Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Reign of Abijah - 2 Chronicles 13
In the book of Kings it is merely remarked in general, that the hostile relationship between Jeroboam and Rehoboam continued during his whole life, and that between Abijah and Jeroboam there was war (Ch2 13:6 and Ch2 13:7); but not one of his enterprises is recounted, and only his attitude towards the Lord is exactly characterized. In our chapter, on the contrary, we have a vivid and circumstantial narrative of the commencement, course, and results of a great war against Jeroboam, in which Abijah, with the help of the Lord, inflicted a crushing defeat on the great army of the Israelites, and conquered several cities.
2 Chronicles 13:1
The commencement and duration of the reign, as in Kg1 15:1-2. Abijah's mother is here (Ch2 13:2) called Michaiah instead of Maachah, as in Ch2 11:20 and Kg1 15:2, but it can hardly be a second name which Maachah had received for some unknown reason; probably מיכיהו is a mere orthographical error for מעכה. She is here called, not the daughter = granddaughter of Abishalom, but after her father, the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah; see on Ch2 11:20.
(Note: Against this Bertheau remarks, after the example of Thenius: "When we consider that the wife of Abijah and mother of Asa was also called Maachah, Kg1 15:13; Ch2 15:16, and that in Kg1 15:2 this Maachah is again called the daughter of Abishalom, and that this latter statement is not met with in the Chronicle, we are led to conjecture that Maachah, the mother of Abijah, the daughter of Abishalom, has been confounded with Maachah the mother of Asa, the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah, and that in our passage Asa's mother is erroneously named instead of the mother of Abijah." This conjecture is a strange fabric of perverted facts and inconsequential reasoning. In Kg1 15:2 Abijam's mother is called Maachah the daughter of Abishalom, exactly as in Ch2 11:20 and Ch2 11:21; and in Kg1 15:13, in perfect agreement with Ch2 15:16, it is stated that Asa removed Maachah from the dignity of Gebira because she had made herself a statute of Asherah. This Maachah, deposed by Asa, is called in Kg1 15:10 the daughter of Abishalom, and only this latter remark is omitted from the Chronicle. How from these statements we must conclude that the mother of Abijah, Maachah the daughter of Abishalom, has been confounded with Maachah the mother of Asa, the daughter of Uriel, we cannot see. The author of the book of Kings knows only one Maachah, the daughter of Abishalom, whom in Ch2 15:2 he calls mother, i.e., גּבירה, i.e., Sultana Walide of Abijah, and in Ch2 15:10 makes to stand in the same relationship of mother to Asa. From this, however, the only natural and logically sound conclusion which can be drawn is that Abijam's mother, Rehoboam's wife, occupied the position of queen-mother, not merely during the three years' reign of Abijam, but also during the first years of the reign of his son Asa, as his grandmother, until Asa had deprived her of this dignity because of her idolatry. It is nowhere said in Scripture that this woman was Abijam's wife, but that is a conclusion drawn by Thenius and Bertheau only from her being called אמּו, his (Asa's) mother, as if אם could denote merely the actual mother, and not the grandmother. Finally, the omission in the Chronicle of the statement in Kg1 15:10, "The name of his mother was Maachah, the daughter of Abishalom," does not favour in the very least the conjecture that Asa's mother has been confounded with the mother of Abijah; for it is easily explained by the fact that at the accession of Asa no change was made in reference to the dignity of queen-mother, Abijah's mother still holding that position even under Asa.)
2 Chronicles 13:3
The War between Abijah and Jeroboam. - היתה מלחמה, war arose, broke out.
Abijah began the war with an army of 400,000 valiant warriors. בּחוּר אישׁ, chosen men. את מ אסר, to bind on war, i.e., to open the war. Jeroboam prepared for the war with 800,000 warriors. The number of Jeroboam's warriors is exactly that which Joab returned as the result, as to Israel, of the numbering of the people commanded by David, while that of Abijah's army is less by 100,000 men than Joab numbered in Judah (Sa2 24:9).
