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PERSIA & CREATION OF JUDAISM

Book 4. Sacred History or Phoney History?

History of Assyria


 

 

To Tiglath-Pileser I

 

The origin of Assyria is obscure. Iranian people had power between the rivers for long periods. The Gutians, the Quti, and the Lullubu in succession ruled in Akkad after its empire fell. The Kassites came into the northern edges of Babylonia about 1700 BC and eventually took over the whole country and ruled it for 600 years. From 900 BC, Aramaeans began to make up a substantial proportiuon of the population of Babylon. Even after the Kassites had thoroughly assimilated into the Babylonians, the Iranian tribe remained on the Plateau, and Assyrians mention them as late as the seventh century.

In the light of the putative origins of Israel, von Soden says that “tribes” and “nations” are both words that scarcely apply to the ancient near east. By the start of recorded history, the people of the region, except for desert Bedouins, and the Indo-European tribes entering from the east had already passed the tribal phase of society. On the other hand, mainly nothing existed like the modern nation states. In most of the period, the political entity was the city state, anything approximating to nation states barely appearing much before classical times. Only the large empires achieved nationhood before the end of this period.

The author of Genesis 10 says the Assyrians are the descendants of Assur, one of the sons of Sem (Shem, Gen 10:22).

…begat Nimrod. He began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before Yehouah, wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before Yehouah. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. Out of that land went forth Assur, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, And Resen between Nineveh and Calah, the same is a great city.
Gen 10:8-12

 

Shem mythologically will refer to Shamash, the sun god, showing that Assur is a son of the sun god and would have had solar attributes himself. Nimrod here in the bible is Ninurta, the Babylonian god of the hunt. Mythologically, this passage was interpreted as that Assur left Babylonia, where Nimrod the terrible was reigning, and settled in Assyria, where he built the cities of Nineveh, Rehoboth, Calah, and Resen. Now, the interpretation is that Nimrod himself, the beginning of whose kingdom was Babylon (Babel), Erech, Accad, and Calneh in Southern Babylonia went up to Assyria, Assur here meaning Assyria, not the god, Assur, and there he built the four cities and founded Assyria. Either interpretation says that the Assyrians were a Babylonian colony.

Early Assyrian rulers had the title of Ishshaku, governor, and seemed subject to some outside power, presumably Babylonia. Some of the earliest of these Ishshaki known to us are Shamshi-Adad I (or Shamshi-Rimmon, 1813-1781 BC) and his son Ishmi-Dagan (1781-1741 BC). The apparent cruelty of the Assyrians in their exaggerated death tolls of defeated enemies and their cruel illustrations of their victories hides a rarely expressed humanity, Von Soden says. The publication of their supposed excesses was delibarate propaganda to induce their enemies to yield the more readily, but even as early as this Ishshaku, Shamshi-Adad I, the king instructed his son, Ishme-Dagan, to treat conquered people such that they would readily recognize the king without force. The next step from this is to claim, in the victory propaganda, that the aim was not to harm the people but to save them! This is what these rulers eventually did.

The two cities of Nineveh and Assur were certainly in existence at the time of Hammurabi (1792-1740 BC) for in one of his letters he mentions them. In a long inscription (300 lines), Agumkakrime, one of the Kassitic rulers of Babylonia (c 1700 BC), enumerated the countries he ruled, but did not mention Assyria. So, an independent Assyrian kingdom seemed to emerge towards the seventeenth century BC. An inscription of Esarhaddon (680-669 BC), written in archaic Babylonian, says the first Assyrian Ishshaku to assume the title of king was Belu-bani (now dated 1698-1689 BC).

Towards the fifteenth century BC, Egytian supremacy extended over Syria and the Mesopotamian valley. In one of the royal inscriptions of Thutmose III of Egypt (1504-1450 BC), Assyria is among his tributary nations. From the Tel-el-Amarna letters, diplomatic negotiations and correspondences were frequent among the rulers of Assyria, Babylonia, Syria, Mitanni, and the Egyptian Pharaohs, especially Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten, 1350-1334 BC).

In this period, the kings of Assyria are equal with those of Babylonia, and successfully contesting with the latter for the boundaries of their kingdom. Puzur-Assur III (1519-1496 BC) settled the boundary-lines of his kingdom with his contemporary Burnaburiash I, a Kassite king of Babylon. The same treaty was also settled between Assur-bel-nisheshu (1417-1409 BC) and Karaindash of Babylonia. Assur-nadin-ahhe (1400-1391 BC) is mentioned by Assur-uballit(1363-1328 BC), in one of his letters to Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten, 1350-1334 BC), king of Egypt, as his father and predecessor, but he was actually the son of Eriba-adad (1390-1364 BC) who was the son of Assur-bel-nisheshu, not Assur-nadin-ahhe. The uncle of Assur-bel-nisheshu who also reigned in Assyria only twenty years before was also called Assur-nadin-ahhe (c 1450-1431). The relationships of these kings is obviously not properly understood, and probably the political situation in Assyria also.

Enlil-nirari (1327-1318 BC), Assur-uballit’s successor on the throne of Assyria, made war against Kurigalzu II (1332-1308 BC) of Babylon and defeated him at the city of Sugagu, annexing the northern part of Babylonia to Assyria. Enlil-nirari was succeeded by his son, Arik-den-ilu (1317-1306 BC), who undertook several successful military expeditions to the east and southeast of Assyria and built various temples, and of whom few, but important, inscriptions remain. His successor was Adad-nirari I (1305-1274 BC), who not only strengthened the newly-conquered territories of his two predecessors, but also made war and defeated Nazi-Maruttash (1307-1282 BC), king of Babylonia, the successor of Kurigalzu II, adding a considerable Babylonian territory to the infant but precocious Assyrian Empire.

About this time, the Egyptian supremacy over Syria and Mesopotamia was cut by the brilliant military raids and resistance of the Hittites, a powerful horde of tribes in Northern Syria and Asia Minor. In the revival of Assyria after the expulsion of the Mitannian kings, Shalmaneser I (1273-1244 BC), an ambitious and energetic monarch, succeeded and extended Assyrian power westwards. Following the course of the Tigris, Shalmaneser I marched northwards and subjugated many northern tribes, then, turning westwards, invaded part of northeastern Syria and conquered the Arami, or Aramaeans, of Western Mesopotamia (Syria). From there he marched against the land of Musri, in Northern Arabia, adding a considerable territory to his empire. For strategic reasons he transferred his capital from Assur to Kalkhi (Calah, of Genesis) forty miles to the north, on the eastern bank of the Tigris, and eighteen miles south of Nineveh.

