Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 37. Omri King Of Israel

Prophets And Kings
Day 37
Omri King Of Israel

Omri, the former army commander, is now king of Israel after his popular election by the people and the suicide of King Zimri. Him will reign longer than the past two kings but the loyalty of the people will be divided. Omri is another idolatrous king, even more idolatrous than those before him.

1 KINGS 16:21-28
Omri is now the apparent king but not all the people are happy with him. "Then the people of Israel were split into two factions; half supported Tibni son of Ginath for king, and the other half supported Omri. But Omri's followers proved stronger than those of Tibni son of Ginath. So Tibni died and Omri became king." (1 Kings 16:21-22) After the death of Tibni, Omri is king over a united ten northern tribes. The details of Tibni's death aren't given but it's assumed he died in the conflict over the throne, when Omni's followers proved stronger than his.

"In the thirty-first year of Asa king of Judah, Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned twelve years, six of them in Tirzah. He bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer for two talents of silver and built a city on the hill, calling it Samaria, after Shemer, the name of the former owner of the hill." (1 Kings 16:23-24) In my background study I found some interesting details about Tirzah and Samaria. Archaeological digs have proven that Tirzah was previously destroyed by fire, with a layer of ash and debris up to one meter thick in some places, which goes along exactly with our passage yesterday about Zimri setting the citadel of Tirzah on fire all around him and perishing in the flames. Later on, some reconstruction was done on top of the debris layer, probably during the reign of Omri since he reigned six years in Tirzah first before moving his capitol to Samaria. 

The remains of a citadel on the hill called Samaria was unearthed in two separate digs in the early 1900s. This was Omri's capitol in the final six years of his reign. There is a large outer wall thought to have been built by Omri, along with the remains of a palace, and a large inner wall thought to have been built by Omri's son Ahab. The construction style at Samaria matches the style of the reconstruction done after the fire at Tirzah and was likely done by the same stonemasons under the supervision of King Omri.

Our next verse starts with a little word that warns us trouble is ahead, "But Omri did evil in the eyes of the Lord and sinned more than all those before him. He followed completely the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat, committing the same sin Jeroboam had caused Israel to commit, so that they aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, by their worthless idols." (1 Kings 16:25-26) It's hard to imagine Omri was worse than Jeroboam, since Jeroboam cast two golden calves and urged the people to worship the calves instead of going up to Jerusalem to worship the God of Israel. But some Bible scholars believe that, while Jeroboam simply urged and encouraged the people to worship idols, Omri passed laws that made idol worship mandatory. The source for this belief is found in Micah 6:16, "You have observed the statutes of Omri and all the practices of Ahab's house; you have followed their traditions. Therefore I will give you over to ruin and your people to derision; you will bear the scorn of the nations." Because the people followed the statutes of Omri even though they knew better, and because they continued their idolatry after the death of Omri's dynasty when they were no longer compelled to participate in the state religion, the Lord said through the prophet Micah that He would bring trouble and captivity on them. It's possible that during Omri's lifetime the penalty for not bowing down to the idols was death, but even that is no excuse, for the three Hebrew boys in the book of Daniel refused to bow down to a golden idol knowing the penalty was death. If such religious persecution ever comes upon our nation that we are forced to bow down to anyone or anything but the Lord, I pray we have the courage to stand strong. 

"As for the other events of Omri's reign, what he did and the things he achieved, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? Omri rested with his ancestors and was buried in Samaria. And Ahab his son succeeded him as king." (1 Kings 16:27-28) Ahab will prove to be an exceedingly wicked king but we find the roots of his evil in today's passage when we learn he was raised by a father who forced idolatry on the people. Because he grew up in a household and in a nation where his father ruled with an iron fist and where his father's sinful practices were put into law, Ahab will bow to the stronger will of his Baal-worshiping wife Jezebel. He will actually build a temple to this foreign false god and will be even more evil in the Lord's eyes than his father was. 

Jeroboam began a sinful legacy out of his fear that the people would turn back to King Rehoboam of Judah if they went up to Jerusalem to worship. Now that abominable legacy lives on and it's growing worse with each successive king..

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