1 Kings 16:31 MEANING

1 Kings 16:31
(31) Ethbaal, king of the Zidonians.--The mention of Ethbaal, clearly the Eithobalus of Menander (see Jos. against Apion i. 18), affords another comparison of Israelite with Tyrian history. He is said to have assassinated Pheles, king of Tyre, within fifty years after the death of Hiram, and to have founded a new dynasty. He was a priest of Astarte, and it is notable that he is called, not, like Hiram, "king of Tyre," but "king of the Sidonians," thus reviving the older name of "the great Zidon," which had been superseded by Tyre. His priestly origin, and possibly also this revival of the old ideas and spirit of the Ph?nician race, may account for the fanatic devotion to Baal visible in Jezebel and Athaliah, which stands in marked contrast with the religious attitude of Hiram (1 Kings 5:7; 2 Chronicles 2:12). The marriage of Ahab with Jezebel was evidently the fatal turning-point in the life of a man physically brave, and possibly able as a ruler, but morally weak, impressible in turn both by good and by evil. The history shows again and again the contrast of character (which it is obvious to compare with the contrast between Shakespeare's Macbeth and Lady Macbeth), and the almost complete supremacy of the strong relentless nature of Jezebel.

2. The Baal here referred to is, of course, the Zidonian god, worshipped as the productive principle in nature, in conjunction with Astarte, the female or receptive principle. The name itself only signifies "Lord" (in which sense, indeed, it is applied, in Hosea 2:16, to Jehovah Himself), and is marked as being a mere title, by the almost invariable prefix of the article. Being, therefore, in no sense distinctive, it may be, and is, applied to the supreme god of various mythologies. Thus we find that in Scripture the plural Baalim is first used, of "the gods many and lords many" of Canaanitish worship (see Judges 2:11; Judges 3:7; Judges 10:6; 1 Samuel 7:4); and we have traces of the same vague use in the Baal-peor of Numbers 25, the Baal-berith of Judges 8:33; Judges 9:4, the Baal-zebub of 2 Kings 1:2-3, and in the various geographical names having the prefix Baal. The worship of the Ph?nician Baal--variously represented, sometimes as the Sun, sometimes as the planet Jupiter, sometimes half-humanised as the "Tyrian Hercules"--was now, however, introduced on a great scale, with profuse magnificence of worship, connected with the Asherah ("grove"), which in this case, no doubt, represented the Ph?nician Astarte, and enforced by Jezebel with a high hand, not without persecution of the prophets of the Lord. The conflict between it and the spiritual worship of Jehovah became now a conflict of life and death.

Verse 31. - And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him [Heb. as marg. was it a light thing? Ewald (362 a) explains this to mean "because it was." But it seems better to understand, "was it such a light thing... that he must needs also?" etc.] to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat [i.e., the sins of heresy and schism], that he took to wife Jezebel [ = "Without cohabitation," "chaste," Gesenius, who compares it with Agnes. It is hardly the original of Isabella] the daughter of Ethbaal [ = "With Baal." The Greek form Ἰθόβαλος or Αἰθώβαλος, found in Jos., Ant. 8:13.1; cf. Contr. Ap. 1:18, suggests as its original אִתּו בַּעַל i.e., "with him is Baal." In either case the name well became him, for, according to Menander (apud Jos. l.c.), he was the priest of Astarte, who gained for himself the throne of the Zidonians by the assassination of Pheles. He is further said to have reigned thirty-two years, and to have lived sixty-eight years. He would therefore be thirty-six years old at the time of his accession. It does not appear that (Keil) he was the brother of Pheles. Pheles, however, was certainly a fratricide. (Rawlinson reminds us that Jezebel was great-aunt to Pygmalion and Dido.) This statement helps to explain Jezebel's fierce and sanguinary character, and at the same time accounts for her great devotion to the gods of her country, and for her determined efforts to establish their impure rites in her husband's kingdom. It was only what one would expect from the child of such a parent] king of the Zidonians [This alliance, it is extremely probable, was made for purely political reasons, as a counterpoise against the active, ambitious, and encroaching power which had arisen in Damascene Syria. The army which had already humbled Omri (ch. 20:34) could not fail to be a source of danger to Tyre], and went and served Baal [Heb. the Baal, i.e., the lord or master; cf. ὁ κύριος. The name appears among the Babylonians as Bel (Isaiah 46:1) - Greek βῆλος. Reference has already been made to the frequent recurrence of the word in different compound names, and in different parts of Palestine, as showing how widespread must have been his worship at an earlier age. We are also familiar with the word in the names Hannibal, Hasdrubal, etc. Baal was the supreme male god of the Canaanitish races, as Ashtoreth was their great female divinity. The former was regarded, not only as the possessor, but as the generator, of all], worshipped him

16:29-34 Ahab did evil above all that reigned before him, and did it with a particular enmity both against Jehovah and Israel. He was not satisfied with breaking the second commandment by image-worship, he broke the first by worshipping other gods: making light of lesser sins makes way for greater. Marriages with daring offenders also imbolden in wickedness, and hurry men on to the greatest excesses. One of Ahab's subjects, following the example of his presumption, ventured to build Jericho. Like Achan, he meddled with the accursed thing; turned that to his own use, which was devoted to God's honour: he began to build, in defiance of the curse well devoted to God's honour: he began to build, in defiance of the curse well known in Israel; but none ever hardened his heart against God, and prospered. Let the reading of this chapter cause us to mark the dreadful end of all the workers of iniquity. And what does the history of all ungodly men furnish, what ever rank or situation they move in, but sad examples of the same?And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat,.... To worship the golden calves he set up:

that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians; who is called Ithobalus and Itobalus king of the Tyrians, by Heathen historians (h); and, by Theophilus of Antioch (i), Juthobalus, priest of Astarte; for Tyre and Zidon were under one king. This woman was not only of another nation, and an idolater, but a very filthy woman, and is made the emblem of the whore of Rome, Revelation 2:20.

and went and served Baal, and worshipped him that is, went to Zidon and Tyre, and worshipped his wife's gods, which were either Jupiter Thalassius, the god of the Zidoaians, or Hercules, whom the Tyrians worshipped.

(h) Menander apud Joseph. Antiqu. l. 8. c. 13. sect. 1, 2. & contr. Apion. l. 1. c. 21. Diodor. Sicul. apud Junium in loc. (i) Ad Autolye. l. 3. p. 132.

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