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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

1 Kings 16

 

 

Verses 1-28

EXPOSITION

This division of chapters, immediately after the commencement of the narrative of the reign of Baasha, is somewhat unfortunate, inasmuch as it obscures the close connexion between the sin of Baasha and the prophecy which it provoked. The idea the historian would convey is clearly this—the analogy between the dynasty of Jeroboam and that which supplanted it,

an analogy so close that the prophet Jehu almost employs the ipsissima verba of his predecessor, Ahijah.

1 Kings 16:1

Then the word of the Lord came to Jehu, the son of Hanani [Hanani is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 16:7-10 as having admonished Asa, and as having been thrown into prison for so doing. Both he and his son would seem to have belonged to the kingdom of Judah. We find the latter in 2 Chronicles 19:2 a resident in Jerusalem, and protesting against the alliance between Jehoshaphat, whose historian he became, and whom, consequently, he must have survived (2 Chronicles 20:34), and Ahab. He is mentioned in the verse last cited as "made to ascend on the book of the kings of Israel" His prophetic career must have extended over at least half a century] against Baasha, saying,

1 Kings 16:2

Forasmuch as I exalted thee out of the dust [cf. 1 Kings 14:7; 2 Samuel 7:8; Psalms 78:70. These words assuredly point to a lowly origin. He may well have risen from the ranks], and made thee prince [The original word is used of leaders of various degrees, comprehending even the king: 1 Kings 1:35; 1 Samuel 9:16; 1 Samuel 10:1; cf. Daniel 9:25] over my people Israel [There is no approval implied here of the means by which Baasha had raised himself to the throne. All that is said is that he had been an instrument in God's hands, and owed his throne to God's sanction and ordering. Even his conspiracy and cruelties had been overruled to the furtherance of the Divine purpose], and thou hast walked in the way of Jeroboam, and hast made my people Israel to sin, to provoke me to anger [better vex, one word] with their sins;

1 Kings 16:3

Behold, I will take away [Heb. exterminate; same word as in 1 Kings 14:10 (where see note); 1 Kings 21:21; 1 Kings 22:47, etc.] the posterity of [Heb. after] Baasha, and the posterity of [after] his house, and will make thy house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. [Cf. 1 Kings 15:29; 1 Kings 21:22, etc.]

1 Kings 16:4

Him that dieth of [Heb. to; see note on 1 Kings 14:11] Baasha in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth of his in the fields shall the fowls of the air eat. [It may be these words, like those of the next two verses, were almost a formula, but if so, it is noticeable that precisely the same formula was used of Jeroboam a few years before, and Baasha knew well how it had been accomplished. "All the prophets in succession have the same message from God for the same sins" (Wordsworth).]

1 Kings 16:5

Now the rest of the acts of Baasha, and what he did, and his might [as to which see 1 Kings 15:17-21. He could hardly have given a stronger proof of his might than by fortifying a post but five miles distant from Jerusalem. Keil, however, would interpret the word, both here and in 1 Kings 15:23, of his energy and strength in government. Better Bähr, tapfere Thaten. Ewald hence infers that Baasha was "a man of distinguished bravery"], are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?

1 Kings 16:6

So Baasha slept with his fathers, and was buried in Tizrzah [cf. 1 Kings 15:21, 1 Kings 15:33. This place is twice mentioned as his residence], and Elah his son reigned in his stead. [It is perhaps more than a mere coincidence that this uncommon name, Elah ("terebinth," see note on 1 Kings 13:14), is also the name of the great valley (1 Samuel 17:2, 1 Samuel 17:19; 1 Samuel 21:9) near to Gibbethon, where Baasha was proclaimed king.]

1 Kings 16:7

And also by the hand of the prophet Jehu, the son of Hanani, came the word of the Lord against Baasha [This does not refer, as some have thought, to a second prophecy on Jehu's part, but is rather explicative of 1 Kings 16:2. Rawlinson thinks the object of the historian herein was to point out that Baasha was punished for the "murder of Jeroboam [?] and his family," as well as for the calf worship. Keil and Bähr hold that it is designed to guard against a perversion of 1 Kings 16:2, "I made thee prince," etc; from which it might be inferred that he was commissioned of God to murder Nadab. But it is simpler to suppose that his primary idea was to convey, by this repetition, which no doubt is derived from a different source from the statement of 1 Kings 16:2, that Baasha was visited by God for his various sins. It was no chance that happened to him. The excision of his house, like that of Jeroboam, was distinctly foretold], 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 [1 Kings 16:2; note the coincidence with 1 Kings 15:30, in connexion with the next words. Bähr explains "the works of his hands "as idols, Dii factitii, after Deuteronomy 4:28, but this appears somewhat far fetched], in being like the house of Jeroboam, and because he killed him [i.e; Nadab].

The Reign of Elah.

1 Kings 16:8

In the twenty and sixth year of Asa, king of Judah, began Elah, son of Baasha, to reign over Israel, two years [cf. 1 Kings 15:1-34. and see note on 1 Kings 15:28].

1 Kings 16:9

And his servant [Not only "subject," as Rawlinson, but officer. The same word is used of Jeroboam; 1 Kings 11:26, note. We may almost trace here a lex talionis. Baasha was Nadab's "servant," as Jeroboam was Solomon's] Zimri [From the occurrence of this name among those of the descendants of Jonathan (1 Chronicles 8:36), it has been supposed (Stanley) that this was a last effort of the house of Saul to regain the throne], captain of half his chariots [ רֶכֶב as in 1 Kings 9:19; 1 Kings 10:26. The violation of the law of Deuteronomy 17:16 brings its own retribution], conspired against him [precisely as Elah's father had "conspired "(1 Kings 15:27) against Nadab], as he was in Tirzah drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza, steward of [Heb. which was over; cf. 1 Kings 4:6; 1 Kings 18:3; 2 Kings 10:5; 2 Kings 18:37] his house in Tirzah. [Several points present themselves for notice here.

1 Kings 16:10

And Zimri went in [cf. 3:20; 2 Samuel 4:7] and smote him and killed him in the twenty and seventh year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned in his stead. [Cf. 1 Kings 15:28 and 2 Kings 15:1-38 :93. It is curious how it happened three times in the history of Israel that "the only powerful prince in a new dynasty was its founder, and after his son and successor reigned two years, the power passed into other hands" (Ewald).]

The Reign of Zimri.

1 Kings 16:11

And it came to pass when he began to reign, as soon as he sate on his throne, that he slew all the house of Baasha [see note on 1 Kings 15:29. The LXX. Vat. omits the rest of this verse and the first clause of 1 Kings 15:12]: he left him not one that pisseth against a wall [i.e; not a boy. See 1 Kings 14:10 note], neither of [Heb. and] his kinsfolks [The גֹּאֵל is strictly the person to whom

And this being the next of kin (Ruth 2:12, Ruth 2:13), the word came to mean near relative, kinsman, as here; cf. Ruth 2:20. All the same, it discloses to us Zimri's object, which was to destroy the avenger of blood. And it shows (in connexion with Ruth 2:16) that none of Baasha's children, if he had other children, had gone to the war], nor of his friends. [Zimri went a step farther than Baasha had gone. He was not content with extirpating the royal family, but put to death the partizans of the house, all who would be likely to sympathize with Elah or to resent his murder.]

1 Kings 16:12

Thus did Zimri destroy an the house of Baasha, according to the word of the Lord which he spake against Baasha, by [Heb. in the hand of] Jehu the prophet [Verses 1, 7; cf. 1 Kings 15:29. The analogy is now complete],

1 Kings 16:13

For [ אֶל corresponds with the עַל of 1 Kings 16:7 = propter; cf. 1 Kings 14:5; 1 Kings 21:22] 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 [the formula of 1 Kings 15:30, etc.] with their vanities. [The calves, not idols, are referred to here. Cf. Deuteronomy 32:21; 1 Corinthians 8:4. The same idea is embodied in the word Bethaven; Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:8.]

1 Kings 16:14

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 Israel?

1 Kings 16:15

In the twenty and seventh year of Asa king of Judah did Zimri reign [The same word elsewhere translated in A.V. began to reign. It is really an aorist = succeeded to the throne] seven days in Tirzah. And the people were encamped [Heb. encamping] against Gibbethon, which belonged to the Phistines. [It has at first sight a suspicious look that two kings of Israel, within an interval of about twenty-five years, should have been slain by conspirators during a siege of this place. But when the narrative is examined, its probability and consistency become at once apparent. Stanley assumes that the siege lasted over the whole of this period, but it is more likely that when Baasha found himself king, he discovered that he had domestic matters enough upon his hands, without a foreign war, and so he raised the siege. It is very probable that he feared opposition such as Zimri and Omri subsequently experienced. And his wars with Asa and with Syria may well have prevented his renewing the undertaking. On the accession of Elah, however, with the usual ambition and impetuosity of youth, it was decided to recommence the siege and to win this city back for Israel. But the fate of Nadab, and the consequent ill omen attaching to the place would not be forgotten, and this, as well as his voluptuous habits, may have deterred the fainéant Elah from besieging it in person, while the conspiracy which marked the former siege may at the same time have suggested to Zimri and others the thought of conspiring against Elah.]

