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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 16

Ironside's Notes on Selected BooksIronside's Notes

Verses 1-7


(“He who seeks,” or “lays waste.”)

1 Kings 15:27-34; 1 Kings 16:1-7; 2 Chronicles 16:1-6

Contemporary Prophet: Jehu Son Of Hanani.

“The Lord hath made all things for Himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.”-Proverbs 16:4

“In the third year of Asa king of Judah began Baasha the son of Ahijah to reign over all Israel in Tirzah, twenty and four years.” With the beginning of a new dynasty, and the sad history of that which had been before him, one might hope that Baasha would have taken a different course, and turned to Jehovah. Alas, we read: “And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.”

He was of Issachar, and had the tribal characteristic-an eye for what appeared “pleasant” (Genesis 49:15). So he made beautiful Tirzah (which some derive from raizah, “pleasant”; see Song of Song of Solomon 6:4) the royal residence during his reign. Whatever he may have known of God’s purpose in the cutting off of Jeroboam’s house, his motive was not one of righteousness (like Jehu’s, later), for he was no better than those he murdered, and continued to walk in their sin.

“Then the word of the Lord came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying, Forasmuch as I exalted thee out of the dust, and made thee prince over My people Israel; and thou hast walked in the way of Jeroboam, and hast made My people Israel to sin, to provoke Me to anger with their sins; behold, I will take away the posterity of Baasha, and the posterity of his house”-a terrible thought to an Israelite!-“and will make thy house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. Him that dieth of Baasha in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth of his in the fields shall the fowls of the air eat.” His doom, and that of all his house, is here solemnly pronounced. “Out of the dust” implies his lowly origin. How often do revolutionists imagine that because the obnoxious ruler is of noble birth, or royal lineage, the remedy is to put in the place of power one of their own class and rank! And how soon are they made to learn that “a servant when he ruleth” is the very worst type of tyrant known! No, it is not a question of natural birth, whether high or low, but of new birth and “ruling in the fear of God” which gives to any favored land such sovereigns as “Victoria the Good.” Baasha was of plebeian stock, yet his name, he who lays waste, tells only too accurately what kind of a ruler he proved himself to be.

There was war between Baasha and Asa king of Judah all their days. He made a league with Ben-hadad king of Syria, and built, or fortified, Ramah on his southern border, to prevent, if possible, the influx of his subjects to Judah, whither they were attracted by the prosperity enjoyed under Asa. (See Asa.)

“Now the rest of the acts of Baasha, and what he did, and his might, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? So Baasha slept with his fathers, and was buried in Tirzah: and Elah his son reigned in his stead.” And then a supplementary verse is added, to emphasize the fact that it was because of his idolatries and murder of the house of Jeroboam that God judged him and his family: “And also by the hand of the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani came the word of the Lord against Baasha, and against his house, even for all the evil that he did in the sight of the Lord, in provoking Him to anger with the work of his hands [his idols], in being like the house of Jeroboam; and because he killed him.” God, who looks upon the heart, sees him but as an assassin for the accomplishment of his ambitious designs, slaying king Nadab and the entire house of Jeroboam.

Verses 8-14


(An oak)

1 Kings 16:8-14

“Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.”-Proverbs 11:31

“In the twenty and sixth year of Asa king of Judah began Elah the son of Baasha to reign over Israel in Tirzah, two years. And his servant Zimri, captain of half his chariots, conspired against him, as he was in Tirzah, drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza, steward of his house in Tirzah. And Zimri went in and smote him, and killed him, in the twenty and seventh year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned in his stead.”

Of the house of Jeroboam God had said: “I will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam as a man taketh away dung, till it all be gone”-so would it be with Baasha who had removed the remnant of Jeroboam’s house by murder. “Drinking himself drunk” was Elah’s occupation at the time of his assassination. Dissipation does not appear to have been the special sin of the kings of Israel and Judah generally (nor has it ever been characteristic of the Jewish race), as was the case with so many of their Gentile neighbors- witness Ben-hadad with his thirty-two confederate kings “drinking himself drunk in the pavilions”; 1 Kings 20:16).

Of Elah, Josephus (viii. 12, §4) says he was slain while his army was away at the siege of Gibbethon, begun in his father Baasha’s day. His murder was perpetrated in the house of his steward Arza (earthliness), who was probably as given to self-indulgence as his master. Contrast the steward Obadiah, 1 Kings 18:3.

His murderer Zimri at once began to massacre “all the house of Baasha,” sparing none, “neither of his kinsfolks, nor of his friends.” It was complete extermination, even as God had ordained it should be. “Thus did Zimri destroy all the house of Baasha, according to the word of the Lord, which He spake against Baasha by Jehu the prophet, for all the sins of Baasha, and the sins of Elah his son, by which they…made Israel to sin, in provoking the Lord God of Israel to anger with their vanities” (idolatries).

Thus the house of Baasha, like that of Jeroboam before him, became extinct-the greatest calamity, to Jewish minds, that could overtake a man.

In less than fifty years the first two dynasties of Israel’s kings had come to an end and every member of their families been exterminated. God meant to make their doom an example to those who should thereafter live ungodly. They stand as beacons, in these records, to warn all rulers and subjects off the rocks on which they struck to their everlasting ruin. “Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein” (Hosea 14:9). The usual formula ends the record of Elah’s worthless life (1 Kings 16:14).

