Elah

(An oak)

1 Kings 16:8-14

“Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.”—Proverbs 11:31

“In the twenty and sixth year of Asa king of Judah began Elah the son of Baasha to reign over Israel in Tirzah, two years. And his servant Zimri, captain of half his chariots, conspired against him, as he was in Tirzah, drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza, steward of his house in Tirzah. And Zimri went in and smote him, and killed him, in the twenty and seventh year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned in his stead.”

Of the house of Jeroboam God had said: “I will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam as a man taketh away dung, till it all be gone”—so would it be with Baasha who had removed the remnant of Jeroboam’s house by murder. “Drinking himself drunk” was Elah’s occupation at the time of his assassination. Dissipation does not appear to have been the special sin of the kings of Israel and Judah generally (nor has it ever been characteristic of the Jewish race), as was the case with so many of their Gentile neighbors— witness Ben-hadad with his thirty-two confederate kings “drinking himself drunk in the pavilions”; 1 Kings 20:16).

Of Elah, Josephus (viii. 12, §4) says he was slain while his army was away at the siege of Gibbethon, begun in his father Baasha’s day. His murder was perpetrated in the house of his steward Arza (earthliness), who was probably as given to self-indulgence as his master. Contrast the steward Obadiah, 1 Kings 18:3.

His murderer Zimri at once began to massacre “all the house of Baasha,” sparing none, “neither of his kinsfolks, nor of his friends.” It was complete extermination, even as God had ordained it should be. “Thus did Zimri destroy all the house of Baasha, according to the word of the Lord, which He spake against Baasha by Jehu the prophet, for all the sins of Baasha, and the sins of Elah his son, by which they…made Israel to sin, in provoking the Lord God of Israel to anger with their vanities” (idolatries).

Thus the house of Baasha, like that of Jeroboam before him, became extinct—the greatest calamity, to Jewish minds, that could overtake a man.

In less than fifty years the first two dynasties of Israel’s kings had come to an end and every member of their families been exterminated. God meant to make their doom an example to those who should thereafter live ungodly. They stand as beacons, in these records, to warn all rulers and subjects off the rocks on which they struck to their everlasting ruin. “Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein” (Hos. 14:9). The usual formula ends the record of Elah’s worthless life (1 Kings 16:14).