April 18 Reading: I Kings 15-16 Commentary
“Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did his father David.” ( I Kings 15:11).
“Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him.” (I Kings 16:30)
I Kings 15 – The Narrative of Kings Begins
For the rest of I and II Kings, the author will list and summarize the rule of the kings in both Israel and Judah. A few kings had greater impact during their reign, so their lives get an extended look. For example, King Ahab’s story unfolds in I Kings 16-22.
For the most part, the kings are discussed in alignment with their respective counterpart in the opposite kingdom. The reader can understand how one king affected or dealt with the rival kingdom. There was not always war or interaction between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms but the chronological order of writing and cross-referencing information helps the reader see how events in one kingdom impacted the other.
In most cases, each king is compared to one of two people, depending on the kingdom. Southern king’s actions are always compared against David, while Northern kings are always compared against Jeroboam. Kings are said to either have or not have a heart like David (in the Southern Kingdom) or they are said to have walked in the wicked ways of Jeroboam (in the Northern Kingdom).
The phrasing used will be either – “…he [the king] did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord…” or “…he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord…” To God, that is the most important factor – how they lived for him. All their accomplishments meant nothing if they did not honor the Lord as he had commanded.
Additionally, all the kings of Judah get second review in the book of II Chronicles.
Abijam – King of Judah
After Reboboam died, his son Abijam became king in Judah (see also II Chron. 13:1-14:1). He reigned three years. There was war between Abijam and King Jeroboam of Israel during his reign (vv. 6-7).
Abijam “…walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him; his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. Nevertheless for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, by setting up his son after him and by establishing Jerusalem; because David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (vv. 3-5).
Asa – King of Judah
After Abijam died, Asa came to power in Judah during the 20th year of Jeroboam’s reign (see also II Chron. 14:1 – 16:14). Asa reigned 41 years in Judah. “Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done” (v. 11). Some of his accomplishments included:
1. Banished “perverted persons” from Judah (v. 12).
2. Removed his wicked grandmother from being queen (v. 13).
3. Brought the things his father had dedicated into the temple (v. 15).
Asa was at war with Basha, king of Israel (v. 16). In order to gain a tactical advantage, Asa persuaded Ben-Hadad, king of Syria, to break his treaty with Basha and have a treaty with him instead. The reasoning was that a treaty had been in place between the two countries since the days of Solomon, so Ben-Hadad should honor that one above all. The king of Syria agreed and that forced Baasha to stand down (vv. 18-21).
Despite the good he did, Asa’s life ended badly. He contracted a foot disease and only sought the help of physicians with it. He did not seek the Lord for healing (II Chron. 16:12).
Nadab – King of Israel
After the death of Jeroboam, his son Nadab became king in the second year of Asa king of Judah. Nadab “did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the ways of his father and committing the same sin his father had caused Israel to commit” (v. 26). He reigned only two years.
He only was king for two years because his military commander Baasha conspired against him and killed him (vv. 27-28). And when Baasha came to power, he sought to eliminate all competition. He “killed Jeroboam’s whole family. He did not leave Jeroboam anyone that breathed, but destroyed them all…” (v. 29).
Baasha probably didn’t realize it but his actions fulfilled the word of the Lord about the house of Jeroboam (I Kings 14:9, 16).
I Kings 16 – Four Kings of Israel
The first king of Israel discussed in this chapter was introduced in Chap. 15. Baasha became king in the 3rd year of Asa king of Judah. He reigned twenty-four years and “did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the ways of Jeroboam and committing the same sin Jeroboam had caused Israel to commit” (I Kings 15:33-34).
Because of Baasha’s evil ways, the word of the Lord came to Jehu who was the son of Hanani the prophet which Asa executed (see I Chron. 16:7-10). Jehu spoke to Baasha saying,
“I lifted you up from the dust and appointed you ruler over my people Israel, but you followed the ways of Jeroboam and caused my people Israel to sin and to arouse my anger by their sins. So I am about to wipe out Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat. Dogs will eat those belonging to Baasha who die in the city, and birds will feed on those who die in the country” (vv. 2-4).
This type of death where the body was not properly buried and was left to dogs and birds to consume would have brought considerable shame on the family.
