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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
1 Kings 15

 

 

Verses 1-8

The Reign Of Abiyam of Judah c. 913-911/910 BC (1 Kings 15:1-8).

The reign of Abiyam was very short, possibly cut off by illness, and during it he made no effort to improve the nation’s attitude towards YHWH, although nothing is said about his condoning it. He may well therefore himself have been faithful to the worship of the Temple, without having revealed a wholehearted response towards YHWH by seeking to reform the people.

All his life he had known a continual attitude of war towards Jeroboam and Israel, and it continued on during his own short reign. But because of YHWH’s covenant with David, YHWH set up his son (the Davidic heir) after him as a lamp in Jerusalem, because David had done what was right in His eyes, and had not turned aside from His commandments, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. Thus the dynasty continued for David’s sake.

Analysis.

a Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam the son of Nebat began Abiyam to reign over Judah (1 Kings 15:1).

b He reigned for three years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom (1 Kings 15:2).

c And he walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him, and his heart was not perfect with YHWH his God, as the heart of David his father (1 Kings 15:3).

d Nevertheless for David’s sake YHWH his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him, and to establish Jerusalem, because David did what was right in the eyes of YHWH, and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite (1 Kings 15:4-5).’

c Now there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life (1 Kings 15:6).

b And the rest of the acts of Abiyam, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? And there was war between Abiyam and Jeroboam (1 Kings 15:7).

a And Abiyam slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David: and Asa his son reigned instead of him (1 Kings 15:8).

Note that in ‘a’ Abiyam began his reign over Judah, and in the parallel he died and was buried, with his son reigning instead of him. In ‘b’ he reigned for three years in Jerusalem and in the parallel how he reigned could be found in the state records of Judah. In ‘c’ his heart was not right towards God, and in the parallel it was caught up in the continual antagonism between Judah and Israel. Centrally in ‘d’ his dynasty would continue for David’s sake.

1 Kings 15:1

Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam the son of Nebat began Abiyam to reign over Judah.’

The synchronisation between the reigns of the kings of Judah and the kings of Israel will continue on until Israel ceased to exist. It can mainly now be reconciled as a result of exhaustive studies by scholars. Abiyam came to the throne after eighteen years of continued belligerence between Judah and Israel (1 Kings 15:6). The eighteenth year of Jeroboam was the seventeenth year of Rehoboam because Israel counted in the initial part of the reign prior to the first New Year as one year. Judah ignored that initial part of the year.

We are never told the age of Abi-yam, but the Chronicler tells us that he had fourteen wives, twenty two sons and sixteen daughters (2 Chronicles 13:21), so that he was well matured when he began to reign, possibly approaching forty. (Rehoboam died at around sixty - 41 plus + 17 plus). Thus he grew to manhood during the second half of Solomon’s reign, and was in his twenties when his father bought off Shishak. He had known the splendour of the days of Solomon, and had seen it all disappear because of Solomon’s folly. (He did not see his father as at fault - 2 Chronicle 1 Kings 13:7).

1 Kings 15:2

He reigned for three years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom.’

In the usual introduction we learn that he reigned ‘for three years’ in Jerusalem. The calculation of the reigns of kings of Judah usually ignored the initial part of the reign prior to the first New Year, so that he reigned for at least two full years, and two partial years. And he reigned in Jerusalem, ‘the city which YHWH had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there’ (1 Kings 14:21) because of His love for David. The YHWH/David partnership continued.

His mother’s name was ‘Maacah, the daughter of Abishalom’ confirming that he was a true ‘son of David’. Some see Maacah as the granddaughter of Absalom, David’s son (Absalom being an abbreviation of Abi-shalom). However, the author of Kings always refers to Absalom as Absalom (1 Kings 1:6; 1 Kings 2:7; 1 Kings 2:28) so that others consider Abi-shalom to be some else. But the fact that Asa is also identified as having ‘Maacah the (grand-)daughter of Abishalom’ as queen mother may mean that the Davidic connection is being stressed. On the other hand the mention in the case of Asa may be due to the fact that because Abiyam died prematurely in his forties, Maacah continued as ‘queen mother, keeping out Asa’s mother, regardless of who Abi-shalom was. The question remains open.

