Tag Archives: Assyrian Empire

Visualizing Isaiah 14: cedars of Lebanon rejoice over the fall of Babylon

Isaiah 14 continues to deal with the downfall of Babylon. In great poetic language we learn that the cedars of Lebanon will rejoice that there is no longer a woodcutter to come up against them.

The whole earth is at rest and quiet; they break forth into singing. The cypresses rejoice at you, the cedars of Lebanon, saying, ‘Since you were laid low, no woodcutter comes up against us.’ (Isaiah 14:7-8 ESV)

The Assyrians came before the Babylonians to take advantage of the wonderful cedars of Lebanon. Sargon II left a frieze on the wall of his palace at Khorsabad showing timber being transported for use in the construction of Assyrian palaces.

Assyrians transporting Cedars from Lebanon. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Assyrians transporting Cedars from Lebanon. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The above frieze was produced at Khorsabad during the Neo-Assyrian period, about 713-706 B.C. The Louvre website has this explanation about procuring timber.

Timber was needed to build monumental palaces, but Assyria lacked quality building timber. Lebanon was famous for its cedar forests and from the end of the 2nd millennium, the Assyrian kings imported wood
from this region as the cuneiform inscriptions explain. The trees felled in the Lebanese mountains were carted from Sidon to a port south of  Tyre. The timber was loaded on ships that sailed north along the Phoenician coast, skirting Tyre then Ruad; it was no doubt unloaded at the mouth of the Orontes River. From there the timber could be transported to Assyria by river or road.

More information about the frieze is available at the Louvre website here.

Esarhaddon, the king of Assyria and Babylon between 681-669 B.C., says he made numerous kings,

transport under terrible difficulties, to Nineveh, the town (where I exercise) my rulership, as building material for my palace: big logs, long beams (and) thin boards from cedar and pine trees, products of the Sirara and Lebanon (Lab-na-na) mountains, which had grown for a long time into tall and strong timber… (ANET)

The Cedars of Lebanon grow at an altitude of more than 5000 feet above sea level in the northern Lebanon mountains. Only about 300 of the great trees remain near Besharre. In the photo below I show a cedar that has fallen during a storm and is now being cut for use in souvenirs. The trees are protected against indiscriminate cutting.

Cedars of Lebanon are now protected from cutting. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cedars of Lebanon are now protected from cutting. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The little village at the Cedars is built around one of the larger remaining trees. You can see the cedar wood plaques displayed at the shops along the main road.

Cedar of Lebanon in a little village at the location of the largest remaining grove. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A large Cedar of Lebanon in a little village at the location of the largest remaining grove of trees. Only small bands of snow could still be seen on the mountains in early May. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

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.

Report by Gordon Franz on the “International Noah and Judi Mountain Symposium” – Sirnak, Turkey

Gordon Franz sent me the report on his recent visit to southeastern Turkey and the “International Noah and Judi Mountain Symposium.” He said, “If you want to post it on your site, you are more than welcome.” This is an issue of much importance, and I am delighted to share it with our readers and help give it wide distribution.

Twice I have visited Eastern Turkey. In 2007 I was aware of the argument for Cudi Dagh (or Mount Judi), but was advised by my Turkish tour operator not to go to the mountain. Still hopeful of seeing the mountain someday.

Here is the first part of Gordon’s report:

Report on the “International Noah and Judi Mountain Symposium” – Sirnak, Turkey

By Gordon Franz

The “International Noah and Judi Mountain” symposium was held in Sirnak, Turkey, under the auspices of Sirnak University. One of the purposes of this conference was to set forth the case for Cudi Dagh, the mountain just to the south of Sirnak, as the landing-place of Noah’s Ark in South East Turkey. This mountain is not to be confused with the (late) traditional Mount Ararat, called Agri Dagh, in northeastern Turkey.

Ararat (Agri Dagh) in north eastern Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Traditional Mount Ararat (Agri Dagh) in north eastern Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Interestingly, at this conference I learned of another mountain that allegedly Noah’s Ark landed on. It is located at Mount Gemikaya in Azerbaijan. By my count, that is the sixth mountain vying for the honors of this historical event: two in Turkey, three in Iran, and one in Azerbaijan. The Iranian and Azerbaijani sites are far outside the Land of Ararat / Urartu, and in the case of the Iranian sites, deep inside the Land of Media. We can safely dismiss these mountains as the place where Noah’s Ark landed according to the Bible. To be truthful, Agri Dagh must be dismissed as well because it is a post-Flood volcanic peak in a plain, and not within the “mountains (plural) of Ararat” (Gen. 8:4).

