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Passage: 2 Chronicles 13:1-16:14

2 Chronicles 13:1-16:14 – Abijah and Asa

Summary

Two kings illustrate the necessity of reliance upon the Lord for the Chronicler, whose favorable judgment on Abijah is at odds with that of Kings, where he is known as Abijam. His famous speech (13:4-12) is often seen as the clearest exposition of the Chronicler's distinctive theology. Asa begins his reign trusting in God and is successful. The closing portion of his reign, however, illustrates the dire consequences of Asa's lack of trust.

Analysis

The fivefold repetition of the verb "rely" (13:18; 14:11; 16:7 [twice], 8), unique to chapters 13-16, suggests that the reigns of Abijah and Asa are to be treated as a unit concerned with reliance upon God. In contrast to the utter condemnation of Abijah/Abijam in 1 Kings 15:3-6, the Chronicler uses Abijah, foolish Rehoboam's son and successor, as illustrative of the faithful king whose address (2 Chronicles 13:4-12) has long been seen as a compendium of the Chronicler's theological themes: David's throne, Solomon's temple, and "all Israel."

This famous address clearly differentiates between Israel (addressed as "you" in verses 5-9) and Judah (the "we" of verses 10-12a):
  • Judah is ruled by a descendant of David whom God chose by a "covenant of salt" (v. 5). The covenant of salt refers to God's promise to the Aaronide priests (Numbers 18:19) and attests the eternal nature of God's election of David's house. Israel, however, by following Jeroboam's rebellion, has rejected God (2 Chronicles 13:5-8a).
  • Judah continues to worship in the Jerusalem temple led by priests who are descendants of Aaron and attended by Levites. Israel, however, by driving out the priests and worshiping Jeroboam's golden calves, has once again abandoned God (8b-12a).
As a result of Rehoboam's foolish handling of Jeroboam's rebellion, both north and south have fallen short of the Chronicler's ideal. But now, with a pious Davidic king on the throne and proper worship in the Jerusalem temple, there was no need for Israel to continue its understandable rebellion (v. 12b). Abijah here invites the north to return, reconstituting "all Israel" as in the days of the united monarchy of David and Solomon. Hezekiah will later offer a similar invitation to the north following the fall of Samaria to the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E. (2 Chronicles 30:6-9).

The rest of the text illustrates Abijah's reliance upon God. Despite being outnumbered two to one (2 Chronicles 13:3) and outflanked (v. 13), the Judean forces succeed "because they relied on the LORD" (v. 18). The victory provides tangible proof that Abijah's address had correctly assessed the situation.

The theme of reliance continues with the account of Asa (14:2-16:14). Within these chapters, two Hebrew roots of crucial importance to the Chronicler, each meaning "to seek" (darash and biqqesh), appear a total of nine times (darash: 14:4, 7 [twice]; 15:2, 12, 13; 16:12; biqqesh: 15:4, 15). The Chronicler may have been troubled by references in his source to a foreign alliance with Ben-Hadad of Damascus (1 Kings 15:19) and Asa's diseased feet (1 Kings 15:23), both of which seemed to contradict the evaluation that Asa's heart "was true to the LORD all his days" (2 Kings 15:14). To resolve the contradiction, the Chronicler has recast his account of Asa into two periods: one typifying the blessings of faithfulness (14:2-15:19) and a second typifying the consequences of apostasy (16:1-14). The Chronicler frequently recasts the reigns of kings in this way when he disagrees with the evaluation offered in his source (see Rehoboam, Joash, Amaziah, and Uzziah for examples of good kings gone bad; and Manasseh, the only example of a bad king gone good).

Another of the Chronicler's favorite techniques, concentric arrangement of material, highlights the contrasts for us: At the heart of the text is the contrast between Asa's covenant renewal (2 Chronicles 15:9-19) and his disastrous covenant ("alliance," NRSV) with Ben-Hadad (16:1-3). This contrast is flanked by the positive elements of his victory over Zerah and the Ethiopians (a direct consequence of his "reliance" upon God) and his religious reforms in response to Azariah's prophetic word (14:8-15:8), and by the negative contrast of his later lack of "reliance" and Hanani's prophetic rebuke (16:7-10). Framing the whole is the stark contrast between the report of Asa's prosperity as a result of seeking the Lord (14:1b-8) and the report of his gangrenous feet and his failure to seek the Lord (16:11-14).

Asa's reign consisted of thirty-five good years and six other years. In fairness, the Chronicler reports that Asa was buried with honors despite his fall from grace.