2 Chronicles 13
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
The whole chapter presents to us a number of lessons, not very closely connected with one another.

I. THE FOLLY OF AN UNNATURAL SEVERANCE. The first thing we read about the reign of Abijah is that there "was war between him and Jeroboam" (ver. 2). What else was to be expected? How, in those times, or indeed in any time, could it be otherwise? Tribes descended, as they were, from a common ancestor, speaking the same language, holding the same faith, having the same history, under a sacred obligation to worship at the same sanctuary, with no natural boundary between them, were bound to be united together and form one strong nation, or else to be at perpetual variance. There are two great mistakes, of which one is as foolish and as mischievous as the other - to insist upon organic union when everything in constitution and providential ordering points to separation; and, on the other hand, to attempt separation when everything clearly points to union. Whom God hath joined together let no man try to put asunder; if he does, he will certainly reap mischief and misery for his harvest. This will apply not only to nations, but to Churches, to social communities, to families, to individuals.

II. THE DUTY AND WISDOM OF REMONSTRANCE, It was right enough of Abijah to utter the strong and effective remonstrance here recorded (vers. 4-12). Perhaps, as one descended by both parents from David, he had a very strong sense of the disloyalty of the two tribes; but he certainly made a very vigorous appeal to them, urging them, by considerations of duty to God and of regard for their own interests, to rally to his side. He did not succeed in the attempt; probably he did not expect to do so. When men have carried disloyal or disobedient thought so far as to be guilty of actual rebellion or active opposition, they are not often moved even by the most cogent and persuasive words. Nevertheless, it is always right to try to move them before resorting to violent measures. We may succeed, as men have succeeded before now, in saving sanguinary strife, or in averting that which is, "in all but the bloodshed, a duel." Remonstrance should be made

(1) in time;

(2) without provocation in tone;

(3) in the sorrow which carries dignity, and not in the passion which only excites contempt;

(4) with a feeling that our common brotherhood is a greater thing than our individual interests.

III. THE PLACE FOR STRATAGEM IN THE BATTLE OF THE LORD, Jeroboam seems to have been in the way of succeeding by his stratagem (vers. 13, 14), and had there been no strong and special reason for Divine interposition, he would undoubtedly have prevailed against Abijah. Persuasiveness of speech is good, but sagacity in action is better still in any serious campaign. And while simple straightforwardness is the weapon we should commonly use, there is a guile we may employ when our spirit is wholly unselfish, and when we do not invade inviolable truth (see 2 Corinthians 12:16).

IV. THE SUCCESS OF FAITHFULNESS. After all, it was not the cleverness of the crafty Jeroboam, but the faithfulness, thus far, of the obedient Abijah which secured the victory. The men of Judah "cried unto the Lord," and "God smote Jeroboam and all Israel." As we read the chronicles of the two kingdoms, we are amazed that kings and people failed to see that just as they were obedient to Jehovah they prospered, and just as they were disobedient they were overtaken with national calamity. But it is so much easier to distinguish other people's duty than to perceive our own, to see where others missed their way than to find or to keep our own. Continually are we tempted to abandon the path of simple Divine wisdom for that which has its own fascinations, but to which no finger-post of duty points us; and invariably we find that "the end thereof" is sorrow and disillusion. Often the path of righteousness is unattractive and unpromising at the outset; but in that way lies success. Further on the prospect brightens; and at the end of that road is victory and joy. Be faithful unto death, and you may make quite sure of the crown of life. - C.

I. HIS NAME. Abijah, "whose father is Jehovah" (1 Kings 14:1); Abijam, "father of the sea," i.e. a maritime man (1 Kings 14:31; 1 Kings 15:1); or Abia (LXX.). If Abijam be not a clerical mistake, then the hypothesis is at least interesting that the Chronicler adopted the form Abijah because he did not intend to describe this king's reign as wicked, while the writer of the Kings, having this intention, frequently selected the form Abijam (Kitto).

II. HIS MOTHER. Micaiah, or Maacha (2 Chronicles 11:20), the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah, and the daughter (equivalent to granddaughter by the mother's side) of Absalom (2 Chronicles 11:20), or Abishalom (1 Kings 15:2). The notion (Bahr) that Abijah's wife, the mother of Asa, was also called Maacah (2 Chronicles 15:10) is not necessary, and still less the hypothesis (Bertheau) that in this place the name of Abijah's wife has been substituted for that of his mother.

III. HIS WIVES. Fourteen in number, of whom one was (on the supposition just named) Maacah, the names of the others being unknown. Like his father Rehoboam, grandfather Solomon, and great-grandfather David, Abijah practised polygamy. A parent's vices are considerably easier to copy than his virtues. Those also are likelier than these to be transmitted by heredity.

