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1 Kings Chapter Sixteen                            


1 Kings 16

Chapter Contents

The reigns of Baasha and Elah in Israel. (1-14) Reigns of Zimri and Omri in Israel. (15-28) Ahab's wickedness, Hiel rebuilds Jericho. (29-34)

Commentary on 1 Kings 16:1-14

(Read 1 Kings 16:1-14)

This chapter relates wholly to the kingdom of Israel, and the revolutions of that kingdom. God calls Israel his people still, though wretchedly corrupted. Jehu foretells the same destruction to come upon Baasha's family, which that king had been employed to bring upon the family of Jeroboam. Those who resemble others in their sins, may expect to resemble them in the plagues they suffer, especially those who seem zealous against such sins in others as they allow in themselves. Baasha himself dies in peace, and is buried with honour. Herein plainly appears that there are punishments after death, which are most to be dreaded. Let Elah be a warning to drunkards, who know not but death may surprise them. Death easily comes upon men when they are drunk. Besides the diseases which men bring themselves into by drinking, when in that state, men are easily overcome by an enemy, and liable to bad accidents. Death comes terribly upon men in such a state, finding them in the act of sin, and unfitted for any act of devotion; that day comes upon them unawares. The word of God was fulfilled, and the sins of Baasha and Elah were reckoned for, with which they provoked God. Their idols are called their vanities, for idols cannot profit nor help; miserable are those whose gods are vanities.

Commentary on 1 Kings 16:15-28

(Read 1 Kings 16:15-28)

When men forsake God, they will be left to plague one another. Proud aspiring men ruin one another. Omri struggled with Tibni some years. Though we do not always understand the rules by which God governs nations and individuals in his providence, we may learn useful lessons from the history before us. When tyrants succeed each other, and massacres, conspiracies, and civil wars, we may be sure the Lord has a controversy with the people for their sins; they are loudly called to repent and reform. Omri made himself infamous by his wickedness. Many wicked men have been men of might and renown; have built cities, and their names are found in history; but they have no name in the book of life.

Commentary on 1 Kings 16:29-34

(Read 1 Kings 16:29-34)

Ahab did evil above all that reigned before him, and did it with a particular enmity both against Jehovah and Israel. He was not satisfied with breaking the second commandment by image-worship, he broke the first by worshipping other gods: making light of lesser sins makes way for greater. Marriages with daring offenders also imbolden in wickedness, and hurry men on to the greatest excesses. One of Ahab's subjects, following the example of his presumption, ventured to build Jericho. Like Achan, he meddled with the accursed thing; turned that to his own use, which was devoted to God's honour: he began to build, in defiance of the curse well devoted to God's honour: he began to build, in defiance of the curse well known in Israel; but none ever hardened his heart against God, and prospered. Let the reading of this chapter cause us to mark the dreadful end of all the workers of iniquity. And what does the history of all ungodly men furnish, what ever rank or situation they move in, but sad examples of the same?

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on 1 Kings


1 Kings 16

Verse 1

[1] Then the word of the LORD came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying,

Hanani — He was sent to Asa, king of Judah. But the son, who was young and more active, was sent on this longer and more dangerous expedition to Baasha, king of Israel.

Verse 2

[2] Forasmuch as I exalted thee out of the dust, and made thee prince over my people Israel; and thou hast walked in the way of Jeroboam, and hast made my people Israel to sin, to provoke me to anger with their sins;

I made thee — Though that 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 providence disposed of all occasions, and of the hearts of the soldiers and people, so that Baasha should have opportunity of executing God's judgment upon Nadab; nay, the very act of Baasha, the killing his master Nadab, was an act of divine justice. And if Baasha had done this in obedience to God's command, and with a single design, to execute God's vengeance threatened against him, it had been no more a sin, than Jehu's act in killing his master king Jehoram, upon the same account, 2 Kings 9:24. But Baasha did this, merely to gratify his own pride, or covetousness, or malice, verse 7.

Verse 7

[7] And also by the hand of the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani came the word of the LORD against Baasha, and against his house, even for all the evil that he did in the sight of the LORD, in provoking him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam; and because he killed him.

Came, … — The meaning is, the message which came from the Lord to Jehu, verse 1, etc. was here delivered by the hand, the ministry of Jehu, unto Baasha. Jehu did what God commanded him in this matter, tho' it was not without apparent hazard to himself.

Verse 8

[8] In the twenty and sixth year of Asa king of Judah began Elah the son of Baasha to reign over Israel in Tirzah, two years.

Two years — One compleat, and part of the other, verse 10.

Verse 9

[9] And his servant Zimri, captain of half his chariots, conspired against him, as he was in Tirzah, drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza steward of his house in Tirzah.

Chariots — Of all his military chariots, and the men belonging to them: the chariots for carriage of necessary things, being put into meaner hands.

