JEWISH KINGDOM DECLINES AFTER SOLOMON (AFTER 931 B.C.) AND CONQUEST BY ASSYRIA

AFTER SOLOMON


King Rehoboam consulting with the old men

After Solomon, the Hebrew kingdom was ruled his son Rehoboam, who proved to be a more brutal leader than his father. There was a revolt against the House of David around 930 B.C. and the Hebrew kingdom divided into two kingdoms: the southern kingdom of Judah in the south with Jerusalem as the capital and Rehoboam as the ruler; and another kingdom in the north with Samaria as the capital.

Around 920 BCE, the kingdom fell apart, and the Jewish people split into groups. This was the time of the prophets. Around 600 BCE the temple was destroyed, and the Jewish leadership was killed. Many Jews were sent into exile in Babylon. Although the Jews were soon allowed to return home, many stayed in exile, beginning the Jewish tradition of the Diaspora - living away from Israel. [Source: BBC]

Most of the events in the Bible after Solomon are believed to be based on historical fact. There is firm historical or archaeological evidence for: 1) the conquest of Israel by the Assyrians in the 8th century B.C." 2) the conquest of Jerusalem by Babylon's Nebuchadnezzar around 600 B.C." 3) the exile of Jews to Babylon and the destruction of Solomon's temple in 587 B.C. Excavations in Iraq have turned up a list of rations given by Nebuchadnezzar to "Yaukin, king of Judah," which is believed to be a reference to the exiled Israelite king Jehoiachin whose release is recorded in 2 Kings 25.

There is firm historical evidence for: 4) the conquest of Babylonia by King Cyrus of Persia and the return of the Jews to Jerusalem in the 6th century B.C." 5) the building of the Second Temple in the 6th century B.C." 6) the rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls the 5th century B.C." 7) the annexation of Palestine by Ptolemaic Egypt in the 4th century B.C." 8) and the plunder of the Temple by the Romans the 2nd century B.C.

After Solomon
Jeroboam returns from exile.
The kingdom splits in two.
Egypt is too weak from the war with the Sea People and the loss of Palestine to exercise much authority. <=>
Egypt begins to grow in strength
Assyrian expansion begins under Tiglath Pileser I (ca. 1116-1078 B.C.); campaigns in Anatolia and Phoenicia.
Later, Assyrian power declines; Phoenicia begins to expand by sea. [Source: Jewish Virtual Library, UC Davis, Fordham University]


Sennacherib's Campaign vs. Judea 701 BCE [At Internet Archive, from ANET]
Accounts of the Campaign of Sennacherib, 701 BCE [Source: sourcebooks.fordham.edu]
II Kings 15-17, Conquest of Israel by the Assyrians, 722BCE [At Then Again] [Ignore typo of Judah for Israel in the document]
II Chronicles 36:9-23 and II Kings 23-25, Conquest of Judah by Babylon (Chaldea), 586 BCE [At Then Again]

Websites and Resources: Bible and Biblical History: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible biblegateway.com ; King James Version of the Bible gutenberg.org/ebooks ; Bible History Online bible-history.com ; Biblical Archaeology Society biblicalarchaeology.org ; Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) ccel.org ; Judaism Judaism101 jewfaq.org ; Aish.com aish.com ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; torah.org torah.org ; Chabad,org chabad.org/library/bible ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/judaism ; BBC - Religion: Judaism bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism ; Encyclopædia Britannica, britannica.com/topic/Judaism; Jewish History: Jewish History Timeline jewishhistory.org.il/history ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Jewish History Resource Center dinur.org ; Center for Jewish History cjh.org ; Jewish History.org jewishhistory.org ; Christianity and Christians Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Christianity.com christianity.com ; BBC - Religion: Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/ ; Christianity Today christianitytoday.com

Timeline of Judah

ca. 931 B.C.: Secession of Northern Kingdom (Israel) from Southern Kingdom (Judah)
931-913 B.C.: Rehoboam rules Judah
931-910 B.C.: Jeroboam I rules Israel, choses Shechem as his first capital, later moves it to Tirzah
913-911 B.C.: Abijah rules Judah
911-870 B.C.: Asa rules Juda
910-909 B.C.: Nadab (son of Jeroboam) rules Israel
909-886 B.C.: Baasha kills Nadab and rules Israel


900-612 B.C.: Neo-Assyrian period
886-885 B.C.: Elah, son of Baasha, rules Israel
885 B.C.: Zimri kills Elah, but reigns just seven days before committing suicide, Omri chosen as King of Israel
885-880 (?) B.C.: War between Omri and Tibni
885-874 B.C.: Omri kills Tibni, rules Israel
879 B.C.: Omri moves capital of Israel from Tirzah to Samaria
874-853 B.C.: Ahab, Omri's son, is killed in battle, Jezebel reigns as Queen. Athaliah, Ahab and Jezebel's daughter, marries Jehoram, crown prince of Judah
870-848 B.C.: Jehoshapha rules Judah
853-851 B.C.: Ahaziah, son of Ahab, rules Israel, dies in accident
750-725 B.C.: Israelite Prophets Amos, Hosea, Isaiah [Source: Jewish Virtual Library, UC Davis, Fordham University]