Shalmaneser I was succeeded by his son Tukulti-Ninurta (1243-1207 BC). Shalmaneser I had organised the first large scale deportations, and Tukulti-Ninurta continued the policy. He was a valiant warrior and conqueror, for he not only preserved the integrity of the empire but also extended it towards the north and northwest. He invaded and conquered Babylonia, where he established his government for seven years, during which he became obnoxious to the Babylonians, who plotted and rebelled against him, proclaiming a certain Adad-shumi-usur (1216-1187 BC) king in his stead. The Assyrians themselves also became dissatisfied on account of his long absence from Assyria, and he was slain by his own nobles, who proclaimed his son, Assur-nadin-apli (1206-1203 BC), king in his stead. This king died soon and Assur-ninari III (1202-1197 BC) followed.

Enlil-kudurri-usur (1196-1192 BC), a son of Tukultu-Ninurta, and Ninurta-apil-ekur (1191-1179 BC), a descendant of Eriba-Adad, then reigned over Assyria. They were attacked and defeated by the Babylonians who regained possession of a much of their lost territory. The next Assyrian monarch was Assur-dan I (1178-1133 BC), Ninurta-apil-ekur’s son. He avenged his father’s defeat by invading Babylonia and capturing the cities of Zaban and Akarsallu. Two of his sons also reigned in the time allotted to him, but why and the details are uncertain. Perhaps there was a civil war or the country was divided, but, if so, Babylonia was unable to take advantage, the Kassite dynasty just coming to an end.

One of Assur-dan’s sons was Mutakkil-Nusku, and his son, Assur-resb-ishi I (1132-1115 BC), succeeded to the throne and he subjugated the peoples of Ahlami, Lullumi, Kuti (or Guti, probably the Kurds) and imposed a crushing defeat on his rival and contemporary, Nebuchadrezzar I (1125-1104 BC), king of Babylonia (not the biblical Nebuchadrezzar, who was number II).

Assur-resh-ishi was succeeded by his son, Tiglath-pileser I (1114-1076 BC), one of the greatest Assyrian monarchs, under whose reign Assyria rose to the apex of its military success and glory. He has left us a detailed and circumstantial account of his military achievements, written on four octagonal cylinders which he placed at the four corners of the temple built by him to the god Adad. According to these, in the first five years of his reign, he undertook several successful military expeditions against Mushku, against the Shubari, against the Hittites, and into the mountains of Zagros, against the people of Nairi and twenty-three kings, who were chased by him as far north as Lake Van in Armenia, against the people of Musri in Northern Arabia, and against the Aramaens, or Syrians.

In all, forty-two countries and their kings, from beyond the Lower Zab, from the border of the distant mountains as far as the farther side of the Euphrates, up to the land of Hatti [Hittites] and as far as the upper sea of the setting sun [Lake Van], from the beginning of my sovereignty until my fifth year, has my hand conquered. I carried away their possessions, burned their cities with fire, demanded from their hostages tribute and contributions, and laid on them the heavy yoke of my rule.

 

He crossed the Euprates several times, and even reached the Mediterranean, upon the waters of which he embarked. He also invaded Babylonia, inflicting a heavy blow on the Babylonian king, Marduk-nadin-ahhe (1099-1082 BC) and his army, and capturing several important cities, such as Dur-Kurigalzu, Sippar, Babylon, and Opis. He pushed his triumphal march even as far as Elam.

Tiglath-pileser I was also a daring hunter, for in one of his campaigns, he tells us, he killed no fewer than one hundred and twenty lions on foot, and eight hundred with spears while in his chariot, caught elephants alive, and killed ten in his chariot. He kept at the city of Assur a park of animals suitable for the chase. At Nineveh, he had a botanical garden, in which he planted specimens of foreign trees gathered during his campaigns. He built also many temples, palaces, and canals. At the time of Tiglath-pileser’s death, Assyria was enjoying a period of tranquillity, which did not last long, for his two sons and successors, Assur-bel-kala (1073-1056 BC) and Shamshi-Adad IV (1053-1050 BC), sought alliances with the kings of Babylonia.

From about 1070 to 950 BC the history of Assyria is vague, but from then to the fall of Nineveh and the overthrow of the Assyrian Empire (606 BC) the history of Assyria is well documented. A pair of monarchs succeed each other with the same names as an earlier pair, Assur-resh-ishi (971-967 BC) and his son Tiglath-pileser II (966-935 BC). Then Assur-dan II (934-912 BC) succeeded, and the latter’s son, Adad-nirari II (911-891 BC), his son, Tukulti-Ninurta II (890-884 BC). Curiously, from 1012 BC when Assur-rabi II (1012-972 BC) came to the throne until 859 when Assur-nasir-pal (883-859 BC) was succeeded by his son Shalmaneser III (858-824 BC), every monarch was a second (II). It is only towards the end of this period that the eponym system can be considered reliable, and yet scholars do not seem to consider that any of these monarchs might be being counted twice, perhaps through the attempt of some king to show an extended history for the country, or because at times Assyria has been a divided country. In Egypt, it might be called an “intermediate period.”

Adad-nirari and Tukulti-Ninurta appear to have undertaken several successful expeditions against Babylonia and the regions north of Assyria. Tukulti-Ninurta’s successor was his son Assur-nasir-pal, with whose accession to the throne began a long career of victory that placed Assyria at the head of the great powers of that age. From now on, the eponyms seem to be accurate, and so too is Assyrian dating.

Assur-nasir-pal was a great conqueror, soldier, organizer, hunter, and builder, but fierce and cruel. In his eleven military campaigns he invaded, subdued, and conquered, after a series of devastations and raids, all the regions north, south, east, and west of Assyria, from the mountains of Armenia down to Babylon, and from the mountains of Kurdistan and Lake Urmi (Urum-yah, biblicists note!) to the Mediterranean. He crossed the Euphrates and the Orontes, penetrated into the Lebanon region, attacked Carchemish, the capital of the southern Hittites, invaded Syria, and compelled the cities of the Mediterranean coast (such as Tyre, Sidon, Bylos, and Arvad) to pay tribute.

In the reign of Assur-nasir-pal, Assyria might have first come into touch with the small Aramaean country called in the bible Israel. In 878 BC, Omri (885-874 BC) was king of Israel. Assur-nasir-pal, in his expedition against Carchemish and Syria, which took place in 878 BC, must have exacted tribute from Khumri (Omri), although the latter’s name is not explicitly mentioned either in Assur-nasir-pal’s inscriptions, or in the Old Testament, in this connexion. Yet, all later Assyrian incriptions down to the time of Sargon, for nearly 150 years, Israel is called the “house of Khumri.” Jehu, a later king of Israel, but not of the dynasty of Omri, according to the scriptures, is called the “son of Khumri.” The other possibility is that Omri was set up as a puppet ruler by Assur-nasir-pal as a buffer against Egypt. Omri is not a Hebrew name.

