Ahab, whose reign begins in 1 Kings 16, gets more space than any other northern kingdom king – seven chapters – despite the fact that he doesn’t reign all that long (only 22 years). Jereboam reigns at least as long, but Baasha, Jehu, and Jereboam II all reign longer and Omri, though his reign was shorter, was a greater king, founding the city of Samaria.
Ahab’s distinctiveness is the evil that he cultivated. In fact, notice how, in chapter 16, the evil of Israel is compounded by its leaders. Baasha, Elah, and Zimri continue the evil begun by Jereboam, but Omri sinned more than those before him and Ahab did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any before him. In fact, the writer of Kings summarizes Ahab’s reign with these words: “there never was a man like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord” (1 Kings 21:25).
Chapter 16 covers some sixty years, but its brief point is that the northern kingdom is rapidly becoming as evil as the Canaanites God sought to dispossess.
The wholesale rejection of God is seen at the end of the chapter. Old Testament Scholar and Beeson University professor Paul House comments as follows: “On the surface this verse seems to have little reason for occupying its present position. It reads like a curious aside about Jericho, yet it reveals two important points. First, in the polytheistic climate in Ahab’s Israel, a man feels free to offer his children as sacrifices to build a city. . . Second, this wicked event reminds readers of God’s word through Joshua that rebuilding Jericho would bring death to the builder’s family (Josh 6:26). God’s word is still active in history according to the author. Despite all the sin in Israel, the Lord is still in charge.”