Abijah started out with 400,000 of his best soldiers; Jeroboam countered with 800,000 of his best.
Abijah took a prominent position on Mount Zemaraim in the hill country of Ephraim and gave this speech: "Listen, Jeroboam and all Israel!
Don't you realize that God, the one and only God of Israel, established David and his sons as the permanent rulers of Israel, ratified by a 'covenant of salt' - God's kingdom ruled by God's king?
And what happened? Jeroboam, the son of Solomon's slave Nebat, rebelled against his master.
All the riff-raff joined his cause and were too much for Rehoboam, Solomon's true heir. Rehoboam didn't know his way around - besides he was a real wimp; he couldn't stand up against them.
"Taking advantage of that weakness, you are asserting yourself against the very rule of God that is delegated to David's descendants - you think you are so big with your huge army backed up by the golden-calf idols that Jeroboam made for you as gods!
But just look at what you've done - you threw out the priests of God, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and made priests to suit yourselves, priests just like the pagans have. Anyone who shows up with enough money to pay for it can be a priest! A priest of No-God!
"But for the rest of us in Judah, we're sticking with God. We have not traded him in for the latest model - we're keeping the tried and true priests of Aaron to lead us to God and the Levites to lead us in worship
by sacrificing Whole-Burnt-Offerings and aromatic incense to God at the daily morning and evening prayers, setting out fresh holy bread on a clean table, and lighting the lamps on the golden Lampstand every night. We continue doing what God told us to in the way he told us to do it; but you have rid yourselves of him.
"Can't you see the obvious? God is on our side; he's our leader. And his priests with trumpets are all ready to blow the signal to battle. O Israel - don't fight against God, the God of your ancestors. You will not win this battle."
While Abijah was speaking, Jeroboam had sent men around to take them by surprise from the rear: Jeroboam in front of Judah and the ambush behind.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)