The Word Made Fresh
1In the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam of Israel, Abijah began his rule over Judah, 2and he reigned for three years. His mother was Micaiah, daughter of Uriel of Gibeah.
Abijah continued the wars with Jeroboam. 3He went to battle with four hundred thousand brave soldiers. Jeroboam countered by forming a battle line with eight hundred thousand experienced troops. 4Abijah stood on the slope of Mt. Zemaraim in the hill country of Ephraim. He called out, “Jeroboam and Israel, listen to me! 5Don’t you know that the LORD God of Israel gave the throne of Israel forever to David and his descendants by an unbreakable covenant? 6But Jeroboam son of Nebat, who was employed by Solomon son of David, rose up and rebelled against his king. 7A group of worthless scoundrels joined him and defied Rehoboam son of Solomon when he was new and unaccustomed to power and unable to stand against them. 8And now do you think you can stand against the LORD’s kingdom ruled by David’s descendants because there are so many of you, and because you have in your favor the golden calves Jeroboam made as gods for you? 9Haven’t you driven away the LORD’s priests, Aaron’s descendants, and all the Levites, and appointed your own priests like the people of other nations? Anybody you set apart by sacrificing a young bull or seven rams can be one of your priests! Priests of what are no gods at all! 10But we have not turned our backs on the LORD our God. We have priests and Levites descended from Aaron serving the LORD. 11They offer incense and burnt offerings to the LORD every morning and evening. They arrange rows of bread on the gold table. They take care of the gold lampstand so that its lamps burn every evening. We do what the LORD our God has told us to do, but you have abandoned the LORD. 12God is with us! God leads us! God’s priests will sound the trumpets to do battle against you! Israelites, do not fight against the LORD, the God of your ancestors! You cannot win!”
13Meanwhile Jeroboam had sent an ambush to attack them from the rear while his main forces stayed in front of them. 14When Judah realized that the enemy was behind and before them, they cried out to the LORD. The priests blew the trumpets, 15and they raised the battle cry. When they shouted, God defeated Jeroboam and the army of Israel and gave them into the hand of Abijah and Judah. 16Israel fled before Judah and God gave Judah the victory. 17Abijah and his army won the day; five hundred thousand of Israel’s crack troops were killed.
18So, the Israelites were defeated that time and Judah was the victor because they leaned on the LORD, the God of their ancestors. 19Abijah pressed the advantage and captured cities from Jeroboam: Bethel and Jeshanah and Ephron, each with its outlying settlements.
20Jeroboam never rebounded from his defeat during Abijah’s rule; the LORD struck him down, and he died. 21Abijah, however, grew more powerful. He married fourteen wives and was the father of twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters. 22The rest of Abijah’s deeds and accomplishments are recorded in the records of the prophet Iddo.
1-2: Abijah’s reign only lasted three years. When we read the account of his reign, we find ourselves wondering how all that could have happened in such a short span of time.
3-7: The wars between Rehoboam of Judah and Jeroboam of Israel continued with Abijah now on Judah’s throne. Abijah’s 400,000 troops align themselves against Jeroboam’s 800,000 troops, and Abijah takes up a position on a hill overlooking the battlefield and issues a challenge. He announces that God has given the throne to David and his ancestors, and that Jeroboam is an imposter.
8-12: Abijah continues his taunt. The Israelites have abandoned the LORD, he says, and just because they have a lot of soldiers and two golden calves with them is no guarantee of their success. Just the opposite, in fact, because Israel under Jeroboam has driven out the established priesthood of Aaron’s descendants and the Levites (who deserted to Judah when the secession took place – see 11:13-17). Anybody can buy the priesthood in Israel, he says, just by bringing a bull or seven rams, but they will be priests of no god. In Judah, he says, they have real priests who offer proper sacrifices in the right times and in the right place. Indeed, the priests are with us right now, he says, and they’re going to blow their trumpets to send us into battle against you. You’d better not try to fight against the LORD, he says. What a speech!
13-22: Jeroboam, meanwhile, has snuck some troops around behind the army of Judah for an ambush. But when the priests blow the trumpets and the battle begins, Judah, having the high ground, prevails and the Israelite army is utterly defeated. Abijah pursues Jeroboam north and captures several major cities of Israel. Israel is weakened and Jeroboam never recovers from the defeat. He dies (but according to 1 Kings 15:8-9 he outlives Abijah). Abijah grows stronger and stronger. He married 14 women and fathered 22 sons and 16 daughters, but remember he was already forty-one when he ascended to the throne. This view of Abijah and his reign is in stark contrast to the summary presented in 1 Kings, which declares Abijah (Abijam in 1 Kings) to have been a wicked king, and his battle with Jeroboam gets only a passing comment without mentioning who is victorious (1 Kings 15:1-8)!
2 Chronicles from now on will deal almost entirely with the reigns of the kings of Judah and will mention the kings of Israel only when they fight the kings of Judah.
2 Chronicles follows the history of the kingdom of Judah. No mention will be made of Elijah and Elisha, who were prophets of Israel, the northern kingdom, or the major events that took place in the north. Judah’s capital is Jerusalem, where the temple is located. God chose Jerusalem as the place where they would worship and bring sacrifices. That sanctity of place has a counterpart in Catholicism, with Rome as its center, but there is no corresponding center in other branches of Christianity. Still, many of our church sanctuaries have altars on which offerings are laid during Sunday worship, and that practice does hearken back to the sacrificial offerings described in the worship of ancient Israel.