1 Kings 15:3

And he walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him, and his heart was not perfect with YHWH his God, as the heart of David his father.’

Like his father Rehoboam, Abiyam appears to have himself worshipped at the Temple, remaining true to Yahwism, while at the same time not seeking to do anything about the worship of many Judaeans at the syncretised high places. Like his father his own faith was nominal, and not spiritually alive like David’s.

In a period of open warfare between Judah and Israel he would point to his own religious orthodoxy in contrast to Jeroboam’s unorthodoxy, thereby hoping to dishearten Jeroboam with the thought that YHWH was against him (2 Chronicles 13:9-10). But it was a largely nominal faith and not real enough to cause him to want to purify the faith of Judah. He was thus a disappointment to YHWH.

1 Kings 15:4-5

Nevertheless for David’s sake YHWH his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him, and to establish Jerusalem, because David did what was right in the eyes of YHWH, and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.’

However for David’s sake YHWH promised the continuing of his dynasty in Jerusalem, and to establish Jerusalem, giving him a son to be a lamp in Jerusalem which kept alive his name and the lamp of the Davidic house (compare 1 Kings 11:36; 2 Kings 8:19 where it was specifically the lamp of the Davidic house). This was because David had done what was right in YHWH’s eyes, and had been continually obedient, except during the sad episode of Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 11).

The qualification ‘except only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite’ is given only here. As with ‘the city which YHWH had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there’ (1 Kings 14:21) it was in future to be ‘read in’ without being repeated. The prophetic author was not so stereotyped that he wanted to bore his readers with needless repetition.

1 Kings 15:6

Now there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life.’

Virtually repeating 1 Kings 14:30 the prophetic author brings out that Abiyam had been brought up to continual belligerence between Judah and Israel all the days of his adult life, during the reign of his father. He had thus become inured to it and did not seek to make peace when he became king, thus hindering the possibility of Israelites returning to worship at the Central Sanctuary.

1 Kings 15:7

And the rest of the acts of Abiyam, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? And there was war between Abiyam and Jeroboam.’

Apart from the fact that the state of war between Judah and Israel was continued, there was nothing further about Abiyam’s life that the prophetic author thought worthy of mention. All those interested in what Abiyam had done could consult the court records. The Chronicler records open warfare between the two in which Judah was victorious, and gained land and cities in Israel. But the author did not see that as significant. As far as he was concerned Abiyam was no better than Rehoboam.

“And there was war between Abiyam and Jeroboam.” At first sight this seems to have slipped into the text, and we expect it prior to the closing summary, but if we compare the following kings we will find a similar unexpected final comment at the end of their reigns which also comes in an ‘unexpected’ place. See 1 Kings 15:23 b; 1 Kings 15:32; 1 Kings 16:7. It is a trait of the author which he eventually conquers.

1 Kings 15:8

And Abiyam slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David: and Asa his son reigned instead of him.’

Abiyam died prematurely but peacefully, probably in his forties, and was buried in the city of David. He was thus an accepted Davidide. And his dynasty continued in that Asa his son reigned instead of him. The promise to David of a continuing house was being fulfilled.

Nadab’s life is a warning to us of the danger of being merely nominal in our Christian lives. Rather we must ensure that we keep alive the ‘lamp’ that God has lit within us so that it continues to shine brightly (Matthew 5:16).


Verses 9-24

The Reign Of Good King Asa of Judah c. 911-870 BC (1 Kings 15:9-24).

In Asa we have the first king following David who made a genuine effort to turn the people back to YHWH. He removed the most blatant excesses, and his only failure was that he failed to rid the land of all its illegitimate high places. But that was not as easy as it sounded for they abounded everywhere, and his men would receive no help from the locals in searching them out. It required a period when he could concentrate on that and nothing else, and that opportunity seemingly never arose. Possibly had he not had the continual problems on his frontiers he might have achieved more, for we are informed that his heart was fully right towards YHWH.

In dealing with Asa (and the other kings) we do not intend to continually incorporate the material from Chronicles, except where helpful in understanding Kings. For in order to understand what the prophetic author is getting at we have to deal with what he included, and mainly ignore what he omitted, remembering that he almost certainly knew about it and did not see it as suited to his purpose. For the life of Asa in Chronicles see 2 Chronicles 14-16.