IV. HIS OFFSPRING. Twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters. Of the former only one is known, Asa his successor, the rest having disappeared from the stage of history as from that of time. Obscurity, the common lot of men; yet not always a disadvantage in itself, or a proof of inferior merit. Some of the world's greatest men have been unknown to their contemporaries; and Abijah's unnamed sons may have been superior persons to Asa.


1. Its sphere. Judah, the southern kingdom, Jeroboam still exercising sovereignty over the northern.

2. Its seat. Jerusalem, the capital of Israel being Samaria.

3. Its duration. Three years, beginning in the eighteenth and ending in the twentieth year of Jeroboam.

4. Its character. Troubled. "There was war between Abijah and Jeroboam."


1. His death. "He slept with his fathers" (2 Chronicles 14:1).

2. His burial. "He was laid in the city of David."

3. His biography. The story of his life, of his acts, ways, and sayings, was written by the Prophet Iddo.


1. His ability. Undoubted.

(1) A vigorous ruler (ver. 21);

(2) an able speaker (ver. 4);

(3) a powerful reasoner (vers. 8-12); and

(4) a valiant leader.

2. His piety. Decided. Notwithstanding his polygamy, he was

(1) sincere (vers. 10, 11),

(2) lively (ver. 12),

(3) trustful (ver. 18), and

(4) courageous (ver. 12), though

(5) not perfect (1 Kings 15:3).


1. Jehovah in the heart is better than Jehovah in the name.

2. A weak and wicked father may have a capable and good son.

3. The value of a man's life is not determined by the length of his days.

4. One may have faults and yet be religious.

5. Every one should strive to live so as to be remembered for good after death. - W.


1. Their leaders. Of the army of Judah, Abijah; of the host of Israel, Jeroboam - both capable generals, and each the inspiring spirit of his troops.

2. Their numbers. Of Judah, four hundred thousand men - one hundred thousand fewer than Joab numbered to Judah; of Israel, eight hundred thousand - exactly the number Joab counted to Israel (2 Samuel 24:9).

3. Their quality.

(1) Abijah's troops were

(a) heroes of war, veterans experienced in former campaigns under Rehoboam, and

(b) chosen or picked men, literally, "men of youth," whose powers were at their best (Jeremiah 18:31).

(2) Jeroboam's soldiers were also

(a) chosen men and

(b) mighty men of valour. Thus both armies were well matched.

4. Their position. Over against each other, in the vicinity of Mount Zemaraim, near Bethel (Joshua 18:22) - "probably the large ruin Samrah, north of Jericho" (Condor, 'Handbook to the Bible,' p. 427), and perhaps at that time the northern limit of Abijah's territory (Ewald); obviously so close to one another that to them the words of Shakespeare ('King Henry V.,' act

4. chorus) may be fitly applied -

"From camp to camp, thro' the foul womb of night,
The hum of either army stilly sounds,
That the fix'd sentinels almost receive
The secret whispers of each other's watch:
Fire answers fire: and through their paly flames
Each battle sees the other's umber'd face:
Steed threatens steed, in high and boastful neighs

Piercing the night's dull ear; and from the tents,
The armourers, accomplishing the knights,
With busy hammers closing rivets up,
Give dreadful note of preparation."


1. Whence spoken, From Mount Zemaraim, in Ephraim, as Jotham had formerly spoken to the Shechemites from Mount Gerizim (Judges 9:7).

2. To whom addressed. To Jeroboam and all Israel. Generals commonly harangue their troops before going into action (1 Samuel 4:9; 2 Samuel 10:11, 12; 2 Chronicles 18:30; cf. 'King Henry V.,' act 4. sc. 3); Abijah directs his speech to his foes, as David did to Goliath (1 Samuel 17:45), and Rabshakeh to the envoys of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:28-35; cf. 'Richard II.,' act 3. sc. 3).

3. Of what composed. Of a long, earnest argument, dissuasive, and appeal, for the purpose of inducing Jeroboam and his warriors to desist from their mad enterprise of attempting to conquer Judah. According to Abijah they could not succeed, for a variety of reasons.

(1) Their rebellion was a sin against their own better knowledge (ver. 5) - a sin against the light. They knew, or might have known, that Jehovah the God of Israel had given the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt, i.e. by a perpetual covenant (Numbers 18:19). This promise had been made to David (2 Samuel 7:12-16), confirmed to Solomon (1 Kings 9:4, 5), and reported to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:31-38), who must have known that whatever sanction he had from Jehovah to ascend the throne of Israel, he had none to aspire after that of Judah. Abijah's statement was true only of the throne of Judah; the sovereignty of undivided Israel was guaranteed to David and his sons on conditions which had not been fulfilled. Jehovah's language concerning David's throne has been realized in Christ, to whom the absolute and unbroken supremacy over God's spiritual Israel has been committed for ever by a covenant of salt (Psalm 2:6; Psalm 72:17; Daniel 7:13, 14). Hence rebellion against the authority of Christ cannot prosper.

