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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

1 Kings 16

A.M. 3074. B.C. 930.

The ruin of Baasha’s family foretold, 1 Kings 16:1-7 ; and executed by Zimri, 1 Kings 16:8-14 . Zimri’s short reign, 1 Kings 16:15-20 . The struggle between Omri and Tibni, and Omri’s reign, 1 Kings 16:21-28 . The beginning of Ahab’s reign, 1 Kings 16:29-33 .

Verse 1

1 Kings 16:1. The word of the Lord came to Jehu This Jehu was a prophet, and the son of a prophet. His father Hanani, who was a prophet before him, was sent to reprove Asa king of Judah for hiring Benhadad king of Syria to assist him against Baasha and for relying on the Syrians, instead of relying on the Lord, 2 Chronicles 16:7. But Jehu, Hanani’s son, who was young and more active, was sent on this longer and more dangerous expedition to Baasha, king of Israel. It appears, he continued long in his usefulness; for we find him reproving Jehoshaphat, above forty years after, and writing the annals of that prince, 2Ch 19:2 ; 2 Chronicles 20:24. The gift of prophecy, thus happily entailed, and descending from the father to the son, was worthy of so much the more honour. It seems there was not wanting a succession of prophets, during the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, as Abarbinel has observed, their names being preserved in the Holy Scriptures.

Verse 2

1 Kings 16:2. Forasmuch as I exalted thee out of the dust Probably from a mean family in the tribe of Issachar. Perhaps he was but a common soldier, or some very inferior officer in the army which besieged Gibbethon; but, being bold and daring, he formed a conspiracy against Nadab. The message which this prophet brought to Baasha is much the same with that which Ahijah sent to Jeroboam by his wife. 1st, He reminds him of the great things God had done for him: 2d, He charges him with high crimes and misdemeanours; and, 3d, He fore-tels the same destruction to come upon his family which he himself had been employed to bring on the family of Jeroboam. And made thee prince over my people Israel But it may be asked, how Baasha’s exaltation to the kingdom can he ascribed to God, when it is manifest he obtained it by his own treachery and cruelty? To this Mr. Poole replies, that “though the manner of invading the kingdom was from himself and his own wicked heart, yet, the translation of the kingdom from Nadab to Baasha, simply considered, was from God, who by his decree and providence ordered it, and disposed of all occasions, and of the hearts of all the soldiers, and the people so, that Baasha should have the opportunity of executing God’s judgment upon Nadab, and such success thereon, as should procure him a present and quiet possession of the kingdom.” So that his accession to the kingdom was from the divine decree; but the form and manner of his accession was from himself, from his own ambition and covetousness, which induced him to kill Nadab; and as it was wicked and cruel, it is therefore charged upon him as a wilful murder, 1 Kings 16:7.

Verse 3

1 Kings 16:3. Make thy house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat This threat was exactly verified; for as Nadab the son of Jeroboam reigned but two years, so Elah the son of Baasha reigned no longer; and as Nadab was killed by the sword, so was Elah: thus remarkable was the similitude between Jeroboam and Baasha, in their lives and in their deaths; in their sons, and in their families. See Bishop Patrick.

Verse 7

1 Kings 16:7. And also by the hand of the Prophet Jehu The order of the narrative seems to be here much confused, to restore which Houbigant places this seventh verse before the fifth and sixth. Came the word of the Lord against Baasha The meaning is, the message which came from the Lord to Jehu, (1 Kings 16:1-4,) was here delivered by the hand, that is, the ministry of Jehu unto Baasha. Jehu did what God commanded in this matter, though it was not without apparent hazard to himself. And because he killed him That is, Nadab; who though he be not expressed, is sufficiently understood. But why is he punished for doing God’s work? Because, 1st, Though God appointed that Jeroboam’s family should be cut off, yet he did not give Baasha commission to do it. 2d, Baasha did this not to fulfil God’s will, but his own lusts. See on 1 Kings 16:2.

Verses 8-10

1 Kings 16:8-10. Began Elah to reign in Tirzah two years One complete and part of another. Zimri, captain, of half his chariots Of all his military chariots, and the men belonging to them; the chariots, or carriages for necessary things being put into meaner hands. Conspired against him as he was in Tirzah While his forces were elsewhere employed, (1 Kings 16:15,) which gave Zimri advantage to execute his design. Zimri went in and smote him Here was a speedy execution of the vengeance threatened against him by Jehu.

Verses 11-13

1 Kings 16:11-13. He slew all the house of Baasha, &c. He not only destroyed all that were descended from Baasha, as Baasha had destroyed the families of Jeroboam, but he extended the destruction, and increased it, as Abarbinel speaks, for he killed all that were of kin to Baasha, with all his friends, which Baasha did not when he seized the kingdom from Jeroboam. According to the word of the Lord Thus fulfilling the divine threatening, but undesignedly by him, and merely for his own ends. In provoking the Lord to anger with their vanities Idols, called vanities, because they are but imaginary deities, and mere nothings, having no power to do either good or hurt.

