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2 Chronicles 13-17
Although they were at first together in The United Kingdom of Israel, after The Division Of Israel, The Northern Kingdom of "Israel" was often at war against The Southern Kingdom of "Judah." Such was the case between Abijah of Judah and Jeroboam of Israel (see Kings of Israel and Judah).
"In the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam, Abijah began to reign over Judah. He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Micaiah the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah. Now there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. Abijah went out to battle having an army of valiant men of war, four hundred thousand picked men; and Jeroboam drew up his line of battle against him with eight hundred thousand picked mighty warriors." (2 Chronicles 13:1-3 RSV)
At that time, Judah was relatively faithful to The Lord, while Israel had made themselves religiously corrupt almost from the time that Israel was first split into two kingdoms. Abijah reminded Jeroboam of their common history.
"Then Abijah stood up on Mount Zemaraim which is in the hill country of Ephraim, and said, "Hear me, O Jeroboam and all Israel! Ought you not to know that The Lord God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel for ever to David and his sons [see and Israelite Dynasties and Israelite Monarchy - The Messiah] by a covenant of salt? Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, a servant of Solomon the son of David, rose up and rebelled against his lord; and certain worthless scoundrels gathered about him and defied Rehoboam the son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and irresolute and could not withstand them." (2 Chronicles 13:4-7 RSV)
The northern kingdom of "Israel" had driven out the Levites of The Lord and descended into Calf Worship (the northern kingdom was destroyed by the end of The Galilee Captivity primarily because of their idolatry).
"And now you think to withstand the kingdom of The Lord in the hand of the sons of David, because you are a great multitude and have with you the golden calves which Jeroboam made you for gods. Have you not driven out the priests of The Lord, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and made priests for yourselves like the peoples of other lands? Whoever comes to consecrate himself with a young bull or seven rams becomes a priest of what are no gods." (2 Chronicles 13:8-9 RSV)
Although "Judah" also became corrupt, at least at that point Abijah declared that the southern kingdom would obey The Lord and serve Him faithfully (see "The God Of The Old Testament" to understand who "The Lord God" was; see also Why Did Christ Put Moses To Death?).
"But as for us, The Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken Him. We have priests ministering to The Lord who are sons of Aaron, and Levites for their service. They offer to The Lord every morning and every evening burnt offerings and incense of sweet spices, set out the showbread on the table of pure gold, and care for the golden lampstand that its lamps may burn every evening; for we keep the charge of The Lord our God, but you have forsaken Him." (2 Chronicles 13:10-11 RSV)
Jeroboam responded by having his army of Israel attack Abijah's army of Judah (literally, Israel was at war with Jews - "Jew" is an abbreviation of "Judah"). The Lord took the side of those who were obedlient to Him, at that time - "God defeated Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah." Israel lost 500,000 troops in the battle.
"Jeroboam had sent an Ambush around to come on them from behind; thus his troops were in front of Judah, and the ambush was behind them. And when Judah looked, behold, the battle was before and behind them; and they cried to The Lord, and the priests blew the trumpets. Then the men of Judah raised the battle shout. And when the men of Judah shouted, God defeated Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. The men of Israel fled before Judah, and God gave them into their hand. Abijah and his people slew them with a great slaughter; so there fell slain of Israel five hundred thousand picked men. Thus the men of Israel were subdued at that time, and the men of Judah prevailed, because they relied upon The Lord, the God of their fathers." (2 Chronicles 13:13-18 RSV)
The intensity of the defeat guaranteed that Judah would be secure against Israel for some years to come. Jeroboam himself "did not recover his power in the days of Abijah; and The Lord smote him."
"And Abijah pursued Jeroboam, and took cities from him, Bethel with its villages and Jeshanah with its villages and Ephron with its villages.
2 Chronicles Chapter 14
Abijah fulfilled his reign; he died and was succeeded as king of Judah by his son Asa.
"So Abijah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in The City of David; and Asa his son reigned in his stead. In his days the land had rest for ten years." (2 Chronicles 14:1 RSV)
Asa was one of the most faithful of the Israelite kings, north or south. "Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of The Lord his God." The result? There was "no war in those years, for The Lord gave him peace."
"And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of The Lord his God. He took away the foreign altars and the High Places, and broke down the pillars and hewed down the Asherim [see Groves], and commanded Judah to seek The Lord, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment. He also took out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars. And the kingdom had rest under him. He built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest. He had no war in those years, for The Lord gave him peace." (2 Chronicles 14:2-6 RSV)
Although "Asa had an army of three hundred thousand from Judah" (2 Chronicles 14:8 RSV), there is no security without The Lord's favor, which comes from obedience to The Lord - a disobedient nation with an army of a billion troops would be surely defeated by a small obedient nation. The Lord is the only superpower on earth, as a million-man Ethiopian army learned when they attacked obedient Asa:
"Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and three hundred chariots." (2 Chronicles 14:9 RSV)
2 Chronicles Chapter 15
Asa knew well, and was reminded of it by The Lord's Prophets, that "the good shepherd" (see the Fact Finder question below) will protect the sheep of His flock.
