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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 16

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-7

FOURTH SECTION
the kingdom of israel under nadab and his successors until ahab

1 Kings 15:25 to 1 Kings 16:28

A.—The reign of Nadab and Baasha

1 Kings 15:25 to 1 Kings 16:7

25And Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned over Israel two years. 26And he did evil in the sight of the Lord [Jehovah], and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin 27[sins13] wherewith he made Israel to sin. And Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar, conspired14 against him; and Baasha smote him at Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines; for Nadab and all Israel laid siege to Gibbethon. 28Even in the third year of Asa king of Judah did Baasha slay him, and reigned in his stead. 29And it came to pass, when he reigned, that he smote all the house of Jeroboam; he left not to Jeroboam any that breathed,15 until he had destroyed him, according unto the saying of the Lord [Jehovah], which he spake by his servant Ahijah the Shilonite: 30because of the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned, and which he made Israel sin, by his provocation wherewith he provoked the Lord [Jehovah] God of Israel to anger. 31Now the rest of the acts of Nadab, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Israel? 1632And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days.

33In 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. 34And he did evil in the sight of the Lord [Jehovah], and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin [sins] wherewith he made Israel to sin.

1 Kings 16:1 Then the word of the Lord came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying, 2Forasmuch 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; 3behold, I will take away the posterity of Baasha, and the posterity of his house; and will make thy house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. 4Him 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. 5Now 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? 6So Baasha slept with his fathers, and was buried in Tirzah: and Elah his son reigned in his stead.17 7And also by the hand of the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani came the word of the Lord [Jehovah] against Baasha, and against his house, even for all the evil that he did in the sight of the Lord [Jehovah], in provoking him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam; and because he killed him.

Exegetical and Critical

1 Kings 15:25-26. In the second year of Asa. We see clearly from this verse, compared with the time given in 1 Kings 15:28; 1 Kings 15:33, as in all the statement regarding the length of reigns, that years not fully complete are considered as whole ones. “For if Nadab ascended the throne in the second year of Asa’s reign (1 Kings 15:28), and Asa ascended the throne in the twentieth year of Jeroboam’s (1 Kings 15:9), Jeroboam could not have reigned quite twenty-two years, but only twenty-one and some months; and if Baasha succeeded to Nadab in the third year of Asa’s reign (1 Kings 15:28; 1 Kings 15:33) Nadab could not have reigned two years (1 Kings 15:25), in fact not much more than one and a half year or perhaps a little shorter time” (Keil).

1 Kings 15:27-31. Baasha … of the house of Issachar,i. e., of the tribe of Issachar; he cannot therefore have been the son of the prophet Ahijah, as Menzel supposes, for he was an Ephraimite of Shiloh. The city of Gibbethon belongs to the tribe of Dan (Joshua 19:44), and was one of the four cities of the levites which belonged (i. e., the cities) to this tribe (Joshua 21:23); it must have been on the borders of Philistia. It is very doubtful if it had always been occupied by the Philistines, and was now for the first time besieged by the Israelites (Winer); it rather appears that the Philistines, after the partition of the kingdom, again took possession of it as an important border fortress; whereupon the Israelites under Nadab and Elah (1 Kings 16:15) tried to recover it. As Nadab met his death on this occasion, it seems that Baasha’s conspiracy was of a military description, and that the latter was an army chief like Zimri (1 Kings 16:9). Thenius supposes that Gibbethon was the same as the modern Muzeiri’ah, or Elmejdel (Tower) (cf. Robinson, Pal. III. p. 282). How the conspiracy arose is not stated; perhaps Nadab was still very young, and not a match for Baasha, who was very enterprising. It seems that he was not satisfied with exterminating the male relatives of Jeroboam, but murdered the whole of his race. The כִּדְבַר 1 Kings 15:29, does not, of course, mean: as the Lord had promised him, but: so that the word of prophecy was fulfilled. For 1 Kings 15:29-30 see above on 1 Kings 14:10 sq.

1 Kings 15:32-34. And there was war … all their days. 1 Kings 15:32 is a literal repetition of 1 Kings 15:16, and does not seem suitable to the context here, for even if we were to read Nadab instead of Baasha (Ewald), this does not agree with “all their days,” for Nadab did not reign much longer than a year, and had war with the Philistines during that time. Nadab, too, should be named first; between Nadab and Asa; and finally Asa, whose year of accession coincided with the short period of Nadab’s reign, had, according to 2 Chron. 13:23, no war at that time. Thenius thinks that the repetition of 1 Kings 15:16 arose through a mistake of the copyist, but there is certainly no necessity for this easy but at the same time violent solution of the difficulty. Keil’s view is better. He finds (1845) the reason of the repetition in the excerptive character of these books, and in the manner of theocratic historical writing, namely, in the want of strict order in the arrangement of the historical matter. 1 Kings 15:16 is taken from the book of the acts of the kings of Judah; 1 Kings 15:32 from that of the kings of Israel. In the first instance the remark is given beforehand, because there was something special to be said about the war between Asa and Baasha; here, though it would certainly be more suitable after 1 Kings 15:33-34, it is not put in on account of Asa, but on account of Baasha, and is the regular mode of expression for the conditions of the State under the different reigns. For Tirzah see 1 Kings 14:17.

