that these words have it in them to express could have

been put to the credit of Abijsh, what tremendous strength would have now

belonged to his position and to his heart!

 

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.”

The concluding utterances of Abijah certainly did not fall below what had preceded

or the occasion in itself; and the echoes of them, while they died on the ear, must

have lived, indeed, and stirred life in the hearts of many (Joshua 5:14; Numbers 10:9;

31:6; our v. 14, and ch. 5:12-13).

 

 

Four Reasons for Surrender (v. 12)

 

Jesus Christ has taught us that in the great spiritual campaign in which

we are engaged there can be no neutrality; he that is not with the Lord is

against Him (Matthew 12:30). We have, therefore, to include among

those who are in arms against Christ, not only

 

o        those who deny Him by speaking evil of Him and disparaging Him; and

 

o        those who refuse to recognize the great claims He makes on the homage

and obedience of mankind, reducing Him to the rank of a fallible human

teacher; but

 

o        those also who are wholly heedless of His claims, who show an

utter disregard to His will, who stand outside His Church, or who

do those things which He has expressly denounced and forbidden.

These are His enemies, and their name is legion; their resources

are great; they compose an army overwhelmingly strong in

numbers and material equipments.

 

Before these there come the prophets of the Lord, summoning them to

leave the ranks in which they stand, and to surrender themselves to Him and

His service. These speakers for God entreat them to lay down their arms

and to serve under Christ. Their reasons are, at least, fourfold. To be

where they are is:

 

  • TO BE OVERTHROWING THAT WHICH THEIR FATHERS BUILT

UP. “Fight ye not against the Lord God of your fathers.” Long and

patiently, with many tears and prayers, often in the face of the most

determined opposition, in health and sickness, in youth and in strength and

in decline, on to old age and even unto death, our fathers fought for the

truth they loved; they built up the Church, the institution, the Christian

stronghold in which we found ourselves when we awoke to life and

thought. And now are we going to take that sacred building down; stone

by stone, are our hands — their children’s hands — going to demolish it?

Are we content to lower the flag they held’ high so bravely and so nobly?

Shall it be our function to undo the large and long result of all their toil?

Shall we bring into disrepute the name they honored far above their own?

Shall we fight against the Lord God of our fathers?

 

  • TO BE OPPOSING THAT WHICH THE BEST MEN ARE

SUSTAINING. “God’s priests… cry alarm against you.” Invested in the

sacred garments, with the appointed signals in their hands (Numbers 10:8),

the holiest in the land are urging the people to maintain their ground.

The cause of Christian truth has not only the presence of a noble host of

good and holy men; it is led by the best of the good and wise. Those who

are clothed with righteousness, whose voice is the sound of earnest and

irresistible conviction, are summoning all who love God and man to oppose

themselves to the enemies of Christ. If we league ourselves “with these his

enemies” we must make up our mind to contend with the worthiest and the

wisest, with the most pure and brave and devoted, that ever drew mortal

breath, that ever sounded the note of battle.

 

  • TO BE FIGHTING AGAINST GOD. “God Himself is with us for our

Captain.” In the Christian Church it is the assured conviction that the

invisible Lord is not the absent One; He is the very present One. “Lo, I am

with you alway,” etc. (Matthew 28:20). We who fight for Him fight

under Him — under His eye, His observant eye; under His direction — the

direction of a hand that is not seen, but that is felt. They who fight against

His cause are fighting against Him Himself. They have to overcome THE

ALMIGHTY!

 

  • TO BE ARRAYED AGAINST A FORCE THAT MUST PROVE

VICTORIOUS. “You shall not prosper.” Many times has Christianity

seemed to be doomed to defeat and even to extinction, but out of every

terrible contest it has emerged successful, even triumphant. Persecution,

ridicule, argumentation, corruption, — these have done their worst, and

they have failed. To-day the friends of Christ are more numerous, and the

cause of Christ is more advanced, than ever. And he who is in arms against

the Lord of all love and power, who is seeking to undermine His influence,

who is contemptuous of His holy will, who is opposing his own indifference

or his worldliness to the commands and the invitations of a Divine Saviour,

he is:

 

Ø      in the ranks of the army that will be defeated;

Ø      no voice of victory will greet his dying ear,

Ø      no hope of commendation and award will then fill his

heart.

 

13 But Jeroboam caused an ambushment to come about behind them:

so they were before Judah, and the ambushment was behind them.

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.  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.  16 And the children of Israel fled before

Judah: and God delivered them into their hand.”  These verses purport to tell

how Jeroboam, with all his vastly preponderating numbers (v. 3), left nothing

undone to secure the victory, and resorted even to the ambushment described;

how, on the other hand, Abijah and his people honored God by their cry and

confident shout, and were delivered because they trusted in Him (I Samuel

17:45-47), and as follows, v. 18, “relied upon the Lord God of their fathers.”

 

17 “And Abijah and his people slew them with a great slaughter: so

there fell down slain of Israel five hundred thousand chosen men.

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.”  Slain; Hebrew, חֲלָלִים. Even if we accept for a moment

the immense numbers written here and elsewhere as authentic, a considerable

deduction may be made from our difficulty by virtue of the fact that this

word need not mean to describe the actually slain. It occurs about ninety-one

times. Of these, in our Authorized Version, it is found rendered,

including marginal options, as many as fifteen times “wounded,” or by even

a less severe meaning. However, whether “slain” or “wounded and slain,”

the alleged, numbers of our present text are, in our opinion, incredibly enormous.

 

19 “And Abijah pursued after Jeroboam, and took cities from him,

Bethel with the towns thereof, and Jeshanah with the towns thereof, and

Ephraim with the towns thereof.”  Bethel. Abijah was, perhaps, the rather

permitted to take this city as the head-quarters of Jeroboam’s irreligious worship.

Jeshanah. A place not known elsewhere in Scripture by this name, which by

derivation means “old.” Grove (Dr. Smith’s ‘Bible Dictionary,’ 1. p. 1035) quotes

Josephus (‘Ant.,’ 14:15 12) as speaking of a place so named, the scene of

a battle between Herod and Antigonus’s general, Pappus, but Josephus

does not assign its site. Ephraim; or, according to Chethiv, Epron. Grove

(Dr. Smith’s ‘Bible Dictionary,’ 1. p. 569) says that conjecture has

identified it with the Ephraim of II Samuel 13:23, with the Ophrah of

Joshua 18:23, and with the Ephraim of John 11:54; possibly the

modern El-Taiyibeh (Dr. Robinson, 1:44), about five miles from Bethel.

 

20 “Neither did Jeroboam recover strength again in the days of Abijah:

and the LORD struck him, and he died.” The Lord struck him; and he died.