Assur-nasir-pal was succeeded by his son, Shalmaneser III, who in the sixth year of his reign (852 BC) made an expedition to the west to subdue Damascus, one of the stronger Aramaean states. King Ahab of Israel was one of the allies of Benhadad, king of Damascus. In describing this expedition on the Kurkh stele, the Assyrian monarch goes on to say that he approached Karkar, a town to the southwest of Carchemish, and the royal residence of king Irkhuleni of Hamath, yet another small Aramaean state.

 

I desolated and destroyed, I burnt it: 1200 chariots, 1200 horsemen, 20,000 men of Benidri of Damascus, 700 chariots, 700 horsemen, 10,000 men of Irkhuleni of Hamath, 2,000 chariots, 10,000 men of Ahab of Israel (A-kha-ab-bu matu Sir-’la-ai)… these twelve kings he took to his assistance. To offer battle they marched against me. With the noble might which Assur, the Lord, granted, with the powerful weapons which Nergal, who walks before me, gave, I fought with them, from Karkar into Gilzan I smote them. Of their soldiers I slew 14,000.

 

The Jewish scriptures are silent on the presence of Ahab in the battle of Karkar, which took place in the same year in which Ahab died fighting in the battle of Ramoth Galaad (1 Kings 22).

Eleven years after this event Jehu (841-814 BC) was proclaimed king over Israel, and one of his first acts was to pay tribute to Shalmaneser III. This incident is commemorated in the latter’s well-known “black obelisk,” in the British Museum, in which Jehu himself, “the son of Khumri,” is sculptured as paying tribute to the king. In another inscription, the same king records the same fact, saying:

At that time I received the tribute of the Tyrians, Sidonians, and Jehu the son of Omri.

 

This act of homage took place in 840 BC, in the eighteenth year of Shalmaneser’s reign.

After Shalmneser II came his son Shamshi-Adad V (823-811 BC), who undertook four campaigns to quell the rebellion caused by his elder son, Assur-danin-pal. He also fought and defeated the Babylonian king, Marduk-balassu-iqbi (c 813 BC) and his powerful army.

His successor, Adad-nirari III (810-783 BC), undertook several expeditions against Media, Armenia, the land of Nairi (Urartu, biblical Ararat), and the region around Lake Urmi, and subjugated all the coastlands of the West, including Tyre, Sidon, Edom, Philistia and “bit Khumri,” the “house (land) of Omri.” The chief object of this expedition was again to subdue Damascus which he did by compelling Mari, its king, to pay a heavy tribute in silver, gold, copper, and iron, besides quantities of cloth and furniture. Jehoahaz (813-797 BC) was then king over Israel, and he welcomed Adad-nirari’s advance, because his conquest of Damascus relieved Israel from the yoke of the Syrians. Adad-nirari III also claimed sovereignty over Babylonia.

In one of his inscriptions, which are unfortunately scarce and laconic, he mentions the name of his wife, Sammuramat, which is the only Assyrian or Babylonian name discovered so far having any phonetic resemblance to that of the famous legendary queen, Semiramis. This was Rawlinson’s assumption, but the personal identity of the two queens is not admissible.

Adad-nirari III was succeeded by Shalmaneser III (783-773 BC), and the latter by Assur-dan III (773-755 BC). No adequate inscriptions of their reigns have been found but the Assyrian hold on regions west of the Euphrates was abandoned in the reigns of these kings.

Pul, Samaria and Judah

Tiglath-pileser III (744-727 BC), the biblical Pul, seized the throne of Assyria, at Nineveh. In the Assyrian inscriptions his name occurs only as Tiglath-pileser, but in the Babylonian List of Kings he is called Pu-lu, which settles his identity with the Phul, or Pul of the bible.

He is said to have begun life as gardener, to have distinguished himself as a soldier, and to have been elevated to the throne by the army. He was a most capable monarch, enterprising, energetic, wise, and daring. His military ability saved the Assyrian Empire from the utter ruin and decay which had begun to threaten its existence, and he is aptly spoken of as the founder of the Second Assyrian Empire.

Tiglath-pileser’s methods differed markedly from those of his predecessors. They had been robber barons—mere raiders and plunderers. Tiglath-pileser III was an administrator and economist as well as a soldier. He organized the empire and divided it into provinces, each of which had to pay a fixed tribute to the exchequer. He was thus able to extend Assyrian supremacy over almost all of Western Asia, from Armenia to Egypt, and from Persia to the Mediterranean, on a sound economic footing. Tiglath-pileser was the Assyrian monarch to begin on a large scale the system of transplanting peoples from one country to another, with the object of breaking down their national spirit, unity, and independence.

The biblical importance of Tiglath-pileser is that he ended the independence of Samaria, the biblical Israel, a fact confirmed by 2 Kings 25:19-20, and was the first Assyrian king to mention the kingdom of Judah. Two inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser III confirm these facts. They contain the names of the western kings who gave tribute to the king of Assyria and include the name of Menahem “of Samaria” (753-742 BC). The passage 2 Kings 15:19-20, depicts the arrival of the Assyrian king in Israel and the offerings of Menahem, but the Assyrian sources do not relate any arrival of Tiglath-pileser III in Israel in the time of Menahem. Menahem goes to Assyria.

In a stele from Iran, Menahem is mentioned before Ethbaal, king of Tyre, whereas in the other inscription Menahem is mentioned before Hiram, king of Tyre. The Iranian stele seems to pertain to events before 738 BC but Hiram, king of Tyre, is specifically mentioned in connexion with Rezin’s revolt and Tiglath-pileser III’s campaigns to the west in 734-732 BC:

[Hi]ram of Tyre, who plotted together with Rezin…

 

Ethbaal must have preceded Hiram and since Matan reigned after Hiram, the Tyrian kings are in the order Ethbaal, Hiram, and Matan, and Menahem must have paid tribute first around 740 BC. Following the fall of Arpad in 740 BC, most western kingdoms, including Samaria, surrendered to Assyria. Menahem probably still reigned but over a divided Samaria in which Pekahiah, and Pekah were his rivals. There might also have been another.