(2) Their rebellion was a revolt against their rightful lord (ver. 6). Though Jeroboam had beforehand been informed of Jehovah's intention to wrest ten tribes from Rehobeam, it was none the less an act of insubordination on the part of Jeroboam and the Israelites to raise the standard of revolt against the son of Solomon. So the Divine foreknowledge that men will sin, reject Christ, and continue in unbelief, does not render it the less culpable on their part so to do. Christ, the Son of David, is their rightful Sovereign (Acts 10:36), and to disown his regal authority is to be guilty of spiritual high treason.

(3) Their rebellion was promoted and fostered by wicked men (ver. 7). Jeroboam had collected round him an army of vain men - light persons like those Abimelech on a former occasion had hired to follow him (Judges 9:4); children of Belial, or of worthlessness, of the stamp of Nahal (1 Samuel 25:17), or of those who followed David when he rescued his wives from the spoilers of Zigiag (1 Samuel 30:32); "lewd fellows of the baser sort" like those who assaulted the house of Jason (Acts 17:5); "men of the most abandoned principles and characters, or men without consideration, education, or brains" (Adam Clarke). Hence it was impossible their nefarious project could thrive (Proverbs 3:35; Psalm 1:6).

(4) Their rebellion was aggravated by the time when it had been conceived and carried out, viz. at a time when Solomon's son had not been able to withstand them, having but newly ascended the throne, and as a consequence been unprepared when the mine, as it were, was sprung beneath his feet (ver. 7). Abijah speaks of Rehoboam as having been at the time of Jeroboam's rebellion "young and tender-hearted;" but, as Rehoboam was then forty-one years old, Abijah may have purposed by the expression to allude to his inexperience as a king, which laid him open to be misled by designing men, or to the instability of his throne, which would naturally invite the attacks of watchful adversaries.

(5) Their rebellion was supported only by human warriors and golden calves (ver. 8). But vain is the help of man, even when the battle is against a fellow (Psalm 60:11; Psalm 108:12), and much more when against God (Psalm 2:1). "There is no king saved by the multitude of an host" (Psalm 33:11), as Israel afterwards often came to know (Hosea 10:13); and they that trust in golden calves or idols of silver and gold are like unto them (Psalm 115:8; Psalm 135:18), and shall eventually be put to shame (Isaiah 42:17; Hosea 8:5).

(6) Their rebellion was being maintained in the interest of idolatry (ver. 9). Although Jeroboam had been expressly informed that Solomon's apostasy had been the cause of the division of his kingdom (1 Kings 11:33), and that the permanence of his own throne depended on his steadfast adherence to the religion of Jehovah (1 Kings 11:38), yet had he wickedly ejected the priests of Jehovah from their offices, and instituted a new order of priesthood for the golden calves and other idols he had set up (1 Kings 12:28-31). Nay, as if to pour contempt upon the true religion, he followed the fashion of heathen nations both in the kind of persons he admitted to the sacerdotal Office, and in the rites of initiation with which these were installed. The former were selected from the lowest of the people, and the latter were of the simplest description. Any one who could bring the necessary offerings for consecration, "a young bullock and seven rams" (cf. Exodus 29:1), was admitted to the new hierarchy, and no questions were asked. This was all the recognition Jeroboam made of the true worship of Jehovah.

(7) Their rebellion was being prosecuted against those who adhered to the true worship of Jehovah (ver. 10). Abijah in this verse gives a better account of himself than the writer of the Kings does (1 Kings 15:3) - a natural and common, if not altogether justifiable, weakness. The probable explanation is that, while clinging to the idolatrous abominations introduced by Solomon and Rehoboam, Abijah had not abandoned the forms of the Mosaic cultus (vers. 10, 11). Like multitudes before and since, he and Ms people conceived it might be possible to do homage on equal terms to Jehovah and heathen divinities, which it was not (Isaiah 42:8); just as many in the present day fancy they can serve God and mammon, which they cannot (Matthew 6:24).

