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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
2 Kings 15

 

 

Verses 1-7

The Reign Of Azariah (Uzziah) King of Judah c. 767-740/39 BC. Co-regent from 791/90 BC.

The reign of Azariah (Uzziah) can be paralleled with that of Jeroboam, with similar expansion and the same strictures to some extent applying. It introduced a period of prosperity unparalleled in Judah since the time of Solomon, and for similar reasons. As a result of keeping on friendly terms with each other and the exercise of military power both countries were able to expand and take advantage of the trade routes. But we learn nothing of this from the prophetic author (for a much fuller description see 2 Chronicles 26). Apart from the fact that Azariah followed the Yahwistic policies of his fathers all we learn about him from the prophetic author was that he became ‘skin-diseased’. This was the author’s way of expressing disfavour with his reign. That this was so is confirmed by the fact that we learn in Chronicles that the reason why Azariah was smitten was because he tried to arrogate to himself the priestly right to offer incense (2 Chronicles 26:16-21). But the author of Kings does not go into such details. He leaves us to discern his displeasure from the scant information that he gives us. As far as he was concerned religiously speaking Azariah was a failure. Indeed, Amos’s verdict on Judah at this stage was that they ‘have rejected the Law of YHWH and have not kept His statutes, and their lies have caused them to err after the way which their fathers walked’ (Amos 2:4).

We have, of course, learned in 2 Kings 14:22 that he took and rebuilt Elath, but that was deliberately mentioned then so that the author could present Azariah’s reign as he now has, as something of little or no value. The marked silence is deliberate.

There is in this a reminder to us that God judges us in the light of what we accomplish, or otherwise, for Him. All that we might think of as our accomplishments will in the future be seen as nothing. ‘Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.’ The description of Azariah’s reign in Kings is a vivid reminder of that fact.

Analysis.

a In the twenty and seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel began Azariah son of Amaziah king of Judah to reign. Sixteen years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned two and fifty years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Jecoliah of Jerusalem (2 Kings 15:1-2).

b And he did what was right in the eyes of YHWH, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. However, the high places were not taken away. The people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places (2 Kings 15:3-4).

c And YHWH smote the king, so that he was skin-diseased to the day of his death, and dwelt in a separate house. And Jotham the king’s son was over the household, judging the people of the land (2 Kings 15:5).

b Now the rest of the acts of Azariah, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? (2 Kings 15:6).

a And Azariah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the city of David, and Jotham his son reigned instead of him (2 Kings 15:7).

Note that in ‘a’ he commenced his reign and in the parallel he ceased his reign. In ‘b’ he in general did what was right in the eyes of YHWH, and in the parallel the remainder of his acts can be found in the official annals of the kings of Judah. Centrally in ‘c’ he was struck by YHWH with skin-disease and his son took over the main running of the kingdom. To the prophetic author this was the central and most important fact of his reign.

2 Kings 15:1

‘In the twenty and seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel began Azariah son of Amaziah king of Judah to reign.’

This dating refers to the date when Azariah (Uzziah) became sole king (767 BC). It was in the twenty seventh year of Jeroboam. But he had been reigning with his father as co-regent almost as long as Jeroboam (since 791 BC). Elsewhere Azariah’s name is given as Uzziah, which is in fact a recognised variant (compare how Azare-el becomes Uzzi-el in 1 Chronicles 25:4; 1 Chronicles 25:18). The usages may be listed as follows: Azariah (2 Kings 15:1; 2 Kings 15:6; 2 Kings 15:8; 2 Kings 15:17; 2 Kings 15:23; 2 Kings 15:27; 1 Chronicles 3:12). Uzziah (2 Kings 15:13; 2 Kings 15:30; 2 Kings 15:32; 2 Kings 15:34; 2 Chronicles 26:1; 2 Chronicles 26:3; 2 Chronicles 26:11; 2 Chronicles 26:14, etc; Isaiah 1:1; Isaiah 6:1; Hosea 1:1; Amos 1:1; Zechariah 14:5).

2 Kings 15:2

‘Sixteen years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned two and fifty years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Jecoliah of Jerusalem.’

The ‘sixteen years old’ refers to when he became co-regent, and the fifty two years refers to his reign including that co-regency. The new queen mother was named Jecoliah and was born in Jerusalem

2 Kings 15:3-4

‘And he did what was right in the eyes of YHWH, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. However, the high places were not taken away. The people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places.’

Like his father, and indeed most of his fathers, he did what was right in the eyes of YHWH. In other words he continued in the true worship of YHWH and honoured the covenant. But in a similar way to them he failed to carry out the reforms that would have resulted in the cessation of the many high places at which the people still sacrificed and burned incense, aping Canaanite ritual and Canaanite ways. In other words he failed to demand a full and wholehearted response to YHWH’s demands and covenant by the whole people.