Analysis.

a And in the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel Asa began to reign over Judah (1 Kings 15:9).

b And he reigned forty and one years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom (1 Kings 15:10).

c And Asa did what was right in the eyes of YHWH, as did David his father, and he put away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols which his fathers had made, and also Maacah his mother he removed from being queen, because she had made an abominable image for an Asherah, and Asa cut down her image, and burnt it at the brook Kidron. But the high places were not taken away. Nevertheless the heart of Asa was perfect with YHWH all his day (1 Kings 15:11-14).

d And he brought into the house of YHWH the things that his father had dedicated, and the things that he himself had dedicated, silver, and gold, and vessels (1 Kings 15:15).

e And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days. And Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah, and built Ramah, in order that he might not allow any one to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah (1 Kings 15:16-17).

d Then Asa took all the silver and the gold which were left in the treasures of the house of YHWH, and the treasures of the king’s house, and delivered them into the hand of his servants. And king Asa sent them to Ben-hadad, the son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, king of Syria, who dwelt at Damascus, saying, “There is an alliance between me and you, between my father and your father. See, I have sent to you a present of silver and gold. Go, break your alliance with Baasha king of Israel, that he may depart from me.” And Ben-hadad listened to king Asa, and sent the captains of his armies against the cities of Israel, and smote Ijon, and Dan, and Abel-beth-maacah, and all Chinneroth, with all the land of Naphtali (1 Kings 15:18-20).

c And it came about that, when Baasha heard of it, he left off building Ramah, and dwelt in Tirzah. Then king Asa made a proclamation to all Judah. None was exempted. And they carried away the stones of Ramah, and its timber, with which Baasha had built, and king Asa built with it Geba of Benjamin, and Mizpah (1 Kings 15:21-22).

b Now the rest of all the acts of Asa, and all his might, and all that he did, and the cities which he built, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? But in the time of his old age he was diseased in his feet (1 Kings 15:23).

a And Asa slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father, and Jehoshaphat his son reigned instead of him (1 Kings 15:24).

Note that in ‘a’ Asa began to reign, and in the parallel he slept with his fathers and was buried. In ‘b’ he reigned in Jerusalem as David’s heir, and the previous queen mother continued to reign and proved unacceptable in her behaviour, and in the parallel the source from which the details of his reign could be found is given, and he was diseased in his feet. In ‘c’ he removed from the land all the religious innovations which threatened it, and in the parallel he removed the physical threat from the land. In ‘d’ he accumulated treasure in the Temple and in his house, and in the parallel he had to use it to obtain help from the Aramaeans. Centrally in ‘e’ there was continual hostility with Israel who blockaded his frontiers, thus hindering trade and access to Judah from the north.

1 Kings 15:9

And in the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel Asa began to reign over Judah.’

Asa began to reign over Judah in the twentieth year of Jeroboam. Rehoboam had reigned seventeen years and Abiyah three years in Judaean reckoning.

1 Kings 15:10

And he reigned forty and one years in Jerusalem: and his mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom.’

And he reigned forty one years in Jerusalem, ‘the city which YHWH had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there’ (1 Kings 14:21) because of His love for David. The YHWH/David partnership continued.

“And his mother”s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom.’ This could make him the brother of Abiyah, but it is more likely that having been appointed ‘queen mother’ Maacah continued in the position, either because her daughter, Asa’s mother, was dead, or simply through seniority. She had only been in the position a short while. She would thus be Asa’s grandmother. (The Hebrew word is vaguer about the relationship than our English words and can mean mother or grandmother).

1 Kings 15:11

And Asa did what was right in the eyes of YHWH, as did David his father.’

Asa is the first king after David of whom it was said that ‘he did what was right in the eyes of YHWH’ (compare Deuteronomy 13:18), and was thereby compared with David positively. David was the standard by which many of the kings of Judah would be judged.

1 Kings 15:12

And he put away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols which his fathers had made.’

Asa put away the male and female cult prostitutes out of the land and ‘removed all the idols which his fathers had made’. In fact the only king of whom we have learned that he established idols in the land was Solomon, but Rehoboam and Abiyam had to take responsibility for not having rid the land of them, and for having allowed numerous idols to be established in the syncretistic high place. Thus Asa rid the land of all the idols that he was aware of.