(8) Their rebellion was directed against Jehovah himself (ver. 12), who was present in the camp of Judah as Captain, as he had been in the days of the conquest (Joshua 5:14), and as he still is, in the Person of Christ, in the army of the New Testament Church (Matthew 28:20). This constituted the hopelessness of Jeroboam's attack (Exodus 15:3-7; 1 Samuel 2:10; Job 41:10), as it does still of every assault upon the Church of Christ (Acts 5:39; Acts 23:9). No weapon that is formed against her shall prosper (Isaiah 54:17; Matthew 16:18). That Jehovah remained in Judah in the midst of so much corruption was entirely owing to his gracious covenant with David (1 Kings 12:36); that Christ continues in the New Testament Church even when overrun with errors in doctrine and worship, as well as marred by defects in practice, is owing solely to his own faithfulness and truth (Matthew 28:20).

(9) Their rebellion was foredoomed to failure, because the alarm-trumpets of Jehovah's priests were against them (ver. 12). Those alarm-trumpets were "the divinely appointed pledges that God would remember his people in war, and deliver them from their enemies" (Numbers 10:9). Against the Midianites Moses sent into the field, along with twelve thousand warriors, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, with the holy instruments and the trumpets to blow in his hand" (Numbers 31:6). So the duty of Christian ministers is to sound an alarm in God's Name against every thing and person that would injure Christ's Church. Were this always done, timeously and earnestly, ultimate victory for the Church would be ensured (Acts 20:31; 1 Corinthians 4:14; Colossians 1:28).


1. Skilfully prepared.

(1) By Jeroboam. Wicked men often possess high talent, and, though not pious, make splendid generals, eminent statesmen, successful merchants, etc.

(2) While Abijah was orating. Neither praying nor preaching will suffice without watching. While performing every duty earnestly and thoroughly (Ecclesiastes 9:10), it must not be imagined that prudence, foresight, and vigilance are not duties. The Christian, while praying always with all prayer and supplication, must take unto himself the whole armour of God (Ephesians 6:13-18).

(3) Round about Judah. That Abijah had not perceived the stratagem of his opponent is explicable - he had been preoccupied with his harangue; that his generals and soldiers were not on the alert was hardly to their credit, even if they were listening to their monarch's eloquence. At any rate, as Jeroboam circumvented Abijah and his army, while engaged in what might be termed a religious duty, an attempt to avert the calamity of war and to promote the interests of peace, so does the prince of the power of the air commonly select the moment when Christ's soldiers are engaged in some religious service to cast around them his snares.

2. Courageously met. Though surprised, the men of Judah were not thrown into panic. Realizing their danger, they confronted it:

(1) With faith: "they cried unto Jehovah," whom they believed to be their Captain (ver. 12) - an excellent lesson for the Church (collectively and individually), which, though professing to regard Christ as her Captain, does not always turn to him for help in duty or relief in difficulty, but often repairs to worldly policy, human wisdom, or material props and defences.

(2) With hope: "The priests sounded with their trumpets," thus showing they anticipated victory. So should the Church of Christ never enter the field against her adversaries in a doubtful, but always in a confident, spirit (Psalm 60:12; Psalm 108:13), expecting to be victorious (Romans 8:37).

(3) With spirit: "The men of Judah gave a shout" - not merely sounded with their war-trumpets (Bertheau, Keil), but shouted like men contending for the mastery (Exodus 32:18), as soldiers do when rushing into battle (Joshua 6:20; Judges 15:14; 1 Samuel 17:20). So should the Church give expression to her confident anticipations of victory in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Psalm 132:9; Psalm 149:3, 5; Ephesians 5:19).

IV. THE VICTORY OF JUDAH. (Vers. 15-18.)

1. The source of it. God. Not Abijah or Judah, but Eiohim smote Jeroboam and all Israel. "Safety ['victory,' Revised Version] is of the Lord" (Proverbs 21:13), and "it is he that giveth salvation [or, 'deliverance '] unto kings" (Psalm 144:10). "Jehovah is a Man of war," sang Miriam (Exodus 15:3); while David owned, "He teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight" (Psalm 18:34; Psalm 144:1).

2. The time of it. "As the men of Judah shouted." So "the Lord is nigh unto all that call upon him" (Psalm 145:18); and "whosoever shall . call upon the Name of the Lord shall be delivered" (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13), even while they are calling (Isaiah 65:24). Cf. the rescue of Jehoshaphat at Ramoth-Gilead (2 Chronicles 18:31).

3. The ground of it. "Because they relied upon the Lord God of their fathers' (ver. 18). That Jehovah should prove a Buckler to them that trusted in him accorded exactly with the representations of the Divine character furnished by Scripture (Genesis 15:1; Deuteronomy 20:1; Joshua 1:9; Psalm 17:7; Psalm 115:9), and had frequently Been verified in the experience of both sections of the kingdom-Joshua's soldiers at Jericho (Joshua 6:12, etc.), and Gideon's at the well of Harod (Judges 7:1, 21), because they trusted in the sword of Jehovah more than in their own weapons. So David prevailed over the Philistine (1 Samuel 17:45), Hezekiah over the Assyrian king, and the Philistines (2 Kings 18:5, 8) and the Reubenites over the Hagarites (1 Chronicles 5:20). Confidence in God the strongest guarantee a Christian can have of emerging triumphantly from any moral or spiritual conflict (Psalm 26:1; Psalm 33:20, 21; Isaiah 12:2; 2 Corinthians 1:10; Romans 8:38).