1 Kings 16:1-6. The word of the Lord came. The chapter is not here divided according to the accession of the king, but according to the prophetic sentence which proclaimed ruin to the whole reigning dynasty, and therefore was the beginning of all the subsequent period. The prophet Jehu is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 19:2 sq. as well as in 1 Kings 15:1; 1 Kings 15:7; 1 Kings 15:12; in the above passage ho blames the conduct of the Judah-king Jehoshaphat, the successor of Asa; and in 2 Chronicles 20:34 he is named as the author of the “acts of Jehoshaphat in the book of the kings of Israel.” There is no doubt that his father Hanani was the same as he who was thrown into prison because of his censure of king Asa (2 Chronicles 16:7; 2 Chronicles 16:10). According to this, he must have belonged to the kingdom of Judah, and either pronounced his sentence there (1 Kings 15:2; 1 Kings 15:7), or have gone over, for the purpose, into the northern kingdom. It is also uncertain whether he pronounced the threatening to Baasha personally and directly. For out of the dust (1 Kings 15:2) 1 Kings 14:7 gives “from among the people,” from which “we might conclude that Baasha had raised himself from a very low position to be a commander of the army and finally king” (Thenius). What Baasha did, of himself and by crime, the prophet ascribes in so far to Jehovah, that he could not possibly have executed his plans had they been contrary to the purposes of Jehovah. The entire sentence is evidently modelled after that of the prophet Ahijah against Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:7-11) (see Hist. and Eth. there, 1). 1 Kings 15:6 says that Baasha died a natural death, but Zimrl (1 Kings 15:12) exterminated all “his posterity” (cf.אַחֲרֵי, 1 Kings 15:3). For גְּבוּרָח, see on 1 Kings 15:23.

1 Kings 16:7. Came the word, &c. The וְגַם is not equal to and also, or yes (De Wette), neither does it mean that Jehu himself bore the message, but rather “any former thought or excuse that might be brought forward was strongly rejected” (Ewald, Lehrbuch § 354). The whole of 1 Kings 16:7 is not, as the Rabbins say, a new and further prophecy, but a supplementary remark to the prediction 1 Kings 16:2, which might be misinterpreted as meaning that Baasha had a divine commission to murder Nadab and his race. No! the word, 1 Kings 16:2, spoken by Jehu was called forth by the fact that Baasha had of his own accord destroyed the whole house of Jeroboam, and yet himself had adhered to Jeroboam’s sin. This very word “clearly shows that the extermination of the house of Jeroboam was not done by divine commission, but from selfish motives.” For הִכְעִים, see above on 1 Kings 14:15. “The work of his hands” denotes, according to Deuteronomy 4:28, Dii factitii, whether images of Jehovah (calves) or idols.

Historical and Ethical

1. We have much less concerning the two Israelitish kings Nadab and Baasha and the acts of their reigns than of the two Judah-kings Abijah and Asa. The narrative merely says of Nadab that he walked in the ways of his father Jeroboam; i. e., that he retained unlawful institutions, and after a reign of scarcely two years was murdered in a conspiracy, by Baasha. But of the reign of Baasha, which lasted twenty-four years, our only narrative says that he destroyed all the whole house of Jeroboam after he (Baasha) became king, as was threatened to Jeroboam by the prophet Ahijah (1 Kings 14:7 sq.); that he also persisted in the sin of Jeroboam, and had the same fate as the latter announced to him by the prophet Jehu. We can see plainly from this what the principle which guided our author in his historical writing was. He does not care to give a complete account of all the facts and events of the reign of each king,—for these he refers to the authorities that lay before him,—but the thing rather which concerned him most of all, was the position each king took with regard to the Israelitish fundamental law, i. e., the covenant, which was the soul of the entire Old-Testament theocracy; and how the promises and threatenings of this law itself, or of the prophets charged with its announcements, and who spoke as the servants and ambassadors of Jehovah, became fulfilled (see Introd. § 5). The heavy judgment which overtook the house of him who first openly broke the fundamental law of the entire people, and made the image-worship (so strictly forbidden in that law) the religion of the State and people; that heavy judgment, we say, was a practical historical prediction for every royal house which persisted in “the sin of Jeroboam.” No less than nine dynasties of the kingdom of Israel, with whom this was the case, perished in like manner with the house of Jeroboam, until at last the kingdom itself was destroyed, whilst the dynasty of David continued uninterruptedly in Judah.

2. The little that is told of Baasha is sufficient to show that he was an ambitious, rough, and violent, indeed even a blood-thirsty man. He did not conspire against his lord and king, and usurp the throne, in order to bring the fundamental law of Israel into force again, and to make an end to the sin of Jeroboam, for he himself adhered firmly to it all his life, in spite of all the warnings and threatenings of the prophets. He only cared for dominion thereof, and for this he esteemed the sin of Jeroboam as necessary as the latter himself had done; in short, he seems to have been a rough soldier who cared little or nothing about religion. We see from his enterprise at Ramah (1 Kings 15:17), which he wished to fortify “to reduce Judah utterly, through complete obstruction of trade” (Ewald), that he hated Judah and wished to destroy it, and therefore to reign over it also. He was the first king-murderer in Israel, and led the way, as It were, to this crime, which was afterwards so often imitated. He was the first, too, who exterminated an entire royal house with violence, and not only killed the males, but “every one that had breath,” an unheard, of cruelty, even in throne-usurpations in the ancient East. Menzel (s. 171), who wrongly takes him to have been the son of the prophet Ahijah (see above on 1 Kings 15:27), intimates that he was therefore under prophetical influence, and then says that he “disappointed the hopes which the prophets of Jehovah had placed in him.” This, however, is pure fancy. The conspiracy of Baasha was completely a military insurrection, as 1 Kings 15:27 indubitably proves, while there is not a word to show that he was influenced by the prophets. He was, no doubt, one of the leaders in Nadab’s army, but there is no evidence in the history that he was “a man distinguished for his valor” and a “skilful warrior,” as Ewald calls him (III. s. 446 sq.); the general term, too, used in 1 Kings 16:5 is no proof. There is still less ground for the further supposition, that besides the growing discontent of the prophets, the fact that the house of Jeroboam had not been able to conquer the kingdom of Judah, and other enemies, was evidently the chief root of the insurrection against it; that Baasha thought he could perform more, and in this hope he seized the throne. The text does not say the least word of all this. For the sentence announced to Baasha by the prophet Jehu, see above, Hist. and Eth. on 1 Kings 14:1-20 (4).

