ABIJAH or ABIAH (uncontracted, ABIYAHU = "My father is YHWH"):
Name of several Old Testament personages, of whom the following are the most notable:1.—Biblical Data:
Son of Samuel, who, with his elder brother Joel, judged Israel in Beersheba. Their inefficiency and venality were the ostensible reasons that induced the elders of Israel to petition Samuel to appoint a king over them (I Sam. iii. 1-5).
Some rabbis endeavor to exculpate Abiah and his brother in part from the charges against them referred to in I Sam. viii. 2, 3. By Akiba and his disciples it is maintained that the offense of the sons of Samuel consisted in the inconsiderate and proud manner with which they appropriated what was theirs by right, or in exacting more than was their due. Others goso far as to declare that their sole offense consisted in the fact that, unlike their father, they did not travel about the country in order to ascertain its condition, but established themselves in one place, surrounded themselves by a royal court, and left the people to be exploited by officials (Shab. 56a). Others, again, assert that Joel and Abiah were originally wicked, but that they improved to such a degree that they were found worthy of prophecy (Ruth R. on ii. 1). On the other hand, PseudoJerome, in his "Commentary on Chronicles" (vi. 14), undoubtedly following Jewish tradition, declares that Abiah, the judge, was the only sinner, but that his brother was blameworthy because he had not endeavored to turn Abiah to better ways. See
- Rahmer, Ein Lateinischer Kommentar zu den Büchern der Chronik, pp. 29-31, Thorn, 1866.
Son of Jeroboam I., king of northern Israel, whose story is told in I Kings, xiv. 1-18. He having fallen sick, his mother went in disguise to the prophet Ahijah to inquire as to the prospects of her son's recovery. Ahijah, recognizing her, informed her that the child would die, and at the same time, predicted the calamities that were to befall the kingdom. The narrative in the accepted text associates all national disasters with the religious apostasy of Jeroboam. The Septuagint (Vatican and Lucian) has a briefer narrative; and critics have pointed out that this simpler, and presumably earlier, form of the story deals with a stage in Jeroboam's life antecedent to his public career, to which it makes no reference whatever (see H. Winckler, "Alttestamentliche Untersuchungen," pp. 12 et seq.).
The passage, I Kings, xiv. 13, in which there is a reference to "some good thing [found in him] toward the Lord God of Israel," is interpreted (M. Ḳ. 28b) as an allusion to Abijah's courageous and pious act in removing the sentinels placed by his father on the frontier between Israel and Judah to prevent pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Some assert that he himself undertook a pilgrimage.
The second king of Judah, son of Rehoboam. His reign lasted three years (
Although Abijah took up God's cause against Jeroboam, the idolatrous king of Israel, he was not permitted to enjoy the fruits of his victory over the latter for any considerable time, dying as he did shortly after his campaign (Josephus, "Ant." viii. 11, § 3). The rabbis recount many transgressions committed by Abijah against his fellow men, which resulted in drawing God's vengeance upon him more speedily than upon Jeroboam's idolatries. Thus it is stated that he mutilated the corpses of Jeroboam's soldiers, and even would not permit them to be interred until they had arrived at a state of putrefaction. Nor did Abijah show himself zealous in God's cause after all; for when, by the conquest of Bethel (II Chron. xiii. 19), the golden calves came into his possession, he did not destroy them as the law (Deut. vii. 25) enjoined. The rabbis also point out that it was improper for Abijah to accuse the whole of Israel of idolatry and to proclaim the appointment of Jeroboam as king to have been the work of "vain men, the children of Belial" (II Chron. xiii. 7), since in point of fact it was the prophet Ahijah, the Shilonite, who made him king (I Kings, xi. 37). For these reasons Abijah's reign was a short one.
- Seder 'Olam R. xvi.;
- Yer. Yeb. xvi. 15c;
- Gen. R. lxv. 20;
- Lev. R. xxxiii. 5;
- Yalḳ. ii. 205.
Mother of Hezekiah, king of Judah. II Chron. xxix. 1.—In Rabbinical Literature:
Abi saved the life of her son Hezekiah, whom her godless husband, Ahaz, had designed as an offering to Moloch. By anointing him with the blood of the salamander, she enabled him to pass through the fire of Moloch unscathed (Sanh. 63b).