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PEKAH pe’ kə (פֶּ֨קַח, he has opened [the eyes], a shortened form of פְּקַחְיָ֖ה, Yahu has opened [the eyes]). King in Israel 741-732 b.c., contemporary with Ahaz of Judah and Rezin of Damascus.

The actual chronology of Pekah’s reign appears inconsistent with the Biblical data of his accession and death, but a survey of the Biblical data and historical records will resolve the problem. The problem may be stated that the dates 753/752 b.c. (Thiele, Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings [1965], 79-81) for the thirty-eighth year of Uzziah, and the fall of Samaria in 732 b.c. do not permit enough time for the reigns of Zachariah (six months), Shallum (one month), Menahem (ten years), Pekahiah (two years), Pekah (twenty years) and Hoshea (nine years), the total being forty-one years and seven months while the actual time was only thirty years.

The solution is based on 2 Kings 15:30 and 17:1, when the last year of Pekah, the first of Hoshea, the twelfth of Ahaz, and the twentieth of Jotham occurred at the same time. Reckoning back from this time, 722 b.c., gives an accession year of 732/731 b.c. for Hoshea, in which year Pekah died, the year of correspondence for these four kings. Accounting for the reigns of Zachariah, Shallum, Menahem, and Pekahiah would lead to 740-739 b.c. when Pekah usurped the throne. From this date to 732/731 b.c. is about eight years for the reign of Pekah over Israel.

Comparing the reigns of the kings noted above and the claim of Pekah to have reigned twenty years, places the beginning of his twenty years at about the time of the accession of Zachariah. Since Pekah was designated a captain of fifty men who were Gileadites (2 Kings 15:25), this would indicate his area of abode, and coupled with his reign of twenty years would indicate a “pretension” in Trans-Jordan in the time of Pekahiah. The short reigns of Zachariah and Shallum being followed by Menahem who submitted quickly to Tiglath-pileser III (2 Kings 15:19) gave Menahem a strong ally to prevent Pekah from adding Samaria to his control, until such time as Tiglath’s attention was turned elsewhere. During a part of this time, Pekah had submitted to Pekahiah, for Pekah was called a captain (v. 25). Confirmation of the reign of Pekah is found from Hazor from the latter part in the discovery of a wine jar handle bearing the inscr. “to Pakah,” i.e., “Pekah’s.”

As demonstrated by his subsequent actions, Pekah knew that his own independence required resistance to Assyria, but he had little power; hence his “alliance” with Rezin and their attempt to coerce Judah to join them against Assyria. It may be that Pekah was more of a subject of Rezin than the Bible indicates. Rezin most likely sought out Pekah and forced him into an alliance to gain more strength to oppose Assyria. They found a fearful Ahaz a flank threat and moved against him to remove him and put a puppet on the throne (Isa 7:6), but it came to naught. A previous attack had resulted in capture of a large number of the inhabitants of Jerusalem who, at the exhortation of the prophet, were released near Jericho (2 Chron 28:6ff.). This did not stop Pekah and Rezin and brought the attempt to place the son of Tabeel on the throne (BASOR, 140, 34, 35). Although Ahaz appealed to Tiglath, history justified Isaiah’s appeal to stand still.

In 734 b.c., Tiglath invaded the W, i.e., Naphtali (2 Kings 15:29), partly described in his own annals, to eliminate resistance to Assyrian dominance in the W. He also captured Damascus and put Rezin to death (2 Kings 16:9) as a final result of the appeal of Ahaz for help (cf. v. 7) to deliver him from their attacks.

The invasion of Israel by Tiglath did not stop the efforts to oppose Assyria. According to 2 Kings 15:30 another palace conspiracy removed Pekah by assassination and brought Hoshea to the throne. Tiglath’s annals however, declare that the Samaritans overthrew Pekah, and that he placed Hoshea over them. Two possibilities suggest themselves. The first is that Hoshea aspired to the throne, regardless of Assyrian power. The second is that Tiglath used him to eliminate a troublesome opponent, for which Hoshea was not unwilling. But Hoshea fell prey to aspirations of power and revolted in his own time (2 Kings 17:1-4).

Pekah is evaluated in terms of the sins of Jeroboam (2 Kings 15:28); that is, he pursued the worship of the calves of Dan and Bethel, following Jeroboam’s apostate religious practices.


E. R. Thiele, Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (1951; rev. ed., 1965); H. Stigers, “The Interphased Chronology of Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah and Hoshea,” BETS, IX, 81ff.; H. Tadmore, “The Campaigns of Sargon II of Assur,” JCS, XII, 22-40, 77-100.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

1. Accession:

Son of Remaliah, and 18th king of Israel. Pekah murdered his predecessor, Pekahiah, and seized the reins of power (2Ki 15:25). His usurpation of the throne is said to have taken place in the 52nd year of Uzziah, and his reign to have lasted for 20 years (2Ki 15:27). His accession, therefore, may be placed in 748 BC (other chronologies place it later, and make the reign last only a few years).

Pekah came to the throne with the resolution of assisting in forming a league to resist the westward advance of Assyria. The memory of defeat by Assyria at the battle of Karkar in 753, more than 100 years before, had never died out.

