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Monday, June 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 16

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

1. Jehu the son of Hanani The Hanani here mentioned was, probably, the seer who reproved Asa for seeking help from the king of Syria. 2 Chronicles 16:7. His son Jehu was early called to the same divine work which distinguished his father, and some thirty years after this we find him reproving Jehoshaphat, (2 Chronicles 19:2,) whose acts he afterwards wrote in a book. 1 Kings 19:34. This prophecy (1 Kings 16:2-4) is substantially the same as that which Ahijah uttered against Jeroboam, (1 Kings 14:7-11,) and it should be observed that Jehu utters it against the very “king over Israel” whom Ahijah foretold as the instrument raised up by God to “cut off the house of Jeroboam.” 1 Kings 14:14. But that prophecy of Jeroboam’s fate gave Baasha no authority to massacre him and his house; and those bloody deeds exposed him further to the rebukes of Jehu. 1 Kings 16:7.

Verse 7

7. Also Further reason why the word of the Lord came to Baasha by Jehu.

And because he killed him That is, killed Jeroboam. That assassination (1 Kings 15:27) was a dark and bloody crime, which, though foreseen and foretold by Jehovah, was still wrought by wicked hands. God’s prescience of his act took not from the daring Baasha the guilt of murder; and therefore, besides the oracles of judgment which Jehu uttered in 1 Kings 16:2-4. he also uttered other words of the Lord against Baasha, because he had killed Jeroboam.

Verse 8

ELAH’S REIGN, 1 Kings 16:8-14.

8. Elah The records of this king are a sad repetition of that of Nadab, the son of Jeroboam. As Nadab ended the first, so did Elah end the second, dynasty of Israelitish kings.

Verse 9

9. Captain of half his chariots So, then, this northern kingdom had added to its other sins the transgression of the law forbidding the multiplication of horses, for chariots required their service. The whole cavalry force seems to have been divided into two portions, one or which served the army at the siege of Gibbethon, the other remained near Tirzah, and over it Zimri had command.

Drinking himself drunk Surely it is not well for kings thus to drink wine. Proverbs 31:4. Here we find that Elah was a drunken, licentious profligate, whose very debasement was a temptation for daring hands to take his life.

Verse 15

ZIMRI’S REIGN, 1 Kings 16:15-20.

15. Zimri… seven days This is the shortest reign on record. Short lived are the glories bought by bloody hands. In this case divine vengeance followed so speedily that there needed no prophet to utter it in word.

The people… encamped against Gibbethon This siege, begun by Nadab, was continued still. Compare 1 Kings 15:27. Evidently the possession of that city was much desired by the kings of Israel.

Verse 16

16. And the people… all Israel Meaning all the men of Israel who were then present with Omri. Here it is equivalent to the army encamped before Gibbethon.

Made Omri… king The people preferred the captain of the host to the captain of the chariots.

Verse 17

17. Besieged Tirzah They raised the siege of Gibbethon and attacked the seditious Israelites, deeming it better to punish treason and assassination at home than to continue the tedious war with the Philistines.

Verse 18

18. Palace of the king’s house Rather, as Gesenius explains it, “Fortress of the king’s house; the innermost part, as the highest and strongest the citadel. J.D. Michaelis, and after him most modern interpreters, here translate it the women’s apartment; but there is no trace of this in the ancient interpreters, nor is there any reason for departing from the simple explanation given above.”

Burnt the king’s house over him with fire As Saracus, or Sardanapalus, is said to have done, when besieged in a similar way at Nineveh.

Verse 20

20. His treason that he wrought Literally, his conspiracy which he conspired.

Verse 21

21. Tibni the son of Ginath He was probably set up by the people of Tirzah, which was besieged by Omri. There was a class of people that did not wish a king set up and maintained by a military despotism. According to the Septuagint, Tibni was assisted by his brother Joram, and both died at that time.

Verses 21-22


In these two verses we have the spectacle of the northern kingdom existing for some four years in a state of civil war, with two contending chieftains struggling to gain the vacant throne. Bitterly do the seceding tribes reap the fruits of evil sowing; for not only are they given over to idolatry, but from this record appear half swallowed up in anarchy.

