Three items follow:

1 The Destruction of Sennacherib:  A poem by G D Byron.

2 The God of the Prophets Versus the Assyrian Empire:

3 Tirhakah Shows Up



THE DESTRUCTION OF SENNACHERIB

                G D Byron (1788-1824)

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like the stars on the sea
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen;
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and forever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostrils all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow and the rust on his mail;
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

<>And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!



THE GOD OF THE PROPHETS
VERSUS THE ASSYRIAN EMPIRE

Anonymous

(Investigator 71,  2000 March. Graphics/maps omitted)
 

BLOODY ASSYRIA

Ashurbanipal II, King of Assyria (884 – 859 BC), called himself ''trampler of nations''.  Blood-curdling inscriptions of his achievements include:

I besieged and conquered the city… I captured many troops alive.  I cut off of some their arms and hands.  I cut off others their noses, ears and extremities. I gouged out the eyes of many troops. I made one pile of the living and one of heads. I hung their heads on trees around the city. I flayed as many nobles as had rebelled against me and draped their skins over the pile of corpses… I flayed many, right through my land and draped their skins over the walls. I cut off the heads of their fighters and built therewith a tower before the city.  I burnt their adolescent boys and girls. (Bleibtreu 1991)
The next king, Shalmaneser III (858-824 BC), conducted 32 war campaigns during his 35-year reign. Pictorial records on gates and walls show Assyrian troops holding captives and hacking hands and feet off, and other captives – minus their hands and feet impaled on stakes.

Assyrian records occur on obelisks, stelae, clay and alabaster cylinders, prisms and tablets, and on bronze sheets. Wedge-shaped (cuneiform) inscriptions were supplemented with pictorial representations called ''reliefs''.

Reliefs decorated main gates of cities and temples and especially palace walls of the capital cities Nimrud, Khorsabad and Nineveh.

Vast numbers of Assyrian inscriptions and pictorial records have been recovered.  Archaeologist Austen H Laylard (1817-1894) estimated that the reliefs in Sennacherib's palace at Nineveh extend 3km.

Some reliefs state that the Assyrians never lost a battle.  The kings claimed to be ''victorious over all countries.''

The reign of Shalmaneser III produced reliefs on bronze sheets made by hammering the opposite side. These decorated the temple and palace gates at Balewat near modern Mosul. The fine detail includes a scene of a man with both feet and a hand cut off and Assyrians grasping the other hand to cut that off too. Another relief shows a row of captives impaled on stakes.

In 701 BC Assyria invaded Judah. The prophet Isaiah – claiming to speak for God – predicted the Assyrians would become:

…so few that a child can write them down.  (Isaiah 10:19)

TABLE 1   KINGS OF ASSYRIA, ISRAEL and JUDAH

[The dates are from common Bible dictionaries. Some dates overlap because kings reigned simultaneously. 
Hezekiah was coregent with his father Ahaz for about 12 years.  Ahaz was coregent with his father for 4 years.]

ASSYRIA
ISRAEL
JUDAH


Solomon 971-931

Jeroboam 931-910 Rehoboam 931-914

Nadab 910-909 Abijah 914-911

Baasha 909-986 Asa 911-871
Adad-nirari II 912-891 Elah 986-985 Jehoshaphat 872-849
Tukulti-Ninurta II 891-884 Omri 885-874 Jehoram 848-842
Ashurbanipal II 884-859 Ahab 873-852 Ahaziah 842
Shalmaneser III 858-824 Ahaziah 851-850 Athaliah (Queen) 842-837

Jehoram 850-842 Jehoash 837-797
Adad-nirari III 810-782 Jehu 842-815 Amaziah 799-769
Tiglath-pileser III 744-727 Jehoahaz 815-799 Uzziah 791-740
Shalmaneser V 727-722 Jehoash 799-884 Jotham 750-732
Sargon II 722-705 Jeroboam 784-745? Ahaz 735-715
Sennacherib 705-681 Menahem 744-738 Hezekiah 727-698
Esarhaddon 680-669 
Manasseh 698-642
Ashurbanipal 668-627 Pekah 737-732 Amon 641-640

Hoshea 731-722 Josiah 639-609


Jehoahaz 609


Jehoiakim 609-598


Jehoiachin 598

 

ISRAEL AND JUDAH

After King Solomon, Israel split into two kingdoms. ''Israel'' with ten tribes was the northern kingdom. Judah with two tribes was the southern kingdom.

