2 Chronicles 13:5
Ought you 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?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) Ought ye not to know.—Literally, is it not to you to know? A construction characteristic of the chronicler. Abijah contrasts the moral position of his adversaries with his own, asserting (1) that their separate political existence is itself an act of rebellion against Jehovah; (2) that they have abolished the only legitimate form of worship, and established in its place an illegal cultus and priesthood; whereas (3) he and his people have maintained the orthodox ritual and ministry, and are therefore assured of the divine support.

By a covenant of salt.As or after the manner of a covenant of salt, i.e., a firm and unalterable compact (see Numbers 18:19). According to ancient custom, salt was indispensable at formal meals for the ratification of friendship and alliance; and only a “salt treaty “was held to be secure. Salt therefore accompanied sacrifices, as being, in fact, so many renewals of the covenant between man and God. (Leviticus 2:13; Ezekiel 43:24; Leviticus 24:7 in the LXX.)

The antique phrase, “covenant of salt,” is otherwise important, as bearing on the authenticity of this speech.

2 Chronicles 13:5. By a covenant of salt — A perpetual covenant. The reason of this mode of expression seems to arise from the preserving nature of salt; which, therefore, was made a symbol of friendship and fidelity. It is most likely, that in all solemn covenants which were confirmed by sacrifice, it was an ancient custom to offer salt with the sacrifice, to denote the faith and perpetuity of the covenant; so that, in this view, a covenant of salt will signify a covenant confirmed by sacrifice. See note on Numbers 18:19. 13:1-22 Abijah overcomes Jeroboam. - Jeroboam and his people, by apostacy and idolatry, merited the severe punishment Abijah was permitted to execute upon them. It appears from the character of Abijah, 1Ki 15:3, that he was not himself truly religious, yet he encouraged himself from the religion of his people. It is common for those that deny the power of godliness, to boast of the form of it. Many that have little religion themselves, value it in others. But it was true that there were numbers of pious worshippers in Judah, and that theirs was the more righteous cause. In their distress, when danger was on every side, which way should they look for deliverance unless upward? It is an unspeakable comfort, that our way thither is always open. They cried unto the Lord. Earnest prayer is crying. To the cry of prayer they added the shout of faith, and became more than conquerors. Jeroboam escaped the sword of Abijah, but God struck him; there is no escaping his sword.It has been proposed to change the numbers, here and in 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. 4-12. Abijah stood up upon Mount Zemaraim—He had entered the enemy's territory and was encamped on an eminence near Beth-el (Jos 18:22). Jeroboam's army lay at the foot of the hill, and as a pitched battle was expected, Abijah, according to the singular usage of ancient times, harangued the enemy. The speakers in such circumstances, while always extolling their own merits, poured out torrents of invective and virulent abuse upon the adversary. So did Abijah. He dwelt on the divine right of the house of David to the throne; and sinking all reference to the heaven-condemned offenses of Solomon and the divine appointment of Jeroboam, as well as the divine sanction of the separation, he upbraided Jeroboam as a usurper, and his subjects as rebels, who took advantage of the youth and inexperience of Rehoboam. Then contrasting the religious state of the two kingdoms, he drew a black picture of the impious innovations and gross idolatry introduced by Jeroboam, with his expulsion and impoverishment (2Ch 11:14) of the Levites. He dwelt with reasonable pride on the pure and regular observance of the ancient institutions of Moses in his own dominion [2Ch 13:11] and concluded with this emphatic appeal: "O children of Israel, fight ye not against Jehovah, the God of your fathers, for ye shall not prosper." i.e. By a perpetual covenant, which thy usurpation can not disannul. For the phrase, See Poole "Numbers 18:19". Ought you not to know,.... They did know what he afterwards says, but he would have them consider and acknowledge it:

that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever; to him and his seed, particularly to the Messiah, that should spring from him; but whether Abijah had this in view is a question, see 2 Samuel 7:13.

even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt? that is, a perpetual one, which was inviolable, and never to be made void; called so, because salt preserves from corruption and putrefaction, and because made use of in sacrifices offered when covenants were made; the Targum is,"as salt waters, which never lose their saltness.''

Ought ye not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to {e} David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?

(e) Therefore whoever usurps it or takes it from that stock transgresses the ordinance of the Lord. Thus like a hypocrite he alleges the word of God for his advantage.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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).Verses 5-12. - The idea of Abijah in this religious harangue, addressed or supposed to be addressed to the kingdom of the ten tribes, was good, and the execution was spirited. While, however, he preaches well to others, there are not wanting signs that he can blind himself as to some failure of practice on his own part. The points of the argument running through his harangue are correct, skilfully chosen, and well and religiously thrust home on the heart of his supposed audience. The practical trust of himself and his army are testified to in vers. 14, 15, and abundantly rewarded. This sequel-practical trust is the best credential of the sincerity of his foregoing appeal and harangue. Verse 5. - Gave the kingdom... to David for ever. With the thrice-repeated "for ever" of what we call 2 Samuel 7:13-16, and the very emphatic language of the fifteenth verse in that passage, in the memory of Abijah, no one can say he was not justified by the letter and to the letter in what he now says. At the same time, how is it that Abijah does not in all fairness quote the matter of 2 Chronicles 6:16 last clause, and of its parallel, 1 Kings 8:25 last clause, and of Psalm 89:28-37; Psalm 132:12? Covenant of salt (see Leviticus 2:13; Numbers 18:19; Ezekiel 43:24; Mark 9:49). The use of salt was ordered first for the meal offerings, which, consisting mainly of flour, did not need it as an antiseptic; afterwards it was ordered for "all" offerings, including the "burnt offering:" as surely as leaven was proscribed, salt was prescribed (Leviticus 2:11). "The covenant of salt" meant the imperish-ableness and irrevocableness of the engagement made between the two parties to the covenant The widespread and deeply significant use of it among other and heathen nations is remarkable indeed, and is attested by Pliny ('Hist. Natal 31:41) in forcible words: "Nulla (sacra) conficiuntur sine mola salsa" (Her., 2 Sat. 3:200; Virgil, 'AEn.,' 2:133; Hom., ' Iliad,' 1:449). Some think it a sufficient explanation of the text, "covenant of salt," that, especially in the East, solemn engagements and vows were often recognized and strengthened by hospitalities, as shown to guests, and of these salt was an indispensable element. It is true that some of the ancient indications and descriptions of friendship and close friendships turned on phrases (similar ones, indeed, still existing) into which the word "salt" entered, but that these phrases arose from the fact that salt was so general a constituent of human food seems insufficient explanation, where we can find one of a more direct and more directly religious, or, as the case might be (e.g. with heathen sacrifices), superstitious birth. Religion and superstition between them have been the most world-wide, incalculable, and untraceable originators and disseminators of half the possible phrases of human language! Close of his reign. On the authorities, see the Introduction, and in reference to the other statements, the commentary on 1 Kings 14:29-31. מלחמות, wars, i.e., a state of hostility, was between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all days, can only be understood of the hostile attitude of the two rulers to each other, like מלחמה in Kings; for we have no narrative of wars between them after Rehoboam had abandoned, at the instance of the prophet, his proposed war with the Israelites at the commencement of his reign.
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