4. The extent of it.

(1) Jeroboam's army was routed (vers. 15, 16).

(2) Five hundred thousand chosen men were slain. A slaughter so terrific suggests that the numbers must have been exaggerated; and certainly nothing like it can be cited from either ancient or modern warfare. If, therefore, fifty thousand should not be read instead of five hundred thousand (Rawlinson), the figures may be regarded as a popular expression of the opinion of contemporaries of the war that Jeroboam lost more than half of his troops (Keil). Cf. Shakespeare's description of a routed army: "The king himself, of his wings destitute, the army broken," etc. ('Cymbeline,' act 5. sc. 3).

(3) The kingdom of Israel was completely prostrated (ver. 18). Their power to harass Israel was seriously impaired, which confirms the preceding statement that no ordinary blow had been inflicted on Jeroboam's army.

(4) Several cities with their surrounding domains were captured - Bethel, the present-day Beitin, an old patriarchal settlement (Genesis 12:8; Genesis 28:19; Genesis 35:1, 6), and one of the seats of Jeroboam's idolatrous worship (1 Kings 12:29, 33), with the townships or villages in the district; Jeshanah, probably the Isanas of Josephus ('Ant.,' 14:15.12) and the Jesuna of the LXX., occurring only here, and identified with the modern 'Ain Sinia north of Bethel, with many rich springs and rock-tombs in the vicinity FConder, 'Handbook,' p. 416; Riehm, 'HandwSrterbuch,' 1:705); and Ephraim, or phron (LXX., Vulgate), the former Of which points to the Ephraim near Bethel (Josephus, 'Wars,' 4:9. 9), whither Jesus retired (John 11:54), while the latter can hardly be connected with Mount Ephron on the south-west border of Benjamin (Bertheau), but must also be sought in the neighbourhood of Bethel.

(5) Jeroboam never again recovered strength (ver. 20). He outlived the war by several, and Abijah by two, years; but the decisive defeat he had sustained left him ever afterwards a crippled and comparatively feeble sovereign.


1. The sinfulness of unjustifiable rebellion.

2. The horrors of war.

3. The political value of religion.

4. The power of faith.

5. The reward of sin. - W.

1. Jesus Christ has taught us that in the great spiritual campaign in which we are engaged there can be no neutrality; he that is not with the Lord is against him (Matthew 12:30). We have, therefore, to include among those who are in arms against Christ, not only

(1) those who deny him by speaking evil of him and disparaging him; and

(2) those who refuse to recognize the great claims he makes on the homage and obedience of mankind, reducing him to the rank of a fallible human teacher; but

(3) those also who are wholly heedless of his claims, who show an utter disregard to his will, who stand outside his Church, or who do those things which he has expressly denounced and forbidden. These are his enemies, and their name is legion; their resources are great; they compose an army overwhelmingly strong in numbers and material equipments.

2. Before these there come the prophets of the Lord, summoning them to leave the ranks in which they stand, and to surrender themselves to him and his service. These speakers for God entreat them to lay down their arms and to serve under Christ. Their reasons are, at least, fourfold. To be where they are is -

I. To BE OVERTHROWING THAT WHICH THEIR FATHERS BUILT UP. "Fight ye not against the Lord God of your fathers." Long and patiently, with many tears and prayers, often in the face of the most determined opposition, in health and sickness, in youth and in strength and in decline, on to old age and even unto death, our fathers fought for the truth they loved; they built up the Church, the institution, the Christian stronghold in which we found ourselves when we awoke to life and thought. And now are we going to take that sacred building down; stone by stone, are our hands - their children's hands - going to demolish it? Are we content to lower the flag they held' high so bravely and so nobly? Shall it be our function to undo the large and long result of all their toil? Shall we bring into disrepute the name they honoured far above their own? Shall we fight against the Lord God of our fathers?

II.. TO BE OPPOSING THAT WHICH THE BEST MEN ARE SUSTAINING. "God's priests... cry alarm against you." Invested in the sacred garments, with the appointed signals in their hands (Numbers 10:8), the holiest in the land are urging the people to maintain their ground. The cause of Christian truth has not only the presence of a noble host of good and holy men; it is led by the best of the good and wise. Those who are clothed with righteousness, whose voice is the sound of earnest and irresistible conviction, are summoning all who love God and man to oppose themselves to the enemies of Christ. If we league ourselves "with these his enemies" we must make up our mind to contend with the worthiest and the wisest, with the most pure and brave and devoted, that ever drew mortal breath, that ever sounded the note of battle.

