Second Chronicles chapter 13 carries the account of a battle between Jeroboam and Abijah. It is an interesting account because in it and the account in the following chapters about Asa, we see the reasons for the fall of nations and kings.
Jeroboam: the Great Pretender
Jeroboam had been the ruler over the Northern Kingdom of Israel for 18 years when Abijah began his reign over the Southern Kingdom of Judah and was the son of Nebat, a servant of Solomon. He had rebelled against the Lord, (it doesn’t say that he ever did follow the Lord), gathering the “children of Belial” (literally, worthless) people around him, strengthening themselves against Rehoboam, the son of Solomon and the rightful king of all the tribes, and Judah. (2 Chr. 13:4-7)
Abijah had ascended the throne after Rehoboam died and Jeroboam decided to take advantage of the change and any possible instability in leadership over Judah.
Truth be told, Jeroboam was a pretender to the throne. As Abijah tells the army of the Northern Kingdom of Israel before the battle: “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?” He wanted the power that such a position would afford him. He was willing to do anything to get it. He was rebellious and a liar. Abijah then outlines the ways that Jeroboam has turned against God.
Abijah: Rightful Heir to the Throne
Likewise, he outlines all the ways that he has lead Judah to continue in the ways of the Lord. “… for we keep the charge of the LORD our God … And, behold, God himself is with us for our captain.” (2 Chr. 13:10-12) They follow the duties that God has put before them and they have put Him in charge.
Jeroboam’s army numbered some 800,000 men. He had turned from the Lord and made golden calves to be worshiped as gods. On the other hand, Abijah had an army of 400,000 men and they had gathered to battle on the occasion of this speech. Judah was vastly out-numbered.
We are told that while Abijah was giving his speech, Jeroboam sent part of his army around behind Abijah’s men to ambush them. When they were discovered, Abijah ordered Judah to blow trumpets. His army gave out a great shout and God smote the army of Israel and Jeroboam and delivered them into Judah’s hand. There were five hundred thousand slain that day. (2 Chr. 13:13-19)
There is an interesting order in the account of the battle in verses 15 and 16 to take note of:
Then the men of Judah gave a shout: and as the men of Judah shouted, it came to pass, that God smote Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. And the children of Israel fled before Judah: and God delivered them into their hand.
Notice that first God smote Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah joined the fighting. This is a perfect example of God’s will being accomplished in heaven before it is done on earth: in the spiritual before the physical. God declares an outcome to the battle and then we accomplish it.
It wasn’t only the battle that was won: cities under Jeroboam’s rule were conquered and taken. Jeroboam was never the same after this. He never did recover his strength. (2 Chr. 13:20) Israel actually suffered many bad kings, (a total of 19), throughout its history beginning with Jeroboam all the way to the fall of the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom to the Assyrians (930 BC to about 723 BC).
In contrast, Abijah became strong, married and had 22 sons and 16 daughters by 14 wives. (2 Chr. 13:21-22) In reality, Abijah was not the best king, either. He had his faults, but at least at this point of his ruler-ship, he did have his priorities straight. For the southern kingdom of Judah a little over half of its kings were considered to be good with some even considered to be “best.”
This is the story of the outcome of what happens when we turn from God to pursue our own desires for power or greed. There are many in the Old Testament like this. The next story deals with Asa, who gained the throne of Judah after Abijah. He has a few more things going on that may be easier for us to identify with, but it is good to know the background of what went before his reign.
Pride, arrogance, and ignoring the will of God leads to the downfall of kings and nations.
Thank You and God Bless You.