Towards the end of Tiglath-pileser’s reign, Ahaz (730-715 BC) became king of Judah. In the bible, this prince, having been hard pressed and harassed by Rezin of Damascus, and Pekah of Israel, entreated protection from Tiglath-pileser, who marched westward and attacked Rezin, whom he shut up in Damascus. Two years later, the city surrendered. Rezin was slain, and the inhabitants were carried away captives (2 Kgs 26:7-9). After the fall of Damascus, Tiglath-pileser held a durbar which was attended by loyal princes amongst whom was Ahaz himself. He was a loyal soldier in Pul’s armies.

Samaria was also overrun by the Assyrian monarch, and the country heavily taxed. At the same time the Philistines, the Edomites and the Arabians were subdued, and the trans-Jordanic tribes carried into captivity. In 733 BC, the Assyrian monarch carried off the population from large portions of the kingdom of Israel, sparing, however, the capital, Samaria. The truth is that Ahaz was either a dissident Judahite of Samaria encouraged by Tiglath-pileser to secede from Samaria, or was simply rewarded with the part of Samaria called Judah for his loyalty when Samaria folded. Either way Judah was the rump of Samaria.

The story from the bible is not at all clear. Gershom Galil in Biblica 81 (2000) has tried to clarify the events preceding the fall of Sameria. They begin with the king of Arpad and Unqi being accused by Tiglath-pileser III of violating an oath and revolting against Assyria.

The kingdom of Urartu had been increasing its influence in the region, notably Kummukh, Carchemish and the Aleppo area. Tiglath-pileser had become concerned about it. In 743-742 BC, the Assyrians defeated a coalition headed by Sarduri II, king of Urartu and Mati’il, king of Arpad and including the kings of Melid, Gurgum and Kummukh. The Assyrians besieged the city of Arpad following the victory in a battle fought in the land of Kummukh. The city fell after three years and the kingdom of Arpad became an Assyrian province.

Following the conquest of Arpad in 740 BC and the offerings made by western kings, the Assyrian army headed towards the upper Tigris and fought against Ullubu (739-738 BC). The Assyrians returned to the west in 738-737 BC and defeated the coalition led by Azriyau and Tutamu, king of Unqi.

Azriyau’s identity has not yet been settled. Biblicists say he was Uzziah (Azariah), king of Judah, but this is unlikely. No external evidence of Uzziah exists but the biblical Uzziah must have been an old man (66) in 738 BC, and there is no suggestion of a link with the revolt in northern Syria against Assyria. Judah cannot have taken control of Israel, so Israel did not make an alliance with Assyria and Egypt to cast off the yoke of Judah. Azriyau might have led the coalition from the Aramaean state of Yaudi in the north, not Judah. Eni-il king of Hamath is mentioned in the list of tribute of 738 BC. From it, it seems that amongst the kingdoms that acted against Assyria in 736 BC, only Hamath remained independent.

Several scholars assume that unlike Azriyau and his allies, Hamath did not revolt against Assyria. Hamath was not mentioned in the stele from Iran, so Hamath apparently did not surrender to Assyria in 740 BC. Moreover, if Hamath was loyal to Assyria in 738 BC and did not participate in Azriyau’s coalition, and actually suffered from his actions, which resulted in the subjugation of its cities, why was Hamath punished by the Assyrians, who seized nineteen of its districts? Assyria should have rewarded the loyalty of Hamath’s king for resisting the revolt, not have annexed territories from his kingdom.

Perhaps Azriyau was the king of Hamath. Galil makes this assumption and immediately thinks his name suggests Israelite influence over Hamath in the mid-eighth century BC, citing a study by S Dalley. The over-riding false assumption of all biblicists is that Yehouah was the god only of Israel and Judah. For them, any name in “Yah,” “Yeho,” or “Yau” shows the person to have been a Jew. In the sense that anyone who worships Yehouah is a Jew, they are right, but they insist that “Jew” signifies a nation not a religion. Yehouah was a Canaanite god, so Canaanites in the north of the Levant could have theophoric names in Yehouah. It would therefore be equally correct, if not more so, to speak of the influence of Hamath on Israel.

Azriyau, if he were a usurper king of Hamath, died in battle or was deposed in a palace revolution, and Eni-il was crowned in his stead. The assumed palace revolution in Hamath and the emergence of a pro-Assyrian group, for Galil, explains why Assyria agreed to the continuation of the partially independent existence of Hamath’s kingdom, while narrowing its territorial extent—it compares with the Israel of Hoshea. Kraeling, however, thought Azriyau was a usurper in Yaudi and forged an alliance which included anti-Assyrian elements in Hamath. The nineteen districts that allied with the Yaudi rebel were the ones which eventually were annexed, leaving a rump of a country. This is indeed similar to what happened in Samaria, only the district of Judah being loyal to Assyria and therefore left as a rump under Ahaz.

The king of Arvad is not listed among the kings offering tribute to Assyria in 738 BC, so Arvad had not yielded, even after the defeat of the kings of Unqi and the Phoenician kingdoms to the north of Byblos. The Assyrians defeated Arvad apparently during their campaign of 734 BC, as is evident from the list of offerings to Assyria in 734 BC.

In the bible, Aram and Israel attacked Jerusalem during the reign of Ahaz, king of Judah, and wished to crown a king of their choice over Judah. Ahaz sent to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria (2 Kgs 16:7-8) for help. The king of Assyria accepted Ahaz’s appeal and attacked Aram, conquered Damascus, and killed Rezin. The time when Assyria subjugated Judah cannot clearly be learned from these passages, whether before or after the request of Ahaz.

Ahaz is specifically mentioned in a summary inscription from Calah. Jehoahaz (Ya-u-ha-zi) of Judah and the kings of Amon, Moab, Edom and Philistia are mentioned among those who conveyed offerings to Assyria. This inscription was written following the seventh year of Tiglath-pileser III, about 736 BC. The events are described in geographical order, not chronologically.

  1. The reduction of the Arabs and other nomads, and the appointment of Idibi’ilu.
  2. An updated list of kings paying tribute to Assyria during 738 BC which omits the names of several kings, among them are those of Aram and Israel.
  3. A list of kings of Phoenicia, Philistia, Judah, and Transjordan included amongst the earlier list but now included.
  4. Two additional events are annexed—the payment of tribue by Matan (Metenna) of Tyre and the deposing of Uassurme king of Tabal. Earlier the latter is included in the same inscription among the givers of tribute, showing that this is later.

 

Panammu, king of Samal, is mentioned but he was killed fighting for the Assyrians during the siege of Damascus in 733-732 BC. [Mi]tinti of Ashkelon was deposed apparently in 732 BC. So the date of the seventh year of Pul must be after 738 BC but before 734 BC. 736 BC seems right.

