New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

1Ki 16:1 The word of Yahweh came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying-
The prophet Jehu rebuked Baasha (1 Kings 16:1) and yet he also wrote a history of Jehoshaphat's reign (2 Chron. 20:34), implying that he outlived Jehoshaphat. This means that Jehu must have been a young man at the time of his rebuke of Baasha. It's hard to keep on keeping on in ministry over a long lifetime, and those who do should be deeply respected. His father Hanani had rebuked Asa for his alliance with the Syrians against Baasha (2 Chron. 16:7-10), and now Jehu rebukes Baasha. Having to be constantly critical of people is not a nice ministry.

1Ki 16:2 Because I exalted you out of the dust, and made you prince over My people Israel, and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam, and have made My people Israel to sin, to provoke Me to anger with their sins-
Baasha was intended to learn from the path of Jeroboam, who had also been "exalted" (s.w. 1 Kings 14:7) from nothing to be prince over Israel, having been the son of a whore (1 Kings 12:24 LXX). Baasha like Jeroboam made the people sin. We are intended to learn from the life path of others. This is why we have Biblical history, and it is why God controls the encounters of those we meet in life.

We can limit God's plans to save others in the ecclesia by our attitude to them. We can make others stumble from the path to His salvation. Baasha made other people sin and thus provoke God to anger; his own sin and that of the people are described in identical language, to portray how he influenced them (1 Kings 16:2,7).

1Ki 16:3 behold, I will utterly sweep away Baasha and his house; and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat-
This was the language of Jeroboam's judgment (1 Kings 14:10). Baasha had failed to learn the lessons of Jeroboam and so he was judged in the same way.

1Ki 16:4 The dogs will eat Baasha’s descendants who die in the city; and he who dies of his in the field- the birds of the sky will eat-
This repeats the language of Jeroboam's judgment (1 Kings 14:11). As noted on :3, Baasha was really intended to discern the wrong path of Jeroboam. As we may be with people who come into our lives. And he didn't, so he went to the same destination which Jeroboam's "way" led to.

1Ki 16:5 Now the rest of the acts of Baasha, and what he did, and his might, aren’t they written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?-
These comments suggest that this volume was available to the initial audience. It seems that the school of the prophets in Babylonian exile had access to the Old Testament scriptures, and I have often suggested that under Divine inspiration, they rewrote and reapplied parts of them with relevance for the exiles.

1Ki 16:6 Baasha slept with his fathers, and was buried in Tirzah; and Elah his son reigned in his place-
The idiom of 'sleeping' for death implies resurrection (Dan. 12:2). We will see these men again, at the day of judgment- and yet presumably they will be condemned to the "second death".

1Ki 16:7 Moreover by the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani came the word of Yahweh against Baasha, and against his house, both because of all the evil that he did in the sight of Yahweh, to provoke Him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam-
God can be grieved [s.w. 'provoke to anger']. This is a major theme of this chapter (:2,7,13,26,33). He has emotions, and His potential foreknowledge doesn't mean that these feelings are not legitimate. They are presented as occurring in human time, as responses to human behaviour. This is the degree to which He has accommodated Himself to human time-space limits, in order to fully enter relationship and experience with us. As He can limit His omnipotence, so God can limit His omniscience, in order to feel and respond along with us. 

And because he struck him-
Yet God had raised up Baasha to strike the house of Jeroboam. Perhaps we have a similar position was in Is. 47:6, where the nations raised up to judge Judah are themselves judged because they did so without showing mercy. There are times when we have to judge, not in the sense of condemning (Mt. 7:1), but in the sense of judging righteous judgment (Jn. 7:24). But we shall be condemned if we do so without the mercy which we ourselves are saved by. And this seems to be the reason for Baasha's condemnation, amongst other things.  

1Ki 16:8 In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah the son of Baasha began to reign over Israel in Tirzah for two years-
"Elah" means "oak", which was associated with idolatry (s.w. Ez. 6:13; Hos. 4:13). This reflects upon Baasha's idolatry.

