1 Kings 14:1–20 (NIV)✞: Ahijah’s Prophecy Against Jeroboam
In the last passage Jeroboam was chastised by the LORD (via one of His prophets) for the creation of two golden idols, but refused to give up his sin. In this passage his son, Abijah, falls ill, and it seems to be serious because Jeroboam decides to have his wife go and visit Ahijah, the prophet who’d originally prophesied that Jeroboam would be king. It doesn’t say in the first few verses but it seems that the plan is for her to disguise herself, so that Ahijah doesn’t know who she is.
They might not be too worried about the quality of the disguise because Ahijah is so old by this point that his eyes don’t work well. However, the LORD tells him ahead of time that she’s going to come, the reason for her coming, and even the fact that she’s going to disguise herself, so he’s ready for her arrival:
6 So when Ahijah heard the sound of her footsteps at the door, he said, “Come in, wife of Jeroboam. Why this pretense? I have been sent to you with bad news. 7 Go, tell Jeroboam that this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I raised you up from among the people and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 8 I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commands and followed me with all his heart, doing only what was right in my eyes. 9 You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have aroused my anger and turned your back on me.
10 “‘Because of this, I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam. I will cut off from Jeroboam every last male in Israel—slave or free. I will burn up the house of Jeroboam as one burns dung, until it is all gone. 11 Dogs will eat those belonging to Jeroboam who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country. The LORD has spoken!’
12 “As for you, go back home. When you set foot in your city, the boy will die. 13 All Israel will mourn for him and bury him. He is the only one belonging to Jeroboam who will be buried, because he is the only one in the house of Jeroboam in whom the Lord, the God of Israel, has found anything good.
14 “The LORD will raise up for himself a king over Israel who will cut off the family of Jeroboam. Even now this is beginning to happen. 15 And the LORD will strike Israel, so that it will be like a reed swaying in the water. He will uproot Israel from this good land that he gave to their ancestors and scatter them beyond the Euphrates River, because they aroused the LORD'S anger by making Asherah poles. 16 And he will give Israel up because of the sins Jeroboam has committed and has caused Israel to commit.”
It all happens as Ahijah predicts: As soon as Jeroboam’s wife steps over the threshold of the house the boy dies. They bury him and the entire nation of Israel mourns him.
We are then given some concluding remarks on Jeroboam:
19 The other events of Jeroboam’s reign, his wars and how he ruled, are written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel. 20 He reigned for twenty-two years and then rested with his ancestors. And Nadab his son succeeded him as king.
Of course the immediate thoughts on this passage are about Abijah. Is he being struck with illness because of his father’s sin? And at first glance, given the larger context, we might come to that conclusion. Which would be especially tragic given the fact that all of the nation mourns his death—he was obviously loved—and even God Himself, says that, “he is the only one in the house of Jeroboam in whom the LORD, the God of Israel, has found anything good” (verse 13 (NIV)✞).
Except, upon further reading I think the opposite is actually happening: I think God is actually sparing Abijah what is about to come. Jeroboam’s family is about to be wiped away by the wrath of God, but the way I read this God wants to spare Abijah that and so mercifully allows him to die ahead of time instead of being part of it and dying as part of the judgement against Jeroboam.
That’s how I read it, but others might read it differently, in which case we’d still need to trust that God knows what He is doing and has His reasons, even if we don’t understand them. That takes faith; although I’m reading this passage in a particular way, it’s not because I’m trying to “explain away” something that’s uncomfortable to me. I try to read what’s in the passage and then understand it, as opposed to changing it to read the way I’d like it to read.
Abijah and Ahijah
I’m wondering if Jeroboam named his son Abijah after the prophet Ahijah. The prophet played a significant role in Jeroboam’s life, after all, so it’s possible.
I tried to do some quick research on it, to see how similar the names really are in Hebrew—just because they sound similar in the English translation doesn’t mean they’re actually similar in the original—but I hit a bit of a brick wall. There’s not even consensus if Abijah’s name is really Abijah, or if it’s supposed to be Abijam. So it’s possible that Jeroboam named his son after the prophet Ahijah, but it’s also possible that it’s just a name that sounds similar in our English translations.
Coincidentally, Rehoboam in Judah also has a son named Abijah! So the two kings of Israel and Judah at this point in time, Rehoboam and Jeroboam, have similar-sounding names, and both have sons with the same names.
And, since we’re talking about names, I notice that we’re not even told the name of Jeroboam’s wife! She’s just “Jeroboam’s wife” throughout the passage. Is the author sending a message by not recording her name for posterity? I don’t know, but it seems striking so I’m assuming yes..