This chapter relates wholly to the kingdom of Israel, and the
revolutions of that kingdom--many in a little time. The utter ruin of
Jeroboam's family, after it had been twenty-four years a royal family,
we read of in the foregoing chapter. In this chapter we have,
I. The ruin of Baasha's family, after it had been but twenty-six years
a royal family, foretold by a prophet
(1 Kings 16:1-7),
and executed by Zimri, one of his captains,
1 Kings 16:8-14.
II. The seven days' reign of Zimri, and his sudden fall,
1 Kings 16:15-20.
III. The struggle between Omri and Tibni, and Omri's prevalency, and
1 Kings 16:21-28.
IV. The beginning of the reign of Ahab, of whom we shall afterwards
1 Kings 16:29-32.
V. The rebuilding of Jericho,
1 Kings 16:34.
All this while, in Judah, things went well.
Ruin of Baasha's Family Foretold.
B. C. 931.
1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jehu the son of Hanani
against Baasha, saying,
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;
3 Behold, I will take away the posterity of Baasha, and the
posterity of his house; and will make thy house like the house of
Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
4 Him that dieth of Baasha in the city shall the dogs eat; and
him that dieth of his in the fields shall the fowls of the air
5 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?
6 So Baasha slept with his fathers, and was buried in Tirzah:
and Elah his son reigned in his stead.
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.
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.
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.
10 And Zimri went in and smote him, and killed him, in the
twenty and seventh year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned in his
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.
12 Thus did Zimri destroy all the house of Baasha, according to
the word of the LORD, which he spake against Baasha by Jehu the
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.
14 Now the rest of the acts of Elah, and all that he did, are
they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of
I. The ruin of the family of Baasha foretold. He was a man likely
enough to have raised and established his family--active, politic, and
daring; but he was an idolater, and this brought destruction upon his
1. God sent him warning of it before.
(1.) That, if he were thereby wrought upon to repent and reform, the
ruin might be prevented; for God threatens, that he may not strike, as
one that desires not the death of sinners.
(2.) That, if not, it might appear that the destruction when it did
come, whoever might be instruments of it, was the act of God's justice
and the punishment of sin.
2. The warning was sent by Jehu the son of Hanani. The father
was a seer, or prophet, at the same time
(2 Chronicles 16:7),
and 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. Juniores ad labores--Toil and adventure are for the
young. This Jehu was a prophet and the son of a prophet. Prophecy,
thus happily entailed, was worthy of so much the more honour. This Jehu
continued long in his usefulness, for we find him reproving Jehoshaphat
(2 Chronicles 19:2)
above forty years after, and writing the annals of that prince,
2 Chronicles 20:34.
The message which this prophet brought to Baasha is much the same with
that which Ahijah sent to Jeroboam by his wife.
(1.) He reminds Baasha of the great things God had done for him
(1 Kings 16:2):
I exalted thee out of the dust to the throne of glory, a
great instance of the divine sovereignty and power,
1 Samuel 2:8.
Baasha seemed to have raised himself by his own treachery and cruelty,
yet there was a hand of Providence in it, to bring about God's counsel,
concerning Jeroboam's house; and God's owning his advancement as his
act and deed does by no means amount to the patronising of his ambition
and treachery. It is God that puts power into bad men's hands, which
he makes to serve his good purposes, notwithstanding the bad use they
make of it. I made thee prince over my people. God calls Israel
his people still, though wretchedly corrupted, because they retained
the covenant of circumcision, and there were many good people among
them; it was not till long after that they were called Loammi, not a
(2.) He charges him with high crimes and misdemeanours,
[1.] That he had caused Israel to sin, had seduced God's
subjects from their allegiance and brought them to pay to
dunghill-deities the homage due to him only, and herein he had
walked in the way of Jeroboam
(1 Kings 16:2),
and been like his house,
1 Kings 16:7.
[2.] That he had himself provoked God to anger with the work of his
hands, that is, by worshipping images, the work of men's
hands; though perhaps others made them, yet he served them and
thereby avowed the making of them, and they are therefore called the
work of his hands.
[3.] That he had destroyed the house of Jeroboam
(1 Kings 16:7),
because he killed him, namely, Jeroboam's son and all his: if he
had done that with an eye to God, to his will and glory, and from a
holy indignation against the sins of Jeroboam and his house, he would
have been accepted and applauded as a minister of God's justice; but,
as he did it, he was only the tool of God's justice, but a servant to
his own lusts, and is justly punished for the malice and ambition which
actuated and governed him in all he did. Note, Those who are in any way
employed in denouncing or executing the justice of God (magistrates or
ministers) are concerned to do it from a good principle and in a holy
manner, lest it turn into sin to them and they make themselves
obnoxious by it.