2 Kings 15:5

‘And YHWH smote the king, so that he was skin-diseased to the day of his death, and dwelt in a separate house. And Jotham the king’s son was over the household, judging the people of the land.’

His reign is summed up in terms of his wrong attitude towards YHWH, as is evidenced by the fact that YHWH smote him with skin disease. As with Naaman this was not true leprosy (Naaman had been able to continue serving the king and even to be present in the house of Rimmon), and it only happened in the latter years of his reign. He was not totally excluded from society. But it was sufficient to exclude him from entering the Temple of YHWH, and from taking his part in the worship there, and thus from fulfilling all his functions as the king. It also resulted in his living apart from the palace in his own separate house, because his presence in the palace, which was connected with the Temple, would have rendered the palace ritually ‘unclean’ and have tainted the Temple. (Compare how the skin-diseased had to live outside the camp in Leviticus 13:46). And his son Jotham took over the king’s household (in other words the court and its authority) and the general rulership of the ‘people of the land’. At Ugarit where we have evidence of a language similar to Hebrew recorded around 13th century BC the words for ‘judging’ and ‘ruling’ were used synonymously. Thus Jotham was co-regent par excellence. Note the interesting distinction, although not to be overpressed, between the king’s household and the ‘people of the land’.

2 Kings 15:6

‘Now the rest of the acts of Azariah, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?’

For the remainder of the acts of Azariah and all that he did (which was considerable) we are as so often referred to the official annals of the kings of Judah. It was of interest politically but not religiously. It is interesting that he does not refer to ‘his might’ as he has with previous kings and with Jeroboam, although the significance of that is lessened by the fact that apart from in the case of Hezekiah the phase is in future quietly dropped.

2 Kings 15:7

‘And Azariah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the city of David, and Jotham his son reigned instead of him.’

Like his fathers Azariah was buried in the City of David as a recognised Davidide (although not specifically in the tomb of the kings) and Jotham his son reigned instead of him.


Verses 8-12

The Reign Of Zechariah King of Israel c.753-752 BC.

By the time of Zechariah the prophets Amos and Hosea were in full flow denouncing the sins of Israel, and to some extent those of Judah. From this point on Israel would sink lower and lower until its existence as a nation would itself be terminated. The reign of Zechariah was to be brief and would bring to an end the dynasty of Jehu, and from now on Israel would have a motley variety of kings only one of whom would die naturally. The reign of Jeroboam had offered them their last chance.

Analysis.

a In the thirty eighth year of Azariah king of Judah, Zechariah the son of Jeroboam reigned over Israel in Samaria for six months (2 Kings 15:8).

b And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, as his fathers had done. He departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, by which he made Israel to sin (2 Kings 15:9).

c And Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against him, and smote him publicly (before people), and slew him, and reigned instead of him (2 Kings 15:10).

b Now the rest of the acts of Zechariah, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel (2 Kings 15:11).

a This was the word of YHWH which he spoke to Jehu, saying, “Your sons to the fourth generation will sit upon the throne of Israel. And so it came about (2 Kings 15:12).

Note that in ‘a’ Zechariah reigned, and in the parallel it was seen as fulfilling YHWH’s word that Jehu’s sons to the fourth generation would sit on the throne. In ‘b’ his behaviour is described and in the parallel we are referred to the official annals of the kings of Israel for his other acts. Central in ‘c’ is that fact that he was removed in a coup and assassinated by Shallum the son of Jabesh, who reigned instead of him.

2 Kings 15:8

‘In the thirty eighth year of Azariah king of Judah, Zechariah the son of Jeroboam reigned over Israel in Samaria for six months.’

The dating for Azariah is calculated from when he became co-regent. Zechariah, son of Jeroboam, son of Jehu, became king and reigned for a mere six months.

2 Kings 15:9

‘And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, as his fathers had done. He departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, by which he made Israel to sin.’

He continued the policy of his fathers in allowing the syncretistic cult of Jeroboam to continue, the cult that had resulted in the watering down of Yahwism as described in Amos and Hosea, and therefore the lax morals of the people.

2 Kings 15:10

‘And Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against him, and smote him publicly (‘before people’), and slew him, and reigned instead of him.’