Homiletical and Practical

1 Kings 15:25-31. The ruin of the house of Jeroboam proclaims these two great truths: sin is the destruction of a people (Proverbs 14:34), and: He who heareth not my word, of him will I require it (Deuteronomy 18:19). God does not punish the innocent children for the sins of their fathers, but those who, despising the divine patience and long-suffering shown to their fathers, perpetuate, without any shame, the sins of the fathers (Exodus 20:5-6). A given example of evil is rarely without imitation; as Jeroboam rebelled against the house of David, so did Baasha against the house of Jeroboam. Desire for rule and envy beget first dissatisfaction with the condition in life ordained by God, lead then to breach of faith, and end at last with murder and homicide.

1 Kings 15:29. Conspirators and rebels profess to overthrow tyranny and to throw off its yoke; but when they attain power and sovereignty they are themselves the most violent and cruel tyrants.

1 Kings 15:34. Calw. B.: Baasha trod in the footsteps of Jeroboam just as if Jeroboam had been good and upright. And yet Baasha himself was an instrument in the hands of God to punish Jeroboam on account of his sins. What folly! When Jeroboam’s son, Nadab, did as his father, we can explain it by paternal influence;—but that Baasha should have pursued the same course is a proof of monstrous blindness. The world does not allow itself to be interrupted in its purposes; vain conduct after the way of those who lived before, is always inherited (1 Peter 1:18).—Chap 1 Kings 16:1. The word of the Lord in the mouth of a true servant of God is, for the pious, sweeter than honey and the honey-comb (Psalms 19:11), for the wicked and impious it is a consuming fire, and like the hammer which breaketh the rock in pieces (Jeremiah 23:29).

1 Kings 16:2-4. Osiander: The sins of the common people which they have learned from their princes, as well also as those which these do not restrain when they can, are charged to them. Those who are lifted up out of the dust are often the proudest and most arrogant because they think they must thank only themselves for their exalted position, and they forget what is written in 1 Samuel 2:7 sq. For Baasha, also, the hour struck when it was said, Behold, oh! most proud, &c. (Jeremiah 50:31). The throne which has been obtained by lying, deceit, and falsehood and bloodshed has no stability. The judgment of God, though delayed for a time, will not always tarry (Psalms 5:6-7). Robbers and murderers are not always in caves and the hidden recesses of forests, sometimes they are seated upon thrones; but the Lord will “sweep them away,” and their end will be with horror: before His tribunal no people, no crown is a protection.

Footnotes:

1 Kings 15:26; 1 Kings 15:26.—[It is better here and in 1 Kings 15:34, &c., to retain the plural form of the Heb. Sin was doubtless intended to be understood collectively in the A. V.

1 Kings 15:27; 1 Kings 15:27.—[The Heb. וַיִּקְשֹׁר from the root קָשַׁר, to bind or tie together, is correctly translated conspired, and implies that others were concerned with Baasha in the plot.

1 Kings 15:29; 1 Kings 15:29.—[לֹא־הִשְׁאִיר כָּל־נְשָׁמָה, “he left not any that had breath,” i.e., he destroyed all, both male and female, of the house of Jeroboam, in contrast with the expression in 1 Kings 14:10, &c. Cf. Joshua 11:11; Joshua 11:14.

1 Kings 15:32; 1 Kings 15:32.—[The Vat. Sept. omits 1 Kings 15:32, which has occasioned so much perplexity from its being an exact repetition of 1 Kings 15:16. For the reasons of its insertion see Exeg. Com.

1 Kings 16:6; 1 Kings 16:6.—[The Alex. Sept. adds “in the twentieth year of king Asa”—an impossible date. Cf. 1 Kings 15:33.—F. G.]

Verses 8-34

B.—The reigns of Elah, Zimri, Omri, and Ahab

1 Kings 16:8-34

8In the twenty and sixth year of Asa king of Judah1 began Elah the son of Baasha to reign over Israel in Tirzah, two years. 9And 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. 10And 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. 11And it came to pass, when he began to reign, as soon as he sat on his throne, that he slew all the house of Baasha: he left him not one that pisseth against a wall, neither of his kinsfolks,2 nor of his friends.3 12Thus did Zimri destroy all the house of Baasha, according to the word of the Lord [Jehovah], which he spake against Baasha by Jehu the prophet, 13for all the sins of Baasha, and the sins of Elah his son, by which they sinned, and by which they made Israel to sin, in provoking the Lord [Jehovah] God of Israel to anger with their vanities. 14Now the rest of the acts of Elah, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Israel?

