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BAASHA:

Son of Ahijah and king of Israel. Owing to the weakness of Nadab, the successor of Jeroboam I., first king of Israel, Baasha was enabled to seize the throne through the murder of his master. The conspiracy was carried out at Gibbethon on the western frontier, which was held by the Philistines and was being besieged by the Israelites. The presence and apparent approval of the army indicate that Baasha, like Omri later, must have been a military leader. His subsequent career confirms this conclusion. Like many military leaders, he appears to have risen from obscurity, as is suggested by the words of Jehu the prophet, "I exalted thee out of the dust, and made thee prince over my people Israel" (I Kings xvi. 2). In his complete extermination of the house of Jeroboam, who had proved himself a loyal patriot, he revealed the cruel traits of his nature. The fact that he came from the tribe of Issachar suggests that he may have represented a local faction.

Baasha's restless energy led him to wage a protracted war against Asa of Judah. His aim seems to have been not the complete conquest of Judah, but the blockade and plunder of its northern towns. To this end he built a strong fort at Ramah, and was so far successful that Asa resorted to the dangerous expedient of calling upon the common foe, Benhadad of Damascus (I Kings xv. 17-20). The Aramean king improved this opportunity to break his treaty with Baasha, and invaded Israel, overrunning its northern territory and annexing several towns. Baasha was defeated by his powerful northern neighbor and was obliged to transfer his capital to Tirzah, east of Shechem, and to abandon Ramah. Asa of Judah utilized the materials of this abandoned fort for the fortification of his own frontier towns, Geba and Mizpah.

Although the duration of Baasha's reign was twenty-four years (I Kings xv. 33), and while he died a natural death and was buried at the capital which he had established, he never attained the popularity or prestige that could assure permanence to his dynasty. On the whole, he brought disaster and weakness to Israel. His policy was not marked by any redeeming qualities, and it received the bitter condemnation which the Prophets visited upon all of Israel's purely military leaders (I Kings xvi. 1-7). The nation showed its disapproval by the overthrow of his dynasty in less than two years from the death of its founder.

J. Jr. C. F. K.
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