It is clear that Shallum and his fellow conspirators must have been awaiting the death of Jeroboam before striking, Zechariah possibly having revealed his inadequacy and stirred up antagonism in a period of co-regency, or if not co-regency in some kind of authoritative position. Or it may well be that, as in the days of Solomon, the extensive building projects of Jeroboam at for example Tirzah and Megiddo, which involved much conscription and slave labour, and the expansionist wars taking them away from their land and their homes, had disillusioned the people. Only the rich had grown richer. The poor had grown poorer. That Shallum’s was a local conspiracy comes out in what follows. Even though carried out in public it did not have the support of the people as a whole outside of Samaria. Thus while Shallum slew him and reigned instead of him it would only be for a month.

2 Kings 15:11

‘Now the rest of the acts of Zechariah, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel.’

The remainder of the acts of Zechariah could be discovered from the official annals of the kings of Israel. They would clearly not be many.

2 Kings 15:12

‘This was the word of YHWH which he spoke to Jehu, saying, “Your sons to the fourth generation will sit upon the throne of Israel. And so it came about.’

But the important thing about the reign of Zechariah in the prophetic author’s eyes was that if brought about the fulfilment of YHWH’s word that Jehu’s sons would sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation. At this point YHWH’s purpose had been fulfilled, and Jehu’s house therefore lost its God-given immunity. It would have required repentance and a seeking after YHWH for Zechariah to survive. The clear inference here is of YHWH’s continual watch over the kings of Israel. History was under His control.


Verses 13-17

The Reign Of Shallum King of Israel c.752 BC (2 Kings 15:13-17).

It would appear that Tiphsach was Shallum’s power base. Thus when Shallum took the throne after assassinating Zechariah without popular support, not only was he killed by Menahem in his turn but Tiphsach, which refused to yield and surrender to Menahem, was put to the sword, and every man, woman and child killed. Menhem is thus revealed as a man without mercy. The reference to the resistance of Tiphsach may suggest that that was where Shallum’s sons had holed up. But the fact that Menahem received the kingship suggests either that he was acting with the support of the people of the land, or that he was a powerful military commander with great influence in the army, or indeed both. Shallum clearly had little support. He was simply an opportunist. Apart from this we know nothing of either man.

Analysis.

a Shallum the son of Jabesh began to reign in the thirty ninth year of Uzziah king of Judah, and he reigned the space of a month (a month of days) in Samaria (2 Kings 15:13).

b And Menahem the son of Gadi went up from Tirzah, and came to Samaria, and smote Shallum the son of Jabesh in Samaria, and slew him, and reigned instead of him (2 Kings 15:14).

c Now the rest of the acts of Shallum, and his conspiracy which he made, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel (2 Kings 15:15).

b Then Menahem smote Tiphsach, and all who were in it, and its borders, from Tirzah (2 Kings 15:16 a).

a Because they did not open to him, therefore he smote it, and all the women in it who were with child he ripped up (2 Kings 15:16 b.

From the construction of the passage and the fact that it comes outside the formulae which open and close Menahem’s reign, it is apparent that the smiting of Tiphsach presumably had something to do with Shallum. We may therefore probably see Tiphsach as Shallum’s power base, which would help to explain (but not excuse) Menahem’s unusual ferocity. In destroying the pregnant women he was seeking to ensure that no trace of Shallum’s family survived.

Note that in ‘a’ Shallum began his precarious reign which lasted a month, and in the parallel all trace of his seed was destroyed. In ‘b’ Menaham smote Shallum and in the parallel he smote Tiphsach. Centrally in ‘c’ we can discover all the details of his conspiracy in the official annals of the kings of Israel.

2 Kings 15:13

‘Shallum the son of Jabesh began to reign in the thirty ninth year of Uzziah king of Judah, and he reigned the space of a month (a month of days) in Samaria.’

Shallum began to reign in the thirty ninth year of Uzziah (Azariah) calculated from when Uzziah became co-regent with his father. He reigned for a full month (a month of days), presumably while Menahem was organising his forces.

2 Kings 15:14

‘And Menahem the son of Gadi went up from Tirzah, and came to Samaria, and smote Shallum the son of Jabesh in Samaria, and slew him, and reigned instead of him.’

Menahem was stationed in Tirzah, the former capital city of Israel, which may well therefore have been where the ‘old guard’, the pre-Omride aristocracy, lived. Overlooked by the house of Omri and the house of Jehu they may well have been waiting their time, as the old traditions passed down from father to son, and they resented the passing of power to Samaria. Gadi means ‘my luck’ and may be short for ‘Gadi-yahu’.

2 Kings 15:15

‘Now the rest of the acts of Shallum, and his conspiracy which he made, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel.’

Any further information about the acts of Shallum (one month did not give him much time to make his mark) and especially the details of his conspiracy could be found in the official annals of the kings of Israel.

