Dr. D.A. Carson on 1 Kings 16

Quoting from “For the Love of God, Volume 1, October 13”


FIRST AND KINGS narrate the declining fortunes of both the northern and south- 

ern kingdoms. Occasionally there is a reforming king in one realm or the other. 

But on the whole the direction is downward. Some orientation (1Kings 16): 

(1) Although 1 and 2 Kings treat both the northern and the southern king- 

doms, the emphasis is on the former. By contrast, 1 and 2 Chronicles, which cover 

roughly the same material, tilt strongly in favor of the kingdom of Judah. 

(2) In the south, the Davidic dynasty continues. During its history, there are, 

humanly speaking, some very close calls. Nevertheless God preserves the line; his 

entire redemptive purposes are bound up with continuity of that Davidic line. The 

stance throughout is well expressed in 1 Kings 15:4. Abijah king of Judah, who 

reigned only three years, was doubtless an evil king. “Nevertheless, for David’s 

sake the LORDhis God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem by raising up a son to suc- 

ceed him and by making Jerusalem strong.” In the north, however, no dynasty 

survives very long. The dynasty of Jeroboam lasted two generations and was then 

butchered (15:25-30), replaced by Baasha (15:33-34). His dynasty likewise pro- 

duced two kings, and then the males in his family were wiped out by Zimri (16:8- 

13), whose reign lasted all of seven days (16:15-19). And so it goes. If the Davidic 

line continues in the south, it is all of grace. 

(3) These successions in the north are brutal and bloody. For instance, after 

Zimri the citizens of Israel face a brief civil war,divided as they arebetween Omri 

and Tibni. The followers of the former win. The text wryly comments, “So Tibni 

died and Omri became king” (16:22). In short, there is perennial lust for power, 

few systems for orderly hand over of government, no hearty submission to the 

living God. 

(4) From God’s perspective, however, the severity of the sin is measured first 

and foremost not in terms of the bloody violence, but in terms of the idolatry (for 

example, 16:30-33). Omri was a strong ruler who strengthened the nation enor- 

mously, but little of that is recorded: from God’s perspective he “did evil in the 

eyes of the LORD and sinned more than all those before him” (16:25). Building 

programs and a rising GDP do not make up for idolatry. 

(5) Details in these accounts often tie the narrative to events much earlier and 

later. Thus the rebuilding of Jericho (16:34) calls to mind the curse on the city 

when it was destroyed centuries earlier (Josh. 6:26). The founding of the city of 

Samaria (16:24) anticipates countless narratives of what takes place in that city— 

including Jesus and the woman at the well (John 4; see March 14 meditation).