Verses 15-17

1 Kings 16:15-17. The people were encamped against Gibbethon Which had been besieged many years before, but, it seems, was then relieved or afterward recovered by the Philistines, while the Israelites were in a distracted condition through civil broils and contentions. It was, however, now again invested. The people heard say, Zimri has conspired, &c. Notice was soon brought to the camp that Zimri had slain their king, and set up himself in Tirzah, the royal city; whereupon they chose Omri king in the camp, that they might, without delay, avenge the death of Elah upon Zimri. Thus proud aspiring men ruin one another, and involve others in ruin. Omri went up from Gibbethon The siege of which was instantly quitted. And all Israel with him All the army that were at the siege.

Verse 18

1 Kings 16:18. When Zimri saw that the city was taken Tirzah, though a beautiful city, it seems, was not fortified; so that Omri soon made himself master of it, and forced Zimri into the palace; which, as he was unable to defend, and yet unwilling to surrender it, he burned, and himself in it: grudging that his rival should ever enjoy so sumptuous a palace, and fearing that if he fell into the hands of his enemies, either alive or dead, he should be ignominiously treated. See to what desperate practices men’s wickedness sometimes brings them, and how it hurries them to their own ruin! See the disposition of incendiaries, who set palaces and kingdoms on fire, though they are themselves in danger of perishing in the flame!

Verse 19

1 Kings 16:19. For his sins which he sinned Though he lived but a very short time after he usurped the crown, yet he gave sufficient demonstration of his resolution to continue the idolatry of Jeroboam; and therefore he was abandoned by God. Add to this, the whole course of his life seems to have been wicked, and this is justly charged upon him because of his impenitency.

Verse 21

1 Kings 16:21. Then were the people of Israel divided into two parts Which contended, and went to war with each other about the person that should reign over them. For when it is said, (1 Kings 16:16,) all Israel made Omri king, the meaning is, only the whole army, and such as attended them. Half of the people followed Tibni These, it is probable, did not like to have a king imposed upon them by the soldiery: and Tibni had as good a title as the other, being also a valiant man, and the person, perhaps, who succeeded Zimri, in his command, as captain of half the king’s chariots. The contest between him and Omri lasted some years, and, it is likely, cost much blood on both sides. But neither this civil war, nor any other of God’s dreadful judgments, could bring them to repentance, which is an evidence of their prodigious impiety and incorrigibleness, and how ripe they were for ruin.

Verse 22

1 Kings 16:22. But the people that followed Omri prevailed Partly because they had the army on their side; and principally by the appointment of God, giving up the Israelites to him who was much the worse man, 1 Kings 16:25-26. So Tibni died A violent death, it seems, in battle: and doubtless many of the people died with him. But why, inquires Sir Walter Raleigh, (see his History of the World, 50:2, c. 19, § 6,) in all these confusions, and revolutions of the kingdom of Israel, did they never think of returning to the house of David? Probably, observes he, because the kings of Judah assumed a more absolute power over their subjects than the kings of Israel. It was the heaviness of the yoke which they complained of, when they first revolted from the house of David. And it is not unlikely but the dread of that made them averse to it ever after.

Verse 23

1 Kings 16:23. Began Omri to reign twelve years That is, and he reigned twelve years: not from this thirty-first year of Asa, for he died in his thirty- eighth year, (1 Kings 16:29,) but from the beginning of his reign, which was in Asa’s twenty-seventh year, 1 Kings 16:15-16. So he reigned four years in a state of war with Tibni, and eight peaceably.

Verse 24

1 Kings 16:24. He bought the hill Samaria of Shemer Where he built the noted city of that name, which ever after was the royal city of the kings of Israel, the palace of Tirzah being burned. This city, in process of time, became so considerable, that it gave name to the middle part of Canaan, which lay between Galilee on the north, and Judea on the south, and to the inhabitants of that country, who were called Samaritans. For two talents of silver Something more than seven hundred pounds sterling. “Perhaps,” says Henry, “Shemer let him have the ground cheaper, on condition that it should be called after his name: for it was called Samaria, or Shemeren, as it is in the Hebrew, from Shemer, the former owner of the land.” Thus the kings of Israel often changed the seat of their government, which was Shechem first then Tirzah, now Samaria. But the kings of Judah were constant to Jerusalem, the city of God.

Verse 25

1 Kings 16:25. Omri wrought evil in the sight of the Lord He rendered himself infamous for his wickedness. And did worse than all that were before him Not only walking in the way of Jeroboam, in worshipping the calves, but, as is likely, introducing other idolatries, which his son Ahab established among them. Or, perhaps, he compelled the people to worship the calves, and by severe laws restrained them from going up to Jerusalem, which laws some think are intended by the statutes of Omri, Micah 6:16. Though he was brought to the throne with much difficulty, and providence had remarkably favoured him in his advancement, yet, he was more profane, or more superstitions, and a greater persecutor, than any prince that had preceded him, either of the house of Jeroboam or that of Baasha. He went further than any of them had done in establishing iniquity by a law, and forcing his subjects to comply with him in it.

