Which of the twenty monarchs of ancient Israel, who ruled over the northern ten tribes, were laid to rest in the nation's capital? Who was the only Biblical Israelite king to have his grave in Assyria?
We will first delve into the deaths and burial locations of Israel's first four kings before the nation split apart into two separate kingdoms. We will then explore the demise of the twenty Biblical sovereigns who reigned over the northern ten tribes that are referenced as the Kingdom of Israel.
Rulers of a united nation
Saul, who was anointed Israel's first human king in 1050 B.C., was killed in battle by the Philistines. This brutal enemy, after decapitating his corpse, arranged for his head to take a whirlwind tour of their idolatrous houses of worship as a perverse war trophy (1Samuel 31). As if such an act wasn't gross and evil enough, instead of burying his body in a grave they staple it to Bethshan's wall!
King Saul's body, minus his head, is ultimately recovered, burned and buried in Jabesh (1Samuel 31:12 - 13). David, however, retrieves his remains and, in a show of respect, entombs them in the sepulcher of Saul's father located in Zelah (Zela, 2Samuel 21:12 - 14). Though likely close to Jerusalem, the exact location of this Benjamite city with Saul's grave is unknown.
At the age of seventy King David, Israel's greatest human ruler, dies of natural causes (1Kings 2:10, Acts 2:29). He is laid to rest, with great riches and honor, in Jerusalem that he conquered and made his capital.
Ishbosheth, one of Saul's sons, ruled over most of Israel for two years at the same time David was king over the tribe of Judah (2Samuel 2:1 - 4, 8 - 9). His reign abruptly ends when he is murdered in Mahanaim. The two men who killed him take his head to David as proof of his demise.
Ishbosheth's head is buried by King David at Hebron (2Samuel 4:12), while his body was likely placed in a grave in Mahanaim (2Samuel 2:8, 4:5 - 7).
Solomon, David's son, was king over God's people for forty years before dying of natural causes (1Kings 11:43). He is buried with great honor and riches, like his father, in Jerusalem.
The Kingdom of Israel
The northern ten tribes of Israel, in 930 B.C., rejected the rule of Solomon's son Rehoboam and formed their own nation. Their first capital was, for only a brief period, located at Shechem (1Kings 12:25). Jeroboam, however, the first king, soon moved it to Tirzah (see 1Kings 14:17). Tirzah stayed Israel's capital until Omri moved it to Samaria around 879 B.C. Samaria then remained the capital until the nation was conquered in 723 B.C.
Jeroboam was the first ruler over the northern ten tribes (the Kingdom of Israel). His many sins ultimately leads God to strike him down (2Chronicles 13:20). Jeroboam's grave is likely in Tirzah (see 1Kings 14:17 - 20).
Nadab, the son of Jeroboam, was killed in Gibbethon by Baasha who would become his successor (1Kings 15:27). Although the Bible is silent regarding the location of his grave, it was likely Tirzah where his father was buried.
Baasha ruled for twenty-three years (inclusive counting) before dying and being buried in Tirzah (1Kings 16:6).
Elah, the son of Baasha, ruled for only two years. His reign was cut short when Zimri, one of his chariot captains, murdered him. Elah was buried in Tirzah in 885 B.C. (1Kings 16:9 - 10).
Zimri ruled Israel for only seven days in 885 B.C., the shortest of any king. His traitorous murder of Elah was quickly discovered by Omri, who immediately began to attack Tirzah and the king's palace. Zimri, after the city fell, committed suicide by setting his palace on fire (1Kings 16:15 - 18).
Only half of Israel supported Omri when he took the throne in 885 B.C. The other half of the kingdom backed Tibni as a rival king. Omri, after Tibni's death in 880, became the sole monarch over God's people (1Kings 16:21 - 22). So little is written and known about Tibni, however, that it is unknown from which city he ruled, how he died, or where his grave is located.
Omri rises to power after killing King Zimri. Six years after taking the throne he moves the nation's capital from Tirzah to Samaria (1Kings 16:23 - 24). In 874 B.C. he dies and his grave is placed in the newly created capital (16:28).
King Ahab, the son of Omri, begins his rule in 874 B.C. He and his evil wife Queen Jezebel indulge in sin far more than their predecessors did. He dies while fighting the Syrians, a death that was prophesied to occur (1Kings 21:19, 22:30 - 37). His grave lies in the city of Samaria (22:37).
Ahaziah, son of Ahab, assumes the throne in 853 B.C. He quickly becomes, however, bedridden after an accident leads to a protracted sickness (2Kings 1:2, 4, 16). After seeking healing from a pagan deity, God punishes him by declaring he will never leave his bed. Ahaziah perishes, without having produced an heir, after ruling for only a year. His grave is likely in Samaria (1:17).
Joram (Jehoram in 2Kings 1:17), another son of Ahab, assumes the throne upon Ahaziah's death. He is killed, in 841 B.C., by Jehu in partial fulfillment of a prophecy that declared Ahab's descendants would be cut off from ruling over God's people (9:6 - 9, see also 10:1 - 11).
Joram's grave, also in fulfillment of prophecy, ends up being in a field near Jezreel (2Kings 9:25 - 26). He becomes the first king of Israel, since the nation began in 930 B.C., to be buried outside the capital.
Jehu is anointed by God to assume the throne after Joram's death (2Kings 9:1 - 3). He rules for twenty-seven years before dying and being laid to rest in Samaria (10:35).
Jehoahaz, son of Jehu, assumes the throne upon his father's death. He continues to rebel against God, as previous rulers had done, and is buried in Samaria (2Kings 13:9).
Jehoash, the son of Jehoahaz, is also called Joash in 2Kings 13:13 and 14:1. He reigns for sixteen years before his death in Samaria in 782 B.C. (14:16).
The second king of Israel named Jeroboam was the son of Jehoash (2Kings 14:16). He reigned for forty-one years, the most of any of the northern ten tribes' rulers. His grave is in Samaria. (14:28 - 29).
Zechariah (sometimes spelled Zachariah), the son of Jeroboam II, began his rule in 753 B.C. His reign is cut short after Shallum, who would become his successor, murders him. He was likely buried in Samaria (2Kings 15:8 - 10).
Shallum, who had stopped King Zechariah's rule after only six months in power, had his own reign abruptly ended when Menahem killed him. He was likely buried in Samaria after serving as ruler for only one month (2Kings 15:13 - 14).
Menahem, in 752 B.C., became king after murdering Shallum. His evil and bloody reign lasted for ten years until he was finally buried in Samaria (2Kings 15:17 - 22).
Pekah sets up a rival throne over Israel the same year Menahem comes to power. This rivalry continues until he murders Pekahiah, Menahem's son and successor, and becomes sole king. Pekah's own rule ends when he is murdered by Hoshea and buried in Samaria (2Kings 15:27 - 30).
Pekahiah takes the throne of Israel upon his father's death in 742 B.C. His rule is cut short to only two years after he is murdered by Pekah (2Kings 15:23 - 25). His grave is likely in Samaria.
King Hoshea assumes the throne of Israel as sole sovereign in 732 B.C. Near the start of his seventh year of rule he is taken prisoner by the Assyrian Empire. The Assyrians then launch a three-year military campaign that culminates with the taking of Samaria in 723. The people, including Hoshea, are taken captive out of the land to the Assyrian cities of Halah, Harbor and others. Hoshea dies in Assyria (2Kings 17:1 - 6, 18:9 - 11).