1 Kings 16:29
In the thirty-eighth year of Asa's reign over Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria twenty-two years.
Change Without ImprovementJ. Urquhart 1 Kings 16:21-34
AhabE. De Pressense 1 Kings 16:29-33
Ahab's WickednessJ.A. Macdonald 1 Kings 16:29-33
The evil genius of the son of Omri appeared -


1. In this, probably, he encouraged his father.

(1) He appears to have been associated with Omri in the kingdom. Omri reigned twelve years - viz., six in Tirzah, and six in Samaria; but his reign commenced "in the thirty-first year of Asa" (ver. 23). This would bring the close of his reign to the second year of Jehoshaphat, whereas in the text we read that "in the thirty and eighth year of Asa, king of Judah, began Ahab, the son of Omri, to reign over Israel." Hence it is evident Ahah must have been four or five years associated with his father in the throne.

(2) The extreme wickedness with which Omri is charged was probably owing to Ahab's evil influence; for the "statutes of Omri" seem to have been inspired by the "counsels of Ahab" (see Micah 6:16). So the note that "he sinned above all that were before him" is alike applied to the father and son (see verses 25, 30). And the leading influence of Ahab may explain why we commonly read of the "house of Ahab" rather than of the house of Omri. Parents are often demoralized by wicked children.

2. He did not alter his course after his father's death.

(1) The sin of Jeroboam was perpetuated in Israel down to the time of their captivity. The captivity seemed necessary to break its power over them. Judgment is the last resource of mercy.

(2) The same reasons of state continued to influence the successive rulers of the nation. Reasons of state are too often more potent than reasons of piety and righteousness. Else we had been spared the discredit of wicked wars, wicked laws, wicked trading.


1. She was a pronounced idolater.

(1) She was a Zidonian, and for any Israelite to marry one of that nation were a violation of the law of God (Exodus 34:11-16; Deuteronomy 7:3; Joshua 23:11-13). For a king of Israel to do this was the more reprehensible. Office brings responsibilities.

(2) These people were worshippers of strange gods, and in particular of Baal. Hence the name of this queen (איזבל), which may be derived from איזה, where? and בל, a contraction of בעל, Baal, thus: Where is Baal? q.d., a seeker of Baal. Hence also her father's name (אתבעל), Ethbaal, which Gesenius construes to denote, "Living with Baal, i.e., enjoying the favour and help of Baal."

2. Such alliances have ever proved demoralizing.

(1) The giants (נפליס), monsters, viz., in wickedness, perhaps, rather than in stature, whose violence provoked the judgment of the deluge, were the issue of marriages between the "sons of God," or holy race of Seth, and the "daughters of men," or profane descendants of Cain (Genesis 6:1-4).

(2) Solomon's heathen wives and concubines made a fool of the wisest of men, and brought his house and nation into infinite trouble (1 Kings 11:1-13).

(3) The history of this alliance also was most disastrous.

3. For typical reasons also they were forbidden.

(1) The marriage union should represent the union between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:32). Therefore a husband, that he may justly represent Christ, is bound to be holy; and so is his wife, that she may suitably represent the Church.

(2) Should the reverse happen, then is the woman an emblem of an apostate Church, of which the husband represents the Antichristian head (see 1 Corinthians 6:15, 16). Jezebel, accordingly, is viewed in this light in the imagery of the Apocalypse (see Revelation 2:20).


1. To Baal.

(1) To this god he built a temple in Samaria. This was the more audacious since, being placed in his capital, it seemed to vie with the temple of the Lord in the capital of Judah.

(2) To Baal also he reared an altar there. This, of course, meant a service of priests and sacrifices.

(3) Furthermore he himself worshipped Baal. Thus he gave the influence of his position to the encouragement of this idolatry. That influence was therefore also given to discourage the pure worship of the God of Israel.

2. To Ashsere.

(1) This word is construed "grove" in the text as elsewhere. But a little reflection will teach us that groves do not spring up in a day. Beside, it is not here said that Ahab planted (נטע), but that he made (עשה) the Ashere.

(2) The Ashere was a Canaanitish idol, probably of the figure of a goat, in the worship of which there appear to have been very abominable rites. No wonder, then, the anger of the Lord should be provoked. If we would not provoke it we must avoid the spirit of idolatry. This spirit is shown in the love of illicit things. Also in excessive love of lawful things. - J.A.M.