Verse 28

1 Kings 16:28. So Omri slept with his fathers He died in his bed, as Jeroboam and Baasha had done; but like them, left it to his posterity to fill up the measure, and then pay off the scores of his iniquity.

Verses 29-31

1 Kings 16:29-31. In the thirty and eighth year of Asa, &c. Asa saw six kings of Israel buried, while Judah flourished under him, the length of whose reign was doubtless a great advantage to them. Began Ahab the son of Omri to reign Of whom we have more particulars recorded than of any of the other kings of Israel, and almost all of an infamous nature. For he did evil above all that were before him He exceeded all his predecessors in wickedness, and reigned over Israel twenty-two years Long enough to do a deal of mischief. He had seen the ruin of other wicked kings and their families; yet, instead of taking warning, his heart was hardened and enraged against God. As if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam To break the second commandment, by worshipping God through the medium of images of Jeroboam’s invention; as if that sin had not been heinous enough to express his contempt of God; as if he thought it below his genius and dignity to content himself with so vulgar a fault; he would set aside the first commandment too, by avowedly introducing other gods, the gods of his heathenish and idolatrous wife Jezebel. But the Hebrew, ויהי הנקל , vajehi hanakel, is more properly rendered, was it a light thing, &c., that is, was this but a small sin, that therefore he needed to add more abominations? the question, as is usual among the Hebrews, implying a strong denial, and intimating that this was no small sin, but a great crime, and might have satisfied his wicked mind, without any additions. He took to wife Jezebel A woman infamous for her idolatries, cruelties, sorceries, and abominations of all kinds. The daughter of Ethbaal Called Ithobalus, or Itobalus in heathen writers. So she was of a heathenish and idolatrous race, such as the kings and people of Israel were expressly forbidden to marry. And went and served Baal The idol which the Sidonians worshipped, which some think to have been Hercules. But the word in Hebrew signifies lord, and in the plural lords, and was a name common to all false gods. And this idolatry was much worse than that of the calves; because in the calves they intended to worship the true God, through such images and representations, but in these, false gods or devils.

Verses 32-33

1 Kings 16:32-33. And he reared up an altar for Baal On which to offer sacrifices to him, whereby they acknowledged their dependance upon him, and sought his favour. In the house of Baal which he had built in Samaria The royal city, for the convenience of his worship. Because the temple of God was in Jerusalem, the royal city in the other kingdom, he would have Baal’s temple in Samaria, that, being near him, he might the more frequently attend it, protect, and put honour upon it. And Ahab made a grove Another piece of idolatry which God had expressly prohibited, Deuteronomy 7:5. He either made a natural one by planting shady trees there; or, if he thought these would be too long in growing, an artificial one in imitation thereof: somewhat that answered the intention of a grove, which was to conceal, and so to countenance the abominable impurities that were practised in the filthy worship of Baal. He that doth evil hates the light. O the stupidity of idolaters, who are at a great expense to do honour to mere imaginary beings, who have no existence, save in their own fancies, and to make those their friends who are no gods, and from whom they have nothing either to fear or hope!

Verse 34

1 Kings 16:34. In his days, &c. This is mentioned here, 1st, As an instance of the certainty of the accomplishment of the divine predictions; that here referred to being fulfilled upward of five hundred years after it was delivered: a most striking proof of the divine prescience, as well as of the authority of those sacred writings which contain so remarkable a prophecy; 2d, It is recorded as an evidence of the horrible corruption of Ahab’s times, and of the high contempt of God which then reigned; this Hiel beginning to build in defiance of the curse well known in Israel, probably jesting with it as a bug-bear, or fancying its force worn out by length of time; and going on to build in defiance of the execution of the curse in part. For though his eldest son died when he began, yet he would proceed in spite of God and his wrath revealed from heaven against his ungodliness; 3d, It was intended to be a warning to the Israelites not to think themselves innocent or safe, because the judgment threatened against them by Ahijah was not yet executed. The Bethelite Who lived in Beth-el, the seat and sink of idolatry, wherewith he was thoroughly leavened. He laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his firstborn Whom God took away in the beginning of his building, and others of his children successively in the progress of the work, and the youngest when he finished it. So that he found by his own sad experience the truth of God’s word, the sentence which Joshua pronounced against the builder of this city being literally and exactly executed. (See Joshua, chapter 6. 1 Kings 16:26.) A remarkable instance this of the certainty of the accomplishment of God’s threatenings, and that he never forgets what he has spoken!

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Kings 16". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/1-kings-16.html. 1857.