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2 Chronicles 13


(LXX versing)
Abijah Succeeds Rehoboam Abijah Reigns in Judah The Reign of Abijah, His Great Victory Over the North Abijah's War with Jeroboam War Breaks Out
13:1-2a 13:1-3 13:1-2a 13:1-2a 13:1-3
13:2b-3 13:2b-7 13:2b-3
Civil War Abijah Addresses the Israelites
13:4-7 13:4-12 13:4-9 13:4-12
13:8-12 13:8-12
13:10-12 The Battle
13:13-19 13:13-20 13:13-22 13:13-18 13:13-18
The End of the Reign of Abijah
Death of Jeroboam 13:19-20 13:19-23
13:21-22 13:21-14:1 13:21-22

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


1In the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam, Abijah became king over Judah. 2He reigned three years in Jerusalem; and his mother's name was Micaiah the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah.

13:1 "In the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam" This is the only place in Chronicles that the parallel reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah are mentioned. This is regularly done in Kings.

"Abijah" This was Rehoboam's favorite son (cf. 2 Chr. 11:22). The parallel is in 1 Kings 15, but there it is a much briefer account and his name is spelled "Abijam." Obviously the Chronicler is using a different written source.

"Micaiah" The LXX has "Maacah" both here and in 1 Kgs. 15:2, but there are two different fathers listed.

  1. here, Uriel
  2. 1 Kgs. 15:2, Abishalom (possibly grandfather, cf. 2 Chr. 11:20)

This is the same name as one of Rehoboam's wives (cf. 1 Kgs. 15:2; 2 Chr. 11:20,21,22).

13:2 "He reigned three years" See SPECIAL TOPIC: KINGS OF THE DIVIDED KINGDOM.

2bNow there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. 3Abijah began the battle with an army of valiant warriors, 400,000 chosen men, while Jeroboam drew up in battle formation against him with 800,000 chosen men who were valiant warriors.

13:3 "400,000. . .800,000" These numbers seem inflated. This may be because

  1. literary exaggeration to highlight YHWH's victory
  2. the word "thousand" refers to a military unit

The best book on these numbers is Edwin Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings.


4Then Abijah stood on Mount Zemaraim, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, and said, "Listen to me, Jeroboam and all Israel: 5Do you not know that the Lord God of Israel gave the rule over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt? 6Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, rose up and rebelled against his master, 7and worthless men gathered about him, scoundrels, who proved too strong for Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, when he was young and timid and could not hold his own against them.

13:4-12 Abijah addresses Jeroboam I from Mt. Zemaraim (cf. Josh. 18:22; LXX has "Samaria").

  1. YHWH gave David and his descendants the kingship over Israel forever (cf. 2 Samuel 7; 1 Chronicles 17)
  2. Jeroboam I rebelled against Solomon (i.e., 1 Kgs. 11:26)
  3. he gathered an army of worthless men (i.e., "sons of Belial," i.e., Deut. 13:13; 1 Sam. 2:12; 10:27; 1 Kgs. 21:10) who defeated Rehoboam
  4. Jeroboam I has sinned by making rival temples with golden calves (i.e., located at Dan and Bethel, cf. 1 Kgs. 12:26-30)
  5. Jeroboam I apparently confiscated the Levitical cities of the north and drove out the Levites
  6. Judah had not forsaken YHWH (see notes at 2 Chr. 13:10-11)
  7. the Aaronic priests still minister in the Jerusalem temple
  8. because of #1-7, we have come to fight in YHWH's name; do not resist us

In a real sense this challenge by Abijah represents the theology of the Chronicler (not the evil king of 1 Kgs. 15:3).

  1. the only legitimate kingdom is Judah who is of the descendants of David; the northern tribes are an illegitimate kingdom with an illegitimate temple and priesthood
  2. the only legitimate priesthood is the line of Aaron, tribe of Levi, and they are still performing the Mosaic rites in the only proper temple on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem
  3. the defeat of such a large army clearly shows YHWH's favor on Judah and rejection of Israel under Jeroboam I

13:5 "a covenant of salt" This was the physical, cultural symbol of an eternal agreement (cf. Lev. 2:13; Num. 18:19). This refers to YHWH's promise to David in 2 Samuel 7; 1 Chronicles 17 (esp. vv. 13-14). See brief article in Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, p. 1752.

