Strange it may sound to many Christians, even to those who read the Bible, that there was a King of Judah & Benjamin called Abijah!
The worse part is that, Christians would remember Jeroboam, the King of Israel but wouldn’t know that it was this Abijah who finally settled scores with Jeroboam, decimated Jeroboam’s war machine and emasculated him to such an extent that Jeroboam never recovered from that defeat inflicted by David’s great-grandson.
Jeroboam, the Ephraimite, was a thorn in the flesh of Solomon. When Solomon’s ire concentrated on Jeroboam, he escaped from the hands of Solomon and lived out, almost twenty years of his life, in exile in Egypt.
I am not getting into those reasons which are mentioned in the Bible as to why a king lost or won a battle or a war. Based on the cull-able facts, as written in the Bible, i am presenting to myself a political perspective of the events which are mentioned in the Bible.
Rehoboam, the son of King Solomon, lost ten of the 12 tribes of Israel to Jeroboam.
I am sure that Jeroboam would not have served the Egyptian Pharaoh in any low capacity, during those years of his self exile in Egypt. In fact i believe that the Pharaoh Shishak capturing Jerusalem during the reign of Rehoboam and stripping the gold plated doors of the Temple, could have been triggered by Jeroboam.
The Bible was not meant to be read as a historical document, it was written and compiled to inspire spirituality and glorify Jehovah and reveal the purpose of each generation on this Earth through the prophets and scribes. Yet, i can’t ignore, the history buried in it which to me is extremely intriguing and edifying.
One of those is the period, of two decades, following the split of the Kingdom of Israel into two parts. I personally think that Solomon was the MOST FOOLISH KING of Israel. He dissipated all the wealth generated, accumulated, preserved and bequeathed to Solomon by his father David. Had Solomon depleted those resources on building cities for his own glory, may be one could say, that he was a megalomaniac and overlook his dissipation, but King Solomon, with all his knowledge did not put that knowledge to practice. At least not in the way his father had. He neither generated, nor was he able to tax people moderately, in fact he created a burden for his successor Rehoboam and Rehoboam buckled.
Jeroboam probably sensed the inherent weakness of Rehoboam – even Abijah in his harangue, while facing Jeroboam, pities the youthful ignorance of his father Rehoboam at the age of 41 years- and stoked the people against Rehoboam and succeeded!
This Abijah, son of Rehoboam, fights the battle from a mount in Ephraim. How a Judah-Benjamin got that far is still a mystery. But the greater mystery is that the 400,000 army of Abijah killed 500,000 of the 800,000 men of Jeroboam in the battle.
Abijah reduced the fire power of Jeroboam, and the inherent advantage of having five times the number of tribes of Judah- Benjamin. That was the beginning of the restoration. Had it not been done, Israel would have gobbled up Judah-Benjamin and we would not have had those wonderful kings like Asa, Hezekiah, Jehoshapat, and Josiah, to name the prominent few.
Abijah ruled for a very short period but within that short period he did two great things which brought parity among the 2 and ten Tribes of the United Israel. One was he was singularly responsible in reducing the men of war in Israel. Second is that he made inroads into the territories of Israel and made a path to the Syrian land.
Asa, the son of Abijah, ruled peacefully for 35 years and thereafter Baasha, the king of Israel, starts a building project in the land traditionally held under the control of Judah. At that time, Asa takes the help of the Syrian king Benhadad, to frighten the King of Israel Baasha, which was possible for Asa, because of the inroads which paved a way for the Southern Judahites to have access to the Syrian lands.
But, Abijah’s reign did not exceed 3 years in all. That was pitiable.
What Abijah recaptured and restituted to Israel, was tremendous. In fact King Asa tells the Syrian king Benhadad at
II Chronicles 16:3 thus:
There is a league between me and thee, as there was between my father and thy father: behold, I have sent thee silver and gold; go, break thy league with Baasha king of Israel, that he may depart from me.
Spiritually, the Kings of Judah-Benjamin like Asa, Hezekiah, Jehoshapat, and Josiah would be more inspiring, but Abijah cannot be ignored, and in strategy and politics his role in having placed Judah Benjamin on an equal footing with Israel, through strategy and effort deserves him to be placed just below King David. If there is a flaw in his strategy, it was he who, to counter the hobnobbing of the Israelites with the Egyptians, brought about a political alliance of Judah with the Syrians. Nevertheless, Abijah rises very high above those who had longer reigns, but performed very little to show such political acumen or put Judah Benjamin in a structurally superior position.