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There was reason in Jeroboam's fear of the dangers he foresaw. His own rebellion against Solomon in former days increased these fears. Illustration. Scott, in Marmion, shows Lord Marmion,
... “Who scarce could brook
E'en from his king a haughty look,"
. “ For when within
A feather daunts the brave;
Before their meanest slave.” There are many temptations to repeat in our day Jeroboam's worldly policy, especially in seeking wealth or honors.
11. This WORLDLY POLICY LED THE KING AND PEOPLE INTO IDOLATRY, as described in the text. It resulted much worse than the king intended. He meant still to worship Jehovah, only in a forbidden way. But when one commandment was broken, all evils could enter the broken wall of the fortress of righteousness.
Illustration. There was an abbot who desired a piece of ground that lay conveniently for him. The owner refused to sell; yet with much persuasion was contented to let it. The abbot hired it, and covenanted only to farm it for one crop; he had his bargain, and sowed it with acorns, -a crop that lasted three hundred years. So Satan asks to get possession of our souls by asking us to permit some small sin to enter, some one wrong, that seems of no great account. But when once he has entered and planted the seeds and beginnings of evil, he holds his ground, and sins and evils multiply.
Illustration. Jeroboam's policy in keeping his people from going up to Jerusalem to worship was precisely the policy of Abderrahman, caliph of Spain, when he arrested the movement of his subjects to Mecca by the erection of the holy place of the Zeca at Cordova, and of Abd-el-Malik when he built the Dome of the Rock at Jerusalem, because of his quarrel with the authorities of Mecca. — Stanley.
III. SHOW THE DISASTROUS RESULT OF THIS SINFUL POLICY in Jeroboam's career, and that of the nation. He threw away all he might have been. He trampled the divine pearls under his feet. Show how this is the continual and necessary result of seeking success, or wealth, or happiness by doing wrong.
LESSON III. — JULY 19.
OMRI AND AHAB. — 1 KINGS 16:23–34.
TIME. – B.C. 929–914. Some 50 years after our last lesson.
PRONUNCIATIONS. — Abi'jah; Abi'răm; A'hăb; A'să; Ba'al; Ba'ăshă; E'läh; Eth'baal; Hi'ěl; Jěz'ěběl; Om'ri; Se'gūb; She'měr; Tīr'zăh; Tīb'ni; Zido'niāns; Zim'ri.
INTERVENING EVENTS. - 1 Kings, chaps. 13-16; 2 Chron., chaps. 13-17.
I. THE KINGDOM OF JUDAH. After a 17 years' reign Rehoboam died, and his son Abijah reigned for three years. He was wicked like his father, but he seems to have been a great warrior, and he assumed the state and pomp of an oriental monarch. He was followed by two good kings, — Asa, who reigned 41 years, and Jehoshaphat, who reigned 25 years. Under them was a great reformation and revival of true religion. Idolatry was checked, the national religion was established in all its splendor and influence, and the kingdom rose to great power and influence.
THE KINGDOM of Israel. On the other hand, the kingdom of Israel grew worse and worse. So many of the better people had left it for Judah, on account of the idolatrous policy of the rulers, that the more turbulent elements had too great ascendancy Jeroboam died after a reign of 22 years. His son, who simply repeated his father's sins, reigned two years, and then was dethroned, and the whole lineage of Jeroboam was put to death by Baasha, who usurped the throne. He reigned 24 years, and maintained an almost constant war with Asa, king of Judah. His reign too was but a repetition of Jeroboam's sin. Elah, his son, succeeded him, and reigned two short years, when he was slain by Zimri, one of his chief generals. Zimri reigned but seven days, when he was destroyed, having set fire to the royal palace, and burnt himself and all the treasures in the flames. Then Omri, another general of the army, was chosen king by the army, B.C. 929.
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.
24. And he bought the hill Samaria of Shemer for two talents of silver, and built on the hill, and called the name of the city which he built, after the name of Shemer, owner of the hill, 1 Samaria.
1 1 Kings 13: 32. 2 Kings 17: 24. John 4:4.