1 Kings 15:13

And also Maacah his mother he removed from being queen, because she had made an abominable image for an Asherah, and Asa cut down her image, and burnt it at the brook Kidron.’

And he especially removed his grandmother Maacah from being ‘queen mother’, which confirms that that position was a high official status. And he did it because she had erected an Asherah image in Jerusalem. Then he cut down the image and burnt it at the Wadi Kidron where the ashes of burnt waste were disposed of (compare 2 Kings 23:6). Thus he showed neither fear nor favour.

“Abominable image.” The root word means ‘a shock, an earthquake’ (Job 9:6), and thus something that causes trembling (compare Psalms 55:5; Isaiah 21:4; Ezekiel 7:18).

1 Kings 15:14

But the high places were not taken away. Nevertheless the heart of Asa was perfect with YHWH all his days.’

But the high places were not taken away. There were large number of them up and down the land, and what Asa did to Maacah’s image demonstrated that he would do the same to any that he found. But rooting out all of them would have required concentrated manpower, and he was busy defending Judah against her enemies. The ‘grumble’ was not against the legitimate high places such as Gibeon, Hebron and possibly Beersheba. In mind were the high places where pillars and Asherah-images had been erected, which YHWH had commanded must be rooted out in Leviticus 26:30; Numbers 33:52 (it was not a Deuteronomic idea). That he did what he could was fully appreciated so that it could be said of him that ‘his heart was perfect with YHWH all his days’.

1 Kings 15:15

And he brought into the house of YHWH the things that his father had dedicated, and the things that he himself had dedicated, silver, and gold, and vessels.’

Since the removal by Shishak of Egypt of the treasures from the Temple and the king’s house in the days of Rehoboam more treasures had been accumulated by raiding spoils, by tolls from trading and by ‘taxation’, and these had presumably been stored in the House of the Forest of Lebanon as dedicated to YHWH. Asa now brought them into the Temple, together with what he himself had gathered and dedicated to YHWH. He was concerned lest YHWH think that he was retaining it all for himself. It included silver, and gold (there was no coinage) and vessels. The dedication of such things to the gods was common throughout the Ancient Near East.

1 Kings 15:16

And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days.’

Due to the fact that Baasha came to the throne of Israel after Asa had become king of Judah the author’s ‘system’ has failed to mention him previously. It was one problem with his method. Baasha had in fact slaughtered Jeroboam’s family and had usurped the throne from Jeroboam’s son after Jeroboam’s long reign (1 Kings 15:27-30). Like Jeroboam he was a belligerent king, and thus during his reign there was continual hostility between Judah and Israel. Instead of cooperating, which would have been to their mutual benefit, they were still at each other’s throats.

1 Kings 15:17

And Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah, and built Ramah, in order that he might not allow any one to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah.’

Baasha went even further than past kings, for he advanced into Judah and sought to fortify Ramah which was in the territory of Benjamin (part of which had gone over to the ‘ten tribes’) and only about eight kilometres (five and a half miles) north of Jerusalem. It was in a crucial position, being on the north-south road through mountainous country and at the head of the Descent of Beth-horon which led down to the Coastal Plain. It thus enabled Baasha to prevent people, especially trading caravans, and those who wished to visit the Sanctuary at Jerusalem (see 2 Chronicles 15:9), from travelling to Judah through Israel, and also prevented direct passage from Judah to the north. People could, of course still enter Judah by going through the valley of Esdraelon from the north and along the way that they would take for Philistia and Egypt, and then turning eastwards, but it made it a far longer circuitous journey. Baasha was trying to squeeze Judah’s trade and communications, and at the same time prevent his own people from going to Jerusalem to worship.

1 Kings 15:18 a ‘Then Asa took all the silver and the gold which were left in the treasures of the house of YHWH, and the treasures of the king’s house, and delivered them into the hand of his servants.’

Asa saw that this could cause him great trouble, and that it was even close enough to be very threatening to Jerusalem, so not seeing himself as strong enough to compete with Israel on his own (for which in Chronicles he was rebuked by YHWH), he sought assistance from the Aramaeans (Syrians) who were to the north of Israel, and centred on Damascus. These were the people who, for reward, had gone to the aid of the Ammonites in the time of David (2 Samuel 10), and it was from Damascus that Rezon had caused trouble for Solomon (1 Kings 11:23-25). They were always ready to give aid if paid enough.

