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ABIJAH (a-bī'ja, Heb. ’ăvîyâh or ’ăvîyāhû, Jehovah is father)

ABIA, ABIAH. KJV alternate forms of Abijah.

ABIJAH ə bī’ je (אֲבִיָּ֔ה or אֲבִיָּ֑הוּ in 2 Chronicles 13:20, 21, Yahweh is [my] father; ABIJAM å bī’ jăm [אֲבִיָּ֥ם, in 1 Kings 14:31-15:1]; also KJV ABIA, ABIAH q.v.) 1. The seventh son of Becher, the son of Benjamin (1 Chron 7:8).

2. The second son of Samuel who, along with his older brother Joel, was appointed by his father to be a judge in Beersheba (1 Sam 8:2). However, the brothers took bribes, perverted justice and incurred the wrath of the people to such an extent that they came to Samuel and demanded a king (1 Sam 8:3-6).

3. According to 1 Chronicles 2:24, Abiah was the wife of Hezron, the grandson of Judah by Pharez, and the mother of Ashur, the father of Tekoa. The MT is difficult as the LXX, Syr. and Targum read differently. Some read Abiah as “his father.”

4. The eighth of the twenty-four priestly divisions appointed by lot for the service of the Temple in the time of David (1 Chron 24:10). The father of John the Baptist, Zechariah, belonged to the division of Abijah (KJV Abia—Luke 1:5).

5. A son of Rehoboam and the second king of Judah during the divided kingdom. In 1 Kings 14:31; 15:1, 7, 8, he is called Abijam, “father of (the god) Yam” or “father of the Sea (west)” rather than Abijah; however, at least ten MSS, Kennicott, and de Rossi read Abijah in the Kings’ passages and thus agree with the LXX reading of Abion or Abia, the chronicler’s parallels, Josephus and Matthew 1:7. The explanations given for the double spelling of this name are: (a) a scribal error whereby the final “h” is confused for a final “m.” This suggestion is made less attractive by the fact that the mistake is repeated five times in the Kings’ passage. (b) The older name “Abijam” was changed to Abijah, a Yahweh name which seemed to be more befitting to a king of Judah and the line of David than a name with the pagan Canaanite deity now known from the Ugaritic (Ras Shamra) tablets as Yamm, the god of the Sea. This is the more probable view unless the evidence increases for the third alternative. (c) Abijam could be the archaic hypocoristicon, abiya-mi, “my father is indeed (Yahweh).” Martin Noth (IPN, 234) had called attention to the name at Tell Tacannak-Ahiyami. One must also compare names like ăhūzzām and Bilcām along with such Ugaritic names as abm and sdqm (C. H. Gordon UT, 52).

Abijah (or Abijam) ruled for three years in Jerusalem (1 Kings 15:2) which E. R. Thiele reckoned to be from 913 to 911 b.c. While both the LXX and Lucianic revision of the LXX give the length of his reign as six years, this looks suspicious and possibly may be interpreted as an attempt to make the total number of years for the kings of Judah from Rehoboam to Ahaziah’s death (which according to the MT is ninety-five years) equal the total for the kings of Israel from Jeroboam to the death of Joram, which is ninety-eight years.

Abijah’s reign was marked by wickedness (1 Kings 15:3) with moments of piety as illustrated by the chronicler (2 Chron 13:4-12) on the occasion of his defeat of Jeroboam on the frontier of Ephraim. In his oration before the battle began he condemns the N for their apostasy and declares “God himself is with us as our captain.” Fighting at a disadvantage of two to one odds, he was nevertheless victorious and captured Bethel, Jeshanah and Ephron (2 Chron 13:19).

His fourteen wives bore him twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters (13:21) and “his ways and his sayings are written in the story of the prophet Iddo”.

6. The son of Jeroboam I, king of Israel (1 Kings 14:1-18). When the son was taken by an illness, Jeroboam sent his disguised wife to the old prophet at Shiloh who had first announced to him that he would one day preside over ten of the twelve tribes of Israel—the prophet Ahijah. Jeroboam’s wife had no need to disguise herself, since the prophet was now old and blind. Nevertheless the prophet knew her even before she entered his house and he declared that Abijah would die as soon as she arrived home. He was the only one of the house of Jeroboam to receive a decent burial.

