I. THE FALL OF SAMARIA
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.