Determining the order of Tiglath-pileser III’s campaigns during 734-732 BC is difficult because the Assyrian inscriptions are mostly “summary inscriptions” which are imprecise and sometimes contradictory, and the few annals passages that have survived provide little help, and the biblical data are also unclear. The purpose of the campaign to the Mediterranean coast in 734 BC was probably punitive, and economic—the desire of Tiglath-pileser to take and tax the rich coastal cities. The main stages of the 734 campaign might have been:

  1. The subjugation of Arvad and the annexation of Kashpuna to the province of Sumur.
  2. The conquest of the cities of Tyre, including Mahalab.
  3. Moving the Assyrian army south down the coast towards Philistia.
  4. The subjugation of Gaza.
  5. The erection of a monument in “the city of the brook of Egypt.”
  6. The subjugation of Siruatti the Me’nite.

 

Judah, Ashkelon and other pro-Assyrian cities willingly surrendered to the Assyrians, who returned to their homeland when the campaign ended in 734 BC. Once the Assyrian armies had departed from the area, Aram and Israel attacked Judah. Hanun of Gaza, Hiram of Tyre, Shamshi queen of the Arabs and others joined the alliance, which was supported by Egypt. Judah was the first target because it had seceded from Samaria, and therefore from the alliance to favour Assyria. Ahaz was loyal to Tiglath-pileser and asked for him to intervene in the conflict. Tiglath-pileser, who was in Urartu, lifted the siege on Tushpa, and directed his forces again to the west to punish the coalition.

The 733-732 BC campaign was mainly aimed against Aram and Israel. The precise details of the campaign are a guess. At the beginning, regions in the kingdom of Aram were conquered and Damascus besieged. The war against Shamshi queen of the Arabs was launched following the invasion of the kingdom of Damascus in 733 BC. Shamshi was probably crowned in 737 BC or 736 BC and carried on the former policy. The Arabs gave tribute to Assyria in 740-735 BC, whereas in 734 BC the Arabs joined the allies. The surrender of the Arabs was closely followed by that of the Massa, Tema, Ephah and other nomad tribes. In the bible, Transjordan was also conquered during this campaign and the exiles from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh were deported to Assyria (2 Kgs 15:29; 1 Chr 5:6; 22:25-26).

The subjugation of the kingdoms of Israel and Aram was completed only in 732 BC. The Assyrian army conquered Galilee (2 Kgs 15:26) and besieged Samaria. Only the reduction of cities located in upper and lower Galilee are mentioned in the biblical and Assyrian sources, yet all Israelite cities apart from Samaria are said to have been razed.

The siege of Damascus was completed apparently in 732 BC. Rezin was killed and the kingdom of Aram was annexed to Assyria and divided into four provinces (2 Kgs 16:9). Samaria and Ashkelon also surrendered due to the fall of Damascus. Palace revolutions occurred in both cities. Mitinti was deposed by Rukibtu, whereas Hoshea, who killed Pekah, seized power over Israel (2 Kgs 15:30). Hoshea was crowned in 732-731 BC. An Assyrian inscription which indicates that Hoshea gave tribute to the king of Assyria in Sarabanu.

Shalmaneser, Sargon and the Fall of Samaria

Tiglath-pileser III was succeeded by his son, Shalmaneser V, who reigned five years (727-722 BC). No historical inscriptions relating to this king have as yet been found. Nevertheless, the Babylonian Chronicle (which gives a list of the principal events occurring in Babylonia and Assyria between 744 and 688 BC) has the following statement:

On the 25th of Thebet [December-January] Shalmaneser ascended the throne of Assyria, and the city of Shamara’in (Samaria) was destroyed. In the fifth year of his reign he died in the month of Thebet.

 

The Assyrian Eponym Canon also informs us that the first two years of Shalmaneser’s reign passed without an expedition, but in the remaining three his armies were engaged. The Babylonian Chronicle and the Jewish scriptures (2 Kgs 28) explicitly point to Palestine, and particularly to Samaria, the capital of the Israelitish kingdom. In the second or third year of Shalmaneser’s reign, Osee (Hoshea) king of Israel, together with the king of Tyre, rebelled against Assyria, and to crush the rebellion the Assyrian monarch marched against both kings and laid siege to their capitals. The biblical account of this expedition is:

Against him came up Salmanasar king of the Assyrians, and Osee became his servant, and paid him tribute. And when the king of the Assyrians found that Osee endeavouring to rebel had sent messengers to Sua the king of Egypt, that he might not pay tribute to the king of the Assyrians, as he had done every year, he besieged him, bound him and cast him into prison. And he went through all the land: and going up to Samaria, he besieged it three years. And in the ninth year of Osee, the king of the Assyrians took Samaria, and carried Israel away to Assyria, and he placed them in Hala and Habor by the river of Gozan, in the cities of the Medes.

 

See also the parallel account in 2 Kings 18:9-11. This is evidence that the passage was written in the Persian period, because only then were these places which are in Mesopotamia, part of Persia (usually called Medes). The two biblical accounts, however, leave undecided the question, whether Shalmaneser himself or his successor conquered Samaria. From the Assyrian inscriptions, Shalmaneser died, or was murdered, before he could personally carry his victory to an end. He was succeeded by Sargon II.

Sargon, a man of commanding ability, was a usurper, despite his claim to royal ancestry. He is one of the greatest figures in Assyrian history, and the founder of the famous Sargonid dynasty, which held sway in Assyria for more than a century, until the fall of Nineveh and the overthrow of the Assyrian Empire. He himself reigned for seventeen years (722-705 BC) and proved a most successful warrior and organizer. In every battle he was victor, and in every difficulty a man of resource. He was also a great builder and patron of the arts. His greatest work was the building of Dur-Sharrukin, or the Castle of Sargon, the modern Khorsabad. It was a large city, situated about ten miles from Nineveh, with a population of 80,000. His palace there was a wonder of architecture, panelled in alabaster, adorned with sculpture, and inscribed with the records of his exploits.

In the same year in which he ascended the throne, Samaria fell (722 BC), and the kingdom of Israel was brought to an end.

In the beginning of my reign and in the first year of my reign … Samaria, I besieged and conquered… 27,290 inhabitants I carried off… I restored it again and made it as before. People from all lands, my prisoners, I settled there. My officials I set over them as governors. Tribute and tax I laid on them, as on the Assyrians.

