Abiah was the second son of the prophet Samuel. His older brother was Joel. Both Abiah whose name meant “The Lord is my Father”, and his brother Joel were appointed to be judges by their father, Samuel, to succeed him, but they were both evil and walked not in the ways of the Lord. They were driven by greed for money and took bribes, perverting justice, which was not in accordance to how the judge of a just God should conduct themselves. So when Samuel, appoints his own sons, Joel and Abiah as judges over Israel, the elders of Israel gathered together to meet with Samuel at Ramah and told him that since he was old and because his sons were not following in the ways of the Lord as did their father, they would rather have a king appointed to judge and reign over them. While on the surface, this may seem like a simple and much needed request, the undertow of how serious this request was, is only evident from what God tells Samuel as a response to the request of the people for a king. God tells Samuel that the people’s request was in essence not a rejection of the judgeship of Samuel but a rejection of the kingship of the Lord (1 Samuel 8:7). God’s reign over his people was being rejected by his own people (1 Samuel 8:7). The was the start of the decline of Theocracy (reign of God) and the beginning of Monarchy (ruling by a king) in the history of the Israelites.
But what triggered this? The answer is in the Bible. Samuel’s age was no doubt a factor. He was becoming an old man in age, but more than Samuel’s age, the elders of Israel had no confidence in the ways of Samuel’s wicked sons, Joel and Abiah, which is what they express (1 Samuel 8:5). Imagine for a moment, if Abiah and Joel were followers of the way of the Lord as did their father Samuel. If this was the case, it is highly likely that the people may have continued to let the Lord reign over them through his prophets as they did so during the times of Samuel.
What can we learn from Abiah and Joel?
- As parents, we must watch out for our children so that they are not far from the Lord. The warning is clear and evident, as we observe the life of Samuel, Abiah and Joel; “Even children of God’s own prophets (missionaries/pastors/preachers/teachers/evangelists etc) can be far from the Lord.”
- When justice is perverted, people draw away from a just and Holy God and turn toward seeking human lordship and justice over divine.
- Wickedness in us can lead to the rejection of the Lord and His kingship by the people around us.
1 Samuel 8:1-7 (KJV)
1 And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.
2 Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beersheba.
3 And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,
5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.
7 And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.