Elah, Zimri, and Arza
1 Kings 16:8-10
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.…

There was once a king in Israel called Elah. He reigned over Israel in Tirzah two years. He had a servant called Zimri who was a captain of his chariots. Zimri was a born traitor. Treachery was in his very blood. In the case of Elah, Zimri had a marked advantage; for Elah was a drunken fool. He was in the habit of visiting the house of another of his servants, a steward called Arza, and there he had what drink he asked for; and he asked for a good deal, so much so that he was often drunk in his servant's house, and on one of these occasions, Zimri went in and killed him, and reigned in his stead. These are the facts which we have to deal with. Are they very ancient, or are they happening round about us every day?

1. Elah lives in every man who has great chances or opportunities in life, but allows them to slip away through one leak in the character. Elah was a king, and the son of a king, so his openings in life were wide and splendid; but he loved strong drink, and through that leak in his character all that might have made him a man oozed away, and left him a king in nothing but the barren name. Strong drink will ruin any man. What is true of this leak in a man's character is true of every other. Take indecision for example, or idleness, or love of company, or devotion to pleasure. A great merchant once said to me of a certain man in his employment, "I would to-morrow give that man a thousand a year to begin with, if he could do one thing, and that is, hold his tongue; but he would no sooner get the appointment than he would go into an ale-house, and tell the whole company everything I am doing." There is the leak in the character, and it means ruin! It is astounding what one leak will do.

2. Zimri still lives in all persons who take advantage of the weaknesses of others. Zimri knew that Elah was a drunkard, and he further knew that through his habit of drunkenness alone he could reach the king. On every other side of his character Elah may have been a strong man: acute, shrewd, far-sighted; but when in drink, weak and foolish. And Zimri played his game accordingly. Some people trade on the weaknesses of others. They study them. Thy adapt themselves to them. They watch for striking time, and seldom miss the mark. How else could the net be always ready for the bird? How else the pit be always prepared for the unexpected and bewildered traveller? There is an infernal science in these things — a devil's black art!

3. And does not Arza still live in those who find the means whereby men may conceal their evil habits and indulge their unholy desires? They seem to say, "In my house you may do what you please. I shall not look at you. Come when you please; go when you like; I am nobody, if you like to call me so." My wonder is that any young man can keep his morals uncorrupted in a strange city. Houses of destruction are open in every street. How foolish, too, are the wicked! If they would devote their talents to some virtuous end they would attain honourable success, sweetened with a sense of honesty. They often have great talents, fine powers, large capacities, and if they gave themselves with ardour and energy to the pursuit of good ends they would outrun many, and gain a prize worthy and lasting.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah began Elah the son of Baasha to reign over Israel in Tirzah, [and reigned] two years.

A Divine Judgment and its Instrument
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