2 Kings 15:16

‘Then Menahem smote Tiphsach, and all who were in it, and its borders, from Tirzah. Because they did not open to him, therefore he smote it, and all the women in it who were with child he ripped up.’

Having smitten Shallum Menahem, operating from Tirzah, then smote Tiphsach. This was almost certainly the city where Shallum had his power base and where his sons and family took refuge after Shallum’s assassination. The city was called on to surrender, and once it refused to do so its doom was sealed. By its refusal it was seen as part of the conspiracy. The reference to the fact that all the pregnant women were slaughtered was probably so as to ensure that no rumour could arise of a child of Shallum who had survived the massacre. Shallum’s family, and its connections, would not have been well known and Menahem may well have felt that as the city had supported Shallum’s conspiracy the only safe way to ensure the destruction of his house was by slaughtering every man, woman and child. It was, however, a barbarous act, and went beyond the normally accepted bounds in Israel. It was a sign of his unsuitability to be king.

Nothing is known about Tiphsach, unless it was Thapsacus (‘fording place’) on the west bank of the river Euphrates (1 Kings 4:24). Under Jeroboam II Israel’s influence had probably again reached that far, and Shallum may well have come from there. Menahem may thus have seen it as a ‘foreign’ city and treated it as such, his invasion of it being in order to destroy Shallum’s sons. But ripping up women was an Aramaean practise (2 Kings 8:12). Compare also Amos 1:13 referring to the half-savage Ammonites and Hosea 13:8 referring to the Assyrians. But it was totally against the law of YHWH.


Verses 17-22

The Reign Of Menahem King Of Israel c. 752-742/41 BC (2 Kings 15:17-22).

The author has nothing good to say about the reign of Menahem, but it was crucially important for one reason. Up to this time Assyria had either been kept at bay, when Aram and Israel had both been strong, or had been open to receiving token tribute on its forays into the territories of Aram, Tyre, Israel and Philistia. It had made no attempt to ‘settle’. But from this time on Assyria would seek to dominate the territory and would demand much greater tribute, crushing any state which refused to submit, and eventually turning parts of it into Assyrian provinces when they proved too recalcitrant. It acted right up to the Egyptian border. In time those who submitted would be required to have an Assyrian official at court to oversee the interests of Assyria, and to act as an observer of the behaviour and attitudes of their kings and courtiers. Thus now Assyria had come to stay and establish an empire.

The invasion by Tiglath-pileser III (Pulu) took place late in Menahem’s reign. Menahem, having failed to return Israel to the true worship of YHWH (thus failing to ensure that he would enjoy His protection) was therefore wise to submit to Assyria and by that receive Assyria’s approval of his kingship. Once he had done that he came under Assyria’s ‘protection’. The alternative would have been destruction, as had happened to the northern states around Hamath. But many in Israel, not aware of the international situation, would not have been happy at the thought of paying taxes to Assyria. After all, Israel had never had to do so before. (Previous light tribute assessed on, for example, Jehu and Jehoash, and mentioned in inscriptions, would have come out of the royal treasury). Thus the paying of tribute to Assyria became a bone of contention in Israel, and an influential anti-Assyria party grew up. They had no real conception of the size, power and efficiency of the armies of Assyria.

2 Kings 15:17

‘In the thirty ninth year of Azariah king of Judah Menahem the son of Gadi began to reign over Israel, and reigned ten years in Samaria.’

Menahem’s reign is as usual dated in terms of the kings of Judah. He began to reign in the thirty ninth year of Azariah (note the reference to him as Uzziah in 2 Kings 15:13). This was again dated from the beginning of Azariah’s co-regency with his father. Menahem reigned for ten years.

2 Kings 15:18

‘And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH. All his days he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, by which he made Israel to sin.’

Menahem made no effort to change the current attitude towards religion in Israel, allowing the false cult set up by Jeroboam to continue. In view of what we know of his savagery this does not surprise us. Thus he ‘did evil in the sight of YHWH’ and did so for ‘all his days’. There was no true turning back to YHWH.

2 Kings 15:19

‘There came against the land Pul the king of Assyria, and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand.’

The result was that when Pul (Pulu = Tiglath Pileser III) invaded the territory late in Menahem’s reign Menahem paid tribute rather than resist. (It was understandable. Unless they succeeded in driving back the Assyrians, which was very unlikely without YHWH’s interference which they had forfeited by their religious attitudes, resistance would have resulted in widespread devastation and an increase in the tribute required). By this means he obtained the king of Assyria’s sanction to remain as king without undue interference. The tribute amounted to a thousand talents of silver, which was too much to be borne by the king’s treasury. It represented three million shekels, or thirty four thousand kilogrammes, or thirty seven tons of silver. This payment of tribute by Menahem is recorded in the Assyrian annals (Menahem is described as me-ni-hi-imme sa-me-ri-na-a). The name Pulu was the name which Tiglath Pileser III took when he ascended the throne of Babylon. It is testified to in Babylonian inscriptions.

