Bible Personages in Archaeology Omri, King of Israel -- By: Bryant G. Wood

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 11:1 (Winter 1998)
Article: Bible Personages in Archaeology Omri, King of Israel
Author: Bryant G. Wood

Bible Personages in Archaeology
Omri, King of Israel

Bryant G. Wood


Omri was commander-in-chief of the army of the Northern Kingdom of Israel under Elah, who ruled for two years, 886–885 BC. Zimri, an official in charge of half the chariot force, assassinated Elah in his palace in Tirzah, the capital. At the time, Omri was with his army at Gibbethon in Philistine territory. When news of the coup reached the camp, the Israelite soldiers immediately proclaimed Omri king. They marched to Tirzah and lay siege to the city. Just seven days after the coup, Zimri saw that the end was imminent and committed suicide by setting fire to the royal palace. Omri then took possession of the capital. His rule was not uncontested, however, for half the people supported Tibni for king. Omri prevailed, no doubt due to his military support, and ruled Israel for 12 years, 885–874 BC (1 Kgs 16:15–23).

Nothing is said in Scripture about the lineage of Omri. His name is either Amorite or Arabic (Thiel 1992: 17), suggesting he was a foreign mercenary. The name of his daughter, Athaliah (2 Kgs 8:26), contains the theophoric element for Yahweh, so he may have at least paid lip service to being a follower of the God of Israel. He established the second longest dynasty of the Northern Kingdom, 45 years. Following Omri, his son Ahab ruled 22 years, 874–853 (Wood 1996a), his grandson Ahaziah two years, 853–852, and a second grandson Joram 12 years, 852–841.

Because of Ahab’s sin in the matter of Naboth’s vineyard, God brought the dynasty to a bloody end by means of Jehu (1 Kgs 21:20–29). Jehu then began the longest dynasty for the Northern Kingdom, spanning five generations and 90 years. Other than these two dynasties, kingship in the Northern Kingdom was marred by a succession of bloody coups and much instability. In contrast, the Davidic line of Judah to the south continued nearly unbroken until the Babylonian exile, in keeping with God’s promise to David (2 Sam 7:11–16).

The only break in the Davidic line came when Athaliah, Omri’s daughter, usurped the throne and ruled for six years, 841–835 BC. She was married to Jehoram, crown prince of Judah, in a political marriage (2 Kgs 8:18, 25–26; 2 Chr 18:1). After Jehoram’s rule, 848–841, Athaliah’s son Ahaziah became king. His reign lasted but a year, however, since he fell victim to Jehu’s coup in the north (You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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