In order to obtain their help Asa knew that he would have to ‘bribe’ them, and so he took all the silver and the gold which he had stored up in the house of YHWH and in his own house, and arranged for his servants to take it to the Aramaeans in return for their assistance. Note again the emphasis on the fact that it was not just the Temple that was depleted, it was the king’s own treasury as well. It was the whole house of David and the country that suffered loss. We should note that while mentioned where necessary, the Temple is not a focal point of Kings. The focus is on the covenant with the house of David.

This is a reminder that although Asa was such a good king there were things in his life which displeased YHWH, otherwise all this would not have happened. What was lacking was a full trust in YHWH. When faced with this testing he should have trusted completely in YHWH, but instead he relied on human princes and as a result lost all the treasures that he had so laboriously built up (Chronicles makes it explicit).

1 Kings 15:18-19 ‘And king Asa sent them to Ben-hadad, the son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, king of Aram (Syria), who dwelt at Damascus, saying, “There is an alliance between me and you, between my father and your father. See, I have sent to you a present of silver and gold. “Go, break your alliance with Baasha king of Israel, that he may depart from me”.’

Ben-hadad, the king of Aram, who lived in Damascus had made treaties with both countries as it suited him. And in the long term he broke them as it suited him (no treaty could be expected to last for ever. It would only have been treacherous if he had broken it immediately on making it). So Asa asked him to remember his alliance with Judah, and forget his alliance with Baasha, in return for a huge present of silver and gold, in view of Israel’s belligerence against Judah. He wanted Ben-hadad to act in such a way that Baasha, threatened from the rear, would withdraw.

Ben-hadad (which means ‘son of Hadad’, a prominent god of Aram and their equivalent of Baal the storm god) was a name confirmed in 8th century Aramaic inscriptions. He was the son of Tab-rimmon (‘Rimmon is bountiful, or willing, or good’ - Rimmon was another god in the Aramaean pantheon closely related to Baal), who was the son of Hezion. It is disputed whether Hezion was the Rezon who had been a thorn in the flesh to Solomon. Hezion may well have been his original name and Rezon his royal title, with the latter name meaning ‘prince’.

(The Milqart Stele (mid-9th century BC) from near Aleppo, written in Aramaic, was inscribed as follows: ‘The monument which Bar-hadad, son of Tab-rammon, son of Hadyan, king of Aram, set up for his Lord Milqart, which he vowed to him and he listened to his voice --’).

1 Kings 15:20

And Ben-hadad listened to king Asa, and sent the captains of his armies against the cities of Israel, and smote Ijon, and Dan, and Abel-beth-maacah, and all Chinneroth, with all the land of Naphtali.’

Benhadad responded to Asa’s generous offer and sent his commanders to raid cities in northern Israel. These included Ijon, Dan and Abel-beth-maacah, as well as the area around the sea of Galilee (Chinneroth) and all the land of Naphtali (which would interrupt the trade route to Tyre and Sidon). It thus gave the appearance of being a serious invasion (and would in fact have gathered much booty, and brought much suffering to the inhabitants).

Ijon and Dan were north of the Sea of Galilee. Abel-beth-maacah was in north Naphtali, and was the prominent city in which Sheba had been besieged by Joab (2 Samuel 20:14).

1 Kings 15:21

And it came about that, when Baasha heard of it, he left off building Ramah, and dwelt in Tirzah.’

When Baasha heard of this he ceased fortifying Ramah, recognising that he had to pay attention to his wider frontiers, and returned and took up residence in Tirzah, his capital city, from where he could administer all Israel, and meet the threat posed by the Aramaeans.

1 Kings 15:22

Then king Asa made a proclamation to all Judah. None was exempted. And they carried away the stones of Ramah, and its timber, with which Baasha had built, and king Asa built with it Geba of Benjamin, and Mizpah.’

Seizing his opportunity, Asa conscripted all Judah to the work of dismantling Ramah of Benjamin. None were exempted. And they took the materials of which Ramah was made and used it to fortify Geba of Benjamin and Mizpah, two strong border cites of Judah, thus making the frontiers secure.