722/721 B.C.: Northern Kingdom (Israel) destroyed by Assyrians; 10 tribes exiled (10 lost tribes)
720 B.C.: Ahaz, King of Judah dismantles Solomon's bronze vessels and places a private Syrian altar in the Temple
716 B.C.: Hezekiah, King of Jerusalem, with help of God and the prophet Isaiah resists Assyrian attempt to capture Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 32). Wells and springs leading to the city are stopped
701 B.C.: Assyrian ruler Sennacherib beseiges Jerusalem
612-538 B.C.: Neo-Babylonian (“Chaldean”) period
620 B.C.: Josiah (Judean King) and “Deuteronomic Reforms”
ca. 600-580 B.C.: Judean Prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel

Discord in Judah After Solomon

For 200 years the northern and southern kingdoms fought one another. Samaria was fertile and rich and its people prospered as farmers and traders while Judah was rocky and deserty, and it people remained herders. The prophets Amos, Hosea and Isaiah warned about the growth of idolatry and divisions between rich and poor. God seemed to favor the southern kingdom. Zachariah 14:12 reads: “As for those peoples that warred against Jerusalem their flesh shall rot away while they stand on their feet."


Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “The record of Solomon's greatness fails to indicate the seething bitterness and resentment that must have been developing among the people. Only when Rehoboam appeared for succession rites were the feelings expressed by those who bore with smoldering anger the heavy burdens of Solomon's despotism. The northern and southern peoples were kept from full union by geographical factors, by the northern people's basic distrust of the Davidic monarchy with its center in Jerusalem (a southern city despite its proximity to the north-south border), by resentment to Solomon's extravagant excesses and the resultant heavy taxation, and possibly even by different religious or theological outlooks indicated by the support of the schism by the prophet Ahijah (I Kings 11:29 and following verses). [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

Judah appears to have accepted Rehoboam without question, but when the young prince went to Shechem to be anointed king and received the approbation of the people, he was confronted with a demand for a policy statement. The request reveals the severity of Solomon's rule: “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke and we will serve you. (12:4)<=>

Rehoboam turned to his advisors for counsel: the elder statesmen recommended compliance while the younger men advocated a "get-tough" policy. Rehoboam accepted the latter. His arrogant and harsh rejection provoked immediate response: withdrawal from the United Kingdom. The rebel cry was an old one (cf. II Sam. 20:1):“What portion have we in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, 0 Israel! Look now to your own house David. (12:16) Jeroboam, the exiled taskmaster who had recently returned from Egypt, became the first king of Israel. Rehoboam ruled Judah. Gone forever was the United Kingdom; and in the eighth century Israel disappeared altogether from history.” <=>

Biblical Accounts of Post-Solomon Judah

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “Against this background of Near Eastern history the internal history of the Hebrew kingdoms must be studied. For this history we are dependent upon accounts in Kings and Chronicles and limited information coming from archaeological research. The Deuteronomic editors of Kings may have drawn upon official court records, but their work betrays theological and Judaean bias. Each monarch is judged on the basis of his adherence to the principles of southern Yahwism and his opposition to Ba'alism and other religions. Consequently no Israelite king is commended and only two Judaeans, Hezekiah and Josiah, are fully approved, although six others receive modified approbation. When the editorial evaluation is removed, there remains an outline of successive rulers with brief comments on significant events of their reigns. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“Writing in the fourth century, the Chroniclers utilized an edition of Kings similar to the one we possess but did not hesitate to supplement the narratives. Some additions appear to have historical validity; others reflect theological convictions. Historical data in Kings and Chronicles must be accepted cautiously, and most additional material in Chronicles remains sub judice, except where sustained by archaeological or other confirming evidence. <=>

Pressures on Judah from Assyria and Egypt


Tiglath Pileser I

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “As the southern kingdom reaffirmed its loyalty to the Davidic line by retaining Solomon's rash offspring as monarch and the northern kingdom asserted independence, two great powers destined for significant roles in Palestinian affairs were preparing for expansion of empire. Egypt, which had been quiescent during the period of the United Kingdom, was conquered by a Libyan prince named Sheshonk-or Shishak as the Bible prefers to call him-and the twenty-second Egyptian dynasty was established. Five years after Solomon's death, Sheshonk's armies invaded Palestine. I Kings 14:25 records only the plundering of the Temple treasury, but II Chronicles 12:4 suggests wider desolation, a detail substantiated by Sheshonk's account found at Karnak which records the sacking of towns in southern Galilee, and by a fragment of what may have been an Egyptian victory stele bearing Sheshonk's name discovered at Megiddo. Fortunately for the Hebrew kingdoms, Sheshonk appears to have been satisfied with the booty from the single raid, for he made no effort to control Palestine. Toward the close of the eighth century, Egypt was conquered by an Ethiopian monarch, Pi-ankh, and in the seventh century, when the Assyrians embarked upon world conquest, Egypt was invaded, first by Esarhaddon in 671, and again by Ashurbanipal in 667. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“At first, the gradual growth of Assyria did not directly affect Palestine. Tiglath Pileser I (1114-1076) pushed Assyrian control to the Mediterranean but not southward into Hebrew territory. In the ninth century, Ashurnasirpal II (883-859) developed the Assyrian war machine to a peak of strength and from this time onward Assyrian politics influenced Palestine. In 853, according to an inscription of Shalmaneser III (858-824), Ahab of Israel suffered defeat and paid tribute after he had joined a coalition of twelve Syrian kings to contest Assyrian expansion at Qarqar. Shalmaneser, after neglecting Syria for a few years, began a systematic plundering of the area. That Israel paid tribute is clear from the black obelisk of Shalmaneser III on which Jehu is portrayed prostrate before Shalmanesar, and a list of the booty paid to Assyria is given. One eighth century inscription records tribute taken from Menahem of Samaria by Tiglath Pileser III (747-727) (cf. II Kings 15:19), while another refers to payments made by "Azriau of luda," possibly Azariah or Uzziah of Judah, suggesting that both Hebrew kingdoms contributed to the growing wealth of Assyria. In 722, the son of Tiglath Pileser III, Shalmaneser V (726-722), attacked Israel but died before the final victory which was accomplished by his successor, Sargon II (721-705). According to his report, Sargon led away 27,290 inhabitants from Samaria to be enlisted in his army. Conquered peoples from other areas were moved into Israel so that revolt of the thoroughly mixed population became unlikely. The kingdom of Israel had come to an end and the northern Hebrew nation was part of the Assyrian kingdom. By payment of heavy taxes, Judah avoided the fate of Israel, but Assyrian influence in Judaean affairs was strong. <=>

