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Pekah (Hebrew: פקח, Pẹqakh; "Name means::open-eyed") (r. 759-739 BC according to Ussher,[1][2] or r. 752-732 BC according to Thiele[3]), son of son of::Remaliah, was the eighteenth king of the Kingdom of Israel. He came to the throne by murder,[4][5][6] and the man who murdered him took his throne—whether immediately or after a nine-year interregnum is in dispute.[3]


Pekah, according to the Bible, was a ranking officer in the army of Pekahiah. The Scriptural account is simple: Pekah gathered a force (or, perhaps more properly, a gang) of fifty soldiers (or cutthroats) from his native Gilead. With these men he infiltrated the palace at Samaria and killed Pekahiah there, along with his bodyguards. (2_Kings 15:25 ) This happened in the fifty-second year of King Uzziah. (2_Kings 15:27 )

The motive of Pekah is unclear. Orr[7] suggests that Pekah wanted to end the humiliating payment of tributes to the empire of the Assyrians, which Pekahiah was content to continue paying.

However, the Thiele and Ussher camps differ strongly on the actual role of Pekah. The Ussher camp[1] maintains that Pekah was exactly what the Bible says he was—a "captain," or officer, in the army. But the Thiele camp now maintains[3] that Pekah was actually a rebel king who set himself up in Gilead two years before the viceroyalty of King Jotham of the Kingdom of Judah (the fortieth year of the reign of King Uzziah). Twelve years later, according to this account, he finally toppled the "lawful" monarchs and ruled over all Israel for the next eight years. He acted when the policies of Menahem and Pekahiah, especially Menahem's capitation tax, alienated enough people to make a revolution feasible.

Many secular authorities assert that Pekah could not have reigned for twenty years as the Bible says, because the annals of Tiglath-Pileser III show him receiving a tribute from the earlier King Menahem. This assumes that Tiglath-Pileser III is also that king named Pul mentioned in the Bible. (2_Kings 15:19-20 )

However, the Bible gives no warrant for saying that Menahem and Pekah strove together for ten years, and that Pekahiah strove with Pekah for another two before Pekah killed him. When King Omri faced a similar problem with the pretender Tibni, the Bible stated this quite clearly. (1_Kings 16:21-22 ) Ussher,[1] furthermore, asserts that Pul was the second-to-last ruler of a dynasty that was wiped out by a Medo-Babylonian coalition led by (among others) Nabonassar, who gave his name to a calendar that began in 747 BC—and that Tiglath-Pileser III was the first king of a new Assyrian dynasty that assumed power at that time.[8]

Foreign Affairs

Beginning in the sixteenth year of his reign (however this is reckoned), Pekah joined forces with the Syrian King Rezin and attacked the Kingdom of Judah, which was first under the command of King Jotham and then under the command of King Ahaz.[4][5][6] Ahaz made an alliance with Tiglath-Pileser III, who in the twentieth year of Pekah's reign attacked the Kingdom of Israel[4][5][6] and captured seven Israelite cities and all the people of Naphthali. (Tiglath-Pileser also invaded Syria and killed Rezin; see 2_Kings 15:29 )

Death, Interregnum, and Succession

Died: Died:: Abib 3265 AM
Preceded by
Successor of::Pekahiah
King of Ruler of::Kingdom of Israel
Accession::Abib 3245 AMDied::Abib 3265 AM
InterregnumTitle next held bysucceeded by::Hoshea

After that disaster, one Hoshea formed a conspiracy and killed Pekah.[4][5][6] (2_Kings 15:30 ) Once again, the Ussher and Thiele camps have a difference of opinion. Ussher says that a nine-year interregnum intervened at this time. The prophet Hosea (Hosea 10:3,7,15 ) describes a period during which many men boasted that their society had no king and therefore none to call them to account for their wickednesses; this is very likely a reference to that period of anarchy. Thiele flatly denies that any interregnum took place and says that Hoshea began to reign immediately. In fact, Thiele originally stated that the Bible, in stating that Hoshea began to reign "in the twelfth year of Ahaz," was in fact in error. Leslie McFall, years later, would say that Thiele need not have assumed such an error, but rather that generations of translators have misread the Hebrew text, and that a verb translated "reigned" actually meant "had reigned," and that the twelfth year of Ahaz marked the end of Hoshea's reign, not the beginning. Because Hoshea's reign ran exactly nine years, this would account for the discrepancy—so long as a discrepancy involving King Hezekiah beginning his reign in the third year of Hoshea could be resolved.

