The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser

"He will raise a signal for a nation from afar off, and whistle for it from the ends of the earth; and lo, swiftly, speedily it comes." Isaiah 5:26

The Jehu Relief


Look closely and notice the man bowing to the king of Assyria

The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser stands nearly 7 feet tall and 2 feet thick. On each of the 4 sides there are 5 panels with carvings of various kings bringing tribute to king Shalmaneser III.

The second panel from the top of the obelisk reveals king Jehu of Israel bowing at the feet of Shalmaneser of Assyria. This is the same Jehu who is mentioned in Scripture, and this carved relief is the only image in all history of one of the Hebrew kings. On the panel Shalmaneser is offering a libation to his god. The cuneiform text around the panel reads:

"The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri: I received from him silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king [and] spears."


Sketch of the Black Limestone Obelisk
 


Sketch of the Jehu Relief Panel

  Examining the Jehu Panel

1. It reveals how King Jehu paid tribute to Shalmaneser III.

2. King Jehu grovels in the dust before the Assyrian king.

3. Shalmaneser is making a libation to his god.

4. Behind Shalmaneser III stand two officers, one holds a parasol (a royal umbrella) and the other a club.

5. Opposite the monarch two grooms-in-waiting have taken up their stance, one waves a fan and a censer, the other, carrying a scepter under his arm, has his hands respectfully clasped in front of him.

6. There is a bearded officer with an attendant, leading a procession of 13 Israelites laden with precious gifts for the Assyrian king. 

7. All the Israelites have beards, and wear peaked caps and bandeaux. A long robe with fringes round the hem and a girdle, a long cloak with a fringed end thrown over the shoulder, and pointed shoes.

8. Shalmaneser beneath a parasol, accepts "the tribute of Iaua of the House of Humri" in 841 BC. This is King Jehu of Israel (2Ki 9-10).

9. The inscription reads: "The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri: I received from him silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king [and] spears."

10. The symbols of the gods Assur (winged sun disc) and Ishtar (star) hover overhead.
 

 


Close up Sketch of Jehu Bowing to the Dust
 

Another Fragment Mentions Jehu

Jehu is also mentioned on another fragment from the annals of Shalmaneser III that was discovered which says, "Then I took tribute of the Tyrians, of the Sidonians, and of Jehu, of the house of Omri."

"In the 18th year of my reign I crossed the Euphrates for the sixteenth time. Hazael of Damascus trusted in the power of his forces, marshalled his troops in full strength. He made Senir (Mt. Hermon), the summit of the mountain opposite Lebanon, his stronghold. With him I fought, and defeated him. Six thousand of his soldiers I brought down with weapons; 1121 of his chariots, 470 of his horses, together with his camp, I took from him. To save his life he fled; I pursued him; in Damascus, his royal city, I shut him up. His plantations I destroyed. As far as the mountains of Hauran I marched. Towns without number I laid waste, razed, and burnt with fire. There innumerable spoil I carried away. As far as to the mountains of Baal-rasi situated close to the sea (the head land at Dog River), I marched. My royal image I set up in that place. At that time I received the tribute of the Tyrians and Sidonians, and of Jehu the son of Omri." - Shalmaneser III Annals 841 B.C.


Jehu or One of His Messengers?

The fragment mentioned above, the royal garments, Hazael's defeat, and the fact that Shalmaneser mentions Jehu bringing tribute leaves little doubt that the panel on the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III reveals king Jehu himself. This cannot be proven with certainty but is a logical conclusion.

British Museum Excerpt

"The archaeologist Henry Layard discovered this black limestone obelisk in 1846 during his excavations of the site of Kalhu, the ancient Assyrian capital. It was erected as a public monument in 825 BC at a time of civil war. The relief sculptures glorify the achievements of King Shalmaneser III (reigned 858-824 BC) and his chief minister. It lists their military campaigns of thirty-one years and the tribute they exacted from their neighbours: including camels, monkeys, an elephant and a rhinoceros. Assyrian kings often collected exotic animals and plants as an expression of their power.

There are five scenes of tribute, each of which occupies four panels round the face of the obelisk and is identified by a line of cuneiform script above the panel. From top to bottom they are:

Sua of Gilzanu (in north-west Iran)
Jehu of Bit Omri (ancient northern Israel)
An unnamed ruler of Musri (probably Egypt)
Marduk-apil-usur of Suhi (middle Euphrates, Syria and Iraq)
Qalparunda of Patin (Antakya region of Turkey)

The second register from the top includes the earliest surviving picture of an Israelite: the Biblical Jehu, king of Israel, brought or sent his tribute in around 841 BC. Ahab, son of Omri, king of Israel, had lost his life in battle a few years previously, fighting against the king of Damascus at Ramoth-Gilead (I Kings xxii. 29-36). His second son (Joram) was succeeded by Jehu, a usurper, who broke the alliances with Phoenicia and Judah, and submitted to Assyria. The caption above the scene, written in Assyrian cuneiform, can be translated

The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri: I received from him silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king [and] spears. 

 

The Black Obelisk

 


Biblical Archaeology
Bible History Online

© Bible History Online


Related Content