Elah – King of Israel
After the death of Baasha, Elah his son became king. He reigned two years in Tirzah, the second capital of Israel in the mountains of Ephraim. He reigned only two years because his servant Zimri, conspired against him. Zimri got Elah drunk in his stewards house and went in and killed him. This all happened in the 27th year or Asa king of Judah.
After Zimri became king, he “did not leave him one male, neither of his relatives nor of his friends….Zimri destroyed all the household of Baasha, according to the word of the Lord, which He spoke against Baasha by Jehu the prophet, for all the sins of Baasha and the sins of Elah his son, by which they had sinned and by which they had made Israel sin, in provoking the Lord God of Israel to anger with their idols” (vv. 11-13).
Zimri – King of Israel
Zimri came to power in the 27th year of Asa king of Judah after murdering Elah. He reigned in Israel for 7 days. Yes, that is correct, one week! (v. 15).
The reason is that when the leaders of the military heard what he’d done, they made their commander Omri king on the spot. They company marched against the city of Tirzah where Zimri was held up in the king’s house. When he saw the armies advancing and that the city was taken, he burned the king’s house down upon himself and he died in the fire (vv. 16-18).
Like those before him, judgment came “because of the sins which he had committed in doing evil in the sight of the Lord, in walking in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin which he had committed to make Israel sin” (v. 19).
Omri – King of Israel
At this point, a civil war broke out in Israel. Half the people followed Omri and half followed a man named Tibni. Omri forces prevailed however, and Tibni died in the conflict (vv. 21-22). Omri came to power in the 31st year of Asa king of Judah’s reign. He reigned a total of 12 years, building a new capital city he called Samaria in central Israel.
Omri, “…did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all who were before him. For he walked in all the ways of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in his sin by which he had made Israel sin, provoking the Lord God of Israel to anger with their idols” (vv. 25-26).
Even though he reigned only 12 years and the author notes few of his deeds, Omri was one of the more dynamic kings of Israel. Other ancient literature like the Moabite Stone and the annals of Assyria mention his accomplishments. He invaded Moab and helped stop the westward expansion of Assyria. He was so noteworthy that the Assyrians referred to Israel as “The House of Omri” even after he had died.
But perhaps most notable was the fact that he was the father to the most wicked king in Israel’s history – Ahab.
Introduction to King Ahab
Ahab, son of Omri, became king over Israel in the 38th year of Asa king of Judah. He reigned in the capital of Samaria for 22 years. He “did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him” (v. 30).
Ahab was so evil that he considered the sins of Jeroboam “trivial” (v. 31). In other words, it was normal, almost expected for him to walk in sin. He demonstrated this in multiple ways:
1. He married Jezebel, the daughter of Ethball, king of the Sidonians (v. 31). She was a powerful woman who influenced Ahab towards wicked behavior (I Kings 21). She also was at odds with the prophet Elijah, so much so that Elijah feared for his life (I Kings 19).
2. Ahab set up an altar to Baal in the temple of Baal in Samaria (v. 32).
3. He constructed a wooden image that displeased the Lord (v. 33).
We are told he “did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (v. 33).
A Prophetic Note
Chap. 16 concludes with what reads like a postscript at the end of a letter. We read that in Ahab’s day:
“…Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation with Abiram his firstborn, and with his youngest son Segub he set up its gates, according to the word of the Lord, which He had spoken through Joshua the son of Nun” (v. 34).
This was the fulfillment of the curse of Joshua on Jericho (Joshua 6:26-27). After its destruction, Joshua cursed whoever tried to rebuild Jericho’s walls and gates. He said that whoever tried would do so at the cost of his firstborn and youngest child’s life.
Questions to Consider:
In your personal life, are you doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord? Are you honoring him with your daily life and in how you treat others?
If two people do not share the same beliefs, then we should not be surprised when conflict comes.
Once Israel divided into two kingdoms, there was conflict. The northern tribes never followed God, while the southern tribes did sometimes. Their structure was broken over their beliefs about God and the division was never healed. Is their conflict dividing your relationships? Takes steps to heal that today.
What other points would you want to know about in our I Kings 15-16 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.