Abijah, King of Judah 914-911 BC
1 Kings 15:1-7; 2 Chron 13:1-22
Divided Kingdom Period: Israel: 931-723 BC; Judah: 931-587 BC
The good king who turned to the dark side
1. Abijah second king of Judah (son of Rehoboam) goes down in history as a bad king, but it never had to end that way.
2. Abijah's chief wife was Absolam's daughter.
3. With a short reign of only three years, it causes one to wonder if there is a connection with the first three years of his father Rehoboam's good reign, and Abijah's.
a. Rehoboam was a good king for the first three years, but then he turned bad and worshipped idols.
b. Abijah's total reign was 3 years and the details of his reign appear that he was a good king.
c. Abijah rebuked Jeroboam for his idolatry went to war against Jeroboam and 500,000 men from the 10 tribes were killed directly by God: 2 Chronicles 13:4f.
d. In spite of all this, he was either worshipping idols and YHWH side by side at the same time, or he began to worship idols after he defeated Jeroboam's army of and killed half a million of his men.
e. Perhaps after this victory he became prideful in his power and turned to idols.
f. Perhaps this was too much for God and Abijah died and was replaced by a good king. (Asa)
g. Perhaps God had a sense of déjà vu in the fact that both Abijah and his father Rehoboam were good kings in the first three years of their reigns but then turned bad.
4. What we do know for certain, is that Abijah was guilty of exactly the same sins of idolatry as his father:
a. “Abijah walked in all the sins of his father (Rehoboam) which he had committed before him; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, like the heart of his father David.” (1 Kings 15:3)
b. After Rehoboam's three good years: “Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked Him to jealousy more than all that their fathers had done, with the sins which they committed. For they also built for themselves high places and sacred pillars and Asherim on every high hill and beneath every luxuriant tree. There were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord dispossessed before the sons of Israel.” (1 Kings 14:22–24)
c. There is no specific details given for the sins of Abijah, just a reference back to 1 Kings 14:22–24.
5. Two possible scenarios for the sins of Abijah:
a. Good king/Bad king: He was a double-minded king who worshipped idols at the same time he called upon the name of YHWH for protection.
b. Good king turned bad: He was a good king like his father for the first three years and then, like his father, he turned bad.
I. The Bible texts: 1 Kings 15:1-7; 2 Chron 13:1-22
1. “Now in the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, Abijam became king over Judah. He reigned three years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. He walked in all the sins of his father which he had committed before him; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, like the heart of his father David. But for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, to raise up his son after him and to establish Jerusalem; because David did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite. There was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life. Now the rest of the acts of Abijam and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? And there was war between Abijam and Jeroboam.” (1 Kings 15:1–7)
2. “In the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam, Abijah became king over Judah. He reigned three years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Micaiah the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah. Now there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. Abijah began the battle with an army of valiant warriors, 400,000 chosen men, while Jeroboam drew up in battle formation against him with 800,000 chosen men who were valiant warriors. Then Abijah stood on Mount Zemaraim, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, and said, “Listen to me, Jeroboam and all Israel: “Do you not know that the Lord God of Israel gave the rule over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt? “Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, rose up and rebelled against his master, and worthless men gathered about him, scoundrels, who proved too strong for Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, when he was young and timid and could not hold his own against them. “So now you intend to resist the kingdom of the Lord through the sons of David, being a great multitude and having with you the golden calves which Jeroboam made for gods for you. “Have you not driven out the priests of the Lord, the sons of Aaron and the Levites, and made for yourselves priests like the peoples of other lands? Whoever comes to consecrate himself with a young bull and seven rams, even he may become a priest of what are no gods. “But as for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken Him; and the sons of Aaron are ministering to the Lord as priests, and the Levites attend to their work. “Every morning and evening they burn to the Lord burnt offerings and fragrant incense, and the showbread is set on the clean table, and the golden lampstand with its lamps is ready to light every evening; for we keep the charge of the Lord our God, but you have forsaken Him. “Now behold, God is with us at our head and His priests with the signal trumpets to sound the alarm against you. O sons of Israel, do not fight against the Lord God of your fathers, for you will not succeed.” But Jeroboam had set an ambush to come from the rear, so that Israel was in front of Judah and the ambush was behind them. When Judah turned around, behold, they were attacked both front and rear; so they cried to the Lord, and the priests blew the trumpets. Then the men of Judah raised a war cry, and when the men of Judah raised the war cry, then it was that God routed Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. When the sons of Israel fled before Judah, God gave them into their hand. Abijah and his people defeated them with a great slaughter, so that 500,000 chosen men of Israel fell slain. Thus the sons of Israel were subdued at that time, and the sons of Judah conquered because they trusted in the Lord, the God of their fathers. Abijah pursued Jeroboam and captured from him several cities, Bethel with its villages, Jeshanah with its villages and Ephron with its villages. Jeroboam did not again recover strength in the days of Abijah; and the Lord struck him and he died. But Abijah became powerful; and took fourteen wives to himself, and became the father of twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters. Now the rest of the acts of Abijah, and his ways and his words are written in the treatise of the prophet Iddo.” (2 Chronicles 13:1–22)
II. Abijah's challenge to Jeroboam:
1. The only story of Abijah is the war with Jeroboam.
a. “He reigned three years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Micaiah the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah. Now there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam.” (2 Chronicles 13:2)
b. After introducing Abijah, this is interjected in a way to show that the war of Rehoboam was continued by proxy with his son Abijah: “There was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life.” (1 Kings 15:6)
2. Abijah came to the border area between Israel and Judah and stood on a mountain in Judean territory on Mt. Zemaraim.
a. Abijah pointed out the idolatry of Jeroboam
b. Abijah pointed out that the true priests who Jeroboam had banished out of Israel had migrated to Judah and were supporting him.
c. Abijah pointed out that the true kingship belonged to the house of David, not Jeroboam.
d. Abijah concluded that fighting against him was like fighting against God.
