A Study of the History of the Kings of Ancient Israel
by miriam berg


Samaria, the capital of ancient Israel, fell in the year 722 BCE (before the common era). This is computed from the Assyrian records, which confirm that Shalmaneser V began the siege of Samaria in the year 724 BCE, and that Samaria was taken in the year 722 BCE by his successor Sargon II, who dispersed the captured Israelites throughout his realm and brought in other peoples to take their place. The siege thus lasted through three years, counting 724, 723, and 722 as separate years according to the biblical style of counting years.

The second book of the Kings, chapter 18, tells us that the fall of Samaria occurred in the 6th year of Hezekiah, so that the answer to the title question should be that it was Hezekiah. Yet nearly all books on the subject of the kings of ancient Israel and Judah tell us that Ahaz was the king in the year 722 B.C.E., and that Hezekiah did not become king until 714 or 715 B.C.E., 8 years after the fall of Samaria. Who is right?

I  first became interested in this question while I was writing a summary of the books of the Kings and I was using the dates computed by Isaac Asimov, who, while not a biblical scholar, nevertheless had done yeoman's work in computing the year BCE of each king of Israel and Judah. But then I discovered a comparison of the dates given by professors W.F.Albright and E.R.Thiele, and not only did they not agree with those given by Asimov but they didn't agree with each other. The placement of the reign of Azariah, for example, differs by 16 years between Albright and Thiele. Later I found the table of dates given by R.H.Pfeiffer, an eminent Old Testament scholar, and those dates didn't agree with Albright or Thiele either, or even Asimov. Chart I (see link below) shows a tabular comparison of the dates computed by these three scholars. This chart reveals that these three gentlemen do not agree on a single date, except for Hoshea, the last king of Israel. They don't even give the same date for the year Samaria fell! Further reading in reference works and encyclopedias only revealed that there was general lack of agreement on the dates of the kings. This seemed to me an intolerable situation.

So I set about myself trying to determine exactly what dates could be computed from the books of the Kings, as if they were the only source we had, and in the conviction that they MUST be internally consistent or they couldn't have been written. After struggling with the figures for many days I discovered a chronology which works, in that it preserves all the numbers the books of the Kings have given us, and that it is also internally consistent and agrees with the dates culled from Assyrian and Babylonian inscriptions. So before trying to answer the question I have posed, let us examine the method and principles of the Hebrew historians as I have discovered them, and then go through the chronology of the Kings as it is found in the books themselves according to those principles.