|Kings of Ancient Israel|
Omri (Hebrew: עָמְרִי, Modern ʿOmri Tiberian ʿOmrî; short for Hebrew: עָמְרִיָּה, Modern ʿOmriyya Tiberian ʿOmriyyāh ; "The Lord is my life") was king of Israel and father of Ahab. William F. Albright has dated his reign to 876 – 869 BC, while E. R. Thiele offers the dates of 888 BC to 880 BC for his rivalry with Tibni and 880 – 874 BC for his sole reign. He was "commander of the army" for Elah when Zimri slew Elah and made himself king. The troops at Gibbethon chose instead to elect Omri as king, and he led them to Tirzah where they trapped Zimri in the royal palace, and where Zimri died (1 Kings 16:15-19).
Although Zimri was eliminated, "half of the people" supported Tibni in opposition to Omri. It took Omri some years to subdue Tibni and at last proclaim himself undisputed king of Israel in the 31st year of Asa, king of Judah (1 Kings 16:21-23).
Some authors, especially Tel Aviv's Israel Finklestein, maintain that the writer of the Book of Kings minimized Omri's accomplishments. While the writer acknowledges that Omri built his new capital Samaria on a hill he bought from Shemer (16:24), he may have omitted possible widespread public construction both Omri and his son Ahab commissioned during their reigns. Israel Finkelstein and his student Norma Franklin have identified monumental construction at Samaria, Jezreel, Megiddo and Hazor similar in design and build. Most archaeologists in Israel, including Amnon Ben-Tor, Amihai Mazar, and Lawrence Stager, reject this theory, claiming that it is contradicted by scientific understandings of strata formulation and the general development of the region.
Omri's rule over Israel was secure enough that he could bequeath his kingdom to Ahab, thus beginning a new dynasty (sometimes called the Omrides), and his descendants not only ruled over the kingdom of Israel for the next forty years, but also briefly over Judah. He was significant enough that his name is mentioned on a stele erected by Mesha, king of Moab, who records his victory over a son of Omri—but omits the son's name. Thomas L. Thompson (The Bible in History), however, interprets the Mesha stele as suggesting that Omri is an eponym, or legendary founder of the kingdom rather than an historical person. Most archaeologists reject this interpretation, seeing Omri as historical. Assyrian kings frequently referred to Omri's successors as belonging to the "House of Omri" (Bit Hu-um-ri-a).
The short-lived dynasty founded by Omri constitutes a new chapter in the history of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. It ended almost fifty years of constant civil war over the throne. There was peace with the Kingdom of Judah to the south, and even cooperation between the two rival states, while relations with neighboring Sidon to the north were bolstered by marriages negotiated between the two royal courts. This state of peace with two powerful neighbors enabled the Kingdom of Israel to expand its influence and even political control in Transjordan, and these factors combined brought economic prosperity to the kingdom.
On the other hand, peace with Sidon also resulted in the penetration of Phoenician religious ideas into the kingdom and led to a kulturkampf between traditionalists (as personified by the prophet Elijah and his followers) and the aristocracy (as personified by Omri's son and heir Ahab and his consort Jezebel). In foreign affairs, this period paralleled the rise of the Kingdom of Aram based in Damascus, and Israel soon found itself at war in the northeast. Most threatening, however, was the ascendancy of Assyria, which was beginning to expand westward from Mesopotamia: the Battle of Qarqar (853 BC), which pitted Shalmaneser III of Assyria against a coalition of local kings, including Ahab, was the first clash between Assyria and Israel. It was the first in a series of wars that would eventually lead to the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel in 722 BC and the reduction of the Kingdom of Judah to an Assyrian tributary state.
In archaeology, Omri appears several times over the next century or so, beginning with the Mesha stele, which recounts one of his acts as king: the annexation of Moab. He is also mentioned in the contemporary Assyrian Black Obelisk which states that Jehu was the "son of Omri." Later, Israel would become identified in sources as the "House of Omri" (Bit-Humria), with the term "Israel" being used less and less as history progressed (the other defining term for "Israel" is "Samaria", beginning in the reign of Joash). Archaeologically speaking, it would appear that Omri is the founder of the Israelite Kingdom, but problems persist since he is not the first king of Israel to appear in sources; Ahab is. However, dating complications (arising from the fact that if he followed Ahab he would be given less than three years to rule, far too short for a king that was as powerful and influential as Omri) make it easier to put Omri first in Israel's internationally recognised line of kings, although this by no means firmly establishes that he was the first king of Israel according to these sources.
The Bible displays a negative attitude to King Omri, and it has been followed by later rabbinical tradition. However, Zionism was created mainly by non-religious (sometimes anti-religious) people who re-evaluated many Biblical characters (as well as characters from later Jewish history) according to the criteria of a secular national movement in need of National Heroes. As with many European national movements which served as an example to the founders of Zionism, ancient Jewish warriors in general and warrior kings in particular were often regarded positively. Omri, a successful warrior king and the founder of a strong dynasty, is a conspicuous example.