The massive defences unearthed at Mizpah demonstrate a strengthening at this time of the defences northward in order to resist chariot attack.

1 Kings 15:23

Now the rest of all the acts of Asa, and all his might, and all that he did, and the cities which he built, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? But in the time of his old age he was diseased in his feet (1 Kings 15:23).’

In the typical closing formula the prophetic author as usual informs us that if we want to know more about the doings and might of Asa, and the cities that he fortified, we should consult the court records for Judah. And he adds a typical postscript to the fact that Asa was diseased in his feet. This was probably not gout but something more serious, and the aim in mentioning it was in order to bring out that YHWH was not totally pleased with Asa. (Chronicles gives us more detail)

1 Kings 15:24

And Asa slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father, and Jehoshaphat his son reigned instead of him.’

Asa too died peacefully, probably in his sixties, and he was buried with his fathers in the city of David ‘his father’. He shared the Davidic inheritance, in accordance with YHWH’s covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7. The reference to ‘his father’ underlines that he walked as David walked. And in accordance with YHWH’s covenant with David his son Jehoshaphat reigned instead of him.

Asa had had a long reign, which covered the period from the end of Jeroboam’s reign, through the reigns of Baasha, Nadab, and Omri, and up to the third year of Ahab. Thus while religious turmoil was taking place in Israel, Judah was relatively religiously stable. And this would carry on during the reign of his son Jehoshaphat.

There are numerous lessons from Asa’s long life. The first is that we need to walk faithfully in accordance with God’s requirements, with a heart that is right towards God. The second is that we need to root out of our lives all our ‘idols’. The third is that we need to learn to trust fully in God rather than in men. The fourth is that we need to take every opportunity to build up our defences (Ephesians 6:10-18).


Verses 25-31

The Reign Of Nadab Of Israel c.910-908 BC (1 Kings 15:25-31).

Nadab was the son of Jeroboam following the proclamation of Ahijah the prophet that God would cut off the house of Jeroboam. He was thus doomed from the start, and the main item in his reign as far as the prophetic author was concerned was his assassination by Basha, and the assassination of all the males in his house by which YHWH’s pronouncement was fulfilled.

He did, however, contribute towards his own downfall by following in the ways of his father, and especially by committing the sin for which his father and his house were condemned, namely the worship of the golden calves in the false high places. He also seemingly engaged in a foray against the Philistines, but the author’s only interest in that is that it determined the place of his assassination.

Analysis.

a And Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel two years. (1 Kings 15:25).

b And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin by which he made Israel to sin (1 Kings 15:26).

c And Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar, conspired against him, and Baasha smote him at Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines, for Nadab and all Israel were laying siege to Gibbethon (1 Kings 15:27).

d Even in the third year of Asa king of Judah did Baasha slay him, and reigned instead of him (1 Kings 15:28).

c And it came about that, as soon as he was king, he smote all the house of Jeroboam. He did not leave to Jeroboam anyone who breathed, until he had destroyed him (1 Kings 15:29).

b According to the saying of YHWH, which he spoke by his servant Ahijah the Shilonite, for the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned, and by which he made Israel to sin, because of his provocation with which he provoked YHWH, the God of Israel, to anger (1 Kings 15:30).

a Now 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? (1 Kings 15:31).

Note that in ‘a’ Nadab reigned over Israel, and in the parallel his acts are recorded in the court records of Israel. In ‘b’ he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH as his father Jeroboam had done, and in the parallel it is the sins of Jeroboam that have brought destruction on his house. In ‘c’ Baasha assassinated Nadab, and in the parallel he assassinated all his house. Centrally in ‘d’ Baasha slew Nadab and reigned instead of him.

1 Kings 15:25

And Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel two years.’

The kings of Israel counted their accession part year as a first year, thus Nadab only reigned for two part years, before he was assassinated, possibly not even achieving a full year. The accession of a new king was always a dangerous time as rival claimants vie for the throne, an especially in Israel where there was no tradition of accession.