1Ki 16:9 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-
"Arza" is 'man of the earth'; "Zimri" means 'musical'. We note the lack of the 'Yah' suffix in the names, and how Elah was drunk when he was killed.

1Ki 16:10 and Zimri went in and struck him and killed him, in the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned in his place-
Elah began to reign in the 26th year of Asa, died in Asa's 27th year, and is counted as having reigned two years (:8). This means that the 'years' are counted as parts of years rather than literally 24 months.

1Ki 16:11 It happened, when he began to reign, as soon as he sat on his throne, that he struck all the house of Baasha: he didn’t leave him a single male, neither of his relatives, nor of his friends-
We note the radical difference with David, who expressly sought to show grace to the family of Saul the previous ruler- when the usual thing was to destroy the family of the previous king. David's behaviour was radically counter cultural, as is all displays of grace.

1Ki 16:12 Thus Zimri destroyed all the house of Baasha, according to the word of Yahweh, which He spoke against Baasha by Jehu the prophet-
As noted on :11, such destruction of the family of the usurped king was typical of secular behaviour at the time, but was not the way of grace. And yet God worked through this failure to fulfil His prophetic word. We learn from this that we may be used by God to do His will, but that doesn't of itself mean that what we are doing is right, nor are we justified by means of having been used to fulfil His will.

1Ki 16:13 for all the sins of Baasha, and the sins of Elah his son, which they sinned, and with which they made Israel to sin, to provoke Yahweh, the God of Israel, to anger with their vanities-
We frequently read of the sins by which men sinned (AV "the sins of Baasha and the sins of Elah by which they sinned, and by which they made Israel to sin"). How do you 'sin by a sin'? Surely in the sense that sin leads to sin.

1Ki 16:14 Now the rest of the acts of Elah and all that he did, aren’t they written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?-
See on :5. This "book" may not be the book of Chronicles which we have in our Bibles.

1Ki 16:15 In the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, Zimri reigned seven days in Tirzah. Now the people were encamped against Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines-
The infighting amongst the Israelites led to the siege being lifted at the time of 1 Kings 15:27, because here in 1 Kings 16:15 we find the siege resumed, and again a king of Israel is slain during a siege of the same city. We see here how Biblical history intentionally repeats itself. Situations repeat in our lives, so that we may learn from them. And often we fail, as Israel did in this matter. Within a period of 25 years at the most, two kings of Israel (Nadab and Elah) were killed by usurpers whilst the same city was being besieged. 

1Ki 16:16 The people who were encamped heard say, Zimri has conspired, and has also struck the king: therefore all Israel made Omri, the captain of the army, king over Israel that day in the camp-
The captain of the army was effectively second in common politically (2 Kings 9:5, and consider the example of Joab with David). Zimri was an outsider and had slain all Elah's supporters, relatives of whom were likely in the military. So to make Omri king was logical, and the record is absolutely credible.

1Ki 16:17 Omri went up from Gibbethon, and all Israel with him, and they besieged Tirzah-
As noted before, the infighting amongst God's people blunted their fulfilment of God's will and the establishment of His Kingdom. Instead of besieging Gibbethon (:15), they left that important work and went to besiege their own brethren.

1Ki 16:18 It happened, 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 himself with fire, and died-
That palace had doubtless been the object of his envy for a long time. He destroyed himself along with it, for Zimri was identified with his envy. What he coveted was identified with him as a person. His death was his judgment (:"for his sins", :19), but was self inflicted. All judgment is in the end self-judgment.

1Ki 16:19 for his sins which he sinned in doing that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh, in walking in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin which he did, to make Israel to sin-
We can make others sin (Ex. 23:33; 1 Sam. 2:24; 1 Kings 16:19). There is an urgent imperative here, to really watch our behaviour; e.g. to not drink alcohol in the presence of a brother whose conscience is weak. Zimri was given just seven days in power, and was judged and condemned for how he behaved during those seven days. Other kings reigned many years. God in His wisdom knows how long to test a person.

