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2 Chronicles 13:1-22 - Homiletics

A royal and manly manifesto in the rights of godly truth.

The narrative of Abijah's short reign of three years is distinguished by one clear account, at any rate, of the wars that had arisen and were prevailing between the two parts of the recently rended and bleeding kingdom, of which a very brief statement only had been made, at the close of the history of Rehoboam's reign, whether here or in the parallel. It is also, and most chiefly, distinguished by the graphic description of the very forcible manifesto, so dramatically delivered as well, in the name and right of religion, and of the truth handed down to him by his fathers, by Abijah King of Judah, before, as it were, all the dissenting and separate congregation of Israel and their king. This subject awaits below some further analysis. And once more, so far as our Book of Chronicles goes, the narrative of this short reign and public career of Abijah is remarkable, in that we should have supposed certainly, when we shut our book, that they were, as nearly as might be, immaculate every way to the honour of God, and by his grace to the credit of the man and the king, with his heroic challenge to all Israel's conscience, towering in the midst of all the rest. The parallel, meanwhile, in Kings undeceives us unwelcomely in this impression, and mournfully disabuses our mind, where with startling precision it is recorded that "Abijah walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father," Whether the unrelated sins of his private life, or the chances of war, or the director judgment of God, brought his career to so early a close, we are not told. Meanwhile the contents of this chapter are most interesting. They read like an episode almost unique among even the many and varied, the concise and telling monographs that abound in the pages before us. War is waged, armies are ready, and are already face to face; battle itself is ready to begin, or has already begun, when—no spectral figure—King Abijah himself stands on Mount Zemaraim; the King of Israel, and the army of Israel, and, as it were, all the rended-off nation of Israel, fortunately and conveniently congregated before him. If ever man "preached," Abijah preached, and for the day and the occasion lifted up his voice worthily, and was "not afraid." Truth and facts are unmistakably on his side. We seem, for a moment, to be under the spell of an Old Testament Demosthenes, and to be listening to the snatch of an earlier philippic. If we seek some analysis of this mingled argument, denunciation, appeal, we notice—

I. THE SAFE GROUND OF THE CASE MADE AGAINST ISRAEL AND JEROBOAM . "The Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever—to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt." Perhaps, indeed, Abijah remembered well the solemn proviso of that covenant, emphatically made, and put into psalm as well, "If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore" ( Psalms 132:12 ). Though he neglected to quote it into his argument, and let us say probably by design, yet it was substantially true that the perpetual kingdom was made over so, by divinest engage-merit, to Judah, as against all other comers whomsoever, and up to the coming of the Lord Jesus himself, of whose kingdom there should be indeed no end. For Abijah might, if challenged, have gone on also to quote ( Psalms 89:33-37 ), "Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven." So Abijah begins successfully, putting Israel and Jeroboam essentially in the wrong.

II. THE MORAL ELEMENT FLUNG SO EFFECTIVELY AND OPPORTUNELY BY ABIJAH . INTO THE ARGUMENT . "Ought ye not to know this, that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever?" Israel and Jeroboam did know it, knew it well; and Abijah and all Judah knew that their separated brethren knew it, and knew it well. It was a well-conceived addition to the argument of the king of the true line. How many persons know the right most assuredly, to whom, for neglecting to do it, the most telling and most stinging expostulation and rebuke might well be couched in the same form of question, "Ought ye not to know?"


1 . It was a case of a subject rebelling against his own king ( 2 Chronicles 13:6 ), not of one foreign to the kingdom obtaining sway by conquest over a portion of it.

2. It was a case of that subject also taking advantage of the youth and inexperience of the rightful monarch Rehoboam, who was actually in possession of the throne at the time of the schism.

3. It was a case of the usurper relying on a "multitude" ( 2 Chronicles 13:8 )—a mere majority! Nothing of a moral kind can safely be decided, on the strength merely of a majority, in this world; or, at any rate, up to the present time, in this world. And often the decision of something of a physical kind, on the strength of a majority, is most uncertain the very ground beneath the feet of that majority being so liable to be undermined on a large scale (as is so notable in the sequel of this very history, 2 Chronicles 13:18 ), or otherwise honeycombed by invisible moral forces. God's selection of Israel, his whole conduct of them, of their education, of their government and their legislation, was and is one protest against reliance on the many.

4 . It was a most iniquitous and crying case of idolatry in the setting up of the golden calves. This most glaring instance of the basest sort of supposed expedience did not bear that a word be said on its behalf or in its defence. Had there been not another weak point in the conduct or tactics of Jeroboam and Israel, this carried the sentence of death in itself.

5 . Although it were a corollary most readily to be understood, that the priests and Levites of the true religion's ministry should find themselves no longer in place or at home in such an Israel, yet Abijah notes this also, probably that first prominence may be given (as great historic interest has certainly been given) to the fact that of the same priests and Levites were found none to sympathize with Jeroboam's evil doings, to countenance them, or to consent, under any pretext of policy, to uphold them; and secondly, that the flagitious, sacrilegious, and absolutely reckless defiance of the true religion, of which Jeroboam was guilty, in the sham consecration of sham priests, in imitation of heathen nations and in observance of heathen precedents, might be openly made to confront him, and publicly be hurled as the last aggravating charge against him. Jeroboam "cast out the priests of the Lord … and the Levites … and made priests after the manner of the nations of other lands."


1 . They scorned golden calves, and had not forsaken the one Lord their God.

2 . Their priests and Levites are the divinely appointed and consecrated ministers of the sanctuary and altar. They do their work. The altar smokes morning and evening, and the odour of the sweet incense ascends. The shewbread is in its place and duly renewed. The golden candlestick burns every evening. They have received the charge of the Lord God, and they keep it faithfully, obediently in each respect, and to each time punctually.

3 . God is practically looked to as their Captain, and his ministers are looked to to sound the alarm alike to themselves and for them "against" their foes.

V. THE SHORT PARTING APPEAL . The whole argument, remonstrance, rebuke, has been in an eminent degree addressed to the conscience, and to the distinct and undoubted knowledge of revealed religion, which had been equally the portion of Israel with Judah. And now the parting brief appeal is fully charged with the same spirit. It is an appeal to conscience and religious knowledge and feeling, and legitimately concludes with that warning which has so long been, which is still, the divinely foreshadowed sanction of command or of prohibition. It depends on the faculty of faith, it is part of the discipline of faith, and—to be mindfully remembered by all—it is some of the most critical and tremblingly anxious exercises of faith. He who believes in nothing but the present does not believe in warning, and he who does not believe in warning is, in one word, the infatuated, and ever liable to be the reckless. In this brief pregnant appeal we seem to notice

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