Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam began Abijah to reign over Judah.
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.2 Chronicles 13:2. His mother’s name was Michaiah, the daughter of Uriel —
Called Maachah, the daughter of Absalom, 1 Kings 15:2. She might be daughter to one, and grand-daughter to the other: or the proper and natural daughter of the one, and the other’s daughter by adoption.
And Abijah set the battle in array with an army of valiant men of war, even four hundred thousand chosen men: Jeroboam also set the battle in array against him with eight hundred thousand chosen men, being mighty men of valour.2 Chronicles 13:3. Abijah set the battle in array — Namely, against Jeroboam, having, no doubt, God’s authority to engage with him in battle. It is probable, indeed, that Jeroboam was the aggressor, and that what Abijah did was in his own necessary defence.
And Abijah stood up upon mount Zemaraim, which is in mount Ephraim, and said, Hear me, thou Jeroboam, and all Israel;2 Chronicles 13:4. Abijah stood upon mount Zemaraim — Some commodious place whence his words might be heard by Jeroboam, and some of his army, who possibly were pitched in the valley. Or, the two armies being pitched near each other, Abijah desired a parley before they fought, to see if they could accommodate matters without shedding blood. Whereupon Jeroboam and some of his commanders and soldiers probably drew near to him, and stood below at the bottom of the hill, from whence they could hear him. And this, it is likely, Jeroboam was the more willing to do, that in the mean time he might cause an ambushment to come behind Abijah and his army, as he did, (2 Chronicles 13:13,) while he was quietly standing before them, and seemed to hearken to any terms of accommodation which were offered.
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?2 Chronicles 13:5. By a covenant of salt — A perpetual covenant. The reason of this mode of expression seems to arise from the preserving nature of salt; which, therefore, was made a symbol of friendship and fidelity. It is most likely, that in all solemn covenants which were confirmed by sacrifice, it was an ancient custom to offer salt with the sacrifice, to denote the faith and perpetuity of the covenant; so that, in this view, a covenant of salt will signify a covenant confirmed by sacrifice. See note on Numbers 18:19.
Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, is risen up, and hath rebelled against his lord.
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.2 Chronicles 13:7. Vain men, children of Belial — Such as have cast off the yoke and the obedience which they owed both to God and to their king. When Rehoboam was young — Not in age, for he was then forty-one years old, but in his kingdom, which he had but newly obtained, and in experience in politics, and especially in military affairs, to which he was, indeed, wholly a stranger, having been born and brought up in a time of great peace and security.
And now ye think to withstand the kingdom of the LORD in the hand of the sons of David; and ye be a great multitude, and there are with you golden calves, which Jeroboam made you for gods.2 Chronicles 13:8. Ye think to withstand the kingdom of the Lord — That kingdom which was not set up by vain men, in pursuance of their own ambition and discontent, as yours was, but ordained and established by God himself in the house of David. And ye be — Or, because ye be, a great multitude — This he mentions, as being both the ground of their confidence, namely, that they had more tribes, and a greater host; and also a presage of their downfall, which their trusting to the arm of flesh was. And there are with you golden calves — Or, But there are, &c. There is that among you which may damp your courage and confidence: you worship those images which God abhors. Which Jeroboam made you for gods — Or, for God, as that plural word is most commonly used: that is, instead of God, to give them the name of God, and that worship which is peculiar to him.
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.2 Chronicles 13:9. Have ye not cast out the priests of the Lord? — The house of Aaron, whom God appointed to minister in holy things. And have made you priests, after the manner of the nations? — In conformity to the custom of the idolatrous nations. So that whosoever cometh to consecrate himself with a young bullock — To make himself a priest, Leviticus 7:3. Whosoever desires to be in the office, and will be at the charge of his consecration, though ever so much a scandal to the character; the same may be a priest of them that are no gods — That have nothing of the nature or power of gods, though you give them that name. Such, however, though very unfit to be priests, were most fit of all others to be their priests. For what could be more suitable to gods that were no gods, than priests that were no priests?
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:2 Chronicles 13:10. But the Lord is our God — Hebrew, Jehovah, the only true and great God. And we have not forsaken him — We maintain his honour and worship, which you have ungratefully rejected. And he is able to protect us and give us success.
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.2 Chronicles 13:11. The show-bread upon the pure table — So called, because it was made of pure gold, Exodus 25:23-24. He saith, table and candlestick, though there were ten of each, because ordinarily there was but one of each used at a time. We keep the charge of the Lord our God —
We worship no images, have no priests but those whom he has ordained, no rites of worship but what he has prescribed. Both the temple-service and the temple-furniture are of his appointing: his appointment we abide by, and neither add nor diminish. Perhaps he flattered himself that his keeping up the external worship of God would make satisfaction for the errors of his life. Or he said this, that he might thereby encourage his own soldiers, and convince or terrify his enemies.
