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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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1 KINGS 16

BAASHA, ELAH, ZIMRI, OMRI, AND AHAB -- ALL MORE REPROBATE KINGS OF ISRAEL;

GOD'S REJECTION OF THE WICKED BAASHA


 
Verses 1-4
And the word of Jehovah came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying, 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; behold, I will utterly sweep away Baasha and his house; and I will make thy house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. Him that dieth of Baasha in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth of his in the field shall the birds of the heavens eat.

Jehu the son of Hanani
(1 Kings 16:1). Jehu, a prophet, was also the son of a prophet; and he is mentioned in 2 Chr. 20:34 as being the author of a history which was inserted into the book of the kings of Israel. The importance of this fact should be stressed. The sacred author of Kings, living long after some of the events recorded, had no need whatever to rely upon his imagination, nor upon the biased report of some imaginary Deuteronomist in order to produce the records which have come down to us. No indeed! There were available authentic, inspired records by true prophets of God such as Jehu and his father. No editor, compiler, redactor, interpolator or any other mythical person would have dared to contradict anything that such prophets said. The whole tradition of the people of Israel was adamantly set against such a thing.

This same prophet later moved to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 16:7-10), "Where he prophesied under Jehoshaphat, whom he rebuked on one occasion; he must have lived to a great age, for he outlived Jehoshaphat and even wrote his life (2 Chronicles 20:34)."F1

WHO ACTUALLY WROTE THE OLD TESTAMENT?

The books of the O.T. are founded upon the writings of the prophets of God, as stated by Josephus, who declared that, "After the death of Moses, the prophets that were after Moses wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books (Josephus identified these as including all of the historical books)."F2

Josephus also stressed the truth that no Jew who ever lived would have dared to change even a syllable of what the holy prophets had written. "During so many ages which have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add anything to them, take anything from them, or to make any change in them."F3

The O.T. is itself the incontrovertible proof of what Josephus wrote. If any Jew who ever lived could indeed have succeeded in changing a single line of the writings of the prophets, who can believe that the vulgar, sordid, unbelievably wicked deeds of even the most beloved of Jewish heroes would have remained in the full, stark, and ugly records as they stand? Such things as God's cursing the priesthood of Israel, that terrible chapter of Hosea (Hos. 9) in which God flatly declared that He would cease to love Israel, and half a thousand other derogatory and shameful records of Israel's apostasy stand in the O.T. as a perpetual embarrassment to Israel; and yet not a line of all that was ever edited, omitted, deleted or changed in any manner! If any such person as "the Deuteronomist" had ever existed, WHY were no changes ever made in things like these?

Where, on the face of the earth, were all of those imaginary editors, redactors, and compilers, who are alleged by critics to have done this or that to the text? And as for that imaginary angel of the critical scholars, "the Deuteronomist," why, for heaven's sake, did he not do something to improve the Biblical picture of Israel's reprobate priesthood (of which he was allegedly numbered), which was condemned and cursed by God himself (Malachi 2:2)? When an intelligent person seeks the answers to such questions as these, and hundreds of others just like them, he can at once see why the sacred text of the Holy Bible should be received, as is, without any regard whatever for the insinuations of evil men who would like to change it.

This writer appreciates true scholarship and is willing to honor the significant and helpful contributions to Biblical knowledge which have resulted, but we cannot, in true conscience, allow the crooked, unscientific, and ridiculous postulations of certain writers who do not believe the Bible, who deny any such things as predictive prophecy, miracles, Divine intervention in human history, the virgin birth of Christ, his resurrection from the dead or anything else that speaks of the supernatural -- we cannot allow that kind of Biblical misinterpretation to stand unchallenged!

Regarding the Book of Kings, a vital part of the Bible, we remember the words of the apostle Peter, "Men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit," (2 Peter 1:21), and he was not talking about "the Deuteronomist"!

Him that dieth of Baasha in the city shall the dogs eat
(1 Kings 16:4). Baasha, having chosen to share in the iniquity of the house of Jeroboam, likewise shared in the severe penalty thereof, even to being eaten by dogs.F4 This prophecy is remarkably like that which Ahijah had spoken regarding Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:7-11); but that is not sufficient reason to reject either account.F5

A SUMMARY OF THE REIGN OF BAASHA


 
Verses 5-7
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? And Baasha slept with his fathers, and was buried in Tirzah; and Elah his son reigned in his stead. And moreover by the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani came the word of Jehovah against Baasha, and against his house, both because of all the evil that he did in the sight of Jehovah, to provoke him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam, and because he smote him.