Assyria first threatened Israel and its neighbours during the reign of Ahab (873-852 BC) of Israel.

Syria, Palestine and Israel teemed up and stemmed Shalmaneser III at the Battle of Qarqar on the Orontes River (Western Syria) in 853 BC. An inscription of Shalmaneser III records the battle and says Ahab sent 2,000 chariots.  Assyria was checked but only temporarily.

The ''Black Obelisk'' of Shalmaneser III depicts ''Jehu son of Omri'' [both kings of Israel]
 prostrate before him and kissing his feet in 841 BC
.


The Black Obelisk is a 4-sided, 1½ metre high, monolith, found at Nimrud in 1846 by British archaeologist Austen H Laylard.  It now stands in the British Museum.

The Obelisk has five rows of reliefs around the four sides and 190 lines of text above and below the reliefs.  Each relief has a caption above it to explain it. The second relief from the top has the caption ''Tribute of Jehu son of Omri''.

''Son of Omri'' taken literally disagrees with the Bible since Jehu was not the son but a usurper of Israel's thrown. Probably the phrase is short for ''son of the house of Omri''.

Jehu commanded a garrison at Ramoth-Gilead in north Transjordan. About 842 BC he led his men to Samaria (capital of the ten-tribe kingdom), killed King Jehoram and made himself king. Jehu upset his alliance with Judah and Tyre by annihilating the royal families of Israel and Judah and then exterminating the Tyre-backed cult of Baal. This left Jehu too weak to resist incursions by the Arameans from what is now Syria. Jehu therefore asked for help from Assyria. The Black Obelisk records the tribute Jehu paid for this help.

Jehu's strategy was only briefly successful. The Assyrians beat the Arameans and departed.  The Arameans then recovered and conquered all of Jehu's territory east of the Jordan. (2 Kings 10:32-33)

Assyrian oppression continued.  A stela erected in 806 BC at Tell al Rimah in north Iraq by Adad-nirari III (810-782) has an inscription recording receipt of tribute from Jehoahaz (814–798) the king of Israel after Jehu.

A period of Assyrian decline then set in.  The Jonah story has its setting either at the time of Adad-nirari III or soon afterwards. Jonah survived in the ''belly of the fish'' for ''three days'', went to Nineveh – which was in a state of ''violence'' and ''evil'' – and got the king and population to repent. (ch. 2 & 3) The story was debated in Investigator 35 and subsequently.

Assyria's decline permitted stability and prosperity in Israel and Judah for half a century.  This was when Jeroboam II (784-745) ruled Israel and Uzziah (791-740) ruled Judah.

Then Tiglath-pileser III invaded Israel and received tribute from King Menahem (744-738 BC). The Bible, referring to Tiglath-pileser III as ''Pulu'' or ''Pul'', mentions the invasion in 2 Kings 15:19-20.

Another incident occurred when King Pekah of Israel (737-732) joined with Rezin of Damascus to fight King Ahaz of Judah. (2 Kings 16:5-10) Ahaz appealed to Asssyria for help.

Tiglath-pileser III intervened in 732 BC, deposed Peka and put Hoshea on the thrown of Israel.  Northern Israel was devastated and the population of Galilee deported. (2 Kings 15:29) An inscription of Tiglath-pileser III records tribute from various vassal states conquered during this campaign including Moab, Gaza, Ashkelon, Edom, etc.  It mentions tribute of gold, silver, lead, iron, woollen garments, linen, horses, mules and produce of the sea and land.  The inscription mentions ''Jehoahaz of Judah.'' This is the Biblical king Ahaz (an abbreviation of Jehoahaz).