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.2 Chronicles 13:12. Behold, God himself is with us for our captain — Here in our camp. We may be sure he is with us, because we are with him. And as a token of his presence we have here with us his priests, sounding his trumpets — According to the law, as a testimony against you, and an assurance to us, that in the day of battle we shall be remembered before the Lord our God, and saved from our enemies. See Numbers 10:9, where this sacred signal is thus explained. Nothing is so effectual to imbolden men, and give them courage and fortitude in the day of battle, as to have an assurance that God is with them, and fighteth for them. Fight ye not against the God of your fathers — It is folly to fight against the God of almighty power; but it is treachery, and base ingratitude, to fight against your fathers’ God, and you cannot expect to prosper. Thus he concludes with giving them fair warning.
But Jeroboam caused an ambushment to come about behind them: so they were before Judah, and the ambushment was behind them.2 Chronicles 13:13. But Jeroboam caused an ambushment to come behind — While Abijah was discoursing, he took the advantage thus afforded him of sending a party of soldiers privately to lie in ambush, and attack Abijah’s army behind, while he continued to face them with his main body. It does not appear that he made any answer to Abijah’s speech. The longest sword, he thinks, must determine the matter, not the better cause.
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.2 Chronicles 13:14. Behold, the battle was before and behind — Thus Judah was unexpectedly brought into a great strait, and put into great fear. A good cause, and one which is designed to be victorious, may be involved in difficulty and distress. And they cried unto the Lord — For when danger was on every side, which way should they look but upward for deliverance? It is an unspeakable comfort, that no enemy, not the most powerful or politic, and no stratagem or ambushment, can cut off our communication with heaven. Our way thitherward is always open. We may hope they cried unto the Lord before they engaged in this war; but the distress they were in made them renew their prayers, and quickened them to be more importunate. God brings his people into straits, that he may teach them to cry unto him.
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.2 Chronicles 13:15. Then the men of Judah gave a shout — In confidence of victory, the priests animating them by sounding the trumpets, and giving them assurance of God’s presence with them. To the cry of prayer they added the shout of faith, and so became more than conquerors. God smote Jeroboam and all Israel — He struck him and his army with such terror and amazement, that, it appears, they could not strike a stroke, but fled with the greatest precipitation imaginable, and the conquerors gave no quarter; so that they put to the sword five hundred thousand chosen men; more (it is said) than ever we read of in any history to have been killed in one battle. But the battle was the Lord’s; who would thus chastise the idolatry of Israel, and own the house of David. But see the sad effects of division! It was the blood of Israelites which was thus shed like water by Israelites, while the heathen, their neighbours, to whom the name of Israel had formerly been a terror, cried, Aha, so would we have it.
And the children of Israel fled before Judah: and God delivered them into their hand.
And Abijah and his people slew them with a great slaughter: so there fell down slain of Israel five hundred thousand chosen men.
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.2 Chronicles 13:18. Thus the children of Israel were brought under at that time — And had not the determinate counsel of God been otherwise, surely so great a blow would have brought them back to the house of David. And Judah prevailed, because they relied on the God of their fathers — It was not by their own valour that they obtained this great victory, but by their relying on God, their depending on his power to help them, and their committing themselves and their cause to him.
And Abijah pursued after Jeroboam, and took cities from him, Bethel with the towns thereof, and Jeshanah with the towns thereof, and Ephrain with the towns thereof.2 Chronicles 13:19. Abijah took cities from him, Beth-el, &c. — Which, however, Jeroboam recovered afterward, as appears by the course of the history. What became of the golden calf at Beth-el, when that place came thus into the hands of the king of Judah, we are not told. Probably when Jeroboam’s host was discomfited, and he expected that Abijah would pursue his victory, he removed the golden calf from thence to some safer place. And Ephraim — A city so called, possibly the same which is mentioned John 11:54; or that which is called Ophra, Jdg 8:27.
Neither did Jeroboam recover strength again in the days of Abijah: and the LORD struck him, and he died.2 Chronicles 13:20. The Lord struck him — Either with vexation and horror of mind, or with some painful and lingering, but incurable disease, like that of Jehoram, which tormented him two years together, and at last killed him, 2 Chronicles 21:19. And he died — Not immediately, but a year or two after this time. He escaped the sword of Abijah; but there is no escaping God’s sword.
But Abijah waxed mighty, and married fourteen wives, and begat twenty and two sons, and sixteen daughters.2 Chronicles 13:21. Abijah married fourteen wives — Not now after this victory, for he died soon after it; but in the whole time of his life, before he was king, and afterward.
And the rest of the acts of Abijah, and his ways, and his sayings, are written in the story of the prophet Iddo.