“During the period of the two Hebrew kingdoms, in addition to pressure from Egypt and Assyria, Israel had other border problems. When the northern kingdom separated from the south, the Philistines attempted to regain lost territories, the Aramaeans of Damascus created trouble on the northern frontier, and the powerful city-state of Tyre, with whom Israel ultimately formed an alliance through marriage, proved to be a persistent menace. Judah, always open to Egypt on the southern boundary and now weakened by the loss of Israel, was threatened by Edom, Moab and Philistia.” <=>

Fighting and Rivalry with Judah

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “Rehoboam (922*) , son of Solomon, having lost Israel, Ammon and Moab, was determined to regain these territories. Dissuaded by Shemaiah's prophetic warnings, he strengthened Judaean fortifications, but his efforts failed to prevent invasion by Sheshonk of Egypt. Judaean villages were destroyed, Jerusalem entered, and the Temple plundered. The raid must have affected Judaean military strength adversely, and the intermittent warfare with Israel attempting to fix the Israel-Judah border continued to drain the national resources. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]


Omri

“Abijah (915) or Abijam, Rehoboam's son and successor, may have pushed Judaean borders as far north as Bethel (II Chron. 13), but he was unable to retain control of this important Israelite city. (913) Asa, the next king, is commended by the editors for his efforts to subdue the fertility cults. During his reign, border warfare with Israel continued. When Baasha began to build Ramah to sever Judah's northern trade route, Asa bribed Ben Hadad of Syria to move the Syrian armies to Israel's northern frontier. Baasha's men withdrew from Ramah and Asa stole the building materials and constructed fortresses at Mizpah (possibly Tell en-Nasbeh) and Gibeah just north of Jerusalem. The Chroniclers record a battle between Judah and the Cushites or Ethiopians (II Chron. 14:9 ff.) but this has not been verified. <=>

“It was not until Jehoshaphat (873), Asa's son, became king that peace was established between the two Hebrew kingdoms and cooperative attacks on mutual enemies were undertaken. Jehoshaphat's son, Jehoram, married Athaliah, daughter of Ahab of Israel (II Kings 8:26), thus linking the Divided Kingdom through royal marriage. The Judaeans joined the Israelites in the Syrian-Israelite war (I Kings 22:2f.) and later, when the Moabites rebelled, southern soldiers assisted Israel (II Kings 3:7 ff.). Jehoshaphat was succeeded by his son Jehoram (849), son-in-law of Ahab, and during his reign Edom broke free of Judaean control (II Kings 8:20-22). <=>

“When Jehoram's son Ahaziah (842) (Read II Kings 9-10), king of Judah, was killed by Jehu of Israel, his mother Athaliah (842*) (Read II Kings 11) ascended the throne to become the first and only Hebrew woman to reign. Eligible heirs, with the exception of Joash or Jehoash, the infant son of Ahaziah, were murdered. Joash was concealed in the temple by his aunt, the wife of the chief priest (II Chron. 22:11). Athaliah was not tolerated for long. She was an usurper, standing outside of the Davidic line, and she encouraged Baalism. Joash (837*) (Read II Kings 12-13) was seven years old when he was crowned king in a secret ceremony and, in the uprising that followed, Athaliah was murdered. As Jehu persecuted Baal worshippers in Israel, Joash attacked them in Judah. Joash was murdered by his servants and his son, Amaziah (800) (Read II Kings 14), ascended the throne. Territory lost to Edom was repossessed and the Edomite mountain fortress of Sela (Petra) invaded. In war with Israel Amaziah was defeated and Jehoash's army looted the holy temple. Like his father before him, Amaziah died at the hands of his servants. Azariah or Uzziah (783), son of Amaziah, fought the Edomites when he came to the throne and Judah gained control of the important Red Sea port of Elath (Ezion-geber). Unfortunately, Azariah contracted leprosy (attributed by the Chroniclers to a cultic violation) and was compelled to live in isolation, and his son Jotham governed as regent (cf. II Kings 15:1-7; II Chron. 26). In the year that Azariah died the prophet Isaiah began his work. <=>