15In the twenty and seventh year of Asa king of Judah4 did Zimri reign seven days in Tirzah. And the people were encamped against Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines. 16And 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. 17And Omri went up from Gibbethon, and all Israel with him, and they besieged Tirzah. 18And it came to pass, when Zimri saw that the city was taken, that he went into the palace [citadel] of the king’s house, and burnt the king’s house over him with fire, and died,5 19for his sins which he sinned in doing evil in the sight of the Lord [Jehovah], in walking in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin which he did, to make Israel to sin. 20Now the rest of the acts of Zimri, and his treason [conspiracy] that he wrought, are they not written in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Israel? 21Then 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. 22But the people that followed Omri prevailed against the people that followed Tibni the son of Ginath: so Tibni died,6 and Omri reigned.

23In the thirty and first year of Asa king of Judah began Omri to reign over Israel, twelve years: six years reigned he in Tirzah. 24And 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. 25But Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the Lord [Jehovah], and did worse than all that were before him. 26For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in his sin [sins] wherewith he made. Israel to sin, to provoke the Lord [Jehovah] God of Israel to anger with their vanities. 27Now the rest of the acts of Omri which he did, and his might7 that he shewed, are they not 28 written in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Israel? So Omri slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria: and Ahab his son reigned in his stead.8

29And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah began Ahab the soil of Omri to reign over Israel: and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years. 30And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord [Jehovah] above all that were before him. 31And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. 32And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. 33And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord [Jehovah] God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him. In his days did Hiel 34the Beth-elite build Jericho: he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his first-born, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord [Jehovah], which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun.

Exegetical and Critical

1 Kings 16:8-14. Began Elah to reign, &c. For Tirzah see on 1 Kings 14:17. As Elah commenced his reign in the twenty-sixth year of Asa, and according to 1 Kings 16:10 was killed in the twenty-ninth, the two years he was king could not have been full ones. רֶכֶב is now generally translated riding; but a comparison with 1 Kings 9:19; 1 Kings 10:26 would seem to indicate that it should be chariot. There is no doubt that some of the chariot-cities which Solomon built (see on the place) were in the kingdom of Israel; perhaps “the half” of all the chariots were at the capital, and Zimri was placed over them. According to Josephus (Antiq.viii. 12, 4), Zimri took advantage of the absence of the army and its chief to undertake the siege of Gibbethon (see above on 1 Kings 15:27). The house steward Arza, who had arranged a drinking bout, was no doubt the principal person in the conspiracy which Zimri set on foot. Cf. 1 Kings 14:10 with 1 Kings 16:11. Zimri acted, as Grotius remarks, according to the tyrannical principles νήπιος, ὃς πατέρα κτείνας υἱοὺς κατέλιπε. But he went farther than Baasha, inasmuch as he not only killed the relatives of the king, but also his friends, in order to secure himself from any possible blood-revenge; all this took place in a few days, for his whole reign was only seven days. For 1 Kings 16:12-13 cf. 1 Kings 16:3, and above on 1 Kings 14:15-16. הֲבָלִיםi. e., vanitates, anything which is called God, yet is not God, and which is consequently vain and empty (cf. Deuteronomy 32:21). The word here does not refer to idols, properly speaking, but to images of Jehovah, which, however, are, like the former, empty and vain.

1 Kings 16:15-20. Did Zimri reign seven days, &c. The distance of Tirzah from Gibbethon requires us to suppose that the seven days apply to the time during which Zimri was in undisturbed possession of the throne, i. e., until the day when the army in Gibbethon made their chief, Omri, king, who then first went to Tirzah and besieged it. Zimri’s death followed when he saw that he could not hold the town against the besiegers. The “people” and “all Israel” mean here all those who were armed, i. e., the men of war. אֲרְמוֹן, from the root אָרַם to be high, is the part that was highest, that is “the fortress of the royal palace, the securest and inmost place, the citadel, as it were; for the royal palace contained a great number of buildings” (Gesenius, cf. 2 Kings 15:25). Zimri set fire to this last place of refuge, and through it to the entire palace, in order not to fall into the hands of his enemies, and to prevent the palace and all it contained from passing into their possession. Similar instances are to be found in Justin. hist. i. 3; Liv. xxi. 1 Kings 14:0 : Flor. ii. 18. Ewald’s rendering of אַרְמוֹן is quite arbitrary; he gives the “women’s chamber,” the harem; and supposes that Zimri went there, for the “effeminate man had only suffered the queen and other women of the palace to live, as they readily lent themselves to the murder of their lord; and the queen mother seems to have offered him her favor.” However, there is not a syllable of all this either in the text or anywhere else. Besides, the deed recorded in 1 Kings 16:18 rather displays courage and contempt of death than effeminacy. The Syriac has: and they, the besiegers, fired his royal house over his head; and Kimchi translates: and he, that is Omri, set fire, &c.; both are decidedly wrong. In consideration of Zimri’s short reign of seven days, we must conclude from 1 Kings 16:19 that he had formerly shown much partiality for the calf-worship of Jeroboam, and that, at the time of his accession, he had no intention of removing it.

1 Kings 16:21-22. Then the people of Israel divided. 1 Kings 16:21 sq. It is generally thought that two parties had arisen within the army, each of which wished to make their leader king, and that they fought for some time until the weaker party succumbed, and their leader Tibni fell in battle. According to Ewald, Tibni was assisted in the war by his brother Joram, and both fell in the one battle. But it is very doubtful if the “people of Israel,” 1 Kings 16:21, means the same as “the people that were encamped,” 1 Kings 16:18, i. e., only the army. The latter had not divided, for according to 1 Kings 16:16 Omri was made king by “all” the army; it is only said of him that he was the captain of the host, but neither this nor anything similar is said of Tibni. We have therefore more reason to suppose that after the death of Zimri a faction arose, which did not acknowledge the soldier-king Omri, who had been chosen by the army alone, and which faction set up Tibni in opposition. The Sept only makes mention of a brother of Tibni (καὶ� ’Ιωρὰμ ὁ�), and Josephus also (Ant.viii. 12, 15), only says, Tibni was killed by Omri’s faction, but not that the two brothers fell in the same battle.

