ABC:1 Kings 15

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Verse 1

Jim Meritt of Infidels.org claims there is a contradiction here in his section "The mother of Abijah".[1] The ReasonProject also lists this as a Bible contradiction with the headline "Who was Abijam's mother?"[2]

2 Chronicles 13:1 Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam began Abijah to reign over Judah.
2 He reigned three years in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Michaiah the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah. And there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam.

2 Chronicles 11:20 And after her he took Maachah the daughter of Absalom; which bare him Abijah, and Attai, and Ziza, and Shelomith.
21 And Rehoboam loved Maachah the daughter of Absalom above all his wives and his concubines: (for he took eighteen wives, and threescore concubines; and begat twenty and eight sons, and threescore daughters.)
22 And Rehoboam made Abijah the son of Maachah the chief, to be ruler among his brethren: for he thought to make him king.

1 Kings 15:1 Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam the son of Nebat reigned Abijam over Judah.
2 Three years reigned he in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Maachah, the daughter of Abishalom.

As correctly pointed out by Apologetics Press author Eric Lyons, the Bible authors were not confined by today's modern English style of writing. The Old Testament authors frequently refer to descendants as the "son" or "daughter" of X descendant when they were in fact the grandson, great-grandson, granddaughter, great-granddaughter, or even further back. You see, "son" and "daughter" are modern English terms, but the Bible was not authored in English. Translators like those involved with the KJV were actually translating Hebrew words thousands of years old, and trying to find English words (which themselves are now centuries out of date) to best translate them into.

"There simply is no way of knowing how many times in the Bible the terms 'son(s)' and 'daughter(s)' are used to mean grandchildren, great-grandchildren, or some other descendant. After reading Genesis 29:5, one might think that Laban was the son of Nahor, but Genesis 24 explains that he actually was Nahor’s grandson (24:24,29; cf. 22:20-24). Consider also Mephibosheth. He is called the 'son of Saul' in 2 Samuel 19:24, when actually he was 'the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul' (2 Samuel 9:6; 4:4). He literally was Saul’s grandson, though Scripture refers to him once simply as 'son of Saul.'"

-Eric Lyons, Apologetics Press[3]

In other words, the verses complement one another, Abijah was the son of Maachah who in turn was called the descendant of both Absalom and Uriel of Gibeah. Both Absalom and Uriel are thus in her lineage. For example, if you've ever seen or read 'Narnia' you will observe they imitate the Bible's style of referring to individuals as "Son of Adam" or "Daughter of Eve".[4] As correctly pointed out by Lyons, it is not uncommon for the Bible to thus refer to a descendant as the son or daughter of someone who is descended farther back in their lineage. This is simply a stylistic language difference that can be readily observed in the Bible.

Absalom is frequently referred to as the descendant of Maachah, daughter of Talmai King of Geshur. In fact, when he fled from his father David, he went to stay with his mother's side of the family, his grandfather Talmai, King of Geshur. Gibeah thus would have been a city within the land of Geshur. Other cities said to be in Geshur included Ramah (1 Samuel 22:6) and Migron (1 Samuel 14:2), and it was near Mount Ephraim (Judges 19:16). It was said to be in Aram (translated by the KJV as Syria - 2 Samuel 15:8). The exact location of Geshur and Gibeah is disputed.

2 Samuel 3:3 And his second, Chileab, of Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur;

2 Samuel 13:37 But Absalom fled, and went to Talmai, the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son every day.
38 So Absalom fled, and went to Geshur, and was there three years.

2 Samuel 15:7 And it came to pass after forty years, that Absalom said unto the king, I pray thee, let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed unto the LORD, in Hebron.
8 For thy servant vowed a vow while I abode at Geshur in Syria, saying, If the LORD shall bring me again indeed to Jerusalem, then I will serve the LORD.

1 Chronicles 3:2 The third, Absalom the son of Maachah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur: the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith:

At any rate, there's no contradiction, the Hebrew word translated son (Hebrew ben[5]) just meant descendant and could be used to refer to grandchildren and great grandchildren as well.

Verse 8

The ReasonProject claims a Bible contradiction exists here with the headline "How were Abijam and Asa related?"[6]

1 Kings 15:1 Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam the son of Nebat reigned Abijam over Judah.
2 Three years reigned he in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Maachah, the daughter of Abishalom.

