Our reading today begins with the reign of Rehoboam’s son, Abijah (13:1). In 1 Kings 15:1-8, we get a brief history of his reign (note his name is spelled Abijam in 1 Kings). Here, we are told that his mother was the daughter of Uriel (v. 2), but in 1 Kings 15:2, we are told that she is Absalom’s daughter. In Hebrew, there is no word for “granddaughter” (or “grandson”). Micaiah (or Maacah) was Absalom’s (or Abishalom) granddaughter. This means that both lines of ancestry of the king go back to David, as it does with Christ (see Matt 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38).
In verse 3 we are given more details of the war between the two kingdoms during Abijah’s reign. We see that the army of Israel was greater than that of Judah (v. 3). Abijah makes an impassioned speech about the sin of Israel for rebelling against the God-ordained line of David (vv. 4-7) which he blames on the youth and softness of his father, Rehoboam. But we know this was really of God (11:1-4). And yet, because of Israel’s worship of false gods (v. 8) and rejection of YHWH worship (v. 9), God punishes them (v.16). He gives victory to His people, Judah. And we see that this is how the southern kingdom took some of the southern cities of Israel (v. 19). Note that even though God ordained the split of the kingdom and the reign of Jeroboam (see 1 Kings 11:29-37), Jeroboam is still responsible for his own sin (v. 20). We also see that the hereditary weakness for women was indeed passed on to Abijah (v. 21 – see 11:23).
Chapter 14 begins with the reign of Asa, a good king who was loyal to YHWH (14:1-2). We have more details of his reign here than we have in 1 Kings 15:9-24. Of note is that we are told here that Asa removed idolatrous worship from Judah, including taking out the high places (v. 3). However, 1 Kings 15:14 tells us explicitly that Asa did not take away the high places. Is this a contradiction? No. It is a matter of point of view. Asa did not take away all the high places, so the writer of 1 Kings is correct. However, he took away many – maybe most – because he removed them from Jerusalem (v. 5), so the chronicler is correct.1 Remember the theological purpose of the chronicler. The preserved line of David and the chosen-ness of the Southern Kingdom is very important for his message to the remnant.
Note in verse 4 that Asa did not just insist that Judah not worship false gods, but he insisted that they worship YHWH. They had to avoid the sin of commission (idolatry) and the sin of omission (not worshiping God). In verse 7, the chronicler is sure to include Asa’s reasoning that God preserved them in the land because they sought Him. This would be important for the remnant to remember. Then, to reinforce this idea, the chronicler tells of the Ethiopian army that came against Judah (v. 9), and Judah’s victory over them (v. 12) because of Asa’s prayer to, and reliance on, YHWH (v. 11).
Chapter 15 continues with this theme. We read of the prophet Azariah who prophesied to the Southern Kingdom (15:2). If they would be with God, He would be with them (see Lev 26:12). But if they forsook Him (like the Northern Kingdom), He would forsake them (like the Northern Kingdom). Then the prophet reminds the people of the days of the judges (vv. 3-6). The chronicler wants the returning remnant to realize that their captivity and return is not unprecedented. In the days of the judges, there was a cycle of foreign oppression, repentance, and deliverance. The remnant needs to stay faithful to YHWH if they want to avoid the foreign oppression. Verse 7 that Azariah spoke to Asa and Judah is a direct message for the remnant.
In verse 9 we see again that many from Israel defected to Judah when the kingdom split because God was with the Southern Kingdom. In verses 12-14, Asa and the people renew the covenant, including the curses for disobedience (v. 13). This is another message for the remnant. Those who seek God get the blessings (v. 15). In verse 17 the chronicler now tells us that Asa did not take the high places out of Israel. It seems likely that he is referring to the cities of Ephraim from verse 8, as in, the lands subsequently taken from the Northern Kingdom (Israel). This is another subtle pointer to the difference between the two kingdoms, but also a possible pointer to the “little leaven” of the sins of Israel that were allowed, that eventually leavened all of Judah. Asa had made sure to remove sin, but then became a little lax and allowed some to take hold.
Chapter 16 begins with a parallel account of Baasha attacking Judah (16:1-6 – see 1 Kings 15:17-22). This is followed by the account of the prophet Hanani coming to Asa to condemn him for looking to Syria for help instead of YHWH (v. 7). He reminds him of the gigantic Ethiopian army that YHWH defeated for them when they sought Him (v. 8 – see 14:11-12). God would have done it again (v. 9). And because Asa looked to war for Judah’s defense, he would never be without war. In verse 10, we see that Asa had turned from following YHWH and that sin grew within him. We see that this turned into a wholesale forsaking of YHWH (v. 12). The chronicler is letting a little more of the sins of the kings be known with each subsequent generation. This is a warning for the remnant against the slow burn of sin, but the inevitable increase of it if it is allowed to remain.
1 This is much like when my kids would make a mess, and my wife would tell them to clean it up. Her point of view and my point of view on “messy” are far different. So when the kids would put away the toys but not put the living room back the way it was, I said they cleaned up, and she said they didn’t. We were both right.