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The House of Omri / בית עמרי

בנימין מזר and B. Mazar
Eretz-Israel: Archaeological, Historical and Geographical Studies / ארץ-ישראל: מחקרים בידיעת הארץ ועתיקותיה
Vol. כ‎, YIGAEL YADIN MEMORIAL VOLUME / ספר יגאל ידין‎ (1989 / תשמ"ט), pp. 215-219
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23621893
Page Count: 5
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The House of Omri / בית עמרי
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Abstract

Shomron, the capital of Israel, was apparently established by Omri because of his affiliation to the tribe of Issachar and his descent from the Tola family, the most important clan of that tribe, whose home was Shamir, which is Shomron. This is also the reason why Jezreel, a town of Issachar, functioned as the second capital of the Israelite kingdom during the rule of the Omrid dynasty. The author suggests that the biblical story concerning the naming of the new capital city built by Omri and named after Shemer, "the owner of the hill Shomron" (1 Kings 16:23—24), refers to the implementation of the Israelite law of redeeming the land property of a person who died childless and commemorating his name by a relative the go'el. The main purpose was to preserve the deceased's name on his property, so that his name would not be effaced. The most striking example of this custom can be found in Boaz's words at the gate of Bethlehem (Ruth 4:9—10). The Omrid dynasty was respected in Israel as a ruling house which had many achievements to its credit in consolidating the independence of the state and extending its boundaries, buttressing its political, military and economic power, and especially in fostering close relations with Tyre and Judah. Of special interest is the emphasis on Mt. Carmel as a hallowed place and the establishment of the chief cult centre of the God of Israel at the foot of the mountain, near the altar of Baal Ba'al-Shamēm — of its Phoenician allies. Jehu's military takeover led not only to the extermination of the house of Omri and the destruction of the cult of the Phoenician Baal among the ruling classes of Israel, but also to the end of the 'covenant of brothers' and the marriage relations between the royal houses of Samaria, Tyre and Jerusalem, and to the abandonment of the cult place on Mt. Carmel. Moreover, as an immediate result of this change, Israel lost its political stand against the Aramaeans and had to pay tribute to Shalmaneser III of Assyria (841 BCE). It is probable that up to the destruction of the Israelite kingdom, considerable sections of the population harboured resentment and felt disgust at Jehu's extermination of the house of Omri, since they regarded the rule of the Omrid dynasty as a time of exemplary prosperity, ease and good external relations. This view was widely held in spite of the dynasty's tolerant attitude towards the Baal worship introduced by Jezebel, Ahab's wife. Also it can be reasonably assumed that because of the events after Jehu's takeover, Beth-el regained its status as the central cult place of the God of Israel which it had enjoyed in the reign of Jeroboam I, before it had been replaced by Mt. Carmel. It is therefore not surprising that Beth-el in the southern hillcountry of Ephraim became "the king's chapel and the royal capital" (Amos 7:13) in the reign of Jeroboam II, the greatest king of the dynasty of Jehu. Presumably, Jehu's murderous deeds in Jezreel and Shomron were the target of Hosea's forceful words (Hosea 1:4—5); it is not surprising that both this prophet and Amos were sceptical and even outright negative in their attitude towards Beth-el as the central shrine of the kingdom of Israel.

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