TIGLATH-PILESER (tĭg'lăth-pĭ-lē'zêr, Assyr. Tukulti-apil-esharra, Heb. tiglath-pil’eser, tilleghath-pilne’ser). A famous name among the Assyrian kings. Tiglath-Pileser I (1114-1074 b.c.) was a conqueror whose campaigns extended northward to the vicinity of Lake Van and westward to the Mediterranean. His annals tell of his efforts to establish a world empire, but his reign was followed by several centuries in which Assyria was weak. In 745 a usurper took the Assyrian throne and assumed the name Tiglath-Pileser. Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727) injected new vigor into the Assyrian Empire, which had suffered another decline after a resurgence of power in the ninth century. He engaged in campaigns to east and west and was recognized as king even in Babylon, where he was known as Pulu. He is referred to as “Pul” in 2Kgs.15.19 and 1Chr.5.26. His annals list Azariah of Judah among the kings from whom he received tribute; the OT does not relate this account. (See D. D. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, 1926-27, 1:770; hereafter ARAB.) The annals also mention tribute from Menahem of Samaria, who bought him off. Compare the account in 2Kgs.15.19-2Kgs.15.20: “Then Pul king of Assyria invaded the land, and Menahem gave him a thousand talents of silver to gain his support and strengthen his own hold on the kingdom....So the king of Assyria withdrew and stayed in the land no longer.” (Cf. ARAB, 1:772, 815.)

During the reign of the Judean king Ahaz, Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Syria moved against Judah. Ahaz secured the help of Tiglath-Pileser (2Kgs.16.5-2Kgs.16.8), who captured Damascus, deported its people, and killed Rezin. He took a number of Israelite cities and exiled the inhabitants to Assyria (2Kgs.15.29; cf. ARAB, 1:816: “The land of Bit Humria [= house of Omri = Israel]...all its people, together with their goods I carried off to Assyria.”). He was also responsible for the deportation of Transjordanian Israelites, whom he brought to “Halah, Habor, Hara and the river of Gozan” (1Chr.5.6, 1Chr.5.26). The transfer of peoples to foreign areas was a practical policy designed to reduce the possibility of revolts in conquered regions (cf. ARAB, 1:770, 772, 777). Ahaz also requested military aid from him because of invasions by Edomites and Philistines; he gave gifts from the temple and the palace to Tiglath-Pileser, “but that did not help him” (2Chr.28.20-2Chr.28.21; cf. ARAB, 1:801).——CEDV

TIGLATH-PILESER tĭg’ lăth pĭ le’ zər (תִּגְלַ֣ת פִּלְאֶסֶר; 2 Kings 15:29; 16:7-10; Aram. tgltplsr, [Zincirli stele]; Akkad. Tukulti-apil-Ešarra, “My trust is in the son of Esharra,” LXX ̓Αλγαθφελλασάρ, and the Heb. variant תִּלְּגַ֥ת פִּלְנְאֶ֖סֶר [1 Chron 5:6; 2 Chron 28:20] may reflect an Aram form]. He was king of Assyria [745-727 b.c.]).


The principal events of each year of this reign are listed in the Assyrian Eponym canon and details in the annals written on tablets and bas-reliefs found at Nimrud (Calah). Esarhaddon reused some of the sculptured slabs in his palace erected in 670/669 b.c., and the order of some events remains uncertain.

Babylonian policy.