1 Kings 16:23-28. Began Omri to reign over Israel, twelve years. 1 Kings 16:23. According to 1 Kings 16:15 the elevation and death of Zimri occurred in the twenty-seventh year of the reign of Asa, king of Judah (929); according to 1 Kings 16:29, Ahab, the successor of Omri, came to the throne in the thirty-eighth year of Asa (918); therefore the twelve years of Omri’s reign could not have been twelve full years. And furthermore, if Omri became king in the thirty-first year of Asa, according to 1 Kings 16:23 (925), and yet died in the 38th year of Asa, according to 1 Kings 16:29 (918), that is, in from seven to eight years, it is plain that the twelve years of his reign are reckoned from the year in which he was made king by the host (929), but did not at the same time attain the sole sovereignty, as part of the people wished Tibni to be king. He became sole sovereign only in the year 925, so that the struggle with Tibni’s faction must have lasted four years. The six years during which Omri resided at Tirzah were the first half of the twelve years of his reign; during the latter six years he lived in Samaria, a city which he had newly built (1 Kings 16:24). In order to explain some chronological difficulties that occur later, with regard to the kings Jehoram and Jehoshaphat, Ewald (III. s. 432) refuses to reckon the four years before Tibni’s death in the twelve years of Omri’s reign, and as Asa reigned four years as a contemporary of Ahab, the successor of Omri (1 Kings 22:41), Asa could not have reigned forty-one years (1 Kings 15:10) but forty-seven, for the years mentioned in 1 Kings 16:15 amount to that; 27+4+12+4. “But according to this supposition, the numbers here and in 1 Kings 16:29, also in 1 Kings 15:10, which are perfectly correct, should be altered” (Thenius), and there is no reason whatever for doing so. The name שֶׁמֶר (1 Kings 16:24), is probably the same as שׁוֹמֵר and שָׁמֵר (1 Chronicles 7:32-34), we cannot, therefore, pronounce the derivation of the name of the city to be “wrong,” because the owner must otherwise have been called שֹׁמֵר (Petermann). The mountain of Shemer is not far to the east of Tirzah, and it lies north-east of Shechem. The palace at Tirzah, which was destroyed under Zimri, does not seem to have been rebuilt, and Omri appears, as soon as he became king, to have taken the resolution of building a new capital and royal city, for which that mountain was peculiarly adapted. It was a “beautiful round mountain, covered with splendid trees, and lying in a valley or basin enclosed with mountains; “it commanded” a glorious prospect of the fruitful valley and the heights and villages surrounding it” (Knobel on Isaiah 28:1-4; Robinson, Palest. III. 1, p. 503 sq.). Samaria, therefore, continued to be the capital of the kingdom until its destruction. The two talents of silver, for which Omri bought the hill, are reckoned at 5,200 Thr. by Keil, and at 4,000 Thr. by Thenius [$3,900 and $3,000 respectively]. We may infer from Micah 6:16, where Judah is reproached with keeping “the statutes of Omri and all the works of the house of Ahab,” that Omri went further in regard to the worship than the former kings of Israel (1 Kings 16:25). We have no more exact information, but it is certain, at any rate, that he prepared the way for the state of things under his successor Ahab. That Omri was a valiant warrior appears from the word גְּבוּרָתוֹ (1 Kings 16:27), which is used respecting Asa and Baasha, Elah and Zimri, but not of Nadab.

1 Kings 16:29-33. Ahab.… to reign over Israel. 1 Kings 16:29-34 describe the government of Ahab generally; from chaps, 17 to 22 follow notices of separate events that occurred in this time, and then in 1 Kings 22:39-40, comes the usual concluding formula, the rest of the acts, &c. Our section, therefore, forms a general introduction, and at the same time the superscription to the following particulars; it is also designed to place the reader beforehand upon the stand-point from which all that is coming must be viewed and judged. Omri had departed farther than any of his predecessors from the fundamental law, but Ahab went still farther than his father (1 Kings 16:30 is therefore no mere repetition of 1 Kings 16:25). He was not contented with the sin of Jeroboam, but he formally introduced the service of Baal into his kingdom, in consequence of his marriage with Jezebel, and he even built a temple to Baal in the royal city and capital Samaria. Ethbaal is no doubt the Εἰθώβαλος (who was mentioned by Menander in Josephus c. Apion.I. 18), king of Tyre and Sidon, who succeeded to the throne about fifty years after Hiram’s death, and could, therefore, have very well been the father-in-law of Ahab; he was priest of Astarte and the murderer of his brother, king Pheles. What is related of Jezebel afterwards coincides perfectly with what we should expect from the daughter of such a father. הַבַּעַל is the known chief male divinity of the Phœnicians, “the sun god, which was regarded as the primary preserver and principle of physical life, and of the generative, reproductive power in nature, which flowed from his being” (Movers, Rel. d. Phön. s. 184). According to 2 Kings 3:2; 2 Kings 10:27 the image of Baal which Ahab had made, was מַצֵּבָה, i. e., a monument, a monumental pillar (see on 1 Kings 14:23). In the temple of the Tyrian Hercules (=Baal), at Tyre, there stood two pillars, one of gold, the other of emerald (Herodot. II. 44, see above). Besides the male divinity there was also the הָאֲשֵׁרָח, the female deity a (wooden) image of Astarte (see above 7). From the great number of the priests who were employed in the worship of Baal which Ahab introduced (chap, 1 Kings 18:19), it appears that it was very extensive and magnificent. More particulars regarding the temple of Baal are given in 2 Kings 10:25-27. That Ahab built besides “another splendid building of the same kind, which served as a sacred grove for Astarte, and which was probably close to his favorite palace at Jezreel” (Ewald III. s. 457), is a pure invention, of which there is not a single word in the text.

