OMRI ():

  • 1. 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.

I. M. P.
  • 2. A son of Becher and grandson of Benjamin (I Chron. vii. 8).
  • 3. A descendant of Judah through Pharez (ib. ix. 4).
  • 4. Son of Michael, prince of the tribe of Issachar in the time of David (ib. xxvii. 18).
E. G. H. M. Sel.
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