Ancient Hebrews: Assyrian Conquest

lost tribes of Israel
Figure 1.--This Assyrian carving at Lachish shows Jews being led inton exile by Sargon's son Sennacherib after Hezekiah's failed revolot (701 BC). This is one of the earliest images of the Hebrew people. Notice that the children are dressed just like the adults, except the very young child who is unclothed. The simplicity of the clothing in the depiction here was a convention of Assyrian art.

Assyria began expanding south (9th century BC). Israel joined with the kingdoms of Hamath and Damascus (modern Syria) to resist the Assyrians (mid-9th century). The Assyrian had far greater resoyrces and steadily moved south. One of the most important Assyrian kings was Tiglathpileser III ( -728 BC). He appears to have been the Biblical Pul (2 Kings 15.19). His conquests included the Aramaean tribes in Babylonia and his armies campaigned against the Medes and reached as far north as the Caspian Sea. Tiglathpileser defeated King Urartu in Hamath thus gaining control of the north of modern Syria. The two Hebrew states instead of joining against Assyria saw each other as the major enemy. King Ahaz of Judah appealed to King Tiglathpileser for military aid King Pekah of Israel and King Resin of Damascus. Tiglathpileser conqquered Damascus. He then supressed a revolt in Babylonia. Stripped of its northern allies, Israel had to face Assyria alone with a hostile Judah to the south. Tiglathpileser conquered northern areas of Israel and exiled the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali. Shalmanaser V (727-22) took Luli in Tyre. He then conquered Samaria, the capital of Israel, in the same year he died (722 BC). [2 Kings 17.] This ws the territory of tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, Shalmanaser exileds the tribes. Sargan II (721-05 BC), one of the greatest Assyria kings conquered the rest of Isreal, completing the conquest. Sargon is Biblical Sharru-kin. [Isaiah 20:1.] The exiled Jews were replaced with other peoples. It is unclear who they were, but because because they were living in Shomron or Samaria -- are called Samaritans in the Bible. The Samaritans accepted some aspects of Judaism, but not the religion fully. They were thus not accepted by the Jewish people and were in turn resentful.

Assyria (1276-606 BC)

The Assyrians were a semietic people who first appeared to history (14th century BC). They became a great military power, building one of the great empires of westen Asia controlling the Fertile Cressent and Egypt. It was at first a small city state city state on the upper Tigris north northeast of Babylonia. Assyria was bounded in the north and east by the Taurus and Zagros mountains--the Mountains of Ashur. Two areas were the central Assyrian breadbasket: the Arbel plain and the Nineveh plain. Here crops as agriculture became more sophisticated could be grown without irrigation, unlike in Babylonia further down river. The rich agriculture provided the wealth that supported a massive army as well as as an educated class and gifted craftsmen. The first great Assyrian king was Shalmaneser I (1276-57 BC). Assyria achieved some importance under Tiglath-pileser I (12th century BC). Assyria became a major power with the great war leader Ashurnasirpal II (9th century BC). He set up the beginnings of an imperial administration with his conquests. His successors (Shalmanser III, Tiglath-pileser III, and Sargon) carved out a great Middle Eastern Empire. Sargon's son Sennacherib consolidated these gains. Esar Haddon (681-668 BC) conquered the Chaldaeans and sacked Babylon (669 BC). He also gained control of Egypt. Assur-bani-pal (669-633 BC) is seen as reigning during the height of the Empire with important artisticic achievements. After Egypt broke away, however, the Assyrian Empire rapidly declined. Nineveh was sacked (612 BC). Assyria was absorbed by first a revived Babylonian Empire and then the Persian Empire under Cyrus the Great.

Israel and Judah (10th centry BC)

When Solomon died (922 BC), his two sons disputed the sucession and the kingdom was divided . The northern kingdom was Isreal. The southern kingdom was Juah. Religious differences developed in the two kingdoms. The prophet Elijah describes this era. The two kingdoms existed between Assyria to the West and Egypt to the east. For a time the Assyrians were content to receive tribute from the Jews. Egypt was ruled by the southern Saites dynasty and was absorbed in internal affairs. Assyrian power varied over time. The Jews instead of joining forces against the Assyrians quareled with each other. There were wars between Israel and Judah. And there were civil wars within the two states over the kingship. There were also wars with neigboring peoples like the Canaanites. Both states had commercial, military, and diplomatic contacts with the other peoples of the Levant. Of particular importance were the Phoenicians (coat of Lebanon) and the Aramaeans (Damascus and Hamath).