Tirzah — Whilst his forces were elsewhere employed, verse 15, which gave Zimri advantage to execute his design.

Verse 11

[11] And 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, nor of his friends.

Kinfolks — Heb. avengers; to whom it belonged to revenge his death.

Verse 13

[13] For 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 God of Israel to anger with their vanities.

Vanities — Idols called vanities; because they are but imaginary deities, and mere nothings; having no power to do either good or hurt.

Verse 15

[15] In the twenty and seventh year of Asa king of Judah did Zimri reign seven days in Tirzah. And the people were encamped against Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines.

Gibbethon — Which had been besieged before, but, it seems, was then relieved, or afterwards recovered by the Philistines; taking the advantage of the disorders and contentions which were among their enemies.

Verse 19

[19] For his sins which he sinned in doing evil in the sight of the LORD, in walking in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin which he did, to make Israel to sin.

For his sins — This befell him for his sins.

In walking, … — This he might do, either before his reign, in the whole course of his life, which is justly charged upon him, because of his impenitency: or during his short reign; in which, he had time enough to publish his intentions, about the worship of the calves; or to sacrifice to them, for his good success.

Verse 21

[21] Then were the people of Israel divided into two parts: half of the people followed Tibni the son of Ginath, to make him king; and half followed Omri.

Were divided — Fell into a civil war: yet neither this, nor any other of God's dreadful judgments could win them to repentance.

Verse 22

[22] But the people that followed Omri prevailed against the people that followed Tibni the son of Ginath: so Tibni died, and Omri reigned.

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 worst, verse 25,26.

Died — A violent death, in the battle: but not till after a struggle of some years. But why in all these confusions of the kingdom of Israel, did they never think of returning to the house of David? Probably because the kings of Judah assumed a more absolute power than the kings of Israel. It was the heaviness of the yoke that they complained of, when they first revolted from the house of David. And it is not unlikely, the dread of that made them averse to it ever after.

Verse 23

[23] In the thirty and first year of Asa king of Judah began Omri to reign over Israel, twelve years: six years reigned he in Tirzah.

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, verse 29, but from the beginning of his reign, which was in Asa's twenty-seventh year, verse 15,16. So he reigned four years in a state of war with Tibni, and eight years peaceably.

Verse 24

[24] And he bought the hill Samaria of Shemer for two talents of silver, and built on the hill, and called the name of the city which he built, after the name of Shemer, owner of the hill, Samaria.

Two talents — Two talents is something more than seven hundred pounds.

Verse 26

[26] For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin, to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger with their vanities.

Did worse — Perhaps he made severer laws concerning the calf worship; whence we read of the statutes of Omri, Micah 6:16.

Verse 31

[31] And 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.

A light thing — The Hebrew runs, was it a light thing, etc., that is, was this but a small sin, that therefore he needed to add more abominations? Where the question, as is usual among the Hebrews, implies a strong denial; and intimates, that this was no small sin, but a great crime; and might have satisfied his wicked mind, without any additions.

Jezebel — A woman infamous for her idolatry, and cruelty, and sorcery, and filthiness.

Eth-baal — Called Ithbalus, or Itobalus in heathen writers. So she was of an heathenish and idolatrous race. Such as the kings and people of Israel were expressly forbidden to marry.

Baal — The idol which the Sidonians worshipped, which is thought to be Hercules. And this idolatry was much worse than that of the calves; because in the calves they worshipped the true God; but in these, false gods or devils.

Verse 34

[34] In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho: he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his firstborn, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun.

In his days — This is added, 1. as an instance of the certainty of divine predictions, this being fulfilled eight hundred years after it was threatened; and withal, as a warning to the Israelites, not to think themselves innocent or safe, because the judgment threatened against them by Ahijah, chap. 14:15, was not yet executed. Or, 2. as an evidence of the horrible corruption of his times, and of that high contempt of God which then reigned.

The Bethelite — Who lived in Bethel, the seat and sink of idolatry, wherewith he was throughly leavened.

He laid, … — That is, in the beginning of his building, God took away his first-born, and others successively in the progress of the work, and the youngest when he finished it. And so he found by his own sad experience, the truth of God's word.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on 1 Kings


16 Chapter 16


Verses 1-10

Verses 8-10

1 Kings 16:8-10

Elah . . . Zimri . . . Arza.

Elah, Zimri, and Arza

There was once a king in Israel called Elah. He reigned over Israel in Tirzah two years. He had a servant called Zimri who was a captain of his chariots. Zimri was a born traitor. Treachery was in his very blood. In the case of Elah, Zimri had a marked advantage; for Elah was a drunken fool. He was in the habit of visiting the house of another of his servants, a steward called Arza, and there he had what drink he asked for; and he asked for a good deal, so much so that he was often drunk in his servant’s house, and on one of these occasions, Zimri went in and killed him, and reigned in his stead. These are the facts which we have to deal with. Are they very ancient, or are they happening round about us every day?

