PEKAH (Heb. פֶּקַח; "He [God] has opened [His eyes]," i.e., given heed), son of Remaliah, king of Israel from 735 to 732 B.C.E. (II Kings 15:27–32). In the inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser III, his name appears in the form Pa-qa-ḥa. It is stated that Pekah was the shalish (apparently, "army commander") of high rank of Pekahiah son of Menahem and that he conspired against his royal master in Samaria with the aid of "fifty men of the Gileadites and… slew him, and reigned in his stead" (II Kings 15:25). The statement in the Bible that Pekah reigned for 20 years (II Kings 15:27) can hardly be accepted as it stands, since he was killed by *Hoshea son of Elah (II Kings 15:30) in 732 B.C.E. at the very latest, while *Menahem son of Gadi is still mentioned in Tiglath-Pileser III's inscriptions as king of Samaria in 738 (or 743, at the earliest). For this reason, some scholars think that Pekah reigned in Gilead (cf. II Kings 15:25) for a certain period overlapping the reigns of the kings in Samaria, and seized the throne in Samaria only in 736, most probably with the aid of *Rezin, king of Aram. From both the biblical sources and the Assyrian documents it is clear that the military and political alliance of Pekah and Rezin operated against Judah, on the one hand, and against Assyria, on the other. The stronger partner in the alliance was Rezin (cf. Isa. 7:2), whose help Pekah evidently needed against rivals to his throne. According to II Kings 15:37, Pekah and Rezin first attacked Judah in the reign of Jotham and continued the war into the reign of Ahaz (II Kings 16; II Chron. 28). In the opinion of most commentators the occasion for the war was an attempt by Aram and Israel to force Ahaz to join an anti-Assyrian alliance led by Aram-Damascus and supported by Egypt. The armies of Aram and Israel invaded Judah (II Chron. 28:5–15) and laid siege to Jerusalem (II Kings 16:5; Isa. 7:2). The allies intended to contract the kingdom of Judah's territory to the advantage of the kingdom of Israel, to depose the Davidic dynasty, and to install as king in Jerusalem a certain "son of Tabeel," possibly a Transjordanian and an ancestor of the *Tobiads. But the course of events was completely changed by the appearance of Tiglath-Pileser III in southern Syria and Palestine. In 734 B.C.E. the Assyrian armies undertook an expedition against Philistia, along the Phoenician coast, and it is possible that during his campaign Tiglath-Pileser III detached the coastal region (the Dor district and the Sharon region) from the kingdom of Israel. In 733 B.C.E. the Assyrian army besieged Damascus, at the same time conquering northern Transjordan, Gilead, and Galilee and deporting the population of these areas to Assyria (II Kings 15:29). Tiglath-Pileser III himself mentions, in his Annals, the capture of (Ramoth) Gilead and cities in Galilee and the deportation of their populations. In the following year (732 B.C.E.) the Assyrian armies apparently invaded the hill country of Ephraim and threatened to capture the capital, Samaria. According to the biblical narrative, Hoshea son of Elah then conspired against Pekah and usurped the throne (II Kings 15:30). Pekah's policy, in contrast to that of Menahem and his son Pekahiah, apparently showed allegiance to Assyria, had grave consequences for the kingdom of Israel, and marked the beginning of the process which culminated in the fall of Samaria about a decade later. The most fertile areas of the kingdom were conquered by the Assyrians and turned into the Assyrian provinces of *Gilead, *Megiddo, and *Dor (cf. Isa. 8:23).
Bright, Hist, 254–60; Albright, in: BASOR, 140 (1955), 34–35; J. Cook, in: VT, 14 (1964), 121–35; Oded, in: Tarbiz, 38 (1968/69), 205ff.; Mazar, in: IEJ, 7 (1957), 137–45; Tadmor, in: H.H. Ben-Sasson (ed.), Toledot Am Yisrael bi-Ymei Kedem (1969), 134–5.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.