Some authorities hold that Tiglath-Pileser III boasted that he had removed Pekah and replaced him with Hoshea.[9] Again, the Bible does not explicitly say this, though the Bible mentions multiple puppet-king placements in the years leading to the Fall of Jerusalem.

Points of chronological dispute

See also: Biblical chronology dispute

Dewey Beegle wrote a book entitled The Inspiration of Scripture[10] which, despite the title, was designed not to encourage faith in the full inspiration of Scripture, but instead to assert that not all of Scripture was inspired. According to Beegle the Bible makes mistakes and thus could not have come from an omniscient God. Beegle especially says that the reign of King Pekah is subject to multiple inconsistencies, and that these represent errors in the original manuscript. Beegle uses this as one of his chief arguments against the idea that Scripture is without error.

The question of the authenticity of the Bible's chronological data for the time of Pekah is of interest to more than just chronologists. If the Bible's information in this regard has no reasonable explanation, then there are serious repercussions for the doctrine of inspiration, as Beegle was attempting to prove. If, on the other hand, there is a reasonable explanation, and if that explanation is found in accordance with Assyrian texts that lay buried for thousands of years and have just recently come to light, then the Scripture's texts relative to this time will have become a testimony to the accuracy of the Scripture's historical data and the folly of those who pronounce rash judgments against the integrity of the Word of God.

On the other hand, defenders of Ussher's original chronology have often pointed out that in any conflict between secular records and Scripture, the secular records must yield to Scripture. Larry Pierce has often derided the practice of using secular records to "vet" Scripture; this he calls "evidentiallism" while saying that this is without scholarly or logical warrant.

The Problem

The Bible says that Menahem gave tribute to Pul, king of Assyria (2_Kings 15:19 ). Assyrian records appear to suggest that this occurred in 742 or 743 BC, and also that Pul is the same as Tiglath-Pileser III.[11] Defenders of Thiele assert that no ancient records identify Pul as anyone other than Tiglath-Pileser III. But Ussher, in The Annals, in fact cites certain records (many of which might have since been destroyed by fire), argues that Pul is a king identified today as Asshur-Dan III who was Tiglath-Pileser's grandfather.[12]

The royal inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser III appear to tell of his receiving tribute from "Me-ni-hi-imme Sa-me-ri-na-a-a," which is the Akkadian way of expressing "Menahem of Samaria." Although some Assyriologists have dated this tribute to 738 BC, T. C. Mitchell in the Cambridge Ancient History dates it to 743 or 742 BC. The 1994 publication of the Iran Stele has definitely favored Mitchell's dates, which are exactly compatible with the Thiele/McFall chronology. (In Ussher's chronology, Menahem died in 751 BC, 16 years before Tiglath-Pileser began to reign.)

The Thiele-McFall Solution

The Thiele/McFall chronology for these last kings of Israel runs thus: Menahem of Israel began to reign in Nisan (or Abib) of 752 BC at the death of Shallum. At the same time, Pekah began a rival reign in Gilead. Menahem's ten-year reign ended at some time in the six-month interval beginning on 1 Tishri (or Ethanim) of 742 BC, at which time he was succeeded by his son Pekahiah, whose two-year reign ended in the six-month period after 1 Tishri of 740 BC. At some point there was a détente between Pekah and the house of Menahem which involved Pekah becoming the chief officer (Heb. shalish) over the military—always a dangerous responsibility to give to a rival politician. The détente was doubtless in order to provide a united front against the growing threat from Assyria. Pekah assassinated Pekahiah to begin his sole reign in the 52nd year of Uzziah, 740/39 BC, and his reign ended eight years later, in the 20th year of Jotham, 732/31 BC, at which time Hoshea began to reign. Hoshea's nine year reign ended in the six month period following Nisan 1 of 723 BC, when Samaria fell to Shalmaneser V.

