Thursday, September 5, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 2 Chronicles 12-13 and Augustine's Treatise on Profit of Believing 18

2 Chronicles 12 – After Rehoboam becomes secure, however, he abandons “the law of the Lord,” he and all Israel (12:1). The Lords brings King Shishak of Egypt against them with 1200 chariots and 60,000 cavalry. This threat must have been there from the beginning because most of the fortified cities he built up were in mid to lower Judah—defending against Egypt, not Israel.

Shishak takes these cities and approaches Jerusalem. The prophet Shemaiah tells Rehoboam and the officers of Judah that they must humble themselves.  They are not destroyed but they must become Shishak’s vassals. Shishak takes the treasure from the king’s house and from the Temple. Conditions were not bad, however, in Judah. Rehoboam reigns 17 years. Still the chapter ends with this: “He did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord” (12:14). His son Abijah becomes king.

2 Chronicles 13 – Abijah rules for three years in Jerusalem. There is war between him and Jeroboam, now in his 18th year as king over Israel. The army of Jeroboam is twice the size of Abijah’s - 800,000 as opposed to 400,000, but Abijah calls out to them from a mountain in Ephraim, and says:  “Do you not know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt [a lasting covenant]?” (13:5)

Jeroboam rebelled against his lord Rehoboam when he was “young and irresolute and could not withstand them” (13:7). He continues telling them they think they can defeat David’s heir now because they have so many more men and golden calves that Jeroboam had made for them to worship after driving out the priests of Aaron and the Levites. “But as for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not abandoned him. We have priests ministering to the Lord who are descendants of Aaron, and Levites for their service” (13:10) They have legitimacy and continuity on their side.  

While Abijah thus addresses the Israelites, Jeroboam is busy trying to encircle them.  He sends men to their rear, so when they finish and prepare to fight, they have enemy in front of them and behind them.  Still, the victory goes to Abijah; “God defeated Jeroboam and all Israel” (13:15). It says 500,000 picked men of Israel fell slain (13:17). Abijah takes Bethel and Jeshanah and Ephron. Abijah grew strong, took 14 wives; the rest of his story is written in the works of the prophet Iddo.

Augustine’s Treatise on the Profit of Believing
18 - But in truth was there either decree of any law, or power of gainsayers [deniers], or vile character of persons consecrated, or shameful report, or newness of institution, or hidden profession, to recall us from, and forbid us, the search? There is nothing of these. At the time Augustine is writing, there is no “established” or “forcibly practiced” Catholic Church. The “Catholic” Church he is referring to throughout this treatise is simply the church that was most prevalent, most universal throughout the world at the time. No law required you to believe or practice a set form of Christianity.

All laws divine and human allow us to seek the Catholic Faith; but to hold and exercise it is allowed us at any rate by human law, even if so long as we are in error there be a doubt concerning divine law; no enemy alarms our weakness, (although truth and the salvation of the soul, in case being diligently sought it be not found where it may with most safety, ought to be sought at any risk); the degrees of all ranks and powers most devotedly minister to this divine worship; the name of religion is most honorable and most famous. It was gaining serious ground among the people. What, I pray, hinders to search out and discuss with pious and careful enquiry, whether there be here that which it must needs be few know and guard in entire purity, although the goodwill and affection of all nations conspire in its favor?

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