I Kings 16

The Word Made Fresh

1The word of the LORD came to Jehu son of Hanani concerning Baasha: 2“I lifted you up from nowhere and crowned you king of my people Israel. But you followed the example of Jeroboam and led my people astray, and I am outraged by their behavior. 3So, I am going to bring an end to Baasha and his family and I will make you and your family like the family of Jeroboam son of Nebat. 4Any of Baasha’s followers who die in the city will be eaten by the dogs, and any who die in the country will be eaten by the birds.”

5 The rest of Baasha’s deeds are recorded in the Book of the Acts of the Kings of Israel. 6He died and joined his ancestors. He was buried at Tirzah, and his son Elah followed him as king. 7The LORD’s word against Baasha was spoken by the prophet Jehu son of Hanani because of the evil he had done in the LORD’s eyes. His behavior angered the LORD because he followed the sins of Jeroboam and because of the damage he had done to Israel.

8Asa had been king of Judah for twenty-six years when Elah son of Baasha began his reign in Israel in Tirzah. His reign lasted only two years. 9His general, Zimri, who was over half his chariot forces, plotted against him, and when Elah was drinking himself drunk in Tirzah at the home of his palace captain, Arza, 10Zimri came and struck him down. So, in the twenty-seventh year of Asa’s reign in Judah, Zimri became king of Israel.

11As soon as he had taken the throne, Zimri took the life of every single man who was a member or friend of Baasha’s family. 12So, everyone associated with Baasha’s rule was wiped out, which is exactly what the LORD told the prophet Jehu would happen 13because of the wickedness of Baasha and his son Elah, leading the people to sin and angering the LORD with their worship of idols. 14The reign of Elah is recorded in the Book of the Acts of the Kings of Israel.

15Zimri ruled Israel for seven days in Tirzah during the twenty-seventh year of Asa’s rule in Judah. At the time, Israel’s army was besieging the Philistine fortress at Gibbethon. 16They heard that Zimri had killed the king, and they made their general, Omri, the king of Israel in their camp that very day. 17That same day Omri led his soldiers to attack Tirzah. 18When Zimri realized the city was falling he went into the fortress attached to the king’s palace. He set the place on fire and died in the blaze. 19This happened because of his wickedness and the sins he committed in the LORD’s sight that led Israel to sin. 20Zimri’s conspiracy and his reign are written in the Book of the Acts of the Kings of Israel.

21Israel was then divided between those who wanted to make Tibni son of Ginath their king, and those who followed Omri. 22Omri’s followers defeated Tibni’s followers and Tibni died, leaving Omri alone as king. 23So, in the thirty-first year of king Asa of Judah, Omri began his reign over Israel. He ruled for twelve years, six of them in Tirzah.

24Then Omri purchased the hill of Samaria from Shemer for one hundred fifty pounds of silver. He built a fortress there and a city which he called Samaria after Shemer the previous owner. 25Omri did more evil things in the LORD’s eyes than all the rulers before him. 26He committed the same sins as Jeroboam son of Nebat and led Israel to sin against the LORD their God with their idol worship. 27The reign of Omri, his deeds and the way he wielded his authority, is recorded in the Book of the Acts of the Kings of Israel. He joined his ancestors in death and was buried in Samaria. His son Ahab became king in his stead.

29Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel in the thirty-eighth year of the reign of king Asa in Judah. He ruled in Samaria for twenty-two years. 30He was even more wicked than the kings who were before him. 31It wasn’t enough that he copied the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat; he married Jezebel, daughter of king Ethbaal of Sidon, and he began to serve and worship Baal. 32He built an altar to Baal in a temple he had built for Baal in Samaria. 33He even set up a totem pole to honor Baal. Ahab did more to anger the LORD than all the kings of Israel who went before him.

34While he was king, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. When he laid the foundation his firstborn son Abiram died, and when he hung its gates his youngest son Segub died; it happened just as the LORD had told Joshua son of Nun.


1-7: We are introduced to another prophet, one Jehu, to whom God’s word comes with regard to Baasha. Baasha is roundly condemned both for murdering Jeroboam’s family and for being too much like Jeroboam! Baasha dies and is succeeded by his son Elah.

8-10: Elah doesn’t last long, and drinks too much. He is assassinated by one of his cavalry commanders, Zimri.

11-14: Zimri wastes no time in getting rid of any possible threat to his power. He murders everybody he can find who has any connection to Baasha, Elah’s father.

15-20: Meanwhile, Israel’s army is still besieging the Philistine city of Gibbethon. The army is apparently secure enough in its organization and leadership that repeated changes in the palace doesn’t have much effect on their ability to wage war. When news comes of Zimri’s coup the army proclaims their general, Omri, to be king. Omri leads the army back to Tirzah and lays siege to his own capital. Zimri immolates himself in the palace. The author is convinced that Zimri got what he deserved. He ruled a whole week.

21-24: Now we see how chaotic things have become in the northern kingdom. Another guy, Tibni, is crowned by half the population, but Omri’s crowd is quick to do away with the threat. Tibni dies, and you can be sure it wasn’t peacefully in his sleep. Omri’s rule is secure, and he rules for 12 years. Halfway through his reign he moves the capital from Tirzah to Samaria, where it will remain for the duration of Israel. An explanation is given of the name “Samaria,” that it is based on the name of the man who sold the hill to Omri – Shemer – but Samaria is already the name of the region in which it is located – see 13:32.

25-28: Omri is judged to be a wicked king. When he dies, he is succeeded by his son Ahab, who will prove to be the most notable ruler of the northern kingdom, Israel.

29-33: Asa is still on the throne in Judah when Ahab begins his reign. Ahab will rule for 22 years. He is a very bad man by all accounts, and the worst thing he does is to marry Jezebel, princess of Sidon, worshiper of Baal. Ahab builds a temple to Baal right there in the capital city, and even erects a totem pole honoring that pagan deity – of all the nerve!

34: Unrelated to anything else in the chapter, we are told that a fellow named Hiel rebuilt Jericho, and in the process lost his oldest and youngest sons, thus proving the curse of Joshua hundreds of years before (Joshua 6:26).


Once a leader turns away from God and causes the people to worship idols (power, money, popularity – you know the list), that snowball will grow within each generation that follows until a calamity large enough to destroy every vestige of that sinfulness comes and enables a new beginning. There simply is no way to overestimate the importance of passing our faith down to the next generation. If we fail, they will fail.