Tag Archives: Assyria

Carchemish and the Rise of Babylon as a World Power

It was a day of high excitement at Carchemish in 605 B.C. when Pharaoh Neco came all the way from Egypt to this city now on the border between Syria and Turkey. On an earlier excursion from Egypt to Carchemish in 609 B.C., Neco killed Josiah, king of Judah, at Megiddo.

The map illustrating Pharaoh Neco’s trip to Carchemish is included in Bible Mapper v. 5. Click on the map to see a larger, more easily read, map.

Pharaoh Neco came to assist the Assyrians as they fought the Babylonians. But the emerging world power from the southern Euphrates city of Babylon overpowered the Assyrians and the Egyptians and sent Neco running back to Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, chased Neco to the border of Egypt.

It is still exciting at Carchemish. I have been within sight of Carchemish a few times. Military installations are clearly visible on top of the tell. The first time I was near Carchemish was in 1995. The tour operator handling my tour in Turkey advised me not to go to Carchemish (Karkamis) because it is “zero on the border” of Turkey and Syria. You may see other photos of Carchemish by using the search box with that word.

This photo was made in Turkey. The site of ancient Carchemish can be seen in the distance to the left of center. The River Euphrates makes a left turn before the mound and continues to flow into Syria and Iraq before flowing into the Persian Gulf. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aleppo National Museum – #3

See our previous articles on Aleppo here, here, and here.

We have one more nice Neo-Hittite piece displayed in the courtyard of the Aleppo National Museum. It shows genii with the symbols of the sun and the moon. These symbols are typical on Neo-Hittite and Assyrian reliefs.

Neo-Hittite genii with image of sun and moon on a basalt block in the courtyard of the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Neo-Hittite genii with image of sun and moon on a block in the courtyard of the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Assyrian. The museum has one stele depicting Esarhaddon, the son of Sennacherib and his successor as king of Assyria (680-559 B.C.; 2 Kings 19:37; Isaiah 37:38; Ezra 4:2). I am not certain about the identity of the rulers who are bowing before Esarhaddon, but I suspect this represents the same persons as the much better stele in the Berlin museum. The stele there depicts the king holding ropes leading to the lips of Tirhakah of Egypt and Ethiopia [Cush] (in ANET, 293, he is referred to as king of Nubia) and Ba’alu of Tyre. If so, then the bowing figure with Negroid features was an ally of Hezekiah against the Assyrians (2 Kings 19:9. The Berlin stele comes from Zinjirli and was discovered in 1888.

First, here is the Aleppo stele.

A broken relief showing Esarhaddon with two captured rulers, one on bended knee, before him. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A broken relief showing Esarhaddon with two captured rulers, one on bended knee, before him. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

And here is the Berlin stele (VA 2708).

Stele of Esarhaddon displayed in the Pergamum Museum, Berlin. VA 2708. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Stele of Esarhaddon displayed in the Pergamum Museum, Berlin. VA 2708. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I have the impression that the stele displayed in Aleppo may be one made by a beginner and was never finished. Notice the lack of proportion in the legs of the kneeling figure, and the absence of clear decorations at the top.

One final post on the Museum coming next.

Post-traumatic stress as early as 1300 B.C.

A team of scholars at Anglia Ruskin University in the East of England released a report showing evidence of post-traumatic stress as early as 1300 B.C. The study involved documents from ancient Mesopotamia.

Accounts of soldiers being visited by “ghosts they faced in battle” fitted with a modern diagnosis of PTSD.

The condition was likely to be as old as human civilisation, the researchers concluded.

Prof Jamie Hacker Hughes, a former consultant clinical psychologist for the Ministry of Defence, said the first description of PTSD was often accredited to the Greek historian Herodotus.

The brief notice is available at BBC here. I found it interesting that the photo associated with the article shows an Assyrian king of the 9th century B.C. with a bow and arrow, and two others with javelins. In fact, this is not a war or battle relief. A view of the entire relief shows that it was the king is on a lion hunt. But, that has nothing to do with the validity of the report.