The writer of Chronicles here, for brevity’s sake, and not to recur to his name

again, records the death of Jeroboam, which, however, did not happen till after

Abijah’s death, in the second year of Asa’s reign (I Kings 14:20; 15:25). That

the Lord struck him, may glance at the fearful announcement conveyed to

him through his wife by the prophet Ahijah (ibid. ch. 14:6-16).

 

 

The Folly of Unnatural Severance (vs. 1-20)

 

The whole chapter presents to us a number of lessons, not very closely

connected with one another.

 

  • THE FOLLY OF AN UNNATURAL SEVERANCE. The first thing we

read about the reign of Abijah is that there “was war between him and

Jeroboam” (v. 2). What else was to be expected? How, in those times, or

indeed in any time, could it be otherwise? Tribes descended, as they were,

from a common ancestor, speaking the same language, holding the same

faith, having the same history, under a sacred obligation to worship at the

same sanctuary, with no natural boundary between them, were bound to be

united together and form one strong nation, or else to be at perpetual

variance. There are two great mistakes, of which one is as foolish and as

mischievous as the other:

 

Ø      to insist upon organic union when everything in constitution and

providential ordering points to separation; and, on the other hand,

 

Ø      to attempt separation when everything clearly points to union.

 

Whom God hath joined together let no man try to put asunder; if he does,

he will certainly reap mischief and misery for his harvest. This will apply

not only to nations, but to Churches, to social communities, to families, to

individuals.

 

  • THE DUTY AND WISDOM OF REMONSTRANCE.   It was right

enough of Abijah to utter the strong and effective remonstrance here

recorded (vs. 4-12). Perhaps, as one descended by both parents from

David, he had a very strong sense of the disloyalty of the two tribes; but he

certainly made a very vigorous appeal to them, urging them, by

considerations of duty to God and of regard for their own interests, to rally

to his side. He did not succeed in the attempt; probably he did not expect

to do so. When men have carried disloyal or disobedient thought so far as

to be guilty of actual rebellion or active opposition, they are not often

moved even by the most cogent and persuasive words. Nevertheless, it is

always right to try to move them before resorting to violent measures. We

may succeed, as men have succeeded before now, in saving sanguinary

strife, or in averting that which is, “in all but the bloodshed, a duel.”

Remonstrance should be made:

 

Ø      in time;

Ø      without provocation in tone;

Ø      in the sorrow which carries dignity, and not in the passion which only

excites contempt;

Ø      with a feeling that our common brotherhood is a greater thing than our

individual interests.

 

  • THE PLACE FOR STRATAGEM IN THE BATTLE OF THE

LORD, Jeroboam seems to have been in the way of succeeding by his

stratagem (vs. 13-14), and had there been no strong and special reason

for Divine interposition, he would undoubtedly have prevailed against

Abijah. Persuasiveness of speech is good, but sagacity in action is better

still in any serious campaign. And while simple straightforwardness is the

weapon we should commonly use, there is a guile we may employ when

our spirit is wholly unselfish, and when we do not invade inviolable truth

(see II Corinthians 12:16).

 

  • THE SUCCESS OF FAITHFULNESS. After all, it was not the

cleverness of the crafty Jeroboam, but the faithfulness, thus far, of the

obedient Abijah which secured the victory. The men of Judah “cried unto

the Lord,” and “God smote Jeroboam and all Israel.” As we read the

chronicles of the two kingdoms, we are amazed that kings and people

failed to see that just as they were obedient to Jehovah they prospered, and

just as they were disobedient they were overtaken with national calamity.

But it is so much easier to distinguish other people’s duty than to perceive

our own, to see where others missed their way than to find or to keep our

own. Continually are we tempted to abandon the path of simple Divine

wisdom for that which has its own fascinations, but to which no finger-post

of duty points us; and invariably we find that “the end thereof” is sorrow

and disillusion. Often the path of righteousness is unattractive and

unpromising at the outset; but in that way lies success. Further on the

prospect brightens; and at the end of that road is victory and joy. Be

faithful unto death, and you may make quite sure of the crown of life.

(Revelation 2:10)

 

 

Jeroboam: Career, Character, Reputation (vs. 19-20)

 

There are three things which belong to every man, with the shaping of

which he himself has much, though not everything, to do, and which are of

the first importance to him. We look at them in connection with Jeroboam.

 

  • HIS CAREER. At first, and for some time, we find him steadily rising;

beginning low, he distinguishes himself by the character of his work, is

promoted to a post of some importance (I Kings 11:28); he gains the

confidence and good will of the people, is regarded as one who may aspire

to the highest position in the state; he has to retire for a time from the

presence of Solomon, who suspects his loyalty, but upon the death of that

sovereign he returns, takes advantage of the inexperience and foolhardiness

of Rehoboam, and mounts the throne, reigning over ten-twelfths of the

whole land. Then he maintains his position for some nineteen years,

keeping up a chronic war with royal rival at Jerusalem, and apparently

holding his own. Then he has a pitched battle with Abijah, and, spite of

clever generalship (vs. 13-14), he is signally defeated; his troops are

utterly muted, and he has to sacrifice three important places. From that

time he declines in strength and spirit, until, cowed if not crushed by his

defeat, he dies of disappointment and chagrin. “The Lord struck him.”

 

  • HIS CHARACTER. He was evidently an active and able workman,

competent to undertake the more difficult and responsible posts in the

building of fortifications; he was a man of ambition as well as of resource,

willing to enter the open door to mount the “fiery courser of opportunity; ‘

he was capable of patience as well as of vigorous action; he could bide his

time in Egypt as well as strike the blow when the hour was ripe; he was

courageous and self-confident, not shrinking from the dangerous position

of heading a revolt against the rightful ruler of the land (v. 6); he was

utterly unscrupulous as to the measures he adopted to retain the loyalty of

his people (vs. 8-10); he was prepared to abolish the accepted and true

faith, and import a false and low religion; also to rid himself of the best

men as priests, introducing the lowest to take their place (I Kings 12:31).

All piety and principle he subordinated to the one end of preserving

his throne and his dynasty. Thus he made shipwreck of faith and of a

good conscience.

 

HIS REPUTATION. For reputation is to be very carefully

distinguished from character. A man may have a good reputation, and, in

the sight of him who is the Truth, a very bad character; such were the

Pharisees of our Lord’s time, and such have been hypocrites of all time.