1Ki 16:20 Now the rest of the acts of Zimri, and his treason that he committed, aren’t they written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?-
Treason, assassination, short lived leaders and division (:21) were the experience of the ten tribes at this time, and this must be contrasted with the long and stable reign of Asa over Judah at this period. Clearly division and instability amongst God's people is a work of the flesh, but it is used by God to show His displeasure and judgment upon a people. We can note the quick succession of rulers which brought the kingdom of Judah to an end. Division and instability within a church or community is in the end not just the works of the flesh, but a sign of Divine judgment upon them.

1Ki 16:21 Then were the people of Israel divided into two parts: half of the people followed Tibni the son of Ginath, to make him king; and half followed Omri-
Again we note the lack of the Divine Name or suffix 'Yah' in these names. "Tibni" means 'man of straw'.

1Ki 16:22 But the people who followed Omri prevailed against the people who followed Tibni the son of Ginath: so Tibni died, and Omri reigned-
See on :20. LXX adds that Tibni's brother Joram was also killed at this time. Such infighting and division within a community is a sign of Divine judgment, even if the individual participants are also guilty of wrong behaviour. The struggle between them went on for about four years (1 Kings 16:15 cp. 23).

1Ki 16:23 In the thirty-first year of Asa king of Judah, Omri began to reign over Israel for twelve years. He reigned six years in Tirzah-
The average length of reign of the ten tribes kings was far less than that of Judah's kings. See on :20. The four years of the civil war (see on :22) are not counted to neither Omri nor Tibni. The simple point is that in conflict between brethren, nobody really wins. See on :29.

1Ki 16:24 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 Samaria, after the name of Shemer the owner of the hill-
AV gives 6000 shekels. Abraham was an alien, and needed approval from the local community council to buy a burial place; and even then, the council had to speak with the owner and as it were do Abraham a favour. Further, the price of 400 shekels for some land with a cave in it to bury the dead was exorbitant (Gen. 23:14). There are records of the sale of whole villages in northern Syria dating from about this time, recorded in the Alalakh Tablets. They were sold for between 100 and 1000 shekels. Jeremiah paid 17 shekels for a field (Jer. 32:9); Omri paid 6000 shekels for the entire site of Samaria (1 Kings 16:24 AV). If ever we feel ripped off by this world, unreasonably treated in this land which is eternally ours, powerless to protest, left without option as Abraham was- then we are following in his steps, and are truly his "seed".

1Ki 16:25 Omri did evil in the sight of Yahweh, and dealt wickedly above all who were before him-
This phrase is common in the records, implying that there was on overall downward slide into apostacy until the people were at such a point that there had to be Divine judgment and intervention.

1Ki 16:26 For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in his sins with which he made Israel to sin, to provoke Yahweh, the God of Israel, to anger with their vanities-
Giving our lives to vanity rather than to God provokes Him to great anger. It is a sin. And yet at no other time has God's people faced such strong temptation to give their hearts and time to vanities, thanks to the online world of screens in which we live and move and have our beings.

1Ki 16:27 Now the rest of the acts of Omri which he did, and his might that he showed, aren’t they written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?
This is the common rubric found in the histories of the kings (1 Kings 15:23; 16:5,27; 22:45; 2 Kings 10:34; 13:8,12; 14:15,28; 20:20). "His might that he showed" uses a word for "might" which has the sense of victory / achievement. But the contrast is marked with the way that David so often uses this word for "might / victory / achievement" in the context of God's "might"; notably in 1 Chron. 29:11, which the Lord Jesus places in our mouths as part of His model prayer: "Yours is the power [s.w. "might"], and the glory and the majesty". The kings about whom the phrase is used were those who trusted in their own works. It therefore reads as a rather pathetic memorial; that this man's might / achievement was noted down. But the unspoken further comment is elicited in our own minds, if we are in tune with the spirit of David: "But the only real achievement is the Lord's and not man's". All human victory and achievement must be seen in this context. The same word is used in Jer. 9:23,24: "Don’t let the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might [s.w.]... but let him who glories glory in this, that he has understanding, and knows Me, that I am Yahweh who exercises loving kindness, justice, and righteousness, in the earth". The glorification of human "might" is often condemned. "Their might [s.w.] is not right" (Jer. 23:10; also s.w. Jer. 51:30; Ez. 32:29; Mic. 7:16 and often).  

