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King Jeroboam II of Israel
King Uzziah of Judah
Amos the Prophet
King Zechariah of Israel
Shallum and Menachem, of Israel
Chronology of the kingdoms until King Jotham
The campaign of Ashuar-Dan III of Assyrian
The Millennium eclipse (763 BCE)
Hebrew years 2880 to 3000 (880-760 BCE)
~~~ Part I ~~~ Part II ~~~
Jeroboam, son of Jehoash, succeeded his father in Israel, and reigned for 41 years (II Kings 14:23). Although the new king did not depart from the sinful conduct of his fathers, God however saw the affliction of Israel and decided He would not allow the name of Israel to be blotted out from the face of the earth. So He instructed Jonah the prophet to go to Ninive and announce their destruction (as the threat to the Kingdom of Israel was rising). But Jonah fled from his mission and, although the Biblical text only alludes to it, Jonah was given the other task to prophesize that Jeroboam will secure his kingdom:
He [Jeroboam II] restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath [Hamat-Geder, border of the Golan in the North] unto the sea of the Arabah [the Western coastline], according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which He spoke by the hand of His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-hepher. (2 Kings 14:25)
Jonah was not an ordinary person and God didn't allow him to die until his original mission will be accomplished: prophesizing the destruction of Nineveh, some generations later...
Also, God had given the promise to Jehu king of Israel to have four generations of his children to reign over Israel, and Jeroboam was the 3rd generation. So God made Jeroboam successful in his military campaigns against the enemies of Israel and also of Judah, especially after the kingdom of Judah was weakened by the lack of a king, while Azariah was still too young to succeed his father Amaziah. Jeroboam did not however take too much advantage of the situation to oppress Judah and God recompensed him with a long reign.
Azariah started to reign in the 27th year of reign of Jeroboam II (II Kings 15:1). He was 16 years old and had been educated in the path of God. God granted him an exceptionally long reign of 52 years (II Kings 15:1-2). His name was later changed to Uzziah.
It is during the reigns of Jeroboam and Uzziah that Amos prophetized the destructions of all the kingdoms in the Levant, including Israel and Judah. During his time, an powerful earthquake also shook the region.
Yea, you shall flee, like as you fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.--- Zechariah 14:5
Amos the Prophet (Gustave Doré, 1868)
When Amos came to prophetize in the kingdom of Israel, he was rejected and told by Amaziah, the priest of pagan Beth-El, to return to Judah:
Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah: 'I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was a herdman, and a dresser of sycamore-trees; and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said unto me: Go, prophesy unto My people Israel. Now therefore hear you the word of the Lord: You say: Prophesy not against Israel, and preach not against the house of Isaac; Therefore thus says the Lord: Your wife shall be a harlot in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be divided by line; and you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of his land.' --- Amos 7:14-17
God told him about an eclipse that will mark the start of His punishment onto His people. This eclipse took place 40 years later, day for day:
And it shall come to pass in that day, says the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day. And I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning for an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day. --- Amos 8:9-10
This eclipse was actually recorded in Assyrian records as having occurred in June 763 BCE of their calendar, which corresponds to about the Hebrew year 3000 due to the difference of noting the calendars in Mesopotamia and in Canaan. It corresponds to the first time when an Assyrian king entered the region and threatens the Israelite kingdoms.
Amaziah the priest of Beth-El tried to slander against Amos so that Jeroboam would execute the prophet, but the king showed restraints and rejected the slander:
And whence do we know that he [Jeroboam] did not heed slander? Because it is written, Then Amaziah the priest of Beth-el sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying: Amos has conspired against you [etc.]; and it is written, For thus Amos saith: Jeroboam shall die by the sword [etc.]. Said he [Jeroboam]: ‘Heaven forfend that that righteous man should have said thus! Yet if he did say, what can I do to him! The Shechinah told it to him. --- Talmud, Pesachim, 87b
After failing with Jeroboam, Amaziah probably tried to carry out a punishment nonetheless because, according to an apocryphic text, Amos was deadly wounded by Amaziah’s son who had also been cursed by Amos’ prophesy:
He [Amos] was from Tekoa. Amaziah (the priest of Bethel) had often beaten him, and at last Amaziah's son killed him with a cudgel, striking him on the temple [of the golden calf in Beth-El]. While still living he made his way to his land, and after some days died and was buried there. --- Torrey, Charles Cutler, The Lives of the Prophets, 1946, Amos 1-2
According to the Talmud, Amos and Amaziah, the king of Judah, were brothers, and according to the Bible, Amos’son was to become Isaiah the Prophet (Isaiah 1:1):
Rabbi Levi further said: The following is a tradition that we have from our ancestors, that Amos and Amaziah were brothers. --- Talmud, Megilah, 10b
The last king from the House of Jehu was Zechariah, son of Jeroboam II. But he only started to reign 13 years after his father had died, most probably because, like Azariah in Judah, he was too young to reign for the time being. This situation surely caused some parties to enjoy the independence from a king. So, when Zechariah was called to reign, he only did so for six months before being murdered (II Kings 15:8).