Shalmaneser V died in December of 722 or January of 721 BC. That it was Shalmaneser, not his putative successor Sargon II, who captured Samaria is shown by a damaged Assyrian text about Shalmaneser, saying that he 'ravaged' Samaria. Sargon’s claim to have been the one to capture Samaria (that is, the initial destruction) was only made late in his reign. That this claim was false was demonstrated by Hayim Tadmor, who showed that Sargon II did not have any campaigns in the west in 722 or 721 BC.[13]

The dates above are taken from the Thiele/McFall chronology (the only difference between Thiele's and McFall's chronologies is that Thiele did not restrict Hoshea's death to the first half of the year beginning in Nisan of 723). The math here works out so exactly that it is possible to given the exact month that Menahem began his reign. Thiele, in a desire to simplify things in his third edition, omitted the reasoning by which he derived this exact month from the relevant Scriptural texts. This logic is explained in the 2nd edition of Mysterious Numbers.[14] The exactness in getting the month when Menahem started could not have been invented by Thiele or anyone else, but it follows logically if we accept that the Scriptural dates of the Masoretic text are both authentic and precise.

Biblical and Extrabiblical Evidence Suggesting Two Rival Kingdom of Israels

That there were two kingdoms in the north at this time was presented in a 1964 article by J. H. Cook.[15] This was based largely on various Scriptures in Isaiah and Hosea that showed that there were two distinct kingdoms in the north in the period from about 750 to 730. One kingdom was called Ephraim and the other Israel. Although 'Ephraim' was used as a synonym for Israel in some places in Scripture, Cook showed why this was not the case in the Scriptures he presented.

Besides arguing from the Scriptural references, Cook supported his thesis by citing ancient non-Israelite records. Referring to Tiglath-Pileser's annals, Cook wrote, "It is an interesting point—though the designation may be fortuitous—that in the Assyrian tablets Menahem is called 'Menahem of Samaria', whereas the reference to the overthrow of Pekah names his country as Bit Humria—the House of Omri, which is the normal Assyrian designation of Israel [reference to Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 283f]. It is possible that Menahem ruled only the district of Samaria, while Gilead and some of the northern section of the country were under the control of the official Pekah, who made himself independent. The Assyrian campaigns in the west in 743 and the following years may have weakened Pekah's position in the north, reducing his authority to little more than Gilead, whence he launched his attack on Pekahiah (2 Kings xv 25). Accordingly under Pekah Samaria was once more united to Gilead and what was left of the north. It is possible therefore that the Assyrian records correctly speak of 'Menahem of Samaria' and Pekah of 'Israel'".[16]

Gleason Archer compared the situation between Pekah and the house of Menahem to that which prevailed in Egypt during the reign of Hatshepshut and her step-son Tuthmosis III.[17] Tuthmosis was the heir-designate, but Hatshepsut assumed the full title of pharaoh while he was growing up. Eventually, he was appointed as chief of the military (similar to Pekah's career). After Hatshepsut died, Tuthmosis counted his years not from the death of his step-mother, but from the time that his father died, which was the same date from which Hatshepsut counted her years. Tuthmosis never explained why his first campaign was in his 22nd year of rule, any more than the Scriptures offer an explicit explanation of the fact that the first twelve years of Pekah's reign were the time that he was a rival to Menahem. In both cases, the chronology of the time, as compared to the relevant written records, provides the proper explanation.

Additional evidence supporting the existence of rival kingdoms was presented in a 2004 article in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. This article says, "Thiele and Cook could have said more about one verse in Hosea that clearly distinguishes Israel and Ephraim as different entities at the time that Hosea wrote, and which therefore provides a definitive biblical support for the brief existence of two rival kingdoms in the north. That verse is Hosea 5:5, which appears as follows in the MT [Masoretic Text; the verse is then printed in Hebrew, after which: ] . . . for which a literal translation is "and the pride of Israel testifies against him (to his face). Both Israel and Ephraim will stumble in their sin; Judah also stumbled with them." . . . neither of these commentators [Cook or Thiele] remarked on the construction of the second line, where "Israel" and "Ephraim" are both preceded by a vav. This is the normal mode of expressing "both . . . and" in Hebrew, and it shows that the construction "Israel, even Ephraim" taken by many translations is not warranted. The LXX translates this literally, using kaí . . . kaí , which is the Greek way of expressing "both . . . and." This verse then is a direct substantiation of the existence of two distinct kingdoms in the north when Hosea wrote, and the verses related to Pekah, Menahem, and Pekahiah in 2 Kings show the identity of the rival rulers."[18]