2 Kings 15:20

‘And Menahem exacted the money from Israel, even from all the great men of wealth, of each man fifty shekels of silver, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back, and did not stay there in the land.’

Menahem obtained the tribute by taxing sixty thousand ‘great men of wealth’, an indication of Israel’s continuing prosperity. Each contributed fifty shekels. For most it was not a huge amount. Fifty shekels was at this time the price of a slave in Assyria. But it would cause a great deal of dissatisfaction and be a blow to national pride. They had never been so used before. The result was that the king of Assyria ‘turned back’ from invading the land, rather than occupying it. Menahem’s action was politically wise, but not acceptable to many independently minded Israelites (even though it saved them from total devastation).

2 Kings 15:21

‘Now the rest of the acts of Menahem, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?’

The remainder of what Menahem did could be found in the official annals of the kings of Israel.

2 Kings 15:22

‘And Menahem slept with his fathers, and Pekahiah his son reigned instead of him.’

Menahem died peacefully, and ‘slept with his fathers’ (which means no more than that he died). We are given no details of his burial. He was replaced by Pekahiah his son who would be acceptable to Assyria, conditional on him paying any tribute required. The take over appears to have taken place peacefully, at least initially.


Verses 23-26

The Reign Of Pekahiah King of Israel c. 742/41-740/39 BC (2 Kings 15:23-26).

Pekahiah (‘YHWH is open eyed’) succeeded his father, but it was as king of a country seething with discontent at having had to pay tribute to Assyria. Few in Israel actually really knew what they were now dealing with. To most the kings of Assyria were simply booty seeking kings who came and went (as they had done in the past), similar, for example, to the kings of Aram. The vision of a powerful country which exceeded the strength of all the surrounding nations put together and was building a great empire was outside their conception. Thus when Pekahiah came to the throne, and had presumably indicated that he would continue his father’s policy of submission to Assyria, it was inevitable that there would be a reaction. And that reaction took the form of his deputy who had been ruling on Menahem’s behalf in Gilead (or had set up a rival kingship in Gilead). He also was named Pekahiah, and therefore Pekah for short, (or took the name on becoming king), and he was himself anti-appeasement. He assassinated Pekahiah in Samaria, and took over the throne, presumably with the consent of most of Israel who favoured the anti-appeasement policy. They would learn their lesson too late.

Analysis.

· In the fiftieth year of Azariah king of Judah Pekahiah the son of Menahem began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned two years. And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH. He departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, by which he made Israel to sin (2 Kings 15:23-24).

· And Pekah the son of Remaliah, his deputy, conspired against him, and smote him in Samaria, in the castle of the king’s house, with Argob and Arieh, and with him were fifty men of the Gileadites, and he slew him, and reigned instead of him (2 Kings 15:25).

· Now the rest of the acts of Pekahiah, and all that he did, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel (2 Kings 15:26).

Note that in ‘a’ we have Pekahiah’s behaviour depicted and in the parallel are referred to the official annals for further information concerning his acts. Centrally in ‘b’ we have described the revolution against him.

2 Kings 15:23

‘In the fiftieth year of Azariah king of Judah Pekahiah the son of Menahem began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned two years.’

Pekahiah came to the throne about two years before Uzziah’s death. Once again Uzziah’s reign is calculated from when he became co-regent. The name Pekahiah (pkhy) appears on a Palestinian seal, and on a jar from Hazor. It means ‘YHWH is open-eyed’. He reigned for just over a year (two part years).

2 Kings 15:24

‘And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH. He departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, by which he made Israel to sin.’

In his short reign he made no attempt to return Israel to true Yahwism. He was content with the bastardised religion that Jeroboam I had introduced, a religion which resulted in many of the causes for dissatisfaction in Israel’s life-style..

2 Kings 15:25

‘And Pekah the son of Remaliah, his deputy, conspired against him, and smote him in Samaria, in the castle of the king’s house, with Argob and Arieh, and with him were fifty men of the Gileadites, and he slew him, and reigned instead of him.