1Ki 16:28 So Omri slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria; and Ahab his son reigned in his place-
This phrase "slept with his fathers" clearly means he died, and often a clause to the effect "he was buried" follows it. The unconsciousness of death, as a sleep, is a teaching laboured in the Bible so very many times.

1Ki 16:29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah began Ahab the son of Omri to reign over Israel: and he reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years-
If Omri reigned a total of 12 years starting from the 31st year of Asa (:23), it follows that there was an interregnum of about five years. Perhaps Omri was incapacitated, and during those last five years of his 'reign', his son Ahab reigned.

1Ki 16:30 Ahab the son of Omri did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh above all that were before him-
This statement is found often in the historical record, creating the impression of an overall downward slide to the point of lost relationship with God. We note that God does perceive degrees of sin; Ahab sinned "above" the previous kings. Whether we are to perceive these different degrees of sin in others' behaviour is a different question.

1Ki 16:31 It happened, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel-
Ahab's marriage to a Gentile was far worse than all the sins of Jeroboam; the idolatry, the perversion, the making of Israel sin; these were "a light thing" compared to the evil of marriage out of the faith (1 Kings 16:31). That perspective on marriage out of the faith needs to be appreciated. And further, those who married the daughters of Ahab were led astray by them (2 Kings 8:18,27).

The daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him-
Tyre was originally a colony of Sidon; the terms are at times interchangeable. Ethbaal is called "king of Tyre" by Josephus (Antiquities 8.3.2), but "king of the Sidonians" in 1 Kings 16:31. Some of Tyre's coins celebrate it as "the metropolis of the Sidonians". The Yahweh worship of Hiram turned into Baal worship, resulting in the blasphemous cherubim idols explained on Ez. 28:14.

1Ki 16:32 He reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria-
The ten tribes' equivalent of Judah's temple to Yahweh in Jerusalem were the high places and two golden calves. But Ahab appears to have now matched Yahweh's temple with a kind of temple to Baal, built in Samaria.

1Ki 16:33 Ahab made the Asherah; and Ahab did yet more to provoke Yahweh, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him-
This is stressed twice (see on :30). That Ahab should finally repent is therefore so significant. He is the parade example of why we should never give up on anyone as 'too far gone'.

1Ki 16:34 In his days Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho: he laid its foundation with the loss of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates with the loss of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of Yahweh, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun
To even attempt to rebuilt Jericho meant a studied disregard of God's word, considering Biblical records of Joshua's words to be merely the words of men. Hiel was from Bethel, where the golden calf was. Jericho had been inhabited after Joshua's time (Jud. 3:13; 2 Sam. 10:5). So this was a conscious rebuilding of the walls with gates in defiance of Yahweh's word. And his sons died during the building work, perhaps 'at some time between the beginning, in laying the foundations, and the ending of the project, in hanging the gates'. After Abiram died laying the foundations, we would rather imagine that Hiel might have learned the lesson. But he didn't, such was his desire to defy God's word. And so his youngest son died when the project was almost completed and the gates were being hung. The desire to rebuild the settlement as a walled, gated city could have been because of its strategic position near the crossing of the Jordan river. Jericho was on the border of Ephraim but belonged to Benjamin (Josh. 16:7; 18:21), so it seems Ahab had taken it, and wanted to have the city and fortify it as a boundary against the two tribe kingdom.