Tag Archives: Assyria

Assyria in Boston

The British Museum probably has the best collection of Assyrian artifacts in the world. The Louvre has a good collection, too. Currently 250 artifacts from the British Museum are on exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The exhibition runs through January 4. This exhibition was likely timed to coincide with the meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Schools of Oriental Research in mid-November.

Even if you can’t make it to Boston you might find the web page of interest. Check mfa.org.

The Assyrian Empire ruled the ancient near east from the battle of Qarqar (853 B.C.) till the battle of Carchemish (605 B.C.) when they were defeated by the Babylonians. Nineveh had fallen seven years earlier. This was the time of the Divided Kingdom period in Israelite history, and Assyria had contact with a numerous biblical kings. Ahab, for example, fought against the Assyrians at Qarqar.

One of the famous Assyrian kings was Sargon II. He is mentioned only once in the Bible.

In the year that the commander came to Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him and he fought against Ashdod and captured it. (Isaiah 20:1)

For many years there was no known reference to Sargon II in the Assyrian records. Yet, the prophet Isaiah, writing at the time of the Assyrian captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel, mentions Sargon at Ashdod.

The palace of Sargon was discovered by Emile Botta at Khorsabad in 1843. This was the period of “momumental” discoveries in archaeology. The photo below shows the top half of Sargon (on the left) receiving his minister. I think you will have to go to London to see this one.

Sargon II receives his minister. From the palace in Khorsabad. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sargon II receives his minister. From the palace in Khorsabad. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dog River in Lebanon

The Nahr el Kelb, the River of the Dog, flows into the Mediterranean Sea about nine miles north of Beirut, Lebanon. In antiquity the river was known as the Lycus. Many important armies have traveled through this pass in the Lebanon mountains leaving their inscriptions on the cliffs.

There are inscriptions or reliefs from the following ancient rulers:

  • Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II.
  • Assyrian kings Shalmaneser III and Esarhaddon.
  • Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar.

Shalmaneser III took tribute from Jehu, the king of Israel,  841 B.C. Wright says,

“The tribute was evidently received after Shalmaneser’s fifth attack on Damascus, following which he had marched his army into Phoenicia. While there he says that he received the tribute of Tyre, Sidon, and Jehu, and placed his portrait on the cliff of Ba’ lira’ si. This portrait, along with those of other kings, including Rameses II of Egypt…” is located at Dog River, north of Beirut. (Biblical Archaeology, 158-159).

Jehu was king of Israel in the 9th century B.C. (2 Kings 9). The Bible does not record this event, but the annals of Shalmaneser III record the following information:

“…I (also) marched as far as the mountains of Ba’li-ra’si which is a promontory (lit.: at the side of the sea) and erected there a stela with my image as king. At that time I received the tribute of the inhabitants of Tyre, Sidon and of Jehu, son of Ornri.” (ANET, 280)

This photo, made in 2002, shows the reliefs left by Salmaneser III and Ramses (right).

Reliefs of Shalmaneser III and Pharaoh Ramses at Dog River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Reliefs of Shalmaneser III and Pharaoh Ramses at Dog River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.