And because he smote him
(1 Kings 16:7). The very fact that Baasha continued Jeroboam's sin and caused the illegal worship to be perpetuated, showed clearly enough that in his exterminating the family of Jeroboam he did not act under Divine direction, but simply pursued his own selfish ends.F6

ELAH SUCCEEDED BAASHA, BUT ZIMRI MURDERED HIM


 
Verses 8-14
In the twenty and sixth year of Asa king of Judah began Elah the son of Baasha to reign over Israel in Tirzah, [and reigned] two years. And his servant Zimri, captain of half his chariots, conspired against him. Now he was in Tirzah, drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza, who was over the household in Tirzah: 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 stead. And it came to pass, when he began to reign, as soon as he sat on his throne, that he smote all the house of Baasha: he left him not a single man-child, neither of his kinsfolks, nor of his friends. Thus did Zimri destroy all the house of Baasha, according to the word of Jehovah, which he spake against Baasha by Jehu the prophet, for all the sins of Baasha, and the sins of Elah his son, which they sinned, and wherewith they made Israel to sin, to provoke Jehovah, the God of Israel, to anger with their vanities. 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?

In the twenty and sixth year. in the twenty and seventh year
(1 Kings 16:8,10). From this it is dear that Elah's reign was actually somewhat less than two years.

Zimri. conspired against him
(1 Kings 16:9). Zimri did that to Baasha's son only that which Baasha had done before him. Baasha was hoist by his own petard. As for Elah, he was a dissolute and pusillanimous prince.F7

He was drinking himself drunk. in the house of Arza
(1 Kings 16:9). This was certainly conduct, unworthy of royalty, demonstrating the despicable character of Elah.F8 He should have been with his troops in battle. The Arza who was mentioned here had charge of the palace at Tirzah and was very likely a co-conspirator with Zimri.

Zimri went in and smote him. and reigned in his stead
(1 Kings 16:10). In Zimri the third dynasty in Israel came to the throne, if indeed a line that ruled only seven days should be dignified with a title such as dynasty.F9 Zimri was a professional soldier, perhaps not even an Israelite, since he is not identified with any tribe.F10 The short reign of this monarch, which lasted only seven days, is the shortest reign of any of the kings.

THE SEVEN-DAY REIGN OF ZIMRI


 
Verses 15-20
In the twenty and seventh year of Asa king of Judah did Zimri reign seven days in Tirzah. Now the people were encamped against Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines. And the people that were encamped heard say, Zimri hath conspired, and hath also smitten the king: wherefore all Israel made Omri, the captain of the host, king over Israel that day in the camp. And Omri went up from Gibbethon, and all Israel with him, and they besieged Tirzah. And it came to pass, when Zimri saw that the city was taken, that he went into the castle of the king's house, and burnt the king's house over him with fire, and died, for his sins which he sinned in doing that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, in walking in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin which he did, to make Israel to sin. 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?

This paragraph concludes the record of Zimri's brief reign. The tenderness with which some writers discuss these wicked kings amazes us. Snaith tells us that Zimri "assassinated Elah while he was feasting"!F11 Also, Matheney spoke of extra-Biblical sources which give "a more just estimate of Omri's activities,"F12 bemoaning the fact, as he called it, that, "It is a testimony of the religious bias of the historian that such a short section (on Omri) is given to such a talented king"!F13 It is the viewpoint of this writer that the Biblical record is truthful and absolutely unbiased, and as for that "feasting" of Elah, that is the most polite term we have ever heard for "drinking himself drunk'! It occurs to this writer that the "bias" is not in the Bible but in such critics!

Wherefore the people. made Omri ... king
(1 Kings 16:16). There were two excellent reasons why the army of Israel would not accept Zimri as king: (1) He was a subordinate commander to Omri; and (2) His murder of a host of Elah's friends, along with Elah, and all of their sons must have made him a host of bitter enemies.F14 The army's elevation of their commander to the kingship is a reminder of the way it was during the period of the Phantom Emperors of Rome. As soon as any king died, the army promptly made the head of the troops king.

