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Bible Commentaries

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

1 Kings 16

Verse 1

Hanani, the father of Jehu, was seer to Asa in the kingdom of Judah 2 Chronicles 16:7-10. His son Jehu, who here discharges the same office in the kingdom of Israel, appears at a later date as an inhabitant of Jerusalem where he prophesied under Jehoshaphat, whom he rebuked on one occasion. He must have lived to a great age, for he outlived Jehoshaphat, and wrote his life (marginal references).

Verse 5

The “might” of Baasha is sufficiently indicated by those successes which drove Asa to call Ben-hadad to his aid. 1 Kings 15:17-21.

Verse 7

The natural position of this verse would be after 1 Kings 16:4 and before 1 Kings 16:5. But it may be regarded as added by the writer, somewhat irregularly, as an afterthought; its special force being to point out that the sentence on Baasha was intended to punish, not only his calf-worship, but emphatically his murder of Jeroboam and his family. Though the destruction of Jeroboam had been foretold, and though Baasha may be rightly regarded as God’s instrument to punish Jeroboam’s sins, yet, as he received no command to execute God’s wrath on the offender, and was instigated solely by ambition and self-interest, his guilt was just as great as if no prophecy had been uttered. Even Jehu’s commission 2 Kings 9:5-10 was not held to justify, altogether, his murder of Jehoram and Jezebel.

Verse 8

Two years - i. e., More than one year, or, at any rate, some portion of two distinct years (compare 1 Kings 16:10).

Verse 9

The conspiracy of Zimri - Elah’s “servant” (i. e., “subject”) - was favored by his position, which probably gave him military authority in the city, by the absence of a great part of the people and of the officers who might have checked him, at Gibbethon 1 Kings 16:15, and by the despicable character of Elah, who, instead of going up to the war, was continually reminding men of his low origin by conduct unworthy of royalty.

Steward - The office was evidently one of considerable importance. In Solomon’s court it gave the rank of שׂר śar, prince. In Persia the “steward of the household” acted sometimes as a sort of regent during the king’s absence.

Verse 11

Neither of his kinsfolks, nor of his friends - Zimri’s measures were of much more than ordinary severity. Not only was the royal family extirpated, but the friends of the king, his councillors and favorite officers, were put to death. Omri, as having been in the confidence of the late monarch, would naturally fear for himself, and resolve to take the course which promised him at least a chance of safety.

Verse 13

Their vanities - The “calves.” The Hebrews call an idol by terms signifying “emptiness,” “vapor,” or “nothingness.” (Compare marginal references.)

Verse 16

All Israel made Omri, the captain of the host, king - This passage of history recalls the favorite practice of the Roman armies under the Empire, which, when they heard of the assassination of an emperor at Rome, were accustomed to invest their own commander with the purple.

Verse 17

Went up - The expression “went up” marks accurately the ascent of the army from the Shephelah, where Gibbethon was situated Joshua 19:44, to the hill country of Israel, on the edge of which Tirzah stood 1 Kings 14:17.

Verse 18

The palace of the king’s house - The tower of the king’s house. A particular part of the palace - either the “harem,” or, more probably, the keep or citadel, a tower stronger and loftier than the rest of the palace.

Zimri’s desperate act has been repeated more than once. That the last king of Assyria, the Sardanapalus of the Greeks, thus destroyed himself, is almost the only “fact” which we know concerning him.

Verse 19

Zimri’s death illustrates the general moral which the writer of Kings draws from the whole history of the Israelite monarchs. that a curse was upon them on account of their persistence in Jeroboam’s sin, which, sooner or later, brought each royal house to a bloody end.

Verse 22

From a comparison of the dates given in 1 Kings 16:15, 1 Kings 16:23, 1 Kings 16:29 it follows that the contest between the two pretenders lasted four years.

Tibni’s death can scarcely be supposed to have been natural. Either he must have been slain in battle against Omri, or have fallen into his hands and been put to death.

There has probably been some derangement of the text here. The passage may have run thus: “So Tibni died, and Omri reigned in the thirty-first year of Asa, king of Judah. Omri reigned over Israel twelve years: six years reigned he in Tirzah.” Omri’s reign of 12 years began in Asa’s 27th 1 Kings 16:15-16, and terminated in his 38th 1 Kings 16:29. The event belonging to Asa’s 31st year was the death of Tibni, and the consequent extension of Omri’s kingdom.

The six years in Tirzah are probably made up of the four years of contention with Tibni, and two years afterward, during which enough of Samaria was built for the king to transfer his residence there.