1. Elah lives in every man who has great chances or opportunities in life, but allows them to slip away through one leak in the character. Elah was a king, and the son of a king, so his openings in life were wide and splendid; but he loved strong drink, and through that leak in his character all that might have made him a man oozed away, and left him a king in nothing but the barren name. Strong drink will ruin any man. What is true of this leak in a man’s character is true of every other. Take indecision for example, or idleness, or love of company, or devotion to pleasure. A great merchant once said to me of a certain man in his employment, “I would to-morrow give that man a thousand a year to begin with, if he could do one thing, and that is, hold his tongue; but he would no sooner get the appointment than he would go into an ale-house, and tell the whole company everything I am doing.” There is the leak in the character, and it means ruin! It is astounding what one leak will do.

2. Zimri still lives in all persons who take advantage of the weaknesses of others. Zimri knew that Elah was a drunkard, and he further knew that through his habit of drunkenness alone he could reach the king. On every other side of his character Elah may have been a strong man: acute, shrewd, far-sighted; but when in drink, weak and foolish. And Zimri played his game accordingly. Some people trade on the weaknesses of others. They study them. Thy adapt themselves to them. They watch for striking time, and seldom miss the mark. How else could the net be always ready for the bird? How else the pit be always prepared for the unexpected and bewildered traveller? There is an infernal science in these things--a devil’s black art!

3. And does not Arza still live in those who find the means whereby men may conceal their evil habits and indulge their unholy desires? They seem to say, “In my house you may do what you please. I shall not look at you. Come when you please; go when you like; I am nobody, if you like to call me so.” My wonder is that any young man can keep his morals uncorrupted in a strange city. Houses of destruction are open in every street. How foolish, too, are the wicked! If they would devote their talents to some virtuous end they would attain honourable success, sweetened with a sense of honesty. They often have great talents, fine powers, large capacities, and if they gave themselves with ardour and energy to the pursuit of good ends they would outrun many, and gain a prize worthy and lasting. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Verses 11-34

Verse 22

1 Kings 16:22

So Tibni died, and Omri reigned.

Tibni and Omri

We have often been struck by the difference in the lot of men upon the earth; for example, as between the rich man and Lazarus, and between the great king and the poor wise man. The text brings these differences before us sharply--“Tibni died, and Omri reigned.” A short explanatory story is needed here. When Zimri killed Elah, the people proclaimed Omri as king; but the proclamation was not unanimous; half of the people wanted Tibni, and half wanted Omri: the half that wanted Omri prevailed; so Tibni died, and Omri reigned. Our purpose is to show that both Tibni and Omri are still living, and that we may learn a good deal from their different lots in life.

1. Tibni and Omri are both living in the persons of those who divide public opinion respecting themselves. Is there any man living with whom everybody is satisfied? Take a Christian minister--any minister in this great London, and see how public opinion is divided about him. To one set of men he is the supreme human teacher; to another set of men he is almost unfit to be in the pulpit at all. Take a statesman; to one class he is the salvation of the kingdom, to another he is an empiric, a traitor, or in some degree a political rascal. Take any friend in social life; to one man he is an idol, to another he is bore. There are great moral lessons coming out of these simple facts. Society will always be divided about its leading men; but let us insist that there may be difference without bitterness, and that you may make one man king without taking away the character and perhaps the life of his rival. Let us pray God to show us the best points in every man s character.

2. Tibni still lives in the man who comes very near being a king but just misses the throne. Half the people in the camp were in his favour. In some of the popular shouts you could hardly tell whether Tibni or Omri was the uppermost name. Now the one seemed to fill the whole wind and now the other. The men themselves did not know for certain which of them was to have the crown. Let us see if there be not a good deal of our own life in this apparently remote and uninteresting fact. Whatever you strive for most anxiously in life is the crown to you, because it is the thing you want beyond all others. Sometimes it is so near! You feel as if you could put out your hand and take it! And yet though so near, it is so far, like a star trembling in a pool. Here we come upon the very first lines of Providence, and the finer the lines the subtler the temptation. We are tempted to step over some lines; it seems right that we should do so; we say we ought to take advantage of our good fortune, and if God has come so near He means us to take the one last step. It is just there that many a man suffers the supreme trial of his faith and the supreme agony of his sensibilities. We have referred to the supreme trial of a man’s sensibilities; let us explain our meaning. We often say of this man or that, How narrowly he escapes being a great man! There is only one thing wanting, one element, one force, one virtue--one thing thou lackest, one thing is needful! And the man himself is tormented by a sense of greatness which is always nearing the point of royalty but never absolutely reaching it. He feels that the great poem which would give him literary immortality is breathing within him and around him, but the moment he puts pen to paper the inspiration ceases and will not harden into words. He has m him strange wild dreamings of power; he can write a book, he can found a new school of philosophy, he can illumine the whole horizon of theology, he can save the State; innumerable things he attempts and completes in his dreams, but the day of execution never dawns! It is in such men that Tibni still lives; in disappointed hearts, in blighted hopes, in brilliant prospects overcast, in kingdoms made of cloud, in castles built in air.