"The Spirit of God [see also Spirit of God or Ghost of God?] came upon Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa, and said to him, "Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The Lord is with you, while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you." (2 Chronicles 15:1-2 RSV)
Asa then removed "the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin" which were most likely allowed there up to then as a political compromise for more "votes" (see Royal Democracy) by a young king who hadn't yet accepted the reality that there can be no compromise with obedience to The Lord.
"When Asa heard these words, the prophecy of Azariah the son of Oded, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities which he had taken in the hill country of Ephraim, and he repaired the altar of The Lord that was in front of the vestibule of the house of The Lord." (2 Chronicles 15:8 RSV)
Asa eventually cleansed Judah (but not Israel, which was still apparently subject to Judah from the defeat of Israel that The Lord gave to Judah in the time of Abijah) of idolatry, even from within his own family.
"They were gathered at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa. They sacrificed to The Lord on that day, from the spoil which they had brought, seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep. And they entered into a covenant to seek The Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul; and that whoever would not seek The Lord, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman. They took oath to The Lord with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with horns. And all Judah rejoiced over the oath; for they had sworn with all their heart, and had sought him with their whole desire, and he was found by them, and The Lord gave them rest round about.
2 Chronicles Chapter 16
Amazingly, in later years when Israel restored its military forces and threatened Judah, Asa foolishly departed from his certain security from The Lord and sought to bribe Syria away from their alliance with Israel.
"In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah, and built Ramah, that he might permit no one to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. Then Asa took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of The Lord and the king's house, and sent them to Ben-hadad king of Syria, who dwelt in Damascus, saying, "Let there be a league between me and you, as between my father and your father; behold, I am sending to you silver and gold; go, break your league with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me."
Hanani, a prophet ("seer") of The Lord rebuked Asa for looking to mere men for his kingdom's defenses - "the eyes of The Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show his might in behalf of those whose heart is blameless toward him." The result was that Asa's kingdom would forever after be vulnerable to attack.
"At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him, "Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on The Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with exceedingly many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on The Lord, he gave them into your hand. For the eyes of The Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show His might in behalf of those whose heart is blameless toward Him. You have done foolishly in this; for from now on you will have wars." (2 Chronicles 16:7-9 RSV)
Asa reigned for nearly forty years. When Asa became seriously ill, apparently with a severe infection of his feet, he sought only man's help, just as he had done with his military. Asa died.
"The acts of Asa, from first to last, are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe; yet even in his disease he did not seek The Lord, but sought help from physicians. And Asa slept with his fathers, dying in the forty-first year of his reign. They buried him in the tomb which he had hewn out for himself in the city of David. They laid him on a bier which had been filled with various kinds of Spices prepared by the perfumers art; and they made a very great fire in his honor." (2 Chronicles 16:11-14 RSV)
2 Chronicles Chapter 17
Jehoshaphat succeeded his father Asa as king of Judah. The tensions between Israel and Judah continued, but because Jehoshaphat was faithful to The Lord, The Lord secured his kingdom against any threat.
"Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his stead, and strengthened himself against Israel. He placed forces in all the fortified cities of Judah, and set garrisons in the land of Judah, and in the cities of Ephraim which Asa his father had taken.
There was no "separation of church and state" in Jehoshaphat's kingdom because he recognized that The Lord had established Judah for His purpose. The law of Judah was the Law of The Lord.
"In the third year of his reign he sent his princes, Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah; and with them the Levites, Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tobadonijah; and with these Levites, the priests Elishama and Jehoram. And they taught in Judah, having the book of the law of The Lord with them; they went about through all the cities of Judah and taught among the people." (2 Chronicles 17:7-9 RSV)
As happened every time when the people were obedient to The Lord, The Lord impressed upon all other nations that it was not wise to make one's self an enemy of those who obey Him, regardless of where they are (see Physical and Spiritual Israel).
"And the fear of The Lord fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were round about Judah, and they made no war against Jehoshaphat. Some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents, and silver for tribute; and the Arabs also brought him seven thousand seven hundred rams and seven thousand seven hundred he-goats. And Jehoshaphat grew steadily greater. He built in Judah fortresses and store-cities, and he had great stores in the cities of Judah. He had soldiers, mighty men of valor, in Jerusalem." (2 Chronicles 17:10-13 RSV)
Fact Finder: Who is "the good shepherd"? Who are His "sheep"?