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Oxford Bible Atlas Contextualizes the stories and lands of the Bible through user-friendly maps and illustrations.

The House of Omri

The House of Omri

The highest point in the Carmel Hills, the traditional site of Elijah's encounter with the prophets of Baal and Asherah (1 Kgs. 18: 20–40 ).

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Zev Radovan, www.BibleLandPictures.com

The House of Omri

The Kingdoms of Israel and Judah

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Although his reign is dealt with in just six verses in Kings (1 Kgs. 16: 23–8 ) and no details at all are given in Chronicles, he established an important dynasty. Assyrian records referred to Israel as ‘the land of Omri’ and continued to do so long after his dynasty ended. He reigned from Tirzah for six years, but then we are told that he bought the hill of Samaria and fortified it, making it his capital (1 Kgs. 16: 24 ). As a soldier, Omri chose a good strategic site, on a hill which dominated the surrounding countryside, with good access in three directions, west to the coastal plain, north to Megiddo, and east to Shechem and the Jordan valley.

Omri's son, Ahab, married Jezebel, the daughter of the king of Tyre, and became a worshipper of Baal, building a temple and altar for Baal in Samaria (1 Kgs. 16: 31–3 ). The account of his reign provides the context for the stories of Elijah, such as that of the great contest with the prophets of Baal and Asherah on Mount Carmel (1 Kgs. 18: 20–40 ). King Ben‐hadad of Damascus attacked Israel at Samaria and at Aphek, but was defeated on both occasions (1 Kgs. 20 ). The Syrians held Ramoth‐gilead, and Ahab was not able to take it back, even with the assistance of Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah. It was in battle at Ramoth‐gilead that Ahab died. His body was brought to Samaria where he was buried (1 Kgs. 22: 1–40 ).

Although it is not mentioned in the brief account of his reign, Omri must have gained control over Moab and imposed tribute upon the Moabites; but after Ahab's death Mesha, king of Moab, successfully revolted (2 Kgs. 3: 4–5 ). This episode is of particular interest because it is one of the few instances where accounts from the two sides in the conflict have been preserved. Mesha's own inscription (sometimes known as the ‘Moabite Stone’) was found at Dibon. This document speaks of Mesha's conquest of Ataroth and Jahaz and the building or fortifying of other cities, and claims that in his day Israel perished completely and for ever. The biblical account does eventually admit that the battle went against Israel, but only after Mesha had sacrificed his firstborn son: ‘And great wrath came upon Israel, so they withdrew from him and returned to their own land’ (2 Kgs. 3: 27 ).

King Jehoram (Joram), Ahab's son, had been assisted by Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, in his conflict with Moab. It was Jehoshaphat who had unsuccessfully attempted to revive Solomon's trading connections with the Red Sea via Ezion‐geber (see ‘Ancient Trade Routes’ ). Jehoshaphat was succeeded by his son, also called Jehoram (or Joram), who was unsuccessful in an attempt to subdue a revolt of the Edomites, and it is noted that Libnah also revolted at the same time (2 Kgs. 8: 20–2 ). Within this general context, the stories of Elisha are set. They suggest a time of tension with the Arameans (Syrians) to the north and mention Aramean attacks on Dothan and Samaria (2 Kgs. 6–7 ). They also associate Elisha with an act of regicide in Damascus, whereby Benhadad was replaced by Hazael (2 Kgs. 8: 7–15 ). Jehoram of Israel waged war against Hazael of Damascus at Romoth‐gilead, where he was wounded. Afterwards he went to Jezreel to recuperate, where he was visited by Ahaziah who had succeeded Jehoram as king of Judah (2 Kgs. 8: 28–9 ).

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