Abijah, King of Judah

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, July 4, 2022 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

After Rehoboam died, his son Abijah became the next king of the land of Judah, which was comprised of the southern two tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Abijah was only king for about 3 years, but there is still significance to his reign.

An interesting fact about Abijah is that scholars cannot agree on his name. While it is Abijah in many Hebrew manuscripts and the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), it shows up at Abijam in many other Hebrew manuscripts. The name Abijah literally means the father of God, but it could also mean possessor of God or worshipper of God.

There are three items noted in 1 Kings 15:1-8 regarding the reign of Abijah: his mother Maakah, the continued lack of following God in Judah, and the war that continued between the two kingdoms of Israel and Juda.

Why is Abijah’s mother Maakah important? She was the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah and Tamar, making her the granddaughter of King David’s son Absalom. Rehoboam (Abijah’s father) had 18 wives, and Maakah was his favorite. The fact that Maakah is mentioned multiple times in Scripture shows that she had a strong influence on these kings and within her family, as women were often not given much mention.

The apple did not fall far from the tree with Abijah, and he continued in his father Rehoboam’s ways. “He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been” (1 Kings 15:3). There is hope with each generation that they will not continue the sins of the generation before, but that was not the case here. This shows the importance of leaving a good spiritual legacy for those who come after us. It is so often easier to follow the ways of those who influenced us (such as our parents) than to change our ways.

The author contrasts Abijah’s disobedient ways toward God with those of his ancestor David in verses 4-5. He focuses on how David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, except for his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite. God had made a covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7:4-17 where God declared that “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (verse 16). Even in spite of Abijah’s heart not being fully devoted to God, God still preserved the throne through him. Eventually, God would raise up a king to the throne who would follow Him and His ways; but that king was not Abijah.

The next significant item in Abijah’s short reign was how the war continued between Judah and Israel (verse 6). Jeroboam was still the king of the northern tribes of Israel at that time. 2 Chronicles 13 provides more details of this war. While the account in 1 Kings 15 doesn’t say much, the account in 2 Chronicles 13 shows Abijah’s bravery in battle against great odds and Judah’s triumph over Israel as a result of that.

When Abijah and Jeroboam went to battle, Abijah had 400,000 troops compared to Jeroboam’s 800,000. Abijah began the battle with a great speech about how Judah should be the rightful nation rather than Israel. Abijah played the “God card” on Jeroboam, stating how God gave the throne to David and his descendants forever, and how the northern tribes are the ones that rebelled, not the southern ones. The northern tribes were the ones who had forsaken God, not the southern ones, according to Abijah. He clearly claims that God is with Judah and not Israel, and he urges them not to fight since Israel will lose: “People of Israel, do not fight against the LORD, the God of your ancestors, for you will not succeed” (2 Chronicles 13:12).

But while Abijah was making his great speech, he wasn’t paying attention to the actions of Jeroboam’s army. Jeroboam had them surrounded and was ready to attack from the front and the back! But, it turns out that what Abijah said was true; God did grant the victory to Judah, and Judah caused 500,000 casualties among Israel’s army (2 Chronicles 13:17). Note that Judah’s army only consisted of 400,000 men, so they killed more than were in their whole army! That truly was God’s hand at work: “The Israelites were subdued on that occasion, and the people of Judah were victorious because they relied on the LORD, the God of their ancestors” (verse 18).

It is important to note that Abijah and Judah captured Bethel in the land of Israel (verse 19). Bethel is one of the sites where Jeroboam set up a golden calf for the people to worship (1 Kings 12:28-30), so Bethel was an important city for the nation. God provided victory for Judah so that He could show His power over the golden calf. God is the one true God, and any idol or statue created by human hands is not.

Abijah appears to have had a love-hate relationship with God. He trusted in God enough to deliver Judah in the battle against Jeroboam and the ten northern tribes of Israel, yet he followed his father Rehoboam’s ways of not worshiping and serving God and God alone. Yes, God granted victory to Judah in that battle, but the war between the nations was still ongoing. Was this lack of peace between Israel and Judah a direct result of Abijah (and Jeroboam) not following God and His ways? While the Scriptures do not spell that out for us, it’s very likely. When people (or nations) disobey God, it often turns out very poorly due to God’s natural law.

Where are you at in following God? Even though Abijah wasn’t fully following Him, God used Abijah to defeat Israel in battle, who was even more idolatrous. Are you allowing God to use your life? If you’re not fully following God, are you experiencing the negative consequences that come from that? Pray that God will help you trust Him more and that you will see evidence of His working in your life, which will help grow your trust in Him.

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