1 Kings 16:23
In the thirty and first year of Asa king of Judah began Omri to reign over Israel, twelve years: six years reigned he in Tirzah.
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(23) Began Omri to reign over Israel.—The accession of Omri after this long civil war opened a new epoch of more settled government and prosperity for about forty-eight years. Omri had (as appears from 1Kings 20:34) to purchase peace with Syria by some acknowledgment of sovereignty and cession of cities. He then allied himself with the royal house of Tyre, probably both for strength against Syria, and for revival of the commercial prosperity of the days of Solomon, and proceeded to found a new capital in a strong position. That he was a warrior is indicated by the phrase, “the might that he shewed.” Probably, like Jeroboam and Baasha, he also had his opportunity of restoring the spiritual strength of his people by returning to the pure worship of God, and threw it away, doing “worse than all who were before him.”

1 Kings


1 Kings 16:23 - 1 Kings 16:33

Jeroboam’s son and successor was killed by Baasha, Baasha’s son and successor was killed by Zimri, who reigned for a week, and then burned the palace and died in the flames. A struggle for the throne followed between Omri, the commander-in-chief, and Tibni, ‘Tibni died, and Omri reigned.’ So, in fifty years, the kingdom that was to relieve Israel from oppression staggered through seas of blood, and four kings, or would-be kings, died by violence.

Omri’s dynasty lasted about as long, namely, through the reigns of four kings, and was then swept away like the others, in blood and fire. The text gives a meagre outline of the reigns of himself and his son Ahab, of which perhaps the meagreness is the most significant feature. The only fact told of the father is that he built Samaria, and his whole reign is summed up in the damning sentence that he ‘walked in the way of Jeroboam.’ We learn from the Moabite stone that he waged successful war against that country, and that it was tributary to Israel for forty years. In Micah 6:16, mention is made of the statutes of Omri, as if he had given edicts for idolatry. The reign of Ahab is similarly summarised. His marriage with Jezebel, and the flood of Baal worship which that let loose over the land, are told with horror, in preparation for Elijah’s appearance like a dark background that throws up a brilliant figure.

The lessons to be drawn from these severely condensed records, cut down to the bone, as it were, are plain. The first of them is, that when a life is over, the one thing which lasts, or is worth thinking about, is the man’s relation to God and His will. Here are twelve years’ reign in the one case, and twenty-two in the other, all boiled down, so to speak, into half a dozen sentences, and estimated according to one standard only. What has become of all the eager strife, the joys and sorrows, the hopes and fears, that burned so fiercely for awhile? All died down into a handful of grey ashes. And what lies in them like a lump of solid metal that has been melted out of the huge heap of days and deeds that fed the fire? The man’s relation to God. That abides; that is recorded; that determines everything else about him. Waving forests that once had sunshine pouring down on their green fronds are represented in a thin seam of coal. Our lives will all come down to this at last. How did he stand towards God and His will is the final question that will be asked about each of us, and the answer to it is the only thing that concerns the dead-or the living either. Men write voluminous biographies of each other. How little their judgments matter to the dead men! Praise or blame are equally indifferent to them. But what matters is, whether God will have to record of us what is recorded of these two wretched kings, or whether He will recognise that the main drift of our poor lives was to serve Him and do His will. He was a great scholar; he made a huge fortune; he rose to be a peer; she was a noted beauty, a leader of fashion, a queen of society-what will all such epitaphs be worth, if God’s finger carves silently below them, ‘He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord’?