Verses 15-20



(1 Kings 16:9-20)

“Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved: but he that is perverse in his ways shall fall at once.”-Proverbs


“In the twenty and seventh year of Asa king of Judah did Zimri reign seven days in Tirzah. And the people were encamped against Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines. And the people that were encamped heard say, Zimri hath conspired, and hath also slain the king: wherefore all Israel made Omri, the captain of the host, king over Israel that day in the camp.”

“The triumphing of the wicked is short.” It was sharply exemplified in the case of Zimri-just one week. He appears to have had no support from the people, who knew his character and desired not his rule. News of his assumption of the crown had no sooner reached the army at Gibbethon than they rejected his claims by proclaiming their commander-in-chief, Omri, king.

“And Omri went up from Gibbethon, and all Israel with him, and they besieged Tirzah. And it came to pass, when Zimri saw that the city was taken, that he went into the palace of the king’s house, and burnt the king’s house over him with fire, and died, for his sins which he sinned in doing evil in the sight of the Lord, in walking in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin which he did, to make Israel to sin.” Murderers are generally desperate characters; and when it is beyond their power any more to destroy the lives of others, they, like wretched Zimri, frequently destroy their own. Satan “was a murderer from the beginning,” and he knows how to goad them on to their destruction-body and soul. He knows the suicide’s destiny after death. Judas, the traitor-suicide, we read, went “to his own place”-where “the unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers,” etc., have their place-in “the lake of fire.”

Zimri’s perfidy became a byword in Israel. The infamous Jezebel could refer to him and say, “Had Zimri peace, who slew his master?” “Treason is punished by treason,” one has said, “and the slayer is slain.” In Zimri was fulfilled the true proverb, “A man that doeth violence to the blood of any person shall flee to the pit; let no man stay him” (Proverbs 28:17). Let Zimri’s end warn intentional regicides and traitors.

Verses 21-28



1 Kings 16:15-28

Contemporary Prophet: Elijah (?)

“The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but He blesseth the habitation of the just.”-Proverbs 3:33

Civil War, that most deplorable of all forms of armed conflict, followed Omri’s assumption of the throne of Israel. “Then were the people of Israel divided into two parts: half of the people followed Tibni the son of Ginath, to make him king; and half followed Omri. But the people that followed Omri prevailed against the people that followed Tibni the son of Ginath: so Tibni died, and Omri reigned.” “All Israel made Omri, the captain of the host, king over Israel that day in the camp,” it says-that is, the army that was encamped against Gibbethon; but a part of the tribes championed the cause of Tibni. Omri would be thus, during the four years’ contest, in the position of military dictator. And with the soldiery at his back, he could hardly fail to prevail in the end against his adversary, whose death probably put an end to the conflict. Then Omri as king begins a new dynasty.

“In the thirty and first year of Asa king of Judah began Omri to reign over Israel, twelve years: six years reigned he in Tirzah. And he bought the hill Samaria of Shemer for two talents of silver, and built on the hill, and called the name of the city which he built, after the name of Shemer, owner of the hill, Samaria” (“ Shomeron” Heb.). In the siege of Tirzah, Omri may have seen its undesirableness as a capital, from a military standpoint; or the pride of founding a new capital may have led him to choose the hill of Shemer. It lay about six miles to the northwest of Shechem, the old capital; and the situation, according to Josephus, combined strength, fertility, and beauty. The hill was six hundred feet above the surrounding country, and “the view,” one writes, “is charming.” But more attractive to the Christian heart, is the site of the old capital, Shechem, where our Lord,” wearied with His journey, sat thus on the well.” And there, in the ears of “Jacob’s erring daughter,” He told of the free-giving God, and of that living water, of which, if a man drink, he shall never more thirst.

“But Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all that were before him. For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin, to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger with their vanities” (idolatries). He seems to have formulated laws, making Jeroboam’s calf-worship, or other forms of idolatry, obligatory throughout his realm, which remained in force till the end of the kingdom, more than two hundred years later. “For the statutes [a firmly-established system.- Fausset] of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab” [Baal-worship] (Micah 6:16). Such yokes men willingly bear, and even cling to, so prone is the human heart to idolatry.

Omri was founder of the fourth and most powerful of the Israelitish dynasties-combining ability with the establishment of the basest idolatry. He formed an alliance with Ben-hadad I, king of Syria, who had streets made for, or assigned to, him in Samaria. See 1 Kings 20:34. Samaria is called on the Assyrian monuments “Beth Omri” (house of Omri), in agreement with 1 Kings 16:24. On the black obelisk, however, Jehu is mistakenly called “son of Omri.” His name appears on the Dibon stone, on which Mesha states that Omri subjected and oppressed Moab till he, Mesha, delivered them out of his hand.

“Now the rest of the acts of Omri which he did, and his might that he showed, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?” He used this “might” of his, not to Israel’s deliverance, but for the furtherance and establishment of idolatry, to Israel’s ruin. His name was common to three tribes, Benjamin, Judah, and Issachar (see 1 Chronicles 7:8; 1 Chronicles 9:4; 1 Chronicles 27:18); so it is not certain out of which Omri came-though probably from Issachar (like Baasha). The murderous Athaliah, his granddaughter, is usually linked with his name in Scripture. See 2 Kings 8:26; 2 Chronicles 22:2, etc.

“So Omri slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria. And Ahab his son reigned in his stead.” His name means heaping; and by his iniquity he helped to heap up wrath against his dynasty, executed finally, thirty-six years later, on his great-grandson Jo-ram, to the total extinction of the guilty house.

Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on 1 Kings 16". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/isn/1-kings-16.html. 1914.
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