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
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.
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.
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.
Assyrian scribes recording the number slain
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.
"And He will make Nineveh a desolation . . ." (Zeph 2:13-14)
The ruins of Nineveh
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.
Here is a list of most of the later kings of Assyria (885-607 B.C.):
Shalmaneser II (860-825 B.C.)
Adad-nirari (808-783 B.C.)
Assur-dayan (771-753 B.C.)
Tiglath-pileser III (Pul) (747-727 B.C.)
Sargon II (722-705 B.C.)
Esar-haddon (681-668 B.C.)
Assur-etil-ilani (626-607 B.C.)
Assyrian annals mention contacts with some nine Hebrew kings: Omri
, 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.