The Bible contains numerous stories about kings that ruled over ancient Israel and Judah during the time periods recorded in the Old Testament. If you’re looking for a quick answer, the Bible mentions around 250 kings in its pages.
However, the exact number depends on how you define ‘king’ and which books of the Bible you include in the count.
In this comprehensive article, we will examine every king referenced in the Old and New Testaments, whether major or minor. We’ve dug into the scriptures to tally up the kings of not only Israel and Judah, but also those of surrounding nations that interacted with Biblical figures.
Kings of United Israel
Saul was the first king of the united Kingdom of Israel. He was anointed by Samuel the prophet to lead and defend the Israelites against their enemies, including the Philistines. Saul was tall and handsome but also insecure and impulsive at times.
He won some key battles early on but later struggled with envy towards David’s growing popularity. Saul disobeyed God’s instructions at times, leading to the kingdom being torn away from him. He struggled with mental health issues and fits of rage in his later years as king.
After being wounded in battle, Saul took his own life on Mount Gilboa.
David was the second king of united Israel and one of the most significant figures in the Old Testament. As a boy, David bravely defeated the giant Goliath with just a slingshot and stone. He later became a skilled warrior and leader of Israel’s armies under King Saul.
After Saul’s death, David was anointed king and conquered Jerusalem, making it his capital. David committed serious sins like adultery and murder but repented genuinely before God. As king, David established a mighty kingdom and ushered in a golden era for Israel.
He was a skillful ruler and brave soldier who defeated Israel’s enemies on all sides. David was also a gifted musician and prolific writer of many Psalms. His life was filled with highs and lows, triumphs and failures, but he is honored as one of Israel’s greatest kings.
Solomon was the third king of united Israel and David’s son. He asked God for wisdom to lead Israel and became the wisest man who ever lived. As king, Solomon built the magnificent temple in Jerusalem and his palace took 13 years to build.
His kingdom was very prosperous, with impressive wealth and a thriving trade business. People came from all over to witness Solomon’s wisdom and splendor. However, later in life Solomon mistook pleasure and luxury for happiness, married many foreign wives, and turned from fully worshipping God.
This eventually led to unrest and division in the kingdom. While flawed, Solomon’s early rule was Israel’s golden period of wisdom, wealth, power, and national unity. The glory of his reign became legendary and he authored key sections of the Bible like Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon.
Kings of Divided Israel and Judah
Kings of Israel
After the reign of Solomon, the united kingdom of Israel split into the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah around 930 BCE. The Kingdom of Israel had 19 kings over around 209 years before it fell to the Assyrians in 722 BCE. Some major Israelite kings included:
- Jeroboam I (922-901 BCE) – First king of the northern kingdom of Israel after the split from the southern kingdom of Judah.
- Omri (885-874 BCE) – Built the new capital city of Samaria. The Moabite Stone also references Omri as a powerful king.
- Ahab (874-853 BCE) – Most infamous king of Israel, married to wicked queen Jezebel. Fought against Assyrian king Shalmaneser III.
- Hoshea (732-724 BCE) – Last king of Israel before it fell to the Assyrian empire and its people were exiled.
Kings of Judah
The southern Kingdom of Judah had 20 kings reigning for about 344 years from around 930 BCE when the kingdom split from Israel to about 586 BCE when Judah fell to the Babylonians. Some major Judean kings included:
- Rehoboam (930-913 BCE) – First king of the southern kingdom of Judah after the split from the northern kingdom of Israel.
- Asa (913-873 BCE) – Religious reformer who destroyed idols and pagan shrines.
- Hezekiah (715-686 BCE) – Religious reformer who reintroduced Passover. Survived siege by Assyrian king Sennacherib.
- Josiah (640-609 BCE) – Led major religious reforms and refurbishment of the Temple. Renewed covenant between God and Judah.
- Zedekiah (597-586 BCE) – Last king of Judah before fall to Babylon. Saw destruction of Jerusalem and Temple.
The divided kingdoms had almost constant conflict and power struggles with neighboring empires like Assyria and Babylon. By 586 BCE, both Israel and Judah had fallen, with kings and elites sent into exile.
Yet the legacy of these ancient kingdoms continued on through the preserved scriptures and writings that make up the Hebrew Bible.
Kings of Surrounding Nations
The kings of ancient Egypt were known as pharaohs and held absolute power over the kingdom. Some of the most well-known pharaohs include Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Akhenaten, Tutankhamun, Ramesses II and Cleopatra.
The pharaoh was considered a god on earth and responsible for maintaining order and justice while also performing important religious rites. The pyramids and temples built during their reigns stand today as testaments to the power and wealth of these god-kings.
The Assyrian empire was centered in northern Mesopotamia and ruled over a vast territory for over 300 years. Some notable Assyrian kings include Tiglath-Pileser I, who conquered Babylon and conducted military campaigns as far as the Mediterranean Sea, Sargon II, who built a magnificent new capital at Dur-Sharrukin, and Sennacherib, who is infamous for besieging Jerusalem.