“Jotham (742) was regent for eight years before gaining the crown. Little is known of his reign except that the Temple was repaired (II Kings 15:33ff.) and, according to the Chronicler, war was waged with Ammon (II Chron. 27:5ff.). Ahaz (735), son of Jotham, refused to join an anti-Assyria coalition and, in the so-called Syro-Ephraimitic war, Judah was attacked by King Rezin of Syria and King Pekah of Israel. About the same time Edomites and Philistines united against Judah (II Chron. 28:1-21). The pressure was too much and Ahaz called on Tiglath Pileser for help. Judah paid huge indemnities for this aid and Assyrian deities were introduced into the temple of Yahweh. During this period, Edom recaptured the seaport of Elath. Ahaz' international policies were vigorously opposed by the prophet Isaiah, but there can be little doubt that Ahaz' refusal to participate in the anti-Assyria pact and his voluntary surrender of sovereignty saved Judah from Israel's fate (II Kings 16:7ff.). Judah became a vassal to Assyria, the mightiest empire the Near Eastern world had known.


Ahab

Jeroboam (922*) had won a kingdom without headquarters or government. His immediate task was the development of administrative patterns. Shechem became the capital and was fortified. To offset the attraction of the Jerusalem temple, royal sanctuaries were dedicated in the border cities of Dan and Bethel. Within these shrines golden calves, symbols of Yahweh, or perhaps pedestals upon which the invisible deity stood, were placed, and festal observances paralleling those of Jerusalem were instituted. Chapters 13-14 of I Kings which condemn Jeroboam are largely homiletic. Chapter 13, a legend about an unknown prophet, comes from the post-Josiah period (cf. 13:2). The story of the illness of Jeroboam's son may have an historical core (I Kings 14:16, 12, 17) that was expanded by later writers. What result the Sheshonk invasion had is not known, but the economy must have suffered. <=>

“ (901) Nadab, Jeroboam's son who reigned less than two years, was murdered with all members of Jeroboam's family by Baasha (900*) of the house of Issachar. Baasha fought with the Philistines, moved the capital from Shechem to Tirzah and attempted to curtail Judah's trade by building a fort at Ramah. Asa's strategy (bribing the Syrians to attack on the north) compelled Baasha to abandon his building project and move his men to deal with the Syrians. Elah (877) (Read I Kings 16), Baasha's son and successor, and all members of Baasha's family were murdered by Zimri (876*), a chariot commander who had the support of the prophet Jehu. Seven days later Israelite soldiers battling the Philistines elected their field commander Omri (876*) to the kingship. Omri swiftly moved the army to Tirzah, and Zimri, doomed without military support, committed suicide by firing the royal citadel. Another contender for the throne, a certain Tibni, was eliminated. Omri purchased the hill of Samaria and constructed a new capital city. Although Omri's dynasty is dismissed in a few words by the Deuteronomic editors, perhaps because he was not a Hebrew, his family ruled for three generations and long after the dynasty had ceased Assyrian annalists referred to Israel as "the house of Omri." The Moabite Stone records that Omri expanded Israel's borders to include northern Moab. Omri's son Ahab (869), who married Jezebel, a Tyrian princess, receives much more attention for Jezebel brought to Israel the worship of the Tyrian Ba'al, Melkart. Under royal sponsorship the cult flourished, coming into dramatic conflict with Yahwism championed by the prophetic school of Elijah. (Read I Kings 20) War flared between Israel and Syria and, after the defeat of Ben Hadad, Ahab entered into trade agreements with his former enemies and participated in a coalition with Syria and other small nations to halt the westward development of Assyria. According to the records of Shalmaneser V, Ahab contributed 2,000 chariots and 10,000 soldiers. The Assyrians claimed victory at Qarqar. Because the Israelite town of Ramoth-gilead had not been included in the peace settlement of the Syrian-Israelite war, Ahab began a new anti-Syrian campaign with the assistance of Jehoshaphat of Judah (Read I Kings 22). Ahab died in battle and Ahaziah (850) (Read II Kings 1), his son, became king. Injuries suffered in a fall rendered the king powerless to control a revolt by the Moabites; after his death, his brother, Jehoram (849) (Read II Kings 3, 8), continued the war with Moab. Aided by Jehoshaphat of Judah and the Edomites, Jehoram was at first victorious, but Mesha of Moab turned the tide of battle and Moab became an independent kingdom (cf. II Kings 3 and The Moabite Stone). Elijah, the prophet, died during this period and Elisha, his disciple, became "father" or "chief" of the prophetic guild. While Jehoram and Ahaziah of Judah were engaged in battle with the Syrians, Elisha anointed Jehu (842*) king of Israel, thus engendering civil war. Ahaziah of Judah and Jehoram of Israel were killed at Jezreel, and a reign of terror began in which the family of Ahab, including Jezebel, was eliminated and the followers of Ba'al persecuted. Weakened by internal intrigue, Israel was helpless before the power of the Aramaean Kingdom of Hazael, and large amounts of territory were lost in the Transjordan area. <=>

“Jehoahaz (815), son of Jehu, inherited a nation reduced to impotency by the Aramaeans. Jehoash (801), his son and successor, a more successful warrior, was able to recapture some of the lost land, for King Adadnirari III of Assyria broke the power of Damascus in 800. Jehoash attacked Judah, invaded Jerusalem and looted the temple. During this period Elisha, who appears to have been a friend of the king, died (II Kings 13:14ff.). <=>

