1 Kings 16

What word from the Lord did Jehu the son of Hanani have for Baasha?
Essentially the same message that Ahijah delivered to Jeroboam. Because Baasha had provoked God to anger by walking in the sinful ways of Jeroboam, his household would suffer the same fate as Jeroboam’s. The words of Jehu must have weighed heavily on Baasha in light of the fact that he had been God’s instrument to make a clean-sweep of the house of Jeroboam. See Proverbs 16:12.

What does the Scripture tell us about Elah?
A. He was the son of Baasha (16:8) who became king after his father’s death (in the twenty-sixth year of Asa’a reign in Judah).

B. Like the man his father killed (Nadab), he reigned two years at Tirzah (16:8).

C. Just as his father had conspired against Nadab (15:27) and killed him, Elah’s servant Zimri (one of his chariot commanders) conspired against him and killed him (16:9-10).

D. Just as his father had usurped the throne from Nadab, Zimri usurped the throne from Elah (16:10).

E. Elah was no different than his father Baasha or Nadab or Jeroboam. He too, provoked God to anger with his sin (16:13). His life and reign was characterized by wickedness and evil. See Proverbs 16:12.

What was Zimri’s first act once he usurped the throne?
Zimri “killed all the household of Baasha” (16:11-12) and thus fulfilled the word of the prophet Jehu to Baasha. Zimri was as thorough in his annihilation of Baasha’s household as Baasha was in the annihilation of Jeroboam’s household. Like Baasha, Zimri eliminated every possible threat to his reign from the house of Jeroboam.

What does the Scripture tell us about Zimri?
A. He was a military man. He was the “commander of half [Elah’s] chariots” (16:9). It is possible that he was not even an Israelite since no father or tribe is listed for him.

B. He was an opportunist. He took advantage of the opportunity to assassinate Elah while Elah was in a drunken stupor (16:9) and thus usurped the throne of Israel. It is possible that Arza (16:9) was a part of Zimri’s conspiracy to kill Elah.

C. He destroyed the household of Baasha (16:11-12).

D. He reigned a total of seven days (16:15).

E. He committed suicide when Omri, the commander of the army, was declared king and besieged the city of Tirzah (16:18). Someone has said, “The usurper is often the dupe of his own wickedness.”

F. He was an evil man. Even though he reigned seven days, the writer declared that he did evil in the sight of the Lord as the rulers before him. See Proverbs 16:12.

How are we introduced to Omri?
He was a military man (16:16). He was the commander of the army of the Israel. He was involved in a military campaign against the Philistine city of Gibbethon (see also 1 Kings 15:27) when Zimri killed Elah and usurped the throne. When the people who were with Omri heard of the coup d’ état led by Zimri, they made Omri king over Israel. Omri then went from Gibbethon to Tirzah and besieged the city (16:17). This event led Zimri to commit suicide (16:18).

What opposition did Omri encounter after the death of Zimri?
He encountered strong opposition from Tibni the son of Ginath. The northern kingdom was divided in its choice for a king. Half the people followed Omri and half followed Tibni. Omri eventually prevailed after a four-year struggle (16:15, 23) and officially began his reign in the thirty-first year of Asa’s reign in Judah (16:23).

Where did Omri move the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel?
Omri moved the capital from Tirzah to Samaria, which remained the capital city until it fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C. (16:24). This was the third capital city of Israel (Shechem, Tirzah, Samaria). It was strategically located on a high hill.

What kept Omri from being a great man in the eyes of the writer?
The fact the Omri “did evil in the sight of the Lord, and acted more wickedly than all who were before him” (16:25). Micah 6:16 refers to “the statutes of Omri.” Those who were before Omri led Israel astray by example and temptation, but Omri went further and led them astray by compulsion. Like his predecessors, he “walked in all the way of Jeroboam” (16:26), who by now has been established as the king by which evil is measured.

The writer was not as impressed by Omri’s political and military accomplishments as the Assyrians who referred to Israel in their records as “the land of Omri.” He was interested in Omri’s moral and spiritual condition and contributions. The sum of these is recorded in 1 Kings 16:25, “He acted more wickedly than all who were before him.” Up to this point in the narrative, Omri has the distinction of being the most evil and wicked king in Israel’s brief history. No accomplishments in the eyes and estimation of the world can make up for such failure in the eyes of God.

Who succeeded Omri as king of Israel?
His son Ahab, another godless ruler who plunged Israel deeper into idolatry, succeeded Omri. His twenty-two year reign is littered with evil. As with the other kings in the narrative, the historian summed up Ahab’s reign in 1 Kings 16:30, “And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him.” Ahab went beyond the “more” wicked behavior of his father (16:25). Ahab led Israel to the summit of wickedness.

In what way did Ahab go beyond the wickedness of those before him?
A. By marrying Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians [Phoenicians] (16:31). This was a politically expedient marriage. Jezebel was a devoted worshipper of Baal [the chief male god of the Phoenicians…Ashtoreth was their female deity] and had a missionary zeal for spreading the worship of Baal. She was a strong-willed woman who held sway over Ahab.

B. Ahab “went to serve Baal and worship him” (16:31). This attests to the influence Jezebel had over Ahab.

C. Ahab “erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria” (16:32). Ahab allowed the idolatrous worship of Baal to become better organized in Israel. By building a temple for Baal and erecting an altar he fanned the flames of idolatry into a raging fire.

D. Ahab also “made the Asherah” (16:33).

All of this led the historian to conclude, “Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all who were before him” (16:33).

Practical Considerations

We should learn good lessons from bad examples.
Baasha failed to learn good lessons from Nadab’s and Jeroboam’s bad examples. Instead, he entered into and embraced the same sins that had destroyed Jeroboam and Nadab. As a result, his household experienced the same awful punishment as the house of Jeroboam. We err when we think that we can commit the same sins as others and escape judgment. See Galatians 6:7 and Colossians 3:25.

Those who despise God’s Word will be in debt to it.
Proverbs 13:13 states, “The one who despises the word will be in debt to it, But the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded.” The Living Bible paraphrases this verse: “Despise God’s Word and find yourself in trouble. Obey it and succeed.” One scholar has written. “The whole Bible is an exposition of this text.” The Amplified Bible translates this verse, “Whoever despises the Word [of God] brings destruction upon himself, but he who (reverently) fears and respects the commandment [of God] shall be rewarded.” This truth from the book of Proverbs is repeatedly illustrated in the history of Israel’s kings. This truth is also illustrated in our lives every time we think that we are smarter than God and choose to ignore his Word.

God is more interested in our character than in our career.
Omri was a powerful military leader who earned the respect of the neighboring nations, but he was a moral and spiritual failure. All of his political and military accomplishments could not make up for his spiritual deficit. The historian summed up Omri’s life with the words, “Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord” (16:25). It is what we are in the sight of the Lord that matters most rather than what we do in the sight of man. God measures our success in terms of our character rather than our career. No measure of vocational success can make up for spiritual failure.

The behavior of parents has an immeasurable impact on their children.
Omri may have been a politically and militarily successful man, but he was a failure as a parent. He failed to provide godly spiritual leadership to the people closest to him and to the people of the kingdom. Omri’s children learned to disregard God through his example. As a result they were even more godless than their father.

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