Several examples of the cruelty of war in ancient times is the limestone relief of the siege of Lachish which was found in Sennacherib’s (704-681 B.C.) palace at Nineveh. A replica of the relief may be seen in the Israel Museum, but the original is in its own designated room in the British Museum.

An Assyrian warrior kills one of the locals at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An Assyrian warrior kills one of the locals at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Bible mentions the siege of Lachish in several places, including 2 Chronicles 32:9-10.

After this, Sennacherib king of Assyria, who was besieging Lachish with all his forces, sent his servants to Jerusalem to Hezekiah king of Judah and to all the people of Judah who were in Jerusalem, saying, “Thus says Sennacherib king of Assyria, ‘On what are you trusting, that you endure the siege in Jerusalem? (ESV)

Counting the heads of the dead at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Counting the heads of the dead at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some scholars suggest that the next panel portrays the Assyrians flaying the Judeans.

Bodies of the dead at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bodies of the dead at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

One panel shows local citizens being impaled on poles. After a day of impaling, beheading, or counting heads, it might be easy enough to see “ghosts”.

We can desire that all men come to accept the teaching of Jesus when one of His disciples used a sword to advance the cause of the Lord.

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52 ESV)

HT: Agade list

Visualizing Isaiah 11: the River

Immediately upon looking at Isaiah 11 I think of the reference to the Messiah –  “a shoot from the stump of Jesse.” Look back to chapter 4 for an illustration for that.

I could show you individual photos of many of the animals mentioned in verses 6-7, but I do not have the wild and vicious with the tame and gentle. It doesn’t happen in the animal kingdom, but it is true in the kingdom of the Messiah. See, for example, Colossians 3:11 where there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythians, salve, free. In Christ these distinctions are broken down.

Here I have chosen to concentrate on the promise of the return of a remnant from captivity, an event that took place initially in 536 B.C.

And the LORD will utterly destroy the tongue of the Sea of Egypt, and will wave his hand over the River with his scorching breath, and strike it into seven channels, and he will lead people across in sandals. And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant that remains of his people, as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt. (Isaiah 11:15-16 ESV)

The Euphrates is the largest, longest and most important river of Western Asia. It is nearly 1800 miles long and was the northeastern boundary of the land promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:18). The empires of Assyria and Babylon, the greatest enemies of Israel, were east of the Euphrates. The Old Testament prophets often put the Euphrates by metonymy for these countries to designate the place from which the punishment of God would come (Isaiah 7:20; 8:7; Jeremiah 46:10

The Euphrates was so significant in the history of Israel that the phrase “the River” is used frequently in the Old Testament to indicate the Euphrates.

View north of the Euphrates River at Berecik, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Euphrates River, looking north, at Birecik, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The LORD said that He would bring “the waters of the River, the king of Assyria and all his glory” like a flood to rise to the neck of His people (Isaiah 8:6-8). Now He promises to strike the River and allow His people to return from the exile in sandals. In fact, He says, “there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant that remains of his people” 11:16).

When Assyrian kings stated in their annals that they crossed the river Euphrates they mean that they went to war against nations west of the River.

Damage Reported at Mari in Syria

The French archaeologist André Parrot (1901-1980) carried out several excavations at Mari between 1933 and 1960. Having read about recent damage to the ancient buildings of Mari, I wanted to share a couple of photos of artifacts from the site.

The first statue is of the Iku-Shamagan, King of Mari. It dates to about 2650 B.C. and is from the temple of Ishtar in Mari. The statue is about 47 inches high and was displayed in the Damascus Museum in 2002 when I made this photograph.

King of Mari statue in Damascus Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins 2002.

Iku-Shamagan, King of Mari, praying. Statue in Damascus Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins 2002.