EXPLANATORY. I. Omri's Reign. — Vers. 23–28. 23. In the thirty and first year of Asa. The fiftieth year of the divided kingdom, B.c. 925. This date marks the commencement of his possession of the whole kingdom, four years after his first election as king (1 Kings 16: 16, 21, 22). Began Omri to reign. Omri was the sixth king of Israel, and the founder of the third dynasty, which lasted for three generations and four kings. His father's name and tribe are unknown. — Smith. He was the commanding general of the Israelite army. Twelve years. From his election as king. For four years he held a contested reign with Tibni, whom half the people chose for their king. But Omri had possession of the capital and the army, and at length Tibni died and Omri reigned. Tirzah, or delight. This city was only a few miles distant from Shechem, but its exact site is unknown. Jeroboam at first selected Shechem for his capital; but, after a few years, removed his residence to Tirzah, which from that time until the reign of Omri continued to be the royal city. It probably owed its name to the natural beauties of its situation, as well as to the magnificence of its buildings. When the palace was burned by Zimri the beauty of the place must have been injured; and, as it was necessary to erect a new palace, the king determined to select a new site, probably from the experienced impossibility of fortifying Tirzah so as to enable it to stand a siege. — Todd.
24. And he bought the hill Samaria. As Constantine's sagacity is fixed by his choice of Constantinople, so is that of Omri by his choice of Samaria. Six miles from Shechem, in the same well-watered valley, here opening into a wide basin, rises an oblong hill, with steep yet accessible sides, and a long, level top. This was the mountain of Samaria, so named after its owner, Shemer, who there lived in state, and who sold it to the king for the great sum of two talents of silver. It combined, in a union not elsewhere found in Pal. estine, strength, beauty, and fertility. It commanded a full view of the sea and the plain of Sharon on the one hand, and of the vale of Shechem on the other. It stood amidst a circle of hills, commanding a view of its streets and slopes, itself the crown and glory of the whole scene. — Stanley. Many travellers have expressed a conviction that the spot was, in most respects, much preferable to the site of Jerusalem. — Kitto. Politically it was rather more central than Shechem, and probably than Tirzah. In a military point of view, it was admirably calculated for defence. The country round it was peculiarly productive. The hill
25. But 1 Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the LORD, and did worse than all that were before him.
26. For he 2 walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin, to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger with their 3 vanities.
27. Now the rest of the acts of Omri which he did, and his might that he shewed, are they not written in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Israel?
1 Mic. 6:16. 2 Ver. 19. Ver. 13. itself possessed abundant springs of water. — Cook. Samaria continued to be the capital of Israel as long as the kingdom lasted, and was a marked town even in Christ's time. For two talents of silver. Worth in our money $ 3,285, according to Schaff. But the purchasing power of the money was at least ten times as great then as now. After the name of Shemer ... Samaria. It is not improbable that the vendor bargained that the land should retain his name (cf. Psa. 49: 11). The reluctance of the Israelite to part with his patrimony, even to the king, is brought out very strikingly in chap. 21. Shemer, in selling his choice parcel of land for a capital, might well wish to connect his name with it. — Pulpit Com. While naming his city after Shemer, Omri may also have had in view the appropriateness of such a name to the situation of the place. It signifies watch-tower. - Cook.
25. Omri wrought evil. Of Omri it is said that in the eyes of the Lord his conduct on the throne was worse than that of all the kings before him. The particulars are not in the history directly stated further than that he carried out with vigor the fatal and ruinous policy of Jeroboam. But if we refer to the prophecy of Micah (6:16), we find this remarkable verse: “For the statutes of Omri are kept." We cannot doubt that these “statutes of Omri” were measures adopted for more completely isolating the people of Israel from the services of the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, and of perpetuating — perhaps of increasing — their idolatrous practices. His encouragement of idolatry is incidentally confirmed by the fact that he brought about a marriage between Ahab, his son and heir, and Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, king of Tyre. — Kitto. In the eyes of the Lord. In the eyes of men he was rich and prosperous, and may have seemed as good as others. But the Lord knew better, and judged him by the standard of faithfulness to duty. A man may be skilful and useful to himself and others in all material and worldly things, whilst in spiritual and divine things he works only mischief and destruction. What, without religion, is So-called civilization? - Lange. The wicked seem to think God does not know what they do. If their deeds are hidden from men, they are not hidden from him whose eyes are “in every place beholding the evil and the good.” If they sin daringly, and men look on approvingly, God also looks on, who will bring every action into judgment. — Newman Hall. And did worse than all. In sin and departure from God there are always gradual advances, just as in godliness and well-doing, – one step follows another, and the slavery of sin is ever increasing (2 Tim. 3:13). — Col. Bib. Sin has ever a tendency to increase in a geometrical ratio. One sin begets many others. A little fire spreads rapidly where there is material to burn. - P. 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.” - Alfred Barry.
