Melachim I Sixteen: Evil Kings

This portion of Tanakh is full of new names, with newly introduced characters taking on pivotal roles for a few verses and then disappearing from the scene. Now, we have a new prophet, Jehu son of Hanani, who God speaks to about Baasha. “Behold I will expunge after Baasha and after his house, and I will make your house as the house of Jeroboam the son of Nabat (Kings I 16:3).” Baasha is punished with an undignified death, and his son, Elah, takes over the throne. Once again, the timeline of one king is told in relation to another, so we know that Asa had been reigning in Judah by the time Elah had been king in Israel for two years. Elah’s home base is Tirzah.

“And his servant Zimri, captain of half the chariots, conspired against him while he was in Tirzah drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza who was [appointed] over the household in Tirzah (Kings I 16:9).” Zimri kills Elah, and takes over his throne. The story gets even bloodier, when he ends up massacring all of the members of the house of Baasha, fulfilling the prophecy that God gave to Jehu. Zimri’s victory is short-lived though. He only serves as king for a week when his city is attacked. “And it was when Zimri saw that the city was captured, that he went into the inner chamber of the king’s palace, and he burnt over him the king’s palace with fire, and he died (Kings I 16:18).”

With the death of Zimri, the people are further divided. Judah has its own king, of course, and now Israel is split in two. Half the people support Omri, the commander in chief of the army, and half someone named Tibni. Omri eventually prevails, and he becomes the newest king. This is incredibly hard to keep up with. Every chapter goes through multiple dynasties, and nothing remains stable. Omri is king for twelve years. Then, as seems inevitable, Omri screws up and becomes evil. So he dies and his son, Ahab, becomes the newest king. The pattern continues to the point where it’s just predictable. Ahab becomes evil, but at least his evil is interesting.

“And it was insignificant for him to follow the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, and he took as a wife Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, the king of the Zidonians and he went and worshipped the Baal and prostrated himself to him (Kings I 16:31).” Ahab becomes completely corrupted, something that posterity blames on his wife. She becomes synonymous with evil women throughout history. He is apparently more evil than any of the kings who preceded him, which seems to indicate that he’s truly terrible. I’m not sure if Jezebel and Ahab will be brought up continually, but for now this is all we know about a couple that inspired countless midrashim. The list of evil kings will probably continue, as the Israelites spiral even further out of control.

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