Erich Lessing

Discovered at Nimrud in 1846, the striking Black Obelisk depicts the Israelite king Jehu (reigned 841–814 B.C.) kneeling before the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (reigned 858–824 B.C.). The cuneiform inscription above the scene reads “Tribute of Jehu, Son of Omri.” Because Jehu was not a son of Omri, the phrase here refers to someone who ruled from the capital founded by Omri. Omri ruled the northern kingdom of Israel from 882–871 B.C. Assyrian references like this one to the dynasty of Omri, Finkelstein argues, point towards the existence of a powerful, well-known kingdom of Israel in the ninth century B.C.—but not before.