1 Kings 16:16

And the people that were encamped heard say, Zimri hath conspired, and hath also slain the king: wherefore all Israel [obviously, all the army. Cf. 1 Kings 12:1, 1 Kings 12:16, 1 Kings 12:18] made Omri, the captain of the host, king over Israel that day in the camp. It was hardly likely they would submit to the usurpation of Zimri. Not only had he occupied a subordinate position, but his murder of all Elah's friends must have made him a host of enemies in the camp. It was the natural thing for them, therefore, to turn to Omri. He had the advantage of being in possession. The captain of the host stood next to the king (2 Kings 4:13; 2 Samuel 5:8; 2 Samuel 19:13; 2 Samuel 20:23), and twice stepped into his place (2 Kings 9:5). This history has many parallels in that of the Roman empire.]

1 Kings 16:17

And Omri went up from Gibbethon ["The expression, 'went up,' accurately marks the ascent of the army from the Shephelah, where Gibbethon was situated, to the hill country of Israel, on the edge of which Tirzah stood" (Rawlinson)], and all Israel [see on 1 Kings 16:16] with him, and they besieged Tirzah. [It is probable that they arrived before the city on the sixth or seventh day after the assassination of Elah. This period would just allow sufficient time for the news of the conspiracy to travel to Gibbethon and for the march of the army.]

1 Kings 16:18

And it came to pass, when Zimri saw that the city was taken [the meaning is probably that which Josephus gives: "When he saw that the city had none to defend it," or possibly, "when he saw that a breach was made"], that he went into the palace [ אַרְמוֹן citadel, fortress, from אָרַם altus fuit. So Gesen; Keil, Bight, al. The palace, no doubt, consisted of a string of buildings (1 Kings 7:2-9) of which this was the highest and strongest part. Ewald thinks that the harem—a word which has almost the same radicals―or women's apartment, is meant—the most secluded portion of the great palace (Josephus understands it to mean "the inmost part"), and hence infers, as also from 2 Kings 9:31, that the women of the palace had willingly submitted to the effeminate murderer of their lord, and that even the queen-mother had made advances towards him. But, as Bight remarks there is nothing of this in the text, and Zimri's desperate act rather shows daring and contempt of death than effeminacy or sensuality. And 2 Kings 15:25 (cf. Psalms 122:7) seems to point to a stronghold rather than a seraglio] of the king's house, and burnt the king's house [probably the palace which Jereboam had built. Ewald thinks it was this structure gave Tirzah its reputation for beauty; Song of Solomon 6:4] over him with fire [According to the Syriac, the besiegers set fire to the palace. Similarly Jarchi. But the text is decisive. The parallel deed of Sardanapalus will occur to all readers. Rawlinson also refers to Herod. 1:176, and 7:107], and died. [This word is intimately connected with the verse following. But there is no need to rearrange the verses. The text, as it stands, conveys clearly enough that Zimri's tragical death was a retribution for his sins. Bähr remarks that of Elah and Zimri we learn nothing, apart from the fact that they held to the sin of Jeroboam, except how they died.]

1 Kings 16:19

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. [It is quite clear that in his reign of one week Zimri cannot have done much to show his complicity in the schism of Jeroboam, and it is probable that the sacred writer means that his character and antecedents were such as to prove that all his sympathies were with the irreligious party. Bähr thinks that he had "formerly displayed much partiality for the calf worship." But it is quite as likely that the idea in the historian's mind was that all these events were the bitter fruits of Jeroboam's misguided and impious policy, into the spirit of which, Zimri, like his predecessors, had been baptized. It is interesting to remember here the aspect these repeated revolutions and assassinations would wear to the kingdom of Judah, then enjoying quietness and prosperity under Asa. We cannot doubt for a moment that they were regarded as so many manifestations of the righteous judgment of God, and as the outcomes of that spirit of insubordination and impiety which, in their eyes, had brought about both the division of the kingdom and the schism in the church.]

1 Kings 16:20

Now the rest of the acts of Zimri [We see here the tendency of the historian to express himself in formulae. He checks himself, however, and does not add "and all that he did," etc.], and his treason that he wrought [Heb. his conspiracy which he conspired. Though this was all there was to tell of him, yet no doubt it would be recorded at greater length by the historians of the day. We can hardly suppose that the "books of the words of the days" would dismiss so striking an event in a few sentences], are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?

The Interregnum.

1 Kings 16:21

Then were the people of Israel divided into two parts: halt of the people followed [lit; was after. Same expression 2 Samuel 2:10; cf. 1 Kings 1:7] Tibni the son of Ginath [Who he was, or why he was set up in opposition to Omri, it is impossible to say. It has been supposed that the army was divided in its preferences, and that part of the soldiery wished to make Tibni king, and this is perhaps the most probable conjecture. It is to be considered that the entire army was not encamped before Gibbethon. Nor are 1 Kings 1:16, 1 Kings 1:17 fatal to this view, as Bähr maintains, because "all Israel" there clearly means all the army under the command of Omri. It is hardly likely that Tibni was set up by the people of Tirzah, after the death of Zimri, to continue the struggle. The only thing that is certain is that,the hereditary principle being overthrown, the crown appeared to be the legitimate prize of the strongest; and Tibni, who may have occupied a position of importance, or have had, somehow, a considerable following, resolved that Omri should not wear it without a fierce contest], to make him king [Omri had been already made king, i.e; anointed, 1 Kings 1:16]; and half renewed Omri.

1 Kings 16:22

But the people that followed Omri prevailed against the people that followed Tibni the son of Ginath [It appears, however, from the following verse that the struggle lasted four years]: so Tibni died [According to Jos; Ant. 8.12. § 5, he was slain by the conqueror. The LXX. has here a curious and probably genuine addition. "And Thabni died, and Joram his brother at that time], and Omri reigned. [The jingle of the Hebrew words is probably designed.]

The Reign of Omri.

1 Kings 16:23

In the thirty and first year of Asa, king of Judah began Omri to reign over Israel, twelve years [As Omri was proclaimed king in the twenty-seventh and died in the thirty-eighth year of Asa (cf. 1 Kings 16:15, 1 Kings 16:29), he cannot in any case have reigned twelve full years; whereas if his reign is to be dated, as it is here, from the thirty-first year of Asa, it is obvious that he would only have reigned seven, or, according to the Jewish mode of reckoning, eight years. Rawlinson proposes to get over the difficulty by rearranging the text. He would attach the first clause of this verse to 1 Kings 16:22, and read, "And Omri reigned in the thirty-first," etc. But to this there are two serious objections. First, that 1 Kings 16:23, as it now stands, only follows the usual formula with which a new reign is announced (cf. 1 Kings 16:8, 1 Kings 16:15, 1 Kings 16:29); and, second, it is extremely doubtful whether any prose sentence in the Hebrew ever begins as 1 Kings 16:23 would then do, "Reigned Omri over Israel twelve years." Such a sentence would certainly be quite alien to the usus loquendi of our author. We are therefore reduced to the conclusion either

Of these suppositions perhaps

1 Kings 16:24

And he bought [i.e; after the six years just mentioned. During the four years of anarchy Omri would seem to have retained possession of the capital which he had taken (1 Kings 16:18) on Zimri's death. But the palace being burnt and the defences perhaps weakened by the siege, he determined, rather than rebuild it, to found a capital elsewhere] the hill Samaria [Heb. Shomeron, called by Herod Sebaste, whence its modern name Sebustieh. In his selection of Samaria for the seat of government, Omri acted with singular judgment. It has been said that "Shechem is the natural capital of Palestine," and no doubt it enjoys a commanding position and great advantages, but Samaria has even superior recommendations. It is a site with which no traveller can fail to be deeply impressed. Even Van de Velde, who says, "I do not agree with Dr. Robinson and other writers who follow him that the mountain of Samaria presents so admirable a combination of strength, fertility, and beauty, that the like is hardly to be found in Palestine", nevertheless readily allows its superiority to Tirzah, and remarks on the strength of its position. "Many travellers have expressed a conviction that the spot was in most respects much preferable to the site of Jerusalem" (Kitto). It is a large oval or oblong mound, with a level surface, adapted for buildings, with steep sides to make its position impregnable, and surrounded by an amphitheatre of hills. "Samaria is in a position of great strength; and must before the invention of gunpowder have been almost impregnable. It stands some 400 feet above the valley, the sides of the hill being steep and terraced in every direction for cultivation, or perhaps for defensive purposes.. broad and open valleys stretch north and south, and the hill is thus almost isolated," Conder, p. 47, who adds, "Strategical reasons may be supposed to have dictated the choice of the capital of Omri, for on the north the hill commands the main road to Jezreel over a steep pass, on the west it dominates the road to the coast, and on the east that to the Jordan". Grove speaks of "the singular beauty of the spot," and Stanley justly sees in the selection of this spot a proof of Omri's sagacity. But perhaps the best proof is that which the subsequent history supplies. Shechem and Tirzah had each been tried, and each in turn had been abandoned. But Samaria continued to be the capital so long as the kingdom lasted] of Shemer for two talents of silver [variously estimated at £500 and £800. This purchase, obviously of the freehold, i.e; in perpetuity, was in contravention of the law of Le 25:23. David had bought the threshing floor of Ornan, but that was