Pekah, the son of Remaliah, was apparently a Gileadite from Transjordan, and he was clearly supported by a large majority of the people. This suggests that the reason for the revolt was Pekahiah’s attitude of appeasement and his loyalty towards Assyria, a policy that Israel would have done well to continue. Pekah was Pekahiah’s deputy ruler in Transjordan, and the fact that he arrived with a mere fifty men indicated that he expected the support of the whole of the people who had probably appealed to him to act. That he required so many was because he had to overcome those of the king’s bodyguard who were on duty. It was an organised rebellion. Argob and Arieh were probably two main supporters of Pekahiah’s policy of appeasement, or possibly even representatives of the king of Assyria. Argob may well have been named after the city of Argob in Transjordan, and his name could mean ‘eagle’, Arieh means ‘lion’. The attack was probably timed so that they would be found there with the king. The castle of the king’s house would be the well protected royal quarters.

2 Kings 15:26

‘Now the rest of the acts of Pekahiah, and all that he did, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel.’

The rest of the acts of Pekahiah could be found in the official royal annals. No indication is given of what happened to his body, which may suggest that it had been treated with contempt. Feelings were running high.


Verses 27-31

The Reign Of Pekah King Of Israel c. 739-732/31 BC (2 Kings 15:27-31).

The appeasement party having been defeated, and their king overthrown, Israel became mainly anti-appeasment, and as such would unite with others in order to be ready to oppose Assyria. One of the main parties in the conspiracy along with Pekah was Rezin king of Aram. Other interested parties included Philistia and Edom, and they had (false) hopes of assistance from Egypt. How were they to know that Egypt, which had always appeared to them a mighty power, were too weak at the time to be able to do anything against a power like Assyria? Assyria contemptuously called Egypt, ‘that broken reed of a staff which will pierce the hand of anyone who leans on it’ (2 Kings 18:21), and they were mainly right. They were strong enough to be able to protect themselves, but not to be able to help others.

Meanwhile there was a breathing space, presumably because Tiglath-pileser was busy elsewhere containing Urartu and Babylon, both of which he would later destroy. So one of the things that Pekah did, along with Rezin king of Aram who was ruling from Damascus, was try to persuade Judah to join the conspiracy (see Isaiah 7). When Jotham and then Ahaz refused, Pekah and Rezin invaded Israel (2 Kings 16:5), with the assistance of Philistia from the west and Edom from the south (2 Kings 16:6). Judah consequently appeared to be in desperate straits, but rather than yield, and against the advice of Isaiah, Ahaz appealed to Assyria (probably unnecessarily as Tiglath-pileser had probably already set out with a view to dealing with the conspiracy). Certainly the action of the invaders, while devastating parts of Judah, did suddenly cease, and that could only be because they were called on to face the might of Assyria. As a result Israel would only survive in part, (with a huge chunk of Israel becoming a province of Assyria), and that due to the assassination of Pekah and his replacement with Hoshea who immediately submitted to Assyria, while this was followed by Rezin and Damascus being destroyed and Aram became a province of Assyria ruled over by an Assyrian governor. However, as YHWH was not directly involved, the prophetic author of Kings covers the whole action in a few verses.

Analysis.

a In the fifty second year of Azariah king of Judah Pekah the son of Remaliah began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned twenty years. And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, by which he made Israel to sin (2 Kings 15:27-28).

b In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abel-beth-maacah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali (2 Kings 15:29 a).

c And he carried them captive to Assyria (2 Kings 15:29 b).

b And Hoshea the son of Elah made a conspiracy against Pekah the son of Remaliah, and smote him, and slew him, and reigned instead of him, in the twentieth year of Jotham the son of Uzziah (2 Kings 15:29).

a Now the rest of the acts of Pekah, and all that he did, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel (2 Kings 15:30).

Note that in ‘a’ we have the introduction to Pekah’s reign and a description of his behaviour, and in the parallel we are referred for the remainder of his acts to the official annals of the kings of Israel. In ‘b’ we have described the invasion of Tiglath-pileser, and in the parallel Pekah’s assassination by Hoshea. Centrally in ‘c’ we have described the exiling of large numbers of Israelites to Assyria.

2 Kings 15:27

‘In the fifty second year of Azariah king of Judah Pekah the son of Remaliah began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned twenty years.’

Pekah the son of Remaliah began to reign over Israel in Samaria towards the end of Uzziah’s life, and he reigned for twenty years, but the twenty years included the period when he was deputy ruler to Menahem and Pekahiah in Gilead. As sole ruler he ruled for about seven years. He may well have taken over Pekahiah’s name, either in order to deceive parts of Israel into thinking that there had been no change in ruler, or in order to confuse the king of Assyria.

Alternatively Pekah the son of Remaliah might have set up a separate state in Gilead in rebellion against Menahem and Pekahiah with his reign being counted from the day of the setting up of that state.

2 Kings 15:28

‘And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, by which he made Israel to sin.’

