Many ordinary Bible reading people in the world today, are confused by a number of things related to the chronological history of ancient Israel. They are not alone. Many archaeologists, historians and other academics have over the last 150 years, shaken their heads trying to understand certain sections of the Bible.
Recently I received an enquiry concerning the period of history in which the Northern Kingdom of Israel - called Samaria at the time - fell to the Assyrians (722BCE). The nature of the enquiry related to certain chronological statements made in the Bible, as well as to calculations that the writer had made based on certain scriptural quotes.
In part, he wrote:
I have a question that I would like clarify. In view of one of your main and fundamental premise is to place the Bible as a reliable and trustworthy.
Why you put it on your Calendar to Pekah only 14 year reign, in contradiction with the 20 year that you see the Bible says in 2 Kings 15:27 .... I have read something about error in the names of the Bible, Is this OK to say that the Bible is wrong on the names and not say that the pagan Assyrian scribes who have incomplete record?
Before proceeding to provide some explanation of the times under discussion, I would like to make two points clear.
- Firstly, the Scripture quote above, 2 Kings 15:27 is actually incorrect.
- Secondly, while I do not believe that every word of the Bible as it now appears in English is a direct and infallible word from God, I do believe that the Bible is a faithful and true record of the History of Israel.
Background to the issue
From the Syro-Ephraimitic War 734 - 732 BCE
to the Fall of Samaria in 722BCE
[Bible Quotes are from Mechon-Mamre Hebrew/English Bible]
This period of Biblical history has everybody confused. Scriptural chronological quotes often seem contradictory, and some things do not appear to align with known history.
In my research I discovered that the underlying cause of all the confusion, is that the ancient redactors confused, three similar names, and wrongly appended them to historical circumstances.
Allow me to quote from 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran', Chapter Eleven: 756 BCE to 701 BCE, Uzziah to Hezekiah (Apologetics).
After several years of failed experimenting, it occurred to me that I had fallen into the same trap as had every other researcher, in that I was trying to reconstruct the data from a 'Northern Kingdom' (Israel) perspective.
Therefore, with a conscious effort, I commenced to reconstruct the data from a Southern Kingdom (Judah) perspective. Encountering impossible impasses, I reminded myself that 'contradictions are not real, only apparent', and made a specific conscious decision to ignore all narrative details, and focus solely upon the actual chronological data for Judah.
In other words, I chose to ignore all names and identities associated with that data. Once I did this, the difficulties melted away.
Note: It is imperative at this point to note that the foundational premise of the 'King's Calendar' for this period of time, is that the redactors, whilst correctly recording the chronological data, (except for 2 Kings 15:27), confused the identities to which that data applied.
My research indicated that the chronological data 'standing alone' was correct, and was recorded from a southern kingdom perspective. Furthermore, that the redactors confused the identities of:
i) Hezekiah (HZKH) and Ahaz/Ahaziah (HZH)
- or -
ii) Jehoahaz/Jotham (JHHZ) and Ahaziah/Ahaz (HZH)
King Pekah of Israel / Samaria
By the standard of the 'King's Calendar', Pekah reigned fourteen (14) artificial years commencing in 743 BCE. 2 Kings: 15:27 informs us that he reigned twenty years. This may in fact reflect a misunderstanding of 2 Kings:15:30 in reference to Jotham (as opposed to academic belief that 2 Kings 15:30 is a misunderstanding of 2 Kings 15:27).
- And 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, in the twentieth year of Jotham the son of Uzziah.
Bright 1 (1981, p 273) assigns Pekah only a five (5) year reign (737-732 BCE), adding a footnote to the effect that the claim to a twenty year reign may derive from some semi-autonomous authority that Pekah may have exercised in Gilead prior to taking the throne. See also Miller & Hayes 2 (1986, p323).
Miller and Hayes (1986, p 323) tell us that during or just after Tiglath-Pileser's campaign against Damascus in 732 BCE, he confirmed Hoshea on the throne in Samaria. Meanwhile, 2 Kings: 15:27 informs us that after Tiglath-Pileser's campaign, Hoshea made a conspiracy against Pekah, and slew him. Since from neither the Assyrian nor Biblical perspectives is there any precise date for this event (Alhstrom 1993, p. 635)3 some latitude must exist to allow the possibility of Pekah remaining King until mid-late 731 BCE, especially from a Stage One and Two perspective of Assyrian control, (Herrmann, 1981, pp. 244/49)4 .