It has been suggested that this purchase may have inspired Ahab with the idea of buying the vineyard of Naboth], and built on [Heb. built] the hill and called the name of the city which he built, after the name of Shemer, owner of the hill, Samaria. [It is not improbable that the vendor bargained that the land should retain his name (cf. Psalms 49:11). The reluctance of the Israelite to part with his patrimony, even to the king, is brought out very strikingly in ch. 21. Shemer, in selling his choice parcel of land for a capital, might well wish to connect his name with it. The fact that שֹׁמְרוֹן means watch mountain (Gesen.), and that we should have expected a name formed from Shemer to take the form Shimron—Shomeron would strictly imply an original Shomer—is not by any means a proof that our historian is at fault in his derivation. For, in the first place, the names Shomer and Shemer are used of the same person in 1 Chronicles 7:32, 1 Chronicles 7:34. And secondly, nothing would be more in accordance with Jewish ideas than that Omri, in naming the hill after its owner, should give a turn to the word which would also express at the same time its characteristic feature. A pun, or play upon word, was the form which wit assumed amongst the Semitic races, and the form Shomeron would at once perpetuate the memory of Shemer, and express the hope and purpose of Omri. It is a curious fact that the later Samaritans did play upon this very word, representing themselves as guardians ( שֹּׁמְרִים ) of the law (Ewald). The Greek form of the name, σαμάρεια, would seem to have been derived through the Chaldee שִׁמְרָיִן as found in Ezra 4:10, Ezra 4:17.]

1 Kings 16:25

But Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all that were before him. [It has been thought that Micah 6:16 ("the statutes of Omri, etc.") points to a fresh departure from the Jewish faith; to the organization of the calf worship into a regular formal system, or to "measures for more competely isolating the people of Israel from the services of the house of the Lord at Jerusalem" (Kitto).

1 Kings 16:26

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.

1 Kings 16:27

Now the rest of the acts of Omri which he did, and his might that he showed [Not only in the war with Tibni, but certainly in the subjugation of the Moabites, of which mention is made in the recently discovered Moabite stone. He may well have had other wars, which, like this, have escaped notice in Scripture. If the king of Syria spoke truly (1 Kings 20:34), the war with that power had been extremely disastrous. Yet the Assyrian inscriptions prove that Omri's name was more widely and permanently known in the East than those of his predecessors or successors. Samaria, for example, down to the time of Tiglath-Pileser, appears as Beth Khumri, the "house of Omri;" Athaliah,the daughter of Ahab, is called a daughter of Omri; and Jehu appears in the Black Obelisk Inscription as "the son of Omri". It is perhaps an evidence of "his might" that his dynasty retained the throne to the third generation], are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? [1 Kings 16:26, 1 Kings 16:27 are an exact repetition, mutatis mutandis, of 1 Kings 13:14; cf. 15:80.]

1 Kings 16:28

So Omri slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria [After the example of earlier kings, he found a grave in his capital city; cf. 1 Kings 2:10; 1 Kings 11:43; 1 Kings 14:31; 1 Kings 16:16]: and Ahab his son reigned In his stead.

HOMILETICS

1 Kings 16:29

The Punishment of Jeroboam's Sin.

We have already considered the true character of Jeroboam's sin It now remains for us to observe, first, the punishment which it provoked, and secondly, its workings in later generations. And its punishment was so great and so varied that it will of itself occupy the rest of this homily.

But let us remember, in the first place, that there were two parties to this sin. Jeroboam sinned himself and also "made Israel to sin." King and people alike were involved in the schism. If the one suggested it, the other embraced it. Originating with the former, it was approved and perpetuated by the latter. There were two parties, consequently, to the punishment. That was impartially shared between sovereign and subjects. We have to consider, therefore—

I. THE RETRIBUTION WHICH BEFELL THE ROYAL HOUSE.

II. THE RETRIBUTION WHICH OVERTOOK THE PEOPLE AT LARGE.

I. And in considering the pain and loss in which this sin involved those who sate upon the throne of Israel, we must discriminate between Jeroboam and his successors. Jeroboam was the prime, but not the only offender. If he was the author, subsequent kings were continuators of the schism. And as he had his punishment, so they had theirs. Let us therefore take account first of the sorrows and sufferings of the heresiarch, Jeroboam. Amongst these were the following:

1. The foreknowledge that his kingdom would be overthrown. This dismal foreboding must have clouded all his reign, for it dated from the day of that first sacrifice at Bethel. Then he learnt that a child of David's house should cover his schemes and memory with disgrace. He knew that the dynasty he had founded should not endure, and moreover that he was the author of its ruin, and he knew that others knew it too. "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." What shall we say of the crowned head disquieted by such forebodings as these?

2. The foretaste of the destruction of his family. As he had learnt from the man of God of the triumph of his rival and the dishonour of his priesthood, so he learnt from Ahijah of the excision of his family. This ambitious prince knew that his posterity would be swept away like dung, would be devoured like carrion. And he was assured of this, not only by prophetic word and by signs following, but he had an earnest thereof in the death of his firstborn. He knew that that was but "the beginning of the end." It was a sharp pang, but it was the lightest part of his punishment (1 Kings 14:13).

3. Remorse and vexation. He could not fail to compare the two messages of Ahijah (1 Kings 11:31-39; 1 Kings 14:7-16). The first gave him dominion over ten tribes. The second left him neither subject nor survivor. God had promised to "build him a sure house." God now threatens him and his with annihilation. And why this change? He knew why it was. "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance." It was because of the calves (1 Kings 14:9). How he must have repented that piece of folly and faithlessness: how he must have cursed his infatuation—the more inexcusable, as he had the example of Solomon before him. It is possible that this remorse was so poignant that it shortened his days; that it was thus "the Lord struck him, and he died" (2 Chronicles 13:20).

4. The shameful murder of his family. We can readily believe that a parvenu like Jeroboam, a servant who had raised himself to the throne, would have been content to suffer for the rest of his days, if thereby he could have averted the dishonour of his name and the destruction of his posterity—of all evils the greatest in the eyes of a Jew. But no; he foresaw that butchery awaited his nearest and dearest, and he had not slept long in his grave before the knife of Baasha was at his children's throats. And this murder of his posterity, though after the manner of Eastern despotisms, would seem to have been marked by circumstances of peculiar cruelty (1 Kings 16:7). It was so truculent that it brought down vengeance on the instrument. Our history gives no details, but it is easy to picture the divans dripping with blood, the corridors choked with the corpses of Jeroboam's wife and children. The annals of Turkey and other Eastern kingdoms would supply many illustrations of this deed.

5. His own untimely end. For he died by the visitation of God—by a stroke of some kind or other. He may have perished like Antiochus Epiphanes, like Sylla, like Herod, like Philip of Spain. Or, like our Henry the First, he may have never smiled again after his son's death, but steadily drooped to his grave. Somehow his life was cut short. "The wicked shall be silent in darkness."

Such, then, was the fourfold penalty which Jeroboam paid for his sin. Let us now consider the punishment which befell his successors, who "walked in his way" and "departed not" from his heresy. We may trace it—

1. In the shortness of their reigns. Nadab, Elah, Ahaziah, all reigned two years. Zimri one week. None of the kings of Israel reigned like David and Solomon, or like Asa and other kings of Judah. In the 250 years that the kingdom of Israel lasted, nineteen kings occupied the throne, as against eleven kings of Judah. Asa saw seven kings in turn rise and fall during his reign; Uzziah saw six; and we have but to remember that long life was one of the principal sanctions of the Mosaic dispensation to be assured that these brief reigns were a manifestation of the righteous judgment of God.

2. In the revolution and assassination which often closed them. In these 250 years the dynasty was changed no less than seven times, and we know what a change of dynasty meant, in that and a later age. It was one of its traditions that "the man was a fool who when he slew the father spared the children." Six times this tragedy of Tirzah was repeated. Once an unhappy prince, to escape the butchery awaiting him, devoted himself and his household to the flames. Once seventy ghastly heads, in two heaps at the city gate, witnessed to the work of extermination.

II. But now let us note the share of the people in this dispensation of suffering. What befell the priests who ministered at Dan and Bethel—what the worshippers who resorted thither? They or their children suffered these six penalties at least.

1. Misgovernment. Of the kings of Israel there was not one who did not "do evil" in the sight of the Lord. By which we are not only to understand that he worshipped the calves; oppression, exactions, intolerable cruelties may be comprehended under the words. The case of Naboth (1 Kings 21:1-29.) was probably not the only one of its kind. We may be sure, too, that when Elah was drinking himself drunk, injustice was being practised in his name. Incapacity—on the part of the king—may have been the cause of some insurrections, but oppression is a much more .probable reason. We know what Rome was like when the purple fell to military adventurers. Probably Israel fared no better at the hands of its Baashas, Omris, and Menahems. What suffering a change of dynasty involved on the people we may gather from 2 Kings 15:16. An Eastern kingdom at the best was a despotism, at the worst a devildom.