III. TO BE FIGHTING AGAINST GOD. "God himself is with us for our Captain." In the Christian Church it is the assured conviction that the invisible Lord is not the absent One; he is the very present One. "Lo, I am with you alway," etc. (Matthew 28:20). We who fight for him fight under him - under his eye, his observant eye; under his direction - the direction of a hand that is not seen, but that is felt. They who fight against his cause are fighting against him himself. They have to overcome the Almighty.

IV. TO BE ARRAYED AGAINST A FORCE THAT MUST PROVE VICTORIOUS. "You shall not prosper." Many times has Christianity seemed to be doomed to defeat and even to extinction, but out of every terrible contest it has emerged successful, even triumphant. Persecution, ridicule, argumentation, corruption, - these have done their worst, and they have failed. To-day the friends of Christ are more numerous, and the cause of Christ is more advanced, than ever. And he who is in arms against the Lord of all love and power, who is seeking to undermine his influence, who is contemptuous of his holy will, who is opposing his own indifference or his worldliness to the commands and the invitations of a Divine Saviour, he is in the ranks of the army that will be defeated; no voice of victory will greet his dying ear, no hope of commendation and award will then fill his heart. - C.

There are three things which belong to every man, with the shaping of which he himself has much, though not everything, to do, and which are of the first importance to him. We look at them in connection with Jeroboam.

I. HIS CAREER. At first, and for some time, we find him steadily rising; beginning low, he distinguishes himself by the character of his work, is promoted to a post of some importance (1 Kings 11:28); he gains the confidence and good will of the people, is regarded as one who may aspire to the highest position in the state; he has to retire for a time from the presence of Solomon, who suspects his loyalty, but upon the death of that sovereign he returns, takes advantage of the inexperience and foolhardiness of Rehoboam, and mounts the throne, reigning over ten-twelfths of the whole land. Then he maintains his position for some nineteen years, keeping up a chronic war with royal rival at Jerusalem, and apparently holding his own. Then he has a pitched battle with Abijah, and, spite of clever generalship (vers. 13, 14), he is signally defeated; his troops are utterly muted, and he has to sacrifice three important places. From that time he declines in strength and spirit, until, cowed if not crushed by his defeat, he dies of disappointment and chagrin. "The Lord struck him."

II. HIS CHARACTER. He was evidently an active and able workman, competent to undertake the more difficult and responsible posts in the building of fortifications; he was a man of ambition as well as of resource, willing to enter the open door to mount the "fiery courser of opportunity; ' he was capable of patience as well as of vigorous action; he could bide his time in Egypt as well as strike the blow when the hour was ripe; he was courageous and self-confident, not shrinking from the dangerous position of heading a revolt against the rightful ruler of the land (ver. 6); he was utterly unscrupulous as to the measures he adopted to retain the loyalty of his people (vers. 8-10); he was prepared to abolish the accepted and true faith, and import a false and low religion; also to rid himself of the best men as priests, introducing the lowest to take their place (1 Kings 12:31). All piety and principle he subordinated to the one end of preserving his throne and his dynasty. Thus he made shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience.

III. HIS REPUTATION. For reputation is to be very carefully distinguished from character. A man may have a good reputation, and, in the sight of him who is the Truth, a very bad character; such were the Pharisees of our Lord's time, and such have been hypocrites of all time. Or a man may have a bad reputation and a noble character; such was Paul amongst his countrymen; such have been the reformers and martyrs of all ages. But Jeroboam's reputation has answered to his character. He was, indeed, regarded as a man of considerable ability (1 Kings 11:24); but the one chief and continual association with his name is that of the great mischief-maker, the man who wrought dire evil to his country; he was known, and is known, as the man "who made Israel to sin." From his character, career, and reputation we may be reminded:

1. That it is right to be concerned about our career, right to wish for one that is bright and pleasant and honourable; and with this desire in our heart we should

(1) ask for Divine guidance and aid;

(2) do all that industry, patience, and moderation will accomplish to compass that end; and

(3) be quite prepared to take a lower place if that should be the will of our heavenly Father concerning us.

2. That it is of more importance that we should possess a good reputation; not that we need trouble ourselves about what the sinful or the foolish are saying of us, but that we should care much to win the esteem of the good and wise.