When the two armies lay over against each other, ready for the combat, Abijah addressed the enemy, King Jeroboam and all Israel, in a speech from Mount Zemaraim. The mountain צמרים is met with only here; but a city of this name is mentioned in Jos 18:22, whence we would incline to the conclusion that the mountain near or upon which this city lay was intended. But if this city was situated to the east, not only of Bethel, but also of Jerusalem, on the road to Jericho (see on Jos 18:22), as we may conclude from its enumeration between Beth-arabah and Bethel in Josh. loc. cit., it will not suit our passage, at least if Zemaraim be really represented by the ruin el Sumra to the east of Khan Hadur on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho. Robinson (Phys. Geog. S. 38) conjectures Mount Zemaraim to the east of Bethel, near the border of the two kingdoms, to which Mount Ephraim also extends. Abijah represented first of all (Ch2 13:5-7) to Jeroboam and the Israelites that their kingdom was the result of a revolt against Jahve, who had given the kingship over Israel to David and his sons for ever.
"Is it not to you to know?" i.e., can it be unknown to you? מלח בּרית, accus. of nearer definition: after the fashion of a covenant of salt, i.e., of an irrevocable covenant; cf. on Lev 2:13 and Num 18:19. "And Jeroboam, the servant of Solomon the son of David (cf. Kg1 11:11), rebelled against his lord," with the help of frivolous, worthless men (רקים as in Jdg 9:4; Jdg 11:3; בליּעל בּני as in Kg1 21:10, Kg1 21:13 -not recurring elsewhere in the Chronicle), who gathered around him, and rose against Rehoboam with power. על התאמּץ, to show oneself powerful, to show power against any one. Against this rising Rehoboam showed himself not strong enough, because he was an inexperienced man and soft of heart. נער denotes not "a boy," for Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he entered upon his reign, but "an inexperienced young man," as in Ch1 29:1. לבב רך, soft of heart, i.e., faint-hearted, inclined to give way, without energy to make a stand against those rising insolently against him. lp' התחזק ולא, and showed himself not strong before them, proved to be too weak in opposition to them. This representation does not conform to the state of the case as narrated in 2 Chron 10. Rehoboam did not appear soft-hearted and compliant in the negotiation with the rebellious tribes at Sichem; on the contrary, he was hard and defiant, and showed himself youthfully inconsiderate only in throwing to the winds the wise advice of the older men, and in pursuance of the rash counsel of the young men who had grown up with him, brought about the rupture by his domineering manner. But Abijah wishes to justify his father as much as possible in his speech, and shifts all the guilt of the rebellion of the ten tribes from the house of David on to Jeroboam and his worthless following.
Abijah then points out to his opponents the vanity of their trust in the great multitude of their warriors and their gods, while yet they had driven out the priests of Jahve. "And now ye say," scil. in your heart, i.e., you think to show yourself strong before the kingdom of Jahve in the hands of the sons of David, i.e., against the kingdom of Jahve ruled over by the sons of David, by raising a great army in order to make war upon and to destroy this kingdom. רב המון ואתּם, and truly ye are a great multitude, and with you are the golden calves, which Jeroboam hath made to you for gods; but trust not unto them, for Jahve, the true God, have ye not for you as a helper.
"Yea, ye have cast out the priests of Jahve, the sons of Aaron, and made you priests after the manner of the nations of the lands. Every one who has come, to fill his hand with a young bullock and ... he has become a priest to the no-god." ידו מלּא, to fill his hand, denotes, in the language of the law, to invest one with the priesthood, and connected with ליהוה it signifies to provide oneself with that which is to be offered to Jahve. To fill his hand with a young bullock, etc., therefore denotes to come with sacrificial beasts, to cause oneself to be consecrated priest. The animals mentioned also, a young bullock and seven rams, point to the consecration to the priesthood. In Ex 29 a young bullock as a sin-offering, a ram as a burnt-offering, and a ram as a consecratory-offering, are prescribed for this purpose. These sacrifices were to be repeated during seven days, so that in all seven rams were required for consecratory-sacrifices. Abijah mentions only one young bullock along with these, because it was not of any importance for him to enumerate perfectly the sacrifices which were necessary. But by offering these sacrifices no one becomes a priest of Jahve, and consequently the priests of Jeroboam also are only priests for Not-Elohim, i.e., only for the golden calves made Elohim by Jeroboam, to whom the attributes of the Godhead did not belong.