This verse in Hosea was not written during an interregnum. The royal house is addressed in the first verse of the chapter: "Hearken, ye house of Israel; and give ye ear, O house of the king; for judgment is toward you." (KJV). More recently, other scholars (see below) have argued from a historical interpretation of both the Scriptures and Assyrian records that Pekah was in control of Gilead while Menahem ruled in Samaria.

Others who have accepted the Cook/Thiele solution

The skeptical Beegle, quoted above, rejected the doctrine that all Scripture is inspired by God (2_Timothy 3:16 ), partly because he did not understand the Scripture's chronological notes regarding Pekah. In contrast to this skepticism, various authors who did not have a particularly high doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture have nevertheless examined the last days of the Kingdom of Israel and have decided that Cook's thesis of two separate kingdoms in the north at this time is entirely in keeping with both the Scriptural accounts and the records of the Assyrians. One example of this is found in Stanley Rosenbaum's commentary on Amos,[19] where he writes "On evidence from Tadmor and Thiele, we can be reasonable [sic] sure that the Kingdom of Israel split into two separate states from 752 to 740. Pekah—the same who allied with Rezin of Damascus against Judah—ruled in Gilead, while the pro-Assyrian Menahem was king in Ephraim only. This may also be safely deduced from Tiglath-pileser's annals." The Pekah/Menahem rivalry is also accepted in Andersen and Freedman's commentary on Hosea.[20] These authors are not chronologists seeking to justify the ideas of Edwin Thiele or Cook, nor do they have a high view of the inspiration of Scripture. Nevertheless, they state that the Thiele/Cook explanation of the events of the time is entirely plausible and the Scriptures relevant to the time, as found in the Hebrew Bible, can be taken as a trustworthy record describing the actual situation in the days of Pekah, Menahem, and Pekahiah.

Evidence against the Cook/Thiele solution

Timing of Menahem and Pekah in relation to Uzziah

Defenders of the above solution must still reckon with two key facts from Scripture that certainly seem to be irreconcilably opposed:

  1. Menahem began his reign "in the thirty-ninth year of Uzziah." (2_Kings 15:17 )
  2. Pekah began his reign "in the fifty-second year of Uzziah". (2_Kings 15:27 )

If, as Cook alleges, Menahem and Pekah were rival kings, the one in Samaria and the other in Gilead, then somehow the thirty-ninth year of Uzziah in one regard is the exact same year as the fifty-second year of Uzziah in another.

Menahem's First Month of Reign

Concerning the name of the month in which Menahem began to reign, the following facts are relevant:

  1. Zachariah began to reign in the thirty-eighth year of Uzziah for six months. (2_Kings 15:8 ).
  2. Shallum began to reign in the thirty-ninth year of Uzziah for one month. (2_Kings 15:13 )

If Menahem began to reign in Abib (Nisan), then Shallum began to reign in Adar, which still would have been in the thirty-eighth year of Uzziah. More likely, Shallum reigned in Abib of the thirty-ninth year, and Menahem began to reign in the month of Zif (Iyyar).

The True Identity of King Pul

Regarding Tiglath-Pileser's boasts of receiving tribute, Larry Pierce alleges that many of the Assyrian kings did boast of making conquests, receiving tributes, completing building projects, or doing other grand things that they did not do, but their ancestors did. Of course, this makes their various stela less credible than they otherwise would be. But that this would necessarily have given those ancient kings pause is strictly a matter of conjecture.

Jones analyzes the problem of the identify of King Pul in greater detail.[21] The key verse is 1_Chronicles 5:26 , which reads differently in different English-language translations. Modern translations tend to identify Pul with Tiglath-pileser, but older translations imply that Pul and Tiglath-pileser were two different kings.