3. That the essential thing is a sound character in the sight of God. That is the foundation of all; on it rests a good reputation and a bright career. Therefore let us ask ourselves what we are; and let us be dissatisfied with ourselves unless we can believe that we are true disciples of Jesus Christ, "children of our Father who is in heaven," resembling him in spirit and in principle. - C.

I. AN EXAMPLE OF DISAPPOINTED AMBITION. A striking illustration of how "vaulting ambition overleaps itself, and falls on the other side." Its stages reveal the insatiable character of that "fire and motion of the soul which will not dwell in its own narrow being, but aspires beyond the fitting medium of desire" (Byron).

1. Promoted to a position of trust. Originally a servant of Solomon, he was appointed master of works for the house of Judah, 1.e, superintendent of the Ephraimite contingent of workmen (1 Kings 11:28).

2. Plotting sedition. Invested with "brief authority," he began to meditate ambitious thoughts, which probably the Shilonite with his prophetic glance discerned (1 Kings 11:37).

3. Married to a princess. Compelled to flee from Palestine, he found in Egypt, at the court of Shishak, both a harbour of refuge and a balm for his wounds - he became the husband of a princess and the brother-in-law of Pharaoh (1 Kings 11:40).

4. Further promotion,. Recalled to Palestine, he was first elected a spokesman of the northern tribes in their diplomatic dealings with Rehoboam, and ultimately chosen to be their sovereign (1 Kings 12:20).

5. More sedition. Barely was he seated on the throne of Israel, than he adopted measures to render permanent the separation of the two kingdoms; turning his back upon Jehovah, and setting up a new and rival religion to the Jehovah-cultus in Judah (1 Kings 12:28).

6. Renewed ambition. Not content with this, he aimed at the subjugation of the southern empire.

7. Final collapse. This point reached, he hastened rapidly towards an ignominious end. Byron says -

"One breast laid open were a school,
Which would unteach mankind the lust to shine or rule." One may be permitted to doubt this!

II. AN INSTANCE OF MISAPPLIED ABILITY. That Jeroboam as youth and man, as private person and public official, as servant and sovereign, possessed high capacities, need not be questioned. Energy, industry, enthusiasm, ambition, faculty for organization, power of impressing, directing, leading, and ruling others - qualities needful for generalship, statesmanship, kingship - appear all to have belonged to him in more than ordinary measure; yet in every situation of life in which he was placed these powers were misapplied. The governing idea of his soul was to use all, in himself and others, for the advancement of his private interest. For this end he fomented sedition amongst his countrymen, encouraged disaffection amongst the subjects of Solomon, took advantage of Rehoboam's inexperience to raise the standard of revolt, perverted to wicked purposes the high position as a sovereign to which he in providence attained, did his utmost to propagate irreligion, diffuse idolatry, foster immorality, dissolve the fabric of social order, crush and annihilate the true worshippers of Jehovah. The annals of mankind afford many illustrations of the same phenomenon - magnificent powers of body and mind prostituted to ignoble ends, e.g. Samson, Saul, and Judas from sacred, Caesar (Julius), Mark Antony, and Napoleon from profane history.


1. When promoted by Solomon to be master of works for the house of Joseph, he might, with his commanding talent and great force of character, have done much to soothe the ruffled spirits of his countrymen, and so have nipped the poisonous flower of revolution in the bud. But he did not; rather he acted on a contrary hint.

2. When recalled by the northern tribes to be their spokesman, had he chosen, he might have poured oil upon the troubled waters, allayed the ferment of their passions, appealed to them to give the young king a trial, and remember the danger which would accrue to the empire from disunion - might have crushed down his own ambitious thoughts, and like Caesar ('Julius Caesar,' act 3. sc. 2) - not to speak of a greater (John 6:15) - put bravely from him the crown which in the people's eyes he saw preparing for him. But he did not; rather, in the popular disaffection, he beheld that "tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune," and launched himself upon its stream without delay.

3. When favoured by Providence so far as to secure the crown, had he carried out the trust committed to him, to erect a kingdom in which the worship of Jehovah should be faithfully and purely maintained, he should have been established on his throne beyond the possibility of overthrow, and the house of Jeroboam should have shone with a lustre as brilliant as, if not excelling, that of the house of David. But he did not; rather in him was verified the sentiment -

"That lowliness is young ambition's ladder
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the utmost round,
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend."

(Julius Caesar,' act 2. sc. 1.) Jehovah had set Jeroboam on the throne of Israel; Jeroboam when on the throne cast Jehovah behind his back (1 Kings 14:7-9).

