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LESSON VI.

REIGN OF ABIJAH IN JUDAH.

B.C. 957-955.—1 KINGS XV. 3—5; 2 CHRON. xiii, 1–20.

Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam began Abijah to reign over Judah.

He reigned three years in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Michaiah the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah.

And he 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.

Nevertheless for David's sake did the LORD his God give him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him, and to establish Jerusalem :

Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.

And there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam.

And Abijah set the battle in array with an army of valiant men of war, even four hundred thousand chosen men: Jeroboam also set the battle in array against him with eight hundred thousand chosen men, being mighty men of valour.

And Abijah stood up upon mount Zemaraim, which is in mount Ephraim, and said, Hear me, thou Jeroboam, and all Israel ;

Ought ye 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 ? *

Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, is risen up, and hath rebelled against his lord.

And there are gathered unto him vain men, the children of Belial, and have strengthened themselves against Rehoboam the son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and tender hearted, and could not withstand them.

And now ye think to withstand the kingdom of the LORD in the hand of the sons of David ; and ye be a great multitude, and there are with you golden calves, which Jeroboam made you for gods.

Have ye not cast out the priests of the Lord, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and have made you priests after the manner of the nations of other lands? so that whosoever cometh to consecrate himself with a young bullock and seven rams, the same may be a priest of them that are no gods.

But as for us, the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken him ; and the priests, which minister unto the LORD, are the sons of Aaron, and the Levites wait upon their business.

* A firm, lasting, undecaying covenant. VOL. III.

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And they burn unto the Lord every morning and every evening burnt sacrifices and sweet incense : the shewbread also set they in order upon the pure table; and the candlestick of gold with the lamps thereof, to burn every evening : for we keep the charge of the LORD our God ; bat ye have forsaken him.

And, behold, God himself is with us for our captain, and his priests with sounding trumpets to cry alarm against you. O children of Israel, fight ye not against the LORD God of your fathers; for ye shall not prosper.

But Jeroboam caused an ambushment to come about behind them : so they were before Judah, and the ambushment was behind them.

And when Judah looked back, behold, the battle was before and behind : and they cried unto the LORD, and the priests sounded with the trumpets.

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.

And Abijah and his people slew them with a great slaughter : so there fell down slain of Israel five hundred thousand chosen men.

Thus the children of Israel were brought under at that time, and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied upon the LORD God of their fathers.

And Abijah pursued after Jeroboam, and took cities from him, Beth-el with the towns thereof, and Jeshanah with the towns thereof, and Ephraim with the towns thereof.

Neither did Jeroboam recover strength again in the days of Abijah : and the LORD struck him, and he died.

COMMENT.— Three verses here come from the Book of Kings, where Abijah is called Abijam. His name meant “the will of JEHOVAH,” and as the writer of Kings records no good of him, he may have been unwilling to use the Divine name as part of that of an idolater. In like manner his mother's right name seems to have been Michaiah, “Who is like to JEHOVAH ?” but it was altered to Maachah, or“ oppression,” in detestation of her. She was the child of Uriel of Gibeah, and of Tamar, the daughter of Absalom, and she is sometimes called Absalom's daughter to mark her descent from David. Abijah had been Rehoboam's favourite son, and had been promoted by him above his brothers. He seems to have been led away by his parents' example, and not to have served the Lord with a perfect heart, though for David's sake God had mercy on him, and would not take the light of the house of David away. He could not have been young when he came to the throne, but Jeroboam took advantage of the death of Rehoboam to raise a huge army, double that which Judah could bring into the field, perhaps hoping to conquer Jerusalem. Abijah, however, advanced himself into the enemy's country, and when the two armies were about to encounter beneath Mount Ephraim, he ascended Mount Zemaraim, one of its peaks, and made an address, not only to his own army of Judah, but to the hostile army of Israel. He called on these last to remember that it was by God's own appointment that the house of David ruled. He called the engagement a covenant of salt, a term used to express one consecrated by sacrifice, at which salt was always used; besides which, salt was the emblem of the lasting and undecaying. Nevertheless, the weakness of Rehoboam had been taken advantage of, and a rebellion had begun. Abijah, knowing perhaps of the sentence against Jeroboam, called on the Israelites to lay down their arms, since they, the worshippers of golden calves, could never prosper against those who maintained the true worship of the Lord in His Temple day by day, with the true priesthood. “God Himself is with us as our captain," he cries ; “O children of Israel, fight not against the Lord God of your fathers, for ye shall not prosper.

