II Chronicles 13:3-18
The text before us is cause for a military strategist to be perplexed. What happened should not have happened. A force of 400,000 men of Judah should not have been able to slay 500,000 of the 800,000 mighty men of Israel (see v. 3 and 17).
Our military strategist would look at Abijah’s battle plan for Judah (v. 12) and Jeroboam’s battle plan for Israel (v. 13). He would reason that Jeroboam, possessing an 800,000 to 400,000 advantage, could not fail. He would also conclude that Jeroboam intended to seal off any path of retreat which might be available to the men of Judah. Jeroboam was intent upon totally destroying the smaller force.
In looking at Abijah’s plan, the strategist would make note of the priests with sounding trumpets. In modern warfare, smaller forces can and do defeat larger forces by implementing superior weaponry. No modern army, however, uses priests with sounding trumpets.
The sudden blare of trumpets could, conceivably, surprise and confuse an enemy force. There could be no element of surprise in this instance. Abijah announced to Israel that which he intended to do before the battle began.
In the ensuing battle, the men of Judah were surprised when they were attacked from both the front and from behind (v. 14). They cried out to the Lord and the priests sounded their trumpets.
We know that Abijah’s battle plan worked because we have looked at verse 17. Before the battle began, Abijah had announced that God would fight for Judah. Anyone can declare that the Lord will work for them but that does mean that it shall happen. God is not subject to the will of men. In I Samuel 4:5-14, Israel sought to make God work for them against the Philistines by carrying the ark of the covenant with them into battle. That battle plan failed. The children of Israel were defeated and the Philistines captured the ark.
In the text before us, the plan to use God worked. Why did God choose to fight for Judah on this occasion? The answer, in part, is found in the words which Abijah spoke to Jeroboam and all Israel.
Abijah declared that the Lord had made an everlasting covenant in which He gave the kingdom of Israel to David and the sons who would follow him. The kingdom which God gave David was divided because David’s son, Solomon, turned away from God in his latter years (I Kings 11:33-35). God gave the northern ten tribes to Jeroboam. Jeroboam, however, did not acknowledge God. Fearing that his people would continue to worship in Jerusalem and eventually align themselves with the king of Judah, Jeroboam set up two worship centers in which he placed golden calves, which calves he declared to be the gods that led the children of Israel out of Egypt. Jeroboam also expelled the levitical priests from Israel. Abijah states in verse 8 that Jeroboam now thinks to overcome the kingdom of David through his great multitude coupled with support of the golden calves which he created. Abijah then declared that his kingdom (Judah) had not forsaken the Lord, that the priests, the sons of Aaron, continually kept every charge of the Lord our God.
Abijah’s words are cause to believe that he was a strong defender of the Lord God. Other scripture reveals that this most certainly was not the case. Abijah had sinned in the same manner as his father Rehoboam who had allowed pagan worship to flourish in Judah and had turned a blind eye to the practice of sodomy (see I Kings 15:3 and 14:23-24).
Abijah’s victory cannot be ascribed to any righteousness of Judah or of Abijah. The human author of this scripture, moved by the Holy Spirit, stated, “. . . the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied upon the Lord God of their fathers.” The victory was given to them because they relied upon the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The God of their fathers is the God who counts belief in His word as righteousness (see Gen. 15:6).
Returning to verse 14. The surprised men of Judah cried unto the Lord. The priests sounded their trumpets. The sounding trumpets were notice to all that the Lord God, whom Abijah declared to be Judah’s captain, was joining the battle. The priests of Levi called out to the Lord with their trumpets. The Lord joined the battle and the impossible happened. The much smaller force of Judah totally defeated the overwhelming numbers of Israel.
That which took place on the battlefield happened because Judah called upon the Lord. New Testament believers know that the impossible happens when one calls upon the name of Jesus. We know that our sins are wiped away, covered by His blood. This we know because the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob counts our belief for righteousness.