IV. A MONUMENT OF DESERVED RETRIBUTION. Jeroboam, who might have attained to undying honour, reaped for himself a harvest of eternal infamy. To such a pitch of wickedness did he proceed, both in himself and in his people, whom he corrupted by his example and commanded by his authority, that not only did "the sin of Jeroboam become ever afterwards proverbial as an expression for the highest possible impiety in an Israelitish ruler (1 Kings 15:34; 2 Kings 10:31; 2 Kings 13:6; 2 Kings 14:24; 2 Kings 17:22),. but, it drew down upon him swift and appalling retribution. "The Lord smote him."

1. In his army with defeat. His troops were routed on the field of war, his fenced cities were captured, his military power was broken.

2. In his house with bereavement. The sudden death of his child Abijah was a sore stroke, to which was added a sorer in the curse that none other of the house of Jeroboam should come to his grave in peace (1 Kings 14:12, 13).

3. In himself with disease. To this the language of ver. 20 is believed by some to point (Clarke, Jamieson).

V. A VICTIM OF ALL-DEVOURING DEATH. Jeroboam succumbed to the fatal malady two years after the death of Abijah, and in the twenty-second year of his reign. He expired at Tirzah, and was buried with his fathers.

"Sceptre and crown must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade." W.

These concluding verses, which dispose of the latter end of the life of Abijah, may bring before us the lessons which are to be gathered from his career.

I. THE SLIGHTNESS AND VALUELESSNESS OF HUMAN FAME. He was a descendant of David, and a king reigning at Jerusalem, and he gained a somewhat brilliant victory over his rival at Mount Ephraim - "the rest of his acts and his ways and sayings are written in the story of the Prophet Iddo;" but who reads them there, or who can tell us anything of what is there contained? In the Book of the Kings (1 Kings 5:7) we are referred to our text for the details of his career. But how scanty we find them to be! How little do we know of this once proud and "mighty" monarch; and how content we are that we know so little! And of what entire valuelessness to him would any fuller knowledge on our part be! We need not be concerned that our name and fame will traverse so small a part of this globe, and travel so short a space of time; that we shall be so soon forgotten. Kings and statesmen, whose chances of fame were far greater than ours, have found how ephemeral and how worthless a thing is fame. To be loved by those whom we have blessed, to be esteemed by the good and true, to be honoured of God to take some part in the promotion of his glorious kingdom, - that is the heritage to be coveted and to be gained.

II. THE BRITTLENESS OF EARTHLY FORTUNE. When Abijah ascended the throne of Judah, he had, probably, good reason for expecting a long period of honour and enjoyment. But three short years brought his hopes down to the ground. Some disease showed itself in his frame, or some accident befell him, or some treacherous blow struck him, and he went down to the grave with his early hopes unfulfilled. And who shall say that the young man of our acquaintance, of our connection, of our affection, who has such bright prospects before him, will not find, by a sad disillusion, that the term of his happiness and his honour is a very brief one; that a few years, or even months, will bring him to his grave? "Love not the world, neither the things which are in the world The world passeth away... but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

III. THE DANGER OF GREAT SUCCESS. We read in the preceding verse (ver. 20) that Jeroboam never recovered strength again" after his humiliating defeat at Mount Ephraim. We might with equal truth say of Abijah that he never recovered from his success. He was apparently elated by it, and, in the perilous mood of complacency, he gave himself up to culpable domestic licence (ver. 21). His latter days were spent in home luxuries and (it is only too likely) in revelries and follies. His success was too much for him; as, indeed, success very often proves to be. Many men can stand misfortune; comparatively few can stand prosperity. It is a "slippery place," where the unguarded human spirit falls, and is badly bruised, if not broken. If the tide of success should set in, whether of wealth, or honour, or power, or affection, let there be unusual watchfulness and multiplied devotion; for the hour of prosperity is that hour when the archers of the enemy will be busy with their arrows.

IV. THE VALUE OF WHOLE-HEARTEDNESS IN THE SERVICE OF THE SUPREME. Where shall we look to find the fatal flaw that accounts for this royal failure? We find it here (1 Kings 15:3). Abijah's heart was "not perfect with the Lord his God;" that is to say, his heart was "divided," and therefore he was "found faulty" (Hosea 10:2). He did not seek God "with his whole heart." He was willing enough to try and charm with the Divine Name and the Divine will and Law (see vers. 5-10), but he was not prepared to walk uprightly and faithfully, as "the heart of David his father," before the Lord his God. If our devotion be nothing more than a desire to have God on our side in the day of battle, we shall show small consistency of conduct and little excellence of character. The religious character that will stand the test both of sunshine and shadow is that of the man who realizes the supreme claims of God, his Father and his Saviour, and who solemnly and determinately dedicates himself, heart and life, to "the Lord his God." It is only whole-heartedness in the service of Christ that will ensure us against the perils of adversity and prosperity. - C.

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