Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


2 Chronicles 13:3

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Abijah set the battle in array - The numbers in this verse and in the seventeenth seem almost incredible. Abijah's army consisted of four hundred thousand effective men; that of Jeroboam consisted of eight hundred thousand; and the slain of Jeroboam's army were five hundred thousand. Now it is very possible that there is a cipher too much in all these numbers, and that they should stand thus: Abijah's army, forty thousand; Jeroboam's eighty thousand; the slain, fifty thousand. Calmet, who defends the common reading, allows that the Venice edition of the Vulgate, in 1478; another, in 1489; that of Nuremberg, in 1521; that of Basil, by Froben, in 1538; that of Robert Stevens, in 1546; and many others, have the smaller numbers. Dr. Kennicott says: "On a particular collation of the Vulgate version, it appears that the number of chosen men here slain, which Pope Clement's edition in 1592 determines to be five hundred thousand, the edition of Pope Sixtus, printed two years before, determined to be only fifty thousand; and the two preceding numbers, in the edition of Sixtus, are forty thousand and eighty thousand. As to different printed editions, out of fifty-two, from the year 1462 to 1592, thirty-one contain the less number. And out of fifty-one MSS. twenty-three in the Bodleian library, four in that of Dean Aldrich, and two in that of Exeter College, contain the less number, or else are corrupted irregularly, varying only one or two numbers."

This examination was made by Dr. Kennicott before he had finished his collation of Hebrew MSS., and before De Rossi had published his Variae Lectiones Veteris Testamenti; but from these works we find little help, as far as the Hebrew MSS. are concerned. One Hebrew MS., instead of אלף מאות ארבע arba meoth eleph, four hundred thousand, reads אלף עשר ארבע arba eser eleph, fourteen thousand.

In all printed copies of the Hebrew, the numbers are as in the common text, four hundred thousand, eight hundred thousand, and five hundred thousand.

The versions are as follow: - The Targum, or Chaldee, the same in each place as the Hebrew.

The Syriac in 2 Chronicles 13:3; has four hundred thousand young men for the army of Abijah, and eight hundred thousand stout youth for that of Jeroboam. For the slain Israelites, in 2 Chronicles 13:17, it has five hundred thousand, falsely translated in the Latin text quinque milia, five thousand, both in the Paris and London Polyglots: another proof among many that little dependence is to be placed on the Latin translation of this version in either of the above Polyglots.

The Arabic is the same in all these cases with the Syriac, from which it has been translated.

The Septuagint, both as it is published in all the Polyglots, and as far as I have seen in MSS. is the same with the Hebrew text. So also is Josephus.

The Vulgate or Latin version is that alone that exhibits any important variations; we have had considerable proof of this in the above-mentioned collations of Calmet and Kennicott. I shall beg liberty to add others from my own collection.

In the Editio Princeps of the Latin Bible, though without date or place, yet evidently printed long before that of Fust, in 1462, the places stand thus: 2 Chronicles 13:3. Cumque inisset certamen, et haberet bellicosissimos viros, et electorum Quadraginta milia: Iheroboam construxit e contra aciem Octoginta milia virorum; "With him Abia entered into battle; and he had of the most warlike and choice men forty thousand; and Jeroboam raised an army against him of eighty thousand men." And in 2 Chronicles 13:17; : Et corruerunt vulnerati ex Israel, Quinquaginta milia virorum fortium; "And there fell down wounded fifty thousand stout men of Israel." In the Glossa Ordinaria, by Strabo Fuldensis, we have forty thousand and eighty thousand in the two first instances, and five hundred thousand in the last. - Bib. Sacr. vol. ii., Antv. 1634.

In six ancient MSS. of my own, marked A, B, C, D, E, F. the text stands thus: -

A. - Cumque inisset Abia certamen, et haberet bellicosissimos viros, et electorum XL. MIL. Jeroboam instruxit contra aciem LXXX. MIL.

And in 2 Chronicles 13:17; : Et corruerunt vulnerati ex Israel L. MIL. virorum fortium. Here we have forty thousand for the army of Abijah, and eighty thousand for that of Jeroboam, and Fifty thousand for the slain of the latter.

B. -

Quadraginita milia Forty thousand Octoginta milia Eighty thousand Quinquiaginta milia Fifty thousand

The numbers being here expressed in words at full length, there can be no suspicion of mistake.

    C. -

CCCC milia 400 thousand DCCC milibus 800 thousand D milia 500 thousand

This is the same as the Hebrew text, and very distinctly expressed.

    D. -

xl. m. 40,000 lxxx. m. 80,000 l. v. m. 50 and 5000

This, in the two first numbers, is the same as the others above; but the last is confused, and appears to stand for fifty thousand and five thousand. A later hand has corrected the two first cccc numbers in this MS., placing over the first four CCCC, thus 40, thus changing forty into four hundred; and over the second thus, dccc lxxx., thus changing eighty into eight hundred. Over the latter number, which is evidently a mistake of the scribe, there is no correction.

    E. -

xl. m. 40,000 Octoginta m. Eighty thousand l. m. 50,000

    F. -

CCCC. m. 400,000 DCCC. m. 800,000 D. m. 600,000

This also is the same as the Hebrew.

The reader has now the whole evidence which I have been able to collect before him, and may choose; the smaller numbers appear to be the most correct. Corruptions in the numbers in these historical books we have often had cause to suspect, and to complain of.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

It has been proposed to change the numbers, here and in 2 Chronicles 13:17, into 40,000,80,000, and 50,000 respectively - partly because these smaller numbers are found in many early editions of the Vulgate, but mainly because the larger ones are thought to be incredible. The numbers accord well, however, with the census of the people taken in the reign of David 1 Chronicles 21:5, joined to the fact which the writer has related 2 Chronicles 11:13-17, of a considerable subsequent emigration from the northern kingdom into the southern one. The total adult male population at the time of the census was 1,570,000. The total of the fighting men now is 1,200,000. This would allow for the aged and infirm 370,000, or nearly a fourth of the whole. And in 2 Chronicles 13:17, our author may be understood to mean that this was the entire Israelite loss in the course of the war, which probably continued through the whole reign of Abijah.

Ellen G. White
Prophets and Kings, 107

The penalty that overtook the unfaithful messenger was a still further evidence of the truth of the prophecy uttered over the altar. If, after disobeying the word of the Lord, the prophet had been permitted to go on in safety, the king would have used this fact in an attempt to vindicate his own disobedience. In the rent altar, in the palsied arm, and in the terrible fate of the one who dared disobey an express command of Jehovah, Jeroboam should have discerned the swift displeasure of an offended God, and these judgments should have warned him not to persist in wrongdoing. But, far from repenting, Jeroboam “made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whosoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places.” Thus he not only sinned greatly himself, but “made Israel to sin;” and “this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth.” Verses 33, 34; 14:16. PK 107.1

Toward the close of a troubled reign of twenty-two years, Jeroboam met with a disastrous defeat in a war with Abijah, the successor of Rehoboam. “Neither did Jeroboam recover strength again in the days of Abijah: and the Lord struck him, and he died.” 2 Chronicles 13:20. PK 107.2

The apostasy introduced during Jeroboam's reign became more and more marked, until finally it resulted in the utter ruin of the kingdom of Israel. Even before the death of Jeroboam, Ahijah, the aged prophet at Shiloh who many years before had predicted the elevation of Jeroboam to the throne, declared: “The Lord shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and He shall root up Israel out of this good land, which He gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river, because they have made their groves, provoking the Lord to anger. And He shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, who did sin, and who made Israel to sin.” 1 Kings 14:15, 16. PK 107.3

Read in context »