2. Civil war. The four years' struggle between Omri and Tibni and their respective partisans, which was a war to the death (1 Kings 16:22), entailed no less miseries on the country than civil war always does. Lands ravaged, homesteads fired, women violated—these were some of its incidents. It has been said that no one can give any adequate description of a battle. What shall be said of a battle lasting over four years? for in a country not so large as Yorkshire civil strife would mean unceasing conflict.

3. Invasion.

Shishak was primarily appointed to chastise Judah, Syria was the lash of Israel. Observe that in the invasion of 2 Kings 13:4, 2 Kings 13:19, Bethel was captured by the men of Judah, whilst in that of 2 Kings 15:20, Dan—Jeroboam's other shrine—was among the first to suffer. The priests of Dan and the inhabitants of the surrounding territory, the worshippers at its temple, bore the brunt of Benhadad's invasion. But the bands of Syria were always invading the land (ch. 20; 2 Kings 6:1-33.) And many a "little maid" (2 Kings 5:2) was carried off to dishonour.

"Many a childing mother then

And newborn baby died."

What a picture of the horrors of war have we in 2 Kings 8:12. Yet such horrors must have been of common occurrence in Israel. And they culminated in the sack of Samaria and the captivity of the nation.

4. Loss of territory. Israel was "cut short" (2 Kings 10:1-36 :82). In 2 Kings 1:1 (cf. 1 Kings 3:5) Moab rebels. Syria, its great adversary, was once an appanage of Israel. Now Israel is made a dependency of Assyria (2 Kings 15:19, 2 Kings 15:20).

5. Famine. It was the Lord called for this (2 Kings 8:1). It was one of His "sore judgments" (Ezekiel 14:13, Ezekiel 14:21). And it would seem to have been almost chronic in Israel (cf. 1 Kings 17:1, 1 Kings 17:12; 1 Kings 18:2; 2 Kings 4:38; 2 Kings 6:25 sqq.; 7.; 2 Kings 8:1). And the terrible straits to which the people were reduced thereby may be inferred from 2 Kings 6:25, 2 Kings 6:29; cf. Deuteronomy 28:56, Deuteronomy 28:57.

6. Captivity. For the carrying away beyond Babylon into the cities of the Modes was part of the reckoning for Jeroboam's sin, and for the allied sin of idolatry (1 Kings 14:15; 2 Kings 17:22, 2 Kings 17:23). The "carrying into captivity"—these are familiar words on our lips. But which of us can form any conception of the untold, unspeakable miseries which they cover? The gangs of prisoners tramping to Siberia give us but a faint idea. "Hermann and Dorothea" is a tale of modern times, and the flight it pictures conveys no just impression of the horrors of a wholesale transportation. When the land was swept as with a drag net (cf. 2 Kings 21:13, and compare Herod. 3:149, 2 Kings 6:31, where the manner in which the Persians carried away the population of some of the Greek islands is described), and the entire population marched in gangs across the burning plains, under brutal and lustful overseers—men in comparison with whom a "Legree" would be mildness itself—we may imagine some of the horrors of that journey, Nor did those sufferings end in the land of their captivity. Before the people was absorbed amongst the neighbouring nations, and so effaced from the page of later history, we may be pretty sure they paid a constant tribute of suffering for their sin. Vae victis, this was the unvarying law of ancient warfare, and the exiles of Assyria proved it in their own persons. Two hundred and fifty years after the schism, the seed sown by Jeroboam was still reaped in cruelty and agony and blood.

1 Kings 16:2

The Working of Jeroboam's Sin.

The punishment which Jeroboam's sin brought down upon himself, his successors, and his people, was not its worst part. Its influences upon others, the lessons of disobedience and defiance taught by that malign example, were even more disastrous. Let us now trace, as far as we can, its workings; let us see how the leaven of the calves leavened the whole lump.

1. He begat a son in his own likeness. "The evil that men do lives after them"—it lives in their children; it is inwrought into their constitution. As a rule, the child reproduces the character of the parent, the moral traits, quite as closely as the physical. There are exceptions—Abijah was one—but they help to prove the rule. He was the only exception in the house of Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:8). Fortes creantur fortibus et bonis, and the converse is equally true. Nabab, and the other children of that house, not only practised the lessons they had learned in Jeroboam's school, but they reproduced in their own persons the self will, the impatience of control, and the other faults and vices of their father. What wonder if "Nadab did evil in the sight of the Lord"? he only "walked," as the next words remind us, "in the way of his father" (1 Kings 15:26).

2. He begat a spirit of lawlessness and insubordination among his people. There are not a few indications of demoralization and corruption in Israel, corresponding with the depravation of religion. The very revolutions, which followed one afar another, are in themselves a proof of this. The chronic disaffection and the periodical upheavings of society in the northern kingdom, especially when contrasted with the quietness and security of Judah, can only be accounted for by the influences of the court. North and south were of one blood, and lived under one sky. It was because the former had been taught disobedience and disregard of constituted authority, it was because the sense of reverence and duty had been weakened by the action of Jeroboam, that it became like a reed shaken in the water—so often rebelled against its sovereigns. Jeroboam had accustomed them to play fast and loose with the commandments of Heaven; what wonder if they made small account of their obligations to their earthly king?

3. He taught Baasha, Zimri, and Omri to lift up their hands against the king. Just as David's religious veneration for the person of the "Lord's anointed" tended to make his throne and that of his successors the more secure, so did Jeroboam's rebellion (1 Kings 11:26) afford an example of aggression to later ages. His subjects were not likely to believe in the "divinity that doth hedge a king." Why should they scruple to grasp at the crown if it came within their reach? Why was Nadab more sacred than Rehoboam? Why should the son of Baasha, again, have more respect than the son of Solomon?

4. He taught his subjects, indirectly, to hold life cheap. There had been two changes of dynasty before Baasha had learned from him to attack the king and to exterminate his family, but both of these had been, so far as the royal family was concerned, bloodless. David never thought of slaying the children of Saul. His inquiry was, "Is there not yet any of the house of Saul that I may show the kindness of God unto him?" (2 Samuel 9:3.) And when "Israel rebelled against the house of David," they never contemplated a massacre of Solomon's harem, or even of insolent Rehoboam. But observe the change in succeeding revolutions. "He left not to Jeroboam any that breathed" (1 Kings 15:29; cf. 1 Kings 16:11; 2 Kings 10:11). Why this thirst of blood? It is because Jeroboam has returned from Egypt, and his godless proceedings have depraved public morality, and the restraints of law have been enfeebled, and men have grown more reckless and desperate (1 Kings 16:18, 1 Kings 16:24). It is clear to the most cursory reader that a daring impiety characterizes the whole period from Jeroboam to Hoshea, and for this "the sin of Jeroboam" is mainly responsible. That was the "first step" which makes the rest of the road easy.

5. He entailed his sin upon his successors. Of each of the kings of Israel do we read that he "walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin which he did," and we wonder, perhaps, how it was that not one of these nineteen kings, sprung as many of them were from different lineages, had the courage and the piety to retrace his steps, and revert to the primitive faith and mode of worship. But a little reflection will show that this, under the circumstances, was well nigh an impossibility. For Jeroboam had made the calf worship an integral part of the national life. It was so intertwined with the existence of Israel as a separate people, that to abandon it would be to repudiate all the traditions of the kingdom, and tacitly to acknowledge the superiority of Judah. Any king attempting such a reformation would appear to be a traitor to his country. The attempt would have provoked a second schism. No, it was clear to each monarch at his accession, if he reflected on the subject at all, that the calf worship must go on. The damnosa hereditas which he had received he must transmit. There was no place for repentance.

6. He paved the way for idolatry. Already, in 1 Kings 14:15, we find the "groves" following directly upon the calves, the images of Asherah upon the images of Jehovah. Ahab and Jezebel are not wholly responsible for the abominations of Baal and Ashtaroth. It was the daring innovations of Jeroboam had prepared the minds of men for this last and greatest violation of the law. "Man does not become base all at once." The plunge into wholesale idolatry would have been impossible, had not the deep descent to the calf worship been traversed first. Pecati poena peccatum. That, too, begets children in its own likeness. Those who despised the "tabernacle of witness" in the wilderness were given up to take up "the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of the god Remphan" (Acts 7:42, Acts 7:43). If men will not have God in their thoughts, He gives them over to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28).

7. We see his hand in the building of Jericho. It was Hiel, a Bethelite, braved the curse and rebuilt the walls and reared the gates of the city of palm trees. Here we see the influence of a prior violation of law. Whether he acted in ignorance of law, or defiance of law, it is to Jeroboam's sin the deed owed its perpetration. The law might well be forgotten which had been so completely ignored. And the subject had been encouraged to violate it by his sovereign.

8. We hear his voice in the curses of the children of Bethel. Where but at Bethel would children have dared thus to revile a prophet of the Lord? The children only reflected the impiety and hatred of their parents. And from whom had these latter learned their hatred but from the king, who "made an house of high places" there, and inaugurated the schismatic worship with his own hands? From the day when a man of God laid the city under an interdict, the prophets of Jehovah must have been unpopular at Bethel, and as the time passed by, and the breach was widened, passive dislike ripened into open scorn and hatred, and a new prophet, of whose powers they had had no experience, could not pass by without insult and defiance.

