Friday, May 27, 2011


And He will stretch out His hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness.
Zephaniah 2:13

Winged bull deities that once adorned the entrance of the Assyrian temples

The Assyrians were descendants of Asshur (Gen. 10:22), the son of the biblical Shem, who was the son of Noah.  They were a Semitic race and were known throughout the Middle East for their ferocity and brutal methods of torture.  Their empire stretched throughout the whole of Asia starting in Iraq stretching throughout Asia to the Mediterranean to the Aegean to the Indus.  They left behind them many excellent works of art with very minute detail and precision.  They are a wonder to the onlooker observing them and it shows man had a high taste for naturalistic art from very early.

‘The Assyrian empire is regarded by some writers as having commenced above 2000 years B.C.  The civilisation of the Assyrians was material rather than spiritual.  Its main triumphs were in architecture, in glyptic and plastic art, in metallurgy, gem-cutting, and manufactures, not in philosophy, or literature, or science, properly so called.  According to some, its architecture went to the extent of producing edifices of a magnificence scarcely exceeded by the grandest buildings of any age or country-edifices four or five stories in height, of varied in outline, richly adorned from base to summit, and commandingly placed on lofty platforms of a solid and massive character.  War in all its forms – the march, the battle, the pursuit, the siege of towns, the passages of rivers and marshes, the submission and treatment of captives – and the ‘mimic war’ of hunting, the chase of the lion, the stag, the antelope, the wild bull, and the wild ass – are the chief aspects treated by the Assyrian sculptors.
To their merit as sculptors and architects, the Assyrians added an excellent taste in the modelling of vases, jars, and drinking-cups, a clever and refined metallurgy, involving methods which, till revealed by their remains, were unknown to the moderns, a delicacy in the carving of ivory and mother-of-pearl, a skill in gem-engraving, glass-bowling and colouring, brick-enamelling, furniture-making, and robe-embroidering, which places them beyond question among the most advanced and elegant of Oriental peoples.’ (1)

Museums in England, France and Germany house the fascinating architectural achievements of the idolatrous winged human-headed bulls figures that archaeologists have excavated in the 19th century.  It was the Assyriologist Sir Austen Henry Layard who brought to light the Assyrian culture that was buried under the sand for years.  The Holy Scriptures prophesied the fall of Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria for its brutal, barbaric culture (Nah. 1:1; Isa. 10:12).  The prophet Jonah pleaded to the inhabitants of Nineveh in Assyria to repent from their idolatry just before it was to be overthrown by the neo-Babylonian empire of the Chaldeans.  The inhabitants made a sincere heartfelt repentance with sackcloth and ashes and many of them were saved and sealed their ticket into eternity as Jesus confirmed.

The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
Matthew 12:41

An Assyrian monarch with his royal crown and strong Semitic features

The chief Assyrian deity was Asshur.  He is designed as a mixture of the winged Egyptian sun god Ra, overlaid with the Babylonian sun god Shamash

An Assyrian swimming with a leather skin bottle as his breathing apparatus

A beheaded captives head is displayed on a tree as a war trophy.  The Assyrians had an obsession with brutality especially with beheading their enemies

Assyrians used to bury figures of dogs under their houses with the belief that the spirits of the dogs might repel the attacks of evil spirits entering into their houses.

An Assyrian in prayer to one of their pagan deities

The Assyrians were fearsome warriors who always loved warring with other nations

The artwork above is all contained in the British Museum, which houses a huge collection of Assyrian art and artefacts.  The artwork shows what Assyria was like before the Old Testament prophets prophesied its fall.  The LORD has foretold of the rise and fall of many nations and the excellent archaeological works excavated by Sir Austen Henry Layard and the linguistic skills by SIr Henry Crenswicke Rawlinson in the 19th century confirms the accurate judgement of God on that heathen nation.
The following is a list of four Assyrian monarchs that are mentioned in the Holy Scriptures.  Three of them are recorded in the book of Isaiah

(II Kings 15:29; 16:7; I Chronicles 5:6, 26; II Chronicles 28:20)
Tilgath-Pilneser, king of Assyria on display in the British Museum

Tilgath-Pilneser III, Tukultī-apil-Ešarra in Assyrian, means "my trust is in the son of Esharra" was the king of Assyria in the 8th century BC.  He is considered one of the greatest military commanders in world history and he ruled from 745–727 BC and is widely regarded as the founder of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. His name is quite prominent in the Holy Scriptures as a chief player, and unbeknownst to him, he was inspired by God to displace the constant rebellion of Israel and scatter them throughout the nations.

