Omri was a king of Israel, successful military campaigner and first in the line of Omride
The term Omrides or the House of Omri refers to Omri and his descendants , who were according to the Bible, as well as a number of other archaeological remains, kings of ancient Israel....

 kings that included Ahab
Ahab or Ach'av or Achab in Douay-Rheims was king of Israel and the son and successor of Omri according to the Hebrew Bible. His wife was Jezebel....

, Ahaziah
Ahaziah of Israel
Ahaziah or Ochozias was king of Israel and the son of Ahab and Jezebel.William F. Albright has dated his reign to 850-849 BC, while E. R. Thiele offers the dates 853-852 BC...

 and Joram.

He was "commander of the army" of king Elah
King Elah
Elah was a son of Baasha, who succeeded him as the 4th king of Israel. William F. Albright has dated his reign to 877 BC - 876 BC, while E. R. Thiele offers the dates 886 BC - 885 BC....

 when Zimri
Zimri (king)
Zimri or Zambri was a king of Israel for seven days. William F. Albright has dated his reign to 876 BCE, while E. R. Thiele offers the date 885 BCE. His story is told in 1 Kings, Chapter 16....

 murdered Elah and made himself king. Instead, the troops at Gibbethon chose Omri as king, and he led them to Tirzah
Tirzah is a Hebrew word meaning "she is my delight." In the Bible it is the name of a woman, one of the daughters of Zelophehad.-Hebrew name:...

 where they trapped Zimri in the royal palace. Zimri set fire to the palace and died after a reign of only seven days.

Although Zimri was eliminated, "half of the people" supported Tibni
Tibni was a claimant to the throne of the Israel, and the son of Ginath, a man of some position. Albright has dated his reign to 876 – 871 BC, while Thiele offers the dates 885 – 880 BC....

 in opposition to Omri. It took Omri four years to subdue Tibni and at last proclaim himself undisputed king of Israel. ( and ) For the first six years, his capital was in Tirzah, after which he built a new capital of the kingdom in Samaria
Samaria, or the Shomron is a term used for a mountainous region roughly corresponding to the northern part of the West Bank.- Etymology :...

, on a hill he bought from Shemer.

Omri became king of Israel in the 31st year of Asa
Asa of Judah
Asa was the third king of the Kingdom of Judah and the fifth king of the House of David. He was the son of Abijam, grandson of Rehoboam, and great-grandson of Solomon. The Hebrew Bible gives the period of his reign as 41 years. His reign is dated between 913-910 BCE to 873-869 BCE. He was...

, king of Judah and reigned for 12 years, 6 years of which were in Tirzah. The biblical reference to the period of rivalry with Tibni is from the 27th year of Asa to the 31st year. William F. Albright
William F. Albright
William Foxwell Albright was an American archaeologist, biblical scholar, philologist and expert on ceramics. From the early twentieth century until his death, he was the dean of biblical archaeologists and the universally acknowledged founder of the Biblical archaeology movement...

 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.

Some authors, especially Israel Finkelstein
Israel Finkelstein
Israel Finkelstein is an Israeli archaeologist and academic. He is currently the Jacob M. Alkow Professor of the Archaeology of Israel in the Bronze Age and Iron Ages at Tel Aviv University and is also the co-director of excavations at Megiddo in northern Israel...

, maintain that the Book of Kings minimized Omri's accomplishments. They argue that while the biblical text acknowledges that Omri built his new capital Samaria
Samaria, or the Shomron is a term used for a mountainous region roughly corresponding to the northern part of the West Bank.- Etymology :...