1 Kings 16:34. In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho. 1 Kings 16:34. The city of Jericho, which was very strong at the time of the conquest of the promised land, was destroyed after being taken, and Joshua pronounced these words over it: “Cursed be the man before the Lord that raiseth up and buildeth Jericho; he shall lay the foundation thereof in his first-born, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it” (Joshua 6:1-2). This does not mean that no one should live there again, but he who endeavors to make it again what it was, i. e., a fortress, shall be severely punished. Jericho was afterwards apportioned to the tribe of Benjamin, but in Ahab’s time it certainly belonged to the kingdom of Israel (Joshua 18:21; 2 Kings 2:5; 2 Kings 2:18). At the command of Ahab, Hiel of Bethel (the chief seat of the calf-worship) now built, i. e. fortified (בָּנָה as in chaps. 1 Kings 11:27; 1 Kings 12:25), Jericho again; probably because it lay on the borders of Ephraim, or was designed to protect the passage of the Jordan, which was near. Whether this was done in defiance of Joshua’s prediction, as older commentators think, or in ignorance of it, is uncertain; at any rate Joshua’s word was fulfilled. “We cannot doubt the truth of what is related in this verse, for the names are mentioned, and the signification of these names has no reference to the event” (Thenius). There is no other ground for the supposition that Joshua’s utterance was a vaticinium ex eventu than the rationalistic presupposition that all prophecies are impossible. The supposition of the Rabbins that all the sons of Hiel, from the eldest to the youngest, were destroyed during the building, is unsupported by the text. However, the question remains how the whole of the information contained in 1 Kings 16:34 comes to be inserted just here. As it follows immediately after the account of the introduction of the Canaanitish idolatrous worship by Ahab (1 Kings 16:30-33), our author may very well have thought of it in connection with the latter. The fortress of Jericho was, in Joshua’s time, die gate and key to the whole laud of Canaan; he who possessed it had the entire country open before him (Joshua 2:1; Joshua 2:24; Joshua 6:1 sq.). The taking of this town was, therefore, of the greatest importance; it was achieved by a miraculous act of Jehovah, which was compared, on that account, to the passage through the Red Sea, i. e., the complete deliverance from Egypt (Joshua 2:9 sq.). With it, the land of Canaan fell into the hands of the Israelites; with the walls of Jericho the stronghold of Canaanitism fell, its destruction was begun, and the pledge of the same lay, in a measure, in the destruction of that city. But just for this very reason it should never again become what it was before its capture. Ahab, however, who placed the country again in its ante-Israelitish condition through the introduction of the Canaanite idol-worship, caused the fortress, which had been destroyed by the almighty power of Jehovah, to be restored. As he denied the God of Israel, and placed the Baal of the Canaanites in His stead, so he also denied the great saving act of Jehovah as manifested in the fall and destruction of Jericho. He showed his apostasy from Jehovah by causing the walls of Jericho to be rebuilt. It appears, however, that the God of Israel would not surfer contempt of Him to go unpunished. The curse of Joshua was fulfilled as a warning that the divine threatenings would not remain unfulfilled. The account in 1 Kings 16:34, thus understood, is so well connected with that of 1 Kings 16:32, that it forms the direct transition to the activity of the prophet Elijah (of whom the following chapter treats) against the apostasy of Ahab.

Historical and Ethical

1. The unspeakable results of the partition of the kingdom, and the consequent breach of the fundamental law of Israel, appears more plainly in the history of the reigns of Elah, Zimri, Omri, and Ahab, than in those of the three previous kings. All four of these kings continued in the sins of Jeroboam, because they as well as he considered it to be necessary to the separate existence of their kingdom and to the support of their power. In fact each One surpassed the other until the image-worship reached its natural goal in the worship of idols (see above), which the last of them, Ahab, not only permitted, but introduced as the State-religion. With Ahab, therefore, the history of the kingdom of Israel comes to a conclusion relatively, and a new epoch begins, characterized by the appearing of the great prophet Elijah and his struggle with idolatry (chap. 17). The consequences of the partition, which were felt in the sphere of religion, were felt, in like manner, in that of politics, on account of the peculiar and inseparable connection of the Israelite people with their religion. The monarchy in Israel had arisen by means of rebellion and forcible separation from the house of David, and thus it lacked the ground of divine law. What Jeroboam conceived he was justified in doing, every other one thought he had a right to do also, as soon as he had followers and power enough; that was the case with Baasha and still more with Zimri and Omri. Thus the kingdom became the football of human ambition and caprice, so that one insurrection followed another; and in the comparatively short time of from fifty to sixty years, seven kings reigned, of whom four attained the throne by violence and even murder. But no blessing could rest on such a kingdom. The people of the ten tribes, who were already more inclined to nature-life, and therefore more adapted for the reception of Jeroboam’s calf-worship, must, by the persistence of their kings in this worship, and by their complete separation from Judah, the guardian and protector of the law, and with it of the spirited life by the nation, have sunk lower and lower. A people can indeed endure a bad ruler without themselves degenerating; but a whole line of sovereigns, of whom each obtained the throne by conspiracy, rebellion, and murder, is only possible where the people themselves are rough and barbarous. What social and religious degeneracy is presupposed, where the nation accepted all the abominations of its rulers, and where an Ahab (finally) met no opposition in instituting the shameful and indecent worship of Baal and Astarte as the State-religion! How far different the state of things in Judah! For though the religious liberty permitted by Solomon bore evil fruit, yet the fundamental law was always adhered to by the kings, and the idol-worship was completely destroyed by Asa, who reigned two years contemporaneously with Ahab. The kingdom was firm; there was not a trace of conspiracy or rebellion, and the house of David retained the throne. Although the kingdom of Judah was much smaller and weaker than that of Israel, and was continually in danger from the latter; yet, holding fast to its royal house, it victoriously repelled all attempts to subjugate it. Such was the blessing which rested in fidelity to Jehovah and His law.