Or a man may have a bad reputation and a noble character; such was Paul

amongst his countrymen; such have been the reformers and martyrs of all

ages. But Jeroboam’s reputation has answered to his character. He was,

indeed, regarded as a man of considerable ability (I Kings 11:24); but

the one chief and continual association with his name is that of the great

mischief-maker, the man who wrought dire evil to his country; he was

known, and is known, as the man “who made Israel to sin.” From his

character, career, and reputation we may be reminded:

 

Ø      That it is right to be concerned about our career, right to wish for one

that is bright and pleasant and honorable; and with this desire in our heart

we should:

 

o        ask for Divine guidance and aid;

o        do all that industry, patience, and moderation will accomplish to

compass that end; and

o        be quite prepared to take a lower place if that should be the will

of our heavenly Father concerning us.  (Luke 14:10)

 

Ø      That it is of more importance that we should possess a good reputation;

not that we need trouble ourselves about what the sinful or the foolish are

saying of us, but that we should care much to win the esteem of the good

and wise.  (We should live so that when someone says something bad

about us, no one would believe it! – CY – 2016)

 

Ø      That the essential thing is a sound character in the sight of God. That is

the foundation of all; on it rests a good reputation and a bright career.

Therefore let us ask ourselves what we are; and let us be dissatisfied with

ourselves unless we can believe that we are true disciples of Jesus Christ,

children of our Father who is in heaven,” resembling Him in spirit and in

principle.

 

 

 

The Career of Jeroboam (v. 20)

 

  • AN EXAMPLE OF DISAPPOINTED AMBITION. A striking

illustration of how “vaulting ambition overleaps itself, and falls on the other

side.” Its stages reveal the insatiable character of that:

 

                                    fire and motion of the soul

which will not dwell in its own narrow being,

but aspires beyond the fitting medium of desire”

(Byron).

 

Ø      Promoted to a position of trust. Originally a servant of Solomon, he was

appointed master of works for the house of Judah, 1.e, superintendent of

the Ephraimite contingent of workmen (I Kings 11:28).

 

Ø      Plotting sedition. Invested with “brief authority,” he began to meditate

ambitious thoughts, which probably the Shilonite with his prophetic glance

discerned (ibid. v. 37).

 

Ø      Married to a princess. Compelled to flee from Palestine, he found in

Egypt, at the court of Shishak, both a harbor of refuge and a balm for his

wounds — he became the husband of a princess and the brother-in-law

of Pharaoh (ibid. v. 40).

 

Ø      Further promotion,. Recalled to Palestine, he was first elected a

spokesman of the northern tribes in their diplomatic dealings with

Rehoboam, and ultimately chosen to be their sovereign (ibid. ch.12:20).

 

Ø      More sedition. Barely was he seated on the throne of Israel, than he

adopted measures to render permanent the separation of the two

kingdoms; turning his back upon Jehovah, and setting up a new and rival

religion to the Jehovah given Law in Judah (ibid. v. 28).

 

Ø      Renewed ambition. Not content with this, he aimed at the subjugation of

the southern empire.

 

Ø      Final collapse. This point reached, he hastened rapidly towards an

ignominious end. Byron says:

 

“One breast laid open were a school,

Which would unteach mankind the lust to shine or rule.

 

One may be permitted to doubt this!

 

  • AN INSTANCE OF MISAPPLIED ABILITY. That Jeroboam as

youth and man, as private person and public official, as servant and

sovereign, possessed high capacities, need not be questioned. Energy,

industry, enthusiasm, ambition, faculty for organization, power of

impressing, directing, leading, and ruling others — qualities needful for

generalship, statesmanship, kingship — appear all to have belonged to him

in more than ordinary measure; yet in every situation of life in which he

was placed these powers were misapplied. The governing idea of his soul

was to use all, in himself and others, for the advancement of his private

interest. For this end he:

 

Ø      fomented sedition amongst his countrymen,

Ø      encouraged disaffection amongst the subjects of Solomon,

Ø      took advantage of Rehoboam’s inexperience to raise the standard of

revolt,

Ø      perverted to wicked purposes the high position as a sovereign to which

he in providence attained,

Ø      did his utmost to propagate irreligion, diffuse idolatry, foster

immorality, DISSOLVE THE FABRIC OF SOCIAL ORDER,

crush and annihilate the true worshippers of Jehovah.

 

The annals of mankind afford many illustrations of the same phenomenon —

magnificent powers of body and mind prostituted to ignoble ends, e.g.

 

Ø      Samson, Saul, and Judas from sacred,

Ø      Caesar (Julius), Mark Antony, and Napoleon from profane history and

Ø      (Whose name is going here in modern history?

o       Freud,

o       Marx,

o       Darwin,

o       Sagan,

o       John Paul Stevens,

o       Sandra Day O’Connor,

o       Ginsberg, Sotomayor, Kagan,

o       Clintons,

o       Obama,

o       Mayer, Cooper,

o       the unknown who “love to have it so” (Jeremiah 5:31 –

CY – 2016)

 

 

  • AN ILLUSTRATION OF NEGLECTED OPPORTUNITIES.

 

Ø      When promoted by Solomon to be master of works for the house of Joseph,

Jeroboam might, with his commanding talent and great force of character,

have done much to soothe the ruffled spirits of his countrymen, and so

have nipped the poisonous flower of revolution in the bud. But he did not;

rather he acted on a contrary hint.

 

Ø      When recalled by the northern tribes to be their spokesman, had he

chosen, he might have poured oil upon the troubled waters, allayed the

ferment of their passions, appealed to them to give the young king a trial,

and remember the danger which would accrue to the empire from disunion

— might have crushed down his own ambitious thoughts, and like Caesar

(‘Julius Caesar,’ act 3. sc. 2) — not to speak of a greater (John 6:15)

— put bravely from him the crown which in the people’s eyes he saw

preparing for him. But he did not; rather, in the popular disaffection, he

beheld that “tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to

fortune,” and launched himself upon its stream without delay.

 

3. When favoured by Providence so far as to secure the crown, had he

carried out the trust committed to him, to erect a kingdom in which the

worship of Jehovah should be faithfully and purely maintained, he should

have been established on his throne beyond the possibility of overthrow,

and the house of Jeroboam should have shone with a luster as brilliant as, if

not excelling, that of the house of David. But he did not; rather in him was

verified the sentiment:

 

“That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder

Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;

But when he once attains the utmost round,

He then unto the ladder turns his back,

Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees

By which he did ascend.”

(‘Julius Caesar,’ act 2. sc. 1.)

 

Jehovah had set Jeroboam on the throne of Israel; Jeroboam when on the

throne cast Jehovah behind his back (I Kings 14:7-9).