Conquest of Israel (9th-8th Century)

Assyria began expanding south (9th century BC). Israel joined with the kingdoms of Hamath and Damascus (modern Syria) to resist the Assyrians (mid-9th century). The Assyrian had far greater resources and were more effectively organized. They steadily advanced south. One of the most important Assyrian kings was Tiglathpileser III ( -728 BC). He appears to have been the Biblical Pul (2 Kings 15.19). His conquests included the Aramaean tribes in Babylonia and his armies campaigned against the Medes and reached as far north as the Caspian Sea. Tiglathpileser defeated King Urartu in Hamath thus gaining control of the north of what is now modern Syria. The two Hebrew states (Israel and Judah) instead of joining against Assyria saw each other as the major enemy. King Ahaz of Judah even appealed to King Tiglathpileser for military aid against King Pekah of Israel and King Resin of Damascus. Tiglathpileser conqquered Damascus. He then supressed a revolt in Babylonia. Stripped of its northern allies, Israel had to face Assyria alone with a hostile Judah to the south. Tiglathpileser conquered northern areas of Israel and exiled the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali. Shalmanaser V (727-22) took Luli in Tyre. He then conquered Samaria, the capital of Israel, in the same year he died (722 BC). [2 Kings 17.] This ws the territory of tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, Shalmanaser exiled the tribes. Sargan II (721-05 BC), one of the greatest Assyria kings conquered the rest of Isreal, completing the conquest. Sargon is Biblical Sharru-kin. [Isaiah 20:1.] The exiled Jews were replaced with other peoples, an early example of ethnic cleansing. It is unclear who they were, but because because they were living in Shomron or Samaria -- thet are called Samaritans in the Bible. The Samaritans accepted some aspects of Judaism. I do not fully understand this. It suggests that the Assyrians did not exile all of the Isrealis. It also suggests that the people they introduced were not as advanced culturally and readily acceped parts of Hebrew culture. They did not, however, accept Judaism fully. They were thus not accepted by the Jewish people and were in turn resentful.

Judah

Judah became an Assyrian client state.

Rebellion (701 BC)

The Jews in Judah supported by Babylon and Egypt staged a revolt against Assyria (701 BC). The revolt was led by Hezekiah. Sargon's son Sennacherib (705 BC–681 BC) moved to supress tde revolt. He sacked cities throughout Judah. He laid siege to Jerusalem, but was unable to sack it. The city did not fall. Sennacherib returned to Nineveh. There are several accounts of the revolt. Sennacherib himself recorded the event and it is described in the Bible. Herodotus also describes it. The Biblical accounts focus on the unsuccessful siege of Jerusalem. The Biblical count is somewhat fanciful with Yahweh sending and angel to strike down 185,000 Assyrians. [2 Kings 18:35/II Chronicles 32] And it is recorded in the Annals of the Assyrian king, Sennacherib. The Assyrian accounts report that Hezekiah was suuronded in Jerusalem like a "caged bird". He was also forced to pay a great monetary tribute. While Jerusalem did not fall, the Assyrian siege and capture of Lachish is one of the few early battles known in some detail by scholars. As account apper in both the Bibke and Assyrian sources, we can be sure it is an actual historical event and not a legend. (The Assyrian sources are one of many supports for the histrodicity of the Bible.) Lachish was one of the fortress towns that defended the approaches to Jerusalem. Not only do we have thee sources, but Assyrian stone carvings on the walls of Sennacherib’s palace at Nineveh memorialize the campaign provide an astoninging visual depiction of the battle in great detail. This includes more Jews were taken away to exile (figure 1). Then the the leaders of Lachish are shown being tortured, and then Sennacherib's general reporting to him.

The Lost Tribes

The Assyrian exile of the Jews is decribed in the Bible. "And the King of Assyria took Samaria and exiled the Israelites to Assyria, and he settled them in Halah at the [River] Habor, at the River Gozan, and in the cities of Media. This happened because the Israelites sinned against the Lord their God ... they worshipped other gods and followed the customs of the nations. [2 Kings 17:6-7] As a way of controlling territory in his expanding empire he would exile conquered peoples and replace them with people more amenable to Assyrian rule. In addition the exiled people proved less prone to revolt. The Jewish people Israel were scattered by the Assyrians throughout their empire. Gradually they assimilated with other local people and are now called the ten lost tribes. Interestingly there are people throughout the world, especially eastern Asia that claim to be descended from Jewish tribes exiled by the Assyrians. Most of these people lost all connection with the Jewish faith. Some authors have attempted to asssess the claims of of people claiming Jewish ancestry. [Parfait] Jews are, for example, reported in India even before the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem. Some Indian Jews claim to be descended from the lost tribes of Israel.

Rise of Babylon

With the conquest of Israel the Assyrains extended their influence over the southern kingdom of Judah. The Assyrians never conquered Israel. They faced a new power--the Babylonians. A new empire arose in western Asia with the decline of the Assyrian Empire, The Babylonian Empire gradually expanded and threatened the Assyrians. Judah as an Assyrian client state fought Babylon. The Jews under their king Josiah were Assyrian alliess. The Egyptians who were allied with the Babylonians dispatched troops to assist the Babylonians. Josiah and the Jews at the battle of Megiddo blocked the Egyptian column. The Babylonians even without Egyptian assistance, however, defeated the Assyrians. Babylonian became the dominant power in western Asia. Nebuhadnezzar II rebuilt Babylon as the worlds most beautiful and advanced city. It was the site of the Hanging Gardens and Tower of Babel. It was Babylon that would conquer Judahand exile the Jewosh people.

Sources









HBC






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Created: 3:10 AM 7/10/2007
Last updated: 10:48 PM 12/23/2011