2. Of the two kings, Elah and Zimri, we learn nothing besides that they held to the sin of Jeroboam, except how they died. This was, however, sufficient to characterize them. We see that Elah did not even inherit energy and courage from his father Baasha, but was a coward and a low-souled glutton; because when the whole army was engaged in combat with the Philistines before Gibbethon, he not only remained at home, but drank and caroused. Zimri was still worse; ambition led him to unfaithfulness and treason; he not only murdered his king and master, but the king’s whole house. How little esteemed and respected he was, appears from the fact that the whole army, as soon as they heard of his having ascended the throne, immediately made another king, and marched against Zimri. Then, when shut in and surrounded, he set fire to the citadel over his head and gave himself to the flames—his act was one of despair rather than of heroism.

3. The accounts of Omri’s reign are limited entirely to this: that he built the city of Samaria after the taking of Tirzah, and that he walked in all the ways of Jeroboam, and was worse than all who preceded him. It is not said in what respect he was worse, but it certainly implies that he maintained the anti-theocratic institutions of Jeroboam with great zeal and decision. It appears that he stood well as captain of the army, for it was in the camp that he was elected to the throne. Yet however valiant he may have been as a warrior, in the chief thing, i. e., in his relation to Jehovah and the theocratic fundamental law, he stood worse than any of his predecessors, and was furthest from being what was especially required of a theocratic king, that is, a servant of Jehovah. According to Ewald (III. s. 452 sq.), whom Eisenlohr (II. s. 150) again follows, Omri was “a ruler as enterprising as he was prudent,” and “very wisely took advantage of the times to secure greater prosperity for his kingdom and security to his own house. This camp-king ruled his people with great power and decision, not even sparing the prophets when they opposed his designs. But without, he sought..… the needful peace in order to strengthen himself in his internal relations. He concluded peace with the kingdom of Judah.… Omri’s chief efforts were directed towards the furtherance of trade, commerce,” &c. Every one that has eyes can see that the text does not say a word of all this; it gives us another example of how history is made. Omri is not great and distinguished even as a commander, for it took him four years to conquer the already weaker faction of Tibni, and according to 1 Kings 20:34; 1 Kings 22:3, he was, as Eisenlohr himself is obliged to confess, “forced to conclude a peace with (the Syrian king) Benhadad on very humiliating conditions.” It is not credible that a soldier-king should have thought only of quiet and peace; and it does not follow from the marriage of his son Ahab with the Sidonian Jezebel that his chief desires were for the furtherance of trade and commerce, for Ahab did not marry till after he became king, that is, after the death of Omri (1 Kings 16:31). It is just as arbitrary to conclude that because he was worse than they all, the prophets must have thrown obstacles in the way of his designs, and that he “punished their interference with the utmost severity.” Ahab is the first of these kings of whom we have a complete picture, which is given in the following chapters.

Homiletical and Practical

1 Kings 16:8-34. General reflections upon the history of the reigns of the four kings in the following succession, Elah, Zimri, Omri, and Ahab. (a) At variance as they were with each other, hating, destroying, and killing each other, yet they all remained faithful to the calf-worship, regarding it as the means by which they could maintain their own kingdom and their dominion over Judah. The religion of the people in the service of the policy of the sovereign. How often does it happen that selfish profit, power, or seeming form the real motive of a confession of faith. (b) One exceeds the other in revolt against the living God.—Calw. B.: In sin and departure from God there are always gradual advances, just as in godliness and well-doing—one step follows another, and the slavery of sin is ever increasing (2 Timothy 3:13). (c) One successful insurrection seldom stands alone in history, but is ever followed by a fresh one, and becomes a passion, which, like a deadly plague, saps the moral and religious life of a nation to its foundations. Hence the apostle’s meaning: let no man, &c. (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

1 Kings 16:8-10. King Elah. (a) He riots and carouses whilst his people are pouring out their blood in war. It is a sign of great barbarousness and rudeness amid exterior refinement, when the great and rich lead a frivolous and luxurious life, whilst the masses eat their bread in the sweat of their brow, and are famishing. A riotous court life is the usual precursor of the storm which shakes or destroys the throne (b) Death overtakes him in drunkenness. To go suddenly and unprepared from time into eternity is a heavy fate; but it is still more fearful to leave the world in darkness. Therefore, we should daily pray: Lord, teach us so to, &c. (Psalms 90:12).—Würt. Summ.: The nearer chastisement comes to the ungodly the more secure are they. When they say, “There is peace, there is no danger,” then destruction shall overtake them suddenly, and they shall not escape from it (1 Thessalonians 5:3; cf. Psalms 39:6). Therefore: be sober, &c. (1 Peter 5:8). It is fearful, when one can say nothing more of a man than, “He has despised God and his word, served his belly, and ended his life with a revel. Better to famish and be miserable with Lazarus, and then to be borne by angels into Abraham’s bosom, than with the rich man to live in splendor and revelry, and afterwards to suffer the pains of hell.