 

  • A MONUMENT OF DESERVED RETRIBUTION. Jeroboam, who

might have attained to undying honor, reaped for himself a harvest of

eternal infamy. To such a pitch of wickedness did he proceed, both in

himself and in his people, whom he corrupted by his example and

commanded by his authority, that not only did the sin of Jeroboam

become ever afterwards proverbial as an expression for the highest possible

impiety in an Israelitish ruler (....Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made

Israel to sin  I Kings 15:34; II Kings’ 10:31; 13:6; 14:24; 17:22),. but, it

drew down upon him swift and appalling retribution.  “The Lord smote him.”

 

Ø      In his army with defeat. His troops were routed on the field of war, his

fenced cities were captured, his military power was broken.

 

Ø      In his house with bereavement. The sudden death of his child Abijah was

a sore stroke, to which was added a sorer in the curse that none other of

the house of Jeroboam should come to his grave in peace (I Kings

14:12-13).

 

Ø      In himself with disease. To this the language of ver. 20 is believed by

some to point (Clarke, Jamieson).

 

  • A VICTIM OF ALL-DEVOURING DEATH. Jeroboam succumbed to

the fatal malady two years after the death of Abijah, and in the twenty-second

year of his reign. He expired at Tirzah, and was buried with his fathers.

 

Sceptre and crown must tumble down,

And in the dust be equal made

With the poor crooked scythe and spade.”

 

21 “But Abijah waxed mighty, and married fourteen wives, and begat

twenty and two sons, and sixteen daughters.” Waxed mighty. For this our

Authorized Version reads, waxed fat and wanton” (Hebrew, יִתְחַזֵּק),

and grew too like his father Rehoboam and his grandfather Solomon,

forgetting the “Law”  (Deuteronomy 17:17-20).

 

22 “And the rest of the acts of Abijah, and his ways, and his sayings,

are written in the story of the prophet Iddo.” The story of the Prophet Iddo,

If this be the same work as that mentioned in ch.12:15 (see our note there),it is,

at any rate, not called by the same title, but by the name well known for memoirs,

of Midrash.

 

      A Royal and Manly Manifesto in the Rights of Godly Truth (vs. 1-22)

 

The narrative of Abijah’s short reign of three years is distinguished by one

clear account, at any rate, of the wars that had arisen and were prevailing

between the two parts of the recently rended and bleeding kingdom, of

which a very brief statement only had been made, at the close of the history

of Rehoboam’s reign, whether here or in the parallel. It is also, and most

chiefly, distinguished by the graphic description of the very forcible

manifesto, so dramatically delivered as well, in the name and right of

religion, and of the truth handed down to him by his fathers, by Abijah

King of Judah, before, as it were, all the dissenting and separate

congregation of Israel and their king. This subject awaits below some

further analysis. And once more, so far as our Book of Chronicles goes,

the narrative of this short reign and public career of Abijah is remarkable,

in that we should have supposed certainly, when we shut our book, that

they were, as nearly as might be, immaculate every way to the honor of

God, and by His grace to the credit of the man and the king, with his heroic

challenge to all Israel’s conscience, towering in the midst of all the rest.

The parallel, meanwhile, in Kings undeceives us unwelcomely in this

impression, and mournfully disabuses our mind, where with startling

precision it is recorded that Abijah walked in all the sins of his father,

which he had done before him: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord

his God, as the heart of David his father,” Whether the unrelated sins of his

private life, or the chances of war, or the director judgment of God,

brought his career to so early a close, we are not told. Meanwhile the

contents of this chapter are most interesting. They read like an episode

almost unique among even the many and varied, the concise and telling

monographs that abound in the pages before us. War is waged, armies are

ready, and are already face to face; battle itself is ready to begin, or has

already begun, when — no spectral figure — King Abijah himself stands

on Mount Zemaraim; the King of Israel, and the army of Israel, and, as it

were, all the rended-off nation of Israel, fortunately and conveniently

congregated before him. If ever man “preached,” Abijah preached, and for

the day and the occasion lifted up his voice worthily, and was “not afraid.”

Truth and facts are unmistakably on his side. We seem, for a moment, to be

under the spell of an Old Testament Demosthenes, and to be listening to

the snatch of an earlier philippic (a bitter attack, especially verbal). If we

seek some analysis of this mingled argument, denunciation, appeal, we notice:

 

  • THE SAFE GROUND OF THE CASE MADE AGAINST ISRAEL

AND JEROBOAM. “The Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel

to David for ever — to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt.” Perhaps,

indeed, Abijah remembered well the solemn proviso of that covenant,

emphatically made, and put into psalm as well, “If thy children will keep

my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall

also sit upon thy throne for evermore” (Psalm 132:12). Though he

neglected to quote it into his argument, and let us say probably by design,

yet it was substantially true that the perpetual kingdom was made over so,

by divinest engagement, to Judah, as against all other comers

whomsoever, and up to the coming of the Lord Jesus Himself, of whose

kingdom there should be indeed no end. For Abijah might, if challenged,

have gone on also to quote (Psalm 89:33-37), “Nevertheless my loving-

kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.

My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my

lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His

seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be

established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven.” So

Abijah begins successfully, putting Israel and Jeroboam essentially in the

wrong.

 

  • THE MORAL ELEMENT FLUNG SO EFFECTIVELY AND

OPPORTUNELY BY ABIJAH. INTO THE ARGUMENT. “Ought ye not

to know this, that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to

David for ever?” Israel and Jeroboam did know it, knew it well; and Abijah

and all Judah knew that their separated brethren knew it, and knew it well.

It was a well-conceived addition to the argument of the king of the true

line. How many persons know the right most assuredly, to whom, for

neglecting to do it, the most telling and most stinging expostulation and

rebuke might well be couched in the same form of question, “Ought ye not

to know?”

 

  • THE PATENT AGGRAVATIONS OF THE CONDUCT OF

JEROBOAM. Viz. that:    

 

Ø      It was a case of a subject rebelling against his own king (v. 6), not of one

foreign to the kingdom obtaining sway by conquest over a portion of it.

 

Ø      It was a case of that subject also taking advantage of the youth and

inexperience of the rightful monarch Rehoboam, who was actually in

possession of the throne at the time of the schism.

 

Ø      It was a case of the usurper relying on a “multitude” (v. 8) — a mere

majority! Nothing of a moral kind can safely be decided, on the strength

merely of a majority, in this world; or, at any rate, up to the present time,

in this world. And often the decision of something of a physical kind, on

the strength of a majority, is most uncertain — the very ground beneath the

feet of that majority being so liable to be undermined on a large scale (as is

so notable in the sequel of this very history, v. 18), or otherwise

honeycombed by invisible moral forces. God’s selection of Israel, His whole

conduct of them, of their education, of their government and their

legislation, was and is one protest against reliance on the many.

