Omri

(Heaping)

1 Kings 16:15-28

Contemporary Prophet: Elijah (?)

“The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but He blesseth the habitation of the just.”—Proverbs 3:33

Civil War, that most deplorable of all forms of armed conflict, followed Omri’s assumption of the throne of Israel. “Then were the people of Israel divided into two parts: half of the people followed Tibni the son of Ginath, to make him king; and half followed Omri. But the people that followed Omri prevailed against the people that followed Tibni the son of Ginath: so Tibni died, and Omri reigned.” “All Israel made Omri, the captain of the host, king over Israel that day in the camp,” it says—that is, the army that was encamped against Gibbethon; but a part of the tribes championed the cause of Tibni. Omri would be thus, during the four years’ contest, in the position of military dictator. And with the soldiery at his back, he could hardly fail to prevail in the end against his adversary, whose death probably put an end to the conflict. Then Omri as king begins a new dynasty.

“In the thirty and first year of Asa king of Judah began Omri to reign over Israel, twelve years: six years reigned he in Tirzah. And he bought the hill Samaria of Shemer for two talents of silver, and built on the hill, and called the name of the city which he built, after the name of Shemer, owner of the hill, Samaria” (“ ShomeronHeb.). In the siege of Tirzah, Omri may have seen its undesirableness as a capital, from a military standpoint; or the pride of founding a new capital may have led him to choose the hill of Shemer. It lay about six miles to the northwest of Shechem, the old capital; and the situation, according to Josephus, combined strength, fertility, and beauty. The hill was six hundred feet above the surrounding country, and “the view,” one writes, “is charming.” But more attractive to the Christian heart, is the site of the old capital, Shechem, where our Lord,” wearied with His journey, sat thus on the well.” And there, in the ears of “Jacob’s erring daughter,” He told of the free-giving God, and of that living water, of which, if a man drink, he shall never more thirst.

“But Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all that were before him. For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin, to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger with their vanities” (idolatries). He seems to have formulated laws, making Jeroboam’s calf-worship, or other forms of idolatry, obligatory throughout his realm, which remained in force till the end of the kingdom, more than two hundred years later. “For the statutes [a firmly-established system.— Fausset] of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab” [Baal-worship] (Micah 6:16). Such yokes men willingly bear, and even cling to, so prone is the human heart to idolatry.

Omri was founder of the fourth and most powerful of the Israelitish dynasties—combining ability with the establishment of the basest idolatry. He formed an alliance with Ben-hadad I, king of Syria, who had streets made for, or assigned to, him in Samaria. See 1 Kings 20:34. Samaria is called on the Assyrian monuments “Beth Omri” (house of Omri), in agreement with 1 Kings 16:24. On the black obelisk, however, Jehu is mistakenly called “son of Omri.” His name appears on the Dibon stone, on which Mesha states that Omri subjected and oppressed Moab till he, Mesha, delivered them out of his hand.

“Now the rest of the acts of Omri which he did, and his might that he showed, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?” He used this “might” of his, not to Israel’s deliverance, but for the furtherance and establishment of idolatry, to Israel’s ruin. His name was common to three tribes, Benjamin, Judah, and Issachar (see 1 Chron. 7:8; 9:4; 27:18); so it is not certain out of which Omri came—though probably from Issachar (like Baasha). The murderous Athaliah, his granddaughter, is usually linked with his name in Scripture. See 2 Kings 8:26; 2 Chron. 22:2, etc.

“So Omri slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria. And Ahab his son reigned in his stead.” His name means heaping; and by his iniquity he helped to heap up wrath against his dynasty, executed finally, thirty-six years later, on his great-grandson Jo-ram, to the total extinction of the guilty house.