Previous to the fall of Samaria, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria made several excursions into Israel. The biblical records mention three:

The first was against Menahem (2 Kings 15:19-20) but he was ‘bought off’ with money, and withdrew.

The second is mentioned in 1 Chron. 5:26, where he captured the 3 eastern tribes and deported them. “So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, the spirit of Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and he took them into exile, namely, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river Gozan, to this day.”

The third was against Pekah (2 Kings 15:29) when he captured several northern tribes. “In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and he carried the people captive to Assyria.”

My question relates to the last 2 cases. Did the invasion of the east of Israel, and the invasion of the north, happen at the same time? They would have both been during the reign of Pekah, but his reign lasted 20 years. So were they the same, or were they separate occasions? I would also be interested in Assyrian records that might add additional information to these biblical accounts.


1 Answer 1


Assyria seized control of all of Aram (Syria) and the northern kingdom of Israel in a single military operation during the Syro-Ephraimite War, c.734-732 BCE. Only the highland region of Ephraim (Samaria) survived the war relatively untrampled. It retained the name 'Israel', though only for a decade until it too was destroyed.

Current scholarship suggests Israel under King Pekah was not Aram’s equal partner in a rebel alliance against Assyria (and Judah, it's tribute) but was Aram’s subordinate. Accordingly, when Assyria took Damascus in c.733 BCE and killed Aram's king, Rezin, it effectively took Israel as well.

In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser the king of Assyria came and took Ijon, Abel-Beth-Maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, the Gilead, the Galilee, and all the land of Naphtali; then he deported them to Assyria. (2Kgs.15:39, LEB)

According to Watanabe, Pekah's subordinate role to Rezin “explains why II Kings 15:29 states the Assyrian incorporation of these [northern and eastern Israelite] areas without claiming that Assyria took them from Israel.” Under Tiglath Pileser III, Aram and the easily occupied areas of Israel were subjected to destruction and deportation, then annexed into the Assyrian Empire.

The Ephraimite hill country (Samaria) survived. Pekah had been assassinated by Hosea, who was then himself installed by Tiglath Pileser III as king of a much-reduced 'Israel.' According to an Assyrian inscription, Tiglath Pileser III accepted "10 talents of gold, (?) talents of silver" as Israel's tribute, then he withdrew to Assyria.

By 732 BCE Assyria controlled the entire Levant. The Mediterranean coast, Aram, and Israel (except Ephraim) were provincialized. The new 'Israel', Judah, and the Transjordan countries paid tribute and remained Assyrian satellite states until Tiglath Pileser III's death in 727.


Vann D. Rolfson, “The Syro-Ephraimite War: Context, Conflict, and Consequences,” Studia Antiqua, Vol.2, No.1 (2002), pp.87-100.

Hiroaki Watanabe, “The Syro-Ephraimite War and its lmplications.”

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