Israel was crushed by annual tribute.  Hoping to end the burden Israel revolted.  Shalmaneser V (726-722 BC) then invaded Israel. In a 3-year war the Assyrians destroyed Israel's capital, Samaria. (2 Kings 18:10)

In 720 BC the next Assyrian king, Sargon II (721-705 BC) took Samaria and deported and resettled the people and replaced them with foreigners (who eventually became known as Samaritans). 

Sargon recorded that he deported 27,290 Israelites. The Bible says they were resettled in Assyria, Mesopotamia and Media. (2 Kings 17:6; 18:11) (These are the so-called ''Ten Lost Tribes'' which some modern religious cults claim migrated west to form various European nations.)
 

HEZEKIAH OF JUDAH

The Bible implies that many of Israel's people fled south and settled in Judah.  The King of Judah at that time was Hezekiah (727-698 BC).

2 Chronicles 31:6 mentions:

"the people of Israel and Judah who lived in the cities of Judah…"
Furthermore, referring to Lachish, Judah's second largest city after Jerusalem, the prophet Micah wrote:
"…for in you were found the transgression of Israel." (1:13)
Apparently, many settlers from the Northern Kingdom moved to Lachish and brought with them their idolatry.

Archaeology supports the idea of an influx of people from Israel.  Survey work at Jerusalem has uncovered numerous farm units around the Jerusalem of that period implying rapid population increase.  A ''Broad Wall'' was built as extra fortification, and perhaps to enclose a new suburb.  Some archaeologists associate this wall with the construction recorded in 2 Chronicles 32:2-5. The size of Jerusalem increased from 50 acres to 150 acres (Magnussen 1977) and its population from 8,000 to 24,000.

Archaeologists have found numerous handles of storage jars from Hezekiah's time.  The handles have the inscription ''belonging to the king'' plus two sorts of pictures under the inscription. Some handles have a two-winged disc and others a four-winged scarab.  Identical four-winged scarab seal impressions have been discovered in Samaria. Therefore it is suggested that the four-winged scarab was the royal emblem of the Northern Kingdom and the two-winged disc the royal emblem of Judah the southern kingdom. (Younker 1991)

The use of two royal emblems – of Israel and of Judah – expressed the idea that both kingdoms were reunited in Judah. This is added archaeological support for an influx of people from the northern ten tribes to escape the Assyrians.

Hezekiah also:

… made…the conduit and brought water into the city…(2 Kings 20:20)
The conduit still exists.  It was a 1777 foot-long tunnel hewn through solid rock to divert water from the Spring of Gihon on Jerusalem's east into a reservoir inside the city.  An inscription discovered in the tunnel in 1880 records how the stonecutters working toward each other met:
While the workmen were still lifting pick to pick each toward his neighbor and while three cubits remained to be cut through, each heard the voice of the other who called his neighbor, since there was a crevice on the rock on the right side. And on the day of the boring through the stone cutters struck, each to meet his fellow pick to pick; and there flowed the waters to the pool for 1200 cubits and 100 cubits was the height of the rock above the heads of the stone cutters.
The Bible also mentions the historical person Merodach Baladan. (2 Kings 20:12)  Merodach Baladan was a Chaldean leader who successfully rebelled against Assyria in 722 BC and became king of Babylon in 721 BC.  He sent an embassy to Hezekiah to congratulate him on his recovery from an illness. (2 Kings 20:12-19; Isaiah 39:1-8)

Merodach Baladan joined a vast confederacy of nations – Babylon, Elam, Susiana, Phoenicia, Moab, Edom, Philistia, and Egypt – for a grand onslaught against Assyria.  Sargon of Assyria attacked first, smashed the opposing armies, and took Babylon in 710 BC.

Merodach Baladan fled east to Elam. He returned to Babylon in 702 BC and again became king.  He was defeated by Sargon's successor Sennacherib.
 

ASSYRIANS ATTACK JUDAH

When Sennacherib (705-681 BC) of Assyria came to the throne Hezekiah withheld tribute and organized a rebellion.  He forced Ekron, his western neighbour, to join him and also got Egyptian support.

Hezekiah next invaded Philistia, a protectorate of Assyria. (2 Kings 18:7-8)  A text of Sennacherib, discovered about 1970, mentions Hezekiah's attack.