The inscription mentioned above, attributed to Tiglath-Pileser and mentioning one "Me-ni-hi-imme Sa-me-ri-na-a-a," is actually a fragment inscribed on a brick that King Esarhaddon removed and used to build another palace. Jones mentions another annals fragment in which a translator has inserted the name Menahem into the text and utterly neglected to lay a proper foundation for that insertion.

Jones also shows that the name Pul is only one form of a common name of a god, a name also spelled "Vul" or "Val"—or Baal. In Assyrian, pul means the same as lord, and therefore Pul is a title, similar to the name Pharaoh that the Bible uses for every monarch in Egypt before Shishak, the first Pharaoh that the Bible identifies with a proper name.

Jones' Chart Five[2] displays the kings of Assyria and the kings of Israel and Judah. The actual contemporary of Menahem is Ashur-Dan III. The next king is Ashur-Nirari V, and the next after that is Tiglath-Pileser III. This last monarch is the first king of Assyria that the Bible identifies with a proper name.

Flavius Josephus[22] describes the contacts of Pul and Tiglath-Pileser with the kings of Israel of the period. His prose clearly treats those two kings as two different men.

No Rival Kingdom

Jones also analyzes Thiele's claim that Pekah became king in 752 BC of a rival kingdom of Ephraim.[23] Jones shows that the Bible often uses the names Ephraim and Israel interchangeably to refer to the Kingdom of Israel, especially because Bethel, one of the two cities where Jeroboam I set up a golden calf, is an Ephraimite city, and was also the city where Jeroboam ordained a "Feast of 15 Bul" (Marcheshvan or Heshvan) to compete with the Feast of Tabernacles on 15 Ethanim (Tishri). The prophet Hosea refers to this repeatedly; see Hosea 4:17 , Hosea 5:3,5,9 . The notion that Hosea was referring to a rival kingdom consisting of only one tribe is utterly without foundation. The only tribe ever to exist as a separate kingdom in Scripture is the tribe of Judah, under King David for the first seven and a half years of his reign.

See Also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed., Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003 (ISBN 0890513600), pghh. 583, 592-597, 599-601, 603, 611
  2. 2.0 2.1 Jones, Floyd N., The Chronology of the Old Testament, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003, Chart 5.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Leon J. Wood, A Survey of Israel's History, rev. ed. David O'Brien, Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1986 (ISBN 031034770X), pp. 280-281
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Authors unknown. "King Pekah - Biography." The Kings of Israel, hosted at Retrieved June 5, 2007.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Authors unknown. "Entry for Pekah." WebBible Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 5, 2007.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Authors unknown. "Pekah.", 2006. Retrieved June 5, 2007.
  7. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'PEKAHIAH'." International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 5, 2007.
  8. Ussher, op. cit., pghh. 592-7
  9. John Argubright. "King Hoshea." Bible Believer's Archaeology, Vol. 1: Historical Evidence That Proves the Bible., 2007. Retrieved June 4, 2007. Requires PDF reader.
  10. D. M. Beegle, The Inspiration of Scripture (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1963).
  11. Thiele, Edwin R., Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, 3rd ed., p. 125, 139-141.
  12. Ussher, op. cit., pghh. 573-575
  13. Hayim Tadmor, "The Campaigns of Sargon II of Assur: A Chronological-Historical Study," Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 12 (1958), p. 38.
  14. Thiele, Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, 2nd ed., pp. 87-88
  15. J. H. Cook, "Pekah," Vetus Testamentum 14 (1964) pp. 121-135.
  16. Ibid., pp. 127-128.
  17. Gleason Archer in Norman Geisler, ed., Inerrancy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), p. 71).
  18. Rodger C. Young, "When Was Samaria Captured? The Need for Precision in Biblical Chronologies," JETS 47 (2004), pp. 581-582, n. 11.
  19. Stanley N. Rosenbaum, Amos of Israel: a New Interpretation, (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1990)
  20. Francis I. Andersen and David Noel Freedman, Hosea. A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980), p. 393.
  21. Jones, op. cit., pp. 170-173
  22. Josephus, Antiquities, 9.11.1
  23. Jones, op. cit., pp. 173-177