While, therefore, the Israelites have no-gods in their golden calves, Judah has Jahve for its God, whom it worships in His temple in the manner prescribed by Moses. "But in Jahve is our God, and we have not forsaken Him," in so far, viz., as they observed the legal Jahve-worship. So Abijah himself explains his words, "as priests serve Him the sons of Aaron (who were chosen by Jahve), and the Levites are בּמלאכת, in service," i.e., performing the service prescribed to them. As essential parts of that service of God, the offering of the daily burnt-offering and the daily incense-offering (Exo 29:38., Ch2 30:7), the laying out of the shew-bread (Exo 25:30; Lev 24:5.), the lighting of the lamps of the golden candlesticks (Exo 25:37; Exo 27:20.), are mentioned. In this respect they keep the יהוה משׁמרת (cf. Lev 8:35).
Abijah draws from all this the conclusion: "Behold, with us at our head are (not the two calves of gold, but) God (האלהים with the article, the true God) and His priests, and the alarm-trumpets to sound against you." He mentions the trumpets as being the divinely appointed pledges that God would remember them in war, and would deliver them from their enemies, Num 10:9. Then he closes with a warning to the Israelites not to strive with Jahve, the God of their fathers.
The war; Judah's victory, and the defeat of Jeroboam and the Israelites. - Ch2 13:13. Jeroboam caused the ambush (the troops appointed to be an ambush) to go round about, so as to come upon their rear (i.e., of the men of Judah); and so they (the main division of Jeroboam's troops) were before Judah, and the ambush in their rear (i.e., of the men of Judah); and the men of Judah, when they turned themselves (scil. to attack), saw war before and behind them, i.e., perceived that they were attacked in front and rear. In this dangerous position the men of Judah cried to the Lord, and the priests blew the trumpets (Ch2 13:15); and as they raised this war-cry, God smote their enemies so that they took to flight. In ויּריעוּ and בּהריע the loud shout of the warriors and the clangour of the trumpets in the hands of the priests are comprehended; and הריע is neither to be taken to refer only to the war-cry raised by the warriors in making the attack, nor, with Bertheau, to be referred only to the blowing of the trumpets.
So Abijah and his people inflicted a great blow (defeat) on the Israelites, so that 500,000 of them, i.e., more than the half of Jeroboam's whole army, fell.
The results of this victory. The Israelites were bowed down, their power weakened; the men of Judah became strong, mighty, because they relied upon Jahve their God. Following up his victory, Abijah took from Jeroboam several cities with their surrounding domains: Bethel, the present Beitin, see on Jos 7:2; Jeshanah, occurring only here, and the position of which has not yet been ascertained; and Ephron (עפרון, Keth.; the Keri, on the contrary, עפרין). This city cannot well be identified with Mount Ephron, Jos 15:9; for that mountain was situated on the southern frontier of Benjamin, not far from Jerusalem, while the city Ephron is to be sought much farther north, in the neighbourhood of Bethel. C. v. Raumer and others identify Ephron or Ephrain both with Ophrah of Benjamin, which, it is conjectured, was situated near or in Tayibeh, to the east of Bethel, and with the Ἐφραΐ́μ, Joh 11:54, whither Jesus withdrew into the wilderness, which, according to Josephus, Bell. Jud. iv. 9. 9, lay in the neighbourhood of Bethel. See on Jos 18:23.