In 701 BC Assyria's army marched:

In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. (2 Kings 18:13)
What was King Sennacherib like?  Read his own words:
I cut their throats like lambs… I made the contents of their gullets and entrails run down upon the wide earth…  With the bodies of their warriors I filled the wide plain.  Their testicles I cut off, and tore out their privates like the seeds of cucumbers. (Bleibtreu 1991)

CHRONOLOGICAL PROBLEMS

A problem arises with the words ''In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah…''  If Hezekiah ruled 727-698 and Sennacherib ruled 705-681 and the invasion was 701 BC, the numbers don't add up.

<>The probable answer (suggested in The New Bible Dictionary – J D Douglas) is that Hezekiah was coregent with his father, Ahaz, for a dozen years. The ''fourteenth year'' refers to Hezekiah's reign as sole monarch.
 

SENNACHERIB'S CAMPAIGN

As part of his preparation for war Hezekiah had fortified Jerusalem:

You counted the buildings in Jerusalem, and tore down houses to strengthen the wall. (Isaiah 22:10)
Archaeologists have excavated the remains of a 7-metre thick stone city wall designed to withstand Assyrian battering rams. (Mazar 1990 p. 420)

Isaiah also mentions a ''reservoir between the two walls for the water of the Old Pool.'' (22:9-11) Remains of the second wall (the city wall built by David 250 years earlier) and of the reservoir are also confirmed.

Sennacherib's campaign began with the capture of the coastal cities of Phoenicia, the defeat of an Egyptian army in Philistia, and the conquest of Ekron.  He then turned east. Moab and Edom submitted and sent tribute.

Judah was now surrounded.

The six-sided Taylor Prism of clay and 38cm-high – inscribed about 691 BC but now in the British Museum – describes the invasion:

As for Hezekiah the Jew, who did not submit to my yoke, forty-six of his strong-walled cities, as well as the small cities in their neighborhood, which were without number – by constructing ramparts out of trampled earth and by bringing up battering rams, by the attack of infantry, by tunnels, breaches and axes – I besieged and conquered.
Two hundred thousand one hundred and fifty men, young and old, male and female, horses, mules, asses, camels, oxen and sheep without number I brought out from them, I counted as spoil.  Hezekiah I shut up like a caged bird in Jerusalem, his royal city; the walls I fortified against him. Whoever came out of the gates of the city I turned back.
His cities which I had plundered I divided from his land and gave them to Mitinti, king of Ashdod, to Padi, king of Ekron, and to Sillibel, king of Gaza, and thus diminished his territory.
To the former tribute, paid yearly, I added the tribute of alliance of my lordship and laid that upon him.
Hezekiah himself was overwhelmed by the fear of the awful splendor of my lordship. The Arabians and his other faithful warriors whom, as a defense for Jerusalem his royal city he had brought in, fell into fear.
With thirty talents of gold and eight hundred talents of silver, precious stones, rouge dakkassi, lapis lazuli, couches of ivory, thrones of ivory, ushu wood, ukarinnu wood, various objects, a heavy treasure, and his daughters, his women of the palace, male and female musicians, to Nineveh, the city of my lordship,  I caused to be brought after me.  And he sent his ambassadors to give tribute and pay homage.
Lachish is identified with a 20-acre mound called Tell el-Duweir about 50km south west of Jerusalem.  Lachish was Judah's second largest city and heavily fortified. Fortifications included two walls, the inner one being in places 6 metres thick. (Mazar 1990 pp. 427-428)

The siege of Lachish is depicted in magnificent carved wall reliefs in rooms of Sennacherib's Southwest Palace in Nineveh. The reliefs show battering rams being hauled up ramps and being attacked by Jewish defenders with torches which Assyrians douse with water while sling stones and arrows fill the sky.

King Sennacherib, on a throne out of arrow range at 300 metres, watches the slaughter. The reliefs show assaults by foot soldiers, dead captives strung up on walls and living captives pleading for mercy.

