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Assyria [Assy’ria]

The great Kingdom of Assyria was situated near the river Tigris, having Armenia on the North, Mount Zagros and Media on the east, Babylonia on the south, Syria and the Syrian

Desert on the west; but its boundaries were doubtless not always the same. Nineveh became its capital. The first allusion to Assyria is found in Genesis 2: 14, where we read that one of the rivers of Paradise went “toward the east of Assyria,” or “went eastward to Assyria,” margin.

The name of Assyria appears to have arisen from its first capital, Asshur (now called Kalah Sherghat) on the Tigris. Apparently a monarchy was established there by some from Babylonia, and there were several kings before Shalmaneser I. (about B.C. 1300), whose family kept the Throne for six generations until Tiglathpileser I. (about B.C. 1130), who may be said to be the founder of the first Assyrian Empire. He beautified Nineveh and carried his arms in Various directions. After him the Kingdom became feeble until Rimmon-NIRARI II., B.C. 911, but his victorious career was excelled by his grandson, the great Assur-NATSIR-PAL, B.C. 883, who made conquests over the Phoenicians and the ‘Kaldu’ (Chaldeans).

Shalmaneser II succeeded, B.C. 858. He carried his arms still farther. We have his conquests told by himself on three Monuments in the British Museum, one of which is known as the Black Obelisk. If the names are correctly interpreted he mentions as allied against him Benhadad king of Syria and Ahab king of Israel. These were defeated at the Battle of Karkar, B.C. 853. Hazael of Damascus was also defeated; and from Yahua, the son of Khumri, that is, Jehu, whom he incorrectly calls son of Omri, king of Israel, he received Tribute; but of this Scripture says nothing.

The next king who invaded Syria was Rimmon-NIRARI III B.C. 810. He extended his victories to what he calls, ‘the shore of the sea of the setting sun,’ which is doubtless the Mediterranean, and imposed Tribute on the Phoenicians, Israelites, Edomites, Philistines, and the king of Damascus. After this king the power of Assyria waned for a time.

The next king of note was TIGLATH -PILESER II. or III. B.C. 745, who is considered to have founded the second Assyrian Kingdom. He consolidated the Various dependencies, turbulent populations were removed, and the empire was divided into provinces, each of which paid a fixed annual Tribute. In his inscriptions occur the names of Jehoahaz (Ahaz) of Judah; Pekah, and Hoshea of Israel; Reson (Resin) of Damascus; and Hiram of Tyre. The name of Merodach-baladan is also found. Hamath was taken and then all Palestine was at his feet. He attacked those on the east of the Jordan, and carried away the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. 1 Chronicles 5: 26. Ahaz sought his Alliance against Rezin the king of Damascus. Rezin was slain and the city taken; and there Ahaz met the king of Assyria. 2 Kings 16: 1-10; 2 Chronicles 28: 16-21. He also made himself Master of Babylonia; but this afterwards gained its independence under Merodach-baladan. Some Assyrian scholars take Tiglath-pileser (whose name appears to have been Pulu) to be the same person as the Pul mentioned in the Bible; but this does not at all agree with the dates of Scripture, and in 1 Chronicles 5: 26 the names of Pul and Tiglathpileser are mentioned as of two persons. See Pul.

In B.C. 727 Shalmaneser IV. succeeded to the Throne. Hoshea king of Israel was subject to him; but on being found in treaty with the king of Egypt, Samaria was besieged. 2 Kings 17: 3-5.

In B.C. 722 Sargon succeeded, and apparently it was he who captured Samaria. An inscription of his at Khorsabad reads, “I besieged the city of Samaria and carried away 27,280 men who dwelt there into Captivity, and took fifty chariots from among them, and ordered the rest to be taken. I set my Judges over them, and imposed upon them the Tribute of the former kings.” He also placed colonists in Samaria, but it is supposed by the names of the places mentioned from which these were sent, that this was not done immediately. Sargon captured Carchemish, punished the king of Syria, flayed alive the king of Hamath, and then successfully overcame So or Sabako. Sargon is mentioned in Isaiah 20: 1 as sending his general to Ashdod, who took it. An inscription also mentions the fall of the city. Sargon defeated Merodach-baladan in Babylonia, but was assassinated in B.C. 705. He was called SHARRU-KENU, that is, ‘Faithful king.’