"The death of Zimri is another illustration of the curse that was upon the monarchs of Israel on account of their persistence in the sins of Jeroboam."F15

Zimri's suicide is one of only four that are mentioned in the Bible; for a list of these see my comment under Ahithophel in 2 Sam. 17:23.

For his sins
(1 Kings 16:19). This sets forth the ultimate ground of Zimri's terribly swift end. Divine judgment had been visited upon him.F16

OMRI RULED AFTER FOUR YEARS OF CIVIL WAR


 
Verses 21-23
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. But the people that followed Omri prevailed against the people that followed Tibni the son of Ginath: so Tibni died, and Omri reigned. In the thirty and first year of Asa king of Judah began Omri to reign over Israel, [and reigned] twelve years: six years reigned he in Tirzah.

So Tibni died, and Omri reigned
(1 Kings 16:22). When two men claimed a throne, the only possible solution was the death of one of them; and, in this case, it was Tibni who died. We are not told how his death occurred, but it was probably in the battle, mentioned by Josephus, in which the forces of Omri triumphed.F17 This of course terminated the civil war, but it had also exhausted one-third of Omri's twelve-year reign.

Six years reigned he in Tirzah
(1 Kings 16:23). The fire at Tirzah in which Zimri's suicide occurred had doubtless severely damaged that capital city of Israel, but the end of the war gave Omri the opportunity to build another capital. Omri's reign continued six more years in his new capital in the city of Samaria. Herod the Great rebuilt Samaria and named it after Augustus Caesar.

THE REIGN OF THAT TALENTED KING, OMRI


 
Verses 24-28
And he bought the hill Samaria of Shemer for two talents of silver; and he built on the hill, and called the name of the city which he built, after the name of Shemer, the owner of the hill, Samaria. And Omri did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, and dealt wickedly above all that were before him. For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in his sins wherewith he made Israel to sin, to provoke Jehovah, the God of Israel, to anger with their vanities. 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? So Omri slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria; and Ahab his son reigned in his stead.

This is that short account of which Matheney complained in his comment, above. However, the worldly glory and success of Omri, which indeed were great, amounted to less than nothing in the eyes of God. Men should not be distressed at this, because the same thing is true of countless "great men" of our own generation. Could anyone suppose that a prophet of God evaluating the lives of Adolph Hitler or Joseph Stalin would need any more than three or four lines to do it?

The holy man of God who wrote Kings was not at all impressed with Omri's achievements, such as his building Samaria which continued as the capital of Israel until the destruction of the kingdom, his defeat of the Moabites mentioned in some pagan sources, his founding a dynasty that lasted forty years, or anything else that he did. The verdict on Omri was that he was even worse than his predecessors, and through an alliance that he apparently made with Phoenicia, "There came that ill-fated marriage of his son Ahab with the pagan Jezebel,"F18 who killed every priest of God that she could find in all Israel.

AHAB CAME TO THE THRONE OF ISRAEL (1 Kings 16:29-22:40)

Nearly all of the rest of First Kings is concerned with the state of Israel during the reign of Ahab, and there is an excellent reason for the devotion of that much space to this narrative. "The reign of Ahab was one of the turning points of Jewish history. It was during that time that one of the truly `decisive battles of the world' was fought. It was the battle between the Lord and Baal."F19 The holy men who wrote the Bible, unlike the sun-dial which records only those hours which are serene, give us in these chapters an impartial register both of the glory and of the shame of Israel.


 
Verses 29-33
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. And Ahab the son of Omri did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah above all that were before him. 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 Sidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made the Asherah; and Ahab did yet more to provoke Jehovah, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.

During the reign of the wicked Ahab and his evil wife Jezebel, the true religion of God almost succumbed to the pagan worship of Baal. Not only did the horrible infection threaten the existence of Israel, but Judah was also contaminated; and, except for the magnificent efforts of the great prophet Elijah the Tishbite, the cause of Truth might have been lost. These terrible chapters that conclude the first book of Kings spell out the details of that conflict.