And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tilgath-pil-ne-ser king of Assyria and he carried them away, even the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh, and brought them unto Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river Gozan, unto this day.
I Chronicles 5:26

His rule was a life of constant campaigns to strengthen the Assyrian Empire.  Azariah and Ahaz, two kings of Judah pleaded for his help and tried to form an alliance with him against foreign invasions, but it led to their own destruction. 

‘At his accession Assyria was in a difficult military and economic plight, and the rapid amelioration of the situation was due largely to Tiglath-Pilleser’s reorganization of the provincial administration.’ (2)

In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod, (when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him,) and fought against Ashdod and took it.
Isaiah 20:1
Sargon II (left) with crown, his staff and his sword with an attendant in the British Museum

Sargon II, Šarru-kên in Assyrian, means “legitimate king”.  He was the king of Assyria who reigned between 722 – 705 BC.  He is the first of the heathen monarchs mentioned in the book of Isaiah, following a list of prophecies that prophesied the First and Second Coming of Christ (Isa. 2; 7:14; 9:6), the fall of Babylon, Egypt, Moab and Damascus (Isa. 13-19) and the new heaven and the new earth (Isa. 11).

Sargon was one of the greatest of the Assyrian kings.  His name is read in the native inscriptions at Sarginia, while a town which he built and called after himself (now Khorsabad) was known as Sarghin to the Arab geographers.  He was certainly Sennacherib’s father, and there is no reason to doubt that he was his immediate predcessor.  He ascended the throne of Assyria, as we gather from his annals, in the same year that Merodach-Baladan ascended the throne of Babylon, which, according to Ptolemy’s Canon, was B.C. 721.  He seems to have been a usurper, Sargon was undoubtedly a great successful warrior.  In his annals, which cover a space of fifteen years (from B.C. 721 TO B.C. 706), he gives an account of his warlike expeditions against Babylonia and Susiana on the south, Media on the east, Armenia and Caapadocia towards the north, Syria, Palestine, Arabia, and Egypt towards the west and south-west.  In his last direction he seems to have waged three wars – in his second year (B.C. 720), for the possession of Gaza, another in the sixth year (B.C. 715), when Egypt itself was the object of the attack; and a third in his ninth (B.C. 712), when the special subject of contention was Ashdod, which Sargon took by one of his generals.  This is the event which causes the mention of Sargon’s name in Scripture.  The year of the attack, being B.C. 712, would fall into the reign of the first Ethiopian king, Sabaco I., who probably conquered Egypt in B.C. 714.  It is not as warrior only that Sargon deserves special mention among the Assyrian kings.  He was also the builder of useful works, and one of the most magnificent of the Assyrian palaces.  He probably reigned nineteen years, from B.C. 721 to B.C. 702, when he left the throne to his son, the celebrated Sennacherib. (3)

Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, that Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the defenced cities of Judah and took them.
Isaiah 36:1
Assyrian King Sennacherib on display in the British Museum.  He is seated on his throne on the right and looters have probably removed his face

Next to Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon and Pharaoh, King of Egypt in the Exodus, the Assyrian monarch Sennacherib is the heathen king who gets mentioned the most in the Holy Scriptures (Isaiah 36, 37; II Kings 18, 19; II Chronicles 32).  His daring act of openly challenging God cost him his army and his own life.  Sennacherib’ war against Judah was a test of faith for the nation and especially for King Hezekiah, for the Assyrians were very ferocious and bestial.  They decapitated their enemies and hanged their heads on trees as a sign of their victory over a foreign nation, so falling into their hands was the last thing a nation wanted.  The English Assyriologist George Smith (1840-1876), famous for translating the famous work The Gilgamesh Epic also translated the inscriptions from Nineveh in Assyria  which gave an account of Sennacherib’ exploits and he translated it and wrote it in a book:

‘The name of Sennacherib (in Assyrian Sin-ahi-iribia) is written in various ways.  The name consists of three elements, - first Sin, the Moon God; second, ahi, “brothers;” and third, iriba, “he increased;” the meaning of the whole being “Sin has increased (or multiplied) brothers.”  Sennacherib was the son of Sargon king of Assyria, but it is remarkable that in all three inscriptions he is silent as to his genealogy.  He succeeded his father on the 12th day of the month Abu, in the limi (or eponymy) of Pahir-bel, prefect of Samalla (December B.C. 681) having reigned twenty-four years and five months.  Sennacherib ascended the throne of Assyria in the summer of B.C. 705, on the death of his father Sargon, king of Assyria and Babylonia.  The campaign of Sennacherib in Palestine is the most celebrated of all his wars, and its bearing upon the chronology of the Bible is most important.  The first operations of Sennacherib were conducted against Luli king of Zidon, the Eluloeus of Josephus; who states that Eluloeus sailed to Citiu (in Cyprus) to subdue a revolt, and that the king of Assyria invaded Phoenicia, and Zidon, Accho, Paloetrus, and many other cities, submitted to the Assyrians, while Tyre held out during a siege of five years.  These events according to Josephus took place during the siege of Shalmanaser king of Assyria.  Sennacherib gives a similar account; he states that Luli went from Tyre to Cyprus, but he represents the journey as undertaken from fear of himself: he then tells us of the submission of the various Phoenican towns, including Zidon, Usu (Paloetyrus), and Akka (Accho), the three cities especially mentioned by Josephus, but he is silent about Tyre, which eventually did not submit to him.  Sennacherib while in Phoenicia received in audience most of the kings of Palestine, who, headed by Menahem of Samaria, came to offer submission and tribute.  From Phoenicia, marching along the coast, Sennacherib arrived at Ashkelon, and deposed the king of Zidqa, setting up instead of him Saludari.  From there Sennacherib marched against Ekron, and the Ethiopians and Egyptians having advanced against him, he met their forces at Eltekah, about six miles from Lachish, and defeated them; he then punished the people of Ekron for submitting for submitting to Hezekiah, and after capturing forty-six fortified cities of Judah and besieging Jerusalem, brought Hezekiah once more under the Assyrian yoke.  The date of the expedition of Sennacherib is fixed within narrow limits – it occurred either in B.C. 702 or 701, and is recorded on a cylinder (Cylinder B) dated in the eponymy of Mitunu, B.C. 700. (4)

And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Armenia: and Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.
Isaiah 37:38
A statue of Assyrian King Essarhaddon in the Pergumum Museum in Berlin, Germany

A column of King Essarhaddaon on display in the British Museum in London, England

Essarhadon, Aššur-ahhe-iddina in Assyrian (c. 731 B.C. – c. 669 B.C.), means Ashur has given a brother to me”.  He was the king of Assyria who reigned from 681 – 669 BC.  He was the youngest son of Sennacherib and succeeded his father to the throne after his father was murdered by Essarhadon’ two elder brothers who afterwards fled to ‘the land of Armenia’ which is modern day Turkey (II Kings 19:37).  He is briefly mentioned twice in the Holy Scriptures and he is famous for rebuilding the city of Babylon, conquering Egypt and having the greatest territorial expansion of the Assyrian Empire.

Nothing is really known of Esarhaddon until his ascension.  He appears by his monuments to have been one of the most powerful – if not the most powerful – of all the Assyrian monarchs.  He carried his arms over all Asia between the Persian Gulf, the Armenian mountains, and the Mediterranean.  In consequence of the disaffection of Babylon, and its frequent revolts from former Assyrian kings, Esar-haddon, having subdued the sons of Merodach-Baladan who headed the national party, introduced the new policy of substituting for the former government by viceroys, a direct dependence upon the Assyrian crown.  He is the only Assyrian monarch who we find to have actually reigned at Babylon, where he built himself a palace, bricks from which have been recently recovered bearing his name.  His Babylonian reign lasted thirteen years from B.C. 680 to B.C. 667.  As a builder of great works Esar-Haddon is particularly distinguished.  Besides his palace at Babylon, which has been already mentioned, he built at least three others in different parts of his dominions, either for himself or for his son; while in a single inscription he mentions the erection by his hands of new fewer than thirty temples in Assyria and Mesopotamia.  The south-west palace at Nimrud is the best preserved of his constructions.  It is impossible to fix the length of Esar-haddon’s reign or the order of the events which occurred in it.  It has been conjectured that he died about B.C. 600, after occupying the throne for twenty years. (5)

These archaeological disoveries that have been unearthed in modern Iraq (ancient Babylonia/Assyria) by 19th century Assyrologists, not only verify the historical accuracy of the Holy Scriptures, but they also confirm how accurate Bible prophecy is also.  What a mighty God we serve.

Source: (1) The Origin of Nations by George Rawlinson pp. 87, 90, 94, 95; (2) Encyclopaedia Britannica, vol. 21 p.1143; (3) Concise Dictionary of the Bible by William Smith p.825; (4) History of Sennacherib by George Smith pp.69-70; (5) A Concise Dictionary of the Bible by William Smith pp. 252, 253

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