 

Ø      It was a most iniquitous and crying case of idolatry in the setting up of

the golden calves. This most glaring instance of the basest sort of supposed

expedience did not bear that a word be said on its behalf or in its defense.

Had there been not another weak point in the conduct or tactics of

Jeroboam and Israel, this carried the sentence of death in itself.

 

Ø      Although it were a corollary most readily to be understood, that the

priests and Levites of the true religion’s ministry should find themselves no

longer in place or at home in such an Israel, yet Abijah notes this also,

probably that first prominence may be given (as great historic interest has

certainly been given) to the fact that of the same priests and Levites were

found none to sympathize with Jeroboam’s evil doings, to countenance

them, or to consent, under any pretext of policy, to uphold them; and

secondly, that the flagitious, sacrilegious, and absolutely reckless defiance

of the true religion, of which Jeroboam was guilty, in the sham

consecration of sham priests, in imitation of heathen nations and in

observance of heathen precedents, might be openly made to confront him,

and publicly be hurled as the last aggravating charge against him. Jeroboam

cast out the priests of the Lord… and the Levites… and made priests after

the manner of the nations of other lands.”

 

  • THE PRONOUNCED DECLARATION, UNBOASTFUL

BECAUSE TRUE, AND READILY ACKNOWLEDGED TO BE ONLY

THEIR DUTY AND PRIVILEGE UNITED, WHICH ABIJAH MAKES

ON BEHALF OF HIMSELF AND KINGDOM.

 

Ø      They scorned golden calves, and had not forsaken the one Lord their

God.

 

Ø      Their priests and Levites are the divinely appointed and consecrated

ministers of the sanctuary and altar. They do their work. The altar smokes

morning and evening, and the odor of the sweet incense ascends. The

shewbread is in its place and duly renewed. The golden candlestick burns

every evening. They have received the charge of the Lord God, and they

keep it faithfully, obediently in each respect, and to each time punctually.

 

Ø      God is practically looked to as their Captain, and His ministers are

looked to to sound the alarm alike to themselves and for them “against”

their foes.

 

  • THE SHORT PARTING APPEAL. The whole argument,

remonstrance, rebuke, has been in an eminent degree addressed to the

conscience, and to the distinct and undoubted knowledge of revealed

religion, which had been equally the portion of Israel with Judah. And now

the parting brief appeal is fully charged with the same spirit. It is an appeal

to conscience and religious knowledge and feeling, and legitimately

concludes with that warning which has so long been, which is still, the

divinely foreshadowed sanction of command or of prohibition. It depends

on the faculty of faith, it is part of the discipline of faith, and — to be

mindfully remembered by all — it is some of the most critical and

tremblingly anxious exercises of faith. He who believes in nothing but the

present does not believe in warning, and he who does not believe in

warning is, in one word, the infatuated, and ever liable to be the reckless.

In this brief pregnant appeal we seem to notice:

 

Ø      that Abijah turns away his address from Jeroboam altogether, anxious if

haply he may just move the people;

 

Ø      that there is breathed in it a tender, affectionate, fatherly persuasiveness,

as with last words of hope, or last words of despair, or as with last dying

words; and

 

Ø      that there is the deep earnestness of the true man, who yearns that men

shall know the day of their merciful visitation, and not speed on in that

way of transgressors,” which is “hard ” (Proverbs 13:15),

and which “shall not prosper.”

 

 

 

Abijah: The Lessons of His Hife (vs. 21-22)

 

These concluding verses, which dispose of the latter end of the life of Abijah,

may bring before us the lessons which are to be gathered from his career.

 

  • THE SLIGHTNESS AND VALUELESSNESS OF HUMAN FAME.

He was a descendant of David, and a king reigning at Jerusalem, and he

gained a somewhat brilliant victory over his rival at Mount Ephraim

the rest of his acts and his ways and sayings are written in the story of the

Prophet Iddo;” but who reads them there, or who can tell us anything of

what is there contained? In the Book of the Kings (I Kings 5:7) we are

referred to our text for the details of his career. But how scanty we find

them to be! How little do we know of this once proud and “mighty

monarch; and how content we are that we know so little! And of what

entire valuelessness to him would any fuller knowledge on our part be! We

need not be concerned that our name and fame will traverse so small a part

of this globe, and travel so short a space of time; that we shall be so soon

forgotten. Kings and statesmen, whose chances of fame were far greater

than ours, have found how ephemeral and how worthless a thing is fame.

To be loved by those whom we have blessed, to be esteemed by the good

and true, to be honored of God to take some part in the promotion of His

glorious kingdom, — that is the heritage to be coveted and to be gained.

 

  • THE BRITTLENESS OF EARTHLY FORTUNE. When Abijah

ascended the throne of Judah, he had, probably, good reason for expecting

a long period of honor and enjoyment. But three short years brought his

hopes down to the ground. Some disease showed itself in his frame, or

some accident befell him, or some treacherous blow struck him, and he

went down to the grave with his early hopes unfulfilled. And who shall say

that the young man of our acquaintance, of our connection, of our

affection, who has such bright prospects before him, will not find, by a sad

disillusion, that the term of his happiness and his honor is a very brief one;

that a few years, or even months, will bring him to his grave? “Love not

the world, neither the things which are in the world. The world passeth

away… but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.  (I John 2:15-17)

 

  • THE DANGER OF GREAT SUCCESS. We read in the preceding

verse (v. 20) that Jeroboam never “recovered strength again” after his

humiliating defeat at Mount Ephraim. We might with equal truth say of

Abijah that he never recovered from his success. He was apparently elated

by it, and, in the perilous mood of complacency, he gave himself up to

culpable domestic licence (v. 21). His latter days were spent in home

luxuries and (it is only too likely) in revelries and follies. His success was

too much for him; as, indeed, success very often proves to be. Many men

can stand misfortune; comparatively few can stand prosperity. It is a

slippery place,” where the unguarded human spirit falls, and is badly

bruised, if not broken. If the tide of success should set in, whether of

wealth, or honor, or power, or affection, let there be unusual

watchfulness and multiplied devotion; for the hour of prosperity is that

hour when the archers of the enemy will be busy with their arrows.

 

  • THE VALUE OF WHOLE-HEARTEDNESS IN THE SERVICE OF

THE SUPREME. Where shall we look to find the fatal flaw that accounts

for this royal failure? We find it here (I Kings 15:3). Abijah’s heart was

not perfect with the Lord his God;” that is to say, his heart was “divided,”

and therefore he was “found faulty” (Hosea 10:2). He did not seek God

with his whole heart.” He was willing enough to try and charm with the

Divine Name and the Divine will and Law (see vs. 5-10), but he was not

prepared to walk uprightly and faithfully, as “the heart of David his father,”

before the Lord his God. If our devotion be nothing more than a desire to

have God on our side in the day of battle, we shall show small consistency

of conduct and little excellence of character. The religious character that

will stand the test both of sunshine and shadow is that of the man who

realizes the supreme claims of God, his Father and his Saviour, and who

solemnly and determinately dedicates himself, heart and life, to “the Lord

His God.” It is only whole-heartedness in the service of Christ that will

ensure us against the perils of adversity and prosperity.