The Jews have a saying, that in all the scourgings, plagues, and chastisements which they have endured, there is not one but has in it an ounce of the dust of the golden calf which Aaron made. The saying holds equally good of the calves which Jeroboam made. There is not one of the troubles which befell both the crown and the kingdom, not one of the bitter sufferings which the ten tribes endured, but had its starting-point in the sin of Jeroboam.

HOMILIES BY J.A. MACDONALD

1 Kings 16:25-34

The Seed of Evil doers.

The subject before us furnishes illustration of the following propositions, viz.:

I. WICKED ARE THE SEED OF THE WICKED.

1. There is a sense in which this is generally true.

2. There is a sense in which this is universally true.

II. THE TRIUMPHING OF THE WICKED IS SHORT.

1. How brief was the reign of these kings!

2. How little happiness had they in their rule!

III. THE END OF THE WICKED IS DESTRUCTION.

1. This is written in history.

2. It is also written in prophecy.

HOMILIES BY J. URQUHART

1 Kings 16:25-34

God's threatenings find at last a complete fulfilment.

I. THE LAST STEP IN A CAREER OF REBELLION AND FOLLY. Nadab might have been warned. His way to the throne was opened up by God's judgment in the removal of Abijah. He must have heard of the Divine threatenings; he might have seen the evil results of his father's sin. But in the face of all these things he adopted the sinful policy of his father.

1. "He did evil in the sight of the Lord." His heart and life were estranged from God and righteousness. This is the explanation of all that follows. Contempt of the claims of revelation, and rebellion against God are but the revelation to men of a heart and life which have already grieved and provoked God.

2. He continued in a path already dark with the frown of God: "and walked in the way of his father." The son who continues in his father's sin may incur thereby a deeper guilt than his. The iniquity of it may not have been at first so fully manifested. It might have been considered and abandoned in the shadow of the father's death. As the ages roll on sins manifest themselves, and the nation which will not turn from them seals itself for destruction. Are there sins with us the evil of which we know today as we did not know before? Then the guilt of their retention is greater than that of their first commission.

3. He resolutely pursued a path which meant destruction, not .for himself only, but for an entire people: "and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin." It was nothing less than an attempt to rob God of His chosen people, and them of Him, in order that the house of Jeroboam might reign in safety. The terrible selfishness and the murderous heart of sin!

II. THE JUDGMENT.

1. He was smitten in the midst of his army. The host of his warriors could not save him. There is no place where God's hand cannot reach us.

2. He was slain, not by the Philistines, but by one of his own servants. Treachery and rebellion were visited with fitting punishment. The strict justice of the Divine vengeance. His judgments are repayments: "I will repay."

3. The Divine threatening literally fulfilled (1 Kings 16:29). God's words against sin are not lightly spoken. The end is hid from us, but His eye is resting, while He speaks, upon the woe.—J.U.

Ch. 15:33-16:7

Unrighteous Zeal.

I. SMITERS OF THE SINFUL ARE NOT NECESSARILY RIGHTEOUS (1 Kings 15:33, 44).

1. Baasha's crime. Behind the slaughter of his master and his master's house lay the threatening of God. The Divine decree seemed to legalize the crime. But God's command did not come to him, nor was he moved by righteous indignation against the sins of the house of Jeroboam. He served his own passions, and it was sin to him before God, "because he killed him." The iniquity of those who rush in to smite wrong and hypocritically veil their hatred and spite and greed under the plea of zeal for God and righteousness (Romans 2:1).

2. His evil life. "He did evil in the sight of the Lord." State reforms are impossible for men whose own heart refuses God's yoke. Our work can never rise higher than the level of our life. There is also a spiritual law of gravitation: the streams of our influence can only flow downward.

3. His hurtful reign. He "walked in the way of Jeroboam," etc. He may have condemned Jeroboam's sin in regard to the calves, etc.; but when begirt with the same state exigencies he continued the course he himself had punished with death. It is easy to condemn the sins of others. God has nobler work for us: it is, when surrounded by their temptations to triumph over them, and to serve not by words only but by deeds.

II. GOD'S MESSAGE TO BAASHA (1 Kings 16:1-7).

1. His exaltation was of God. "I exalted thee out of the dust." The throne was not secured by his wickedness. The Lord had stilled opposition and given him success.

2. It was great and unlooked for. His tribe had no claim to the throne, and his own place among his people was a mean one. But God had, step by step, advanced him, and was now enabling him to reign in peace. The Lord's help is not withheld from those who do not know and do not serve Him. "Despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and long suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" (Romans 2:4.)

3. The return made to God. He had changed nothing. Israel was still being led down the path of darkness and judgment, "to provoke Me to anger with their sins." Every higher interest was sacrificed to the policy of keeping the ten tribes separated from the other two. Statesmen out of office condemn that which, when in office, they are afraid to change. And how many are there who are neglecting the trusts God has committed to them. Once they said, "If we had only place or wealth, etc; God would be served and men blessed." These have been given and what has been done? Has the vow been performed?

4. Baasha's punishment worse than Jeroboam's. "I will take away the posterity of Baasha and the posterity of his house" (see 1 Kings 16:11, "Neither of his kindred nor of his friends"). The Divine justice is shown in the differing penalties of sin.—J.U.

HOMILIES BY J.A. MACDONALD

1 Kings 16:1-7

Jehu's Prophecy.

Jehu was a prophet and the son of a prophet. Of his father Hanani we read in 2 Chronicles 16:7-10, where it is recorded to his honour that he suffered imprisonment for the fidelity of his testimony against Asa. This son was worthy of such a father. His testimony before Baasha, a man of desperate resolution and unscrupulous irreligion, was admirably courageous. We hear of him again after an interval of forty years (see 2 Chronicles 19:2; 2 Chronicles 20:1-37 :84). In his prophecy here

I. HE RECITES THE CRIMES OF BAASHA. These were—

1. That he "walked in the way of Jeroboam." This implies

2. That he made the people of the Lord to sin.

3. That he thereby provoked the anger of the Lord against them.

4. And because he killed Jeroboam.

II. HE UTTERS THE JUDGMENTS OF THE LORD.

1. The posterity of Baasha was to be taken away.

2. History repeats itself.

3. There are posthumous punishments.

1 Kings 16:8-14

The House of Baasha.

The character of Baasha is drawn in the paragraphs immediately preceding, which also contain an account of his end, which was better than he deserved, and suggests the reality of a future retribution. His family so fully followed in his steps that we have no mention of an Abijah amongst them, "in whom was found some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel" (see 1 Kings 14:18). The judgment of God upon this wicked house is written in the words before us. We have to reflect upon—

I. THE DEPRAVITY OF THE HOUSE OF BAASHA.

1. The prophecy of Jehu came to them as a warning.

2. But here was no repentance.

II. THE INSTRUMENTS OF THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD.

1. The wicked follow their own devices.

2. But the providence of God is over all.

HOMILIES BY J. URQUHART

1 Kings 16:8-20

A Divine judgment and its instrument.

I. THE JUDGMENT.

1. It was delayed in God's long suffering. Baasha had reigned nearly twenty-four years; Elah nearly two. The Lord is swift to bless but slow to strike. He has no delight in a sinner's death. Do we remember that God's long suffering today is not forgetfulness or indifference, but the restraining of infinite love?

2. It came upon him in his sin. The army was in the field, but he was not there. He was deaf to the calls of duty and honour. He had lost his self respect; he "was drinking himself drunk in the house" of his chamberlain. And now in a moment pleasure was swallowed up in terror, the misused life in death. The suddenness of God's judgments: "at such an hour as ye think not," etc.

3. Its extent. It was not less than was predicted. His kindred and his friends were cut off and their offspring (1 Kings 16:11). Every word was fulfilled. God's threatenings are not exaggerations meant to frighten us away from sin; they are descriptions. God's eye is resting on the woe which is hid from us, and His words are those of perfect truth and tenderest love.

II. THE INSTRUMENT.

1. Zimri was his servant. He had trusted and advanced him. Again we notice how ingratitude and rebellion against God are repaid in kind. If there be no love and truth toward God in us, let us not be surprised if we find these wanting in others toward us.

2. Though his deed fulfilled God's word, it was not of God: "he sinned in doing evil in the sight of the Lord;" it was "treason that he wrought." That which punishes evil may itself be sin. God's shield was withdrawn from around the house of Baasha, and an ambitious, cruel heart was allowed to work its will upon them. It is no justification of our act that the nation or persons against whom it is clone were wicked and deserved their fate; the question remains, Were we righteous in inflicting it?

3. The scourge was soon broken and cast away. He reigned but seven days. In slaying the king he was but ending his own life; in entering the palace gained by blood, he was laying himself upon his funeral pyre. The cup we covet may be a cup of death. Take God's way, and bide God's time: He will give that which is good.—J.U.

HOMILIES BY J.A. MACDONALD

1 Kings 16:15-22

The Kingdom of Men.