3. Omri still lives in those who turn great powers and great openings to dishonourable and unholy uses. Omri got the throne. For twelve years he reigned in Israel, six of them in Tirzah. His rival died, and he was left in undisputed sovereignty. But his way was not honourable before the Lord. “Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all that were before him.” Some providences seem to be altogether thrown away, and we stand aghast at the destruction, saying, “Why was this waste made?” Great talents are made to serve the devil; great voices of song are never heard in the sanctuary; noble powers of speech are dumb when the righteous cause has to be pleaded. Application:

Verse 28

1 Kings 16:28

Omri slept with his fathers . . . Ahab his son reigned in his stead.

Omri and Ahab

A careful study of the two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, compels one to feel that communities do the best when they most honour God, and that forgetfulness of Him, and especially revolt from Him, brings disturbance and destruction. It is true these events transpired more than two thousand five hundred years ago, but they “are written for our learning.” Why should they be if there is nothing that we need to learn from them?

1. We need not trouble ourselves with the settling of the periods making up the dozen years of Omri’s reign, which had its opening portion in Tirzah, the royal seat (1 Kings 16:17). Omri had ability of a certain sort, and hence, probably, was able to secure the adhesion of so many of the people and the conquest of his two rivals. He showed it in the selection of a new capital. Shemer owned a tract of land with a hill of great strategic value. With an opening out into the wider distant plain through the level grounds which divided it elsewhere, all around, from the mountains, it had on one side a gentle slope, and on all the others it was easily made strong against an enemy, when bows and arrows and spears constituted the common weapons of assault. The town got its name from him who owned the hill, and most fitly, for it was the synonym of “watch-tower,” the very thing at which Omri aimed, having in mind through the slaughter of how many enemies he had to wade to the throne, and how necessary it was to be strong against any future assaults. They who part with Jehovah as Guide and Protector, and trust to human resources, need to multiply these to the utmost. Jeroboam had not flung off God formally. He had only modified the way of serving Him. He had set up the calves. This was politic, expedient, necessary. It was in harmony too with the ways of the nations. This was “the Way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat” (1 Kings 16:26). It was not the way of loyalty to Jehovah; it was not the way of truth. It was the way of disobedience under the inspiration of policy. Between this sin and the others that followed it was only a question of degree, not of kind. Set up taste, usage, popular craving, fashion, artistic completeness, or anything else as changing, modifying the method of Divine appointment, and you enter on the inclined plane. How far down and how fast you will go is determined by circumstances. So Omri’s working “evil in the eyes of the Lord,” and doing “worse than all that were before him” (1 Kings 16:25), is only walking in all “the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat,” and in his corrupting and contaminating sin. So it is ever. Given the supremacy of Peter, then his control of all things, secular and sacred; then his infallibility! What was the effect of all these modifications? Toward man, to keep Israel together and from union with Judah. But in the other and higher direction--toward God--the effect was “to provoke (1 Kings 16:26) the Lord God of Israel to anger with their vanities.” (See, for the “statutes of Omri,” Micah 6:16.) When Omri died, the chronicles of the kings of Israel (1 Kings 16:27) containing the record of his deeds, they buried him in his capital, Samaria, and the throne fell to his son Ahab in the thirty-eighth year of Asa of Judah (1 Kings 16:29), and about nine hundred and eighteen years before the coming of our Lord. His career is as full of darkness and weakness as a king’s life could well be. His reign of twenty-two years was a continued curse to the people. He held on the way of his father, but, according to the common rule in such cases, descending lower and lower. Moral rottenness, like material putrefaction, must increase. “Evil men and seducers wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” He married Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, King of the Zidonians. We are not surprised at the character of the daughter when we know the career of her father as it is learned from outside history. Among the innovations of Ahab our version mentions a “grove,” a misleading word into which the translators were led from its being really an idolatrous image or group of images, including the “sacred symbolic tree” so frequently seen in Assyrian monuments. That it could not be a grove, a wood, is clear from 2 Kings 22:4, where Josiah brought out “the grove”--asherah in Hebrew--from the house of the Lord. It was doubtless a new and imposing idol, in keeping with the luxurious life now being lived by the Israelites as wealth grew through commerce.

──The Biblical Illustrator