 

 

The Successor of Rehoboam (vs. 1-2, 21-22)

 

  • HIS NAME. Abijah, “whose father is Jehovah” (I Kings 14:1);

Abijam, “father of the sea,” i.e. a maritime man (ibid. v. 31; ch.15:1);

or Abia (Septuagint). If Abijam be not a clerical mistake, then the hypothesis

is at least interesting that the Chronicler adopted the form Abijah because he

did not intend to describe this king’s reign as wicked, while the writer of

the Kings, having this intention, frequently selected the form Abijam (Kitto).

 

  • HIS MOTHER. Micaiah, or Maacha (ch. 11:20), the daughter of Uriel of

Gibeah, and the daughter (equivalent to granddaughter by the mother’s side)

of Absalom (ibid.), or Abishalom (I Kings 15:2). The notion (Bahr) that

Abijah’s wife, the mother of Asa, was also called Maacah (ch. 15:16) is not

necessary, and still less the hypothesis (Bertheau) that in this place the name

of Abijah’s wife has been substituted for that of his mother.

 

  • HIS WIVES. Fourteen in number, of whom one was (on the

supposition just named) Maacah, the names of the others being unknown.

Like his father Rehoboam, grandfather Solomon, and great-grandfather

David, Abijah practiced polygamy. A parent’s vices are considerably easier

to copy than his virtues. Those also are likelier than these to be transmitted

by heredity.

 

  • HIS OFFSPRING. Twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters. Of the

former only one is known, Asa his successor, the rest having disappeared

from the stage of history as from that of time. Obscurity, the common lot

of men; yet not always a disadvantage in itself, or a proof of inferior merit.

Some of the world’s greatest men have been unknown to their contemporaries;

and Abijah’s unnamed sons may have been superior persons to Asa.

 

  • HIS REIGN.

 

Ø      Its sphere. Judah, the southern kingdom, Jeroboam still exercising

sovereignty over the northern.

 

Ø      Its seat. Jerusalem, the capital of Israel being Samaria.

 

Ø      Its duration. Three years, beginning in the eighteenth and ending in the

twentieth year of Jeroboam.

 

Ø      Its character. Troubled. “There was war between Abijah and

Jeroboam.”

 

  • HIS END.

 

Ø      His death. “He slept with his fathers” (ch.14:1).

Ø      His burial. “He was laid in the city of David.”

Ø      His biography. The story of his life, of his acts, ways, and sayings,

was written by the Prophet Iddo.

 

  • HIS CHARACTER.

 

Ø      His ability. Undoubted.

 

o       A vigorous ruler (v. 21);

o       an able speaker (v. 4);

o       a powerful reasoner (vs. 8-12); and

o       a valiant leader.

 

Ø      His piety. Decided. Notwithstanding his polygamy, he was:

 

o       sincere (vs. 10-11),

o       lively (v. 12),

o       trustful (v. 18), and

o       courageous (v. 12), tho%h

o       not perfect (I Kings 15:3).

 

·         LESSONS:

 

Ø      Jehovah in the heart is better than Jehovah in the name.

Ø      A weak and wicked father may have a capable and good son.

Ø      The value of a man’s life is not determined by the length of his

days.

Ø      One may have faults and yet be religious.

Ø      Every one should strive to live so as to be remembered for good

after death.

 

 

 

A Great War in a Short Reign (vs. 3-19)

 

  • THE CONTENDING ARMIES. (v. 3.)

 

Ø      Their leaders:

 

o       of the army of Judah, Abijah;

o       of the host of Israel, Jeroboam

 

both capable generals, and each the inspiring spirit of his troops.

 

Ø      Their numbers:

 

o       of Judah, four hundred thousand men — one hundred

thousand fewer than Joab numbered to Judah;

o       of Israel, eight hundred thousand — exactly the number Joab

counted to Israel (II Samuel 24:9).

 

Ø      Their quality.

 

o       Abijah’s troops were:

 

§         heroes of war, veterans experienced in former campaigns

under Rehoboam, and

§         chosen or picked men, literally, “men of youth,” whose

powers were at their best (Jeremiah 18:21).

 

o       Jeroboam’s soldiers were also:

 

§         chosen men and

§         mighty men of valor.

 

      Thus both armies were well matched.

 

Ø      Their position. Over against each other, in the vicinity of Mount

Zemaraim, near Bethel (Joshua 18:22) — “probably the large ruin

Samrah, north of Jericho” (Condor, ‘Handbook to the Bible,’ p. 427),

and perhaps at that time the northern limit of Abijah’s territory (Ewald);

obviously so close to one another that to them the words of Shakespeare

(‘King Henry V.,’ act iv. chorus) may be fitly applied:

 

“From camp to camp, thro’ the foul womb of night,

The hum of either army stilly sounds,

That the fix’d sentinels almost receive

The secret whispers of each other’s watch:

Fire answers fire: and through their paly flames

Each battle sees the other’s umber’d face:

Steed threatens steed, in high and boastful neighs

Piercing the night’s dull ear; and from the tents,

The armourers, accomplishing the knights,

With busy hammers closing rivets up,

Give dreadful note of preparation.”

 

  • THE SPEECH OF ABIJAH. (vs. 4-12.)

 

Ø      Whence spoken, From Mount Zemaraim, in Ephraim, as Jotham had

formerly spoken to the Shechemites from Mount Gerizim (Judges 9:7-21).

 

Ø      To whom addressed. To Jeroboam and all Israel. Generals commonly

harangue their troops before going into action (I Samuel 4:9; II Samuel 10:11-12;

ch. 18:30; compare ‘King Henry V.,’ act 4. sc. 3); Abijah directs his speech to

his foes, as David did to Goliath (I Samuel 17:45), and Rabshakeh to the envoys

of Hezekiah (II Kings 18:28-35; compare ‘Richard II.,’ act 3. sc. 3).

 

Ø      Of what composed. Of a long, earnest argument, dissuasive, and appeal,

for the purpose of inducing Jeroboam and his warriors to desist from their

mad enterprise of attempting to conquer Judah. According to Abijah they

could not succeed, for a variety of reasons.

