pe'-ka (peqach, "opening" (of the eyes) (2 Kings 15:25-31); Phakee):
Son of Remaliah, and 18th king of Israel. Pekah murdered his predecessor, Pekahiah, and seized the reins of power (2 Kings 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 (2 Kings 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 (2 Kings 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 (2 Kings 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 (2 Chronicles 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 2 Kings 15:29. It comprises Gilead beyond Jordan--already partly depopulated (1 Chronicles 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" (2 Kings 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 (Isaiah 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 Isaiah 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 Isaiah 9:14 shows that it was written before the fall of Samaria, and that of Isaiah 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
These files are public domain.