Verse 22

22. So Tibni died The record is so brief as to leave it doubtful whether he died naturally or by violence.

Verse 23

OMRI’S REIGN, 1 Kings 16:23-28.

23. Twelve years Six at Tirzah and six at Samaria. With Omri began the third dynasty in the history of the kingdom of Israel; and from hints given in other parts of Scripture, and from the recently discovered inscription of Mesha, king of Moab, we infer that his reign was filled with many important events which our narrator passes over in utter silence. From 1 Kings 20:34, we infer that he had wars with Ben-hadad of Damascus, in which he lost some cities of his kingdom, perhaps Ramoth in Gilead among others. (Compare 1 Kings 22:3.) The prophet Micah (Micah 6:16,) speaks of the statutes of Omri probably commands for the people to observe his idolatrous worship, contrary to the statutes of Jehovah. And in the inscription above mentioned (on which see note 2 Kings 3:4) the name of Omri occurs several times. “Omri was king of Israel, and he afflicted Moab many days.” “Omri held possession of the land of Medeba.” He may have oppressed Moab while captain of the host of Israel (1 Kings 16:16) under Baasha or Elah.

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Verse 24

24. Samaria “As Constantine’s sagacity is fixed by his choice of Constantinople, so is that of Omri by his choice of Samaria. It was the only great city of Palestine created by the sovereigns. All the others had been already consecrated by patriarchal tradition or previous possession. But Samaria was the choice of Omri alone, and in Assyrian inscriptions it bears the name of Beth-Khumri the house, or palace, of Omri. Six miles from Shechem, in the same well-watered valley, here opening into a wide basin, rises an oblong hill, with steep yet accessible sides, and a long level top. This was the mountain of Samaria, or, as it is called in the original, Shomeron, so named after its owner Shemer, who there lived in state, and who sold it to the king for the great sum of two talents of silver. [About $3,320.] It combined in a union not elsewhere found in Palestine, strength, beauty, and fertility. It commanded a full view of the sea and the plain of Sharon on the one hand, and of the vale of Shechem on the other. The town sloped down from the summit of the bill; a broad wall with a terraced top ran round it. 2Ki 6:26 ; 2 Kings 6:30. Outside the gate lived a colony of unhappy lepers, (2 Kings 7:3,) such as are still to be seen under the walls of Jerusalem. In front of the gates was a wide, open space, or threshingfloor, where the kings of Samaria sat on great occasions. 1 Kings 22:10. The inferior houses were built of white brick, with rafters of sycamore; the grander, of hewn stone and cedar. Isaiah 9:9-10. It stood amidst a circle of hills, commanding a view of its streets and slopes, itself the crown and glory of the whole scene. Isaiah 28:1. Its soft, rounded, oblong platform was, as it were, a vast luxurious couch, in which its nobles rested securely, propped and cushioned up on both sides, as in the cherished corner of a rich divan.” Stanley. It continued to be the capital city of the northern kingdom, and sustained many sieges, until Shalmaneser carried away Israel into Assyrian captivity. 2 Kings 17:6.

Verse 25

25. Did worse than all that were before him Worse than Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, and Elah. “He went further than they had done,” says Henry, “in establishing iniquity by law, and forcing his subjects to comply with him in it; for we read, Micah 6:16, of the ‘statutes of Omri,’ the keeping of which made Israel a desolation.” “We cannot doubt,” remarks Kitto, “that these statutes of Omri were measures adopted for more completely isolating the people of Israel from the services of the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, and of perpetuating perhaps increasing their idolatrous practices.”

Verses 29-34


Critics have not failed to notice that with the beginning of Ahab’s reign commences a new epoch in the history of Israel: new, not so much in the more flagrant forms of wickedness that manifest themselves, as in the relative importance of the kingdom of Israel during the reigns of Ahab, Ahaziah, and Jehoram. With the exception of Jeroboam the reigns of Ahab’s predecessors are very briefly noticed, occupying but parts of two chapters; but the incidents of the three following reigns, embracing a period of about thirty-five years, extend from this passage to the tenth chapter of 2 Kings. During this period the kingdom of Judah receives comparatively little notice, and then only as an ally of the northern kingdom, which stands out predominantly as the mightiest ruling power in the land. During this period appeared those greatest, sternest, most mysterious of prophets, Elijah and Elisha, whose lives and acts, with strange romantic blendings, present on the one hand the fierce vindictiveness of the theocratic spirit towards sin, and on the other the tender and shrinking humanity which shows them up as men of like passions with ourselves. By means of Jezebel, the Zidonian princess, Phenician idolatry is introduced and sanctioned in the kingdom, and Baal’s prophets are multiplied by hundreds. Wars, attended with varying fortunes, are carried on with several hostile kingdoms, while within the land the few pious weep in desolate sadness, and hide themselves in caves and dens of the earth.

