Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam began Abijah to reign over Judah.Ch. 2 Chronicles 13:1-2 (= 1 Kings 15:1-2). Abijah succeeds
1. Abijah] Called Abijam in the Heb. of 1 Kin. (LXX. Ἀβιού, i.e. Abijahu).
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. Michaiah] Read with LXX., Maacah; cp. note on 2 Chronicles 11:20.
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.3. Abijah set the battle in array] R.V. Abijah joined battle.
four hundred thousand … eight hundred thousand] It is to be noted that the Chronicler does not expressly say that these two huge armies met on one field of battle. In 2 Samuel 24:9 (David’s numbering) the fighting men of Israel are given at 800,000 and the fighting men of Judah at 500,000. Similarly the Chronicler may mean to state here the whole armed strength of Israel and Judah without committing himself to the number of those who actually took the field. The language is not precise, for the Chronicler is little interested in military details. It should be noted, moreover, that the numbers precede the mention of the battlefield, and therefore are not necessarily to be included in the account of the fight.
Similarly it is to be noted that the Chronicler does not say in 2 Chronicles 13:17 that 500,000 of Israel fell in one day (contrast 2 Chronicles 28:6). Rather, he implies that the war continued for some time (2 Chronicles 13:19).
3–20 (no parallel in 1 Kin.). The Battle of Zemaraim
The historical probabilities of this account are discussed in the Introduction, § 8.
And Abijah stood up upon mount Zemaraim, which is in mount Ephraim, and said, Hear me, thou Jeroboam, and all Israel;4. Abijah stood up] it was natural that Abijah should attempt a conference before beginning civil war, both because his was the weaker side numerically and because he had a telling appeal to make to the revolted tribes (2 Chronicles 13:8; 2 Chronicles 13:12). It was equally natural that Jeroboam should break off the conference after using it to cover his stratagem (2 Chronicles 13:13).
Zemaraim] A Zemaraim is mentioned in Joshua 18:22 as one of the cities of Benjamin, whereas here Mount Zemaraim is assigned to Ephraim. The natural inference is that the battle took place on the border of the two kingdoms.
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?5. a covenant of salt] Salt was necessary for the efficacy of a sacrifice (Leviticus 2:13), so that Covenant of salt became a phrase for a sure covenant (Numbers 18:19). The sacredness of the bond which is acknowledged among the Arabs between two persons who have “eaten salt” together as host and guest is common knowledge. It is not however necessary that salt should be taken; any food, e.g. milk, will serve (W. R. Smith, Religion of the Semites, p. 270).
Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, is risen up, and hath rebelled against his lord.6. is risen up, and hath rebelled] R.V. rose up, and rebelled.
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.7. are gathered] R.V. were gathered.
children of Belial] R.V. sons of Belial (mg. sons of worthlessness). The general sense “worthless persons” is clear, but the precise meaning of Belial, and whether the word be a proper name or a common noun, cannot be decided at present.
young] Lit. a child. If this word is to be literally understood, the statement made is erroneous, for Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he began to reign (2 Chronicles 12:13). It is probable, however, that the word is used metaphorically to describe one who was young (as indeed his conduct shewed) in experience of government; so Solomon (1 Kings 3:7) calls himself a little child, by which he simply meant to express his consciousness of the smallness of his own ability when compared with the greatness of the task which lay before him. Cp. 1 Chronicles 29:1.
tender hearted] i.e., according to Heb. phraseology, weak in understanding, the heart being considered to be the seat of the mind. Or we may translate the Heb. phrase as in Deuteronomy 20:8, fainthearted.
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.
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.9. cast out] R.V. driven out; cp. note on 2 Chronicles 11:14.
to consecrate himself] Lit. to fill his hand. Moses is directed (Exodus 29:1 ff.) to ordain Aaron and his sons priests by three ceremonies: (1) by anointing them, (2) by filling their hands, i.e. by presenting them with victims upon which they laid their hands, (3) by hallowing them, i.e. by sprinkling some of the blood of the victim upon them.
a young bullock and seven rams] Aaronic priests were consecrated with a young bullock and two rams (Exodus 29:1).