(3.) He foretels the same destruction to come upon his family which he
himself had been employed to bring upon the family of Jeroboam,
1 Kings 16:3,4.
Note, Those who resemble others in their sins may expect to resemble
them in their plagues, especially those who seem zealous against such
sins in others as they allow themselves in; the house of Jehu was
reckoned with for the blood of the house of Ahab,
II. A reprieve granted for some time, so long that Baasha himself dies
in peace, and is buried with honour in his own royal city
(1 Kings 16:6),
so far is he from being a prey either to the dogs or to the fowls,
which yet was threatened to his house,
1 Kings 16:4.
He lives not either to see or feel the punishment threatened, yet he
was himself the greatest delinquent. Certainly there must be a future
state, in which impenitent sinners will suffer in their own persons,
and not escape, as often they do in this world. Baasha died under no
visible stroke of divine vengeance for aught that appears, but God
laid up his iniquity for his children, as Job speaks,
Thus he often visits sin. Observe, Baasha is punished by the
destruction of his children after his death, and his children are
punished by the abuse of their bodies after their death; that is the
only thing which the threatening specifies
(1 Kings 16:4),
that the dogs and the fowls of the air should eat them, as if herein
were designed a tacit intimation that there are punishments after
death, when death has done its worst, which will be the sorest
punishments and are most to be dreaded; these judgments on the body and
posterity signified judgments on the soul when separated from the body,
by him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into
III. Execution done at last. Baasha's son Elah, like Jeroboam's son
Nadab, reigned two years, and then was slain by Zimri, one of his own
soldiers, as Nadab was by Baasha; so like was his house made to that of
Jeroboam, as was threatened,
1 Kings 16:3.
Because his idolatry was like his, and one of the sins for which God
contended with him being the destruction of Jeroboam's family, the more
the destruction of his own resembled that, the nearer did the
punishment resemble the sin, as face answers to face in a glass.
1. As then, so now, the king himself was first slain, but Elah fell
more ingloriously than Nadab. Nadab was slain in the field of action
and honour, he and his army then besieging Gibbethon
(1 Kings 15:27);
but the siege being then raised upon that disaster, and the city
remaining still in the Philistines' hands, the army of Israel was now
renewing the attempt
(1 Kings 16:15)
and Elah should have been with them to command in chief, but he loved
his own ease and safety better than his honour or duty, or the public
good, and therefore staid behind to take his pleasure; and, when he was
drinking himself drunk in his servant's house, Zimri killed him,
1 Kings 16:9,10.
Let it be a warning to drunkards, especially to those who designedly
drink themselves drunk, that they know not but death may surprise them
in that condition.
(1.) Death comes easily upon men when they are drunk. Besides the
chronic diseases which men frequently bring themselves into by hard
drinking, and which cut them off in the midst of their days, men in
that condition are more easily overcome by an enemy, as Amnon by
Absalom, and are liable to more bad accidents, being unable to help
(2.) Death comes terribly upon men in that condition. Finding them in
the act of sin, and incapacitated for any act of devotion, that day
comes upon them unawares
like a thief.
2. As then, so now, the whole family was cut off, and rooted out. The
traitor was the successor, to whom the unthinking people tamely
submitted, as if it were all one to them what kind they had, so that
they had one. The first thing Zimri did was to slay all the house of
Baasha; thus he held by cruelty what he got by treason. His cruelty
seems to have extended further than Baasha's did against the house of
Jeroboam, for he left to Elah none of his kinsfolks or friends
(1 Kings 16:11),
none of his avengers (so the word is), none that were likely to
avenge his death; yet divine justice soon avenged it so remarkably that
it was used as a proverb long after, Had Zimri peace who slew his
2 Kings 9:31.
(1.) The word of God was fulfilled,
1 Kings 16:12.
(2.) The sins of Baasha and Elah were reckoned for, with which they
provoked God by their vanities,
1 Kings 16:13.
Their idols are called their vanities, for they cannot profit
nor help. Miserable are those whose deities are vanities.
Zimri's Death; Reign of Omri.
B. C. 929.
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.
16 And the people that were encamped heard say, Zimri hath
conspired, and hath also slain the king: wherefore all Israel
made Omri, the captain of the host, king over Israel that day in
17 And Omri went up from Gibbethon, and all Israel with him,
and they besieged Tirzah.
18 And it came to pass, when Zimri saw that the city was taken,
that he went into the palace of the king's house, and burnt the
king's house over him with fire, and died,
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.