 

o        Their rebellion was a sin against their own better knowledge (v. 5) —

a sin against the light. They knew, or might have known, that Jehovah the

God of Israel had given the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to

him and to his sons by a covenant of salt, i.e. by a perpetual covenant

(Numbers 18:19). This promise had been made to David (II Samuel

7:12-16), confirmed to Solomon (I Kings 9:4-5), and reported to

Jeroboam (ibid. ch. 11:31-38), who must have known that whatever

sanction he had from Jehovah to ascend the throne of Israel, he had none

to aspire after that of Judah. Abijah’s statement was true only of the throne

of Judah; the sovereignty of undivided Israel was guaranteed to David and

his sons on conditions which had not been fulfilled. Jehovah’s language

concerning David’s throne has been realized in Christ, to whom the

absolute and unbroken supremacy over God’s spiritual Israel has been

committed for ever by a covenant of salt (Psalm 2:6; 72:17; Daniel

7:13-14). Hence rebellion against the authority of Christ cannot prosper.

 

o        Their rebellion was a revolt against their rightful lord (v. 6). Though

Jeroboam had beforehand been informed of Jehovah’s intention to wrest

ten tribes from Rehobeam, it was none the less an act of insubordination on

the part of Jeroboam and the Israelites to raise the standard of revolt

against the son of Solomon. So the Divine foreknowledge that men will

sin, reject Christ, and continue in unbelief, does not render it the less

culpable on their part so to do. Christ, the Son of David, is their rightful

Sovereign (Acts 10:36), and to disown His regal authority is to be

guilty of SPIRITUAL HIGH TREASON!

 

o        Their rebellion was promoted and fostered by wicked men (v. 7).

Jeroboam had collected round him an army of vain men — light persons

like those Abimelech on a former occasion had hired to follow him

(Judges 9:4); children of Belial, or of worthlessness, of the stamp of

Nabal (I Samuel 25:17), or of those who followed David when he

rescued his wives from the spoilers of Zigiag (ibid. ch. 30:22); “lewd

fellows of the baser sort” like those who assaulted the house of Jason

(Acts 17:5); “men of the most abandoned principles and characters, or

men without consideration, education, or brains” (Adam Clarke). Hence it

was impossible their wicked project could thrive (Proverbs 3:35;

Psalm 1:6).

 

o        Their rebellion was aggravated by the time when it had been conceived

and carried out, viz. at a time when Solomon’s son had not been able to

withstand them, having but newly ascended the throne, and as a

consequence been unprepared when the mine, as it were, was sprung

beneath his feet (v. 7). Abijah speaks of Rehoboam as having been at the

time of Jeroboam’s rebellion “young and tender-hearted;” but, as

Rehoboam was then forty-one years old, Abijah may have purposed by the

expression to allude to his inexperience as a king, which laid him open to

be misled by designing men, or to the instability of his throne, which would

naturally invite the attacks of watchful adversaries.

 

o        Their rebellion was supported only by human warriors and golden

calves (v. 8). But vain is the help of man, even when the battle is against

a fellow (Psalm 60:11; 108:12), and much more when against God

(Psalm 2:1-2). “There is no king saved by the multitude of an host”

(Psalm 33:16), as Israel afterwards often came to know (Hosea10:13);

and they that trust in golden calves or idols of silver and gold are

like unto them (Psalm 115:8; 135:18), and shall eventually be put to

shame (Isaiah 42:17; Hosea 8:5).

 

o        Their rebellion was being maintained in the interest of idolatry (v. 9).

Although Jeroboam had been expressly informed that Solomon’s apostasy

had been the cause of the division of his kingdom (I Kings 11:33), and

that the permanence of his own throne depended on his steadfast adherence

to the religion of Jehovah (ibid. v. 38), yet had he wickedly ejected

the priests of Jehovah from their offices, and instituted a new order of

priesthood for the golden calves and other idols he had set up (I Kings

12:28-31). Nay, as if to pour contempt upon the true religion, he followed

the fashion of heathen nations both in the kind of persons he admitted to

the sacerdotal office, and in the rites of initiation with which these were

installed. The former were selected from the lowest of the people, and the

latter were of the simplest description. Any one who could bring the

necessary offerings for consecration, “a young bullock and seven rams

(compare Exodus 29:1), was admitted to the new hierarchy, and no

questions were asked. This was all the recognition Jeroboam made of

the true worship of Jehovah.

 

o        Their rebellion was being prosecuted against those who adhered to the

true worship of Jehovah (v. 10). Abijah in this verse gives a better

account of himself than the writer of the Kings does (I Kings 15:3) —

a natural and common, if not altogether justifiable, weakness. The

probable explanation is that, while clinging to the idolatrous

abominations introduced by Solomon and Rehoboam, Abijah had not

abandoned the forms of the Mosaic cultus (vs. 10-11). Like multitudes

before and since, he and his people conceived it might be possible to do

homage on equal terms to Jehovah and heathen divinities, WHICH IT

WAS NOT! (Isaiah 42:8); just as many in the present day fancy they

can serve God and mammon, WHICH THEY CANNOT!  (Matthew 6:24).

 

o        Their rebellion was directed against Jehovah Himself (v. 12), who was

present in the camp of Judah as Captain, as He had been in the days of the

conquest (Joshua 5:14), and as HE STILL IS,  in the Person of Christ, in

the army of the New Testament Church (Matthew 28:20). This constituted

the hopelessness of Jeroboam’s attack (Exodus 15:3-7; I Samuel 2:10;

Job 41:10), as it does still of every assault upon the Church of

Christ (Acts 5:39; 23:9). No weapon that is formed against her shall

prosper (Isaiah 54:17; Matthew 16:18). That Jehovah remained in

Judah in the midst of so much corruption was entirely owing to His

gracious covenant with David (I Kings 11:36); that Christ continues in

the New Testament Church even when overrun with errors in doctrine

and worship, as well as marred by defects in practice, is owing solely

to HIS OWN FAITHFULNESS AND TRUTH! (Matthew 28:20).

 

o        Their rebellion was foredoomed to failure, because the alarm-trumpets

of Jehovah’s priests were against them (v. 12). Those alarm-trumpets

were “the divinely appointed pledges that God would remember His

people in war, and deliver them from their enemies” (Numbers 10:9).

Against the Midianites Moses sent into the field, along with twelve

thousand warriors, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, with the holy

instruments and the trumpets to blow in his hand” (ibid. ch. 31:6). So

the duty of Christian ministers is to sound an alarm in God’s Name

against every thing and person that would injure Christ’s Church.

Were this always done, timely and earnestly, ultimate victory for

the Church would be ensured (Acts 20:31; I Corinthians 4:14;

Colossians 1:28).

