TWO BAD KINGS
Lord, I reject any and all forms of idolatry.
Read 1 KINGS 16:23–34
1 Kings 16:23-34 New International Version (NIV)
23 In the thirty-first year of Asa king of Judah, Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned twelve years, six of them in Tirzah. 24 He bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer for two talents[a] of silver and built a city on the hill, calling it Samaria, after Shemer, the name of the former owner of the hill.
25 But Omri did evil in the eyes of the Lord and sinned more than all those before him. 26 He followed completely the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat, committing the same sin Jeroboam had caused Israel to commit, so that they aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, by their worthless idols.
27 As for the other events of Omri’s reign, what he did and the things he achieved, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? 28 Omri rested with his ancestors and was buried in Samaria. And Ahab his son succeeded him as king.
Ahab Becomes King of Israel
29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. 30 Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. 31 He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. 32 He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.
34 In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken by Joshua son of Nun.
a 1 Kings 16:24 That is, about 150 pounds or about 68 kilograms
New International Version (NIV)
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“Rejoice, the Lord is King… His kingdom cannot fail” (Charles Wesley, 1707–1788).
While Asa is beginning his long and stable reign in Judah, Israel suffers under a succession of evil and worthless despots (1 Kings 15:25—16:20). Eventually, the people turn to Omri, commander of their army, in an attempt to halt the national slide into total chaos. From Israel’s point of view, Omri’s key achievement is the construction of a new and much less vulnerable capital city, Samaria. Sadly, although he is a capable administrator, Omri proves to be no spiritual improvement over his predecessors. Indeed, we’re told that he “sinned more than all those before him” (25). His highly unflattering epitaph is the worst so far—but his wickedness will pale next to that of his notorious son, Ahab.
Omri may have “followed completely the ways of Jeroboam… committing the same sin” (26), but Ahab regards Jeroboam’s original idolatry as child’s play (31). He goes even further, marrying the Phoenician princess Jezebel of Sidon, no doubt a clever political alliance and very good for trade. He immerses himself in the worship of Jezebel’s god Baal, building a temple for Baal in Samaria, and leading his people into the deepest level of idolatry so far. The record speciﬁcally mentions one Hiel of Bethel who years prior has sacriﬁced two of his sons in the course of rebuilding Jericho (34). But King Ahab does nothing to prevent such pagan atrocities; rather, he actively encourages them. However, even Hiel’s terrible sin is in fact a fulﬁllment of ancient prophecy (Josh. 6:26). Thus, the chapter ends with a hint that, in spite of appearances, the Lord is still in control. His Word is still powerful and will “achieve the purpose for which [he] sent it” (Isa. 55:10,11).
The recent obituary of a colleague of mine included the telling sentence, “He died with faith unwavering.” What a contrast to Omri and Ahab! What a testimony to the Lord’s ability! What an encouragement to future generations!
What would the Lord commend in your life? Where might he ﬁnd fault? Consider the influence of a godly (or ungodly) spouse. Praise and pray accordingly.
Lord, keep Your people from bonding together with pagan entities, especially in marriage. Keep us free from being saddled with an unbelieving mate.