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CHAPTER III.

KINGDOM OF JUDAH, FIRST SECTION.

REHOBOAM IS FORBIDDEN TO ATTACK JEROBOAM.

FALLS INTO IDOLATRY; SHISHAK KING OF EGYPT INVADES JUDEA. ABIJAM. ASA'S LONG AND GOOD REIGN

I. Kings xii. xiv. xv.

The first act of Rehoboam was to asB. O.

975. semble an army, and prepare to invade the revolted kingdom of Israel. But the prophet Shemaiah was sent to command him to desist: saying “Thus saith the LORD, ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel: return every man to his house, for this thing is from me.” Rehoboam and his people obeyed the prophet's injunction, and there was no open hostility between the kingdoms at this time; but peace was not concluded, and the feeling of enmity and bitter resentment which remained unabated, broke out later, and “there were wars between Jeroboam and Rehoboam continually."

During the first three years of his reign, Rehoboam followed the example of David, and adhered to the laws of Moses. The Priests and Levites, together with all such in the Ten Tribes of Israel, as set their hearts to seek the

LORD, came up to Jerusalem at the feasts to sacrifice. This greatly strengthened Rehoboam, and he built cities of defence, and fortified his strongholds, and placed in them experienced captains. But elated with his prosperity, he and his people soon forsook the law of God; they built altars on every high hill, and followed the sins of the Canaanites, until in the fifth year of Rehoboam's reign, Shishak, or Sesac, king of Egypt, invaded his kingdom, as a chastisement for his disobedience. Shishak was probably instigated to make this attack by Jeroboam; he came out of Egypt with chariots and horsemen, and people without number; he took all the fenced cities on bis way, and marched towards Jerusalem.

“Then came Shemaiah the prophet to Rehoboam, and to the princes of Judah, that were gathered together to Jerusalem because of Shishak, and said unto them, “Thus saith the LORD, ye have forsaken me, and therefore have I also left you in the hand of Shishak.”

Hereupon the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves, and implored the forgiveness of God for their transgressions, and entreated that they might not be utterly abandoned; their repentance was mercifully accepted, and the prophet was commanded to announce a remission of their punishment. They were promised deliverance from permanent subjection and the worst calamities of war: but, that they might know the difference being the service of

Jehovah which they forsook, and that of their heathen conquerors, they were told that they should be subdued by Shishak, and be his servants. Accordingly, Shishak took Jerusalem, and plundered the Temple of the vast treasures laid up by Solomon: taking away with him amongst other spoil, the golden shields which that magnificent king had placed there; Rehoboam caused shields of brass to be made in their stead, which the guards carried before him when he entered the Temple.

After suffering this humiliation and loss from the army of Shishak, Rehoboam was permitted to regain much of his former power, and the country prospered : he died after a reign of seventeen years, and was buried with funeral honours in the city of David, in the sepulchres of his fathers,* and “ A bijam his son reigned in his stead."

of ABIJAM OR ABIJAH: REIGNS THREE YEARS.

B. C.

The reign of Abijam was short. As 958. soon as he ascended the throne, Jeroboam,

* Where it is said of a king, that "he was buried in the sepulchres of his fathers,” it implies that he received the honours of a public funeral, which was not allowed to a wicked king. In this, the Israelites followed the customs of the Egyptians, who held a sort of judicial tribunal over the dead, weighed their good and bad qualities, and according as either predominated, their bodies were buried with funeral rites, or treated with contumely. Kings were by no means exempted from this singular trial.

+ Called Abijam in Kings, and Abijah in Chronicles.

thinking to take advantage of the death of Reboboam, and the accession of a young inexperienced prince, assembled a numerous army, and marched to attack him. Abijam could only oppose a very inferior force; but he trusted in the power of Jehovah, and firm in faith, went out to meet Jeroboam in Mount Ephraim. Before joining battle, the king of Judah upbraided Jeroboam with his revolt, and with his worship of the golden calves which this king had set up in Bethel and Dan, and more especially with having cast out the true priests of the LORD, and allowed any man who chose, to consecrate himself 10 the priestly office. To this bold remonstrance, Jeroboam replied by commencing the engagement: he placed an ambush behind the army of Judah, and Abijam suddenly found himself attacked before and behind; his own forces being only half as numerous as those of Jeroboam. But the battle is not to the strong. Abijam was in this instance obedient, while Jeroboam was disobedient to the will of God, and to Abijam therefore was granted a complete victory. It proved decisive, and thus, says the sacred historian, “the children of Israel were brought under at this time, and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied upon the LORD God of their fathers.” Nothing could give a more striking proof of the continued interposition of the Almighty in the government of these two kingdoms, than the success of Abijam, and the defeat of Jeroboam: the one, a

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