 

  • THE AMBUSHMENT OF JEROBOAM. (vs. 13-14.)

 

Ø      Skilfully prepared.

 

o        By Jeroboam. Wicked men often possess high talent, and, though not

pious, make splendid generals, eminent statesmen, successful

merchants, etc.

 

o        While Abijah was orating. Neither praying nor preaching will suffice

without watching. While performing every duty earnestly and thoroughly

(Ecclesiastes 9:10), it must not be imagined that prudence, foresight,

and vigilance are not duties. The Christian, while praying always with all

prayer and supplication, must take unto himself THE WHOLE ARMOR

OF GOD! (Ephesians 6:13-18).

 

o        Round about Judah. That Abijah had not perceived the stratagem of his

opponent is explicable — he had been preoccupied with his harangue; that

his generals and soldiers were not on the alert was hardly to their credit,

even if they were listening to their monarch’s eloquence. At any rate, as

Jeroboam circumvented Abijah and his army, while engaged in what might

be termed a religious duty, an attempt to avert the calamity of war and to

promote the interests of peace, so does the prince of the power of the air

commonly select the moment when Christ’s soldiers are engaged in some

religious service to cast around them his snares.

 

Ø      Courageously met. Though surprised, the men of Judah were not

thrown into panic. Realizing their danger, they confronted it:

 

o        With faith: “they cried unto Jehovah,” whom they believed to be their

Captain (v. 12) — an excellent lesson for the Church (collectively and

individually), which, though professing to regard Christ as her Captain,

does not always turn to Him for help in duty or relief in difficulty, but

often repairs to:

 

§         worldly policy,

§         human wisdom, or

§         material props and defenses.

 

o        With hope: “The priests sounded with their trumpets,” thus showing

they anticipated victory. So should the Church of Christ never enter the

field against her adversaries in a doubtful, but always in a confident,

spirit (Psalm 60:12; 108:13), expecting to be victorious (Romans 8:37).

 

o        With spirit: “The men of Judah gave a shout” — not merely sounded

with their war-trumpets (Bertheau, Keil), but shouted like men contending

for the mastery (Exodus 32:18), as soldiers do when rushing into battle

(Joshua 6:20; Judges 15:14; I Samuel 17:20). So should the Church

give expression to her confident anticipations of victory in psalms

and hymns and spiritual songs (Psalm 132:9; 149:3, 5; Ephesians 5:19).

 

  • THE VICTORY OF JUDAH. (vs. 15-18.)

 

o        The source of it. GOD!  Not Abijah or Judah, but Eiohim smote Jeroboam

and all Israel. “Safety [‘victory,’ Revised Version] is of the Lord”

(Proverbs 21:31), and “it is He that giveth salvation [or, ‘deliverance ‘]

unto kings” (Psalm 144:10). “Jehovah is a Man of war, sang Miriam

(Exodus 15:3); while David owned, “He teacheth my hands to war, and

my fingers to fight” (Psalm 18:34; 144:1).

 

o        The time of it. “As the men of Judah shouted.” So “the Lord is nigh

unto all that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth!!”

(Psalm 145:18); and “whosoever shall  call upon the Name of the

Lord shall be delivered” (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21;  Romans 10:13),

even while they are calling (Isaiah 65:24). Compare the rescue

of Jehoshaphat at Ramoth-Gilead (ch. 18:31).

 

o        The ground of it. “Because they relied upon the Lord God of their

fathers (v. 18). That Jehovah should prove a Buckler to them that

trusted in Him accorded exactly with the representations of the Divine

character furnished by Scripture (Genesis 15:1; Deuteronomy 20:1;

Joshua 1:9; Psalm 17:7; 115:9), and had frequently been verified in

the experience of both sections of the kingdom - Joshua’s soldiers at

Jericho (Joshua 6:12-16), and Gideon’s at the well of Harod (Judges 7:1,

21), because they trusted in the sword of Jehovah more than in their own

weapons. So David prevailed over the Philistine (I Samuel 17:45),

Hezekiah over the Assyrian king, and the Philistines (II Kings 18:5, 8)

and the Reubenites over the Hagarites (I Chronicles 5:20). Confidence

in God is the strongest guarantee a Christian can have of emerging

triumphantly from any moral or spiritual conflict (Psalm 26:1; 33:20-21;

Isaiah 12:2; II Corinthians 1:10; Romans 8:38-39).

 

o        The extent of it.

 

§         Jeroboam’s army was routed (vs. 15-16).

 

§         Five hundred thousand chosen men were slain. A

slaughter so terrific suggests that the numbers must have

been exaggerated; and certainly nothing like it can be

cited from either ancient or modern warfare. If, therefore,

fifty thousand should not be read instead of five hundred

thousand (Rawlinson), the figures may be regarded as a

popular expression of the opinion of contemporaries of the

war that Jeroboam lost more than half of his troops (Keil).

Compare  Shakespeare’s description of a routed army:

“The king himself, of his wings destitute, the army

broken,” etc.  (‘Cymbeline,’ act 5. sc. 3).

 

§         The kingdom of Israel was completely prostrated (v. 18).

Their power to harass Israel was seriously impaired, which

confirms the preceding statement that no ordinary blow

had been inflicted on Jeroboam’s army.

 

§         Several cities with their surrounding domains were

capturedBethel, the present-day Beitin, an old

patriarchal settlement (Genesis 12:8; 28:19; 35:1, 6),

and one of the seats of Jeroboam’s idolatrous worship

(I Kings 12:29, 33), with the townships or villages in the

district; Jeshanah, probably the Isanas of Josephus

(‘Ant.,’ 14:15.12) and the Jesuna of the Septuagint,

occurring only here, and identified with the modern

Ain Sinia north of Bethel, with many rich springs and

rock-tombs in the vicinity FConder, ‘Handbook,’ p. 416;

Riehm, ‘HandwSrterbuch,’ 1:705); and Ephraim, or

Ephron (Septuagint, Vulgate), the former Of which points

to the Ephraim near Bethel (Josephus, ‘Wars,’ 4:9. 9),

whither Jesus retired (John 11:54), while the latter can

hardly be connected with Mount Ephron on the southwest

border of Benjamin (Bertheau), but must also be

sought in the neighborhood of Bethel.

 

§         Jeroboam never again recovered strength (v. 20). He

outlived the war by several, and Abijah by two, years;

but the decisive defeat he had sustained left him ever

afterwards a crippled and comparatively feeble

sovereign.

 

  • LESSONS:

 

Ø      The sinfulness of unjustifiable rebellion.

Ø      The horrors of war.

Ø      The political value of religion.

Ø      The power of faith.

Ø      The reward of sin.

 

 

 

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