 

In other words the country was annexed to Assyria. Sargon’s second campaign was against the Elamites, whom he subdued. From Elam he marched westward, laid Hamath in ruins, and afterwards utterly defeated the combined forces of the Philistines and the Egyptians, at Raphia. He made Hanum, king of Gaza, prisoner, and carried several thousand captives, with rich booty, into Assyria. Two years later, he attacked Carchemish, the capital of the Hittites, and conquered it, capturing its king, officers, and treasures, and deporting them into Assyria. He then for fully six years harassed, and finally subdued, all the northern and northwestern tribes of Kurdistan, of Armenia (Urartu, or Ararat), and of Cilicia (Turkey)—the Mannai, the Mushki, the Kummukhi, the Milidi, the Kammani, the Gamgumi, the Samali, and many others who lived in those inaccessible regions. He subdued several Arabian tribes and then the Medians with their forty-two chiefs, or princes.

During the first eleven years of Sargon’s reign, the kingdom of Judah remained peacefully subject to Assyria, paying the stipulated annual tribute. In 711 BC, Hezekiah (714-686 BC), king of Judah, partly influenced by Merodach-baladan II (Marduk-apal-idinna, 721-710;703 BC) of Babylonia, and partly by promises of help from Egypt, rebelled against the Assyrian monarch, and in this revolt he was heartly joined by the allies—the Phoenicians, the Philistines, the Moabites, and tbe Ammonites. Sargon, ever quick to act, collected a powerful army, marched against the rebels, and dealt them a crushing blow. The fact is recorded in Isaiah 20:1, where the name of Sargon is expressly mentioned as that of the invader and conqueror.

With Palestine and the West pacified and subdued Sargon, energetic and prompt, turned his attention to Babylonia, where Merodach-baladan, one of the allies, still ruled. The Babylonian army was easily routed and Merodach-baladan fled in terror to Beth-Yakin in the marshes, his ancestral stronghold. Sargon entered Babylonia in triumph, and in the following year he pursued the fleeing king, stormed the city of Beth-Yakin, deported its people, and compelled all the Babylonias and Elamites, to pay him tribute, homage and obedience.

Sennacherib and the Seige of Jerusalem

In 705 BC, in the flower of his age and at the zenith of his glory, Sargon was assassinated to be succeeded by his son, Sennacherib (704-681 BC), whose name is well known to bible students. He was an exceptionally cruel, arrogant, revengeful, and despotic ruler, but a monarch of wonderful power and ability. His first military expedition was directed against Merodach-baladan, of Babylonia, who, at the news of Sargon’s death, had returned to Babylonia, assuming the title of kings and murdering Marduk-zakir-shumi II (703 BC, 1 month), the viceroy appointed by Sennacherib. Merodach-baladan was, however, easily routed by Sennacherib. Fleeing again to Elam and hiding himself in the marshes, but always ready to take advantage of Sennacherib’s absence to return to Babylon.

In 701 BC, Sennacherib marched eastward over the Zagros mountains and towards the Caspian Sea. There he attacked, defeated, and subdued the Medians and all the neighbouring tribes. In the same year, he marched on the Mediterranean coast and received the submission of the Phoenicians, the Ammonites, the Moabites, and the Edomites. He conquered Sidon, but was unable to lay hands on Tyre, on account of its impregnable position. Thence he hurried down the coast road, captured Askalon and its king, Sidqa. Turning to the north he struck Ekron and Lachish, and dispersed the Ethiopian-Egyptian forces, which had assembled to oppose his march. Hezekiah, king of Judah, who together with the above-mentioned kings had rebelled against Sennacherib, was thus completely isolated, and Sennacherib, finding his way clear, marched against Judah, dealing a terrific blow at the little kingdom. Here is Sennacherib’s own amount of the event:

But as for Hezekiah of Judah, who had not subsmitted to my yoke, forty-six of his strong walled cities and the smaller cities round about them without number, by the battering of rams, and the attack of war-engines, by making breaches, by cutting through, the use of axes, I besieged and captured. Two hundred thousand one hundred and fifty people, small and great, male and female, horses, mules, asses, camels, and sheep without number I brought forth from their midst and reckoned as spoil. Himself I shut up like a caged bird in Jerusalem, his royal city. I threw up fortifications against him, and whosoever came out of the gates of his city I punished. His cities, which I had plundered, I cut off from his land and gave to Mitinti, king of Ashdod, to Padi, king of Ekron, and to Silli-Bel, king of Gaza, and made his territory smaller. To the former taxes, paid yearly, tribute, a present for my lordship, I added and imposed on him. Hezekiah himself was overwhelmed by the fear of the brilliancy of my lordship, and the Arabians and faithful soldiers whom he had brought in to strengthen Jerusalem, his royal city, deserted him. Thirty talents of gold, eight hundred tatents of silver, precious stones, guhli daggassi, large lapis lazuli, couches of ivory, thrones of elephant skin and ivory, ivory, ushu and urkarinu woods of every kind, a heavy treasure, and his daughters, his palace women, male and female singers, to Nineveh, my lordship’s city, I caused to be brought after me, and he sent his ambassador to give tribute and to pay homage.

 

The same event is also recorded in 2 kings 18 and 19, and in Isaiah 36 and 37, but rather differently. According to the biblical account, Sennacherib, not satisfied with the payment of tribute, demanded from Hezekiah the unconditional surrender of Jerusalem, which the Judean king refused. Terrified and bewildered, Hezekiah called the prophet Isaiah and laid the matter before him, asking him for advice and counsel. The prophet strongly advised the vacillating king to oppose the outrageous demands of the Assyrian, promising him Yehouah’s help and protection. Accordingly, Hezekiah refused to surrender, and Sennacherib, enraged and revengeful, resolved to storm and destroy the city. But in that same night the whole Assyrian army, gathered under the walls of Jerusalem, was stricken by the angel of the Lord, who slew one hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrian soldiers. At the sight of this terrible calamity, Sennacherib in terror and confusion, departed and returned to Assyria.

The Assyrian and the biblical accounts are quite conflicting, but biblicists are never lost for harmonizing solutions.
Sennacherib’s own annals will not allude to any reverse he may have suffered, such allusions would be clearly incompatible with the monarch’s pride, as well as with the purpose of annals incribed only to glorify his exploits and victories.
Sennacherib undertook two different campaigns against Judah. First, in his annals, he contented himself with exacting and receiving submission and tribute from Hezekiah. Later, not in his annals, he insisted on the surrender of Jerusalem but met with disaster, which the bible recounts.
The disaster might have been a natural one—a sudden attack of the plague, a disease to which oriental armies are subject, lacking sanitation, and before which they quickly succumb. Josephus affirms that in an Egyptian tradition preserved to us by Herodotus (Histories 2:141), Sennacherib’s army was attacked and destroyed by field mice, which gnawed the Assyrian bow strings, completely demoralizing the army. Bubonic plague is spread by rats.