, the text may have omitted possible widespread public construction both Omri and his son Ahab commissioned during their reigns. Finkelstein and his student Norma Franklin have identified monumental construction at Samaria, Jezreel, Megiddo
Megiddo (place)
Megiddo is a tell in modern Israel near Megiddo Kibbutz, known for its historical, geographical, and theological importance especially under its Greek name Armageddon. In ancient times Megiddo was an important city-state. Excavations have unearthed 26 layers of ruins, indicated a long period of...

 and Hazor similar in design and build. Other archaeologists in Israel, including Amnon Ben-Tor, Amihai Mazar
Amihai Mazar
Amihai "Ami" Mazar is an Israeli archaeologist. Born in Haifa, Israel , he is currently Professor at the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, holding the Eleazer Sukenik Chair in the Archaeology of Israel.Mazar has directed archaeological excavations at a number of...

, William Dever
William Dever
William Dever may refer to:* William Emmett Dever , mayor of Chicago 1923–1926* William G. Dever, biblical archaeologist...

 and Lawrence Stager
Lawrence Stager
Lawrence E. "Larry" Stager is Dorot Professor of the Archaeology of Israel in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University and is Director of the Harvard Semitic Museum...

, reject this theory, claiming that it is contradicted by scientific understandings of strata formulation and the general development of the region, and that the theory relies overmuch on pottery seriation
Seriation is a way of situating an object within a series:*Seriation *Seriation...

, a technique for dating sites using ceramic remains, which is a relative dating technique rather than an absolute technique such as carbon dating.

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
Mesha Stele
The Mesha Stele is a black basalt stone bearing an inscription by the 9th century BC ruler Mesha of Moab in Jordan....

 erected by Mesha
King Mesha of Moab was a king of Moabites around the 9th century BC, known most famous for writing the Mesha stela.The books of Samuel record that Moab was conquered by David and retained in the territories of his son Solomon . Later, King Omri of Israel reconquered Moab after Moab was lost...

, king of Moab
Moab is the historical name for a mountainous strip of land in Jordan. The land lies alongside much of the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. The existence of the Kingdom of Moab is attested to by numerous archeological findings, most notably the Mesha Stele, which describes the Moabite victory over...

, who records his victory over a son of Omri—but omits the son's name. Thomas L. Thompson
Thomas L. Thompson
Thomas L. Thompson is a biblical theologian associated with the movement known as the Copenhagen School. He was professor of theology at the University of Copenhagen from 1993–2009, lives in Denmark and is now a Danish citizen.-Background:Thompson obtained a B.A...

 (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 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 fifty years of constant civil war over the throne. There was peace with the Kingdom of Judah
Kingdom of Judah
The Kingdom of Judah was a Jewish state established in the Southern Levant during the Iron Age. It is often referred to as the "Southern Kingdom" to distinguish it from the northern Kingdom of Israel....

 to the south, and even cooperation between the two rival states, while relations with neighboring Sidon
Sidon or Saïda is the third-largest city in Lebanon. It is located in the South Governorate of Lebanon, on the Mediterranean coast, about 40 km north of Tyre and 40 km south of the capital Beirut. In Genesis, Sidon is the son of Canaan the grandson of Noah...

 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
The Emirate of Transjordan was a former Ottoman territory in the Southern Levant that was part of the British Mandate of Palestine...

, and these factors combined brought economic prosperity to the kingdom.

On the other hand, peace with Sidon also resulted in the penetration of Phoenicia
Phoenicia , was an ancient civilization in Canaan which covered most of the western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent. Several major Phoenician cities were built on the coastline of the Mediterranean. It was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1550...

n religious ideas into the kingdom and led to a kulturkampf
The German term refers to German policies in relation to secularity and the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, enacted from 1871 to 1878 by the Prime Minister of Prussia, Otto von Bismarck. The Kulturkampf did not extend to the other German states such as Bavaria...

between traditionalists (as personified by the prophet
In religion, a prophet, from the Greek word προφήτης profitis meaning "foreteller", is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and serves as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people...

 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
Aram (Biblical region)
Aram is the name of a region mentioned in the Bible located in central Syria, including where the city of Aleppo now stands.-Etymology:The etymology is uncertain. One standard explanation is an original meaning of "highlands"...

 based in Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

, and Israel soon found itself at war in the northeast. Most threatening, however, was the ascendancy of Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

, which was beginning to expand westward from Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

: the Battle of Qarqar
Battle of Qarqar
The Battle of Qarqar was fought in 853 BC when the army of Assyria led by king Shalmaneser III encountered an allied army of 12 kings at Qarqar led by Hadadezer of Damascus and King Ahab of Israel...