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:10. and the priests, which minister unto the Lord, are the sons of Aaron] R.V. and we have priests ministering unto the LORD, the sons of Aaron.
wait upon their business] R.V. in their work (sc. ministering to the Lord as above). Part of the ideal of the Priestly Code was that the Levites should be restricted to the duty of helping the priests, and should be prevented from executing priestly functions themselves. With this ideal the Chronicler plainly sympathised, but it could not always be realised.
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.11. every morning and every evening] Exodus 29:38-42.
sweet incense] Exodus 30:7.
the shew bread also set they in order] Lit. and an ordering of bread [they set in order]. The Heb. phrase used here for “shewbread” signifies bread arranged as for an offering. Another term is “bread of the presence,” i.e. bread set forth continually before the Lord (Exodus 25:30).
the candlestick] Exodus 25:31 ff; Exodus 40:24-25.
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.12. God himself is with us for our captain] R.V. God is with us at our head.
with sounding trumpets] R.V. with the trumpets of alarm (Numbers 10:9). Abijah here threatens his opponents with a jihâd or holy war.
But Jeroboam caused an ambushment to come about behind them: so they were before Judah, and the ambushment was behind them.13. Jeroboam caused an ambushment] While Abijah was endeavouring to shake the fidelity of the Northern army, the Northern leader was not idle.
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.
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.15. gave a shout] This shout had the character of a religions function; cp. Joshua 6:10; Joshua 6:16, where the same Heb. word is used.
God smote Jeroboam] Cp. 2 Chronicles 14:12.
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.17. five hundred thousand] Contrast this statement with 2 Chronicles 28:6, a hundred and twenty thousand in one day. The absence of the phrase in one day from the present passage is significant. It seems probable, when we consider the small interest taken by the Chronicler in military matters as such and the consequent looseness of his language regarding them, that he may intend 500,000 to represent the losses, not of a single battle, but of the whole campaign. That some farther fighting took place is suggested by 2 Chronicles 13:19. Even so the losses are doubtless exaggerated.
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.18. because they relied] Cp. note on 2 Chronicles 12:2.
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.19. Beth-el] Beth-el was apparently subsequently recovered by the Northern Kingdom; cp. 2 Kings 10:29. Nothing is said, be it noted, of the capture of the golden calf. It may have been removed for safety before the city was taken.
Jeshanah] Nothing is certainly known of this place, which is mentioned here only. It has been identified with Ain Sînia, a little to the north of Beth-el.
Ephrain] R.V. Ephron (following the C’thîb, whereas A.V. agrees with the K’rî). Ephrain is a later form of the name Ephron, as Shamrain (Ezra 4:10; Ezra 4:17) is of Shomron (Samaria). The place has been identified with eṭ-Ṭaiyebeh, a place S.E. of Ain Sînia and N.E. of Beitin (Beth-el). It was probably the city called Ephraim, to which our Lord retired after the raising of Lazarus (John 11:54).
Neither did Jeroboam recover strength again in the days of Abijah: and the LORD struck him, and he died.20. the Lord struck him, and he died] The same phrase is used of the death of Nabal (1 Samuel 25:38); it implies suddenness or some other unusual circumstance (cp. Acts 12:13, the death of Herod Agrippa). In 1 Kings 14:20 it is simply Jeroboam … slept with his fathers.
But Abijah waxed mighty, and married fourteen wives, and begat twenty and two sons, and sixteen daughters.21, 22. The Epilogue of Abijah’s Reign
21. married] R.V. took unto himself. The many wives (fourteen) are mentioned here as a symbol of the wealth and state of Abijah.
And the rest of the acts of Abijah, and his ways, and his sayings, are written in the story of the prophet Iddo.22. in the story] R.V. in the commentary, Heb. midrash. See Introduction, § 5.
Iddo] See note on 2 Chronicles 9:29.