Verse 24

“Samaria” represents the Greek form of the name Σαμάρεια Samareia; the original is שׁמרון shômerôn (margin). The site is marked by the modern “Sebustiyeh,” an Arabic corruption of Sebaste, the name given by Herod to Samaria when he rebuilt it. Sebustiyeh is situated on a very remarkable “hill.” In the heart of the mountains of Israel occurs a deep basin-shaped depression, in the midst of which rises an oblong hill, with steep but not inaccessible sides, and a long flat top. This was the site which Omri chose for his new capital. Politically it was rather more central than Shechem, and probably than Tirzah. In a military point of view it was admirably calculated for defense. The country round it was especially productive. The hill itself possessed abundant springs of water. The result is that we find no further change. Shechem and Tirzah were each tried and abandoned; but through all the later alterations of dynasty Samaria continued uninterruptedly, to the very close of the independence, to be the capital of the northern kingdom.

Omri purchased the right of property in the hill, just as David purchased the threshing-floor (2 Samuel 24:24; compare 1 Kings 21:2). Two talents, or 6,000 shekels (Exodus 38:24 note) - about 500 British pounds (or perhaps 800 pounds) of our money - may well have been the full value of the ground. And while naming his city after Shemer, Omri may also have had in view the appropriateness of such a name to the situation of the place. Shomeron, to a Hebrew ear, would have necessarily conveyed the idea of a “watch-tower.” This name, however, appears not to have been at first accepted by the surrounding nations. The earlier Assyrian kings knew the Israelite capital, not as Samaria, but as Beth-Khumri, i. e., “the city (house) of Omri.” It is not until the time of Tiglath-pileser that they exchange this designation for that of “Sammirin.”

Verse 25

Omri outwent his idolatrous predecessors in his zeal, reducing the calf-worship to a regular formal system, which went down to posterity (compare the marginal reference).

Verse 27

His might - Perhaps in the war between Israel and Syria of Damascus (1 Kings 20:1, etc.), during the reign of Omri. Its issue was very disadvantageous to him 1Ki 20:34; 1 Kings 22:2.

Verse 29

Twenty and two years - Rather, from a comparison between 1 Kings 15:10 and 1 Kings 22:51, not more than 21 years. Perhaps his reign did not much exceed 20 years.

Verse 30

See 1 Kings 16:33. The great sin of Ahab - that by which he differed from all his predecessors, and exceeded them in wickedness - was his introduction of the worship of Baal, consequent upon his marriage with Jezebel, and his formal establishment of this gross and palpable idolatry as the religion of the state.

Verse 31

As if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam - Idolatries are not exclusive. Ahab, while he detested the pure worship of Yahweh, and allowed Jezebel to put to death every “prophet of the Lord” whom she could find 1 Kings 18:4, readily tolerated the continued worship of the “calves,” which had no doubt tended more and more to lose its symbolic character, and to become a thoroughly idolatrous image-worship.

Eth-baal - Identified with the Ithobalus of Menander, who reigned in Tyre, probably over all Phoenicia, within 50 years of the death of Hiram. This Ithobalus, whose name means “With him is Baal,” was originally priest of the great temple of Astarte, in Tyre. At the age of 36 he conspired against the Tyrian king, Pheles (a usurping fratricide), killed him, and seized the throne. His reign lasted 32 years, and he established a dynasty which continued on the throne at least 62 years longer. The family-tree of the house may be thus exhibited:



Lineage of Eth-Baal
Eth-baal






Badezor Jezebel




Matgen (Belus of Virgil)










Pygmalion Dido (founder of Carthage)



Hence, Jezebel was great-aunt to Pygmalion and his sister Dido.

Served Baal - The worship of Baal by the Phoenicians is illustrated by such names as IthoBAL, HanniBAL, etc. Abundant traces of it are found in the Phoenician monuments.

Verse 34

This seems to be adduced as a proof of the general impiety of Ahab’s time. The curse of Joshua against the man who should rebuild Jericho had hitherto been believed and respected. But now faith in the old religion had so decayed, that Joshua’s malediction had lost its power. Hiel, a Bethelite of wealth and station, undertook to restore the long-ruined fortress. But he suffered for his temerity. In exact accordance with the words of Joshua’s curse, he lost his firstborn son when he began to lay anew the foundations of the walls, and his youngest when he completed his work by setting up the gates. We need not suppose that Jericho had been absolutely uninhabited up to this time. But it was a ruined and desolate place without the necessary protection of walls, and containing probably but few houses (Judges 3:13 note). Hiel re-established it as a city, and it soon became once more a place of some importance 2 Chronicles 28:15.

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Kings 16". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/1-kings-16.html. 1870.