Myths of Babylonia and Assyria
Page: 211Judah and Israel thus became subject to Damascus, and had to recognize the king of that city as arbiter in all their disputes.
After reigning about twenty-four years, Baasha of Israel died in 886 B.C. and was succeeded by his son Elah who came to the throne "in the twenty and sixth year of Asa". He had ruled a little over a year when he was murdered by "his servant Zimri, captain of half his chariots", while he was "drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza steward of his house in Tirzah". Thus ended the Second Dynasty of the Kingdom of Israel.
Zimri's revolt was shortlived. He reigned only "seven days in Tirzah". The army was "encamped against Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines. And the people that were encamped heard say, Zimri hath conspired and hath also slain the king; wherefore all Israel made Omri, the captain of the host, king over Israel that day in the camp. And Omri went up from Gibbethon and all Israel with him, and they besieged Tirzah. And it came to pass when Zimri saw that the city was taken, that he went into the palace of the king's house, and burnt the king's house over him with fire, and died."
Omri's claim to the throne was disputed by a rival named Tibni. "But the people that followed Omri prevailed against the people that followed Tibni, son of Ginath: so Tibni died, and Omri reigned."
Omri was the builder of Samaria, whither his Court was transferred from Tirzah towards the close of his six years reign. He was followed by his son Ahab, who ascended the throne "in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah.... And Ahab ... did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him." So notorious indeed were father and son that the prophet Micah declared to the backsliders of his day, "For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsel; that I should make thee a desolation, and the inhabitants thereof an hissing: therefore ye shall bear the reproach of my people".
Ahab was evidently an ally of Sidon as well as a vassal of Damascus, for he married the notorious princess Jezebel, the daughter of the king of that city State. He also became a worshipper of the Phoenician god Baal, to whom a temple had been erected in Samaria. "And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him." Obadiah, who "feared the Lord greatly", was the governor of Ahab's house, but the outspoken prophet Elijah, whose arch enemy was the notorious Queen Jezebel, was an outcast like the hundred prophets concealed by Obadiah in two mountain caves.
Ahab became so powerful a king that Ben-hadad II of Damascus picked a quarrel with him, and marched against Samaria. It was on this occasion that Ahab sent the famous message to Ben-hadad: "Let not him that girdeth on his harness (armour) boast himself as he that putteth it off". The Israelites issued forth from Samaria and scattered the attacking force. "And Israel pursued them: and Ben-hadad the king of Syria escaped on a horse with the horseman. And the king of Israel went out, and smote the horses and chariots, and slew the Syrians with a great slaughter." Ben-hadad was made to believe afterwards by his counsellors that he owed his defeat to the fact that the gods of Israel were "gods of the hills; therefore they are stronger than we". They added: "Let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they". In the following year Ben-hadad fought against the Israelites at Aphek, but was again defeated. He then found it necessary to make "a covenant" with Ahab.