King Abijah was the son of Rehoboam and grandson of King Solomon. He became the king of Judah after his father’s death and reigned for 3 years from 913-910 BC. Abijah’s story is recorded in 1 Kings 15:1-8 and 2 Chronicles 13. Here is an overview of his life and reign as king:
Abijah’s Family Background
Abijah’s father was Rehoboam, who was the son of Solomon and Naamah the Ammonite. His mother was Maachah, the daughter of Absalom. Abijah had 18 wives and 22 sons and 16 daughters (2 Chronicles 13:21). His many wives were a violation of God’s command for kings not to multiply wives (Deuteronomy 17:17).
Abijah was born and raised as a prince in Jerusalem. He witnessed the division of the kingdom under his father’s reign, when 10 tribes rebelled and formed the northern kingdom of Israel. Rehoboam continued ruling over the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin from Jerusalem. Abijah grew up in a time of conflict and national instability.
Abijah Becomes King
When Rehoboam died after 17 years of rule, Abijah took over as king at the age of 41 (1 Kings 15:2). He reigned over Judah from Jerusalem for only 3 years. The Bible assessment of Abijah’s reign was that “he walked in all the sins that his father did before him” (1 Kings 15:3). So he continued the idolatry and unfaithfulness that marked his father’s rule.
However, Abijah wanted to reunify the divided kingdom and go to war against Jeroboam, who was ruling over the northern tribes. Jeroboam had led the rebellion against Rehoboam that divided the kingdom. Abijah amassed an army of 400,000 men to fight against Jeroboam’s 800,000 men (2 Chronicles 13:3).
War against Jeroboam and the Northern Kingdom
Abijah went to war against Jeroboam to try to regain control over the 10 northern tribes. The armies met in battle at Mount Zemaraim in the hill country of Ephraim (2 Chronicles 13:4). Abijah stood on Mount Zemaraim and made a speech to Jeroboam and the armies of Israel before the battle began.
In his speech, Abijah accused Jeroboam of rebellion against God’s chosen king Rehoboam. He proclaimed Judah’s faithfulness to God compared to Israel’s idolatry. Abijah warned that fighting against Judah would mean fighting against the true God. Jeroboam ignored the warning and decided to attack (2 Chronicles 13:12-13).
When Judah cried out to the Lord during the battle, God defeated Jeroboam and Israel before Abijah and Judah. Israel lost 500,000 chosen men of valor in the battle, while Judah only lost 30,000 men (2 Chronicles 13:15-17). God gave Judah the great victory because of their faithfulness to Him compared to Israel’s unfaithfulness.
Even though Abijah initially succeeded in battle against Israel, he was unable to regain control permanently over the northern 10 tribes. The division continued between Judah in the south and Israel in the north.
End of Abijah’s Reign
After reigning just 3 years as king over Judah, Abijah “slept with his fathers” around 910 BC (1 Kings 15:8). Since he was characterized as walking in the sins of his father Rehoboam, it is assumed that he failed to lead Judah to repentance before the Lord. However, his speech prior to battle shows that he wanted to present himself and Judah as more faithful than Jeroboam and Israel.
Abijah’s son Asa succeeded him as king. During Asa’s reign, he led extensive religious reforms and revival in Judah, showing that Abijah likely failed to make such reforms. Perhaps if Abijah had reigned longer than 3 years, he may have led some of the reforms that Asa later implemented. But his short reign appeared focused primarily on continuing his father’s policies and engaging in the northern battle against Jeroboam and Israel.
Lessons from Abijah’s Life
Though Abijah’s reign seems to have been marked by sin and unfaithfulness, a few lessons emerge from his life recorded in Scripture:
- God is sovereign over the nations and grants victory to those who acknowledge Him (2 Chronicles 13:12).
- Divided kingdoms result from disobedience to God’s laws and covenant (1 Kings 11:9-13).
- Kings must shepherd their kingdoms faithfully or face consequences (1 Kings 15:3).
- Children often follow the same patterns of sin established by their parents (1 Kings 15:3).
- Short reigns limit a king’s potential for godly influence (1 Kings 15:2).
In summary, Abijah was a king who walked in disobedience yet trusted in God’s deliverance. His life offers both negative and positive examples for leaders facing conflict and national crises.
Abijah in Biblical Prophecy
In addition to the accounts in 1-2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, Abijah is mentioned in one Old Testament prophecy. When proclaiming the future destruction of Jerusalem, the prophet Micah names the kings “from Jeroboam to Abijah” as those under whom the nation sinned and provoked God’s judgment to come (Micah 1:1).
So Abijah is referenced as part of a line of mostly wicked kings leading up to Jerusalem’s downfall. His reign was not marked by repentance or leading the nation back to faithfulness. According to the prophecy, Abijah’s sins contributed to the wickedness that would bring God’s ultimate judgment on Judah and Jerusalem.
Key Facts about King Abijah
- Reigned over Judah for 3 years (913-910 BC)
- Son and successor of King Rehoboam
- Continued the idolatry and unfaithfulness of his father
- Waged war against Jeroboam and the northern kingdom of Israel
- Won the battle when Judah cried out to God for help
- Slept with his fathers after a short reign of only 3 years
- Had 18 wives, 22 sons, and 16 daughters
- Mentioned in Micah’s prophecy of Jerusalem’s coming destruction
Abijah was connected to several significant biblical figures through his family lineage:
- Grandfather: King Solomon
- Father: King Rehoboam
- Mother: Maachah, daughter of Absalom
- Son: King Asa, who later ruled Judah
As Solomon’s grandson and successor to Rehoboam, great hopes likely surrounded Abijah’s reign. However, he failed to lead the nation back to God and only ruled for 3 short years before his death. His legacy lived on through his son Asa, who brought revival and reform to Judah after Abijah’s death.