3. Jeroboam ignored the warnings:
a. Jeroboam had already ignored the warnings of two prophets and endured the death of his son for his idolatry.
b. Jeroboam was committed to keeping power at all costs exactly like King Saul.
4. Jeroboam attacked Abijah and surrounded him.
a. Abijah was trapped in the ambush and about to be defeated.
b. Abijah blew the war trumpet and called upon God who struck the army of Jeroboam with insanity, delusion, confusion, bees, illness, plague etc. so that 500,000 of Jeroboam's soldiers were killed.
c. This exactly mirrors the defeat David was about to suffer at the hands of Saul on the mountain. When Saul surrounded David but was recalled to fight the Philistines: “Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain; and David was hurrying to get away from Saul, for Saul and his men were surrounding David and his men to seize them. But a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid on the land.” So Saul returned from pursuing David and went to meet the Philistines; therefore they called that place the Rock of Escape.” (1 Samuel 23:26-28)
d. David wrote Ps 18 as a result of this escape and penned the words: "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" which were on the mind of Jesus on the cross!
5. The death of 500,000 Israelites is the largest single divine cull of sinful Hebrews in the Bible. Remember, there were many other times when God "killed off" gentile nations who tried to fight the Hebrews, but these are all examples of the Jews being killed off by God for their sinfulness.
Summary Chart of historic Culls of Hebrews by God
3000 killed by Levites
Golden Calf at Sinai
23,000 killed by God
Golden Calf at Sinai
Exodus 32:35 + 1 Cor 10:8
14,700 killed by God
24,000 killed by God
At Shittim near Jordan
many people killed by God
120,070 killed by God
1 Sam 1-8
a. At Kadesh Barnea: "But those who died by the plague were 14,700, besides those who died on account of Korah." Numbers 16:49
b. At Shittim, just before crossing the Jordan: "Those who died by the plague were 24,000." Numbers 25:9
c. Golden Calf at Sinai: "So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about 3000 men of the people fell that day." Exodus 32:28
d. Golden Calf at Sinai: "Then the Lord smote the people, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made." Exodus 32:35
e. Golden Calf at Sinai: "Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and 23,000 thousand fell in one day." 1 Corinthians 10:8
f. In the Zered Wady valley after leaving Kadesh Barnea for the promised land: "The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died." Numbers 21:6
g. 120,070 Israelites were killed in 1088 BC at the extinction of Shiloh after the Philistines captured the ark.
h. 500,000 "routed" by God through the army of Abijah.
6. Abijah was able to re-capture the historic tribal lands of Benjamin that had fallen into the hands of Jeroboam, king of Israel.
a. Although Bethel was given as a tribal inheritance to Benjamin, It was captured by Jeroboam. This likely happened when Jeroboam repelled Rehoboam early in his reign. “Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the forced labor, and all Israel stoned him to death. And King Rehoboam made haste to mount his chariot to flee to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.” (1 Kings 12:18-19)
b. Jeroboam set up two sanctuaries: in the north at Dan and in the south at Bethel.
c. The border was now south of Bethel because Jeroboam had set up an altar with a golden calf there.
d. Abijah recaptured Bethel and Ephron, which were historically part of the tribe of Benjamin.
e. Abijah captured Jeshanah, a town in Ephraim and added it to his domain of control.
III. Application for today
1. If Abijah was a righteous king at first and God worked with him in the defeat of Jeroboam, and then he became wicked then he is like Demas who preached the gospel with Paul but fell away to the world to destruction
a. “Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas.” (Colossians 4:14)
b. “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow workers.” (Philemon 23–24)
c. “Make every effort to come to me soon; for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.” (2 Timothy 4:9-10)
d. “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:18–19)
e. Parable of the sower. Mt 13
2. If Abijah was a double minded king who worshipped idols and YHWH at the same time then he was like the man Jesus warned about who loved the world and God at the same time:
a. ““No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:13–15)
b. “Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word.” (1 Kings 18:21)
c. “So while these nations feared the Lord, they also served their idols; their children likewise and their grandchildren, as their fathers did, so they do to this day.” (2 Kings 17:41)
d. ““I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. “Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. “Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. “But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. “Did you present Me with sacrifices and grain offerings in the wilderness for forty years, O house of Israel? “You also carried along Sikkuth your king and Kiyyun, your images, the star of your gods which you made for yourselves. “Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus,” says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.” (Amos 5:21–27)
1. Was Abijah the double-minded "good king, bad king" who worshipped idols and YHWH at the same time or was he a good king who turned to the dark side? Although it is difficult to know for sure, it seems that he was a good king who went bad just like his father.
a. The Chronicles account paints him as a good king with nothing bad to say about him.
b. The Kings account paints him as a bad king with nothing good to say about him.
2. The lesson for us is that we must serve God with all our hearts minds and souls all the days of our life.
a. We must not be double minded men: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5–8)
b. “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
c. “There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.” (Romans 2:9–11)
d. Parable of the Ten Virgins: Mt 25:1f
e. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)
By Steve Rudd: Contact the author for comments, input or corrections.