Ch. 20 Thrill
Well, you’ve done it to me again. I’ve spent nearly the whole day reading and listening in on the birth of the Omiride dynasty. It seems like the more I know, the more I want to know about what happened during that period. At this point I think I’ve got several days’ worth of conversations backed up here, but for now I just want to pass along some perspective from today’s lessons.
It dawned on me this morning that Ahab’s problems were brought on by Omri. It was Omri who wanted the alliance with Phoenicia and who arranged the marriage with Jezebel to secure it. This would have been a big deal to the players directly involved. It was how treaties were done back in the day. And it was a strategically smart thing for Omri to do. He wanted access to ports and trade. And Phoenicia wanted to ship his goods.
He was producing wine and olive oil that needed markets. And horses too, apparently, but I’ll come back to that in a little bit. Omri and Ahab were building up a very successful international trade with the Egyptians and Assyrians, neither of whom had the right conditions for growing either grapes or olives. So your earlier characters of Uncle What’s-his-name and Elijah’s dad could both have been doing quite well feeding this trade. There would have been steady demand and a growing market thanks to the official court policy. And b/c of this trade, both kings invested heavily improving the road system in the Northern Kingdom.
The policies have everything to do with how things played out, but turning our attention here to the people themselves, Omri did not suffer the hatred and resentment that fell on Ahab b/c he – Omri – had not married a foreigner who brought her customs with her to her new home. Mind you, Omri probably wouldn’t have blinked to have built a shrine to Ba’al in his palace if he had felt the need. He wouldn’t have seen anything wrong with doing that as a gesture of goodwill, just as Ahab did not. It just didn’t arise on his watch.
I hope to come back to all these individuals with some profiles in depth later in the week, but for now the point is that the NK wanted and needed a solid leader like Omri. They were not, on the whole, unhappy with his policies and programs. They were flourishing b/c of his vision and leadership. Omri and his reforms didn’t come with the downside of the odious foreign queen and her foreign ways. He was doing good things for his kingdom and seems to have been so perceived by his subjects apparently.
And before I wrap up here, an aside on the horses. There is a segment of the archeological and biblical history scholarship out there that thinks both kings may have also been breeding and selling horses abroad. Some of them interpret the overly large stables at Megiddo and Jezreel as representing such an enterprise. I can’t vouch for that yet. First time I’ve come across it was this morning. But it’s kind of sexy don’t you think? I mean here’s this burgenoning little kingdom doing some pretty audacious commercial ventures to fill the coffers.
But back to Ahab, he tried to continue all those policies. He rebuilt and expanded Samaria. He continued the roads program. He may very well have continued the horse program if it really was a thing. He, like his father, chose a pro-Phoenicia foreign policy. But he did it all with this foreign queen sitting beside him with all the encumberances we know that led to.