Another lesson from these two reigns is the certain widening of the smallest departure from God. Jeroboam professed to retain the worship of Jehovah, and to introduce only a small alteration in setting up a symbol of Him. He would vehemently have asserted that he was no idolater, and would have shuddered at the very notion of bowing down to the gods of the nations, but in less than fifty years a temple to the Sidonian Baal rose in Samaria, and his worship, with its foul sensuality, was corrupting all Israel. However acute the angle of departure, the line has only to be prolonged, and the distance between it and that from which it diverged will be the distance between heaven and hell, Let no one say: ‘Thus far and no farther will I go.’ There is no stopping at will on that course, any more than a man sliding down a steeply sloping sheet of smooth ice can pull himself up before he plunges over the edge into the abyss below. That is true as to all departures from God and His law, but it is eminently true as to every tampering with the spirituality of worship. Jeroboam’s symbolism led straight to Ahab’s unblushing pagan worship of the hideous Sidonian Baal. The craving for symbolical and sensuous accessories of worship, which is strong in most Churches in this aesthetic generation, is perilous. Material aids to worship there must be, so long as we are in the flesh, but the fewer and simpler they are the better, for they are aids which very swiftly become hindrances.

Another lesson from Ahab’s reign is the need of detachment from entangling alliances, if we would keep ourselves right with God. It was Israel’s calling to be separate from the nations. It was Israel’s temptation either to mix with them, or to keep aloof from them in contempt and hatred. Ahab’s marriage with Jezebel was, no doubt, thought by his father a clever stroke of policy, assuring them of an ally. But it flooded the nation with the cruel and lustful cult of Baal, and that finally ruined Ahab and his house. God’s servants can never mingle themselves with His enemies without harm, unless they mingle with them for the purpose of turning them into His servants. If we prefer the company of those who do not love Jesus, our love to Him must be faint, and will soon be fainter. If Ahab takes Jezebel for his wife, Ahab will soon take Jezebel’s foul god for his god.1 Kings 16:23. Began Omri to reign — twelve years — That is, and he reigned twelve years: not from this thirty-first year of Asa, for he died in his thirty- eighth year, (1 Kings 16:29,) but from the beginning of his reign, which was in Asa’s twenty-seventh year, 1 Kings 16:15-16. So he reigned four years in a state of war with Tibni, and eight peaceably.16:15-28 When men forsake God, they will be left to plague one another. Proud aspiring men ruin one another. Omri struggled with Tibni some years. Though we do not always understand the rules by which God governs nations and individuals in his providence, we may learn useful lessons from the history before us. When tyrants succeed each other, and massacres, conspiracies, and civil wars, we may be sure the Lord has a controversy with the people for their sins; they are loudly called to repent and reform. Omri made himself infamous by his wickedness. Many wicked men have been men of might and renown; have built cities, and their names are found in history; but they have no name in the book of life.From a comparison of the dates given in 1 Kings 16:15, 1 Kings 16:23, 1 Kings 16:29 it follows that the contest between the two pretenders lasted four years.

Tibni's death can scarcely be supposed to have been natural. Either he must have been slain in battle against Omri, or have fallen into his hands and been put to death.

There has probably been some derangement of the text here. The passage may have run thus: "So Tibni died, and Omri reigned in the thirty-first year of Asa, king of Judah. Omri reigned over Israel twelve years: six years reigned he in Tirzah." Omri's reign of 12 years began in Asa's 27th 1 Kings 16:15-16, and terminated in his 38th 1 Kings 16:29. The event belonging to Asa's 31st year was the death of Tibni, and the consequent extension of Omri's kingdom.

The six years in Tirzah are probably made up of the four years of contention with Tibni, and two years afterward, during which enough of Samaria was built for the king to transfer his residence there.

1Ki 16:23-28. Omri Builds Samaria.

23. In the thirty and first year of Asa … began Omri to reign—The twelve years of his reign are computed from the beginning of his reign, which was in the twenty-seventh year of Asa's reign. He held a contested reign for four years with Tibni; and then, at the date stated in this verse, entered on a sole and peaceful reign of eight years.

