How Did Ahijah Predict That Israel Would Split?

How Did Ahijah Predict That Israel Would Split?

If you asked people to put together lists of notable Old Testament prophets, Ahijah probably wouldn’t appear on most of them. We know much less about him than we know about figures like Samuel or Elijah, yet his actions had huge consequences for the nation of Israel, shaping it in ways that continued for centuries.

Who Was Ahijah in the Bible?

Ahijah was a prophet from the town of Shiloh (1 Kings 11:29). Like many prophets, he served as a spokesperson for when God wanted to inform rulers of what he was going to do. Since the nation of Israel routinely had leaders who turned away from following God, these prophets tended to give stark messages involving rebuke and descriptions of coming judgment. For example, the prophet Elijah prophesied droughts and death upon Ahab and Jezebel. The prophet Samuel prophesied both judgments on Saul and (by anointing David), good news for his successor.

Ahijah’s prophecies were particularly stark because they had to do with the future of Israel as a country. Since the nation’s founding on Mount Sinai (see Exodus 19), it had been a nation of 12 tribes, descended from the 12 sons of Jacob. These tribes were originally ruled by judges like Samson and Gideon, and eventually, leadership was taken over by kings like Saul. Saul’s successor was David, described as a man who was after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Because of David’s devotion, he was promised that one of his descendants would always sit on the throne (Psalm 89:3-4). Eventually, his family line would include Jesus Christ himself, a fulfillment of Messianic prophecies about the son of David. However, just one generation after David, poor choices led to God deciding that Israel would no longer be a complete nation under his family’s rule.

What Was Ahijah's Prophecy?

The Bible describes Ahijah making two prophecies—one about the split of the nation of Israel, the other about destruction upon Jeroboam (the man he gave the first prophecy to). 1 Kings 11:1-13 describes how even though David’s son Solomon was a wise man, he disobeyed God by marrying many women. Many of Solomon’s wives (and his several hundred concubines) were foreigners, from countries around Israel that worshipped other gods. To accommodate them, Solomon built temples for their gods, and eventually Israel as a nation began following those gods as well. Within one generation, this took Israel from being a nation that followed the one true god to one that followed many gods.

As a result, God rose up adversaries to fight against Solomon, one of them being Jeroboam son of Nebat. As described in 1 Kings 11:26-40, Jeroboam started out trusted by Solomon, and was given an important job over labor operations. One day when Jeroboam was traveling out of Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah stopped him. Ahijah then demonstrated what would happen to Israel by taking a new cloak and tearing it into 12 pieces, giving 10 pieces to Jeroboam. Ahijah explained that all but two tribes would desert David’s family after Solomon’s death. David’s family would continue to have a remnant “so that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I chose to put my Name” (1 Kings 11:36).

Ahijah specifically cited the nation’s idolatry as the reason for this great split. At the end of his prophecy, Ahijah made it clear that if Jeroboam followed God’s commands, his legacy would be as long as David’s (1 Kings 11:37-39). Evidently, Solomon heard about Jeroboam’s plans to split the kingdom and Jeroboam fled to Egypt (1 Kings 11:40).

Did Ahijah's Prophecy Come True?

1 Kings 12 describes how after Solomon died, his son Rehoboam met with the people to discuss his coronation and the direction he would take as king. Jeroboam came from Egypt to attend that event and saw Rehoboam anger the people by declaring he would make their lives harder. Rehoboam’s attempt to pacify and control the people failed, and he was forced to flee to Jerusalem, where he ruled over the tribes of Benjamin and Judah. The people made Jeroboam king of the other 10 tribes, which now became known as the nation of Judah.

Later, the second part of Ahijah’s prophecy came true in a tragic way. Jeroboam had been warned that the reason for this split was that Solomon had introduced other gods to the people and that as long as he followed God faithfully, he would be honored. Instead, Jeroboam introduced new gods to the nation of Judah to avoid them going to worship God at the temple in Jerusalem (Rehoboam’s territory). Despite warnings about altars, he built eventually being defiled (1 Kings 13:1-5), Jeroboam continued to promote bad religious practices (1 Kings 13:33-34). As a result, 1 Kings 14:1-20 describes how Jeroboam got sick and Ahijah gave Jeroboam’s wife a prophecy of Jeroboam’s coming death. Jeroboam’s death not only fulfilled the warnings in Ahijah’s prophecy, it also tainted his legacy. Even though his family weren’t always kings over the nation of Judah, he is referred to several times as an example of the depravity that other kings sank to. King Omri (whose son Ahab would go down in history as Israel’s most evil king) is described as sinning “more than all those before him. He followed completely the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat” (1 Kings 16:25-26).

Who Are the Other People Named Ahijah in the Bible?

The name “Ahijah” appears to have been moderately popular—there are at least six other men with that name mentioned in the Old Testament. Many of these men are minor characters who are listed briefly in genealogies, direct descendants, or officials associated with important figures like Judah or David. A couple of them play smaller roles in larger events involving bigger characters like Saul’s son Jonathon. Here are six other Ahijahs mentioned in the Bible, with a little background on each man if it is available:

1 Samuel 14:3 refers to a priest named Ahijah, a direct descendent of Samuel’s mentor Eli. This Ahijah who was part of the group of 600 men that Saul’s son Jonathon took on a surprise raid against the Philistines and may be the same man mentioned a couple of verses later when Saul asks a man named Ahijah to bring out the ark of the covenant (1 Samuel 14:18).

1 Chronicles 2 lists the direct descendants of Jacob’s son Judah, included a man named Jerahmeel who had a son named Ahijah (1 Chronicles 2:25). No other mention is made of this man.

1 Chronicles 11:36 lists Ahijah the Pelonite as one of David’s mighty warriors, the men who were in his inner circle of great soldiers. This group of “mighty men” also included Uriah the Hittite, whose wife Bathsheba David later took for his own.

1 Chronicles 26 lists various officials who were part of David’s administration, including Levites who were put in charge of Israel’s treasury. In some manuscripts, 1 Chronicles 26:20 gives Ahijah as the name of a specific Levite who was in this group.

1 Kings 4:3 mentions an Ahijah the son of Shisha who was one of the chief secretaries during Solomon’s reign.

1 Kings 15:33 describes “Baasha son of Ahijah” becoming a king over Israel, lasting for 24 years but unfortunately not following God.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Martin Barraud

Connor SalterG. Connor Salter is a writer and editor, with a Bachelor of Science in Professional Writing from Taylor University. In 2020, he won First Prize for Best Feature Story in a regional contest by the Colorado Press Association Network. He has contributed over 1,000 articles to various publications, including interviews for Christian Communicator and book reviews for The Evangelical Church Library Association. Find out more about his work here.