"forever" See SPECIAL TOPIC: FOREVER ('olam).

13:7 "he was young and timid" This same phrase is used by David of Rehoboam in 1 Chr. 22:5; 29:1, but at the time of Jeroboam I's rebellion he was in his early 40's. This seems to be an excuse of the Chronicler for Solomon's son's

  1. inabilities
  2. indecisive personality

8"So now you intend to resist the kingdom of the Lord through the sons of David, being a great multitude and having with you the golden calves which Jeroboam made for gods for you. 9Have you not driven out the priests of the Lord, the sons of Aaron and the Levites, and made for yourselves priests like the peoples of other lands? Whoever comes to consecrate himself with a young bull and seven rams, even he may become a priest of what are no gods. 10But as for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken Him; and the sons of Aaron are ministering to the Lord as priests, and the Levites attend to their work. 11Every morning and evening they burn to the Lord burnt offerings and fragrant incense, and the showbread is set on the clean table, and the golden lampstand with its lamps is ready to light every evening; for we keep the charge of the Lord our God, but you have forsaken Him. 12Now behold, God is with us at our head and His priests with the signal trumpets to sound the alarm against you. O sons of Israel, do not fight against the Lord God of your fathers, for you will not succeed."

13:8 "having with you the golden calves" In the ANE, symbols of the nations' gods and their priests went into battle with the troops. This can be seen in Israel in 1 Samuel 4, where Eli's wicked sons took the ark into battle with the Philistines and it was captured.

Surprisingly, the text has "calves." One wonders if both golden calf pedestals accompanied Israel's troops. It is interesting that Judah captured the southern temple of Jeroboam I at Bethel, but the golden calf is not mentioned.

The golden calf idols were with Israel but YHWH Himself was with Judah!

13:9 What a castigation of Jeroboam I's new temples.

  1. He drove out the legitimate Levitical priests.
  2. He made himself priests like the pagan nations.
  3. He and his priests worshiped non-existent gods (i.e., the golden calves, 2 Chr. 13:8).
    1. the calves were meant to represent YHWH (i.e., Exodus 32), possibly as pedestals for His invisible presence
    2. but the calves were symbols of ANE fertility; they became the objects of Ba'al worship
    3. "of what are no gods"; see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM
  4. 2 Chr. 13:10 asserts Judah's exclusive worship of YHWH, which implies a difference from Israel



13:10-11 "we have not forsaken Him. . .but you have forsaken Him" The VERB (BDB 736, KB 806, Qal PERFECT) is a recurrent VERB.

  1. 1 Kgs. 9:3; 11:33; 18:18; 19:10,14
  2. 2 Kgs. 2:2,4,6; 4:30; 17:16; 21:22; 22:17
  3. in Chronicles it is used of
    1. forsaking the Lord ‒ 1 Chr. 28:9; 2 Chr. 7:19,22; 12:1,5; 13:10-11; 15:2; 21:10; 24:20,24; 28:6; 29:6; 34:25
    2. forsaking His commandments ‒ 2 Kgs. 17:16 (i.e., idolatry)
    3. forsaking His temple ‒ 2 Chr. 24:18 (i.e., idolatry)

This language is reminiscent of the conclusion of Deuteronomy. YHWH's people are judged because they forsake Him (cf. Deut. 28:20; 31:16) and His law (cf. Deut. 29:25), therefore, He forsakes them (cf. Deut. 31:17). Remember, Abraham's descendants were part of a conditional covenant. There were consequences for obedience and disobedience (i.e., Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28)!

13:11 The legitimate priests and Levites performed the Mosaic rituals (cf. 1 Chr. 23:28-31). This verse mentions the activity of the priests (i.e., offering burnt offerings every morning), but the other activities were primarily done by Levites. The author of Chronicles seems to have a special interest in them. In the post-exilic period the distinction between priests and Levites is minimized.

13:12 This verse must have been very comforting to a post-exilic audience facing the ire of the surrounding nations (cf. Ezra ‒ Nehemiah).