20 Now the rest of the acts of Zimri, and his treason that he
wrought, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of
the kings of Israel?
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.
22 But the people that followed Omri prevailed against the
people that followed Tibni the son of Ginath: so Tibni died, and
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
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,
25 But Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the LORD, and did worse
than all that were before him.
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.
27 Now the rest of the acts of Omri which he did, and his might
that he showed, are they not written in the book of the
chronicles of the kings of Israel?
28 So Omri slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria:
and Ahab his son reigned in his stead.
that for the transgression of a land many were the princes
thereof (so it was here in Israel), but by a man of
understanding the state thereof shall be prolonged--so it was with
Judah at the same time under Asa. When men forsake God they are out of
the way of rest and establishment. Zimri, and Tibni, and Omri, are here
striving for the crown. Proud aspiring men ruin one another, and
involve others in the ruin. These confusions end in the settlement of
Omri; we must therefore take him along with us through this part of the
I. How he was chosen, as the Roman emperors often were, by the army in
the field, now encamped before Gibbethon. Notice was soon brought
thither that Zimri had slain their king
(1 Kings 16:16)
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. Though he was idle and intemperate, yet he was their
king, and they would not tamely submit to his murderer, nor let the
treason go unpunished. They did not attempt to avenge the death of
Nadab upon Baasha, perhaps because the house of Baasha had ruled with
more gentleness than the house of Jeroboam; but Zimri shall feel the
resentments of the provoked army. The siege of Gibbethon is quitted
(Philistines are sure to gain when Israelites quarrel) and Zimri is
II. How he conquered Zimri, who is said to have reigned seven days
(1 Kings 16:15),
so long before Omri was proclaimed king and himself proclaimed traitor;
but we may suppose it was a longer time before he died, for he
continued long enough to show his inclination to the way of Jeroboam,
and to make himself obnoxious to the justice of God by supporting his
1 Kings 16:19.
Tirzah was a beautiful city, but not fortified, so that Omri soon made
himself master of it
(1 Kings 16:17),
forced Zimri into the palace, which being unable to defend, and yet
unwilling to surrender, he burnt, and himself in it,
1 Kings 16:18.
Unwilling that his rival should ever enjoy that sumptuous palace, he
burnt it; and fearing that if he fell into the hands of the army,
either alive or dead, he should be ignominiously treated, he burnt
himself in it. See what desperate practices men's wickedness sometimes
brings them to, and how it hurries them into 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.
III. How he struggled with Tibni, and at length got clear of him:
Half of the people followed this Tibni
(1 Kings 16:21),
probably those who were in Zimri's interest, with whom others joined,
who would not have a king chosen in the camp (lest he should rule by
the sword and a standing army), but in a convention of the states. The
contest between these two lasted some years, and, it is likely, cost a
great deal of blood on both sides, for it was in the twenty-seventh
year of Asa that Omri was first elected
(1 Kings 16:15)
and thence the twelve years of his reign are to be dated; but it was
not till the thirty-first year of Asa that he began to reign without a
rival; then Tibni died, it is likely in battle, and Omri
1 Kings 16:22.
Sir Walter Raleigh, in his History of the World (2.19.6), enquires here
why it was that in all these confusions and revolutions of the kingdom
of Israel they never thought of returning to the house of David, and
uniting themselves again to Judah, for then it was better with them
than now; and he thinks the reason was because the kings of Judah
assumed a more absolute, arbitrary, and despotic 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 the dread of that
made them ever after averse to it, and attached to kings of their own,
who ruled more by law and the rules of a limited monarchy.
IV. How he reigned when he was at length settled on the throne.
1. He made himself famous by building Samaria, which, ever after, was
the royal city of the kings of Israel (the palace at Tirzah being
burnt), and in process of time grew 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. He bought the ground for two talents
of silver, somewhat more than 700l. of our money, for a
talent was 353l. 11s. 10 1/2d. Perhaps Shemer, who
sold him the ground, let him have it considerably the cheaper upon
condition that the city should be called after his name, for otherwise
it would have borne the name of the purchaser; it was called
Samaria, or Shemeren (as it is in the Hebrew), from
Shemer, the former owner,
1 Kings 16:24.
The kings of Israel changed their royal seats, Shechem first, then
Tirzah, now Samaria; but the kings of Judah were constant to Jerusalem,
the city of God. Those that cleave to the Lord fix, but those that
leave him ever wander.
