BAASHA (or Baasa; Heb. בַּעְשָׁא), son of Ahijah of the tribe of Issachar, king of Israel (906–883 B.C.E.). (A ninth century Aramean king bears the same name.) Baasha, perhaps an officer under King *Nadab, who was besieging *Gibbethon, then held by the Philistines, assassinated him there and proclaimed himself king. He massacred all the members of the House of Jeroboam I, which he had supported. By this act he overthrew the hegemony of Ephraim over the other tribes. Like his predecessor, he resided at Tirzah (I Kings 15:27ff.). After ensuring by alliance the friendship and neutrality of his northern neighbors – the Arameans of Damascus – he turned to the south. According to I Kings 15:16, 32, he was at war with King *Asa of Judah throughout his reign. He succeeded in occupying Ramah, a dominating height north of Jerusalem, and began to fortify it, threatening the Davidic capital. Asa, in turn, bribed Ben-Hadad, king of *Aram, to break his alliance with Baasha and invade Israel (ibid. 17–21; II Chron. 16:1–5), and Baasha was forced to withdraw from Ramah. It has been suggested that he fell in battle while fighting the Arameans, but the biblical report suggests a peaceful death at home (I Kings 16:16). Like Jeroboam before him, Baasha seems to have been sponsored by the prophet Jehu son of Hanani, who gave him the charismatic title nagid, and like Jeroboam he disappointed his sponsor (ibid. 16:1–4, 7).
According to rabbinic legend (Mid. Ag. to Num. 30:15), it was Baasha who murdered the prophet *Shemaiah.
Noth, Hist Isr, 228, 230, 233, 239; Bright, Hist, index; EM, 2 (1965), 303–4 (incl. bibl.). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Cogan, I Kings (AB; 2000), 408–12.