13But Jeroboam had set an ambush to come from the rear, so that Israel was in front of Judah and the ambush was behind them. 14When Judah turned around, behold, they were attacked both front and rear; so they cried to the Lord, and the priests blew the trumpets. 15Then the men of Judah raised a war cry, and when the men of Judah raised the war cry, then it was that God routed Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. 16When the sons of Israel fled before Judah, God gave them into their hand. 17Abijah and his people defeated them with a great slaughter, so that 500,000 chosen men of Israel fell slain. 18Thus the sons of Israel were subdued at that time, and the sons of Judah conquered because they trusted in the Lord, the God of their fathers. 19Abijah pursued Jeroboam and captured from him several cities, Bethel with its villages, Jeshanah with its villages and Ephron with its villages.

13:13-14 Even though Jeroboam I had a better military strategy, YHWH acted on behalf of Judah and Israel was defeated.

  1. 500,000 killed
  2. cities taken back
  3. national weakness throughout Jeroboam I's remaining reign
  4. YHWH struck him and he died (2 Chr. 13:20; 1 Kings 14)

13:14-15 Notice the expected acts involving a military action.

  1. prayer to YHWH ‒ before, during, and after the battle
  2. war cry ‒ possibly involving YHWH's name
  3. blowing of trumpets by the Levitical priests


13:17 What a terrible slaughter of fellow descendants of Abraham. Civil wars are horrible but it was even worse among the unique covenant people of God.

In the modern western world, the individual has become supreme but remember the Bible is corporate. Each individual served a collective whole. I surely agree that God loves individuals, but His heart is also set on a people, chosen for a purpose. This supercedes the place of individuals. Even for NT believers, the goal is not benefits for the individual but service to the health and growth of the Kingdom of God (i.e., 1 Cor. 12:7,11). We are saved to serve, not to get. Be careful of western individualism.


13:18 "because they trusted in the Lord" The reason for Judah's success in battle is clearly and emphatically identified. YHWH is said to have "routed Jeroboam" in v. 15. This clearly demonstrates the stated truth of v. 12, "God is with us as our head. . .do not fight against the Lord God of your fathers." There are three key verbs for the concept of faith/trust.

  1. The VERB "trusted" (BDB 1043, KB 1612, Niphal PERFECT) basically means "to lean on" or "support oneself on" (cf. 2 Chr. 14:11; 16:7,8; Isa. 31:1; 50:10; Mic. 3:11).
  2. This VERB is parallel with the more common VERB/NOUN to trust (BDB 53,54; see SPECIAL TOPIC: BELIEVE, TRUST, FAITH, AND FAITHFULNESS IN THE OT) in Isa. 10:20.
  3. See also the other term for "trust" (BDB 105, KB 120) in Isa. 30:12; 31:1.

Trust is a crucial element of OT faith!

13:19 "Bethel" This Ephraimite city was just a few miles north of Jerusalem and was the location of the southern temple of Jeroboam I's golden calves. What a symbolic judgment!

Its location was meant to be a rival to Jerusalem's temple.

20Jeroboam did not again recover strength in the days of Abijah; and the Lord struck him and he died.

There is no grim reaper. Death is in the hands of YHWH!

21But Abijah became powerful; and took fourteen wives to himself, and became the father of twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters. 22Now the rest of the acts of Abijah, and his ways and his words are written in the treatise of the prophet Iddo.

13:21-22 This is a typical, but shorter, form of the summary of Abijah's reign. This may be because part of the family information appears in 2 Chr. 13:1-2.

Not surprisingly this account does not mention the evil summary of 1 Kgs. 15:3.

  1. walked in the sins of his fathers
  2. his heart was not fully devoted to YHWH
NASB  "treatise"
NKJV  "annals"
NRSV, JPSOA  "story"
NJB  "the midrash"
REB  "discourse"
Peshitta  "poems"

The MT has "midrash" (BDB 205), which is found only here and 2 Chr. 24:27 in the OT, but became a famous term in later Judaism for a commentary on Scripture. Here, it refers to a prophetic record or poem (Peshitta) but not scribal embellishments.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Why is the account in Kings so different from this account?
  2. How does Abijah's speech reflect the theology of the Chronicler?
  3. How does this chapter explain the reason for Israel and Judah to split?
  4. List the reasons Jeroboam I is condemned.
  5. How are the "war cry" and the blowing of the trumpets related to Judah's victory?
  6. Why do modern commentators question the numbers in Kings and Chronicles?

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