For my blog post today about II Chronicles 13, I will adapt my notes on the chapter.
In I Kings 15:1-8, King Abijah (or Abijam) of Judah is said to walk in the evil ways of his ancestors, and yet God still preserved the Davidic line of which Abijah was a part because God was honoring the righteousness of David. The passage also states that Abijah fought King Jeroboam of Northern Israel all his days.
II Chronicles 13, however, seems to paint a different picture. There, King Abijah preaches to the Northern Kingdom of Israel when Judah and Northern Israel have gathered to battle each other. Abijah criticizes the North for revolting against the Davidic king whom God had established. Abijah also lambastes the Northern King Jeroboam’s idolatry and expulsion of the LORD’s priests from Northern Israel, as Abijah notes that Judah worships the LORD rightly in the Temple. Abijah exhorts the North not to fight God, for it will not succeed.
The battle proceeds, and the Judahites shout to God for help. God then responds by defeating Northern Israel, and Judah captures some cities and villages from the Northern Kingdom.
Abijah in I Kings 15 is wicked and fights repeatedly with Jeroboam. Abijah in II Chronicles 13, however, appears to take a stand for righteousness and fights a single battle that cripples Jeroboam. Are these two pictures compatible? Perhaps they can be. Even if one is not a fundamentalist who seeks to harmonize the Bible and demonstrate that it is perfectly consistent, one can still be edified by reading two texts intertextually—-in dialogue with one another. Maybe one can say that Abijah fell short in his own life, yet he was willing to appeal to righteousness for political ends. How many of us appeal to righteousness, without allowing that righteousness to sink deeply into us and shape our lives? If only Abijah absorbed the righteous words that he was speaking—-the appreciation of God’s work, the love for worship in the Temple, and the outrage at unrighteousness that Abijah was outwardly expressing.
Interestingly, according to the Orthodox Jewish Artscroll commentary, rabbinic literature tends to take a dim view of Abijah’s speech and actions in II Chronicles 13. Abijah is criticized for publicly shaming Jeroboam and for mutilating Northern Israelite corpses (which the great slaughter of II Chronicles 13:17 is interpreted to be). Another consideration is that, while Abijah criticizes Northern Israel for rebelling against Judah, God was the one behind the Northern Israelite revolt, and it was in response to the father of Abijah, King Rehoboam, refusing to lighten the burdens of the people (I Kings 11-12; II Chronicles 10:15). Although rabbinic literature depicts Abijah as wrong in II Chronicles 13, one cannot escape that God helps the Judahites in that chapter. The Artscroll explains this by saying that Abijah may have been bad or inaccurate, but God was still honoring the Judahite army that cried to him for help.
I would say that Abijah is depicted rather positively in II Chronicles 13. When we bring together different biblical texts, however, the picture becomes murkier, yet perhaps more interesting and spiritually instructive.