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Archaeology of Ancient Assyria

Ancient Assyria


Isaiah 5:26-29 "He will whistle to them from the end of the earth; Surely they shall come with speed, swiftly. No one will be weary or stumble among them No one will slumber or sleep Nor will the belt on their loins be loosed, Nor the strap of their sandals be broken; Whose arrows are sharp, And all their bows bent; Their horses' hooves will seem like flint, And their wheels like a whirlwind. Their roaring will be like a lion, They will roar like young lions; Yes, they will roar And lay hold of the prey; They will carry it away safely, And no one will deliver."


assyrian_head.jpg God swore to the Israelites that if they disobeyed Him He would punish them, and ultimately allow them to be destroyed and carried away captive to foreign land. When their rebellion had caused Godís anger to reach a climax He raised up the brutal Assyrians to punish Israel and to establish an empire that would be a terror to the world.


It was by the Assyrian empire and its invincible army that the Northern Kingdom of Israel was destroyed. The annals of the kings of Assyria, uncovered by archaeologists have recorded the many victories of the invincible Assyrian host. In these annals are also recorded the names of 10 Hebrew kings: Omri, Ahab, Jehu, Menahem, Hoshea, Pekah, Uzziah, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh. There is also testimony that confirms the biblical record.


Ancient Assyrian policy was to deport defeated nations and lead them captive to other lands. This would destroy their sense of nationalism and force them to be more willing to submit. The Assyrians were miraculous in warfare, in fact military strategists today have a difficult time understanding how the Assyrians were so advanced in their military tactics. Most of the nations plundered other nations but Assyria was the worst. They were the very definition of a plunderer, because the Lord had raised them up to plunder his rebellious people.


The Assyrians were also diabolically cruel, they skinned their victims alive, cut off their hands, feet, noses, ears, eyes, pulled out tongues, made mounds of heads and many more atrocities to inspire terror in those who were demanded to pay tribute.


Assyriaís history was very interesting, according to archaeology and according to the Bible it was founded somewhere around 2400 B.C. by people from Babylon. Throughout Assyrian history they were either subject to the Babylonians or at war with them. Around 1300 B.C. Shalmaneser I broke the yoke of Babylon and ruled the entire Euphrates Valley. After that Assyria went into a decline until Tiglath-pilesar I (1120 B.C.) made Assyria a famed Kingdom. Later Assyria became a world empire in the ninth century B.C.


(see the List of Later Assyrian Kings).


The Assyrian Empire had been a world power for about 150 years when Isaiah began ministering, its capital was Nineveh. It was about 840 B.C. that king Jehu had begun to pay tribute to Assyria. Isaiah was still very young when the Assyrian king, Tiglath-Pilesar III, took the 10 northern tribes of Israel into captivity in 734 B.C. About 13 years later in 722 B.C. the capital city of Israel, Samaria, fell to the Assyrians and Israel was led away into captivity. Then the Assyrian army came into the Southern Kingdom of Judah and destroyed 46 walled cities, and took over 200,000 Hebrew captives away to Assyria. King Sennacherib of Assyria mocked God and in 701 B.C. when he attacked the walls of Jerusalem the Lord smote 185,000 Assyrian soldiers and Sennacherib went back to Nineveh the same way in which he came. This was all predicted by the prophet Isaiah who was an eyewitness to the destruction of the entire promised land of Israel by the Assyrians, except Jerusalem.


The glory of the Assyrian Empire lasted almost 300 years until they were suddenly and utterly defeated by the power of God in 612 B.C. The Babylonians, the Medes, and the Scythians had laid a three-month siege against Assyria and were ready to give up, when suddenly a flood came and broke down her mighty walls. God had promised that it would be by His own hand that Assyria would be broken, and so it happened.


The Biblical account is confirmed and illustrated by the inscriptions of Assyrian kings such as Tiglath-pilesar III, Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal. Notice in the verse below how the Assyrians boasted in their own might and how God had promised to punish the Assyrians for their pride and "haughty looks."


Isaiah 10:5-13

5 "Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger And the staff in whose hand is My indignation.

6 I will send him against an ungodly nation, And against the people of My wrath I will give him charge, To seize the spoil, to take the prey, And to tread them down like the mire of the streets.

7 Yet he does not mean so, Nor does his heart think so; But it is in his heart to destroy, And cut off not a few nations.

8 For he says, "Are not my princes altogether kings?

9 Is not Calno like Carchemish? Is not Hamath like Arpad? Is not Samaria like Damascus?

10 As my hand has found the kingdoms of the idols, Whose carved images excelled those of Jerusalem and Samaria,

11 As I have done to Samaria and her idols, Shall I not do also to Jerusalem and her idols?"'

12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Lord has performed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, that He will say, "I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks."

13 For he says: "By the strength of my hand I have done it, And by my wisdom, for I am prudent; Also I have removed the boundaries of the people, And have robbed their treasuries; So I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man.