During the reign of Ahab, the worship of Baal was officially installed as the national religion of Israel, but to guard against the triumph of that deadly virus, God raise up Elijah the Tishbite. "He was the most powerful of the prophets, and he worked mightily upon the formation of the spiritual life of the nation and the ultimate fate of Israel."F20 The remarkable deeds of that mighty prophet will dominate the remaining chapters of 1 Kings,

"In some ways, that conflict between Ahab and Jezebel on the one hand and Elijah upon the other was the crucial hour for the worship of Jehovah. The king and queen of Israel would have wiped it from the face of the earth if they had been able to do so; but Elijah was able, by the blessing of God to stem the evil tide."F21

The name of Baal was connected with several kinds of paganism, but Gates tells that "The god of Jezebel was Melkarth the Baal of Tyre. He was the kind of god who required the burning of innocent little children at the oblations upon his altar. He was believed to be the lord of the land; and to induce him to send rain upon the earth, fertility cult practices were engaged in and sacrifices were offered."F22 Jezebel had been reared in a pagan home, and there might be some excuse for her worship of Baal, but for Ahab, his motivation was not due to ignorance but to his consummate wickedness. Thus, within the space of about forty years, Jeroboam's golden bulls were fully revealed for what they were all the time, namely, PAGAN IDOLS, and nothing else!

Ralph W. Sockman has an interesting paragraph describing the evil that characterized Israel at this time:

"Sin often has the aspects of a flood. Evil thoughts and practices keep falling like rain in the minds of sinful men. Tributaries pour their muddy waters into the social mind. The dams of restraint give way. The flood rises with frightening and unbelievable rapidity, engulfing the unsuspecting and sleeping victims. In the kings and people of Israel from Solomon on, the evil gathered momentum, until in the reigns of Omri and Ahab there came the flood."F23

JOSHUA'S PROPHECY WAS FULFILLED IN THE BUILDING OF JERICHO


 
Verse 34
In his days did Hiel the Beth-elite build Jericho: he laid the foundation thereof with the loss of Abiram his first-born, and set up the gates thereof with the loss of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of Jehovah, which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun.

The prophecy spoken by the Lord through Joshua was:

"Joshua charged them ... saying, Cursed be the man before Jehovah, that riseth up and buildeth this city of Jericho: with the loss of his first-born shall he lay the foundation thereof, and with the loss of his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it." (Joshua 6:26).

It would be difficult indeed to find a clearer example than we have here of a prophecy of God, literally and circumstantially fulfilled many centuries after it was spoken.

This account of the rebuilding of Jericho was probably introduced at this time for the sake of showing the widespread apostasy and unbelief of the people. That man, Hiel the Bethelite, challenged the well-known prophecy regarding the person who would build Jericho, but, sure enough, it turned out exactly as God had prophesied. Of course, the radical critics who deny any such thing as predictive prophecy explain it this way, "Some tragic fate overtook them."F24 However, no matter what happened to the builder's oldest and youngest sons, their death most certainly fulfilled the prophecy. Gates asserted that there is a newer view among commentators which holds that, "The lives of the builder's two sons were cut off as a divine visitation upon Hiel for his disobedience in rebuilding the city that God had cursed."F25 Of course, Dentan explained their death as, "Fatal accidents"!F26 But no matter what happened, the prophecy proved to be true.


Footnotes for 1 Kings 16
1: Albert Barnes, Kings, p. 197.
2: Flavius Josephus, Antiquities, p. 861.
3: Ibid.
4: The Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 329.
5: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 340.
6: C. F. Keil, Keil and Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries, Vol. 3a, p. 224.
7: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 5a, p. 358.
8: Albert Barnes, op. cit., p. 197.
9: The Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 329.
10: The Broadman Bible Commentary, op. cit., p. 205.
11: Interpreter's Bible Vol. 3, p. 141.
12: The Broadman Bible Commentary, op. cit., p. 206
13: Ibid.
14: The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., p. 259.
15: Albert Barnes, Kings, p. 198.
16: The Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, 330.
17: Flavius Josephus, Antiquities, p. 266.
18: The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 444.
19: The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., p. 273.
20: C. F. Keil, Keil and Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries, op. cit., p. 227.
21: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 341.
22: The Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 330.
23: Ralph W. Sockman, The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 3, p. 143.
24: The Interpreter's Bible, op. cit., p. 144.
25: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 330.
26: The Layman's Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p. 58.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Kings 16". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=1ki&chapter=016>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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