The two points I make here are that:
- Pekah of Israel / Samaria did not reign for 20 years.
- That as calculated by my reader, Hoshea could not have reigned 18 years, even if some personally worked out synchronisms might appear to indicate it.
Hoshea of Israel / Samaria
Because of the latitude allowed for Pekah's death, Hoshea's commencement year remains open to debate. Irrespective of which year is accepted however, (732 or 731 BCE), it is clear that 2 Kings 17:1, which synchronises Hoshea's ascension or First Regnal Year, with the twelfth year of Ahaz, is incorrect, and ought to synchronise with Jotham. This is clear for several reasons.
1. That Jotham's twentieth year cannot have corresponded with Ahaz' twelfth year, unless they were co-reigning.
2. Such a schema would throw all of the synchronisms in the biblical narrative into total disarray, making them all completely untrustworthy, and if so, then the balance of information as well.
- The fact that the synchronisms are currently seen to be in disarray, logically and inherently requires all current academic theory to be disqualified if it is reliant upon the biblical narratives.
3. If we accept current opinions which have Menehem on the Throne as late as 738 BCE, Jotham's reign would disappear, leading to the possibility that Jotham and Ahaz were the one and the same person.
- Such acceptance would immediately require rejection of the narratives, including narratives that insist that Menehem paid tribute to Tiglath-Pileser. Once one rejects the narrative at that point, there exists no reason to reject the 'King's Calendar' chronological placement of Menehem. In short, academic argument would be circular and self defeating.
4. If Hoshea commenced to reign after Pekah's 20th year (2 Kings 15:27), and Ahaz commenced to reign during Pekah's 17th year, it is not possible for Hoshea to commence reigning in the 12th year of Ahaz.
5. If Hoshea commenced in the Twelfth (12th) of Ahaz' sixteen (16) years (2 Kings 16:2), then Hezekiah's reign could not commence in Hoshea's Third (3rd) year (2 Kings 18:1), and Hezekiah's reign would need to be put back from 714 BCE to around 726 BCE, which negates 701 BCE as his Fourteenth (14th) year.
Clearly, any notion that Hoshea commenced during the reign of Ahaz, is erroneous, as is also the notion that it had ended by the time Hezekiah became king. (Refer to Thiele 1966, p.152)
2 Kings 17:1 In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah began Hoshea the son of Elah to reign in Samaria over Israel, and reigned nine years.
2 Kings 17:6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away unto Assyria
Regarding The Fall of Samaria
Under Pekah in 732 BCE, and Hoshea in 722 BCE, Samaria fell to the Assyrians. The former disaster resulted in an overall reduction of territory, and the latter, the loss of all territory.
Unfortunately, the 'King's Calendar' has been unable to precisely synchronise all the data with these two important years, in part because there are academic options in relation to each event, that make it impossible to incorporate all academic viewpoints. It has therefore been necessary to offer two synchronistic alternatives, one which emphasises 732 BCE as Pekah's final year and the other, which emphasises 722 BCE as Hoshea's last year.
I believe that the source of most of the problems can be found in the misidentification of the three Judean kings.
Inconsistencies regarding the Syro-Ephraimitic war
Part of academic confusion over this particular period of Israelite history, results directly from their reliance upon the biblical narratives which clearly state that it was King Ahaz of Judah who appealed to Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria, for assistance during the Syro-Ephraimitic War against Rezin of Damascus, and Pekah of Israel.
That confusion is further compounded by reference to tribute paid by 'Jehoahaz' to Tiglath-Pileser III, and by the lack of any other Assyrian records for Israel and Judah at this time. Since we have no record of a King 'Jehoahaz' in Scripture, it is only an assumption that this is the full name of 'Ahaz'. In fact, it could easily have been the real name of King Jotham.