We see Sennacherib receiving tribute while prisoners are tortured.  Near his head are the words:

Sennacherib, the king of the world, the king of Assyria, sat on his throne, and the spoil of the city of Lachish marched before him.
We see lines of Jewish prisoners pulling huge stones with ropes as Assyrian guards strike with truncheons. Another relief shows Assyrian troops carrying plunder out of Lachish.  We see Jews marching into exile.

Archaeologists have found remains of siege ramps plus hundreds of iron arrow heads, sling stones, heavy stones hurled over the walls, charred wood, and a cave with bones of thousands of slaughtered people. (Mazar 1990 p. 332)

The Bible records that Hezekiah tried to buy the Assyrians off.

2 Kings 18:14 says he paid 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold.  Assyrian records (see above) put the silver at 800 talents. One explanation is that the Bible has a copyist's error made in an ancient manuscript. Another explanation is that the ''talent'' was not a uniform measure – a ''heavy'' talent was used in Palestine and a ''light'' talent in Babylon.  It's also possible that Sennacherib exaggerated the tribute received.

Sennacherib took Hezekiah's tribute but continued the war.

According to the Bible Sennacherib sent three officers with an army to Jerusalem to demand surrender.  The three Assyrian officers – Tartan, Rabshakeh and Rabsaris – negotiated at the wall of Jerusalem and demanded surrender.

''Tartan'' is now known to have been an Assyrian title meaning Second in Rank; Rabshakeh meant Chief Officer; Rabsaris may have meant ''Chief Eunuch''.

The Rabshakeh declared:

Do not listen to Hezekiah;  for thus says the king of Assyria:  ‘Make your peace with me and come out to me… I [will] come and take you away to a land like your own land…that you may live, and not die. And do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, The Lord will deliver us.
Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Who among all the gods of the countries have delivered their countries out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand? (2 Kings 18:29-35)
Lachish had meanwhile surrendered and Sennacherib turned to attack Libnah about 20km north. At this stage the Bible mentions another historically confirmed person – Tirhakah. (2 Kings 19:8-9)  Tirhakah was an Ethiopian ruler of Egypt who became king of Egypt in 691 BC.  For the Bible to mention him as ''king'' ten years earlier in 701 BC,  is seen by critics as an error.  One answer is that Tirhakah was a military commander in 701 BC but since the books of Kings and Chronicles were finalised two centuries later the Bible uses Tirhakah's later title.

Tirhakah advanced toward Judah to intervene against the Assyrians. Sennacherib then sent the Rabshakeh to Jerusalem with a second message for Hezekiah.  This message was much like the first one. (2 Kings 19:8-13) Meanwhile, the Egyptians were defeated and retreated.

Asssyrian records do not mention any capture of Jerusalem or of Hezekiah.

Funk and Wagnall's New Standard Bible Dictionary (1936) says:

The close of this campaign of S is veiled in obscurity… This order of events looks like a screen to cover up something which he does not wish to mention. (p. 829)
According to the Bible Hezekiah prayed to God. (2 Kings 19:14-19)  Then the prophet Isaiah in God's name declared to Sennacherib:
Whom have you mocked and reviled?
Against whom have you raised your voice and haughtily lifted your eyes?
Against the Holy One of Israel!
By your messengers you have mocked the Lord…
Because you have raged against me and your arrogance has come into my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth,
and I will turn you back on the way by which you came. (2 Kings 19:22-28)
Such an address to a king commanding victorious armies likely to have captives' eyes gouged out, tongues torn out, hands chopped off, testicles severed, and skin pealed off with knives, would ordinarily be stupid!

What subsequently happened is hidden from history and archaeology.  The Bible says:

Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, he shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same way he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, says the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.