(Note: The account of this war, which is peculiar to the Chronicle, and which de Wette declared, on utterly insufficient grounds, to be an invention of the chronicler (cf. against him my apol. Vers. ber die Chron. S. 444ff.), is thus regarded by Ewald (Gesch. Isr. iii. S. 466, der 2 Aufl.): "The chronicler must certainly have found among his ancient authorities an account of this conclusion of the war, and we cannot but believe that we have here, in so far, authentic tradition;" and only the details of the description are the results of free expansion by the chronicler, but in the speech Ch2 13:4-13 every word and every thought is marked by the peculiar colouring of the Chronicle. But this last assertion is contradicted by Ewald's own remark, i. S. 203, that "in Ch2 13:4-7, Ch2 13:19-21, an antiquated manner of speech and representation appears, while in the other verses, on the contrary, those usual with the chronicler are found," - in support of which he adduces the words בליּעל בּני, Ch2 13:7, and מלח בּרית, Ch2 13:5. According to this view, Abijah's speech cannot have been freely draughted by the chronicler, but must have been derived, at least so far as the fundamental thoughts are concerned, from an ancient authority, doubtless the Midrash of the prophet Iddo, cited in Ch2 13:22. But Ewald's further remark (iii. S. 466), that the author of the Chronicle, because he regarded the heathenized Samaria of his time as the true representative of the old kingdom of the ten tribes, seized this opportunity to put into King Abijah's mouth a long denunciatory and didactic speech, addressed at the commencement of the battle to the enemy as rebels not merely against the house of David, but also against the true religion, is founded upon the unscriptural idea that the calf-worship of the Israelites was merely a somewhat sensuous form of the true Jahve-worship, and was fundamentally distinct from the heathen idolatry, and also from the idolatry of the later Samaritans. In the judgment of all the prophets, not only of Hosea and Amos, but also of the prophetic author of the book of Kings, the calf-worship was a defection from Jahve, the God of the fathers, - a forsaking of the commands of Jahve, and a serving of the Baals; cf. e.g., 1 Kings 13; 2 Kings 17:7-23. What Abijah says of the calf-worship of the Israelites, and of Judah's attitude to Jahve and His worship in the temple, is founded on the truth, and is also reconcilable with the statement in Kg1 15:3, that Abijah's heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord, like David's heart. Abijah had promoted the legal temple-worship even by consecratory gifts (Kg1 15:15), and could consequently quite well bring forward the worship of God in Judah as the true worship, in contrast to the Israelitic calf-worship, for the discouragement of his enemies, and for the encouragement of his own army; and we may consequently regard the kernel, or the essential contents of the speech, as being historically well-founded. The account of the war, moreover, is also shown to be historical by the exact statement as to the conquered cities in Ch2 13:19, which evidently has been derived from ancient authorities. Only in the statements about the number of warriors, and of the slain Israelites, the numbers are not to be estimated according to the literal value of the figures; for they are, as has been already hinted in the commentary, only an expression in figures of the opinion of contemporaries of the war, that both kings had made a levy of all the men in their respective kingdoms capable of bearing arms, and that Jeroboam was defeated with such slaughter that he lost more than the half of his warriors.)
Jeroboam could not afterwards gain power (כּוח עצר, as in Ch1 29:14): "And Jahve smote him, and he died." The meaning of this remark is not clear, since we know nothing further of the end of Jeroboam's life than that he died two years after Abijah. ויּגּפהוּ can hardly refer to the unfortunate result of the war (Ch2 13:15.), for Jeroboam outlived the war by several years. We would be more inclined to understand it of the blow mentioned in Kg1 14:1-8, when God announced to him by Ahijah the extermination of his house, and took away his son Abijah, who was mourned by all Israel.
2 Chronicles 13:21
Wives and children of Abijah. His death. - Ch2 13:21. While Jeroboam was not able to recover from the defeat he had suffered, Abijah established himself in his kingdom (יתחזּק, cf. Ch2 12:13), and took to himself fourteen wives. The taking of these wives is not to be regarded as later in time than his establishment of his rule after the victory over Jeroboam. Since Abijah reigned only three years, he must have already had the greater number of his wives and children when he ascended the throne, as we may gather also from Ch2 11:21-23. The ו consec. with ישּׂא serves only to connect logically the information as to his wives and children with the preceding, as the great increase of his family was a sign of Abijah's increase in strength, while Jeroboam's dynasty was soon extirpated.
As to the מדרשׁ of the prophet Iddo, see the Introduction.
13:23 (Ch2 14:1). This is remarked here, because this rest was also a result of Abijah's great victory over Jeroboam.