“Jeroboam II (786) (Read II Kings 15), son of Jehoash, was perhaps the most successful warrior king since David, for under his rule Israel gained mastery over Syria and Moab to control an area approximating that embraced at the time of the Davidic empire (minus, of course, Judah, Edom and Philistia). Fortunately, Jeroboam was not troubled by the Assyrians and his reign, marked by prosperity and wealth, provides a social background against which some of the prophetic utterances of Amos and Hosea must be understood. Zechariah (746), son of Jeroboam, reigned less than one year and was murdered by Shallum (745*), who was promptly killed by Menahem (745*). To prevent conquest by Assyria, Menahem voluntarily submitted to Tiglath Pileser III (Pul) and paid heavy tribute, a detail confirmed in an Assyrian text. Shortly after Pekahiah (738), son of Menahem, became king, he was murdered by his captain, Pekah (737*) (Read II Kings 16-17). At this time participation in a political alliance against Assyria cost Israel the loss of towns in northern Galilee and Gilead. Pekah's murderer and successor Hoshea (732*) seized the moment of the death of Tiglath Pileser III and the ascension of Shalmaneser V to the Assyrian throne as the time to throw off the Assyrian yoke. Counting on help from Egypt, Hoshea refused to pay tribute to Assyria. Shalmaneser attacked Samaria but died while the siege was still in process, leaving the subjugation of Israel to his successor, Sargon II (722) . When Samaria fell in 721 and all Israel capitulated, great numbers of the people (according to Sargon, 27,290) were deported to the Assyrian province of Guzanu and to the region south of Lake Urmia. From other parts of the farflung Assyrian empire, emigrants were brought to Israel. Israel's history as an independent nation had terminated. Sargon divided the territory into small provinces. Revolts were abortive. Among those Israelites who remained in the land, the worship of Yahweh continued, but homage was paid to the gods of Assyria. <=>


Divided kingdom in 830 BC


Isaiah on Judah and the Assyrians

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “Isaiah's oracles are so intricately related to happenings of his era, that the history of the period must be understood. The following outline is drawn from accounts in II Kings, supplemented by information from Chronicles and Assyrian king records. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“Because there was no outside power strong enough or interested enough to provide any real threat, Israel and Judah prospered in the eighth century. King Adad-nirari III of Assyria in 805 took tribute from Damascus, but Israel, a few miles to the south of the Aramaean capital, was unaffected. A succession of weak rulers reduced the Assyrian threat. Jeroboam II (786-746) expanded his kingdom into the Transjordan area and worked in economic harmony with Phoenician cities. Prosperity and social inequalities graphically pictured by Amos brought hardship and suffering for the underprivileged. Parallel economic growth took place in Judah in Uzziah's time (783-742). Edom was recaptured; trade with Arabia developed through the Red Sea; two cities of Philistia, Gath and Ashdod, became vassals (II Chron. 26:6 f.), and despite the absence of a prophetic record comparable to the book of Amos, conditions condemned by Isaiah when he begins his prophetic work at the King's death suggest that the situation in Judah and Israel was the same. <=>

“746. Jeroboam II died and a period of decline in Israel began. Lack of stability in Israelite leadership, resulting in the assassination of four kings within twenty years, produced a national policy that fluctuated between pro-Egyptian and pro-Assyrian alliances. A sense of aimlessness or lack of direction, clearly reflected in Hosea, made Israel an easy target when Assyrian forces began to move westward and southward. <=>

“745. Tiglath Pileser III (called "Pul" in II Kings 15:19 after "Pulu," the name under which he controlled Babylon) became ruler of Assyria and began an expansionist program. Up to this time, Assyria had periodically raided northern Syria for bounty and to maintain open channels for exploitation of minerals, timber and trade. Assyria's new program included conquest and rule. In addition to subduing Mesopotamian neighbors in the immediate vicinity of Assyria, Tiglath Pileser began subjugation of the west, starting in 743. A coalition of small nations, led by Azriau of Iuda, undoubtedly Uzziah (Azariah) of Judah, opposed him. The Assyrian account, taken from slabs found at Calah, has many lacunae, but it is clear that Tiglath Pileser subdued his opposition. The records list tribute received from frightened rulers of smaller kingdoms, including Rezin of Damascus and Menahem of Samaria.9<=>

“742. Uzziah died and Jotham became king. Because of his father's long illness, Jotham had administrative experience as regent of Judah and was able to give Judah governmental stability that is in complete contrast with the situation in Israel. Uzziah's military program was continued and the Chronicler reports a Judaean victory over Ammonites who paid tribute for three years. <=>

Assyrian Attack on Jerusalem and the Lost Tribes of Israel

20120208-Sargon II _in_the_Louvre.JPG
Sargon II
The revived Assyrian empire, conquered Israel’s northern empire in 722 B.C. After the prophet Hosea predicted that "The calf of Samaria shall be broken into pieces; for they have sown the wind, and the shall reap the whirlwind," the Assyrian king Tiglath-pilese III sacked Damascus and invaded northern Israel. In 722 B.C. northern Israel was conquered by Tiglath-pilese III's successor Shalmanseser V. Sargon recorded: "The city of Samaria I besieged. I took. I carried away 27,290 of the people that dwelt therein."