And that night the angel of the Lord went forth, and slew a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went home, and dwelt in Nineveh. (2 Kings 19:32-36)

That the inexplicable intervened is reflected in the Encyclopedia Britannica:
At this point Jerusalem was saved by a miraculous plague that decimated the Assyrian army.
(1997 CD-ROM Hezekiah)
The Greek historian Herodotus (485-425 BC) wrote:
…a multitude of field mice which by night devoured all the quivers and bows of the enemy, and all the straps by which they held their shields… next morning they commenced to fight and great numbers fell as they had no arms with which to defend themselves. (Book 2 p. 141)
The first-century Jewish historian Josephus quoted Berosus a third-century BC Babylonian priest and historian:
Now when Sennacherib was returning from his Egyptian war to Jerusalem, he found his army under Rabshakeh in danger,  for God had sent a pestilential distemper upon his army; and on the very first night of the siege, a hundred fourscore and five thousand, with their captains and generals, were destroyed.  So the king was in great dread, and in a terrible agony at this calamity; and being in great fear for his whole army, he fled with the rest of his forces to his own kingdom, and to his city Nineveh…  (Antiquities of the Jews)
Berosus might be right about the ''pestilence''.  In addition to the ''angel of the Lord'' the Bible says:
Therefore the Lord, the Lord of hosts, will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors… (Isaiah 10:16)
Critics claim that 185,000 is an exaggeration.  However, the phrase ''the camp of the Assyrians'' could refer to all the camps and army detachments of the Assyrians, not just the army near Jerusalem.  Camp followers may also be included.  When ancient armies marched, the camp followers who traded, prostituted and entertained often outnumbered the troops.
 

SUBSEQUENT EVENTS

What happened after 701 BC to Sennacherib? Merodach Baladan? Hezekiah? Judah? Tirhakah? Assyria? God? Isaiah?

Sennacherib organized great building works at Nineveh including a huge palace, new city squares, and a system of canals. He fought more wars, but avoided Judah.

In 694 BC Merodach Baladan led another Babylonian revolt which Sennacherib crushed.  Merodach Baladan took his people on boats down the Euphrates and across the Persian Gulf to Elam. Sennacherib launched a naval expedition across the Gulf to punish the Elamites.

In 691 BC Sennacherib defeated another powerful coalition of Babylonians, Medians, Elamites and Aramaeans.  In 689 BC he devastated Babylon, diverted the waters of a canal over the ruins, and left the inner city uninhabited for 8 years.

Sennacherib died in 681 BC. The Bible says he was murdered by two of his sons. Another son Esarhaddon (680-669) succeeded him. (2 Kings 19:37)

Judah recovered from the invasion of 701 BC and Hezekiah ruled in peace. Manasseh (who succeeded Hezekiah) and his grandson Josiah enjoyed long reigns. Josiah extended Judah's territory northwards and westwards and initiated religious reforms. The Bible gives Josiah one of the two best write-ups – the other being Hezekiah – of any king of Israel or Judah.

Tirhakah of Egypt survived to fight Assyria again. Esarhaddon, son of Sennacherib, attacked Egypt in 673 BC, defeated Tirhakah in 670 BC and expelled him from the capital Memphis. He retreated south to Upper Egypt, led a rebellion against Assyria in 668 BC but was defeated by Ashurbanipal (668-627 BC) son of Esarhaddon:

…so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians captives and the Ethiopians exiles, both the young and the old, naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt. (Isaiah 20:4)
Tirhakah died in 663 BC.

Assyrian aggression and brutality continued. Esarhaddon brought Assyria to its peak. In 670 BC the empire stretched from the Persian Gulf to southern Egypt. Reliefs by Ashurbanipal show naked men – captured Elamites – tied to the ground while Assyrians with knives skin them alive. Other Elamites are shown having their tongues torn out. This probably occurred in 653 BC when Assyria decisively defeated Elam.

Assyrian brutality encouraged payment of tribute and discouraged resistance. Oppressive levels of tribute of iron, bronze, gold, silver, copper, tin and wood were necessary for Assyria's economic survival and to finance its wars. The brutality and tribute, however, provoked rebellion and led to ever-stronger coalitions of nations rising against Assyria.

The Old Testament prophet Nahum described Nineveh's destruction:

Desolation! Desolation and ruin!
Hearts faint and knees tremble,
anguish is on all loins,
all faces grow pale!
Horsemen charging,
flashing sword and glittering spear,
hosts of slain, heaps of corpses.
(Nahum 2:4-10; 3:3)
Nineveh was taken by Babylonians and Medes in 612 BC.  Assyria's last king, Ashur-uballid II, retained a small territory at Harran which the Babylonians took in 610 BC.