Sennacherib succeeded Sargon his Father, B.C. 705. Hezekiah had been tributary; but on his revolting Sennacherib took the fenced Cities of Judah, and then Hezekiah sent him the treasures of his own house and the house of the Lord. Still Jerusalem was attacked, and profane speeches made against the God of Israel. Hezekiah humbled himself before God, and the angel of the Lord smote of the Assyrians 185,000. Sennacherib returned to his land and was eventually murdered by two of his sons. 2 Kings 18: 13 – 19: 37. In Sennacherib’s own account he says, “Hezekiah himself I shut up like a bird in a cage in Jerusalem, his royal city . . . . in addition to his former Tribute and yearly gifts I added other Tribute and the homage due to my majesty, and I laid it upon them.” The above date would clash with the date of Hezekiah, but it is probable that Sennacherib was co-regent with his Father some nine years before he reigned alone.

A tablet shows Sennacherib sitting on a Throne to receive the spoils of the city of Lachish. It is supposed he lived 20 years after he left Palestine before he was assassinated. He says nothing of the loss of his army, and perhaps never recovered the shock.

ESAR-HADDON succeeded, B.C. 681. He is said to have reigned from the Euphrates to the Nile. He also conquered Egypt, and divided it into 20 provinces, governed by Assyrians. According to an inscription he claimed the sovereignty of Babylon, and held his court there. This accounts for him, as king of Assyria, Carrying Manasseh captive to Babylon. 2 Chronicles 33: 11. He is mentioned also in Ezra 4: 2 as having sent the colonists into Judaea. After reigning about 10 years he associated with him his son the noted Assur-Bani-PAL. Egypt was again conquered. He gathered a famous library at Kouyunjik, the terra cotta Tablets of which have been preserved. Assur-bani-pal died about B.C. 626. The glory of the Assyrian Kingdom was permanently departing, and about B.C. 606 Nineveh was taken and destroyed. Nahum 1 – 3.

There are many Monuments and inscriptions on Tablets which the learned are deciphering; but the difficulties of distinguishing the proper names on the Assyrian Monuments are shown by M. Joachim Menant, who gives as an instance one sign which may be read kal, rip, dan, or lip, being one of the signs called ‘polyphones.’

The following list of kings is from Rawlinson, Sayce, and other Assyrian scholars. The early dates are uncertain and several of the later dates do not agree with the usual Chronology of Scripture.

Assyrian Kings.

B.C. 1300 Shalmaneser II., his son
Tiglath-Adar I., his son
Samas-Rimmon II., his son
Bel-kudur-utsur (Belchadrezzar) his son
Rimmon-nirari III., his son
Assur-narara and Nebo-dan
Adar-pal-esar (Adar-pileser)
Assur-dan III.
Assur-dan I., his son
Mutaggil-Nebo, his son
Pulu, usurper, Tiglath-pileser II. or III
Assur-ris-ilim, his son
Ulula (Elulaeos) of Tinu, usurper, Shalmaneser
Tiglath-pileser I., his son
Sargon, usurper
Assur-bel-kala, his son
Sennacherib of Khabigal, his son
Samas-Rimmon I., his Brother
Esar-haddon, his son
Assur-bani-pal (Sardanapalus) his son
Assur-etil-ili-yukinni, his son
? 626
Assur-dan II
Esar-haddon II. (Sarakos)
Rimmon-nirari II., his son
Fall of Nineveh
? 606
Tiglath-Adar II., his son
Assur-natsir-pal, his son
The Assyrians were idolaters: from the inscriptions the names of hundreds of gods can be gathered.

The Assyrian language was a Branch of the Semitic, and came from the Accadian. It was written in Cuneiform or wedge-shaped characters.

Assyria was used by God as His rod to punish His guilty people Israel, and then, as in other instances, the rod itself, for its pride and wickedness, had to bear God’s Judgement. See Isaiah 10: 5-19; Isaiah 14: 25; Ezekiel 31: 3-17; Nahum 3: 18, 19; Zephaniah 2: 13. Some of the passages that speak of the kings of Assyria are prophetic, and refer to the still future, when as ‘kings of the north’ they will again have to do with Israel and will be judged of God. The indignation against Israel ceases in the Destruction of the Assyrian: see Isaiah 10: 12; Isaiah 14: 25; Isaiah 30: 27-33. One remarkable Passage speaks of Assyria with Egypt and Israel as being brought into Blessing, Isaiah 19: 23-25, “Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine Inheritance.” We thus see that the Assyrians have a large place in Scripture both in the past and in the future, doubtless because they have had, and will yet have, to do with Jehovah’s earthly people, “the Israel of God.” The Assyrian is the over-flowing scourge of God’s anger because of Israel’s connection with Idolatry.

Original text taken from the New and Concise Bible Dictionary published by G. Morish, London

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