🔼The name Omri: Summary
- Bound, Gripping, Bound By Yah
- From (1) the verb עמר ('amar), to grip or bind, and possibly (2) יה (yah), the name of the Lord.
🔼The name Omri in the Bible
There are four men named Omri in the Bible, the best known of which is king Omri of Israel, who became king after a stormy run for the throne (1 Kings 16:16).
When Asa had been king over Judah for twenty-six years, his nemesis and usurper-king Baasha of Israel kicked the bucket, and his son Elah assumed the throne (1 Kings 16:8). Elah was a bit of a party animal, and as he was getting drunk in the house of his chief of staff Arza in the capital Tirzah, one of his army sub-commanders named Zimri snuck in and killed him after only two years of reign.
Zimri subsequently seized the throne and proceeded to kill every member of Baasha's family. That didn't sit well with the Israeli army, which was camped at Gibbethon, so "the whole of Israel" anointed their general Omri king of Israel, and marched onto Tirzah to depose Zimri (1 Kings 16:17). Zimri decided not to wait for the final confrontation and torched the king's palace around him. He had enjoyed his royalty for a mere seven days of bloody slaughter.
Suddenly, the whole of Israel appeared to not be so whole anymore, and a certain wannabe-king Tibni, son of Ginath, managed to sway half of Israel away from Omri. The author of Kings doesn't submit details, but the conflict between Omri and Tibni lasted about four years (from Judah's king Asa's 27th to his 31st year), and resulted in Omri's following prevailing over Tibni's, and Tibni decidedly expired (1 Kings 16:22).
Omri was king, and his first order of business was to buy the hill Samaria from Shemer and to build himself a new capital (1 Kings 16:24). In it he developed into the most evil king Israel had had until then, only to be surpassed by his even more infamous son Ahab (1 Kings 16:30). By the time of the prophet Micah, Omri and Ahab's legacy of depravity was still proverbial, and their initiatives the cause of Israel's imminent deportation to Assyria (Micah 6:16).
Other men named Omri in the Bible are:
- A son of Becher and grandson of Benjamin, the twelfth son (and thirteenth child) of Jacob and second of Rachel (1 Chronicles 7:8).
- The father of Ammihud, whose son Uthai was among the descendants of Perez who returned from the Babylonian exile (1 Chronicles 9:4).
- A son of Michael of Issachar, and chief of his tribe in the time of king David (1 Chronicles 27:18).
🔼Etymology of the name Omri
The name Omri has to do with the root cluster עמר:
The root עמר ('amar) means to grip or bind, to deal tyrannically with, or to be enthralled by and worship.
Noun עמר ('omer) means sheaf or describes a unit of measure (like our "bushel"). Denominative verb עמר ('amar) means to bind in sheaves. Noun עמיר ('amir) denotes a row of fallen grain.
For a meaning of the name Omri, NOBSE Study Bible Name List sees the final yod as a remnant of YHWH. Hence NOBSE reads Yahweh Apportions.
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names figures that our verb may also mean to serve (apparently in a religious sense). Jones also sees the final yod as a remnant of the Tetragrammaton, and translates Omri with Servant Of The Lord.
BDB Theological Dictionary does not offer an interpretation of the name Omri, but lists it under עמר ('amar).