Sennacherib (705 to 681 B.C.), the Assyrian ruler of Ninevah, launched an unsuccessful siege of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. The siege was cut short, according to the Bible, by intervention by angels. An inscription on a statue found in the doorway of Sennacherib’s throne room recounts a story of bribery from the Bible, the first known independent written account corresponding to a story in the Bible.

According to Assyrian empire records, Israel was a powerful kingdom that posed a threat to Assyrian control of the region. One inscription described an army by Ahab, the husband of biblical Jezebel, as possessing 2,000 chariots, a formidable number at that time. When Israel was conquered by the Assyrians, Israelite chariot units were incorporated into the Assyrian army.

The northern kingdom of Israel was occupied by 12 tribes, who were said to have descended from the Patriarch Jacob. Ten of these tribes---the Reuben, Gad, Zebulon, Simeon, Dan, Asher, Ephraim, Manasseh, Naphtali and Isaachar---became known as the Lost Tribes of Israel when they disappeared after northern Israel was conquered by the Assyrians.

In accord with Assyrian policy of deporting the local population to prevent rebellions, the 200,000 Jews living in the northern kingdom of Israel were exiled. After that nothing was heard from them again. The only clues in the Bible were from II Kings 17:6: "...the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes." This puts them in northern Mesopotamia.

Assyria Attacks on Judah


Shalmaneser III

The revived Assyrian empire, conquered Israel's northern empire in 722 B.C. After the prophet Hosea predicted that "The calf of Samaria shall be broken into pieces; for they have sown the wind, and the shall reap the whirlwind," the Assyrian king Tiglath-pilese III sacked Damascus and invaded northern Israel. In 722 B.C. northern Israel was conquered by Tiglath-pilese III's successor Shalmanseser V. Sargon recorded: "The city of Samaria I besieged. I took. I carried away 27,290 of the people that dwelt therein."

2 Kings Chap. 15-17 describes the destruction of Israel at the hands of the Assyrians led by Tigleth-Pileser, who is also called "Pul." This invasion occured in 722 BC and would have been at the time traditionally associated with the prophet Isiah.According to the International Bible Society: “From Chapter 15: In the thirty-ninth year of Azariah king of Judah, Menahem son of Gadi became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria ten years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD. During his entire reign he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit. Then Pul king of Assyria invaded the land, and Menahem gave him a thousand talents of silver to gain his support and strengthen his own hold on the kingdom. Menahem exacted this money from Israel. Every wealthy man had to contribute fifty shekels [3] of silver to be given to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria withdrew and stayed in the land no longer. As for the other events of Menahem's reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? Menahem rested with his fathers. And Pekahiah his son succeeded him as king. [Source: New International Version by International Bible Society, The Christian Classics Ethereal Library, ThenAgain ||||]

“From Chapter 16: Then Rezin king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem and besieged Ahaz, but they could not overpower him. At that time, Rezin king of Aram recovered Elath for Aram by driving out the men of Judah. Edomites then moved into Elath and have lived there to this day. Ahaz sent messengers to say to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, "I am your servant and vassal. Come up and save me out of the hand of the king of Aram and of the king of Israel, who are attacking me." And Ahaz took the silver and gold found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace and sent it as a gift to the king of Assyria. The king of Assyria complied by attacking Damascus and capturing it. He deported its inhabitants to Kir and put Rezin to death. ||||

“Then King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria. He saw an altar in Damascus and sent to Uriah the priest a sketch of the altar, with detailed plans for its construction. So Uriah the priest built an altar in accordance with all the plans that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus and finished it before King Ahaz returned. When the king came back from Damascus and saw the altar, he approached it and presented offerings on it. He offered up his burnt offering and grain offering, poured out his drink offering, and sprinkled the blood of his fellowship offerings on the altar. The bronze altar that stood before the LORD he brought from the front of the temple--from between the new altar and the temple of the LORD--and put it on the north side of the new altar. King Ahaz then gave these orders to Uriah the priest: "On the large new altar, offer the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering, the king's burnt offering and his grain offering, and the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. Sprinkle on the altar all the blood of the burnt offerings and sacrifices. But I will use the bronze altar for seeking guidance." And Uriah the priest did just as King Ahaz had ordered. |||||

“King Ahaz took away the side panels and removed the basins from the movable stands. He removed the Sea from the bronze bulls that supported it and set it on a stone base. He took away the Sabbath canopy that had been built at the temple and removed the royal entryway outside the temple of the LORD, in deference to the king of Assyria. As for the other events of the reign of Ahaz, and what he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? Ahaz rested with his fathers and was buried with them in the City of David. And Hezekiah his son succeeded him as king. In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea son of Elah became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned nine years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, but not like the kings of Israel who preceded him. ||||

“Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up to attack Hoshea, who had been Shalmaneser's vassal and had paid him tribute. But the king of Assyria discovered that Hoshea was a traitor, for he had sent envoys to So [4] king of Egypt, and he no longer paid tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year. Therefore Shalmaneser seized him and put him in prison. The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria and laid siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes. The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites. They took over Samaria and lived in its towns.” ||||

See Separate Articles on Assyria Under Mesopotamia

Isaiah on the Assyrian Conquest of Judah

First Isaiah, Isaiah 1, explores the calamity that occurred in Judah at the time of the Assyrian conquest Isaiah lived at the time of the Assyrian conquest of Judah. In these selections he tries to explain this calamity. [Source: New International Version by International Bible Society, Thenagain.info]

Chapter 1: The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah: “Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: "I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand."


