Not long after the division of the united kingdom of Israel into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, war nearly broke out between the two nations. King Rehoboam of Judah gathered an army to fight King Jeroboam I of Israel, but the intervention of the prophet Shemaiah prevented military conflict (1 Kings 12:21–24). Yet, that would not be the end of fighting between Israel and Judah. First Kings 15:6–7 reports that war took place between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of Rehoboam’s reign, and even Rehoboam’s son and successor, King Abijam of Judah, fought against Jeroboam.
Today’s passage tells us about one fight between Jeroboam and Abijam. We are in the Chronicler’s account of Abijam’s reign, and note that 2 Chronicles 13 uses the alternative spelling of Abijah for Abijam. Furthermore, King Abijah is portrayed far more positively in today’s passage than he is in the shorter account of his reign in 1 Kings 15:1–8. The author of 1 Kings negatively evaluates Abijah’s reign overall, arguing that Abijah walked in the sins of Rehoboam (v. 3). Second Chronicles 13 does not contradict this, as it does not evaluate Abijah’s reign as a whole. Instead, the Chronicler goes into detail regarding one significant episode of faithfulness during Abijah’s reign. When the Bible evaluates a king negatively overall, that does not necessarily mean the king never did anything good. It simply means that in the main, the king was unfaithful.
Apparently, Jeroboam was the aggressor in the conflict that 2 Chronicles 13 describes. Likely he sought to bring the kingdom of Judah under his control. Before the battle, Abijah gave a stirring speech noting that Judah had maintained God’s rules for the temple and priesthood. Judah’s maintenance of proper worship meant that Jeroboam would not succeed (vv. 1–12). Abijah was correct. God intervened on behalf of Judah, and Jeroboam was defeated (vv. 13–22).
What is the lesson in all this? For the original audience of Chronicles, who lived after the exile, the lesson was that God would bless the people and their king as they stood for the worship He instituted. As new covenant believers, we learn that no assault on rightly worshiping people can ultimately prevail. The enemies of Christ’s church, especially those within the visible body who pervert the doctrine and worship of God, will lose in the end to those who worship the Lord rightly in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).