Though "the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men," yet is He not responsible for the principles by which such kingdoms are actuated. For these are in shaking contrast to those which shall obtain in the "kingdom of God." In the kingdom of men as represented in the specimen before us we encounter—

I. FOLLY.

1. True religion is pure wisdom.

2. False religion is supreme folly.

3. Of such folly was the kingdom of Israel flagrantly guilty.

II. RESTLESSNESS.

1. Witnessed in frequent dynastic changes.

2. These changes represented strong passions.

3. These commotions were sanguinary.

III. CRIME.

1. Foremost under this head is idolatry.

2. Next comes the capital crime of murder.

What a contrast is the kingdom of God! Its principles are peace, righteousness, and joy. Of this those have the earnest who in heart accept Jesus as their Melchisedec.—J.A.M.

HOMILIES BY J. URQUHART

1 Kings 16:21-34

Change without improvement.

I. OMRI'S INDEBTEDNESS TO DIVINE GOODNESS.

1. His success against Zimri (1 Kings 16:15-25). The traitor fell before him almost without a struggle.

2. Against Tibni. Israel was equally divided, yet his life was preserved and the kingdom given to him. Men pass up to place and means and influence through a pathway which, if it is only looked back upon and considered, is full of power to touch the heart and bow it under the will of God. I) o we read the story of our past, and let it touch us with the tale of God's marvellous mercy?

II. HIS SIN.

1. His hardness of heart. Not only was he blind to God's mercy. He passed up unawed through the midst of the terriblest judgments and the most marked fulfilment of God's threatenings. Neither the goodness nor the severity of God was allowed to touch him.

2. He "did worse than all that were before him." He was a man of energy and worldly wisdom. Both were bent to strengthen his power. He went further than Jeroboam, who seduced Israel, for he seems to have compelled them (see the mention of Omri's statutes, Micah 6:16) to sacrifice before the calves. Great talents, if joined to a selfish, hardened heart, only carry men further away from God.

III. HIS SIN'S FRUIT (1 Kings 16:29-34).

1. In his son's character and reign.

2. In the people's contempt of Jehovah. Hiel's act was done in the face of Israel, yet it was not forbidden; its commission awakened no fear. The man was left childless, yet judgments so harrowing and fulfilments of prophecy so marked had no effect upon his own soul. The legislation that blots out God's ordinances delivers a people over to darkness and judgment.—J.U.

HOMILIES BY J.A. MACDONALD

1 Kings 16:23-28

Omri's Reign.

After a four years' contest with Tibni, the son of Ginath, for the crown of Israel, the followers of Omri prevailed over the adherents of his rival. The issue, then, was that "Tibni died and Omri reigned." Whether Tibni died in battle, or whether, when his followers were overcome, he was taken and put to death, is not written; but the record illustrates how in the revolutions of the wheel of fortune the fall of one makes way for the rise of another. Let us now view this new monarch—

I. IN HIS PALACES.

1. "Six years reigned he in Tirzah."

2. Six years he reigned in Samaria.

II. AT THE ALTAR.

1. "He walked in all the ways of Jeroboam."

2. He "did worse than all that were before him."

III. IN HIS EXIT.

1. He "was buried."

2. He "slept with his fathers."


Verses 29-34

EXPOSITION

THE REIGN OF AHAB.—With the accession of Ahab a new main section of our history begins—the section which has its close in the destruction of the house of Omri by Jehu, as related in 2 Kings 10:1-36. And this reign is recorded at unusual length; in fact, it occupies nearly all the remaining portion of this volume, whereas the reigns of preceding kings have in several instances been dismissed in a few verses. It owes this distinction to the ministry of the great prophet Elijah by which it was marked, and, indeed, was profoundly influenced; but this ministry, it must be remembered, was necessitated by the critical circumstances of the time. It may be that "every age thinks itself a crisis," but no one can fail to see that this was one of the veritable turning points of Jewish history. One of the real "decisive battles of the world"—that between the Lord and Baal—was then fought out. No wonder that our historian felt constrained to chronicle at length the transactions of a reign so pregnant both with good and evil for the people of the Lord and for the faith with which they had been put in trust. Indeed, the same guiding principle which led him to devote so many of his pages to the reign of Solomon, when the theocratic kingdom was at its highest, impelled him to linger over the reign of Ahab when religion was at its lowest ebb. The secular historian, too often like the sundial which "counts no hours save those serene," draws a veil over the time of his country's decadence, or touches its misfortunes with a light hand. It is only in the inspired records that we have an impartial register both of the glory and shame of a common. wealth.

1 Kings 16:29

And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah [see notes on 1 Kings 16:23] began Ahab ["Father's brother." The name is apposite. He was Omri's alter ego in impiety] the son of Omri to reign over Israel: and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years.

1 Kings 16:30

And Ahab the son of Omri [The repetition is noticeable. It is possible that the preceding verse has been revised by a chronologer. The LXX. text is much more condensed] did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him. [The same words are used of his father in 1 Kings 16:25. It is not difficult to see in what way Ahab's rule was worse even than Omri's. The latter had gone beyond his predecessors in the matter of the calf worship. See note on 1 Kings 16:25. But the calf worship, however it may have deteriorated in process of time—and it is the tendency of such systems to wax worse and worse—was nevertheless a cult, though a corrupt, and unauthorized, and illicit cultus, of the one true God. Under Ahab, however, positive idolatry was established and fostered the worship of foreign and shameful deities.]

1 Kings 16:31

And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him [Heb. as marg. was it a light thing? Ewald explains this to mean "because it was." But it seems better to understand, "was it such a light thing… that he must needs also?" etc.] to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat [i.e; the sins of heresy and schism], that he took to wife Jezebel [= "Without cohabitation," "chaste," Gesenius, who compares it with Agnes. It is hardly the original of Isabella] the daughter of Ethbaal [= "With Baal." The Greek form ἰθόβαλος or εἰθώβαλος, found in Jos; Ant. 8.13.1; cf. Contr. Ap. 1.18, suggests as its original אִתּוֹ בַּעַל i.e; "with him is Baal." In either case the name well became him, for, according to Menander (apud Jos. l.c.), he was the priest of Astarte, who gained for himself the throne of the Zidonians by the assassination of Pheles. He is further said to have reigned thirty-two years, and to have lived sixty-eight years. He would therefore be thirty-six years old at the time of his accession. It does not appear that (Keil) he was the brother of Pheles. Pheles, however, was certainly a fratricide. (Rawlinson reminds us that Jezebel was great-aunt to Pygmalion and Dido.) This statement helps to explain Jezebel's fierce and sanguinary character, and at the same time accounts for her great devotion to the gods of her country, and for her determined efforts to establish their impure rites in her husband's kingdom. It was only what one would expect from the child of such a parent] king of the Zidonians [This alliance, it is extremely probable, was made for purely political reasons, as a counterpoise against the active, ambitious, and encroaching power which had arisen in Damascene Syria. The army which had already humbled Omri (ch. 20:34) could not fail to be a source of danger to Tyre], and went and served Baal [Heb. the Baal, i.e; the lord or master; cf. ὁ κύριος. The name appears among the Babylonians as Bel (Isaiah 46:1)—Greek βῆλος. Reference has already been made to the frequent recurrence of the word in different compound names, and in different parts of Palestine, as showing how widespread must have been his worship at an earlier age. We are also familiar with the word in the names Hannibal, Hasdrubal, etc. Baal was the supreme male god of the Canaanitish races, as Ashtoreth was their great female divinity. The former was regarded, not only as the possessor, but as the generator, of all], worshipped him

1 Kings 16:32

And he reared up an altar for Baal in [Heb. omits in; cf. 1 Kings 15:15, etc.] the house of Baal [A temple, we can hardly doubt, of considerable splendour. Jezebel would not be satisfied with less], which he had built in Samaria [According to 2 Kings 3:2, 2 Kings 10:27, he also raised a pillar (A.V. image) in the house of Baal. We learn from Dius and Menander that Hiram had raised a golden pillar to Baal in Tyre. Perhaps Ahab may have copied this. But it is probable that this image, which represented the generative powers of nature, was an essential part of the impure worship of Baal. The house and its contents alike were destroyed by Jehu (2 Kings 10:27).

1 Kings 16:33

And Ahab made a grove [Heb. an Asherah, i.e; image of Astarte, a female figure corresponding to the male effigy just described. See note on 1 Kings 14:23]; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.