There are Four (4) Biblical Narrative Discrepancies or Contradictions which make it plain that the redactors ascribed to Ahaz, events which involved Jotham. The apologetics on this issue can be read online at Kingscalendar at Rules of Evidence in Archaeology: The Syro-Ephraimitic War: 734-732 BCE
The four contradictions examined in that article are:
- That Jotham and Ahaz are named as the Victims of Rezin and Pekah
- That Rezin and Pekah Did and Did Not Conquer Ahaz.
- That Tiglath-Pileser Did and Did Not Hearken to Ahaz.
- That Rezin and Pekah acted in Unison, separately on their own.
Biblical Chronology through the lens of the King's Calendar.
As far as the King's Calendar research can detect, there is only one Chronological Scripture quote that seems to actually be incorrect: 2 Kings 15:27
- In the two and fiftieth year of Azariah king of Judah Pekah the son of Remaliah began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned twenty years.
Azariah is of course Uzziah who reigned 52 years. Deduct the last 2 years of Uzziah from the 20 ascribed to Pekah and you come to a time 18 years after Uzziah's death. This year is said in verse 30 to be the 20th year of Jotham (who reigned only 16 years).
If Jotham had a 4 year co-regency, then Pekah died 2 years after Jotham's death, in the 2nd year of Ahaz.
When you follow this line of reasoning however, you find all the Biblical synchronisms mixed up. The reason for this is simply that the redactors were mixed up.
Relying on the Biblical and Assyrian Narratives, Pekah died in 732/731 BCE, having commenced in the second last year of Uzziah.
No matter how you work it, it doesn't come out to a 20 year reign.
In the Final Analysis:
It is apparent that Pekah did not reign 20 years, and while it is apparent that Hoshea only reigned 9 years, because the King's Calendar is an artificial calendar of years (336 days), it is difficult to know exactly how to apply these nine years.
One thing is certain however, that the only chronological error is 2 Kings 15:27 which gives Pekah a 20 year reign, and that the redactors were a little confused about which events applied to which kings.
To see how the King's Calendar aligns the reigns of these kings, go to the Divided Kingdom Synchronous Calendar
Footnote / Bibliography
- Bright. J. (1981) A History of Israel. 3rd Ed. Philadelphia. Westminster Press.
- Miller,J.M., Hayes,J.M. (1986) A History of Ancient Israel and Judah. USA. Westminster Press.
- Ahlstrom.G.W. (1993) The History of Ancient Palestine. USA Minneapolis. Fortress Press.
- Herrmann,S. (1981) A History of Israel in Old Testament Times. Philadelphia. Fortress Press.
Rules of Evidence Pt. 1
Rules of Evidence Pt. 2
Rules of Evidence Pt. 3 The Syro-Ephraimitic War: 734-732 BCE
Hezekiah's Father - Jotham or Ahaz?
Josiah to Destruction of Jerusalem 586 BCE
Biblical Contradiction - Fall of Jerusalem Date.
History of the 8th Century.
Assyrian, Babylonian and Israelite History 8th Century by R.P. BenDedek
The 'King's Calendar' reconstruction of Biblical chronology for this time period, has as it's firm foundation, the established 'academic' fact that King Hezekiah of Judah had his 14th regnal year in 701 BCE. Working back through history, the 'King's Calendar' finds little fault with the Biblical chronological references, however, it becomes obvious that some of the king's have been misidentified. Part of academic confusion over this particular period of Israelite history, results directly from reliance upon the biblical narratives which clearly state that it was King Ahaz of Judah who appealed to Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria for assistance, during the Syro-Ephraimitic War against Rezin of Damascus, and Pekah of Israel.
R.P.BenDedek (pseudonym) is the Author of 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran' (http://www.kingscalendar.com ), and is a guest columnist and stand-in Editor at Magic City Morning Star News. He is also the Editor of the 'Writers Journal' at Kingscalendar.com. An Australian, he has been teaching Conversational English in China since 2003.
Writers Journal Kingscalendar
"The King's Calendar" is a chronological study of the historical books of the Bible (Kings and Chronicles), Josephus, Seder Olam Rabbah, and the (Essene) Damascus Document of The Dead Sea Scrolls.