However, he continued to encourage the cult of Jeroboam, which Jeroboam had introduced into Israel, so that the covenant of YHWH was largely ignored and people behaved in a similar way to their neighbours in a selfish, callous and violent world, a subject constantly taken up by Hosea, Amos, Micah and Isaiah.

2 Kings 15:29

‘In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abel-beth-maacah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali.’

Pekah’s reward for his attitude towards Assyria was to see Israel’s armies driven back by the Assyrians with great slaughter and with city after city taken by the Assyrians in north Israel These cities in the land of Naphtali would never again be part of Israel but would be incorporated into Assyrian provinces. Naphtali would cease to exist.

Compare here 1 Kings 15:20 where Ijon, Dan and Abel-beth-maacah were border cities taken by the king of Aram in response to Asa’s plea for their assistance against Israel. Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah, Janoah, Kedesh and Hazor would be a line of border fortress cities, Hazor being well known from Joshua 11:1-15. For Hazor and Kedesh see Joshua 19:36-37. Janoah is Yanuh, north east of Acco. Gilead (Gal’za) and Galilee represented the larger districts around Naphtali. Galilee, and probably Gilead, were incorporated into the Assyrian province of Megiddo. The archaeological digs at Hazor have confirmed that it was destroyed by fire around this time, and a potsherd was discovered in the ruins containing Pekah’s name. All that was now left to Israel west of Jordan was the hill country of Ephraim around Samaria.

2 Kings 15:29

‘And he carried them captive to Assyria.’

Furthermore the Assyrians carried out their policy of transporting in chains, in the cruellest possible way, the cream of the inhabitants of northern Israel to Assyria and other areas (compare Isaiah 11:11, which, however, included other movements and transportations), replacing them with transportees from other such areas. The aim was to destroy nationalistic tendencies and divide up the opposition. The Nimrud tablet reads, ‘Israel (bit Humria) ---the total of its inhabitants I led off to Assyria. Peqaha (Pekah) their king they deposed, and I set Ausi (Hoshea) over them. I received from them as their tribute ten talents of gold and --- talents of silver and brought them to Assyria.’ This was a huge sum for a reduced and impoverished Israel to find. It was the price of rebellion.

2 Kings 15:30

‘And Hoshea the son of Elah made a conspiracy against Pekah the son of Remaliah, and smote him, and slew him, and reigned instead of him, in the twentieth year of Jotham the son of Uzziah.’

With Israel in process of being systematically destroyed by Assyria Hoshea the son of Elah took part in a conspiracy and assassinated Pekah, taking his throne and immediately seeking peace terms from Assyria. As we saw above Assyria claimed that it was on their initiative, but that was probably typical misrepresentation. This took place in the twentieth year of Jotham of Judah. The period was calculated from when Jotham became co-regent as a result of Uzziah’s illness in c. 750 BC, and is probably to be seen as a generalisation (he reigned from c. 750-731 BC). The Israel over which Hoshea ruled was a greatly reduced Israel.

2 Kings 15:31

‘Now the rest of the acts of Pekah, and all that he did, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel.’

The remaining acts of Pekah could be found in the official annals of the kings of Israel.


Verses 32-38

The Reign Of Jotham King Of Judah c. 740/39-732/1 BC. Co-regency Began c. 750 BC (2 Kings 15:32-38).

Prior to much of the above activity Jotham came to the throne of Judah, first as co-regent with his father Uzziah, and then as sole ruler. At his accession all was still quiet and peace reigned. Judah’s prosperity continued for a time. But towards the end of his reign the threat of Assyria began to loom on the horizon. Judah, however, in their mountain fastness, had never really been bothered by Assyria, except possibly on their western borders as Assyria dealt with the cities of the Philistines, and when he was probably pressed to join with Israel and Aram in an alliance against Assyria he refused. He saw no point in what he saw as unnecessary interference, and did not want to get involved.

Jotham was in fact an effective king (see 2 Chronicles 27:1-9), however, the sole achievement mentioned by the prophetic author connected with his reign is that of repairing one of the Temple gateways, which demonstrated his concern for YHWH. To the author only what we do for God counts for anything.

But towards the end of his reign his peace was shattered when Israel and Aram began to make preparations to attack Judah. This may have been simply because Judah, having refused to enter into an alliance were seen as an enemy, but the fact that it was also with the purpose of replacing the king of Judah with an already chosen Aramaean puppet king (Isaiah 7:6), suggests that a large part of the aim was to bring Judah within their alliance. Judah could not be left to do their own thing. It was either with them or against them. Note that they are depicted as sent by YHWH. It was a reminder that He was not satisfied with the state of things in Judah. In some ways fortunately for Jotham he died before things came to a head.