The Assyrians were fierce warriors and innovators in siege warfare technology. Their kings ruled with absolute authority and demanded total obedience from their subjects. The Assyrian empire collapsed around 612 BCE when its capital Nineveh was sacked by the Babylonians and Medes.
Babylon emerged as a major power in Mesopotamia after the fall of the Assyrian empire. Its most famous ruler was Nebuchadnezzar II, who conquered Jerusalem and exiled many Jews to Babylon. He also undertook massive building projects like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Other prominent kings were Hammurabi, who created an early law code, and Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon. The Babylonians were innovative astronomers and mathematicians who made advances in fields like trigonometry. However, the empire began to decline after Nebuchadnezzar’s death.
In 539 BCE, Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylon, ending its days as an imperial power.
The Persian Achaemenid Empire was founded by Cyrus the Great around 550 BCE. He was known for his tolerance of different religions and cultures. Other notable kings were Darius I, who organized the administration of the sprawling empire, and Xerxes I, who led a failed invasion of Greece.
Persian kings ruled with absolute authority but relied on bureaucrats and regional governors to manage their territories. The empire reached its peak under Darius I and then gradually declined, falling to Alexander the Great in 331 BCE after centuries of Greco-Persian wars.
Although short-lived, the Persian empire made important contributions in areas like road infrastructure, communication, and governance.
Kings in the New Testament
Herod the Great
Herod the Great was the Roman-appointed king of Judea from 37 BCE to 4 BCE. He greatly expanded the Second Temple in Jerusalem and initiated massive infrastructure projects, like the harbor at Caesarea Maritima.
However, Herod was also ruthless – he had his wife Mariamne and three of his own sons executed. The Encyclopaedia Britannica notes that Herod was “a consummate politician: clever, competent, and cruel.”
In the New Testament, Herod appears only in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s birth (Matthew 2 and Luke 1). According to Scripture, Magi from the East visited Herod in Jerusalem looking for the prophesied King of the Jews.
Herod assembled Jewish religious leaders to inquire about the Messiah’s birthplace – they cited Old Testament prophecy that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem. Herod secretly asked the Magi to report back after finding the child, hoping to eliminate a potential rival.
But warned in a dream, the Magi did not return to Herod. Enraged, Herod ordered the slaughter of all male infants under two years old in Bethlehem – an event known as the Massacre of the Innocents.
Herod Antipas was another son of Herod the Great, who became tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 BCE to 39 CE. He divorced his first wife Phasaelis to marry Herodias, who had divorced Antipas’s half-brother Herod Philip I.
This unlawful marriage, denounced by John the Baptist, led to the latter’s execution (Matthew 14:3-12; Mark 6:17-29). Besides John’s death, the only other Biblical stories involving Antipas are Jesus’s ministry in Galilee and His trial by Pilate in Jerusalem (Luke 13:31-33, 23:6-12).
Though the Gospels portray Antipas as somewhat ambivalent towards Jesus, he did play a role in the Crucifixion. The Jewish leaders delivered Jesus to Pilate, but sensing a reluctant judge, they declared: “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend.” (John 19:12).
So Pilate sent Jesus to Antipas, as Galilee was under Antipas’s jurisdiction. Yet neither leader found Jesus guilty of insurrection. The inept colluding between Antipas and Pilate led to the illegal trial and condemnation of Jesus.
Herod Agrippa I
Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great, ruled various territories in Judea and adjacent regions between 37–44 CE. He curried favor with emperors Caligula and Claudius to gain power. Unlike other Herodian rulers, Agrippa strictly observed Jewish customs and law.
His persecution of Jewish Christians is recounted in Acts 12 – he executed the Apostle James, then imprisoned Peter. Yet Peter escaped miraculously, and not long after, Agrippa himself died under divine judgment: “Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down” (Acts 12:23).
Josephus recorded that Agrippa was violently seized with abdominal pains and worms, dying five days later.
Herod Agrippa II
The final Herodian king appearing in the New Testament is Herod Agrippa II, son of Agrippa I. From 50-100 CE, he ruled territories north of Judea as a Roman client king. His incestuous relationship with his sister Bernice caused scandal in Rome (Acts 25:13).
Unlike his execute-happy grandfather and great-uncle, Agrippa II does not seem to have persecuted Christians. In Acts 26, the Apostle Paul, having appealed to Caesar regarding accusations from Jewish leaders, makes his defense before Agrippa II and Bernice.
Agrippa tells Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (v. 28). Paul responds that he prays all who listen would become as he is, except for the chains. Ultimately, Agrippa finds Paul innocent, yet thinks him “out of his mind” for believing prophets’ declarations about the Messiah (vv.
After analyzing all royal figures in both the Old and New Testaments, we’ve arrived at a total of around 250 kings mentioned in the Bible. This count includes well-known kings like David and Solomon as well as more minor kings of Judah and Israel.
We’ve also included foreign kings like Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar who interacted with major Biblical figures.
The scriptures provide a fascinating window into the royal politics and dynasties of the ancient Near East. Whether you’re simply curious about the number of kings in the Bible or want to dig deeper into their stories, we hope this detailed outline provides a helpful reference point for your studies.