Nadab began to reign over Judah in the second year of Asa king of Judah. Rehoboam had reigned 17 years plus his accession part year, which in Judah was not included in the number of years of his reign, Abiyam had reigned three years plus his accession part year, which is, however cancelled out by combination with the final part year of Rehoboam, Thus together they reigned for twenty years and a part year. The two years of Asa (omitting his accession part year because that makes Nadab’s third year into a full year), make twenty two years and a part year. Jeroboam reigned for twenty two years.

1 Kings 15:26

And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin by which he made Israel to sin.’

Nadab continued in the ways of Jeroboam. He made no effort to bring Israel back to true Yahwism. Thus he continued to do what was evil in the sight of YHWH, and threw himself into his father’s falsely established religion.

1 Kings 15:27

And Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar, conspired against him, and Baasha smote him at Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines, for Nadab and all Israel were laying siege to Gibbethon.’

The result was that when he was campaigning against the Philistines at the siege of Gibbethon, one of his commanders. Baasha, the son of Ahijah, conspired against him and assassinated him. Gibbethon was a frontier town of Dan (Joshua 19:44; Joshua 21:23) which had been occupied by the Philistines, and indeed was occupied by them for many years (1 Kings 16:15). Baasha was from the tribe of Issachar in south west Galilee.

1 Kings 15:28

Even in the third year of Asa king of Judah did Baasha slay him, and reigned instead of him.’

This took place in the third year of Asa, when Baasha began to reign instead of Nadab.

1 Kings 15:29-30

And it came about that, as soon as he was king, he smote all the house of Jeroboam. He did not leave to Jeroboam anyone who breathed, until he had destroyed him, according to the saying of YHWH, which he spoke by his servant Ahijah the Shilonite, for the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned, and by which he made Israel to sin, because of his provocation with which he provoked YHWH, the God of Israel, to anger.’

Once Baasha was in place and had returned to Tirzah he arranged the assassination of all the males in the house of Jeroboam. He left not one of them alive. This was just as Ahijah the prophet at Shiloh had prophesied, and it was because of the awful sin of Jeroboam which had provoked YHWH to ‘anger (antipathy against sin), a sin in which Nadab and all Israel had also participated.

We should note, however, that this slaughtering of the sons of the previously reigning house was common practise in those days when a new dynasty began. It prevented ‘pretenders’ arising from the old house to claim the throne, and ensured that there would be no one from the old house seeking blood vengeance in the future.

1 Kings 15:31

Now 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?’

The remainder of the acts of Nadab in his brief reign were to be found in the official state records of Israel.

The lesson we may learn from Nadab’s life, are:

1). The brevity life. It is a reminder that in the midst of life we are in death.

2). The certainty of God’s judgment on sin.

3). A recognition of the holiness of a God Who so hates sin that He allowed the wiping out of a family because of its sinfulness.

4). The folly of following in the footsteps of those who have turned against God and His ways. If only he had repented he might have avoided God’s judgment.

The Reign Of Baasha, The Usurper Of Israel c.908-885 BC (1 Kings 15:32 to 1 Kings 16:7).

The prophetic author has nothing good to say about Baasha the Belligerent. He was belligerent, he did evil in the sight of YHWH, he continued the false cult, he was a murderer and he was so wicked that YHWH determined judgment on his house.

a And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days (1 Kings 15:32).

b In the third year of Asa king of Judah began Baasha the son of Ahijah to reign over all Israel in Tirzah, and reigned twenty and four years (1 Kings 15:33).

c And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin by which he made Israel to sin (1 Kings 15:34).

d And the word of YHWH came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying, “Forasmuch as I exalted you out of the dust, and made you prince over my people Israel, and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam, and have made my people Israel to sin, to provoke me to anger with their sins” (1 Kings 16:1-2).

e “Behold, I will utterly sweep away Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat” (1 Kings 16:3).

d “Him who dies of Baasha in the city will the dogs eat, and him who dies of his in the countryside will the birds of the heavens eat” (1 Kings 16:4).

c 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? (1 Kings 16:5).

b And Baasha slept with his fathers, and was buried in Tirzah, and Elah his son reigned instead of him (1 Kings 16:6).

a And moreover by the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani came the word of YHWH against Baasha, and against his house, both because of all the evil that he did in the sight of YHWH, to provoke him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam, and because he smote him (1 Kings 16:7).

