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 valor.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Set the battle in array.—Began the battle. Vulg., “cumque iniisset Abia certanien” (1Kings 20:14).
Four hundred thousand chosen men.—In David’s census, Judah mustered 470,000 fighting men, and Israel 1,100,000, without reckoning Levi and Benjamin (1Chronicles 21:5). The numbers of the verse present a yet closer agreement with the results of that census as reported in 2Samuel 24:9; where, as here, the total strength of the Israelite warriors is given as 800,000, and that of Judah as 500,000. This correspondence makes it improbable that the figures have been falsified in transmission. (See Note on 2Chronicles 13:17.)
Jeroboam also set the battle in array.—While Jeroboam had drawn up against him. Vulg., instruxite contra aciem.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.2 Chronicles 13:17, into 40,000, 80,000, and 50,000 respectively - partly because these smaller numbers are found in many early editions of the Vulgate, but mainly because the larger ones are thought to be incredible. The numbers accord well, however, with the census of the people taken in the reign of David 1 Chronicles 21:5, joined to the fact which the writer has related 2 Chronicles 11:13-17, of a considerable subsequent emigration from the northern kingdom into the southern one. The total adult male population at the time of the census was 1,570, 000. The total of the fighting men now is 1,200, 000. This would allow for the aged and infirm 370, 000, or nearly a fourth of the whole. And in 2 Chronicles 13:17, our author may be understood to mean that this was the entire Israelite loss in the course of the war, which probably continued through the whole reign of Abijah.
with … four hundred thousand chosen men … Jeroboam with eight hundred thousand—These are, doubtless, large numbers, considering the smallness of the two kingdoms. It must be borne in mind, however, that Oriental armies are mere mobs—vast numbers accompanying the camp in hope of plunder, so that the gross numbers described as going upon an Asiatic expedition are often far from denoting the exact number of fighting men. But in accounting for the large number of soldiers enlisted in the respective armies of Abijah and Jeroboam, there is no need of resorting to this mode of explanation; for we know by the census of David the immense number of the population that was capable of bearing arms (1Ch 21:5; compare 2Ch 14:8; 17:14).Abijah set the battle in array against Jeroboam. We need not scrupulously inquire into the lawfulness of this war, for this Abijah, though here he makes a fair flourish, and maintained the better cause, yet was indeed an ungodly man, 1 Kings 15:3, and therefore minded not the satisfaction of his conscience, but only the recovery of his parent’s ancient dominions.
and Jeroboam also set the battle in array against him, with eight hundred thousand chosen men, being mighty men of valour; double the number of Abijah s army, he having ten tribes to collect out of, and Abijah but two.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 valor.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)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.Verse 3. - It is not within the province of an expositor to assert dogmatically that numbers like these in this verse should be deprived of one cipher, and that the slaughter of ver. 17 must be, consequently, similarly discounted. It would be, however, a great relief to faith to be able to give proof that this treatment would be true to fact. At present the numbers can be shown to be consistent with other numbers, such as those of the entire man-population (1 Chronicles 21:5; 2 Chronicles 11:13-17); and this seems the best that can be said in support of them. It does not, however, suffice to bring comfortable conviction. It is remarkable, among the difficulties that the question entails, that we do not get any satisfactory explanation as to how such vast numbers of slain bodies were disposed of in a compass of ground comparatively so small. 1 Kings 14:21 and 1 Kings 14:22. ויּתחזּק here, as in 2 Chronicles 13:21, can, in its connection with what precedes, be only understood to mean that Rehoboam, after his humiliation at the hands of Shishak, by which his kingdom was utterly weakened and almost destroyed, again gained strength and power. Cf. also 2 Chronicles 1:1, where יתחזּק is used of Solomon in the beginning of his reign, after he overcame Adonijah, the pretender to the crown, and his party. - As to the age of Rehoboam, etc., see on 1 Kings 14:21. הרע ויּעשׂ, 2 Chronicles 12:14, is defined by the addition, "for he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord." For the expression cf. 2 Chronicles 19:3; 2 Chronicles 30:19; Ezra 7:10.
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