…So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. – 2 Chronicles 10:19
The strife between Jeroboam and the house of David – between the ten northern tribes of Israel and the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin – is revisited once Abijah succeeds Rehoboam in Jerusalem. Notice the term the author uses to describe this conflict: in rebellion. Also remember that the success of this rebellion was ordained by God – fulfilling the LORD’s word to Jeroboam. Unless the author was flippant with his words, his perspective is that God permitted Jeroboam and his followers to be in active revolt – for the LORD’s own reasons – against the throne in Jerusalem.
Consider how this might be reconciled. From Judah’s perspective, Israel is rebelling against the house that the LORD has placed over Israel. However, look closely at those promises to David and Solomon in 1 Chronicles 17 and 2 Chronicles 7: the LORD promises that 'You shall not lack a man to rule Israel.' There is no assurance of how large that kingdom would be. You can decide for yourself whether this is parsing too closely, but the LORD is able to fulfill His promises to both David and Jeroboam, and it’s a matter of perspective whether this constitutes a rebellion against, or fulfillment of, God’s ordained purposes.
But we’ll know right away the perspective of Abijah when he goes out to Ephraim today to squash the rebellion his father could not. The record of this battle is dominated by Abijah’s speech on Mount Zemaraim, where he rebukes Jeroboam and “the worthless scoundrels gathered about him,” for their rebellion against “the kingdom of the LORD in the hand of the sons of David,” and for expelling “the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron” and making “priests for yourselves like the peoples of other lands.” Listen closely to Abijah’s observations; you’re allowed to assess his conclusions based on what you know of the promise to David and the history of this conflict. You’re also invited by the author to assess Abijah’s reign, and the health of Judah, based on the outcome of this battle.
Abijah’s short reign is followed by Asa’s, in whose days the land had rest for ten years. He is the first king since Solomon of whom it is asserted that he did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God. Notice what follows to explain this assessment: “He took away foreign altars and the high places…and commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandments. In return for this faithfulness, He had no war in those years, for the LORD gave him peace.” Once again, the LORD’s promises to David and Solomon form the backbone of the story, and guide Judah’s fortunes.
Our verse for this week is Matthew 25:40: And the king will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.”
2 Chronicles 13 through 15. Now let’s read it!
2 Chronicles 13 - 15
13:1 In the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam, Abijah began to reign over Judah. He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Micaiah the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah.
Now there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. Abijah went out to battle, having an army of valiant men of war, 400,000 chosen men. And Jeroboam drew up his line of battle against him with 800,000 chosen mighty warriors. Then Abijah stood up on Mount Zemaraim that is in the hill country of Ephraim and said, “Hear me, O Jeroboam and all Israel! Ought you not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt? Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, a servant of Solomon the son of David, rose up and rebelled against his lord, and certain worthless scoundrels gathered about him and defied Rehoboam the son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and irresolute and could not withstand them.
“And now you think to withstand the kingdom of the LORD in the hand of the sons of David, because you are a great multitude and have with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made you for gods. Have you not driven out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and made priests for yourselves like the peoples of other lands? Whoever comes for ordination with a young bull or seven rams becomes a priest of what are not gods. But as for us, the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken him. We have priests ministering to the LORD who are sons of Aaron, and Levites for their service. They offer to the LORD every morning and every evening burnt offerings and incense of sweet spices, set out the showbread on the table of pure gold, and care for the golden lampstand that its lamps may burn every evening. For we keep the charge of the LORD our God, but you have forsaken him. Behold, God is with us at our head, and his priests with their battle trumpets to sound the call to battle against you. O sons of Israel, do not fight against the LORD, the God of your fathers, for you cannot succeed.”
Jeroboam had sent an ambush around to come upon them from behind. Thus his troops were in front of Judah, and the ambush was behind them. And when Judah looked, behold, the battle was in front of and behind them. And they cried to the LORD, and the priests blew the trumpets. Then the men of Judah raised the battle shout. And when the men of Judah shouted, God defeated Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. The men of Israel fled before Judah, and God gave them into their hand. Abijah and his people struck them with great force, so there fell slain of Israel 500,000 chosen men. Thus the men of Israel were subdued at that time, and the men of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the LORD, the God of their fathers. And Abijah pursued Jeroboam and took cities from him, Bethel with its villages and Jeshanah with its villages and Ephron with its villages. Jeroboam did not recover his power in the days of Abijah. And the LORD struck him down, and he died. But Abijah grew mighty. And he took fourteen wives and had twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters. The rest of the acts of Abijah, his ways and his sayings, are written in the story of the prophet Iddo.
14:1 Abijah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David. And Asa his son reigned in his place. In his days the land had rest for ten years. And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God. He took away the foreign altars and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim and commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment. He also took out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars. And the kingdom had rest under him. He built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest. He had no war in those years, for the LORD gave him peace. And he said to Judah, “Let us build these cities and surround them with walls and towers, gates and bars. The land is still ours, because we have sought the LORD our God. We have sought him, and he has given us peace on every side.” So they built and prospered. And Asa had an army of 300,000 from Judah, armed with large shields and spears, and 280,000 men from Benjamin that carried shields and drew bows. All these were mighty men of valor.
Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and 300 chariots, and came as far as Mareshah. And Asa went out to meet him, and they drew up their lines of battle in the Valley of Zephathah at Mareshah. And Asa cried to the LORD his God, “O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O LORD, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.” So the LORD defeated the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. Asa and the people who were with him pursued them as far as Gerar, and the Ethiopians fell until none remained alive, for they were broken before the LORD and his army. The men of Judah carried away very much spoil. And they attacked all the cities around Gerar, for the fear of the LORD was upon them. They plundered all the cities, for there was much plunder in them. And they struck down the tents of those who had livestock and carried away sheep in abundance and camels. Then they returned to Jerusalem.
15:1 The Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The LORD is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. For a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest and without law, but when in their distress they turned to the LORD, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them. In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for great disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. They were broken in pieces. Nation was crushed by nation and city by city, for God troubled them with every sort of distress. But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”
As soon as Asa heard these words, the prophecy of Azariah the son of Oded, he took courage and put away the detestable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities that he had taken in the hill country of Ephraim, and he repaired the altar of the LORD that was in front of the vestibule of the house of the LORD. And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and those from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon who were residing with them, for great numbers had deserted to him from Israel when they saw that the LORD his God was with him. They were gathered at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa. They sacrificed to the LORD on that day from the spoil that they had brought 700 oxen and 7,000 sheep. And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul, but that whoever would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman. They swore an oath to the LORD with a loud voice and with shouting and with trumpets and with horns. And all Judah rejoiced over the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and had sought him with their whole desire, and he was found by them, and the LORD gave them rest all around.
Even Maacah, his mother, King Asa removed from being queen mother because she had made a detestable image for Asherah. Asa cut down her image, crushed it, and burned it at the brook Kidron. But the high places were not taken out of Israel. Nevertheless, the heart of Asa was wholly true all his days. And he brought into the house of God the sacred gifts of his father and his own sacred gifts, silver, and gold, and vessels. And there was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of the reign of Asa.