The small (about 20 inches high) statue of Ebih-II, the superintendent of Mari, was discovered in the temple of Ishtar. It dates to the period of about 2900-2750 B.C. and is made of gypsum, with eyes of shells and lapis lazuil. This artifact, along with several others, is displayed in the Louvre.

Attendant to Ebih II of Mari. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of Ebih II superintendent of Mari. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Mari is located far east in Syria near the Euphrates River. The city was located on the main route between Assyria and Babylon. If Abraham first lived in south Mesopotamia then he might have passed this way on the trip to Haran (Genesis 11:27 – 12:5).

Project Syrian Archaeology has some photos of poor quality showing damage to historical sites at their Facebook page here.

Making your enemies your footstool

A common motif found in Ancient Near East reliefs shows a monarch placing his foot on his enemy. One illustration of this is the large relief showing the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser III (reigned 745-727 B.C.) with his foot on the neck of an enemy. Tiglath-Pileser III is known as Pul in the Bible.

Pul king of Assyria invaded the land, and Menahem paid him a thousand talents of silver to gain his support and to solidify his control of the kingdom. (2 Kings 15:19 NET)

So the God of Israel stirred up King Pul of Assyria (that is, King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria), and he carried away the Reubenites, Gadites, and half-tribe of Manasseh and took them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river of Gozan, where they remain to this very day. (1 Chronicles 5:26 NET)

The Assyrian relief below is displayed in the British Museum.

Tiglath-Pileser III Subjugates an Enemy. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tiglath-Pileser III Subjugates an Enemy. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Here is a closeup of what we are seeking to illustrate.

Tiglath-Pileser III Puts His Foot on Neck of Enemy. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tiglath-Pileser III Puts His Foot on the Neck of an Enemy. BM. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Several biblical passages come to mind in this connection.

When they brought the kings out to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the commanders of the troops who accompanied him, “Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.” So they came up and put their feet on their necks. (Joshua 10:24 NET)

Here is the LORD’s proclamation to my lord: “Sit down at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool!” (Psalm 110:1 NET)

Peter quotes Psalm 110:1 to show that Jesus is now seated on the throne of David at the right hand of God (Acts 2:35).

And Paul says,

For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. (1 Corinthians 15:25 NET)

The last enemy is death (1 Corinthians 15:26).

The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago

The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago is one of the great museums of biblically related artifacts in the world. The University of Chicago excavated at the Neo-Assyrian city of Khorsabad from 1928 to 1935. This site was the fortress of King Sargon II (721-705 B.C.).

Assyrian winged bull, OIUC. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Assyrian winged bull, OIUC. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The OIUC web page describes the winged bull this way:

This colossal sculpture was one of a pair that guarded the entrance to the throne room of King Sargon II. A protective spirit known as a “lamassu”, it is shown as a composite being with the head of a human, the body and ears of a bull, and the wings of a bird. When viewed from the side, the creature appears to be walking; when viewed from the front, to be standing still. Thus it is actually represented with five, rather than four, legs.

Sargon II is mentioned only once in the Bible (Isaiah 20:1). There was a time when some critics denied the existence of Sargon II and suggested that the Bible writer made up the name. The great museums, Oriental Institute, British Museum, and the Louvre, have abundant evidence of his existence.

Photography is allowed in the museum.

The museum website will provide all the info you need to plan your visit to the Oriental Institute Museum.

Nineveh in danger of urban sprawl

It is no longer news that the ancient sites of Iraq are in danger of destruction. This has been caused by war, looting, and now urban sprawl. There is an informative article about the threat facing Ninevah (spelled Nineveh in English Bible translations) in The Christian Science Monitor here.

We can be thankful that many of the artifacts of ancient Sumer, Akkad, Assyria, Babylon, et al. are now displayed in the great museums of the world. The reliefs from the palace of the Assyrian king Sennacherib are displayed in the British Museum.

