3. Sixth king of the northern ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. Nothing of Omri’s ancestry is recorded, not even the name of his father or tribe. Omri founded the third dynasty of Israel (those of Jeroboam and Baasha preceded), his son Ahab and grandsons Ahaziah and Jehoram succeeding him, all four totaling some forty-six years (951-905 B.C.E.) on the throne. (See chart, pp. 340-342.) Omri’s granddaughter Athaliah ruled six years on the throne of Judah. (2 Ki. 8:26; 11:1-3; 2 Chron. 22:2) Jehu, who wiped out the house of Ahab and established the next dynasty of Israel, is called a “son [that is, successor] of Omri” on the black obelisk of Shalmaneser III. In fact, the Assyrians continued calling Israel “the land of Omri” and Israel’s kings “the house of Omri” long after his descendants had ceased ruling—a tribute to his power.
Omri came to the throne, not by inheritance, but by the sword. He had been chief of Israel’s army under King Elah (and perhaps under his predecessor Baasha) when Zimri, chief of half the chariots, overthrew Elah, took the kingship for himself and wiped out the house and friends of Baasha. As soon as this was reported to the Israelite army, at the time camped against the Philistines at Gibbethon, “all Israel,” doubtless the tribal heads “in the camp,” made Omri their king. At once they withdrew from Gibbethon and stormed Zimri’s capital Tirzah. Zimri, seeing the hopelessness of his cause, burned down the king’s house over himself, tragically ending his seven-day rule.—1 Ki. 16:8-20.
But a new rival to Omri presented himself—Tibni the son of Ginath. The Populace remained divided for four years, during which time civil war presumably raged until Omri’s supporters defeated Tibni’s, securing undisputed rule for Omri. Zimri had died in the twenty-seventh year of King Asa of Judah (951). (1 Ki. 16:15-18) Finally, in the thirty-first year of Asa (947), Tibni died in some unstated way, leaving Omri eight years of sole rule, down to the thirty-eighth year of Asa (940)—1 Ki. 16:21-23, 29; see CHRONOLOGY, p. 340.
“Mightiness” is attributed to King Omri. (1 Ki. 16:27) According to lines four through eight of the Moabite Stone, Omri brought Moab into subjection, which domination Ahab continued. (2 Ki. 3:4) Midway in his reign, Omri wisely moved his capital away from Tirzah, which he had found so easy to capture. He purchased the mountain owned by Shemer, well suited for fortifying, and built there a new city, Samaria, which was able to withstand long sieges. (1 Ki. 16:23, 24) Cuneiform inscriptions likewise call him its founder, and it was also his burial place. (1 Ki. 16:28) In the course of his reign Omri met with various setbacks, such as having to surrender some cities to the king of Syria (1 Ki. 20:34), and paying tribute to Assyria, he being the first Israelite king to do so.
Religiously, Omri continued the downward trend of the northern kingdom; he continued Jeroboam’s idolatry; in fact, he “kept doing what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah and came to do worse than all who were prior to him.” (1 Ki. 16:25, 26) Some two hundred years later, through Micah Jehovah condemned Israel for following “the statutes of Omri.”—Mic. 6:16.
4. A Judahite whose descendant lived in Jerusalem following the Babylonian exile.—1 Chron. 9:3, 4.