Verse 30

30. Above all that were before him He even went beyond the hitherto unparalleled wickedness of Omri, his father.

Verse 31

31. As if… a light thing… to walk in the sins of Jeroboam With him “it was nothing to break the second commandment by image-worship; he would set aside the first also by introducing other gods; his little finger should fall heavier upon God’s ordinances than Jeroboam’s loins.” Henry.

Jezebel From which name comes the modern Isabella. This is the first recorded instance of an Israelitish king choosing his chief with from among the Canaanites, and her marriage with Ahab has well been called a turning point in the history of Israel. Her character, as portrayed in the following chapters, is an embodiment of all that is most awful and terrible in the Clytemnestra of the Greek tragedians, and in the Lady Macbeth of Shakspeare.

Ethbaal Probably identical with Eithobalus, priest of Astarte, of whom Menander, the Ephesian, speaks in Josephus, Apion 1 Kings 1:18. He assassinated Pheles, the reigning king, usurped the throne, and reigned thirty-two years. His position as priest of Astarte, whose worship was similar to that of Baal, may serve to explain the zeal which his daughter showed in introducing Phenician idolatry into the kingdom of Israel.

Zidonians This term seems to have been used among the Hebrews with as much latitude as was the term Phenicians among the Greeks. According to 1 Kings 5:6, Hiram, king of Tyre, controls the Zidonian workmen, and Josephus calls Ethbaal king of the Tyrians and Zidonians. It is probable that both Tyre and Zidon, with the adjacent towns, were often under one government.

Served Baal As Solomon’s heathen wives turned his heart after strange gods, (1 Kings 11:4,) so Ahab’s marriage with Jezebel leads him into Baal-worship. Baal was the chief male divinity among the Phenicians, as Ashtoreth was their female divinity. See on Judges 2:13.

Verse 32

32. An altar for Baal in the house of Baal That is, he built a temple in honour of this Zidonian god, and in it erected an altar on which sacrifices might be offered to him. Thus he added to the number of the houses of high places that were already in the land. Compare 1 Kings 12:31.

Verse 33

33. Made a grove Literally, made the Asherah; that is, he erected an idol-image of Asherah, another form of the name Ashtoreth or Astarte, the goddess of the Zidonians. See 1 Kings 14:15. So he worshipped the male and female deities of Phenicia.

Verse 34

34. Hiel the Bethelite A native of that city which had so long been the scene of Israelitish calf-worship, and, perhaps, a despiser of Jehovah and his laws. He was thus a fit person to undertake the daring work here mentioned.

Build Jericho Joshua pronounced a curse upon the man who should attempt to rebuild the walls of Jericho, (Joshua 6:26; where see note,) and several hundred years had passed with no one so impious as to despise that curse. The place had been inhabited, but no one had ventured to fortify it and set up the gates. It seems to have now become the possession of the northern kingdom, and Ahab’s design in having it fortified was probably to make it a frontier garrison to command the passage over the Jordan.

Laid the foundation thereof in Abiram That is, at the cost of his life. Thus, in 1 Kings 2:23, Solomon says that Adonijah had spoken a certain word בנפשׁו , in his life, that is, at the cost of his life. The manner in which the Divine judgment fell upon Hiel’s sons whether by natural or by violent deaths whether the firstborn died when he laid the foundation, and the youngest when he set up the gates is nowhere stated, and so far as that is unknown so far will there be a degree of mystery hanging over this text. But the record will ever stand as a warning that no man may lightly treat Jehovah’s word and live.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Kings 16". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/1-kings-16.html. 1874-1909.
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