1 Kings 16:34

In his days did Hiel the Bethelite [Observe the form בֵּית הָאֱלִי, and see note on 1 Kings 2:8. It is noticeable that it was reserved for a man of Bethel to commit this act of impiety. It was to such results the worship of the calves contributed] build [i.e; rebuild, fortify, as in 1 Kings 12:25; cf. 1 Kings 9:17. It is clear from 3:13 and 2 Samuel 10:5 that it had not been entirely uninhabited. But the Arab village was now converted into a town with gates and bars] Jericho [We learn from Joshua 18:21 that Jericho then belonged to Benjamin. It had evidently passed, however, at this date into the possession of Israel. It has been suggested that the transference took place in the reign of Baasha (Rawlinson). But it would seem that from the very first, parts of Benjamin (notably Bethel, Joshua 18:13) belonged to the northern kingdom. See Ewald, "Hist. Israel," Joshua 4:2, Joshua 4:3. It is not quite clear whether the rebuilding of Jericho is mentioned as a proof of the daring impiety of that age and of the utter contempt with which the warnings of the law were treated, or as showing the ignorance and consequent disregard of law which prevailed. But, on the whole, it seems to be implied that Hiel knew of the threatening of Joshua, and treated it with defiance. It has been suggested that the rebuilding had really been instigated by Ahab, and for his own purposes, hoping thereby to "secure to himself the passage across the Jordan" (Keil), but the text affords but slight warrant for this conjecture]: he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his firstborn [i.e; at the cost of, in the life of, Abiram], and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord [Joshua 6:26], which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun. [The exact fulfilment of the prophecy is mentioned, as showing that even in those dark and troublous times God did not leave Himself without witness, and that law could never be violated with impunity.]

HOMILIES BY J.A. MACDONALD

1 Kings 16:23-28

Omri's Reign.

After a four years' contest with Tibni, the son of Ginath, for the crown of Israel, the followers of Omri prevailed over the adherents of his rival. The issue, then, was that "Tibni died and Omri reigned." Whether Tibni died in battle, or whether, when his followers were overcome, he was taken and put to death, is not written; but the record illustrates how in the revolutions of the wheel of fortune the fall of one makes way for the rise of another. Let us now view this new monarch—

I. IN HIS PALACES.

1. "Six years reigned he in Tirzah."

2. Six years he reigned in Samaria.

II. AT THE ALTAR.

1. "He walked in all the ways of Jeroboam."

2. He "did worse than all that were before him."

III. IN HIS EXIT.

1. He "was buried."

2. He "slept with his fathers."

1 Kings 16:29-34

EXPOSITION

THE REIGN OF AHAB.—With the accession of Ahab a new main section of our history begins—the section which has its close in the destruction of the house of Omri by Jehu, as related in 2 Kings 10:1-36. And this reign is recorded at unusual length; in fact, it occupies nearly all the remaining portion of this volume, whereas the reigns of preceding kings have in several instances been dismissed in a few verses. It owes this distinction to the ministry of the great prophet Elijah by which it was marked, and, indeed, was profoundly influenced; but this ministry, it must be remembered, was necessitated by the critical circumstances of the time. It may be that "every age thinks itself a crisis," but no one can fail to see that this was one of the veritable turning points of Jewish history. One of the real "decisive battles of the world"—that between the Lord and Baal—was then fought out. No wonder that our historian felt constrained to chronicle at length the transactions of a reign so pregnant both with good and evil for the people of the Lord and for the faith with which they had been put in trust. Indeed, the same guiding principle which led him to devote so many of his pages to the reign of Solomon, when the theocratic kingdom was at its highest, impelled him to linger over the reign of Ahab when religion was at its lowest ebb. The secular historian, too often like the sundial which "counts no hours save those serene," draws a veil over the time of his country's decadence, or touches its misfortunes with a light hand. It is only in the inspired records that we have an impartial register both of the glory and shame of a common. wealth.

1 Kings 16:29

And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah [see notes on 1 Kings 16:23] began Ahab ["Father's brother." The name is apposite. He was Omri's alter ego in impiety] the son of Omri to reign over Israel: and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years.

1 Kings 16:30

And Ahab the son of Omri [The repetition is noticeable. It is possible that the preceding verse has been revised by a chronologer. The LXX. text is much more condensed] did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him. [The same words are used of his father in 1 Kings 16:25. It is not difficult to see in what way Ahab's rule was worse even than Omri's. The latter had gone beyond his predecessors in the matter of the calf worship. See note on 1 Kings 16:25. But the calf worship, however it may have deteriorated in process of time—and it is the tendency of such systems to wax worse and worse—was nevertheless a cult, though a corrupt, and unauthorized, and illicit cultus, of the one true God. Under Ahab, however, positive idolatry was established and fostered the worship of foreign and shameful deities.]

1 Kings 16:31

And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him [Heb. as marg. was it a light thing? Ewald explains this to mean "because it was." But it seems better to understand, "was it such a light thing… that he must needs also?" etc.] to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat [i.e; the sins of heresy and schism], that he took to wife Jezebel [= "Without cohabitation," "chaste," Gesenius, who compares it with Agnes. It is hardly the original of Isabella] the daughter of Ethbaal [= "With Baal." The Greek form ἰθόβαλος or εἰθώβαλος, found in Jos; Ant. 8.13.1; cf. Contr. Ap. 1.18, suggests as its original אִתּוֹ בַּעַל i.e; "with him is Baal." In either case the name well became him, for, according to Menander (apud Jos. l.c.), he was the priest of Astarte, who gained for himself the throne of the Zidonians by the assassination of Pheles. He is further said to have reigned thirty-two years, and to have lived sixty-eight years. He would therefore be thirty-six years old at the time of his accession. It does not appear that (Keil) he was the brother of Pheles. Pheles, however, was certainly a fratricide. (Rawlinson reminds us that Jezebel was great-aunt to Pygmalion and Dido.) This statement helps to explain Jezebel's fierce and sanguinary character, and at the same time accounts for her great devotion to the gods of her country, and for her determined efforts to establish their impure rites in her husband's kingdom. It was only what one would expect from the child of such a parent] king of the Zidonians [This alliance, it is extremely probable, was made for purely political reasons, as a counterpoise against the active, ambitious, and encroaching power which had arisen in Damascene Syria. The army which had already humbled Omri (ch. 20:34) could not fail to be a source of danger to Tyre], and went and served Baal [Heb. the Baal, i.e; the lord or master; cf. ὁ κύριος. The name appears among the Babylonians as Bel (Isaiah 46:1)—Greek βῆλος. Reference has already been made to the frequent recurrence of the word in different compound names, and in different parts of Palestine, as showing how widespread must have been his worship at an earlier age. We are also familiar with the word in the names Hannibal, Hasdrubal, etc. Baal was the supreme male god of the Canaanitish races, as Ashtoreth was their great female divinity. The former was regarded, not only as the possessor, but as the generator, of all], worshipped him

1 Kings 16:32

And he reared up an altar for Baal in [Heb. omits in; cf. 1 Kings 15:15, etc.] the house of Baal [A temple, we can hardly doubt, of considerable splendour. Jezebel would not be satisfied with less], which he had built in Samaria [According to 2 Kings 3:2, 2 Kings 10:27, he also raised a pillar (A.V. image) in the house of Baal. We learn from Dius and Menander that Hiram had raised a golden pillar to Baal in Tyre. Perhaps Ahab may have copied this. But it is probable that this image, which represented the generative powers of nature, was an essential part of the impure worship of Baal. The house and its contents alike were destroyed by Jehu (2 Kings 10:27).

1 Kings 16:33

And Ahab made a grove [Heb. an Asherah, i.e; image of Astarte, a female figure corresponding to the male effigy just described. See note on 1 Kings 14:23]; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.

1 Kings 16:34

In his days did Hiel the Bethelite [Observe the form בֵּית הָאֱלִי, and see note on 1 Kings 2:8. It is noticeable that it was reserved for a man of Bethel to commit this act of impiety. It was to such results the worship of the calves contributed] build [i.e; rebuild, fortify, as in 1 Kings 12:25; cf. 1 Kings 9:17. It is clear from 3:13 and 2 Samuel 10:5 that it had not been entirely uninhabited. But the Arab village was now converted into a town with gates and bars] Jericho [We learn from Joshua 18:21 that Jericho then belonged to Benjamin. It had evidently passed, however, at this date into the possession of Israel. It has been suggested that the transference took place in the reign of Baasha (Rawlinson). But it would seem that from the very first, parts of Benjamin (notably Bethel, Joshua 18:13) belonged to the northern kingdom. See Ewald, "Hist. Israel," Joshua 4:2, Joshua 4:3. It is not quite clear whether the rebuilding of Jericho is mentioned as a proof of the daring impiety of that age and of the utter contempt with which the warnings of the law were treated, or as showing the ignorance and consequent disregard of law which prevailed. But, on the whole, it seems to be implied that Hiel knew of the threatening of Joshua, and treated it with defiance. It has been suggested that the rebuilding had really been instigated by Ahab, and for his own purposes, hoping thereby to "secure to himself the passage across the Jordan" (Keil), but the text affords but slight warrant for this conjecture]: he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his firstborn [i.e; at the cost of, in the life of, Abiram], and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord [Joshua 6:26], which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun. [The exact fulfilment of the prophecy is mentioned, as showing that even in those dark and troublous times God did not leave Himself without witness, and that law could never be violated with impunity.]

