Omrides

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House of Omri (Omrides)
Country Kingdom of Israel (northern)
Kingdom of Judah (southern)
Titles
  • King of Israel
  • King of Samaria[1]
  • Queen of Judah
Founder Omri
Final ruler Jehoram (Israel)
Athaliah (Judah)[2]

The term Omrides or the House of Omri refers to Omri and his descendants (particularly Ahab), who, according to the Bible, were kings of ancient Israel. In the Bible, Omride rulers include Omri, Ahab, and Ahab's sons Ahaziah and Jehoram, all kings of Israel, and Ahab's daughter (or perhaps sister) Athaliah, who became queen of Judah. Archaeological references to the house are found in the Mesha Stele, the Tel Dan Stele, and the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III.

Biblical account[edit]

The Bible generally portrays the Omrides unfavorably, stressing their apostasy from the religion of Yahweh in favor of Baal. It devotes little attention to Omri aside from noting his establishment of the dynasty and foundation of Israel's new capital of Samaria. In contrast, his son Ahab is the subject of an extended narrative focusing on his troubled relations with the prophets Elijah and Elisha. He is depicted as a weak personality allowing himself to be led by his strong-willed wife Jezebel of Tyre, who advocates Baal worship. Note is also made of the dynasty's diplomacy, which connected it by marriage to Tyre and Judah and brought about a rapprochement with the latter after a long series of wars. The Biblical account of the later Omrides concerns the revolt of Moab, their conflict with Damascus over Ramoth-Gilead, the dynasty's extinction in Israel at the hands of Jehu, and Athaliah's usurpation of the throne of Judah on the death of her son King Ahaziah.

Historicity[edit]

Israel Finkelstein's The Bible Unearthed presents a very different picture of the Omrides, making them responsible for the great empire, magnificent palaces, wealth, and peace in Israel and Judah that the Bible credits to the much earlier kings David and Solomon. According to Finkelstein, the reason for this discrepancy is the religious bias of the Biblical authors against the Omrides for their polytheist views and support of elements of the Canaanite religion.[3]

Finkelstein maintains that the writers of the Book of Kings 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 and Hazor similar in design and build.

Archaeological evidence[edit]

The Mesha Stele bears a Moabite inscription of about 840 BCE by Mesha, ruler of Moab, in which Mesha tells of the oppression of Moab by "Omri king of Israel" and his son after him, and boasts of his own victories over the latter. It is also notable as the most extensive inscription ever recovered that refers to ancient Israel (the "House of Omri").

Though the Bible claims that Jehu killed the last Omride king Jehoram and his ally King Ahaziah of Judah in a coup about 841 BCE, afterwards going on to destroy most remaining members of the House of Omri, archaeological evidence cast some doubt on this account. The author of the Tel Dan Stele (usually identified as King Hazael of Damascus (c.842–806 BCE)) appears himself to have claimed to have killed the two kings,[4] In addition, the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser, an Assyrian archaeological remain dating from times contemporary with Jehu, names Jehu as a "son of Omri."[5] [6] However the reference to "son of Omri" in the Black Obelisk in the expression "Jehu son of Omri" may be a reference to the "House of Omri", which is believed to have been the Assyrian name for the Kingdom of Israel. Assyrian kings frequently referred to Omri's successors as belonging to the "House of Omri" (Bit Hu-um-ri-a).[7]

Religion[edit]

The Bible notes a conflict in the time of Ahab between Israel's traditional Yahweh cult and that of Baal, which it represents as imported from Phoenicia by Ahab's queen Jezebel and promoted by her. Biblical scholar Edward Lipiński has speculated that the biblical name "Baal" actually refers not to the Phoenician deity but to Yahweh of Samaria, with the two possibly having been equated due to Samarian Yahwism being regarded as heretical by the priests of Judah whose traditions are reflected in the biblical account.[8] The Bible, however, presents the conflict as internal to the Omride realm, and the primary defenders of Yahwism (Elijah and Elisha) as prophets native to that kingdom. Most evidence confirms the customary predominance of Yahwism. King Mesha of Moab, a contemporary of the later Omrides, notes in the Mesha Stele the presence of vessels devoted to Yahweh in the Israelite city of Nebo at the time he conquered it. ("And Chemosh said to me, Go take Nebo against Israel, and ... and I took it: ... and I took from it the vessels of Jehovah, and offered them before Chemosh.") Lipiński and Łukasz Toboła also note that Omride royal names (Jehoram, Ahaziah, Athaliah) tend to be theophoric and refer to Yahweh.[8][9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 1 Kings 21:1
  2. ^ 2 Kings 8:26
  3. ^ Israel Finkelstein, The Bible Unearthed : Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts, New York: The Free Press, 2001. ISBN 0-684-86912-8.
  4. ^ Hallvard Hagelia, "Philological Issues in the Tel Dan Inscription," in Lutz Edzard and Jan Retso, eds., Current Issues in the Analysis of Semitic Grammar and Lexicon, Harrassowitz, 2005, 235.
  5. ^ Daniel D. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, vol. I, Chicago 1926, §§ 590, 672.
  6. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia , "Omri"
  7. ^ James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed., Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969, 283. ISBN 0-691-03503-2
  8. ^ a b Edward Lipiński "Studia z dziejów i kultury starożytnego Bliskiego Wschodu" Nomos Press, 2013, ISBN 978-83-7688-156-0
  9. ^ Łukasz Toboła "Ba'al in the Omrides' history : the historical-theological study", Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. Faculty of Theology ; 162 ISBN 9788363266141