Assyrian soldiers


Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness--only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil. Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers. The Daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a field of melons, like a city under siege. Unless the LORD Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah. Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah!

"The multitude of your sacrifices--what are they to me?" says the LORD. "I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations--I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword." For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. See how the faithful city has become a harlot! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her--but now murderers! Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water. Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow's case does not come before them.

Chapter 3: Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling; their words and deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence. The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves. Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds. Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done. Youths oppress my people, women rule over them. O my people, your guides lead you astray; they turn you from the path.

The LORD takes his place in court; he rises to judge the people. The LORD enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: "It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?" declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.


Assyrian battle


The LORD says, "The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, tripping along with mincing steps, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the LORD will make their scalps bald."

In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and ankle chains and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, the signet rings and nose rings, the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls. Instead of fragrance there will be a stench; instead of a sash, a rope; instead of well-dressed hair, baldness; instead of fine clothing, sackcloth; instead of beauty, branding. Your men will fall by the sword, your warriors in battle. The gates of Zion will lament and mourn; destitute, she will sit on the ground.

Judith: Feminine Courage During Assyrian Conquest

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “A stirring story of feminine intrigue and courage, written during the Maccabean struggle, recorded the deliverance of a besieged city through the beauty and wiles of Judith. The writing must be classified as fiction with an imaginary setting in the time of Assyrian world conquest. If the author knew precise historical details, he chose to ignore them, for he names the Babylonian monarch Nebuchadrezzar as king over the Assyrians at Nineveh, though the city had been destroyed seven years before Nebuchadrezzar was crowned (2:1 ff.; 4:2 ff.). There is no evidence that Nebuchadrezzar ever warred against the Medes or captured Ecbatana (1:7, 14). What is more surprising is that the author implies that the Jews were returning from captivity at the very time they were experiencing further deportations. The names of the Assyrian commander Holofernes and his general Bagoas may indicate that the writer had in mind a campaign against Phoenicia and the Jews waged in 353 in the time of Artaxerxes III Ochus (358-338), for the Persian commander's name was Holofernes and his general was Bagoas, a eunuch. But the exaggerations in the story can only be fictional. Holofernes moved a massive army 300 miles in three days (2:21)! Numbers are also exaggerated (cf. 1:4, 16; 2:5, 15; 7:2, 17). The town of Bethulia, which must have been close to Shechem (or perhaps was Shechem), has never been located. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“The literary style is somewhat heavy at times because of the insertion of long instructional speeches or prayers, a characteristic of Hellenistic writing. Nevertheless, there are excellent sequences and the reader is led through scenes of potential danger to the tense moment of the murder of Holofernes and Judith's escape in the fashion of a good spy story. As an ideal heroine Judith is beautiful and courageous, and as an example to Jewish women she is a model of pious and meticulous observance of the Law. Other characterizations are equally good. <=>

“The author did not write solely for entertainment, but as in other Jewish fiction, to instruct. As the ideal Jewess (the name "Judith" means "Jewess"), Judith demonstrated one of the ways in which loyal and religious women could aid the cause of freedom. She was a Maccabean counterpart of Jael (Judg. 4-5), using deception, intrigue, human weakness and in Judith's case, a touch of sensual enticement, to bring about the murder of an enemy general. She demonstrated the importance of active resistance to the enemy by the Hasidim. <=>


Judith beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio

“The story has two parts. The first (chs. 1-7) describes the war of the Assyrians against the Jews, leading up to the siege of Bethulia. The second (chs. 8-16) tells of the deliverance by Judith. Once again Nebuchadrezzar is the model for the power-hungry Seleucid oppressor, and once again the Jews are the target. Standing in the way of Assyrian conquest is the legendary city of Bethulia, and against this tiny community the tremendous armed might of Assyria is mustered. Rather than using his armies to crush the city, Holofernes is persuaded to bring the people to their knees by cutting off the water supply. <=>

“In the second portion, Judith, a wealthy and beautiful widow, succeeds in penetrating the Assyrian camp. Using beauty and wisdom as her initial weapons, she manages to get Holofernes drunk, then murders him and returns with his head to Bethulia. The comment of the stunned Bagoas can only have been designed to provoke a chuckle (14:18). The Jewish victory and the dutiful performance of rites of thanksgiving and purification could only have produced a sigh of satisfaction among the Hasidim. <=>

“The theology of the book combines universalism (9:5 f., 12; 13:18) and particularism (4:12; 6:21; 10:1; 12:8; 13:7). The stress on piety tends to make obedience to the law the test of piety (cf. II:12 ff.) and would suggest that the writer was a member of the Hasidim. He believes that God's help comes when man obeys the Law. There is no concern over the use of deceit or sensuousness in entrapping the enemy, nor is there any condemnation of Judith's murder of Holofernes. These were days of open warfare, and in dealing with the enemy, ethical considerations could be safely ignored. For this writer, loyalty and piety were equated. Judith has canonical status in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, but not in Jewish and Protestant versions.” <=>

