Abijah of Judah

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Abijam / Abijah
King of Judah
Abijam.jpg
Reign 913 to 911 BC
Predecessor Rehoboam, his father
Successor Asa, his son
Spouse 14 wives
Issue 22 sons and 16 daughters
Hebrew name אבים בן-רחבעם
’Aviyam ben Rehav’am
House House of David
Father Rehoboam
Mother Maacah, or Micaiah, daughter of Uriel of Gibeah, and granddaughter of Absalom (Abishalom)
Died 911 BC
possibly Jerusalem
Burial Jerusalem

Abijam (Hebrew: אֲבִיָּם, ʼĂḇiyyām ; meaning "father of the sea" or "my father is the sea"; Greek: Αβιου; Latin: Abiam)[1] was, according to the Hebrew Bible, the fourth king of the House of David and the second of the Kingdom of Judah. He was the son of Rehoboam, the grandson of Solomon and the great-grandson of David. The Chronicler refers to him as Abijah (Hebrew: אֲבִיָּה, ʼĂḇiyyāh ; "my father is Yah"; Greek: Αβια; Latin: Abia).[2]

His mother's name was Maacah, or Micaiah, the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah, and the granddaughter of the infamous Absalom (Abishalom). Abijah married fourteen wives, and had 22 sons and 16 daughters.[3]

War against Jeroboam of Israel[edit]

Abijah went to considerable lengths in his short reign to reunite the northern Kingdom of Israel with Judah, by bringing Israel under his control. He waged a major battle against King Jeroboam of Israel in the mountains of Ephraim. 2 Chronicles 13:3 gives the sizes of the two armies as 400,000 on Abijah's side and 800,000 on Jeroboam's. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the number of men said to have been engaged in battle is greater than the whole adult male population of the kingdoms.[4]

Before the battle, Abijah addressed the armies of Israel, urging them to submit and to let the Kingdom of Israel be whole again. However, his plea fell on deaf ears. Abijah then rallied his own troops with a phrase which has since become famous: "God is with us as our leader." His elite warriors fended off a pincer movement to rout Jeroboam's troops. According to 2 Chronicles 13:17, 500,000 of Jeroboam's troops were killed.

Jeroboam was crippled by this severe defeat at the hands of his southern rival, and posed little threat to the Kingdom of Judah for the rest of his reign.[5] However, Abijah failed in his attempt to reunite Israel and Judah.

After the breakdown of the united kingdom, the border between Benjamin and Ephraim (which was the border between the northern and southern kingdoms) became a matter of dispute between them. Though Bethel had originally been allocated to Benjamin,[6] by the time of the prophetess Deborah, Bethel is described as being in the land of the Ephraim.[7] Some twenty years after the breakup of the united kingdom, Abijah took the occasion of the defeat of Jeroboam to take back the towns of Bethel, Jeshanah and Ephron, with their surrounding villages.[8] Ephron is believed to be the Ophrah that was also allocated to the Tribe of Benjamin by Joshua.[9]

Succession[edit]

A more complete biography than that of the Hebrew Bible of Abijah was written by Iddo the Seer. A reference to the account is made in 2 Chronicles 13:22, but the work itself has been lost.

Abijah was buried beside his ancestors in Jerusalem. He was succeeded by his son, Asa.

In the battle between the army of Jeroboam and the army of Abijah, the army of Abijah struck the Israelites and killed 500,000. The people of Judah won because they depended on God.

Chronological notes[edit]

According to 2 Chronicles 13:1-2, Abijah became king of Judah in the 18th year of the reign of Jeroboam, and reigned for three years.

William F. Albright has dated his reign to 915–913 BCE.

E. R. Thiele offers the dates 914/913 – 911/910 BCE.[10] As explained in the Rehoboam article, Thiele's chronology for the first kings of Judah contained an internal inconsistency that later scholars corrected by dating these kings one year earlier, so that Abijah's dates are taken as 915/914 to 912/911 BCE in the present article.

The calendars for reckoning the years of kings in Judah and Israel were offset by six months, that of Judah starting in Tishri (in the fall) and that of Israel in Nisan (in the spring). Cross-synchronizations between the two kingdoms therefore often allow narrowing of the beginning and/or ending dates of a king to within a six-month range. For Abijam, the Scriptural data allow the narrowing of his accession to some time between 1 Nisan 914 BCE and the day before 1 Tishri of that year. For calculation purposes, this should be taken as the Judean year beginning in Tishri of 915/914 BC, or more simply 915 BCE. His death occurred at some time between 1 Tishri 912 BCE and 1 Nisan 911 BCE, i.e. in 912 (912/911) BCE. These dates are one year earlier than those given in the third edition of Thiele's Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, thereby correcting an internal consistency that Thiele never resolved, as explained in the Rehoboam article.

References[edit]

Abijah of Judah
Cadet branch of the Tribe of Judah
Contemporary King of Israel: Jeroboam I
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Rehoboam
King of Judah
915 BC – 912 BC
Succeeded by
Asa