Omri

From Academic Kids

Omri (Hebrew עָמְרִי, Standard Hebrew ʿOmri, Tiberian Hebrew ʿOmr; short for Hebrew עָמְרִיָּה "The LORD is my life", Standard Hebrew ʿOmriyya, Tiberian Hebrew ʿOmriyyāh) was king of Israel and father of Ahab. Albright has dated his reign to 876 - 869 BC, while Thiele offers the dates 885 - 874 BC. 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 21st year of Asa, king of Judah (1 Kings 16:21-23).

Because Omri was not a devout follower of Yahweh, the writer of the Book of Kings minimized his accomplishments. While the writer acknowledges Omri built his new capital Samaria on a hill he bought from Shemer (16:24), he omits any mention of the 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, including 12 sets of mason marks shared between the archeological sites.

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 40 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 Thompson (The Bible in History), however, interprets the Mesha stele as sugesting that Omri is an eponym, or legendry founder of the kingdom rather than a historical person.

Contents

The Omride Dynasty

The short-lived dynasty founded by Omri constitutes a new chapter in the history of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. It ended almost 50 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 Karkar (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.

Omri in archaeological sources

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. 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 line of kings, although this by no means firmly establishes that he was the first king of Israel according to these sources.


See also

External links

Preceded by:
Zimri
King of Israel Succeeded by:
Ahab

he:עמרי

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