7. The mother of Hezekiah, king of Judah, is called Abi (2 Kings 18:2), an abbreviation for Abijah (2 Chron 29:1).

8. One of the priests in the days of Nehemiah who sealed the covenant of reform in which the people promised to serve the Lord (Neh 10:7).

9. A priest who returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel (Neh 12:4). In the chronology of the priests given in Nehemiah 12:10-21, Zichri is listed as next descendant to rule the house of Abijah (12:17).


C. F. Keil, Books of Kings (1950) 217, 218; E. R. Thiele, Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (1951), 57, 171, 184, 185; C. H. Gordon, World of the OT (1958), 89, 194; J. Gray, I and II Kings (1963), 68, 315f.; W. F. Albright, The Biblical Period From Abraham to Ezra (1963), 60, 61.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

a-bi’-a, a-bi’-ah: Variants for ABIJAH; which see.

(’abhiyah or ’abhiyahu (2Ch 13:20,21), "my father is Yahweh," or "Yahweh is father"): The name of six or more men and two women in the Old Testament.

(1) The seventh son of Becher the son of Benjamin (1Ch 7:8).

(2) The second son of the prophet Samuel (1Sa 8:2; 1Ch 6:28 (6:13)).

(3) The eighth among "the holy captains and captains of God" appointed by lot by David in connection with the priestly courses (1Ch 24:10). Compare "Zacharias of the course of Abijah" (Lu 1:5).

(4) A son of Jeroboam I of Israel (1Ki 14:1-18). The narrative describes his sickness and his mother’s visit to the prophet Ahijah. He is spoken of as the one member of the house of Jeroboam in whom there was "found some good thing toward Yahweh." With his death the hope of the dynasty perished.

(5) The son and successor of Rehoboam king of Judah (1Ch 3:10; 2Ch 11:20-14:1). As to the variant name Abijam (1Ki 14:31; 15:1,7,8) see Abijam.

It is less difficult to combine all these statements into a consistent account than it would be to combine some pairs of them if taken by themselves. When all put together they make a luminous narrative, needing no help from conjectural theories of discrepant sources or textual errors. It is natural to understand that Tamar the daughter of Absalom married Uriel of Gibeah; that their daughter was Maacah, named for her great-grandmother (2Sa 3:3; 1Ch 3:2); that Micaiah is a variant of Maacah, as Abijah is of Abijam. Maacah married Rehoboam, the parties being second cousins on the father’s side; if they had been first cousins perhaps they would not have married. Very likely Solomon, through the marriage, hoped to conciliate an influential party in Israel which still held the name of Absalom in esteem; perhaps also he hoped to supplement the moderate abilities of Rehoboam by the great abilities of his wife. She was a brilliant woman, and Rehoboam’s favorite (2Ch 11:21). On Abijah’s accession she held at court the influential position of king’s mother; and she was so strong that she continued to hold it, when, after a brief reign, Abijah was succeeded by Asa; though it was a position from which Asa had the authority to depose her (1Ki 15:13; 2Ch 15:16).

The account in Chronicles deals mainly with a decisive victory which, it says, Abijah gained over northern Israel (2Ch 13), he having 400,000 men and Jeroboam 800,000, of whom 500,000 were slain. It is clear that these numbers are artificial, and were so intended, whatever may be the key to their meaning. Abijah’s speech before the battle presents the same view of the religious situation which is presented in Kings and Amos and Hosea, though with fuller priestly details. The orthodoxy of Abijah on this one occasion is not in conflict with the representation in Kings that he followed mainly the evil ways of his father Rehoboam. In Chronicles coarse luxury and the multiplying of wives are attributed to both father and son.

(6) A priest of Nehemiah’s time, who sealed the covenant (Ne 10:7). Conjecturally the same with the one mentioned in Ne 12:4,17.

(7) The wife of Judah’s grandson Hezron, to whom was traced the origin of Tekoa (1Ch 2:24).

(8) The mother of King Hezekiah (2Ch 29:1), called Abi in 2 Ki. See Abi.

Willis J. Beecher