2. Attitude of Assyria:

Tiglath-pileser III was now ruler of Assyria, and in successive campaigns since 745 had proved himself a resistless conqueror. His lust for battle was not yet satisfied, and the turn of Philistia and Syria was about to come. In 735, a coalition, of which Pekah was a prominent member, was being formed to check his further advance. It comprised the princes of Comagene, Gebal, Hamath, Arvad, Ammon, Moab, Edom, Gaza, Samaria, Syria, and some minor potentates, the list being taken from a roll of the subject-princes who attended a court and paid tribute after the fall of Damascus. Ahaz likewise attended as a voluntary tributary to do homage to Tiglath-pileser (2Ki 16:10).

3. Judah Recalcitrant:

While the plans of the allies were in course of formation, an obstacle was met with which proved insurmountable by the arts of diplomacy. This was the refusal of Ahaz, then on the throne of David, to join the confederacy. Arguments and threats having failed to move him, resort was had to force, and the troops of Samaria and Damascus moved on Jerusalem (2Ki 16:5). Great alarm was felt at the news of their approach, as seen in the 7th and 8th chapters of Isa. The allies had in view to dispossess Ahaz of his crown, and give it to one of their own number, a son of Tabeel. Isaiah himself was the mainstay of the opposition to their projects. The policy he advocated, by divine direction, was that of complete neutrality. This he urged with passionate earnestness, but with only partial success. Isaiah (probably) had kept back Ahaz from joining the coalition, but could not prevent him from sending an embassy, laden with gifts to Tiglath-pileser, to secure his intervention. On the news arriving that the Assyrian was on the march, a hasty retreat was made from Jerusalem, and the blow soon thereafter fell, where Isaiah had predicted, on Rezin and Pekah, and their kingdoms.

4. Chronicles Ancillary to Kings:

The severely concise manner in which the writer of Kings deals with the later sovereigns of the Northern Kingdom is, in the case of Pekah, supplemented in Chronicles by further facts as to this campaign of the allies. The Chronicler states that "a great multitude of captives" were taken to Damascus and many others to Samaria. These would be countrymen and women from the outlying districts of Judah, which were ravaged. Those taken to Samaria were, however, returned, unhurt, to Jericho by the advice of the prophet Oded (2Ch 28:5-15).

5. Fall of Damascus; Northern and Eastern Palestine Overrun:

The messengers sent from Jerusalem to Nineveh appear to have arrived when the army of Tiglath-pileser was already prepared to march. The movements of the Assyrians being expedited, they fell upon Damascus before the junction of the allies was accomplished. Rezin was defeated in a decisive battle, and took refuge in his capital, which was closely invested. Another part of the invading army descended on the upper districts of Syria and Samaria. Serious resistance to the veteran troops of the East could hardly be made, and city after city fell. A list of districts and cities that were overrun is given in 2Ki 15:29. It comprises Gilead beyond Jordan--already partly depopulated (1Ch 5:26); the tribal division of Naphtali, lying to the West of the lakes of Galilee and Merom, and all Galilee, as far South as the plain of Esdraelon and the Valley of Jezreel. Cities particularly mentioned are Ijon (now `Ayun), Abel-beth-maacah (now `Abi), Janoah (now Yanun), Kedesh (now Kados) and Hazor (now Hadireh).

6. Deportation of the Inhabitants:

These places and territories were not merely attacked and plundered. Their inhabitants were removed, with indescribable loss and suffering, to certain districts in Assyria, given as Halah, Habor, Hara, and both sides of the river Gozan, an affluent of the Euphrates. The transplantation of these tribes to a home beyond the great river was a new experiment in political geography, devised with the object of welding the whole of Western Asia into a single empire. It was work of immense difficulty and must have taxed the resources of even so great an organizer as Tiglath-pileser. The soldiers who had conquered in the field were, of course, employed to escort the many thousands of prisoners to their new locations. About two-thirds of the Samarian kingdom, comprising the districts of Samaria, the two Galilees, and the trans-Jordanic region, was thus denuded of its inhabitants.

7. Death of Pekah:

Left with but a third of his kingdom--humbled but still defiant--Pekah was necessarily unpopular with his subjects. In this extremity--the wave of invasion from the North having spent itself--the usual solution occurred, and a plot was formed by which the assassination of Pekah should be secured, and the assassin should take his place as a satrap of Assyria. A tool was found in the person of Hoshea, whom Tiglath-pileser claims to have appointed to the throne. The Biblical narrative does not do more than record the fact that "Hoshea the son of Elah made a conspiracy against Pekah the son of Remaliah, and smote him, and slew him, and reigned in his stead" (2Ki 15:30). The date given to this act is the 20th year of Jotham. As Jotham’s reign lasted but 16 years, this number is evidently an error.

8. References in Isaiah:

For the first time, the historian makes no reference to the religious conduct of a king of Israel. The subject was beneath notice. The second section of Isaiah’s prophecies (Isa 7:1-10:4) belongs to the reign of Ahaz and thus to the time of Pekah, both of whom are named in it. Pekah is named in Isa 7:1, and is often, in this and the next chapter, referred to as "the son of Remaliah." His loss of the territorial divisions of Zebulun and Naphtali is referred to in 9:1, and is followed by prophecy of their future glory as the earthly home of the Son of Man. The wording of Isa 9:14 shows that it was written before the fall of Samaria, and that of Isa 10:9-11 that Damascus and Samaria had both fallen and Jerusalem was expected to follow. This section of Isaiah may thus be included in the literature of the time of Pekah.

W. Shaw Caldecott