26. Walked in all the way of Jeroboam. The other kings had done this, but probably Omri devoted himself to the new religion with greater earnestness and energy, and conducted it on a grander scale. — Todd. Here we have another illustration of the power of example; a power which is intended for good and leads many to heaven, but was here perverted and made an instrument of greater evil. Provoke the Lord ... to anger. Not passion, but indignation against sin. Every good king must hate sin in proportion to his goodness, and be indignant at all who lead others to ruin by leading them into sin. If the anger does not flame and burn, then the goodness is feeble and cold. -- P. With their vanities. Their idolatries. Idols are vanities because they have no power to help those who trust in them. All efforts to gain success by sin, by worldly policy, by plans which break God's laws, are vanities. They are vain efforts, for God and the universe are against them. -- P.
27. Now the rest of the acts of Omri. Omri was a ruler as enterprising as he was prudent, and wisely took advantage of the times to secure greater prosperity for his kingdom. Omri's chief efforts were directed towards the furtherance of trade, commerce, etc. — Ewald.
28. So Omri slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria : and Ahab his son reigned in his stead.
29. And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah began Ahab the son of Omri to reign over Israel: and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years.
30. And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him.
31. And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the 2 Zidonians, 3 and went and served Baal, and worshipped him.
Deut. 7:3. ? Judges 18:7. 3 1 Kings 21:25, 26. 2 Kings 10: 18. And his might. Wicked men are not always weak. They have often a great deal of power in their way, and they dazzle the eyes of the foolish by the might which they show. Trumbull. His name is mentioned on the famous Moabite stone, and the Assyrian inscriptions prove that Omri's name was more widely and permanently known in the East than those of his predecessors or successors. — Pulpit Com. Book of the Chronicles. Not the Books of Chronicles in our Bible, but something of the nature of public annals, giving an account of the events of each reign. They were the materials of history.
28. Slept with his fathers. The customary formula in speaking of the death of the kings, whether good or bad (1 Kings 2: 10; 11:43; 14: 20; 15:8, etc.). No conclusive inference can be drawn from it respecting the belief in a future state. — Todd.
II. Ahab's Reign. — Vers. 29–33. This reign occupies all the rest of the First Book of Kings. It owes this distinction to the ministry of the great prophet Elijah. It may be that “ every age thinks itself a crisis," but no one can fail to see that this was one of the veritable turning points of Jewish history. One of the real “ decisive battles of the world,” - that between the Lord and Baal — was then fought out. No wonder that our historian felt constrained to chronicle at length the transactions of a reign so pregnant both with good and evil for the people of the Lord, and for the faith with which they had been put in trust. - Pulpit Com.
29. The thirty and eighth year of Asa. That is, about 918 B.C. The sister of Ahab, Athaliah, daughter of Omri, was married to Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. By this alliance the two kingdoms were, for a time, drawn nearer together, and the idoiatries of Samaria were introduced into Jerusalem. — Todd.
30. And Ahab ... did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him. The same words are used of his father in ver. 25. It is not difficult to see in what way Ahab's rule was worse even than Omri's. The latter had gone beyond his predecessors in the matter of the calf-worship. But the calf-worship, however it may have deteriorated in process of time, was nevertheless a cult, though corrupt and unauthorized, of the one true God. Under Ahab, however, positive idolatry was established and fostered, — the worship of foreign and shameful deities. — Pulpit Com. In the long catalogue of royal transgressors, the name of AHAB stands unenviably pre-eminent. “ There was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord.” Moral weakness was his undoing. - Green.
31. And he took to wife Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal. The weakness and the sin of Ahab is seen in his putting himself deliberately in the strongest temptation to forsake God, by marrying such a heathen as Jezebel. That person is already more than half fallen who deliberately rushes into temptation. — P. Jezebel, or chaste. It is the modern name Isabel. This woman came of a fierce and profligate family, and united in herself stern religious fanaticism with the luxurious dissoluteness of an oriental queen. Her father, Ethbaal, or “with Baal,” was a priest of Astarte, who assassinated the reigning king of Sidon, and usurped the throne for fifty-two years. His kingdom embraced Tyre also. These two cities, Tyre and Sidon, were Phænician cities on the seacoast of Syria, north of · Palestine. They were powerful cities, but proverbially wicked (Matt. 11:21). Their wickedness seems to have been concentrated in Ethbaal and his family, and especially in Jezebel. Her strong and fierce character soon acquired resistless influence over the weak Ahab, and introduced untold mischief into the kingdom, and even into the kingdom of Judah, through the marriage of Athaliah to Jehoram. The name Jezebel became, and is to this day, the
32. And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria.
33. ? And Ahab made a grove, and Ahab 3 did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.
