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OMRI, in the Bible, the first great king of Israel after the separation of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah, who flourished in the early part of the 9th century B.C. The dynasty of Jeroboam had been exterminated by Baasha (see Asa) at a revolt when the army was besieging the Philistines at Gibbethon, an unidentified Danite site. A quarter of a century later, Baasha's son Elah, after a reign of two years, was slain by Zimri, captain of the chariots, in a drinking bout, and again the royal family were put to the sword. Meanwhile, the general Omri, who was at Gibbethon, was promptly elected king by the army, and Zimri himself in a short while[1] met his death in the royal city of Tirzah. However, fresh disturbance was caused by Tibni ben Ginath (perhaps of Naphtali), and Israel was divided into rival factions. Ultimately Tibni and his brother Joram (1 Kings xvi. 22, LXX.) were overcome, and Omri remained in sole possession of the throne. The compiler of the biblical narratives takes little interest in Omri's work (1 Kings xvi. 15-28), and records briefly his purchase of Samaria, which became the capital of his dynasty (see Samaria). The inscription of Mesha throws welcome light upon his conquest of Moab (q.v.); the position of Israel during the reign of Omri's son Ahab (q.v.) bears testimony to the success of the father; and the fact that the land continued to be known to the Assyrians down to the time of Sargon as “house of Omri” indicates the reputation which this little-known king enjoyed.

(S. A. C.)

  1. He is said to have reigned seven days, but the LXX. (B) in 1 Kings xvi. 15 read seven years. Further confusion is caused by the fact that the LXX. reads Zimri throughout for Omri.