1 Kings 16

CHAPTER XVI

Jehu the prophet denounces the destruction of Baasha,1-7.

Zimri conspires against him, and slays him and his family, and

reigns seven days, 8-15.

The people make Omri king, and besiege Zimri in Tirzah; who,

finding no way to escape, sets fire to his palace, and consumes

himself in it, 16-20.

The people are divided, half following Tibni, and half Omri;

the latter faction overcomes the former, Tibni is slain, and

Omri reigns alone, 21-23.

He founds Samaria, 24.

His bad character and death, 25-28.

Ahab reigns in his stead; marries Jezebel, restores idolatry,

and exceeds his predecessors in wickedness, 29-33.

Hiel the Beth-elite rebuilds Jericho, 34.

NOTES ON CHAP. XVI

Verse 1. Then the word of the Lord came to Jehu] Of this prophet

we know nothing but from this circumstance. It appears from

2Ch 16:7-10, that his father

Hanani was also a prophet, and suffered imprisonment in

consequence of the faithful discharge of his ministry to Asa.

Verse 2. Made thee prince over my people] That is, in the course

of my providence, I suffered thee to become king; for it is

impossible that God should make a rebel, a traitor, and a

murderer, king over his people, or over any people. God is ever

represented in Scripture as doing those things which, in the

course of his providence, he permits to be done.

Verse 7. And because he killed him.] This the Vulgate

understands of Jehu the prophet, put to death by Baasha: Ob hanc

causam occidit eum, hoe est. Jehu filium Hanani prophetam; "On

this account he killed him, that is, Jehu the prophet, the son of

Hanani." Some think Baasha is intended, others Jeroboam, and

others Nadab the son of Jeroboam. This last is the sentiment of

Rab. Sol. Jarchi, and of some good critics. The order is here

confused; and the seventh verse should probably be placed between

the 4th and 5th.

Verse 9. Captain of half his chariots] It is probable that

Zimri, and some other who is not here named, were commanders of

the cavalry.

Verse 11. He slew all the house of Baasha] He endeavoured to

exterminate his race, and blot out his memory; and the Jews say,

when such a matter is determined, they not only destroy the house

of the person himself, but the five neighbouring houses, that the

memory of such a person may perish from the earth.

Verse 13. For all the sins of Baasha] We see why it was that God

permitted such judgments to fall on this family. Baasha was a

grievous offender, and so also was his son Elah; and they caused

the people to sin; and they provoked God to anger by their

idolatries.

Verse 15. The people were encamped against Gibbethon] It appears

that, at this time, the Israelites had war with the Philistines,

and were now besieging Gibbethon, one of their cities. This army,

hearing that Zimri had rebelled and killed Elah, made Omri, their

general, king, who immediately raised the siege of Gibbethon, and

went to attack Zimri in the royal city of Tirzah; who, finding his

affairs desperate, chose rather to consume himself in his palace

than to fall into the hands of his enemies.

Verse 21. Divided into two parts] Why this division took place

we cannot tell; the people appear to have been for Tibni, the army

for Omri; and the latter prevailed.

Verse 23. In the thirty and first year of Asa] There must be a

mistake here in the number thirty-one; for, in ver. 10 and 15,

1Ki 16:10, 15 it is said that Zimri slew his master, and

began to reign in the twenty-seventh year of Asa; and as Zimri

reigned only seven days, and Omri immediately succeeded him, this

could not be in the thirty-first, but in the twenty-seventh year

of Asa, as related above. Rab. Sol. Jarchi reconciles the two

places thus: "The division of the kingdom between Tibni and Omri

began in the twenty-seventh year of Asa; this division lasted five

years, during which Omri had but a share of the kingdom. Tibni

dying, Omri came into the possession of the whole kingdom, which

he held seven years; this was in the thirty-first year of Asa.

Seven years he reigned alone; five years he reigned over part of

Israel; twelve years in the whole. The two dates, the

twenty-seventh and thirty-first of Asa, answering, the first to

the beginning of the division, the second to the sole reign of

Omri." Jarchi quotes Sedar Olam for this solution.

Verse 24. He bought the hill Samaria of Shemer] This should be

read, "He bought the hill of Shomeron from Shomer, and called it

Shomeron, (i.e., Little Shomer,) after the name of Shomer, owner

of the hill." At first the kings of Israel dwelt at Shechem, and

then at Tirzah; but this place having suffered much in the civil

broils, and the place having been burnt down by Zimri, Omri

purposed to found a new city, to which he might transfer the seat

of government. He fixed on a hill that belonged to a person of the

name of Shomer; and bought it from him for two talents of silver,

about 707 3s. 9d. Though this was a large sum in those days, yet

we cannot suppose that the hill was very large which was purchased

for so little; and probably no other building upon it than

Shomer's house, if indeed he had one there. Shomeron, or, as it is

corruptly written, Samaria, is situated in the midst of the tribe

of Ephraim, not very far from the coast of the Mediterranean Sea,

and about midway between Dan and Beer-sheba: thus Samaria became

the capital of the ten tribes, the metropolis of the kingdom of

Israel, and the residence of its kings. The kings of Israel

adorned and fortified it; Ahab built a house of ivory in it,

1Ki 22:39; the kings of Syria had

magazines or storehouses in it, for the purpose of commerce; see

1Ki 20:34. And it appears to have been a place of considerable

importance and great strength.