Tiglath-pileser, who succeeded Adad-nirari III, was no usurper as once supposed. Assyria was in a desperate plight and needed the intelligent and vigorous leadership he was to give. His first move was to Babylonia to relieve the pressure of the Aramaean tribes on Babylon itself. The tribal lands of Paqudu (Pekod, Jer 50:21) were cleared and added to the extended province of Arrapha which now controlled the area E of the Tigris River. The army marched as far S as the River Uknu (Karun) leaving the native king Nabunaṩir in authority over Babylon and to the W of the Tigris. His pro-Assyrian policy held until his death in 734, and thus enabled the Assyrian forces to concentrate on other fronts. In 732 Ukin-zēr, sheikh of the Amukani ousted Nabunaṩir’s heir, Nabu-nadin-zēr, and seized the throne in Babylon. Tiglath-pileser set out to win over some of the tribes and succeeded in gaining the submission of Marduk-apla-iddina (Merodach-baladan of Isa 39:1) to save his lands. The army marched down the E bank of the Tigris to besiege the Amukani, Shilani and Sa’alli in their capital Sapia in the southern marshes. Their villages were razed and Assyrian officials appointed to control them. Tiglathpileser himself took the title of “king of Babylonia” by “taking the hands of Bēl (Marduk)” in a ceremony in 729 b.c., the first Assyrian to do so for almost five centuries. In the Babylonian Chronicle Tiglath-pileser is referred to Pul, perhaps his personal as opposed to throne-names, given also in 2 Kings 15:19 and 1 Chronicles 5:26.

In the north.

Dispatches from his generals in this sector showed that Tiglath-pileser realized that his main opponent was Sarduri of Urarṭu (Armenia). To isolate him from the southern hillsmen he therefore struck against the petty kings in the Zagros Mts., and made them his vassals, enforcing regular payment by periodic raids (744, 739 and 737 b.c.). One distant expedition took him as far as Demavend and in 735 he unsuccessfully beseiged Tushpa, the capital of Sarduri on L. Van.

The west.

In the W, the Assyrians gained much booty, mainly from a series of campaigns originally aimed at the Neo-Hittite allies. When Sarduri came to the rescue of Mati-ilu of Arpad at Samsat on the Euphrates the Assyrians captured more than 73,000 prisoners. To punish Arvad it was besieged for three years and then incorporated into the provincial system in 741. In the previous year, the opponent had been Azriau of Yaudi and his N Syrian allies. While this Azriau might be the king of a small Syrian city-state (Sam’al) there is growing evidence that he may well be Azariah of Judah who at this time had an influence over a wide area. Captive “Judaeans” are named in the annals as settled in Ullubu (Bitlis) and this would be in accord with a policy of transportation of prisoners and captured peoples to control the regions in which they were settled as aliens. In this Tiglath-pileser was only following a practice first adopted on a grand scale by his predecessor and namesake Tiglath-pileser I (1115-1077) when he had invaded Phoenicia. The Assyrians overran Bit-Adini (Beth-Eden) and made it part of the province of Unqi.

The effect of these actions was that many kings brought in tribute, among them Menahem (Menuḫimme) of Samaria whose payment of 1,000 talents of silver, at 50 shekels per Israelite (2 Kings 15:19, 20) represented their value as slaves at the current price. Hiram of Tyre and Rezin (Raḫianni) of Damascus also submitted but the Assyrians’ hold over them was weak. Egypt, doubtless feeling the economic loss of trade with Syria and esp. of the timber trade through Tyre and Sidon now dominated and taxed by local Assyrian officials, stirred up revolt. Ashkelon and Gaza organized an anti-Assyrian league and found support in Trans-Jordan and Edom. In 734 Tiglath-pileser made a swift march down the coast to Gaza, whose King Hanunu fled to Egypt. He sacked the area and set up a golden statue of his royal self as a mark of victory, but did not press beyond the border with Egypt at Naḫal-Muṩur (“Wady of Egypt”). This advance took Tiglath-pileser through the territory of Damascus (called “the land of Hazael”), Galilee and Israel (“the land of the House of Omri”) which were now counted as part of Assyria. He placed Pekah (Paqaḫ) on the throne instead of Hoshea (Ausi’) and may well have instigated the murder of the former (2 Kings 15:30). Ahaz of Judah seems to have stood by his treaty with Assyria (2 Chron 28:21) despite the siege of Jerusalem (2 Kings 16:5, 6) by anti-Assyrian forces. Damascus fell in 733 and Israel was again punished for her opposition.


