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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

1 Kings 16



Verse 25


‘Omri did worse than all that were before him.’

1 Kings 16:25

I. Omri was commander of the army that was besieging Gibbethon, when by the acclamation of the camp, he was proclaimed King of Israel. Those who know something of Roman history, will remember what tremendous power passed into the hands of the Roman legions. If the legions had a general who was a favourite, and was willing to make a bold venture for the crown, the chances were that in a few days he was Emperor. Just so, in Israel, the camp took sides with Omri. The last king, Elah, might have been an idle drunkard; but at least his murderer must not be his successor. So Omri was chosen, a man of might and valour, swift in decision, resolute in action, but lacking the one thing needful for true kingship—staunch faith in the invisible Jehovah. Now it was the twenty-seventh year of Asa, King of Judah, when Omri was chosen. And it was not till the thirty-first year that Omri reigned without a rival. That means that his first four years were years of civil war. There were fierce strifes between rival claimants for the crown. And doubtless it was in these four years of warfare, when Omri was fighting for his own hand, and for his life, that all that was bravest and kingliest in his nature shone out, to be recorded in the ‘Book of the Chronicles’ (v. 27).

II. When peace was restored, and rivals had disappeared, Omri took one bold and sagacious step.—He removed the seat of government from Tirzah, and made the city of Samaria his capital. The first capital of Israel was Shechem. That was soon changed to Tirzah, a spot so delightful that Solomon sang to his love, ‘Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah.’ In Tirzah, Omri reigned six years, and then he changed the centre to Samaria. It may be that Tirzah, for all its loveliness, was rife with disaffection and sedition. It was not unusual for a new dynasty in the East to make everything new, by choosing a new metropolis. And Omri showed something of the statesman and the soldier in choosing Samaria to be his seat. Samaria, like Tirzah, was a pleasant town. It was so strongly placed that though the Syrians besieged it twice, on neither occasion did they capture it. In the stirring lives of Elijah and Elisha we often read of Samaria. Here was the temple of Baal which Jehu shattered. Hither came the leper Naaman from Damascus.

III. But if Omri was vigorous, and resolute, and strong, he was not great in the sight of the Lord.—The dead hand of Jeroboam was upon him. He walked in all the ways of Jeroboam. It takes a little courage to be true; it takes a certain scorn of popularity. And it was just there that Omri came to grief—the ways of Jeroboam were broad and beaten, the ways of God were, and are always, narrow. It is one of the strange things in Roman history that even Nero was remembered fondly. His bodyguard kept him in constant affection. Fresh flowers were placed on his tomb by unknown hands. Otho and Vitellius walked in the way of Nero, they copied and they carried on his vices, just as Omri and Ahab, and many another, walked in the way of Jeroboam. And when we try to imitate what is bad, do we not end by making the bad worse? So Omri, and his son Ahab who succeeded him, kept dragging the nation farther and farther down. Jeroboam made Israel sin by his example. He led them astray by tempting and alluring. But Omri proceeded to force and to compulsion. The suggestions of Jeroboam became the ‘statutes of Omri’ (Micah 6:16). And then came Ahab, most famous of all the kings, and he, under the influence of a woman, sent the nation headlong to its doom, by changing the worship of the one true God—however corrupt and impure it had become—into that of the cruel and beastly Baal and Ashtaroth.


(1) ‘Note two things here. The restlessness of those who forsake God. First Shechem, and then Tirzah, and then Samaria; first the golden calves, and from them to Baal and Ashtaroth—do you see how unstable the rebellious grow? Then mark the evil of making light of sin. To make light of any sin, however small, is to wound the love of Him Who died for us. Had Jesus of Nazareth made light of sin, He would never have borne it in His body on the tree.’

(2) ‘In the great floods in Scotland in 1829, some of the rivers went back to their ancient courses. They would have been flowing in their newer channels still, but for the havoc and devastation of the floods. And God’s judgments, like a great deep, were needed—captivities and the bitterness of death—to bring Israel back from the ways of Jeroboam to the ancient ways of the everlasting God.’

(3) ‘What a dreary record is afforded in this chapter of apostasy and revolution, of idolatry and national disaster! Perhaps the great mass of the people—the peasantry—were not greatly affected by those dynastic changes; but severe judgments of famine and drought were soon to make them also realise what an evil and bitter thing it was to desert the Fountain of living waters, and to hew out broken cisterns which could hold none.’


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Kings 16:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

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