Little recking of this noble, trustful appeal, Jeroboam sent an ambush to surprise Abijah's army in the rear-acting, indeed, like a skilful captain ; but all in vain. The silver trumpets of the priests sounded, the men of Judah shouted and cried aloud in prayer, and the victory was theirs--a great and most decisive victory, so great that Jeroboam never recovered it; but Abijah took all the southern parts of his territory, even Bethel itself, although Judah did not retain it for any great length of time. Some have thought that Abijah was uplifted by this victory, and only afterwards fell away into pride and idolatry, but as his whole reign lasted no more than two years and a part of another, this does not seem likely. He must have married fourteen wives, and had twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters before that time ; and it seems far more likely that after having been ill brought up, danger roused him to a comprehension of his true strength, even the name of the Lord, and that his latter end was more blessed than his beginning.

LESSON VII.

ASA IN JUDAH AND NADAB IN ISRAEL.

B.C. 953. —2 CHRON. xiv. ; 1 KINGS xv. 27–30.

So Abijah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David : and Asa his son reigned in his stead.

And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God :

For he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves :

And commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment.

Also he took away out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the images : and the kingdom was quiet before him.

And he built fenced cities in Judah : for the land had rest, and he had no war in those years; because the LORD had given him rest.

Therefore he said unto Judah, Let us build these cities, and make about them walls, and towers, gates, and bars, while the land is yet before us; because we have sought the LORD our God, we have sought hin, and he hath given us rest on every side. So they built and prospered.

And Asa had an army of men that bare targets and spears, out of Judah three hundred thousand ; and out of Benjamin, that bare shields and drew bows, two hundred and fourscore thousand : all these were mighty men of valour,

And Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned over Israel two years.

And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his facher, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.

And Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar, conspired against him ; and Baasha smote him at Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines; for Nadab and all Israel laid siege to Gibbethon.

Even in the third year of Asa king of Judah did Baasha slay him, and reigned in his stead.

Ånd it came to pass, when he reigned, that he smote all the house of Jeroboam ; he left not to Jeroboam any that breathed, until he had destroyed him, according unto the saying of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Ahijah the Shilonite :

Because of the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned, and which he made Israel sin, by his provocation wherewith he provoked the LORD God of Israel to anger.

And there came out against Judah Zerah the Ethiopian with an host of a thousand thousand, and three hundred chariots; and came unto Mareshah.

* Wooden pillars in honour of Ashtoreth.

Then Asa went out against him, and they set the battle in array in the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah.

And Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said, LORD, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O LORD our God ; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O LORD, thou art our God ; let not man prevail against thee.

So the LORD smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah ; and the Ethiopians fled.

And Asa and the people that were with him pursued them unto Gerar : and the Ethiopians were overthrown, that they could not recover themselves; for they were destroyed before the LORD, and before his host ; and they carried away very much spoil.

And they smote all the cities round about Gerar; for the fear of the LORD came upon them : and they spoiled all the cities; for there was exceeding much spoil in them.

They smote also the tents of cattle, and carried away sheep and camels in abundance; and returned to Jerusalem.

COMMENT.-In the same year began two new reigns in Israel and Judah, for Jeroboam never recovered the blow that Abijah's victory had given him, and was stricken unto death. His son Nadab reigned little more than a year. He was besieging Gibbethon, a city properly belonging to the Levites, but which had been seized by the Philistines, when one of the fierce chiefs of the rich tribe of Issachar, Baasha by name, rose against him, and did what had never been done before in Israel, slew every creature of Jeroboam's family, thus fulfilling Ahijah's prophecy. Meantime, Asa, the son of Abijah, in Judah, though still a very young man, was applying himself to purify the kingdom from the idolatry that had arisen in the latter reigns, destroying the mountain shrines where the people wilfully resorted, breaking the images of the sun god, and burning the wooden pillars of the moon goddess, so far as he dared, for it seems that he did not overpower the resistance either of his grandmother Maachah or of some of the cities; but the Book of Kings tells us that his heart was perfect, that is, undivided, and in earnest to devote himself and his people wholly to the Lord. Therefore he was signally blest. Ethiopia, the wild country south of Egypt, had a powerful king, here called Zerah, on the old monuments Azereh-Amen, who after the death of Shishak not only conquered Egypt, but led his army on into Judah, which was always the first place attacked by any Egyptian conqueror, because

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