God’s assessment was brutally simple: Omri was an evil king. In the end, God did not assess Omri on his might or foreign policy of building program or even his popularity; God looked for faithfulness. And on that account, Omri failed. He maintained the worship of golden bulls and worship at the high places and failed to bring the people back to worship the true God.
What is it that means a life is a good, full life? Although your answer will change depending on which culture you have grown up in, most people have a few key things they’d like to accomplish. Everyone wants meaningful work. We’d like a family structure we’re happy with, whether that is content singleness or a good marriage. We’d like good relationships with those around us and to be respected by people. We’d like to be happy and to have enough money to do the things we want to do.
Sounds good, right? But according to God, those things are not what make a good, full life. He’s looking for something different.
Let’s illustrate this using the example of King Omri of Israel from 1 Kings 16:15-28. Omri was a popular king, the only one of the kings of that time who was appointed by the people (v16). He was previously a general and had experience in leadership. He put down an uprising by a rival king named Tibni (v22). He bought a hill and built a new capital city (v24). Omri was a man who showed might (v27) and reigned for 12 years (v23). On all the usual criteria, Omri was a successful king.
The truth is that the Bible doesn’t tell us that much about Omri’s achievements, but recent archaeological digs have revealed much more. The image below is of a stone known as the Mesha Stele or Moabite Stone (source: Louvre Museum):
This stone was found in Transjordan in 1868 and describes part of the history of Moab, one of Israel’s neighbours. It speaks of Omri defeating Moab and ruling it for many years before it found its independence under his son.
In addition, the official records of the Assyrians, the world superpower of the time to the north-east, had a name for the region of Israel: it was “the land of Omri”. This was a king strong enough to be known by name by powerful neighbours and feared by his enemies. Yet the writer of 1 Kings doesn’t mention this at all.