& CREATION OF JUDAISM
4. Sacred History or Phoney History?
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
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
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,
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
[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
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
- The reduction of the Arabs and other nomads, and the appointment of
- 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
- A list of kings of Phoenicia, Philistia, Judah, and Transjordan
included amongst the earlier list but now included.
- 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
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:
- The subjugation of Arvad and the annexation of Kashpuna to the
province of Sumur.
- The conquest of the cities of Tyre, including Mahalab.
- Moving the Assyrian army south down the coast towards Philistia.
- The subjugation of Gaza.
- The erection of a monument in “the city of the brook of Egypt.”
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
Divided Monarchy (Part I): Puzzles
in the History of Israel and Judah