Zechariah was killed publicly in the capital of Samaria by a conspirator called Shallum, son of Jabesh, who took over the throne from the house of Jehu after this dynasty reigned for 120 years. But the duration was only 100 years from the divine promise to Jehu, which corresponds to four times 25 years for four human generations.
Shallum did not enjoy his new position very long because another party led by Menachem came from Tirzah and killed him after one month. Then Menachem reigned in his stead (II Kings 15:13). However this new coup was not easily accepted by the people so Menachem had to crush some cities of the kingdom that rebelled against his usurpation. And, maybe as a divine punishment for his murder, he would be the first king of Israel to have to deal with a new much more powerful invader towards the end of his reign: Assyria.
To save his kingdom, Menachem forced his nation to pay a tribute that had cost every family of Israel a high levy. It was a matter of time before their displeasure would lead them to conspire. He did not reign long, 10 years only (II Kings 15:17). When he died, his son Pekahiah reigned for two years before being murdered by the head of the Israelite army, Pekah son of Remaliah.
In Judah, as Uzziah did not destroy the altars of idolatry that were in his country, God punished him and he became a leper towards the end of his life. When this happened, he was put in a separate house as it was the custom then to avoid epidemies. Instead, his son Jotham was reigning as regent until he officially reigned when his father died (II Kings 15:15).
Chronology of the Kings - until Jotham
Towards the end of the 25th generation, Assyria reached the Levant for the first time and threatened the various states in that region. The only way for the kingdoms to avoid destruction was to pay a big tribute:
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. And Menahem exacted the money of Israel, even of all the mighty 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 stayed not there in the land. --- II Kings 15:19-20 Pul means "heir" or "prince" in Assyrian, as for example the name of King Ashurbanipal was actually Assur-Nasir-aPli which means "Ashur is the guardian of the Heir". So why would the king of Assyria would be referred as the "heir" in the Biblical text? Because, after the death of the powerful king called Adad-Nirari III, the kingdom of Assyria went through a series of crisis in which three of his sons will successively reign over the realm. There were the "heirs" and it was important for them to be declared so in their very title, in order to avoid any conflict of succession or claim of legitimacy.
The Pul of the Bible was one of these three brothers: Ashur-Dan III. He was the one who led military expeditions to strengthen his kingdom at a time when internal feuds threatened its future and after the reign of his brother, Shalmanezer IV, for whom little is known about the reign. This lack of records means that didn't achieve much and was probably a weak ruler.
Ashur-Dan III reigned between 773 and 755 BCE. In order to build the legitimacy of his reign, Ashur-Dan III had to declare himself as the "heir", although he only was the third son to reign. He also had to lead the Assyrian army into successful military campaigns as it was customary for rulers to maintain themselves in power. This is what he did in the Levant, although his campaign stopped at the entrance of kingdom of Israel when the king Menachem agreed to pay the high tribute. This was a good enough achievement for Ashur-Dan after having conquered the northern countries north from Israel. So, after getting the payment, he turned back as the Biblical text states it.
Assyrian horseman (British Museum)
According to Assyrian chronology, his kingdom was hit by a plague in 765 BCE, which would have been another reason for him to turn back as potential problems caused by a national calamity would have made his presence more important in Nineveh at this time. Ashur-Dan III would be succeeded in 755 BCE by another brother Ashur-Nirari V.
The eclipse announced to Amos the Prophet occurred at the turn of the millennium of the Hebrew calendar, which corresponded to about 763 BCE in Assyrian chronology. Their historical records also mention this eclipse during the reign of Ashur-Dan III.
The eclipse of June 763 BCE, observed by Ashur-Dan III in Nineveh (source: Myths and Legends of Babylonia)