The Assyrian Captivity

2 Kings 15:19 - "And Pul the king of Assyria came against Israel: and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand."

The Old Testament - A Brief Overview

The Assyrians

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Assyria was a kingdom located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers that dominated the ancient world from the ninth century to the seventh century B. C. Its capital was Nineveh. In stature the Assyrians were of average modern European height, and were powerfully built. Their complexion was dark, the nose prominent, the hair, eyebrows, and beard thick and bushy. They rarely intermarried with neighboring peoples.

The early inhabitants of Assyria were ancient tribesmen (Gen. 10:22) who probably migrated from Babylonia. They grew powerful enough around 1300 B. C. to conquer Babylonia. For the next 700 years they were the leading power in the ancient world, with their leading rival nation, Babylon, constantly challenging them for this position.

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The ancient city of Ashur (west bank of the Tigris)

It was the Assyrians that destroyed the northern kingdom Israel under Shalmaneser IV who besieged Samaria and then died during the siege leaving Sargon II to finish the task and drag Israel into captivity. After defeating the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B. C., the Assyrians carried away thousands of Israelites and resettled them in other parts of the Assyrian Empire. This was a blow from which the nation of Israel never recovered. The ten tribes that were taken to Assyria became the ten lost tribes, for they have never again emerged in world history.

winged-bull.gifAssyrian policy was to deport conquered peoples to other lands within the empire, to destroy their sense of nationalism, and break any pride or hope of rebellion and replace them with strangers from far away. Assyrians were great warriors. Most nations at that time period were looters, building their state by robbing other nations. Assyria was the most ferocious of them all. Their very name became a byword for cruelty and atrocity. They skinned their prisoners alive, and cut off various body parts to inspire terror in their enemies. There is records of Assyrian officials pulling out tongues and displaying mounds of human skulls all to bring about stark horror and wealthy tribute from surrounding nations. Nowhere are the pages of history more bloody than in the records of their wars.

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Assyrian scribes recording the number slain

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Assyrian king putting out the eyes of
an enemy king and leading the officials
into captivity with hooks in their lips

Assyria was a world empire for about 300 years under several warrior kings some of which wielded Assyria into the best fighting machine of the ancient world. Finally the brutal empire fell in 607 B.C. giving way to the Babylonians.

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The ruins of Nineveh

"And He will make Nineveh a desolation . . ." (Zeph 2:13-14)

On the east bank of the Tigris river lay massive mounds of ruins where there stood the splendid capital city of the Assyrians with its great palaces and buildings. There is record of Alexander the Great, when he was near Nineveh, not recognizing that it once was the center of the great Assyrian empire.

The religion of the Assyrians, much like that of the Babylonians, emphasized worship of nature. They believed every object of nature was possessed by a spirit. The chief god was Asshur. All other primary gods whom they worshiped were related to the objects of nature. These included Anu, god of the heavens; Bel, god of the region inhabited by man, beasts, and birds; Ea, god of the waters; Sin, the moon-god; Shamash, the sun-god; and Ramman, god of the storms. These gods were followed by five gods of the planets. In addition to these primary gods, lesser gods also were worshiped. In some cases, various cities had their own patron gods. The pagan worship of the Assyrians was vehemently condemned by several prophets of the Old Testament (Is. 10:5; Ezek. 16:28; Hos. 8.9)

Here is a list of most of the later kings of Assyria (885-607 B.C.):

Assur-nasipal II (885-860 B.C.)

Shalmaneser II (860-825 B.C.)

Shansi-adad (825-808 B.C.)

Adad-nirari (808-783 B.C.)

Shalmaneser III (783-771 B.C.)

Assur-dayan (771-753 B.C.)

Assur-lush (753-747 B.C.)

Tiglath-pileser III (Pul) (747-727 B.C.)

Shalmaneser IV (727-722 B.C.)

Sargon II (722-705 B.C.)

Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.)

Esar-haddon (681-668 B.C.)

Assur-banipal (668-626 B.C.)

Assur-etil-ilani (626-607 B.C.)

Assyrian annals mention contacts with some nine Hebrew kings: Omri, Ahab, Jehu, Menahem, Pekah, Uzziah, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh.

Because of the cruelty and paganism of the Assyrians, the Hebrew people harbored deep-seated hostility against this nation. This attitude is revealed clearly in the Book of Jonah. When God instructed Jonah to preach to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, Jonah refused and went in the opposite direction. After he finally went to Nineveh, the prophet was disappointed with God because He spared the city. 150 years later The prophet Nahum spoke against Assyria indicating that they were ripe for the slaughter.

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The Story of the Bible - The Old Testament, Quick Summary, About, Divisions, Timeline, Charts, Maps, Creation, Adam and Eve, The Flood, The Tower of Babel, Abraham the First Hebrew, Isaac, Son of Promise, Jacob and the 12 Tribes, Joseph and Egypt, Moses and the Exodus, The Giving of the Law, The Tabernacle, The Wilderness Wanderings, Joshua and the Promised Land, The Judges, Samuel the Prophet, Saul, Israel's First King, King David, King Solomon, The Divided Kingdom, The Northern Kingdom of Israel, The Southern Kingdom of Judah, The Assyrian Captivity, The Babylonian Captivity, The Return From Babylon, The Prophets, The Messiah, Conclusion, Bibliography and Credits

Summary of the Old Testament Books - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

Read the Old Testament Stories - The 7 Days of Creation, The Fall of Man, Cain and Abel, Noah's Ark


Bibliography Resources on the Old Testament

A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, Revised and Expanded by Archer, 508 Pages, Pub. 2007

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