This reign was marked by an extension of the provincial system and appointment of Assyrian officials in all captured cities to collect tribute and act as intelligence officers (qurbutu) for the Assyrian court. They were backed by a reorganized Assyrian army, largely composed of levies and therefore more mobile at all seasons than the native drafts. Mass deportations broke any incipient “nationalism” in outlying provinces and provided a supply of labor which in one year amounted to no less than 154,000 persons. While his rule was harsh it led to a stable and efficient administration.


A. L. Oppenheim, ANET (1955), 282-284; D. J. Wiseman, “A fragmentary Inscription of Tiglath-pileser III from Nimrud,” Iraq XVIII (1956), 117-129; H. Tadmor, “Azriau of Yaudi,” Scripta Hierosolymitana, VIII (1961), 232-271; R. D. Barnett and M. Falkner, The Sculptures of Tiglath-pileser III (1962); H. Tadmor, “Introductory Remarks to a new Edition of the Annals of Tiglath-pileser III,” Israel Academy Proceedings II (1967), 168-187.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


pil’eser, as the name is read in 2 Kings, tilleghath pilnecer, in 2 Chronicles; Septuagint Algathphellasar; Assyrian, Tukulti-abal-i-sarra): King of Assyria in the days of Menahem, Pekahiah, and Pekah, kings of Israel, and of Uzziah, Jotham and Ahaz, kings of Judah. The king of Assyria, whom the historian of 2 Kings knows as exacting tribute from Menahem, is Pul (2Ki 15:19 f). In the days of Pekah who had usurped the throne of Menahem’s son and successor, Pekahiah, the king of Assyria is known as Tiglath-pileser, who invaded Naphtali and carried the inhabitants captive to Assyria (2Ki 15:29). This invasion is described by the Chronicler (1Ch 5:25 f) rather differently, to the effect that "the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tilgath-pilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away, even the Reubenites and the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them unto Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river of Gozan, unto this day." Still later we find Pekah forming a coalition with Rezin, king of Damascus, into which they tried to force Ahaz, even going the length of besieging him in Jerusalem (2Ki 16:5). The siege was unsuccessful. Ahaz called in the aid of Tiglath-pileser, sacrificing his independence to get rid of the invaders (2Ki 16:7,8). He offered the Assyrian the silver and gold that were found in the house of the Lord and in the royal treasury; and Tiglath-pileser, in return, invaded the territories of Damascus and Israel in the rear, compelling the allied forces to withdraw from Judah, while he captured Damascus, and carried the people away to Kir and slew Rezin (2Ki 16:9). It was on the occasion of his visit to Damascus to do homage to his suzerain Tiglath-pileser, that Ahaz fancied the idolatrous altar, a pattern of which he sent to Urijah, the priest, that he might erect an altar to take the place of the brazen altar which was before the Lord in the temple at Jerusalem. It is a significant comment which is made by the Chronicler (2Ch 28:21) upon the abject submission of Ahaz to the Assyrian king: "It helped him not."

From the inscriptions we learn particulars which afford striking corroboration of the Biblical narrative and clear up some of the difficulties involved. It is now practically certain that Pul, who is mentioned as taking tribute from Menahem, is identical with Tiglath-pileser (Schrader, COT, I, 230, 231). In all probability Pul, or Pulu, was a usurper, who as king of Assyria assumed the name of one of his predecessors, Tiglath-pileser I, and reigned as Tiglath-pileser III. This king of Assyria, who reigned, as we learn from his annals, from 745 BC to 727 BC, was one of the greatest of Assyrian monarchs. See Assyria. From the fact that no fewer than five Hebrew kings are mentioned in his annals, the greatest interest attaches to his history as it has come down to us. These kings are Uzziah or Azariah, and Jehoahaz, that is Ahaz, of Judah; and Menahem, Pekah and Hushes of Israel. Along with them are mentioned their contemporaries Rezin of Damascus, Hiram of Tyre, and two queens of Arabia otherwise unknown, Zabibi and Samsi. When he died in 727 BC, he was succeeded by Shalmaneser IV, who had occasion to suspect the loyalty of his vassal Hoshea, king of Israel, and besieged him in Samaria.


Schrader, COT, I, 229-57; McCurdy, HPM, sections 279-341.