Abijah

(Jehovah is my Father)

(1 Kings 15:1-8; 2 Chron. 13)

Contemporary Prophet, Iddo

“Great deliverance giveth He to His king; and showeth mercy to His anointed, to David, and to his seed forevermore.”—Ps. 18:50.

Abijah’s reign was a brief one. He outlived his father Rehoboam by only three short years. His mother Maachah was a daughter (or granddaughter)3 of Absalom. Abijah was thus descended from David on both his father’s and his mother’s side. His mother, however, turned out to be an idolatress (1 Kings 15:13). The form of her name Maachah, which means oppressor, is altered in Chronicles, in the account of Abijah’s reign, to Michaiah— Who is like God? She is said here, too, to be a daughter of Uriel, meaning light, or fire of God. The reason for this will be understood by referring to the Author’s Introduction. There is, also, no account of Abijah’s wickedness in Chronicles. In Kings, on the other hand, there is nothing recorded of him but his sin. “He walked,” it says there, “in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him:and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 15:3).

He was evidently a man of considerable spirit, for he had barely settled himself in his throne before he began a war with his father’s old adversary Jeroboam (2 Chron. 13:3, N. Tr.). His army numbered 400,000 “chosen men,” while Jeroboam’s was just as large again, 800,000, “mighty men of valor,” it is noted.

It was a wonderful battle; and it was preceded by a very wonderful speech from Abijah. He stood on the top of Mount Zemaraim, in Mount Ephraim, somewhere along the northern border of his kingdom. For terseness, accusation, warning and appeal, the address is unsurpassed by anything in any literature of any time. Its merit was recognized even in his own day, for the prophet Iddo, in his “treatise,” did not neglect to record the eloquent king’s “sayings” (2 Chron. 13:22, N. Tr.). We shall not attempt to analyze it. Nor does it require any analysis; for it is simple as it is weighty and powerful. Though true in all its statements, it lacks frankness. He says, “Hear me, thou Jeroboam, and all Israel! Ought ye not to know that Jehovah the God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David forever, to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt? But Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, rose up and rebelled against his lord.” The gathered hosts who listened to him knew well the truth of this. But, either intentionally or unconsciously, he ignores the root of all this strife—his grandfather’s sins; he also ignores the fact that God had forbidden his father Rehoboam to make war on the separated tribes, saying, “This thing (the schism) is from Me.” He knows how to put forth that which makes his position right and good, but he wholly ignores the judgment of God upon his own tribes and upon the house of David because of its own sins. How unlike the humble and confessing spirit of his father David all this is! It is wisdom, but cold wisdom, without the spirit of grace so becoming their actual circumstances.

But he goes on: “And vain men, sons of Belial, gathered to him and strengthened themselves against Rehoboam the son of Solomon.” Strong words these, spoken before an army of valiant men twice the size of his own!—he is bent on making them realize that, however strong they are, their origin in separation from his own tribes is not of God. This, of course, would also greatly strengthen his own adherents, and he was doubtless speaking for their ears as well as for those of his enemies. Ignoring the judgment of God upon the nation, he makes the plea that his father Rehoboam “was young and faint-hearted, and did not show himself strong against them. And now ye think to show yourselves strong against the kingdom of Jehovah in the hand of the sons of David.” He seems to say, You might deter my faint-hearted father from punishing you, and reducing you to submission, but you have a different man to deal with now.

Then follows that which, together with Jehovah’s love for the house of David, secures the victory he got, and the awful defeat of Jeroboam: “And ye are a great mul- titude, and you have with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made you for gods. Have ye not cast out the priests of Jehovah, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and made you priests as the people of the lands? Whoever comes to consecrate himself with a young bullock and seven rams, he becomes a priest of what is not God (or, ‘to no-gods’: see Gal. 4:8). But as for us, Jehovah is our God, and we have not forsaken Him.” (However true this might be outwardly, we have seen already the Spirit’s testimony as to the inward or real condition in Judah as declared in 1 Kings 14:22-25.) “And the priests that serve Jehovah are the sons of Aaron, and the Levites are at their work: and they burn to Jehovah every morning and every evening burnt-offerings and sweet incense; the loaves also are set in order upon the table; and the candlestick of gold with its lamps to burn every evening; for we keep the charge of Jehovah our God; but ye have forsaken Him! And, behold, we have God with us at our head, and His priests, and the loud-sounding trumpets to sound an alarm against you.” Then he closes with a brief but eloquent appeal, “Children of Israel, do not fight with Jehovah the God of your fathers; for ye shall not prosper!”

On the one hand, all this is sublime; on the other, had it been true in their heart-relations with Jehovah as it was true in the outward sense, they would likely not have been found there, facing their brethren for battle, and about to be engaged in dreadful carnage. But while God could not have put His seal upon the state of soul in Abijah and the tribes with him, He must vindicate the righteousness of all that is said against Jeroboam and his followers. So, also, though “orthodoxy” be away from God in heart, yet its battle against antichrists must for the time being be acknowledged and helped. The house of David is loved, and must be sustained—Christ is dear to God, and all who fight for Him must be upheld, though God may have something against them too. So Abijah wins a great victory, and Israel suffers a most humiliating defeat. More than half their army is slain, and it was more than sixteen years before they again attempted to make war upon the house of David. “And the children of Israel were humbled at that time, and the children of Judah were strengthened, because they relied upon Jehovah the God of their fathers.” God owns whatever good He can find among His people.

Abijah also took three cities, Bethel, Jeshanah, and Ephron, with their dependent villages, from Israel. Neither did Jeroboam ever recover from the effects of his defeat; and soon after, struck by Jehovah, he died.

When not more than forty years old, probably, Abijah died. Like his father before him, he was unfortunate in not having a good mother. He is called Abijam in Kings. God would not let His name be called upon him there, because there it is only the dark side of his life which is told. He is jealous of His name. It is a holy name; and He would not have it dishonored by the sins of those upon whom it has been called. May all His people everywhere give heed to this. The holy name of Christ (“Christian”) is given us. May we never by any act of ours bring a stain of reproach on it!

3 We should remember that family relations are not so punctiliously mentioned in Scripture as it is our custom now to do. Thus blood-relations are often mentioned as “brother” and ancestors as “father” or “mother.” [Ed.]