 

These biblicist harmonizing guesses are plausible enough, but they have a habit of becoming established truth, and these guesses are presented as truth by clerics and Sunday school teachers. The bible and the Assyrian records do not suggest there were two campaigns, so both have to be ignored to get the plausible explanations in. It is easier to imagine that the sacred history has had God’s wagging finger added to it.

Sennacherib’s campaign came to an end, and he returned to Nineveh. For the rest of his life Sennacherib undertook no more military expeditions to the west, or to Palestine. The Assyrian monuments say the allies had finally accepted defeat, but biblicists say he dared not attack Palestine again, for fear of the Lord!

Moreover, while laying siege to Jerusalem, Sennacherib received news of Merodach-baladan’s sudden appearance in Babylonia—doubtless arranged in co-ordination as part of the allies’ rebellion. He had to detach and hurriedly send part of the Assyrian army to Babylonia against the indomitable rebel. This might have obliged him to lift the seige. In a fierce battle Merodach-baladan was for the third time defeated and compelled to flee to Elam, where, worn and broken down by old age and misfortunes, he ended his troubled life, and Assur-nadin-shumi (699-694 BC), the eldest son of Sennacherib, was appointed king over Babylonia.

After his return from the west and after the final defeat of Merodach-baladan, Sennacherib had to begin lengthy and active preparations to finally subdue Babylonia, which was ever rebellious and had again gotten shot of the Assyrian governor. The expedition was as unique in its methods as it audacious in its conception. With a powerful army and navy, he moved southward, and in a terrific battle near Khalulu, utterly routed the rebellious alliance of Chaldeans, Babylonians, and Elamites, and executed their two chiefs, Nergal-usezib (693 BC) and Musezib-Merodach (692-689 BC). Elam was ravaged, “the smoke of burning towns obscuring the heavens.” He next attacked Babylon, which was stormed, sacked burnt, flooded, and so mercilesslv punished that it was reduced to a mass of ruins, and almost obliterated.

On his return to Assyria, Sennacherib appears to have spent the last years of his reign in building his magnificent palace at Nineveh, and in embellishing the city with temples, palaces, gardens, arsenals, and fortifications. After a long, stormy, and glorious reign, he died by the hand of one of his own sons (681 BC). The bible tells us:

And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword. And they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead. (2 Kgs 19:37).

 

The Babylonian Chronicle, however, has:

On 20 Thebet [December-January] Sennacherib, king of Assyria, was slain by his son in a rebellion […] years reigned Sennacherib in Assyria. From 20 Thebet to 2 Adar [March-April] was the rebellion in Assyria maintained. In 2 Adar, his son, Esarhaddon, ascended the throne of Assyria.

 

The Babylonian Chronicle confirms that the murderer of Sennacherib was one of his own sons, but no sons of Sennacherib with the names of Adrammelech or Sharezer have been found in the Assyrian texts. While the biblical narrative seems to indicate that the murder took place in Nineveh, an inscription of Assur-banipal, Sennacherib’s grandson, clearly affirms that the tragedy took place in Babylon, in the temple of Marduk (of which Nisroch seems a corruption).

Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal

Sennacherib was succeeded by his son, Esarhaddon (680-669 BC). At the time of his father’s death, Esarhaddon was in Armenia with the Assyrian army, but on hearing the sad news he promptly set out for Nineveh, first to avenge his father’s death by punishing the perpetrators of the crime, and then to ascend the throne. On his way home he met the assassins and their army near Cappadocia, and in a decisive battle routed them with tremendous loss, thus becoming the sole and undisputed lord of Assyria.

Esarhaddon’s first campaign was against Babylonia, where a fresh revolt, caused by the son of the late Merodach-baladan, had broken out. The pretender was easily defeated and compelled to flee to Elam. Esarhaddon, unlike his father, determined to build up Babylon and to restore its ruined temples, palaces, and walls he gave back to the people their property, which had been taken away from them as spoils of war during Sennacherib’s destructive campaign, and succeeded in restoring peace and harmony among the people. He determined, furthermore, to make Babylon his residence for part of the year, thus restoring its ardent splendour and religious supremacy.

Esarhaddon’s second campaign was directed against Syria, where a fresh rebellion, having for its centre the great maritime city of Sidon, had broken out. He captured the city and completely destroyed it, ordering a new city, with the name of Kar-Esarhaddon, to be built on its ruins. The king of Sidon was caught and beheaded, and the surrounding country devastated. Twenty-two Syrian princes, among them Manasseh (685-641 BC), king of Judah, surrendered and submitted to Esarhaddon.

Scarcely had he retired when these same princes, including Manasseh, revolted. But Esarhaddon utterly crushed the rebellion, taking numerous cities, captives, and treasures, and ordering Manasseh to be carried to Babylon, where the king was then residing. A few years later Esarhaddon had mercy on Manasseh and allowed him to return to his own kingdom. In a third campaign, Esarhaddon blockaded the impregnable Tyre, and set out to conquer Egypt, which he successfully accomplished by defeating its king, Tirhaqah. To effectively establish Assyrian supremacy over Egypt, he divided the country into twenty provinces, and over each of these he appointed a governor, sometimes a native, sometimes an Assyrian.

He exacted heavy annual tribute from every one of these twenty provinces, and returned in triumph to Assyria.

As for Tarqu [Tirhaqah], king of Egypt and Cush, who was under the curse of their great divinity, from Ishupri as far as Memphis, his royal city—a march of fifteen days—every day without exception. I killed his warriors in great number, and as for him, five times with the point of the spear I struck him with a deadly stroke. Memphis, his royal city, in half a day, by cutting through and scaling, I besieged, I conquered, I tore down, I destroyed, I burned with fire, and the wife of his palace, his palace women, Ushanahuru, his own son, and the rest of his sons, his daughters, his property and possessions, his horses, his oxen, his sheep without number, I carried away as spoil to Assyria. I tore up the root of Cush frorn Egypt, a single one—even to the suppliant—I did not leave behind. Over all Egypt I appointed kings, prefects, governors, grain-inspectors, mayors, and secretaries. I instituted regular offerings to Assur and the great gods, my lords, for all time. I placed on them the tribute and taxes of my lordship, regularly and without fail.