1 Kings 16:9. Drunken revels are an abomination unto the Lord, and only occur where the fear of the Lord is absent. The drunkards rank with those (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) who will not inherit the kingdom of God, and the Lord Christ warns: Take heed to yourselves, &c. (Luke 21:34).

1 Kings 16:11-20. Zimri, King, (a) His way to the throne: Treachery, cunning, murder. He shunned no means to gain his end. That is the way of the ungodly; but without their knowledge or will they are compelled to be scourges and whips in the hand of the Lord (Isaiah 10:5). (b) His end: a speedy and fearful one. Only seven days did the dominion which he so coveted, and attained through such villany, last. Lightly come, lightly go. The ungodly are like the chaff, &c. (Psalms 1:4; Psalms 1:6). He gave himself up to death, in flames of fire. The ungodly are utterly consumed, &c. (Psalms 73:19). As he had lived, so he died.

1 Kings 16:18. The doom of despair is the end of a life given over to sin, which has lost sight of the living God, and can never again find Him. Frequently, what the world regards as heroism and contempt of death is simply cowardice and crime in the sight of God. The Lord has no pleasure, &c. (Ezekiel 18:23). It requires more courage and bravery to bear the merited punishment of one’s sins than to escape from it by suicide.

1 Kings 16:21-28. The King Omri. (a) How he became king. When the king is chosen by the people instead of receiving the crown from the hand of God by right of inheritance, which is by the grace of God, factions are sure to arise, which wage bloody conflicts, and waste the best strength of the people, until, at length, the stronger party conquers the weaker by violence.9 The curse of party spirit, (b) How he reigned. He built Samaria, making it the strong centre of the kingdom, but he walked in all the sins of Jeroboam, and “did worse” than all who went before him. A man may be skilful and useful to himself and others, in all material and worldly things, whilst in spiritual and divine things he works only mischief and destruction. What, without religion, is so-called civilization?

1 Kings 16:29-34. The King Ahab. (a) His union with Jezebel—a marriage contracted not in obedience to God’s holy will, but merely upon worldly grounds and political considerations, and was therefore the source of great mischief to himself and to his people. (b) The uplifting of idolatry over the religion of the country. The calf-worship was merged in the Baal worship. The greatest tyranny is the tyranny over conscience, which pretends to rule also over belief. The worst rule is that which, instead of demanding recognition of the truth, substitutes lies and errors, and exercises its power in aid of unbelief and of superstition, (c) The rebuilding of Jericho. By means of “faith” the walls of Jericho fell (Hebrews 11:30). Idolatry will build them up again, but the curse rests upon them. He who builds up what the Lord has destroyed, falls under his judgment. 2 Chronicles 13:12 : Fight ye not, &c. Julian, who rebuilt the heathen temple, and the Jews, who rebuilt the temple of Jerusalem, were confounded and brought to shame.

Footnotes:

1 Kings 16:8; 1 Kings 16:8.—[The Vat. Sept. omits the preceding comparative date.

1 Kings 16:11; 1 Kings 16:11.—[The Vat. Sept. omits the latter half of 1 Kings 16:11 and the first of 1 Kings 16:12.

1 Kings 16:11; 1 Kings 16:11.—[גֹּֽאֲלָיו = his kinsman who might avenge his death. The full force of the word גֹּאִל as the avenger of blood can hardly be conveyed by any single English word.

1 Kings 16:15; 1 Kings 16:15.—[The Vat. Sept. here again omits the comparative date.

1 Kings 16:18; 1 Kings 16:18.—[The division of verses breaks the connection, and obscures the dependence of 1 Kings 16:19 upon the word “died.”

1 Kings 16:22; 1 Kings 16:22.—[The Sept. adds, “and Joram his brother at that time.”

1 Kings 16:27; 1 Kings 16:27.—[Many MSS. and editions, followed by the Sept. and the Syr., insert וְכָל before אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה = “his might and all that he did,” thus assimilating the expression to that used in regard to some other kings, cf. 1 Kings 16:14; 1 Kings 15:7; 1Ki 15:23; 1 Kings 15:31, &c., although the expression of this text is also used elsewhere.

1 Kings 16:28; 1 Kings 16:28.—[The Vat. Sept. here inserts (with some chronological variations) the account of the reign of Jehoshaphat from 1 Kings 22:41-50, again repeating that account (without those variations) in its proper place. The insertion was evidently made to avoid the chronological difficulty between verses 23 and 29, for the explanation of which see the Exeg. Com. Accordingly in 1 Kings 16:29 instead of the 38th year of Asa the Vat. Sept. has “in the second year of Jehoshaphat.” The Alex. Sept. follows the Hebrew.—F. G.]

[9][Of course our readers will estimate at their value these stiff monarchial sentiments. The present Editor, here as elsewhere, prefers to translate in this work rather than omit them, because it is due to the author to give his work fairly in a translation. But here he enters a mild caveat, and avails himself of the opportunity to say that his task is not that of a reviewer, and consequently he has allowed many things to pass without comment, from which he differs widely and thoroughly.—E. H.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 Kings 16". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/1-kings-16.html. 1857-84.
 
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