Analysis.

a In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah king of Israel Jotham the son of Uzziah king of Judah began to reign (2 Kings 15:32).

b He was twenty five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Jerusha the daughter of Zadok (2 Kings 15:33).

c And he did what was right in the eyes of YHWH, he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done. However, the high places were not taken away. The people still sacrificed and burned incense in the high places (2 Kings 15:34-35 a).

d He built the upper gate of the house of YHWH (2 Kings 15:35 b).

c Now the rest of the acts of Jotham, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? (2 Kings 15:36).

b In those days YHWH began to send against Judah Rezin the king of Aram, and Pekah the son of Remaliah (2 Kings 15:37).

a And Jotham slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father, and Ahaz his son reigned instead of him (2 Kings 15:38).

Note that in ‘a’ Jotham began to reign, and in the parallel he ceased reigning. In ‘b’ he reigned for sixteen years and in the parallel it was in those days that YHWH sent Rezin and Pekah against Judah. In ‘c’ His general behaviour is described and in the parallel we are reminded that we can find details of more of his acts in the official annals of the kings of Judah. Centrally in ‘d’ he demonstrated his concern for YHWH by carrying out repairs on the Temple.

2 Kings 15:32

‘In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah king of Israel Jotham the son of Uzziah king of Judah began to reign.’

This would be the second year of Pekah’s reign over all Israel. That was when Jotham began his sole rule in Judah, on the death of Uzziah. In some ways it was a momentous year for Judah because during it Isaiah began his long ministry (Isaiah 1:1; Isaiah 6:1).

2 Kings 15:33

He was twenty five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Jerusha the daughter of Zadok.’

Jotham (YHWH is perfect) was twenty five years old when he began to reign, although he had already been acting as co-regent along with his father for ten years. His reign lasted for sixteen years. The fact that he ruled ‘in Jerusalem’ was an indication that he was a son of David ruling under YHWH’s favour. The name of the new queen mother was Jerusha, who was the daughter of Zadok. The fact that her place of origin is not mentioned suggests that Zadok was well enough known for it to be considered unnecessary, possibly because he was descended from Zadok the high priest and part of the Zadokite clan in Jerusalem.

2 Kings 15:34

‘And he did what was right in the eyes of YHWH, he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done.’

He continued in the ways of his father by doing what was right in the eyes of YHWH, supporting the cult and maintaining its purity, and encouraging Judah to worship in accordance with the law of Moses. But, as Isaiah would bring out, that worship was on the whole too formalistic and not sufficiently from the heart, with the result that it did not result in righteous living (Isaiah 1:11-18). It was therefore necessary for them to recognise their uncleanness and come to Him for cleansing and mercy (Isaiah 6:5).

2 Kings 15:35

‘However, the high places were not taken away. The people still sacrificed and burned incense in the high places.’

And that was the trouble. The worship of so many was either formal or perverted. They still to some extent saw YHWH in terms of the nature gods which had always been worshipped in the high places in the land. And the king did little to remove these high places and bring the people back to true Yahwism. The worship of YHWH was being diluted.

2 Kings 15:35

‘He built the upper gate of the house of YHWH.’

But one thing that he did do which demonstrated his love towards YHWH and that was to rebuild the upper gate of the house of YHWH. he had a concern for the integrity of the house of YHWH.

2 Kings 15:36

‘Now the rest of the acts of Jotham, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?’

For further of his acts we are referred to the official annals of the kings of Judah.

2 Kings 15:37

‘In those days YHWH began to send against Judah Rezin the king of Aram, and Pekah the son of Remaliah.’

Apart from the building work carried out on the Temple the most notable feature of his reign from the author’s point of view was that YHWH demonstrated His discontent with the spiritual condition of Judah by sending against them Rezin the king of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah, the king of Israel. As we have already seen this was because they wanted to pressurise Judah into joining an alliance against the king of Assyria by establishing a puppet king over them, but the author recognised in it the hand of YHWH. It was a sign that He did not see all as right with Judah. Jotham died before their action began in earnest (‘they began to --’). It was his son Ahaz therefore who would bear the full brunt of the attack.

Rezin the king of Aram is mentioned in the Assyrian annals as Ra-hi-ia-nu in a list in which Menahem of Israel was also mentioned. Rezin may well have been a throne name, compare the variant Rezon in 1 Kings 11:23-25.

2 Kings 15:38

‘And Jotham slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father, and Ahaz his son reigned instead of him.’

Jotham died peacefully in his bed, and was buried with his fathers in the City of David as a true Davidide. And his son Ahaz ascended the throne.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 2 Kings 15:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/2-kings-15.html. 2013.

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Friday, December 13th, 2019
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