Assyrian Rule Over Judah

Sennacherib (705 to 681 B.C.), the Assyrian ruler of Ninevah, launched an unsuccessful siege of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. The siege was cut short, according to the Bible, by intervention by angels. An inscription on a statue found in the doorway of Sennacherib's throne room recounts a story of bribery from the Bible, the first known independent written account corresponding to a story in the Bible. According to Assyrian empire records, Israel was a powerful kingdom that posed a threat to Assyrian control of the region. One inscription described an army by Ahab, the husband of biblical Jezebel, as possessing 2,000 chariots, a formidable number at that time. When Israel was conquered by the Assyrians, Israelite chariot units were incorporated into the Assyrian army. An ancient image from the wall panels of Sennacherib's palace at Nineveh (early seventh century B.C.). shows Assyrian soldiers flaying captives. Nahum's bitter attitude toward the Assyrians may have been engendered in part by the knowledge of the cruel treatment given to prisoners and conquered peoples by Assyrian warriors. <=>

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “When Hezekiah died (687), his son Manasseh, still a young boy, was enthroned. The folly of adhering to a policy of antagonism toward Assyria was apparent, and Manasseh pledged loyalty to his overlords. Shortly afterward (680), Sennacherib was murdered by his sons and one of them, Esarhaddon, formerly governor of Babylon, became king of the Assyrian Empire. To prevent challenge from his brothers or the army, Esarhaddon, through good military tactics and favorable omens, was soon in complete control of the empire. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]


Ashurnasipal II with an official

“In 675 Tarqu, an Ethiopian pharaoh (cf. II Kings 19:9-Tirakah), joined the king of Tyre in an anti-Assyrian alliance. By 671 Esarhaddon had invaded Egypt, routed Tarqu's forces and laid claim to the title "King of Upper and Lower Egypt"-a title more high sounding than factual. When Esarhaddon had left, Tarqu, with numerous local princes, laid claim to Lower Egypt. Once again Esarhaddon marched on Egypt but died en route (669). <=>

“Esarhaddon had planned carefully the future of his kingdom, and, in accordance with an agreement, two sons came to power, Shamash-shum-ukin as crown prince of Babylon and Ashurbanipal as ruler of Assyria. Migrating Scythians and Cimmerians on the northern border of the empire, powerful Median tribes to the east, and restless Chaldeans in the lower Euphrates region kept the two kings busy protecting their inheritance. Meanwhile, Tarqu went unpunished for insurrection. Ashurbanipal finally marched on Egypt, recruiting on the way from vassal kingdoms, including Judah. Egypt once again became part of the Assyrian Empire. <=>

“New problems were to trouble the empire. The Elamite kingdom on the eastern side of the lower Euphrates was being weakened by an invasion of Iranian peoples, later known as Persians. Shamash-shum-ukin of Babylon allied with Chaldeans and Elamites against Ashurbanipal. In Egypt a new rebellion led by Psammetichus, a former Assyrian favorite who had replaced Tarqu, weakened Assyrian power. Attacks by Arab tribes aided the Babylonian cause. Ashurbanipal attacked Babylon. Shamash-shum-ukin committed suicide during the siege and Ashurbanipal placed a puppet ruler in charge. Arabs and Elamites were overcome and the leaders were viciously punished. <=>

“Throughout this troubled time, Manasseh of Judah remained loyal to Ashurbanipal. If the note in II Chronicles 33:11 ff. is accurate, Manasseh was taken as a prisoner to Babylon and humiliated, perhaps for some minor security infraction, but there is no mention of this event and no record of any trouble with Manasseh in Assyrian records.3 The only references are to payment of tribute4 and cooperation in warfare.5 According to Assyrian custom, subject nations were bound by an agreement and an oath sworn before the great gods of Assyria; violation of the contract incurred divine wrath and punishment.6 Subject nations also worshipped Assyrian deities, and Ashurbanipal erected altars to Ashur in conquered areas. In Judah, with full cooperation from Manasseh, Assyrian worship flourished, together with cultic rites (including child sacrifice) that had not been operative since before Hezekiah's reform. No prophetic utterances and very little other reference to the worship of Yahweh have come from Manasseh's long reign. It is possible that pro-Assyrianism and anti-Yahwism went hand-in-hand. The report of Manasseh's return to Yahweh in II Chron. 33:15 ff. seems incongruous and stands in sharp contrast to the Deuteronomist's accusation that Manasseh's evils caused Yahweh to punish his people by exile (II Kings 21:10 ff.). <=>

“ Manasseh died in 640 and was succeeded by Amon, his son, who continued his father's policy of cooperation with Assyria during the two years of his reign. Amon's murder by servants brought eight-year old Josiah to kingship. It is not recorded who influenced Josiah's early life, but the king became an enthusiastic supporter of Yahwism. Ashurbanipal's annals do not go beyond 639 and hence there are no Assyrian records concerning relationships with Josiah. Information about Assyrian affairs from commercial records and state documents indicate that the disintegration of the empire had begun. <=>

“When Ashurbanipal died in 626, the Chaldean Nabopolassar seized the throne of Babylon and formed alliances with Median tribes. In the same year a movement of peoples out of the north, including Cimmerians and Scythians, pressed southward to threaten Assyrian holdings in Syria and Palestine. Herodotus (I, 103-106) says that the Scythians swept through Palestine, but there is no archaeological evidence of such a movement, so far.” <=>

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons, Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bible in Bildern, 1860

Text Sources: Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Old Testament Life and Literature” by Gerald A. Larue, King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org, New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, ccel.org , Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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