Samaria endured several sieges; Ben-hadad king of Syria,

besieged it twice, 1Ki 20:1, &c.; and it cost Shalmaneser a siege

of three years to reduce it, 2Ki 17:6, &c. After the death of

Alexander the Great, it became the property of the kings of Egypt;

but Antiochus the Great took it from the Egyptians; and it

continued in the possession of the kings of Syria till the

Asmoneans took and razed it to the very foundation. Gabinius,

pro-consul of Syria, partially rebuilt it, and called it

Gabiniana. Herod the Great restored it to its ancient

splendour, and placed in it a colony of six thousand men, and gave

it the name of Sebaste, in honour of Augustus. It is now a place

of little consequence.

Verse 25. Did worse than all-before him] Omri was, 1. An

idolater in principle; 2. An idolater in practice; 3. He led the

people to idolatry by precept and example; and, which was that in

which he did worse than all before him, 4. He made statutes in

favour of idolatry, and obliged the people by law to commit it.

See Mic 6:16, where this seems to be intended:

For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the

house of Ahab.

Verse 31. He took to wife Jezebel] This was the head and chief

of his offending; he took to wife, not only a heathen, but one

whose hostility to the true religion was well known, and carried

to the utmost extent. 1. She was the idolatrous daughter of an

idolatrous king; 2. She practised it openly; 3. She not only

countenanced it in others, but protected it, and gave its

partisans honours and rewards; 4. She used every means to

persecute the true religion; 5. She was hideously cruel, and put

to death the prophets and priests of God; 6. And all this she did

with the most zealous perseverance and relentless cruelty.

Notwithstanding Ahab had built a temple, and made an altar for

Baal, and set up the worship of Asherah, the Sidonian Venus, which

we, 1Ki 16:33, have transformed into

a grove; yet so well known was the hostility of Jezebel to all

good, that his marrying her was esteemed the highest pitch of

vice, and an act the most provoking to God, and destructive to the

prosperity of the kingdom.

Verse 33. Ahab made a grove] Asherah, Astarte, or Venus;

what the Syriac calls an idol, and the Arabic, a tall tree;

probably meaning, by the last, an image of Priapus, the obscene

keeper of groves, orchards, and gardens.

Verse 34. Did Hiel the Beth-elite build Jericho] I wish the

reader to refer to my note on Jos 6:26, for a general view of

this subject. I shall add a few observations. Joshua's curse is

well known: "Cursed be the man before the Lord that riseth up and

buildeth this city Jericho; he shall lay the foundation thereof in

his first-born; and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates

of it," Jos 6:26. This is the curse, but the meaning of its terms

is not very obvious. Let us see how this is to be understood from

the manner in which it was accomplished.

"In his days did Hiel the Beth-elite build Jericho; he laid the

foundation thereof in Abiram his first-born, and set up the gates

thereof in his youngest son Segub; according to the word of the

Lord, which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun." This prediction

was delivered upwards of five hundred years before the event; and

though it was most circumstantially fulfilled, yet we know not the

precise meaning of some of the terms used in the original

execration, and in this place, where its fulfillment is mentioned.

There are three opinions on the words, lay the foundation in his

first-born, and set up the gates in his youngest son.

1. It is thought that when he laid the foundation of the city,

his eldest son, the hope of his family, died by the hand and

judgment of God, and that all his children died in succession; so

that when the doors were ready to be hung, his youngest and last

child died, and thus, instead of securing himself a name, his

whole family became extinct.

2. These expressions signify only great delay in the building;

that he who should undertake it should spend nearly his whole life

in it; all the time in which he was capable of procreating

children; in a word, that if a man laid the foundation when his

first-born came into the world, his youngest and last son should

be born before the walls should be in readiness to admit the gates

to be set up in them; and that the expression is of the proverbial

kind, intimating greatly protracted labour, occasioned by

multitudinous hinderances and delays.

3. That he who rebuilt this city should, in laying the

foundation, slay or sacrifice his firstborn, in order to

consecrate it, and secure the assistance of the objects of his

idolatrous worship; and should slay his youngest at the completion

of the work, as a gratitude-offering for the assistance received.

This latter opinion seems to be countenanced by the Chaldee, which

represents Hiel as slaying his first-born Abiram, and his youngest

son Segub.

But who was Hiel the Beth-elite? The Chaldee calls him Hiel

of Beth-mome, or the Beth-momite; the Vulgate, Hiel of Beth-el;

the Septuagint, Hiel the Baithelite; the Syriac represents Ahab

as the builder: "Also in his days did Ahab build Jericho, the

place of execration;" the Arabic, "Also in his days did Hiel build

the house of idols-to wit, Jericho." The MSS. give us no help.

None of these versions, the Chaldee excepted, intimates that the

children were either slain or died; which circumstance seems to

strengthen the opinion, that the passage is to be understood of

delays and hinderances. Add to this, Why should the innocent

children of Hiel suffer for their father's presumption? And is it

likely that, if Hiel lost his first-born when he laid the

foundation, he would have proceeded under this evidence of the

Divine displeasure, and at the risk of losing his whole family?

Which of these opinions is the right one, or whether any of them

be correct, is more than I can pretend to state. A curse seems to

rest still upon Jericho: it is not yet blotted out of the map of

Palestine, but it is reduced to a miserable village, consisting of

about thirty wretched cottages, and the governor's dilapidated

castle; nor is there any ruin there to indicate its former

splendour.

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