The panel below is a portion showing the Assyrian slingers at Lachish at the end of the 8th century B.C. The Bible says,

Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh. (2 Kings 19:36)

King Sennacherib had these reliefs carved on his palace walls in Nineveh. Click on the image for a larger one.

Assyrian slingers at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Assyrian slingers at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The greatness of Nineveh is mentioned in the book of the prophet Jonah.

Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you. (Jonah 3:1)

It would be nice if world conditions (economic, political, and religious) allowed renewed archaeological excavation of sites such as Nineveh.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Treasures from Assyria

Recently I wrote about the of Assyrian treasures from the British Museum currently exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. See here. Monday afternoon Leon Mauldin and I spent a few hours in the MFA visiting the Assyria exhibit as well as the Roman and Egyptian sections of the Museum. We had a little time to sample some of the other great art treasures there.

I had seen quite a few of the artifacts in the British Museum, but the exhibit was well arranged and certainly worth the time and fee. I urge everyone within a reasonable distance to attend between now and January 4. Check the web site here.

The artifact used on the front of the exhibit catalog and the advertising for the Boston exhibit shows a relief in ivory of a lioness devouring a man with negroid features in a thicket of stylized lotus and papyrus plants. This piece belongs to the Nimrud ivories displayed in the British Museum. Photos are not allowed in the Boston exhibit, but here is a picture I made about five years ago in the BM.

One of the Nimrud Ivories from the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

One of the Nimrud Ivories from the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Both Israel and Judah had contact with the Assyrian Empire. There are numerous historical contacts between the two nations attested in both the Bible and the Assyrian records.

The reliefs on display show the Assyrians at war — always victorious. The kings are shown hunting lions and bulls. This spirit of conquest is mentioned by the prohphet Isaiah.

Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger And the staff in whose hands is My indignation, I send it against a godless nation And commission it against the people of My fury To capture booty and to seize plunder, And to trample them down like mud in the streets.  Yet it does not so intend, Nor does it plan so in its heart, But rather it is its purpose to destroy And to cut off many nations. (Isaiah 10:5-7)

Iron Age stele speaks of soul apart from body

The New York Times reports here on the discovery of an interesting stele at Sam’al/ Zincirli (ZIN-jeer-lee), an ancient site in southeastern Turkey.

In a mountainous kingdom in what is now southeastern Turkey, there lived in the eighth century B.C. a royal official, Kuttamuwa, who oversaw the completion of an inscribed stone monument, or stele, to be erected upon his death. The words instructed mourners to commemorate his life and afterlife with feasts “for my soul that is in this stele.”
“Normally, in the Semitic cultures, the soul of a person, their vital essence, adheres to the bones of the deceased,” said David Schloen, an archaeologist at the university’s Oriental Institute and director of the excavations. “But here we have a culture that believed the soul is not in the corpse but has been transferred to the mortuary stone.”

A translation of the inscription by Dennis Pardee, a professor of Near Eastern languages and civilization at Chicago, reads in part: “I, Kuttamuwa, servant of [the king] Panamuwa, am the one who oversaw the production of this stele for myself while still living. I placed it in an eternal chamber [?] and established a feast at this chamber: a bull for [the god] Hadad, a ram for [the god] Shamash and a ram for my soul that is in this stele.”

Here is a photograph of the stele provided by the University of Chicago.

University of Chicago.

Stele from Zincirli in which the king says that his soul is in this stone. Photo: University of Chicago.

A well known monuments discovered at Zincirli in 1888 depicts the Assyrian king Esarhaddon holding ropes leading to Tirhakah, king of Egypt and Ethiopia [Cush], and Ba’alu of Tyre. Tirhakah is the kneeling figure with negroid features befriended King Hezekiah of Judah against the Assyrians (2 Kings 19:9). The photo below shows the two captives on the lower portion of the stele. It is now displayed in the Pergamum Museum in Berlin.

Esarhaddon stele showing Tirhakah and the king of Tyre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Esarhaddon stele showing Tirhakah and the king of Tyre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.