1 Kings 15:8 And Abijam slept with his fathers; and they buried him in the city of David: and Asa his son reigned in his stead.
8 And Abijam slept with his fathers; and they buried him in the city of David: and Asa his son reigned in his stead.
9 ¶ And in the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel reigned Asa over Judah.
10 And forty and one years reigned he in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Maachah, the daughter of Abishalom.

Context

2 Chronicles 11:18-22 makes clear that Maachah the daughter of Absalom was the mother of Abijah, Attai, Ziza, and Shelomith. Maachah appears to have been an extremely common name at the time, it was the name of one of Nahor's children (Genesis 22:24), the name of an entire tribe living before the Israelites which they did not expel (Joshua 13:13), the name of Absalom's mother and one of David's wives (2 Samuel 33:3), the name of a king who helped David (2 Samuel 10:6-8), the name of the King of Gath (possibly the same as the previous - 1 Kings 2:39), the name of Caleb's mistress (1 Chronicles 2:48), the name of Machir's wife (1 Chronicles 7:16), the name of Jehiel's wife (1 Chronicles 9:35), the name of Hanan's father (1 Chronicles 11:43), the name of an area in Aram (called by the KJV Syria - 1 Chronicles 19:6-7), and the name of Shephataiah's father (1 Chronicles 27:16). And now, after all that, we have here another Maachah, the daughter of Absalom, so apparently Absalom named his daughter Maachah after his mother. Anyway, Maachah was a really common name at the time, just to avoid confusing it with other passages, as common as Mary, Jennifer, or Emily is in the United States.

Further complicating all of this is the fact that Jeroboam and Rehoboam were separate kings at the time who were at war. (1 Kings 15:6) Rehoboam ruled Judah and Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 11:17) and was descended from David, Solomon's son (1 Kings 11:43), while Jeroboam the son of Nebat ruled Israel. Jeroboam had been one of Solomon's servants, but it was prophesied by Ahijah (no relation to Abijah) that he would take control of Israel from Solomon's family. He then fled to Egypt to avoid Solomon's anger until Solomon died. (1 Kings 11:26-43) Jeroboam then rebelled against Solomon's son Rehoboam, taking most of the kingdom from him and splitting Israel into two kindoms, Israel and Judah as had been prophesied. (1 Kings 12:1-24)

Abijah was actually the son of Rehoboam, not Jeroboam. (2 Chronicles 11:19) Thus Jeroboam was still ruling Israel at the time that Abijah, Rehoboam's son, began ruling Judah (1 Kings 15:1). Abijah ended up fighting Jeroboam and criticized Jeroboam for usurping the kingdom from Abijah's father, Rehoboam. Abijah won a huge victory after depending on God, unlike Jeroboam who followed pagan idols, and took much of the kingdom back from Jeroboam. (2 Chronicles 13)

Possibilities

Since both the mother of Abijah was said to be Maachah the daughter of Absalom, and the mother of Asa, Abijah's son, was also said to be Maachah the daughter of Absalom, this leaves several possibilities:

1. A Queen Mother

As proposed by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, Maachah may have been Queen Mother similar to Queen Elizabeth in modern times, and mother was an honorary designation. This argument is also made by the Institute for Creation Research[7] and C.J. Ball.[8]

"From this, however, the only natural and logically sound conclusion which can be drawn is that Abijam's mother, Rehoboam's wife, occupied the position of queen-mother, not merely during the three years' reign of Abijam, but also during the first years of the reign of his son Asa, as his grandmother, until Asa had deprived her of this dignity because of her idolatry. It is nowhere said in Scripture that this woman was Abijam's wife, but that is a conclusion drawn by Thenius and Bertheau only from her being called אמּו, his (Asa's) mother, as if אם could denote merely the actual mother, and not the grandmother."

-Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh[9]

If so, Maachah would have been Asa's grandmother and just given an honorary title as the nation's mother, similar to Deborah. Because she was also directly descended from David as Absalom's daughter, like Rehoboam she would have been of royal descent herself, and thus once Rehoboam died have received more honor than the typical ex-Queen.

Judges 5:7 The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel.

