Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Kings Of Israel And Judah. Day 59, War Between Israel And Judah, Part Two

King Abijah of Judah and King Jeroboam of Israel have come out with their troops in battle array against each other. The Bible doesn't provide us with the reason for this conflict but we were told that Jeroboam and Rehoboam (Abijah's father), were always at odds and the same is true now that Rehoboam's son sits on the throne of Judah.

Abijah has been shouting an impassioned speech from a very visible spot on Mount Zemaraim. The speech is intended to encourage his own troops that the Lord is with them and it's intended to discourage Jeroboam's troops because they have forsaken the worship of the living God for Jeroboam's state sponsored idolatry. Abijah is declaring to everyone within earshot that the Lord will not be on the side of the golden calf worshipers of Israel but that He is on the side of the people of Judah who are still going up to the temple to worship. 

We don't know how faithful the people of Judah were in Abijah's day. During his father's reign both his father and the people began engaging in the pagan practices of the tribes of Canaan. Then the Lord allowed the Egyptian army to attack the nation, at which time the nation's leadership and its people admitted their guilt and experienced a revival. Whether that revival is still ongoing during Abijah's day, we cannot say for certain, but we know that the idolatrous images and altars are still in the land because Abijah's son will remove a large number of them when he comes to the throne. Regardless of these pagan worship sites still being in the land, I believe that the majority of people during the remainder of Rehoboam's reign and during the three years of Abijah's reign turned back to the Lord, either partially or entirely. 

While Abijah shouts from he mountain, he asserts, "As for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken Him. The priests who serve the Lord are sons of Aaron, and the Levites assist them. Every morning and evening, they present burnt offerings and fragrant incense to the Lord. They set out the bread on the ceremonially clean table and light the lamps on the gold lampstand every evening. We are observing the requirements of the Lord our God. But you have forsaken Him. God is with us; He is our leader. His priests with their trumpets will sound the battle cry against you. People of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the God of our ancestors, for you will not succeed." (2 Chronicles 13:10-12) 

Abijah wants to thoroughly demoralize Jeroboam's troops with these words. He's saying, "We are on the side of right---on the side of the Lord! You know the Lord promised David an enduring kingdom. You have no right to come up against the kingdom of Judah to try to bring it down and claim it for King Jeroboam. The Lord is on our side, not yours. If you go into battle with us to try to subdue our kingdom, you will certainly lose."

"Now Jeroboam had sent troops around to the rear, so that while he was in front of Judah the ambush was behind them. Judah turned and saw that they were being attacked at both front and rear. Then they cried out to the Lord. The priests blew their trumpets and the men of Judah raised the battle cry. At the sound of their battle cry, God routed Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. The Israelites fled before Judah, and God delivered them into their hands. Abijah and his troops inflicted heavy losses on them, so that there were five hundred thousand casualties among Israel's able men. The Israelites were subdued on that occasion, and the people of Judah were victorious because they relied on the Lord, the God of their ancestors. Abijah pursued Jeroboam and took from him the towns of Bethel, Jeshanah and Ephron, with their surrounding villages. Jeroboam did not regain power during the time of Abijah. And the Lord struck him down and he died." (2 Chronicles 13:13-20) This is a major victory for Judah. Jeroboam had begun with twice as many troops as Abijah but now he has lost 500,000 of his 800,000 men and he has lost three important cities, with the most important one being Bethel which was the religious center of his kingdom. 

The Bible tells us that during the remainder of his reign, Jeroboam was unable to amass a large army like this again. At the beginning of our chapter we were informed that Abijah became king during the eighteenth year of Jeroboam's reign. We don't know how soon after Abijah's ascension to the throne that Jeroboam made war with him, but Jeroboam's total reign was twenty-two years. He is almost at the end of it and although the Bible doesn't tell us when and where and how he died, the Bible makes it clear that the Lord allowed him to die not long after the battle of Chapter 13 as judgment for his sinfulness.

By contrast, Abijah prospers. "But Abijah grew in strength. He married fourteen wives and had twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters. The other events of Abijah's reign, what he did and what he said, are written in the annotations of the prophet Iddo." (2 Chronicles 13:21-22) I assume he must have already been married to some of these women before he came to the throne. It doesn't seem possible that fourteen women could have carried and given birth to thirty-eight babies during the three years Abijah was king. Each woman would have had to have gotten pregnant, carried a child to term, and given birth each year for three years in a row. If we want to get mathematically accurate about it, each woman would have had to produce 2.71 children. 

We have some additional information about Abijah's life from the book of 1 Kings. "He committed the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of his forefather David had been." (1 Kings 15:3) We speculated yesterday that Abijah could have been as old as middle age when he became king since his father didn't ascend to the throne until the age of forty-one. So does this mean his sins of idolatry occurred before the Egyptians invaded Judah during Rehoboam's reign and the people experienced a religious revival? Or did he continue to blend heathen worship elements with his worship of the one true God until the end of his life? The timeline on this is not clear at all. All we know for sure is that Abijah speaks in our text today as if he is wholly committed to the Lord or at least trusting in the Lord's promise of a powerful dynasty for King David's descendants. 

He was right to trust in this promise, for the author of 1 Kings tells us, "Nevertheless, for David's sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem by raising up a son to succeed him and by making Jerusalem strong. For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord's commands all the days of his life---except in the case of Uriah the Hittite." (1 Kings 15:4-5) For the sake of the promise the Lord made to David---the promise He made him because David's heart was fully committed to the Lord although in his human weakness he made some mistakes---the Lord gives Abijah a godly son to succeed him as king of Judah. We will be studying this son, whose name is Asa, as we continue on through the study of the kings. We close today with the death of King Abijah. "And Abijah rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. And Asa his son succeeded him as king." (1 Kings 15:8, 2 Chronicles 14:1a) 

We will be pausing the daily Bible study until Monday, November 28th, due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Tomorrow my husband and I will be going to visit some of my family in-state and then for three days we'll be visiting his mother out of state. I won't have access to Wi-Fi there so we will pick up where we left off on the 28th. In the meantime I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving!

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