Note how an opening comment and a closing comment are tacked on before the opening formula and after the closing formula. In ‘a’ Baasha is revealed as being belligerent, and in the parallel he is revealed as being a murderer (‘because he smote him’). In ‘b’ began to reign and reigned for twenty four years, and in the parallel his son reigned instead of him and he ceased to reign and slept with his fathers. In ‘c’ he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, and in the parallel the rest of his acts can be found in the court annals of Judah. In ‘d’ YHWH describes through His prophet how great his sin is, and in the parallel he describes how great his punishment will be. Centrally in ‘e’ YHWH’s sentence on Baasha is described.

1 Kings 15:32

And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days.’

This is the opening part of an inclusio that encloses Baasha’s life (with 1 Kings 16:7). Usually similar statements have been made at the end of a king’s reign (1 Kings 14:30; 1 Kings 15:6-7) or in the middle (1 Kings 15:16). Here it introduces his reign. Thus there is an emphasis in this case on just how belligerent Baasha was. Even though Asa was a good king Baasha would make no peace with him.

1 Kings 15:33

In the third year of Asa king of Judah began Baasha the son of Ahijah to reign over all Israel in Tirzah, and reigned twenty and four years.’

Here we have the usual details for a king of Israel, the date when he began to reign and the length of his reign. His mother’s name was irrelevant because he was a usurper, and is anyway never given for the kings of Israel, possibly because they had no link with the Davidic house, or because the queen mother had no special status in Israel, or because in fact they were all usurpers, therefore their source did not matter. Baasha thus died in the twenty seventh year of Asa. 2 Chronicles 16:1 tells us of activity by Baasha in the thirty sixth year of the reign of Asa. This may suggest that Asa had been co-regent for a number of years prior to ascending the throne, years which the Chronicler’s source took into account. Co-regency was a wise method of kingship because it ensured a smooth transition of power on the death of a king to someone who was already partially in control and established in the eyes of the leaders of the land. (Rehoboam was forty one years of age when he became king, thus Asa would probably by then have been a growing lad, or even older. That being so half way through Rehoboam’s reign he would have been old enough to take on co-regency responsibilities, especially if his father was sickly (he died early)).

1 Kings 15:34

And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin by which he made Israel to sin.’

Like all Israelite kings Baasha is seen as having done evil in the sight of YHWH because he did not seek to bring the nation back to pure Yahwism. He continued Jeroboam’s evil heresy himself, and led the people in that direction. Israel’s great crime, for which it would eventually be destroyed, was that from the beginning of its independent existence under the kings it distorted true Yahwism. By this he demonstrated that his action against the house of Jeroboam had not been prompted by a love for YHWH.

This did not, of course, mean that there were no true believers in Israel. Many in fact fled to Judah so that they could worship YHWH aright (e.g. 2 Chronicles 15:9), and in Israel itself a remnant of true worshippers remained (in Elijah’s day seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal). Thus it is clear that some provision was made by the prophets for true worship in Israel.

1 Kings 16:1-2

And the word of YHWH came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying, “Forasmuch as I exalted you out of the dust, and made you prince over my people Israel, and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam, and have made my people Israel to sin, to provoke me to anger with their sins.”

Once more a prophet interferes in the affairs of Israel. Israel was not left without a witness. There were still some who were seeking to turn the people back to true Yahwism. Here it is Jehu the son of Hanani. He pointed out that it was YHWH who had raised him from the dust (from low beginnings) and made him prince over His people Israel, allowing him to remove the house of Jeroboam. But in spite of that he had walked in the way of Jeroboam, and had continued and encouraged the false cult established by Jeroboam, making the people sin and provoking YHWH to anger (antipathy against sin).

Jehu the son of Hanani himself wrote his own record and was especially prominent in the days of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:34). The Chronicler tells us that he rebuked Jehoshaphat for consorting with Ahab of Israel (2 Chronicles 19:2).

“Prince (nagid).” This was a term almost exclusively used of leaders in Israel/Judah. It was a further reminder that the king of Israel was supposed to be YHWH’s war leader and subject to his Overlord. For being ‘exalted out of the dust’ see 1 Samuel 2:8. For being made ‘prince over His people Israel’ see 1 Kings 14:7.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Kings 15:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/1-kings-15.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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