Began Omri to reign over Israel twelve years, i.e. and he reigned twelve years, not from this thirty-first year of Asa, for he died in his thirty-eighth year, 1 Kings 16:29; but from the beginning of his reign, which was in Asa’s twenty-seventh year, 1 Kings 16:15,16. So he reigned four years in a state of war with Tibni, and eight years peaceably. In the thirty first year of Asa king of Judah began Omri to reign over Israel twelve years,.... Which are to be reckoned not from the thirty first of Asa; for Ahab the son of Omri began to reign in his thirty eighth year, and so his reign would be but seven or eight years; but they are reckoned from the twenty seventh of Asa, the beginning of it, when Elah was slain by Zimri, and he died, which to the end of the thirty eight of Asa make twelve years; for the division, according to the Jewish chronology (d), lasted four years; Jarchi says five (e); and from the beginning of that his reign is reckoned, though he did not reign over all Israel, or completely, until the thirty first of Asa, when Tibni died:

six years reigned he in Tirzah; the royal city of the kings of Israel, from Jeroboam to this time, and the other six he reigned in Samaria, built by him, as in the next verse.

(d) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 17. p. 45. (e) So Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 11. 2.

In the thirty and first year of Asa king of Judah began Omri to reign over Israel, twelve years: six years reigned he in Tirzah.
23. over Israel, twelve years] The R.V. inserts in italics ‘and reigned,’ after ‘Israel’ to make the sense clear. See on 1 Kings 15:33.

six years reigned he] The four years of the struggle for the throne are not counted either to Tibni or to Omri. For the commencement of Ahab’s reign is put (see 1 Kings 16:29) in the 38th year of Asa.Verse 23. - In the thirty and first year of Asa, king of Judah began Omri to reign over Israel, twelve years [As Omri was proclaimed king in the twenty-seventh and died in the thirty-eighth year of Asa (cf. vers. 15, 29), he cannot in any case have reigned twelve full years; whereas if his reign is to be dated, as it is here, from the thirty-first year of Asa, it is obvious that he would only have reigned seven, or, according to the Jewish mode of reckoning, eight years. Rawlinson proposes to get over the difficulty by rearranging the text. He would attach the first clause of this verse to ver. 22, and read, "And Omri reigned in the thirty-first," etc. But to this there are two serious objections. First, that ver. 23, as it now stands, only follows the usual formula with which a new reign is announced (cf. vers. 8, 15, 29); and, second, it is extremely doubtful whether any prose sentence in the Hebrew ever begins as ver. 23 would then do, "Reigned Omri over Israel twelve years." Such a sentence would certainly be quite alien to the usus loquendi of our author. We are therefore reduced to the conclusion either

(1) that the text here, as in some other instances (1 Kings 6:1; 2 Kings 1:17; cf. 3:1; 13:1, 10, etc.), has suffered at the hands of a reviser, or

(2) that the numbers have been corrupted in transcription; or

(3) that the historian expresses himself in a somewhat confused way. Of these suppositions perhaps

(1) is the most likely. Anyhow, it is clear that the twelve years of Omri's reign are to be counted not from the thirty-first, but from the twenty-seventh year of Asa, i.e., from the date of Zimri's death (see vers. 10, 15, 29). The confusion has arisen from the fact that it was not until Tibni was slain, after four years of conflict, that Omri became sole ruler]: six years reigned he in Tirzah. The Reign of Zimri lasted only seven days. As soon as the people of war (העם), who were besieging Gibbethon (see at 1 Kings 15:27), heard of his conspiracy, his usurpation of the throne, and his murderous deeds, they proclaimed Omri king in the camp of the military commanders, and he at once, with all Israel, i.e., all the army, raised the siege of Gibbethon, to lay siege to Thirza. Now when Zimri saw that the city was taken, he went into the castle of the royal palace and burned the king's house over his own head, as Sardanapalus did, according to Justin (Hist. i. 3). ארמון does not mean harem (Ewald), but the high castle (from ארם, to be high); here and in 2 Kings 15:25, the citadel of the royal palace, which consisted of several buildings.
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