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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–14
Verses 1–14

Here is, I. The ruin of the family of Baasha foretold. He was a man likely enough to have raised and established his family—active, politic, and daring; but he was an idolater, and this brought destruction upon his family.

1. God sent him warning of it before. (1.) That, if he were thereby wrought upon to repent and reform, the ruin might be prevented; for God threatens, that he may not strike, as one that desires not the death of sinners. (2.) That, if not, it might appear that the destruction when it did come, whoever might be instruments of it, was the act of God’s justice and the punishment of sin.

2. The warning was sent by Jehu the son of Hanani. The father was a seer, or prophet, at the same time (2 Chron. 16:7), and was sent to Asa king of Judah; but the son, who was young and more active, was sent on this longer and more dangerous expedition to Baasha king of Israel. Juniores ad labores—Toil and adventure are for the young. This Jehu was a prophet and the son of a prophet. Prophecy, thus happily entailed, was worthy of so much the more honour. This Jehu continued long in his usefulness, for we find him reproving Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 19:2) above forty years after, and writing the annals of that prince, 2 Chron. 20:34. The message which this prophet brought to Baasha is much the same with that which Ahijah sent to Jeroboam by his wife.

(1.) He reminds Baasha of the great things God had done for him (1 Kgs. 16:2): I exalted thee out of the dust to the throne of glory, a great instance of the divine sovereignty and power, 1 Sam. 2:8. Baasha seemed to have raised himself by his own treachery and cruelty, yet there was a hand of Providence in it, to bring about God’s counsel, concerning Jeroboam’s house; and God’s owning his advancement as his act and deed does by no means amount to the patronising of his ambition and treachery. It is God that puts power into bad men’s hands, which he makes to serve his good purposes, notwithstanding the bad use they make of it. I made thee prince over my people. God calls Israel his people still, though wretchedly corrupted, because they retained the covenant of circumcision, and there were many good people among them; it was not till long after that they were called Loammi, not a people, Hos. 1:9.

(2.) He charges him with high crimes and misdemeanours, [1.] That he had caused Israel to sin, had seduced God’s subjects from their allegiance and brought them to pay to dunghill-deities the homage due to him only, and herein he had walked in the way of Jeroboam (1 Kgs. 16:2), and been like his house, 1 Kgs. 16:7. [2.] That he had himself provoked God to anger with the work of his hands, that is, by worshipping images, the work of men’s hands; though perhaps others made them, yet he served them and thereby avowed the making of them, and they are therefore called the work of his hands. [3.] That he had destroyed the house of Jeroboam (1 Kgs. 16:7), because he killed him, namely, Jeroboam’s son and all his: if he had done that with an eye to God, to his will and glory, and from a holy indignation against the sins of Jeroboam and his house, he would have been accepted and applauded as a minister of God’s justice; but, as he did it, he was only the tool of God’s justice, but a servant to his own lusts, and is justly punished for the malice and ambition which actuated and governed him in all he did. Note, Those who are in any way employed in denouncing or executing the justice of God (magistrates or ministers) are concerned to do it from a good principle and in a holy manner, lest it turn into sin to them and they make themselves obnoxious by it.

(3.) He foretels the same destruction to come upon his family which he himself had been employed to bring upon the family of Jeroboam, 1 Kgs. 16:3, 4. Note, Those who resemble others in their sins may expect to resemble them in their plagues, especially those who seem zealous against such sins in others as they allow themselves in; the house of Jehu was reckoned with for the blood of the house of Ahab, Hos. 1:4.

II. A reprieve granted for some time, so long that Baasha himself dies in peace, and is buried with honour in his own royal city (1 Kgs. 16:6), so far is he from being a prey either to the dogs or to the fowls, which yet was threatened to his house, 1 Kgs. 16:4. He lives not either to see or feel the punishment threatened, yet he was himself the greatest delinquent. Certainly there must be a future state, in which impenitent sinners will suffer in their own persons, and not escape, as often they do in this world. Baasha died under no visible stroke of divine vengeance for aught that appears, but God laid up his iniquity for his children, as Job speaks, Job 21:19. Thus he often visits sin. Observe, Baasha is punished by the destruction of his children after his death, and his children are punished by the abuse of their bodies after their death; that is the only thing which the threatening specifies (1 Kgs. 16:4), that the dogs and the fowls of the air should eat them, as if herein were designed a tacit intimation that there are punishments after death, when death has done its worst, which will be the sorest punishments and are most to be dreaded; these judgments on the body and posterity signified judgments on the soul when separated from the body, by him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell.

III. Execution done at last. Baasha’s son Elah, like Jeroboam’s son Nadab, reigned two years, and then was slain by Zimri, one of his own soldiers, as Nadab was by Baasha; so like was his house made to that of Jeroboam, as was threatened, 1 Kgs. 16:3. Because his idolatry was like his, and one of the sins for which God contended with him being the destruction of Jeroboam’s family, the more the destruction of his own resembled that, the nearer did the punishment resemble the sin, as face answers to face in a glass.

1. As then, so now, the king himself was first slain, but Elah fell more ingloriously than Nadab. Nadab was slain in the field of action and honour, he and his army then besieging Gibbethon (1 Kgs. 15:27); but the siege being then raised upon that disaster, and the city remaining still in the Philistines’ hands, the army of Israel was now renewing the attempt (1 Kgs. 16:15) and Elah should have been with them to command in chief, but he loved his own ease and safety better than his honour or duty, or the public good, and therefore staid behind to take his pleasure; and, when he was drinking himself drunk in his servant’s house, Zimri killed him, 1 Kgs. 16:9, 10. Let it be a warning to drunkards, especially to those who designedly drink themselves drunk, that they know not but death may surprise them in that condition. (1.) Death comes easily upon men when they are drunk. Besides the chronic diseases which men frequently bring themselves into by hard drinking, and which cut them off in the midst of their days, men in that condition are more easily overcome by an enemy, as Amnon by Absalom, and are liable to more bad accidents, being unable to help themselves, (2.) Death comes terribly upon men in that condition. Finding them in the act of sin, and incapacitated for any act of devotion, that day comes upon them unawares (Luke 21:34), like a thief.

2. As then, so now, the whole family was cut off, and rooted out. The traitor was the successor, to whom the unthinking people tamely submitted, as if it were all one to them what kind they had, so that they had one. The first thing Zimri did was to slay all the house of Baasha; thus he held by cruelty what he got by treason. His cruelty seems to have extended further than Baasha’s did against the house of Jeroboam, for he left to Elah none of his kinsfolks or friends (1 Kgs. 16:11), none of his avengers (so the word is), none that were likely to avenge his death; yet divine justice soon avenged it so remarkably that it was used as a proverb long after, Had Zimri peace who slew his master? 2 Kgs. 9:31. In this, (1.) The word of God was fulfilled, 1 Kgs. 16:12. (2.) The sins of Baasha and Elah were reckoned for, with which they provoked God by their vanities, 1 Kgs. 16:13. Their idols are called their vanities, for they cannot profit nor help. Miserable are those whose deities are vanities.