Omri (Hebrew: "Yahweh is my Life") (r. 929-918 BC by Ussher, or 885-874 BC by Thiele) was the sixth king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. With him began the troubled dynasty called the House of Omri that held sway in the Northern Kingdom until King Jehu violently overthrew it and began a dynasty of his own.
Omri was an especially "evil-doing" king, and the Bible describes him as ruling in a manner worse than that of all the kings of the Northern Kingdom who preceded him.
Omri was theater commander at the siege of Gibbethon, a town under Philistine control, when word came that King Elah had been murdered by Zimri, who was a rival general. Omri's men rallied to him and indicated that they would support him as king rather than Zimri.
Omri won the allegiance of the entire army, and marched with all military units to Tirzah, the capital city. There he could only watch as Zimri burnt the palace down around him and perished in the flames.
Unhappily, with victory at hand, the army split into two nearly equal halves, the one following Omri and the other following yet another general, Tibni son of Ginath. Omri would take four long years to defeat Tibni's forces once and for all.
Early in the course of this war, Omri seems to have made a decision that was to have nearly disastrous consequences for his kingdom and also for the Southern Kingdom. From the birth in 927 BC (or 883 BC) of his granddaughter, Athaliah, daughter of his son Ahab, we may surmise that Omri, in either the first or second year of the civil war, made a military treaty with King Ithobaal I of Tyre, and that, to seal this pact, arranged for his son to marry Ithobaal's daughter Jezebel. This marriage would result in the Northern Kingdom's sad history of the worship of Baal, the husbandman-god of Tyre. The Bible makes no direct mention of such a pact, but the time frame of the birth of Athaliah, occurring as it did during the Omni-Tibni War, makes this pact highly likely.
Omri is listed as reigning for twelve years, but is also listed as having "begun to reign" in the thirty-first year of the reign of King Asa of the Southern Kingdom. The twelve years refers to the entirety of Omri's reign, beginning from the day that Zimri burnt his own palace down around himself.
A New Capital
Omri bought a high hill from a man named Shemer, and paid two silver talents for it. He named that hill Samaria after its owner, and established his capital city there in the eleventh year of his reign (919 BC by Ussher; 875 BC by Thiele). This one may infer by the statement that Omri reigned for six years in Tirzah before he built Samaria.
Death and Succession
Omri died in the twelfth year of his reign (918 BC by Ussher; 874 BC by Thiele) and was buried in Samaria. His son Ahab ruled in his stead.
- James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed., Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003 (ISBN 0890513600), pghh. 501-504, 506-507
- Leon J. Wood, A Survey of Israel's History, rev. ed. David O'Brien, Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1986 (ISBN 031034770X), pp. 262-263
- I_Kings 16:16-18,21-28
- Smith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Om’ri'." Smith's Bible Dictionary, 1901. Retrieved June 20, 2007.
- Authors unknown. "Entry for Omri." WebBible Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 20, 2007.