Abijah in Relation to Other Kings
To understand Abijah’s place in history, it is helpful to see his reign in the context of other kings of Israel and Judah:
- Jeroboam became king of the northern 10 tribes of Israel when the kingdom divided under Rehoboam.
- Rehoboam ruled the southern kingdom of Judah for 17 years before Abijah became king.
- Abijah reigned in Judah while Jeroboam was still ruling the northern kingdom.
- Abijah’s son Asa later ruled in Judah while Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, and Ahab reigned in Israel.
- Abijah was king of Judah during the early divided kingdom period, before the rise of the wicked king Ahab in Israel.
Placing Abijah among the first generation of divided kingdom rulers gives helpful context. His interactions with Jeroboam established the initial conflicts between Judah and Israel after the nation split. This generational divide continued for centuries before the northern kingdom fell to Assyria, leaving only the southern tribes.
Abijah’s Accomplishments as King
Though Abijah is given a mainly negative assessment in Scripture, a few accomplishments can be noted from his 3-year reign:
- Secured victory for Judah – Despite military disadvantages, God gave Abijah’s army victory over Jeroboam and Israel.
- Preserved Judah’s autonomy – Kept Judah from being reconquered by the northern tribes under Jeroboam.
- Provided stability – Gave Judah a measure of stability by upholding his father Rehoboam’s kingdom.
- Bore a successor – Fathered Asa, who later brought revival to Judah as king.
Though his spiritual leadership was lacking, Abijah maintained Judah as an independent kingdom and paved the way for his son’s future reforms. His divine victory over Israel also showed Judah that God would fight for them when they depended on Him.
Abijah’s Failures and Mistakes
Along with a few accomplishments, the Bible also highlights some of Abijah’s failures and mistakes:
- Continued the idolatry and unfaithfulness of his father Rehoboam (1 Kings 15:3)
- Failed to lead Judah back to the true worship of God
- Did not repent or remove the high places of idol worship (1 Kings 15:14)
- Provoked God’s judgment on Judah and Jerusalem through his sins (Micah 1:1)
- Took many wives in disobedience of Deuteronomy 17:17
Overall, Abijah carried on the wickedness of Rehoboam rather than restoring Judah to covenant faithfulness. His heart was not fully devoted to God. If he had ruled longer, he may have led Judah into further idolatry and decline rather than revival.
Summary of Abijah’s Reign
In summary, these key facts provide an overview of King Abijah’s reign:
- Ruled the southern kingdom of Judah for 3 years after dividing of nation
- Continued religious practices and policies of his father Rehoboam
- Attempted to reunify kingdom through war with Jeroboam and Israel
- Won the battle when Judah cried out for God’s help against overwhelming odds
- Died after short 3-year reign and was succeeded by his son Asa
- Left a legacy of military success but spiritual failure for Judah
Though he preserved Judah as an independent nation, Abijah failed to reverse Rehoboam’s idolatry and unfaithfulness. His reign highlights the tragedy of short-sighted and wicked leadership over God’s people.
Abijah’s Significance and Legacy
What lasting impact did Abijah’s 3-year reign have?
- Established Judah’s identity as a nation protected by God when faithful
- Set a pattern of hostility and conflict between Judah and Israel
- Showed that divided kingdoms are weak and vulnerable to attack
- Transmitted idolatry and unfaithfulness to the next generation
- Provoked God’s anger and judgment against Judah and Jerusalem
- Fathered Asa, who brought revival through reforms in Judah
Both positively and negatively, Abijah’s leadership set the spiritual and political trajectory for Judah in the early divided kingdom period. His failures warned the people of the costs of disobedience. By God’s grace, his son Asa redirected Judah toward revival and reform after only a few years of Abijah’s wicked influence.
Themes and Life Lessons
What key themes and life lessons emerge from the story of King Abijah?
- Consequences of sin – Sin brings damaging consequences in public leadership and personal life.
- Need for repentance – Nations and individuals must turn from sin or experience decline.
- Sovereignty of God – Despite human failures, God is able to accomplish His purposes.
- Grace and revival – God can send spiritual renewal even after periods of decline.
- Parenting influence – Parental examples shape children for good or evil.
Abijah’s negative example calls people to repentance and dependence on God’s grace. Even when human kingdoms fail, God remains faithful to His covenant promises.
In closing, King Abijah stands as a cautionary tale of wasted potential and the tragic fruits of sin. His short 3-year reign continued the idolatry of King Rehoboam and failed to lead Judah back to faithfulness with God.
Yet despite Abijah’s wickedness, God demonstrated His faithfulness by giving Judah victory in battle when they cried out for help. Out of grace, God also raised up Abijah’s son Asa to implement reforms in Judah after his death.
Abijah’s life reminds us that leadership has lasting consequences for good or evil. All people must pursue faithfulness and repentance rather than continuing cycles of sin and judgment. Ultimately, God remains sovereign even when His people fail. By turning to Him in desperation and living in obedience to His Word, there is hope for revival.