Pekah was the king of Israel. Pekah ascended to Israel’s throne with great ambition to neutralize the Assyrian threat to his country. He was so disastrously unsuccessful that by the time his reign ended just five years later, Israel had ceded two-thirds of its territory.
Being from the northern kingdom, it hardly bears mentioning that Pekah was a failure in God’s eyes—not one king of Israel managed to remain true to the Lord. Pekah had come to power by treacherous means. When he was a royal official serving in the government of his predecessor, Pekah assassinated the king and seized the throne for himself.
Once in power, Pekah concocted a plan to push back the ever-growing Assyrian threat.
Unfortunately, time was not on Israel’s side—Pekah consolidated his power less than twenty years before the nation collapsed under the weight of invasion. However, Pekah was convinced that by allying himself with other regional powers, together they could defeat the Assyrians. Pekah appears to have tried in vain to coerce Judah to join the alliance, but king Ahaz of Judah resisted, probably acting on instructions from the prophet Isaiah.
In retaliation, Pekah marched against Jerusalem. While unsuccessful at toppling Ahaz, Pekah’s army managed to slaughter 120,000 soldiers of Judah. Some time later, the king of Assyria marched on Israel, invading from the north. The nation was overrun—Gilead and Galilee fell, and thousands were deported. Having lost two-thirds of their territory, many in Israel must have grumbled against Pekah. One man, Hoshea, took matters into his own hands and killed the Israelite king. In an ironic twist, Pekah’s short reign ended with similar bloodshed that marked its beginning.
Pekah’s aggression against Judah provided the original context for one of the most famous prophecies in the Bible. Isaiah, having assured the king of Judah that Pekah’s invasion would ultimately fail, encouraged Ahaz to ask God for a sign. When Ahaz refused, God gave him one anyway: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
Centuries later, Matthew applied this prophecy to the miraculous virgin birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:22–23).