I Kings – Chapter 16

"Heard about a king, he was doing swell..."

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

G-d spoke to the prophet Yehu about Baasa. Yehu was to tell Baasa that he really blew it. G-d elevated him to replace the sinful Yaravam, but all he did was perpetuate Yaravam’s evil. Therefore, his house would receive the same curse of extinction as Yaravam’s had suffered. Same deal: die in the city, eaten by dogs. Die in the field, eaten by birds.

When Baasa died, he was succeeded by his son Elah. Elah reigned only two years, when he was assassinated by Zimri, one of his head charioteers. Zimri struck Elah down when Elah was drunk and easy prey. He then declared himself king and eliminated Baasa’s descendants, just as Yehu had foretold. If you think Elah’s two-year reign was short, just look at Zimri’s: seven days. Assassins are not the most popular people and when the army heard that Zimri assassinated Elah, they made Omri their king and went after Zimri. Zimri took refuge in the palace, but Omri burned it down and Zimri died.

Some of the people wanted Omri for king, but others favored a man named Tivni. They struggled for a while, but Tivni died and Omri became the undisputed king of the Ten Tribes.

Omri ruled for 12 years. He purchased Samaria and made it his capital. Even though he was an evil king, even worse than Yaravam and Baasa, he is praised for building up Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel. (See Sanhedrin 102b. Hey, at least he did something right! As an aside, did you ever notice that all the land in Israel that was clearly purchased in Tanach – Hebron, Samaria, the Temple Mount – are among the most disputed?)

Omri was succeeded by his son Ahab (Achav). As bad as Omri was, Ahab managed to surpass him. Yaravam’s worst sins were just the start of Ahab’s evil. To make matters worse, he had an evil wife, Jezebel (Izevel) who only reinforced his already-reprehensible behavior. (Contrary to the lyrics of the Elvis song, the king was NOT “doing swell, ’til he started playing with that evil Jezebel.” Ahab was rotten before; she just made him worse.) Jezebel was the daughter of the king of Tzidon and she was a Baal worshipper. (Baal was a popular idol of the time.) Ahab worshipped Baal and built altars for it. He also planted asheiras, which were trees used for idolatry.

Now refer back to Joshua chapter 6. There, Joshua pronounced a curse on anyone rebuilding Jericho. Ahab’s buddy Hiel rebuilt Jericho and, even though his children kept dying, he just said, “Curse? What curse? It’s just a coincidence!” It’s amazing how people like Yaravam, Baasa and Hiel can see the Hand of G-d up close and personal and still keep on doing their own thing.

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