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PEKAH ():

Son of Remaliah and a king of Israel in the period of anarchy between the fall of the dynasty of Jehu (750 B.C.) and the overthrow of Samaria (722 B.C.). The Biblical records of his activity are found in II Kings xv. 25-31, II Chron. xxviii. 5-15, and Isa. vii. 1-9. He first appears as captain (Hebr. "hind man") of Pekahiah, his predecessor on the throne; that is, he was a close adviser, or the chief of the body-guard, of the king. Taking advantage of this position, he assassinated the king in his own palace, and, supported by fifty Gileadites, from whose home territory he probably originally came, he usurped the throne of Israel. This was about 736 B.C. From the records of Isaiah and Chronicles it is known that he formed an alliance with Rezin, King of Damascus. The prime reason for such a league was probably to protect their respective countries from another incursion of Tiglath-pileser III., who had compelled Menahem, in 738 B.C., to pay a large tribute. The two kings united their armies and attempted to coerce Ahaz of Judah into joining them.

According to II Chron. xxviii. 5-15, Pekah raided Judah and carried to Samaria an enormous number of captives; but, rebuked by the prophet Oded and by some of the prominent men, he released them and sent them back. The united forces of Israel and Syria appeared before the walls of Jerusalem to demand its surrender. At this juncture Isaiah the prophet came to the moral support of Judah and her king. The allies had proposed to set upon the throne of Judah a son of Tabeel, probably one favorable to the alliance. Ahaz, however, knowing that Tiglath-pileser was within call, appealed to him for help. At about the same time, possibly a little later, Tiglath-pileser III. began a raid into the territory of Pekah, who had not followed the policy of Menahem (738) and yielded submission to Assyria. This raid is described in II Kings xv. 29: "In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abel-bethmaachah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria." The record of this invasion is followed by the statement that Hoshea, the son of Elah, conspired against Pekah and slew him and reigned in his stead. One of Tiglath-pileser's inscriptions says: "Pekah, their king, they slew; Hoshea [Ausi] I appointed ruler over them." The inference here is that the people, seeing the inevitable outcome of the contest with Assyria, put out of the way their fighting king, and then yielded submission to the conqueror, Tiglath-pileser III.

The length of Pekah's reign is stated (II Kings xv. 27) to have been twenty years. This extent is impossible if reckoned from the usurpation of Pekahiah's throne (736) to the succession of Hoshea (733-31). There is, however, an explanation that has some plausibility. When Zechariah, the son of Jeroboam II., was slain by Shallum, it was the beginning of general anarchy in Israel. Shallum reigned a short time in Samaria; but east of the Jordan Pekah and his Gileadite followers assumed independence, with Pekah as king. That was about 750 or 751. At the accession of Pekahiah, Pekah and his valiant followers may have offered their services to the king at Samaria. Pekahiah may have innocently accepted the offer and have thus given Pekah the long-wished-for opportunity to become king of all Israel. Such an explanation would account for the round number of twenty years of kingship (750-731).

E. G. H. I. M. P.
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