2. He made himself infamous by his wickedness; for he did worse than
all that were before him,
1 Kings 16:25.
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 superstitious, and a greater persecutor, than
either of the houses of Jeroboam or Baasha. He went further than they
had done in establishing iniquity by a law, and forcing his
subjects to comply with him in it; for we read of the statutes of Omri,
the keeping of which made Israel a desolation,
Jeroboam caused Israel to sin by temptation, example, and allurement;
but Omri did it by compulsion.
V. How he ended his reign,
1 Kings 16:27.
He was in some repute for the might which he showed. Many a bad man has
been a stout man. He died in his bed, as did Jeroboam and Baasha
themselves; but, like them, left it to his posterity to fill up the
measure, and then pay off the scores, of his iniquity.
B. C. 925.
29 And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah began
Ahab the son of Omri to reign over Israel: and Ahab the son of
Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years.
30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD
above all that were before him.
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.
32 And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal,
which he had built in Samaria.
33 And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD
God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were
34 In his days did Hiel the Beth-elite 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.
We have here the beginning of the reign of Ahab, of whom we have more
particulars recorded than of any of the kings of Israel. We have here
only a general idea given us of him, as the worst of all the kings,
that we may expect what the particulars will be. He reigned twenty-two
years, long enough to do a great deal of mischief.
I. He exceeded all his predecessors in wickedness, did evil above
all that were before him
(1 Kings 16:30),
and, as if it were done with a particular enmity both to God and
Israel, to affront him and ruin them, it is said, He did more
purposely to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger, and,
consequently, to send judgments on his land, than all the kings of
Israel that were before him,
1 Kings 16:33.
It was bad with the people when every successive king was worse than
his predecessor. What would they come to at last? 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 by it. He
thought it a light thing to walk in the sins of Jeroboam,
1 Kings 16:31.
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.
Making light of less sins makes way for greater, and those that
endeavour to extenuate other people's sins will but aggravate their
II. He married a wicked woman, who he knew would bring in the worship
of Baal, and seemed to marry her with that design. As if it had been
a light thing to walk in the sins of Jeroboam, he took to wife
(1 Kings 16:31),
a zealous idolater, extremely imperious and malicious in her natural
temper, addicted to witchcrafts and whoredoms
(2 Kings 9:22),
and every way vicious. The false prophetess spoken of
is there called Jezebel, for a wicked woman could not be called
by a worse name than hers; what mischiefs she did, and what mischief at
last befel her
(2 Kings 9:33),
we shall find in the following story; this one strange wife debauched
Israel more than all the strange wives of Solomon.
III. He set up the worship of Baal, forsook the God of Israel and
served the god of the Sidonians, Jupiter instead of Jehovah, the sun
(so some think), a deified hero of the Phoenicians (so others): he was
weary of the golden calves, and thought they had been worshipped long
enough; such vanities were they that those who had been fondest of them
at length grew sick of them, and, like adulterers, much have variety.
In honour of this mock deity, whom they called Baal--lord, and
for the convenience of his worship,
1. Ahab built a temple in Samaria, the royal city, because the temple
of God was in Jerusalem, the royal city of the other kingdom. He would
have Baal's temple near him, that he might the better frequent it,
protect it, and put honour upon it.
2. He reared an altar in that temple, on which to offer sacrifice to
Baal, by which they acknowledged their dependence upon him and sought
his favour. O the stupidity of idolaters, who are at a great expense to
make one their friend whom they might have chosen whether they would
make a god of or no!
3. He made a grove about his temple, either a natural one, by planting
shady trees there, or, if those would be too long in growing, an
artificial one in imitation of it; for it is not said he
planted, but he made a grove, something that answered the
intention, which was to conceal and so countenance the abominable
impurities that were committed in the filthy worship of Baal. Lucus,
a lucendo, quia non lucet--He that doeth evil hateth the
IV. One of his subjects, in imitation of his presumption, ventured to
build Jericho, in defiance of the curse Joshua had long since
pronounced on him that should attempt it,
1 Kings 16:34.
It comes in as an instance of the height of impiety to which men had
arrived, especially at Bethel, where one of the calves was, for of that
city this daring sinner was. Observe,
1. How ill he did. 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 known in Israel, jesting with
it perhaps as a bugbear, or fancying its force worn out by length of
time, for it was above 500 years since it was pronounced,
He went 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
contempt of God and his wrath revealed from heaven against his
2. How ill he sped. He built for his children, but God wrote him
childless; his eldest son died when he began, the youngest when he
finished, and all the rest (it is supposed) between. Note, Those whom
God curses are cursed indeed; none ever hardened his heart against God
and prospered. God keep us back from presumptuous sins, those great
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for '1 Kings' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".