34. In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho : he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his first-born, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, 4 according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun. 1 2 Kings 10: 21, 26, 27. 22 Kings 13:6. Jer. 17:2. 3 Ver. 30. 1 Kings 21:25. Josh. 6:26. synonym for female wickedness, especially that of a ferocious type. The marriage of Ahab and Jezebel took place before he ascended the throne, and was probably the work of Omri.
- Todd. Rawlinson reminds us that Jezebel was great aunt to Pygmalion and Dido. This statement helps to explain Jezebel's fierce and sanguinary character, and at the same time accounts for her great devotion to the gods of her country, and for her determined efforts to establish their impure rites in her husband's kingdom. — Pulpit Com. In Jezebel we vainly look for one womanly relenting, one gentle weakness, to soften the hard lines of more than masculine firmness. — Ashton. And went and served Baal and worshipped him. Baal and Ashtoreth, or Astarte, — whence our word star, — were the chief Phænician deities, male and female respectively. They correspond to the Assyrian Bel and Ishtar. The sun was regarded as the emblem of Baal, and the moon, or the planet Venus, as that of Ashtoreth. Hence the worship was connected with that of the heavenly bodies. Ashtoreth was to the Phænicians what the goddess Venus was to the Greeks. Hence the worship of these imaginary deities was associated with fierce (1 Kings 18: 28), and at the same time the most licentious and infamous, rites. Consequently it was productive of the greatest profligacy and wickedness, and was especially abhorrent to the God of infinite purity and truth. — Todd.
32. He reared up an altar for Baal. Besides this altar, Ahab erected a column or pillar (2 Kings 10:27) in the temple of Baal, probably like the pillars in the great temple at Tyre (Menandr. Fr. 1; Herod. ii. 44). The house of Baal. A temple, we can hardly doubt, of considerable splendor. Jezebel would not be satisfied with less. — Pulpit Com. It was large enough to contain an immense throng of worshippers. It stood apparently within a great walled enclosure, and rose in such strength as to seem like a castle. A huge image of the Sun-god, flanked by idolatrous symbols, was seen within, amidst a blaze of splendor, reflected from gilded and painted roofs, and walls, and columns. A staff of 450 priests in their vestments ministered at the altars, and Ahab himself attended the worship in state, presenting rich offerings; doubtless amidst all the wild excitement and license which marked the service of Baal. — Geikie.
33. And Ahab made a grove. Rather, a wooden pillar which represented the Phænician goddess Astarte. The original word is Ashérah, the primary sense of which is fortune, happiness, prosperity, just as Fortuna is deified by the Romans. Etymologically, it is the goddess Astarte, so famous among all the people at the extremity of the Mediterranean. She was the eastern Venus, sometimes represented as the Stella Veneris, or Star of Venus. - Tayler Lewis. It is likely that this ashera, or pillar, was often set up in a grove, because thus would be given that seclusion necessary to the cruel and indecent rites, which marked, among oriental nations, the worship of false divinities. The worship of Astarte was simply licentiousness under the guise of religion.— Schaft's Bib. Dic. A temple to Asherah, the Canaanite Venus, was built, apparently in the precincts of Jezreel, 400 priests ministering in its courts and offering on its obscene altars. Of this Jezebel was the especial patroness, maintaining the whole establishment at her own cost. — Geikie.
III. The Rebuilding of Jericho. - Ver. 34. The restoration of this city as a fortification upon which Joshua had pronounced a curse (Josh. 6:26), is mentioned as a proof how far ungodliness had progressed in Israel; whilst the fulfilment of the curse upon the builder shows how the Lord will not allow the word of his servants to be transgressed with impunity. - Keil.
* 34. In his days did Hiel the Bethelite (a native of Bethel). A few miles north-west of Jericho. He was, undoubtedly, a man of wealth and station, perhaps instigated by Ahab. - Cook. Build Jericho. Jericho, on the border of the tribe of Ephraim (Josh. 16:7), which was allotted to the Benjamites (Josh. 18:21), had come into the possession of the kingdom of Israel, and formed a border city of that kingdom, through the fortification of