1 Kings 16: A Series of Coups

1 Kings 16: A Series of Coups

Original Publication Date
January 27, 2017
Sep 21, 2023 3:07 AM
1 KingsChapter StudyLeadershipIssachar
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1 Kings 16

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This page was originally posted on my Blogger version of the blog on January 27, 2017 The content below has a few minor tweaks for clarity, and additional references, and some updated information.


1 Kings 16 focuses on five kings of Israel (the northern kingdomβ€”if you aren't caught up, check out 1 Kings 12: The Division of Israel). This chapter opens discussing Baasha, who was from the tribe of Issachar and stole the throne from Nadab; it closes with Ahab. Almost every succession in this chapter seems to be the result of a coup rather than a Godly anointing or inheritance. The leadership is far from orderly, which implies the kingdom was far from orderly as well. During the reign of all 5 of these corrupted kings, Asa maintains his faith in God and continues to lead the southern kingdom of Judah.

Baasha & Jehu, the Prophet

Baasha's reign begins during the third year of Asa's reign, but unlike Asa, he continues to lead Israel on the path of idolatry as the kings before him. God sends a message to Baasha through Jehu the prophet; this message conveys God's disappointment in Baasha's behavior. God tells Baasha that his house will fall, just as Jeroboam's did. Furthermore, in addition to losing his prosperity, a curse is placed on them to die undignified deaths in which animals ate their remains. This is fulfilled during his son's reign (just as Baasha killed Jeoboam's son). Having an improper burial is seen as a disgrace in many cultures around the world, and it was no different in Israel.

Baasha stole the throne from Jeroboam's line, but in the end he was going to lose the throne as well. You reap what you sew, and in this case, Baasha had sewn thievery and deceit. Even though we may get away with something momentarily, God works things out. We often see people succeed by ungodly means, then loose heart because we are struggling down the path of righteousness. However, the Bible makes it clear that these evil kings were plagued with disaster. Saul and even Solomon became paranoid. Here, we see Baasha suffer an untimely and disgraceful death. We have to remind ourselves that just because someone has power and wealth does not been they have peace of mind, happiness, or favor.


When Baasha dies, his son Elah takes over, as expected. Elah begins his reign during the 26th year of Asa, king of Judah. Not much is told about Elah except that he is killed while drunk during a coup by his own captain, Zimri. God tells us not to be drunkβ€”in part because of situations like this. It's not that God is a "prude;" this is God warning us of the dangers we encounter while drinking. Had Elah been sober, he might have avoided death. Elah's murder occurs during the 27th year of Asa's reign. At most, if Elah took the throne during the beginning of Asa's 26th year and was murdered during the late part of Asa's 27th year, he may have reign for just less than 2 years. It is also possible that he was made king near the end of Asa's 26th and killed during the beginning of the 27th year; this would mean he reigned less than a few months. Whichever the case (or something in the middle), Baasha had a very short role as king.


Zimri takes the throne of Israel in Elah's stead (why else murder than man, right?). To ensure his reign, Zimri kills Baasha's entire line and any supporters he had. As mentioned in previous posts, it was very common for new kings to eliminate legitimate threats to their power. Zimri's reign, as expected, was quite short, lasting only 7 days. When the Israelites hear what he has done to Elah, they rise up to put an end to him. Zimri commits suicide by fire when he sees the people coming for him. Omri is placed in charge of the opposition and takes the throne upon defeating Zimri.

Omri & Tibni

Before Omri fully takes the throne, there is a struggle between him and a man named Tibni. Half of the Israelites chose Tibni to rule, while the other half proclaimed Omri king. Eventually, Omri and his men prevail against Tibni, resulting in Tibni's death. Omri officially takes the throne in Asa's 31st year. Omri is said to be even worse than the previous kings in God's sight. Omri buys the city of Samaria, which would become the capital of the northern kingdom.

Relating to Today

I find the struggle between Omri and Tibni to be interesting; it highlights an issue we still grapple with today: how do we select a leader? Ancient Israel wasn't a democracy, but clearly the people had some say in who they would follow. Before the decline of the kingdom, we are given clear signs of God anointing each king (at least clear from the reader's perspective), but even then there are moments when the people clearly "choose" their king. For example, David prompts the men of Judah to ask him to be king again when he asks why they haven't already chosen this path (2 Samuel 19). Furthermore in God's kingdom, everyone will have agreed to make Jesus their King; those who don't choose Him, won't be there.

I find this interesting now that we have "survived" the wackiest season of "the Election." There is a definite polarization of the public over each candidate. We know that Omri turns out to be a corrupt king, but we aren't told whether Tibni was good or bad. Considering the disarray Israel was in, and the fact that God did not intervene to place Tibni on the throne, I would assume Tibni was also corrupt. Thus, the Israelites probably felt a lot like Americans during this past election.

In 1 Kings 19, during Ahab's reign, we learn that there are still 7000 righteous people in the northern kingdom. Similarly, there are plenty of true God-fearing people in the US, yet in both situations the people ended up with horrible options for rulers.

Aside from the competition between Tibni and Omri, we aren't told of a mass insurrection carried out by God's people. It seems that they aren't involved in the chaos at all. This is interesting, because we have to wonder what would have happened if one of them had taken the throne instead? Now, when we think about the numbers, 7000 may not have been enough to launch a viable campaign, and that could be why they stayed out of the picture. However, I also have a feeling it was about what the people of Israel actually wanted.

Often when we are on God's side, people don't want to hear it. People would rather watch distasteful "reality" TV shows or follow gossip magazines than see positive wholesome images. Controversy and scandals keep people glued to the TV screen or to the radio or to the newspaper. The love of "reality" TV clearly spilled into the election, and despite people claiming they were disappointed, it didn't stop them from tuning in to see what happened next. People couldn't wait to see what crazy thing Donald Trump tweeted next, or if Hilary's emails would get interesting. We had an election where both presidential candidates were on trial for committing crimes! Yet, the public outrage didn't lead to the first election of a third party candidate or changes in media coverage. People were either enthralled by the spectacle, or too "alone" to make a difference.

During the tug-of-war between Tibni and Omri, God's people probably felt that they were a minority and chose not to speak up because they didn't think it would make a difference. It's also possible, that like with this election, they really were a minority, and when they spoke up people shot them down. Like a child who wants perfectly straight teeth, but doesn't want to wear braces, we often aren't willing to make sacrifices for a better path.


After Omri dies, his son Ahab, takes the throne during the 38th year of Asa. One of the more well-knoqn kings of Israel, Ahab reigns from the northern capital of Samaria for 22 years. He does not bring change about in Israel, but continues to do evil before God.

Ahab's wife Jezebel is also a well known figure in the Bible. She played a heavy role in Ahab's journey to idolatry. Probably in an effort to please his wife, Ahab makes an altar to the pagan god of Jezebel, but he doesn't stop there. He also makes an idol another pagan god. Of all Israel's kings that had already come before him. Ahab made God the angriest.

During Ahab's reign, the city of Jericho is rebuilt, defying the curse Joshua had placed on the city when Israel first entered the promised land. This shows that the Israelites had either forsaken theΒ Lord, or they had not been properly taught. Considering how superstitious people can be, even today, I believe the Israelites became slack in teaching the Word of God (just as we have today). Without that foundation, people would make decisions, such as the one to rebuild Jericho, without ever thinking about what God has said about the action.

Unsuccessful Leadership

It is important to notice that the kings who followed God ruled much longer than those who did not. Further, in each record, it is made clear that God did not approve of these king's lifestyles or actions and that is why they could not keep the throne.

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