 

Esarhaddon also invaded Arabia, penetrating to its very centre, through hundreds of miles of sandy lands which no other Assyrian monarch had penetrated before. Another important campaign was that directed against Cimmerians, near the Caucasus, and against many other tribes, in Armenia, Cappadocia, Cilicia, Asia Minor, and Media. The monarch’s last expedition was a second campaign against Egypt. Before leaving Assyria, in the month of Iyyar (April-May), 668 BC, as if forecasting future events, he constituted his son Assurbanipal (668-627 BC) co-regent and successor to the throne, leaving to his other son, Shamash-shuma-ukin (667-648 BC), Babylonia. But, while on his way to Egypt, he fell sick, and on the 10th of Marsheshwan (October), in the year 669 BC, he died.

Esarhaddon was a truly remarkable ruler. Unlike his father, he was religious, generous, forgiving, less harsh and cruel, and diplomatic. He ruled the various conquered countries with wisdom and toleration, while he established a rigorous system of administration. A great temple-builder and lover of art he has left us many records and inscriptions. At Nineveh he rebuilt the temple of Assur, and in Babylonia, the temples at Uruk, Sippar, Dur-Ilu, Borsippa, and others, in all about thirty. In Nineveh he erected for himself a magnificent palace and arsenal, and at Calah another of smaller dimensions, which was still unfinished at the time of his death.

Assurbanipal was the greatest of all Assyrian monarchs. For generalship, military conquests, diplomacy, love of splendor and luxury, and passion for the arts and letters, he has neither superior nor equal in the annals of that empire. He has provided the greatest part of our knowledge of Assyrian-Babylonian history, art, and civilization. Endowed with a rare taste for letters, he caused all the most important historical, religious, mythological, legal, astronomical, mathematical, grammatical, and lexicographical texts and inscriptions known to his day to be copied and placed in a magnificent library which he built in his own palace.

Tens of thousands of clay tablets systematically arranged on shelves for easy consultation contained, besides official dispatches and other archives the choicest religious, historical, and scientific literature of the Babylonian-Assyrian world. Under the inspiration of the king’s literary zeal, scribes copied and translated the ancient sacred classics of primitive Babylonia for this library, so that, from its remains, can be reconstructed, not merely the details of the government and adminitration of the Assyria of his time, but the life and thought of the far distant Babylonian world.
G H Goodspeed, History of the Babylonians and Assyrians

 

Of this library, which must have contained over forty thousand clay tablets, a part was discovered by G Smith and H Rassam, part has been destroyed, and part yet remains to be explored. Here G Smith first discovered the famous Babylonian accounts of the Creation and of Deluge in which so many striking similarities with the parallel biblical accounts occur.

Assurbanipal was also a great temple-builder—in Nineveh, Arbela, Tarbish, Babylon, Borsippa, Sippar, Nippur, and Uruk. He fortified Nineveh, repaired, enlarged, and embellished Sennacherib’s palace, and built next to it another palace of remarkable beauty. This he adorned with numerous magnificent statues, sculptures, bas-reliefs, inscriptions, and treasures. Assyrian art, especially sculpture and architecture, reached during his reign its golden age and its classical perfection, while Assyrian power and supremacy touched the extreme zenith of its height, for with Assurbanipal’s death Assyrian power and glory sank into the deepest gloom, and perished presumably, to rise no more.

Assurbanipal’s military campaigns were numerous. He ascended the throne in 668 BC and his first move was against Egypt, which he subdued, penetrating as far as Memphis and Thebes. On his way back, he exacted tribute from the Syrian and Phoenician kings, among whom was Manasseh of Judah, who is expressly mentioned in one of the king’s inscriptions. He forced Tyre to surrender, and subdued the kings of Arvad, of Tabal, and of Cilicia. In 655 BC, he marched against Babylonia and drove away from it a newly organized, but powerful coalition of Elamites, Chaldeans, and Arameans. He afterwards marched into the heart of Elam, as far as Susa, and in a decisive battle he shattered the Elamite forces.

In 648 BC, Shamash-shum-ukin, Assurbanipal’s brother, who had been appointed by his father king of Babylonia, and who had till then worked in complete harmony with his brother, rebelled against Assurbanipal. To this he was openly and secretly incited by many Babylonian, Elamite, and Arabian chiefs. Assurbanipal, however, was quick to act. He marched against Babylonia, shut off all the rebels in their own fortresses, and forced them to a complete surrender. His brother set fire to his own palace and threw himself into the flames. The cities and fortresses were captured, the rebels slain, and Elam completely devastated. Temples, palaces, royal tombs, and shrines were destroyed. Treasures and booty were taken and carried away to Assyria, and several thousands of people, as well as all the princes of the royal family, were executed. A few years later Elam disappeared for ever front history.

In another campaign, Assurbanipal advanced against Arabia and subdued the Kedarenes, the Nabataeans, and a dozen other Arabian tribes, as far as Damascus. His attention was next attracted to Armenia, Cappadocia, Media, and the northwestern and northeastern regions. In all these he established his supremacy, so that from 640 till 627 BC, the year of Assurbanipal’s death, Assyria was at peace. However, scholars believe that during the last years of the monarch’s reign the Assyrian Empire began to decay.

Assurbanipal is probably mentioned once in the Jewish scriptures (1 Ezra 4:10) under the name of Osnapper, deporting troublesome people into Samaria. He is probably alluded to by the Second Isaiah and Nahum, in connexion with his campaigns against Egypt and Arabia. Some think Assurbanipal is really the Nabuchodonosor (Nebuchadrezzar) of Judith. Sardanapalus of Greek historians is identified as Assurbanipal even though their characters seem contrasting. Assurbanipal was not the last king of Assyria, as Sardanapalus is supposed to have been.

Assurbanipal was succeeded by his two sons, Assur-etil-elani (626-? BC) and Sin-shar-ishkun (?-612 BC). Nothing is known of their respective reigns and their exploits except that in their days Assyria began rapidly to lose its prestige and power. All the foreign provinces—Egypt, Phoenicia, Chanaan, Syria, Arabia, Armenia, Media, Babylonia, and Elam—broke away from Assyria. The nation seemed spent. Nabopolassar (625-605 BC), king of Babylon, and Cyaxares (c 625-585 BC), king of Media, formed a family and political alliance, the latter giving his daughter in marriage to the formers’s son, Nebuchadrezzar II (604-562 BC). At the head of a powerful army, these two kings together marched against Nineveh and laid siege to it for fully two years, after which the city surrendered and was completely destroyed and demolished (606 BC), and Assyria became a province of Babylonia and Media.

 

Continue:  The Divided Monarchy (Part I): Puzzles in the History of Israel and Judah

 

 

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