The sought after alliance with King So of Egypt is recorded on the Biblical Timeline Chart With World History around 700 BC. This event, however, started with Menahem, a usurper who killed King Shallum to gain the throne and paid tribute to Tiglath-pileser III to tighten his grip on power. The Assyrian king was content to let Israel exist after his invasion as long as Menahem continued to pay him tribute (2 Kinga 15:19-20). Twelve years later, Menahem’s son Pekahiah was killed by Pekah, who then declared himself king in Samaria. Tiglath-pileser invaded Israel once again. This time, he conquered a large swath of the kingdom and deported the people to other territories (2 Kings 15:29).
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After Tiglath-pileser’s death, his son Shalmaneser V inherited the Assyrian throne while Israel was now ruled by Hoshea. The Assyrian king then followed the footsteps of his father and launched a new invasion of Israel. Because of this, King Hoshea was forced to pay tribute for Shalmaneser to stop the attacks. Some time later, Hoshea decided to stop paying the heavy tribute required by Shalmaneser and asked King So of Egypt to help him in a bid for independence. The news of Hoshea’s rebellion reached Shalmaneser, and it was not long until the Assyrian army came back to Israel for another wave of invasion. But Shalmaneser was not in a forgiving mood this time, and he put Hoshea in prison (2 Kings 17:3). A large part of the population of Israel was then exiled to Assyrian territories soon after.
Identity of King So
Egypt was in the Third Intermediate Period when the Neo-Assyrian empire reached the peak of its power. It was not the strong and influential kingdom it once was when it was ruled by native Egyptians. It was ruled by several dynasties of foreign kings. Including the Libyan Meshwesh tribe, as well as the Nubians from the south.
The name “So” itself was in the Egyptian king list, so his identity was a mystery for a long time. Egyptologist Hans Goedicke first identified him as the 24th Dynasty pharaoh Tefnakht, who ruled from 724-717 BC. The date of his rule would make him a contemporary of the kings Shalmaneser V and Hoshea. Another possibility is that “So” is the 22nd Dynasty Libyan ruler Osorkon IV, who ruled from 730 to 712 BC. Both pharaohs ruled a fragmented Egypt almost at the same time with Tefnakht ruling from Sais and Osorkon IV ruling from Tanis in the Eastern Delta. His inability to help Hoshea and Egypt’s declining power were evident in the Assyrian inscription about a king “Shilkanni” of Egypt who presented Sargon II with twelve horses as tribute.
Tenney, Merrill C., and Moisés Silva. The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible. Revised Full Color ed. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009
Ritner, Robert Kriech. The Libyan Anarchy: Inscriptions from Egypt’s Third Intermediate Period. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009
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