Recourse may also be made to Proverbs 31 to show that Queen Mothers received honor during this time period. She would have in essence been the nation's matriarch, which would explain why she was still Queen while Abijah her son and Asa her grandson were Kings, and why her removal for idolatry was important enough for historical mention. (1 Kings 15:13, 2 Chronicles 15:16)

2. Broader Word Meaning of Grandmother

The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and the Hebrew word for "son" (ben[10]) could actually be used to refer to grandchildren, more broadly just meaning descendant. Some examples can be found here. It was sometimes combined with other Hebrew words to produce the meaning of descendant.[11]

The Hebrew word here translated mother is the word em.[12] The contrasting word used for father is ab[13] and could be used to refer to grandfathers or forefathers. Thus it is quite possible the passage is just using the Hebrew word translated mother, em, to refer to a grandmother rather than mother, which would be in line with how similar Hebrew words are used in relational terminology. Some Bible translations as a result, for example the Common English Bible, replace mother with grandmother in the passage.[14]

The New Living Translation actually mentions both of the first two possibilities, translating as "grandmother" and in the footnote for the verse stating "d. 15:10 Or The queen mother; Hebrew reads His mother (also in 15:13); compare 15:2."[15]

3. Two Maachahs

A third possibility is that there were two Maachahs being referred to, and that 1 Kings 15:10 is just a scribal error, given that other passages mentioning Asa's mother only call her Maachah, not the daughter of Absalom. (1 Kings 15:13, 2 Chronicles 15:16) However, I am not aware of any early manuscripts where 1 Kings 15:10 mentions Maachah without the Absalom reference, so barring such a discovery, I consider this an unlikely possibility. While it would be consistent with the commonality of the name Maachah at the time, unless early manuscripts can be found showing a lack of reference to Absalom in 1 Kings 15:10, this possibility just seems too hypothetical to me and unsupported by the evidence.


NOTE - I do not consider the possibility that incest had occurred as it had with Amnon and his sister (2 Samuel 13:1-20) because even though 1 Kings 15:3 does state Abijah walked in the sins of his father (Rehoboam), so great a sin would be inconsistent with 2 Chronicles 13 where Abijah's walking with God leads to God giving him a great military victory. It would also be inconsistent with details of Rehoboam's life, who while mentioned as guilty of allowing idolatry (1 Kings 14:22-24) and not preparing his heart to seek the Lord (2 Chronicles 12:14) is never mentioned as having committed such a sin. Furthermore, it would actually contradict the actions of Rehoboam's grandfather, Absalom, who killed his own brother Amnon for having committed incest with their sister. (2 Samuel 13:22-29) Thus rather than committing the sins of his fathers with such an action, Abijah would have contradicted the actions of his ancestors. At any rate, the evidence just wouldn't add up in my estimation.

Sources

  1. Meritt, Jim (1992). A List of Biblical Contradictions. Internet Infidels.
  2. Marlow, Andy (2009). Contradictions in the Bible. Project Reason.
  3. Lyons, Eric (2004). Who was Abijah's Grandfather? Apologetics Press.
  4. Human. WikiNarnia.
  5. Brown, Driver, Briggs and Gesenius. Hebrew Lexicon entry for Ben. The KJV Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon.]
  6. Marlow, Andy (2009). Contradictions in the Bible. Project Reason.
  7. Maachah the Mother of Asa. Institute for Creation Research.
  8. Ball, C.J. (1883). An Old Testament Commentary for English Readers by Various Writers, Edited by Charles John Ellicott. Vol. III. pg. 379. Cassell & Company, ltd.
  9. Keil, Carl Friedrich, & Delitzsh, Franz (1857-78). Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament. At Sacred-Texts.com.
  10. Brown, Driver, Briggs and Gesenius. Hebrew Lexicon entry for Ben. The KJV Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon.]
  11. Brown-Driver-Briggs. 1121. Ben: often plural with name of ancestor, people, land, or city, to denote descendants, inhabitants, membership in a nation or family, etc. BibleHub.
  12. Brown, Driver, Briggs and Gesenius. Hebrew Lexicon entry for 'em.' The KJV Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon.
    Brown-Driver-Briggs. 517. Em. BibleHub.
  13. Brown, Driver, Briggs and Gesenius. Hebrew Lexicon entry for 'ab.' The KJV Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon.
    Brown-Driver-Briggs. 1. Ab: 4 Ancestor. BibleHub.
  14. Common English Bible (2011). 1 Kings 15-17. BibleGateway.com.
  15. New Living Translation (2013). 1 Kings 15. Tyndale House Publishers Inc.