Elah, Zimri, Tibni, and Omri, Kings of Israel

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, August 1, 2022 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Today, we’re going to take a look at not one, not two, not even three, but four kings of the northern kingdom of Israel! These four kings all had fairly insignificant reigns, and their stories are intertwined in 1 Kings 16:8-28, so it makes sense to look at all four of them together.

Elah was the son of Baasha and succeeded his father as the next king, purely because of their family relationship. Asa was still the king of Judah during the reign of Elah, Zimri, Tibni, and Omri. When Elah became king, Zimri was one of Elah’s officials, and Omri was the commander of Elah’s army.

Zimri was not content with being just an official, even though he had command over half of the king’s chariots, so he plotted to assassinate Elah. Less than two years into Elah’s reign, Zimri’s opportunity presented itself. Elah became drunk, and Zimri “struck him down and killed him” (verse 10a). That was the end of Elah’s reign as king, and that also ended Baasha’s family line.

Not only did Zimri kill King Elah, but he also killed every single male in Elah’s entire extended family, so that the family line was completely cut off. He even killed friends of the family, so that they could not step in and claim the kingdom before Zimri did (verse 11).

You may recall that Baasha was the one who assassinated King Nadab of Israel, so it’s especially interesting that Baasha’s son Elah was also killed in the same way. You may say this is a great example of “what goes around, comes around,” but really it was God continuing to punish the kings who led Israel into idolatry and disobedience to Him. In 1 Kings 16:7, the prophet Jehu had prophesied that Baasha’s family would be destroyed because of the sins that he and his son had committed and that they had caused the entire nation of Israel to commit. God was angry at them for worshiping worthless idols (verses 12-14).

So, Zimri became the new king of Israel. But Zimri’s evil act of assassinating the previous king had consequences, and Zimri’s reign was even shorter than Elah’s – Zimri reigned for only 7 days! When part of the Israelite army nearby heard what had happened to Elah, they decided that Omri, their commander, should be the new king. Zimri assassinated Elah in Tirzah, which was the official location of the palace at that time. Omri was commanding the army camped in nearby Gibbethon. Omri believed that he was the next king since his army wanted that to be the truth, so Omri and his army went to conquer Tirzah for Omri to reign there (verses 15-17).

Zimri saw that Omri’s army had taken the city of Tirzah, so he retreated into the palace and literally set it on fire. He apparently preferred to die a fiery death rather than be taken as a prisoner and face the humiliation of someone else becoming king after just one week. So, Zimri burned himself to death, and the author of 1 Kings notes that Omri followed the pattern of the kings who went before him and did even in the eyes of the Lord (verses 18-19).

So with all that settled, Omri was the new king who would reign for years to come, right? Not so fast. Enter Tibni. We really don’t know much about Tibni other than he existed and reigned as king for about 4 years. As all that rebellion and taking of the throne was going on, the people in the nation of Israel were divided in their loyalties. Half of the people supported Tibni as the king and the other half supported Omri. How did they settle this disagreement? By a show of strength. We don’t know exactly what happened, other than Omri’s followers were stronger than Tibni’s followers, so Tibni died and Omri was declared to be the new king (verses 21-22). This showdown appears to have lasted for the entire 4 years that Tibni was the king.

Omri reigned as king of Israel for 12 years. For the first 6 years, he reigned in Tirzah, but then he set about building a new capital city for the northern kingdom of Israel. He chose a strategically advantageous site – one that was in neutral land in Israel and centrally located. Being on a hill, it was easier to defend from potential attackers. It overlooked chief trade routes in the area, which was an economic advantage. The new capital was called Samaria after the hill it was built on, which had been owned by Shemer (verses 23-24).

As with the other kings who preceded him, Omri did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Verse 25 even says that he “sinned more than all those before him.” He sinned and he caused the people of Israel to sin, so God remained angry with the nation because of their disobedience and idolatry.

What can we learn from these four evil kings of Israel? As with every other king who did not follow God’s ways, worshiping other gods than the one true God will result in punishment from God. Elah was assassinated. Zimri burned himself to death. Tibni was taken out due to division. Omri sinned the most, and while he did not experience the direct consequences of that evil as a violent death, the nation was about to face the music with the next king – Omri’s son Ahab.

Zimri, Tibni, and Omri were all selfish in their ambitions. They each desired to be king and committed selfish, evil acts in order to make that happen. They were not only not following God, but they were only looking out for themselves, not the good of the people they were supposed to be leading. They were completely concerned with gaining power for themselves, and they didn’t seem to care what kind of uproar that caused in the kingdom among the people. Selfishness and a lust for power may get you what you want in the short term, but it’s likely that will be very short-lived and result in even more negative consequences, as these kings experienced.

While most of us today are not in positions of power like the commander of an army or a high-ranking official, we still need to be on our guard for selfishness and power grabs in our lives. A lust for power is part of our sinful nature, and it’s the opposite of the humility that God calls us to as a follower of Jesus. Take a look at your life, and make sure that you are following the path of humility rather than the path of trying to gain power. God is the one who is ultimately in control, and there is nothing that we can do to change that – and if we know God and love Him, then we shouldn’t want to change that.

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.