HOMILIES BY E. DE PRESSENSE

1 Kings 16:29-33; 1 Kings 17:1

Ahab represents the culminating point of the perversity of the kingdom of Israel. At once more able and more profane than his predecessors, he fostered to an unprecedented degree the corruption of morals, private and public injustice, and idolatrous practices. Ahab, prompted by Jezebel, became the more dangerous enemy of the cause of God. At this period of the national history arose the greatest of the prophets, Elijah, who well bore out his name—the strength of God—and who was the faithful type of John the Baptist, the immediate forerunner of Christ. In the coming of Elijah at such a crisis, we have an illustration of a general and permanent rule of God's kingdom. The excess of evil calls out the strongest manifestations of good. Never was the power of Satan more rampant than at the time when the Son of God appeared upon earth. So in the end of time, the day of Antichrist will be also the day in which Christ will intervene most directly in the great drama of history. Let us not, then, yield to a hopeless pessimism when the powers of darkness seem to be let loose, for the two following reasons:

I. THE LETTING LOOSE OF EVIL BRINGS ITS OWN CONDEMNATION. By showing its true nature it passes sentence on itself, and brings to maturity all the seeds of death latent within it. Ahab, casting off all restraints and rushing recklessly on his ruin, writes his own condemnation.

II. AN AHAB ALWAYS CALLS FORTH AN ELIJAH. Whenever the army of God seems on the verge of defeat, its Divine leader takes the direct command. Reflections like these may reinforce our courage in view of the giant evils of our own day.—E. de P.

HOMILIES BY A. ROWLAND

1 Kings 16:30-33

Moral Ruin through Moral Weakness.

This was the turning-point in the history of the kingdom of Israel. Till now the people had professedly worshipped Jehovah under the symbol of the calf. Now idolatry of a grosser kind was avowedly set up as the national religion, on a scale of great magnificence. The text, therefore, is worthy of our study as the record of an event of deep historic significance, but we propose to consider it as a suggestive example of the way in which a man of moral weakness may be betrayed into the worst depravity, to the undoing of himself and others. We learn the following lessons from Ahab s life, of which a summary is given here:

I. THAT A FOOLISH CHOICE MAY RESULT IN LASTING DISHONOUR. Ahab's marriage was the cause of his ruin. Jezebel, his wife, was the daughter of Ethbaal, who had Been the high priest of Astarte, but was led by his ambition and unscrupulousness to usurp his brother's throne. Her parentage and her surroundings would have been a sufficient warning to a prudent king. But besides these Ahab had the Divine law before him (Exodus 34:16), which distinctly forbade union with the Canaanites. Such a marriage was unprecedented in the kingdom of Israel, and was the more fatal because of the character of the queen, the Lady Macbeth of Scripture. She was reckless and licentious, fanatical and cruel, with a temper as vindictive as her will was resolute. Her husband became a mere tool in her hands. He could not foresee all the issues of his choice, but he knew the choice was sinful. Show from this—illustrating by example—

1. How one wrong step leads to another. This marriage to the establishment of idolatry. Indicate the nature of the false religion set up.

2. How companionship influences character. The stronger moulding the weaker. "A companion of fools shall be destroyed."

3. How personal fascination may cause men to swerve from rectitude. Jezebel's fascinating power was regarded as witchery and became proverbial (Revelation 2:20).

4. How young people should be warned against unholy alliances. Marriage makes or mars character, hope, and blessedness (2 Corinthians 6:14). "Be ye net unequally yoked together with unbelieverses"

II. THAT EASY GOOD NATURE MAY PROVE THE SOURCE OF DEEP DEGRADATION. Ahab was not destitute of good feelings and right impulses. Had he been firm instead o! pliable, and resolutely refused to gratify the queen by the establishment of idolatry, he might, with God's help, have neutralized the effect of the false step he had taken. But he was of a yielding nature, while she was resolute; and so, like Samson, he lost his kingliness. Point out the special dangers of those who are kindly and genial. Their unwillingness to disoblige, their wish to be popular, their dread of derision, their love of ease and pleasure, etc; may have fatal issues.

III. THAT BRILLIANT TALENTS WILL NOT COMPENSATE FOR MORAL WEAKNESS. This king was gifted with military skill, with artistic taste, etc; but these could net help him in the hour of spiritual conflict. Give examples from history of the careers of clever but unprincipled men, their meteoric success, their future punishment, here or hereafter; e.g; Napoleon I. Many men of genius have been ruined by drunkenness, and often high education has served only to alter the form and increase the influence of the sin. The clever forger is worse than the common thief; the viciousness of a leader of society does more injury than the licentiousness of an ignorant peasant.

IV. THAT ARCHITECTURAL SPLENDOURS AND MILITARY VICTORIES ARE NOT PROOFS OF NATIONAL PROSPERITY. Describe Ahab's magnificent buildings, his ivory house, his daring restoration and fortification of Jericho, his palace and park in Jezreel, which became to Samaria what Versailles once was to Paris. Show how often in history such costly expenditure has been a sign of decay. Extravagance and luxuriousness are omens of ruin to a people. "The Decline and Fall" of the Roman Empire is an abiding illustration of this. Nor will successful wars give stability to a kingdom. Ahab's victories were great military achievements, but of what avail to him and to his house? "The throne must be established in righteousness."

V. THAT AMPLE POSSESSIONS DO NOT CONTENT AN UNQUIET HEART. In Jezreel, the perfection of taste, Ahab was wretched, because he wanted Naboth's vineyard. (Read that story.) It is not in the power of earthly things to satisfy a hungering soul. The richest man is not content if he has only his riches, nor will any addition to them give him satisfaction. "Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:15). "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." God "satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness."

VI. THAT PARTIAL REPENTANCE DOES NOT AVERT GOD'S PUNISHMENT OF SIN. Ahab "put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly," when he heard Elijah's final threat; but, though this first sign of penitence was graciously encouraged by a promise, the change went no further He dreaded punishment, but his heart did not turn from sin, and therefore, though he disguised himself in the battle, the arrow "shot at a venture" was winged by Divine retribution to his heart. God is our Judge, as well as our King. For the impenitent there will be no escape. In vain will they "call on mountains and rocks to fall on them, and hide them from the wrath of God." Now in this day of mercy, God calls on all to repent, and find pardon and hope in Him, who has come "to seek and to save that which was lost."—A.R.

HOMILIES BY J.A. MACDONALD

1 Kings 16:29-33

Ahab's wickedness.

The evil genius of the son of Omri appeared—

I. IN HIS WALKING IN THE SINS OF JEROBOAM.

1. In this, probably, he encouraged his father.

2. He did not alter his course after his father's death.

II. IN HIS MATRIMONIAL ALLIANCE WITH JEZEBEL.

1. She was a pronounced idolater.

2. Such alliances have ever proved demoralizing.

3. For typical reasons also they were forbidden.

III. IN HIS ENCOURAGEMENT GIVEN TO BAAL AND ASHERE.

1. To Baal.

2. To Ashsere.

No wonder, then, the anger of the Lord should be provoked. If we would not provoke it we must avoid the spirit of idolatry. This spirit is shown in the love of illicit things. Also in excessive love of lawful things.—J.A.M.

1 Kings 16:34

The Temerity of Hiel.

In discussing this subject we have to consider—

I. "THE WORD OF THE LORD WHICH HE SPAKE BY JOSHUA. THE SON OF NUN." The record of this word is found in Joshua 6:26. And the questions now arise—

1. Why did God thus curse Jericho?

(a) Jericho was the first city which offered resistance to the people of God; and it was proper it should stand forth as a figure of the last city that shall offer resistance, viz; Great Babylon.

(b) As Jericho was compassed about six days before it fell, so is Great Babylon destined to last until the beginning of the seventh age of prophetic chronology.

(c) As Jericho fell at the seventh blast of the trumpet, so at the sounding of the seventh Apocalyptic thumper will Great Babylon come into remembrance before God.

(d) As Rahab, through the righteousness of faith, escaped the plagues of war and fire which destroyed the city, so are the people of God urged to come out of Babylon lest they partake her plagues also of war and fire.

2. Why did God thus curse the rebuilder of Jericho?

II. THE TEMERITY OF HIEL TO ENCOUNTER THIS MALEDICTION.

1. The historical fact is before us.

2. But what could have possessed him?

(a) He was a "Bethelite." This expression may mean that he was born in Bethel, though this is not clear. It suggests rather that he was wedded to the sin of Jeroboam; for Bethel was the head-quarters of that apostasy. There Jeroboam placed one of his famous calves. There he built an altar. There also he built a temple. There his priests congregated, and there he, in person, officiated as high priest. The service of the calves would so harden the heart of Hiel as to prepare him to disregard the curse of Jehovah.

(b) Then, he lived in the days of Ahab. These were days of fearful degeneracy. For Ahab provoked the Lord by wickedness more than all that had been before him. Hiel might argue that if Ahab could thus outrage the law of the God of Israel and survive, so might his own children survive, though he should transgress the adjuration of Joshua. It is dangerous to do evil because others have done it, apparently, with impunity.

(c) The curse was denounced a long time ago. Since then five centuries and a half had passed away. Time weakens memory with men, and when man has a purpose to serve, he may argue that this also is the case with God. But He that remembers mercy forever also remembers justice and judgment. Let us not deceive ourselves. Let us pray God to bring our sins to our remembrance, that we may repent of them before Him, for with Him they are never forgotten till forgiven.—J.A.M.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Kings 16:4". The Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/1-kings-16.html. 1897.

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