In the present-day Israeli society, "Omri" is quite a common male name, which would have been unthinkable in a traditional Jewish milieu. The same is true for the name "Nimrod", another Biblical character negatively regarded by pre-Zionist Jewish tradition. Omri Sharon, the elder son (and close political associate) of former PM Ariel Sharon seems the most well-known among present bearers of the name. Omri Katz is an Israeli-American actor, born in Los Angeles to Israeli parents.
Rival to Tibni: 885 BC – 880 BC
Sole reign: 880 BC – 874 BC
OMRI, in the Bible, the first great king of Israel after the separation of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah, who flourished in the early part of the 9th century B.C. The dynasty of Jeroboam had been exterminated by Baasha (see AsA) at a revolt when the army was besieging the Philistines at Gibbethon, an unidentified Danite site. A quarter of a century later, Baasha's son Elah, after a reign of two years, was slain by Zimri, captain of the chariots, in a drinking bout, and again the royal family were put to the sword. Meanwhile, the general Omri, who was at Gibbethon, was promptly elected king by the army, and Zimri himself in a short while 1 met his death in the royal city of Tirzah. However, fresh disturbance was caused by Tibni ben Ginath (perhaps of Naphtali), and Israel was divided into rival factions. Ultimately Tibni and his brother Joram (1 Kings xvi. 22, LXX.) were overcome, and Omri remained in sole possession of the throne. The compiler of the biblical narratives takes little interest in Omri's work (1 Kings xvi. 15-28), and records briefly his purchase of Samaria, which became the capital of his dynasty (see SAMARIA). The inscription of Mesha throws welcome light upon his conquest of Moab; the position of Israel during the reign of Omri's son Ahab bears testimony to the success of the father; and the fact that the land continued to be known to the Assyrians down to the time of Sargon as "house of Omri" indicates the reputation which this little-known king enjoyed. (S. A. C.)
|Kings of Israel|
Meaning: servant of Jehovah.
For four years there was continued opposition to his reign, Tibni, another claimant to the throne, leading the opposing party; but at the close of that period all his rivals were defeated, and he became king of Israel, "Tibni died and Omri reigned" (B.C. 927). By his vigour and power he gained great eminence and consolidated the kingdom. He fixed his dynasty on the throne so firmly that it continued during four succeeding reigns. Tirza was for six years the seat of his government. He then removed the capital to Samaria, where he died, and was succeeded by his son Ahab. "He wrought evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all that were before him."
Beth-omri, "the house" or "city of Omri," is the name usually found on Assyrian inscriptions for Samaria. In the stele of Mesha (the "Moabite stone"), which was erected in Moab about twenty or thirty years after Omri's death, it is recorded that Omri oppressed Moab till Mesha delivered the land: "Omri, king of Israel, oppressed Moab many days, for Chemosh was angry with his land. His son succeeded him, and he also said, I will oppress Moab" (comp. 2Kg 1:1; 2Kg 3:4f). The "Moabite stone" also records that "Omri took the land of Medeba, and occupied it in his day and in the days of his son forty years."
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The first king of the fourth dynasty of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (I Kings xvi. 16-28). He is first mentioned as captain of the host of Elah which was besieging Gibbethon, one of the cities of the Philistines. At the same time this Elah, son of Baasha, second king of the second dynasty of the Northern Kingdom, was intoxicatcd in the house of Arza at Tirzah. While in this condition Zimri slew him and all his kinsfolk and usurped the crown (ib. xvi. 8-15). As soon as this news reached the ears of Omri and of the army at Gibbethon, the host made Omri their king, and all marched at once to dispute the succession with Zimri. Tirzah was besieged and quickly taken. Zimri, to avoid the certain tortures of capture, withdrew into his palace and burned it over his head. Omri had not yet won over all the people. Tibni, a rival, contested his claim to the throne. Apparently at the end of four years Omri became sole ruler of the Northern Kingdom. His reign extended, counting from his coronation by the army, over twelve years (885-874 B.C.). The associations of Tirzah were so repellent and sanguinary, and the location so poor for a capital, that Omri purchased a new site, Shomeron, from Shemer for two talents of silver (about $4,000). Here he built his capital, which became and remained a, strong fortress down to its capture by Sargon II. in 722 B.C.
The brief record of King Omri's reign is not commensurate with his political career. He was harassed by the Syrians and compelled to make certain concessions to them in Samaria (ib. xx. 34). His power, however, is seen in the fact that he conquered and held under him the Moabites, as is shown by the Moabite Stone. The Assyrian annalists, too, for nearly 150 years referred to this land as the "land of the house of Omri," or the "land of Omri." Jehu, even, the founder of the fifth dynasty, is called by Shalmaneser II. "the son of Omri," probably because he was a successor of the great Omri on the throne of Israel. Omri's friendly relations with the Phenicians doubtless led to the marriage between his son Ahab and the princess Jezebel.
Though his reign was comparatively short, hedisplayed signal statesmanship and diplomacy in his selection of his capital and in his relations with the surrounding peoples. His moral character was on a par with that of the founder of the Northern Kingdom.
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