 (853 BC), which pitted Shalmaneser III
Shalmaneser III
Shalmaneser III was king of Assyria , and son of the previous ruler, Ashurnasirpal II....

 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. The Moabite Mesha stele
Mesha Stele
The Mesha Stele is a black basalt stone bearing an inscription by the 9th century BC ruler Mesha of Moab in Jordan....

 (on display in the Louvre
The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

) makes reference to the oppression of Moab by "Omri King of Israel". Israel would later 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
Jehoash of Israel
Jehoash , whose name means “Yahweh has given,” was a king of the ancient Kingdom of Israel and the son of Jehoahaz. He was the 12th king of Israel and reigned for 16 years. William F. Albright has dated his reign to 801 BC – 786 BC, while E. R. Thiele offers the dates 798 BC – 782 BC...

). The Assyrian Black Obelisk
Black Obelisk
The "Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III" is a black limestone Neo-Assyrian bas-relief sculpture from Nimrud , in northern Iraq, commemorating the deeds of King Shalmaneser III . It is the most complete Assyrian obelisk yet discovered, and is historically significant because it displays the earliest...

 (in the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

 credits Jehu the (son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi) as being the "son of Omri" while the Bible describes him to be "the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi" .

Archaeologically speaking, it would appear that Omri was recognized internationally as the founder of the Israelite Kingdom, though Ahab is actually the first king of Israel to appear in non-Israelite sources. The fact that theirs are the earliest attested names of Israelite kings and that the kingdom of Israel became associated with that of the former does not, however, establish that either was considered by these sources to actually be the first king of Israel.

Attitude in contemporary Israel

The Bible displays a negative attitude to King Omri, and it has been followed by later rabbinical tradition. However, Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

 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
Nimrod means "Hunter"; was a Biblical Mesopotamian king mentioned in the Table of Nations; an eponym for the city of Nimrud.Nimrod can also refer to any of the following:*Nimród Antal, a director...

", another Biblical character negatively regarded by pre-Zionist Jewish tradition. Omri Sharon
Omri Sharon
Omri Sharon is a former Israeli politician. Sharon served as a member of Knesset between 2003 and 2006. In 2006, he was convicted of fraud and sentenced to nine months in prison. He reported to Maasiyahu Prison to begin serving his sentence in 2008. He was released later the same year, having...

, the elder son (and close political associate) of former PM Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon is an Israeli statesman and retired general, who served as Israel’s 11th Prime Minister. He has been in a permanent vegetative state since suffering a stroke on 4 January 2006....

 seems among the most well-known among present bearers of the name. Omri Katz
Omri Katz
Omri Haim Katz is an American actor. His TV and film credits include Eerie, Indiana; Matinee; Adventures in Dinosaur City; Hocus Pocus; and the CBS prime time soap opera Dallas, in which he played the role of John Ross Ewing III, the son of J.R...

 is an Israeli-American actor, born in Los Angeles to Israeli parents. Omri Casspi
Omri Casspi
Omri Casspi is an Israeli professional basketball player. He is under contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but is playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv B.C. during the 2011 NBA lockout...

 is an Israeli 6' 9" basketball small forward
Small forward
The small forward, or colloquially known as three, is one of the five positions in a regulation basketball game. Small forwards are typically somewhat shorter, quicker, and leaner than power forwards and centers, but on occasion are just as tall...

 who was drafted in the 1st round of 2009 NBA Draft
2009 NBA Draft
The 2009 NBA Draft was held on June 25, 2009, the WaMu Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. In this draft, National Basketball Association teams took turns selecting amateur U.S...

 by the Sacramento Kings
Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings are a professional basketball team based in Sacramento, California, United States. They are currently members of the Western Conference of the National Basketball Association...


External links

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