Omri slept with his fathers... Ahab his son reigned in his stead. &&&
A careful study of the two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, compels one to feel that communities do the best when they most honour God, and that forgetfulness of Him, and especially revolt from Him, brings disturbance and destruction. It is true these events transpired more than two thousand five hundred years ago, but they "are written for our learning." Why should they be if there is nothing that we need to learn from them?

1. We need not trouble ourselves with the settling of the periods making up the dozen years of Omri's reign, which had its opening portion in Tirzah, the royal seat (ver. 17). Omri had ability of a certain sort, and hence, probably, was able to secure the adhesion of so many of the people and the conquest of his two rivals. He showed it in the selection of a new capital. Shemer owned a tract of land with a hill of great strategic value. With an opening out into the wider distant plain through the level grounds which divided it elsewhere, all around, from the mountains, it had on one side a gentle slope, and on all the others it was easily made strong against an enemy, when bows and arrows and spears constituted the common weapons of assault. The town got its name from him who owned the hill, and most fitly, for it was the synonym of "watch-tower," the very thing at which Omri aimed, having in mind through the slaughter of how many enemies he had to wade to the throne, and how necessary it was to be strong against any future assaults. They who part with Jehovah as Guide and Protector, and trust to human resources, need to multiply these to the utmost. Jeroboam had not flung off God formally. He had only modified the way of serving Him. He had set up the calves. This was politic, expedient, necessary. It was in harmony too with the ways of the nations. This was "the Way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat" (ver. 26). It was not the way of loyalty to Jehovah; it was not the way of truth. It was the way of disobedience under the inspiration of policy. Between this sin and the others that followed it was only a question of degree, not of kind. Set up taste, usage, popular craving, fashion, artistic completeness, or anything else as changing, modifying the method of Divine appointment, and you enter on the inclined plane. How far down and how fast you will go is determined by circumstances. So Omri's working "evil in the eyes of the Lord," and doing "worse than all that were before him" (ver. 25), is only walking in all "the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat," and in his corrupting and contaminating sin. So it is ever. Given the supremacy of Peter, then his control of all things, secular and sacred; then his infallibility! What was the effect of all these modifications? Toward man, to keep Israel together and from union with Judah. But in the other and higher direction — toward God — the effect was "to provoke (ver. 26) the Lord God of Israel to anger with their vanities." (See, for the "statutes of Omri," Micah 6:16.) When Omri died, the chronicles of the kings of Israel (ver. 27) containing the record of his deeds, they buried him in his capital, Samaria, and the throne fell to his son Ahab in the thirty-eighth year of Asa of Judah (ver. 29), and about nine hundred and eighteen years before the coming of our Lord. His career is as full of darkness and weakness as a king's life could well be. His reign of twenty-two years was a continued curse to the people. He held on the way of his father, but, according to the common rule in such cases, descending lower and lower. Moral rottenness, like material putrefaction, must increase. "Evil men and seducers wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." He married Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, King of the Zidonians. We are not surprised at the character of the daughter when we know the career of her father as it is learned from outside history. Among the innovations of Ahab our version mentions a "grove," a misleading word into which the translators were led from its being really an idolatrous image or group of images, including the "sacred symbolic tree" so frequently seen in Assyrian monuments. That it could not be a grove, a wood, is clear from 2 Kings 22:4, where Josiah brought out "the grove" — asherah in Hebrew — from the house of the Lord. It was doubtless a new and imposing idol, in keeping with the luxurious life now being lived by the Israelites as wealth grew through commerce.(1) There is a real connection between the moral and religious condition of a nation and its temporal affairs. If we as a people defy God or disregard His, laws, He in His government of the world may be expected to show that He is "contrary to us."(2) The temptation is always great to God's people to be like their neighbours; and if these neighbours be cultivated, be deemed standards of excellence in arts, in manners, or in arms; if they be wealthy; if their trade is of importance to us; if they be powerful and it is our interest to stand well with them — the inducements to conformity are all the greater. The distinctive elements of our religion are set aside. Why thrust our Bibles, our family worship, our Sabbaths, on them? True, God says of us that we are to be "holding forth the Word of life." Ah, yes, but that was in other circumstances.(3) The next step is to take up the ways of our friends. Much in their methods can be described as nice, impressive, beautiful — especially if we have taken their standard of "loveliness"; and, having done this, there is a stage of attempted combination. But it is awkward, difficult — in the end possible. One or other must go. And when man is choosing between his own products and God's orders, he prefers his own. So the light is superseded by the darkness; spiritual religion gives place to "impressive" forms, which put no check on tastes or lusts or passions, and make no conscience uncomfortable, while sin is swallowed as a sweet morsel.

(J. Hall, D. D.).

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