Assyria disappeared from history.

By 400 BC Nineveh's ruins lay buried. Xenophon and 10,000 Greeks marched past Nineveh without realizing it. Alexander the Great fought the great battle of Arbela in 331 BC not knowing that Nineveh was close.

In AD 1845 Nineveh was identified by Austen H Laylard. In 1849 -1850 he excavated a 30-metre high, 100-acre, mound that covered the palaces of Assurbanipal and Sennacherib.

Zephaniah, another Old Testament prophet, predicted:

…he [God] will make Nineveh a desolation,
a dry waste like the desert.
Herds [Hebrew ‘geder'= flocks] shall lie down in the midst of her,
All the beasts of the field… (2:13-14)
Flocks of sheep still grazed near Nineveh in the 20th century!

What about ''God'', the ''Holy One of Israel'', who had compared Sennacherib to a wild animal requiring a hook in its nose?

Psalm 22 foretold:

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.
Currently 2,000 million ''Christians'' – one third of all humanity – give nominal allegiance to ''the Lord''.  If one includes the nominal allegiance of Islam and Judaism the total approaches 3,300 million – 55% of humankind! Sennacherib ruled perhaps 10 million!

Isaiah predicted that in ''the latter [last] days'' God would enforce his rule over the whole world:

He [God] shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples;
And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (2:1-4)
With hindsight we see that Sennacherib's alleged challenge to God was no contest. The Bible teaches that empires and great cities may seem everlasting but this is an illusion. They all perish and their people will be judged by God by what they did. This applies to today's nations too. (2 Peter 3)  And what applies to nations, civilizations and empires applies to organizations and individuals – if they oppose God their opposition is temporary and doomed.

Isaiah is now read worldwide in hundreds of languages, Assyrian reliefs hardly at all!

The grass withers, the flower fades;
But the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)

REFERENCES

Assyria–Funk and Wagnalls New Encyclopedia (1983) Volume 3, Funk & Wagnalls, Inc. USA
Assyria–Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 1993-1995, Microsoft Corporation
Bleibtreu, E Grisly Assyrian Record of Torture and Death  Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 1991, pp 53-61, 75
Britannica CD-ROM 1997  Ashurbanipal; Esarhaddon; Hezekiah; Sennacherib; The History of Ancient Mesopotamia;
Douglas, J D (Organising Editor) 1982 New Bible Dictionary, Inter-Varsity,  England
Josephus Complete Works Translated by W Whiston, Kregel Publications,1960
Lloyd, S 1984 The Archaeology of Mesopotamia Revised Edition, Thames & Hudson, London
Luckenbill, D D 1924 The Annals of Sennacherib, University of Chicago Press, USA
Luckenbill, D D 1927 Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia Volumes 1 & 2, University of Chicago Press, USA
Magnussen, M 1977 The Archaeology of the Bible Lands, Book Club Associates, England
Mazar, A 1990 Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, Doubleday, USA
The Bible RSV 1952 The British & Foreign Bible Society
Thomas, D W (Editor) 1958 Documents from Old Testament Times,  Thomas Nelson
Unger, M F 1983 Unger's Bible Dictionary Paperback Edition, Moody, Chicago
Younker, R W  Jar handles reveal Hezekiah's hopes, Ministry, 1991 July pp.15-18.
 



TIRHAKAH (= TAHARQA) SHOWS UP

(Investigator 71 March 2000)

Relevant to Anonymous' article The God of the Prophets Versus the Assyrian Empire is a press clipping titled Bike rack ancient statue. (The Advertiser 2000 February 5 p. 49)

The press report is about Tirhakah of Egypt (who tried to intervene when Sennacherib devastated Judah) and starts off:   "LONDON: A piece of polished stone used by Museum staff as a bicycle rack turned out to be a 2700-year-old statue of King Taharqa."

The 68cm statue lay in a Southampton Museum for a century until noticed by two Egyptologists!
 
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