The Setting of the Symposium
The symposium was held at the Sehr-I Nuh Otel (translation: Noah’s City Hotel) in Sirnak, just north of Cudi Dagh (Cudi or Judi Mountain). This mountain is within the “mountains of Ararat” (Gen. 8:4) where Noah’s Ark landed. The facilities at the hotel were first class, the food was absolutely delicious, and we had a spectacular view of Cudi Dagh from the panorama view windows as we ate our meals.

Cudi Dagh (Mount Judi). Photo courtesy of Dr. Mark Wilson.

Cudi Dagh (Mount Judi). Photo courtesy of Dr. Mark Wilson.

Special thanks goes to Dr. Mehmet Ata Az, a philosophy professor at Sirnak University, for coordinating the speakers and making sure our needs were met. He truly has a servant’s heart and our best interest in mind. Thank you my friend!

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At this point Gordon gives a synopsis of select papers, including his own on the topic, “Did Sennacherib, King of Assyria, Worship Wood from Noah’s Ark?

Read the report in its entirety at Gordon’s Life and Land Seminars site. I think you will be profited, and perhaps enlightened, by doing so.

Sargon II, Ashdod, and Isaiah 20:1

Ashdod was located along an international highway known as the Way of the Sea, the Way of Philistia, or the Via Maris. This was the important route connecting Egypt and Assyria. We have already discussed, in the past few posts, that the Assyrian king Sargon II captured Ashdod in 712/11 B.C. The prophet Isaiah makes reference to this event in Isaiah 20:1.

 The LORD revealed the following message during the year in which King Sargon of Assyria sent his commanding general to Ashdod, and he fought against it and captured it. (Isa 20:1 NET)

Sometime discoveries are made, but get little attention. A discovery at Tel Ashdod in 1963 falls into this category. Tel Ashdod was excavated from 1962 to 1972 under the direction of Moshe Dothan. David Noel Freedman wrote an article in Biblical Archaeologist (26:4, 1963)) about “The Second Season at Ancient Ashdod.” He describes the fragments of a stele of Sargon II.

Fragments of another stele, commemorating the victories of Sargon, were found at Ashdod during the current season, thus offering direct confirmation and vivid illustration of the biblical and Assyrian accounts. In all, three pieces of the stele were discovered. Enough can be made of their contents to show that the inscription duplicated in content if not precisely in wording other victory steles of the Assyrian king. By comparing the Ashdod stele with the others it will be possible to reconstruct the missing parts, one of which described the actual conquest of Ashdod. The inscription was carved in cuneiform signs characteristic of Sargon and his period, on all four sides of a slab of basalt which had been imported from a region north of Megiddo. It may have served as a pedestal for an obelisk, or a statue of the emperor. It must have been erected between the year of victory at Ashdod and the death of the king in 705 B.C., perhaps in 707 when a similar stele was set up in Cyprus. With the accession of Sennacherib in 704, most of the vessel countries revolted; Hezekiah of Judah and Sidqa of Ashkelon were the ringleaders in the west. They were able to liberate Ashdod from Assyrian control, and doubtless the event was observed by the destruction of Sargon’s victory stele, symbol of foreign oppression. These fragments of a monumental Assyrian inscription are the first ever found in Palestine.

The photos below were published in an article by Hayam Tadmor (“Philistia Under Assyrian Rule.” Biblical Archaeologist (29:3, 1966). Several years ago I used a digital camera to copy the photo. Sorry it is not better, but at least you can see the pieces. A photo of the piece in the middle below is also published in a BAR article (Jan-Feb, 2007) by H. Shanks on the “Assyrian Palace Discovered in Ashdod,” but the quality is about the same.
Fragment of the Sargon II inscription found at Ashdod.

Fragment of the Sargon II inscription found at Ashdod.

For several years the fragments were displayed in a case across from the replica of the Siege of Lachish in the Israel Museum. For the past years the fragments have not been on display. I made inquiry at the Museum earlier this year without any success. I wonder if the pieces have been moved to the Corine Maman Museum of Philistine Culture in Ashdod. Can anyone help with this?

This discovery is one of those that complement the biblical record. Sargon II (721–705 B.C.) is mentioned only once in the Bible — Isaiah 20:1. Isaiah says that the commanding general of Sargon II fought against Ashdod and captured it.

The photo below shows Sargon II (right) facing a person who is generally considered to be an Assyrian high dignitary. (See the discussion in Fant & Reddish, Lost Treasures of the Bible, 133-140.

Sargon II and an attendant. Displayed in Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sargon II and an official. Displayed in Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jack Finegan says of the reference to Sargon II in Isaiah 20:1,

… for a long time this was the only place in extant literature where his name was known.

The palace of Sargon II was discovered by Paul Emile Botta at Khorsabad in 1843. This relief comes from that palace, and is displayed in the Louvre. Other reliefs and artifacts from the palace are exhibited in the British Museum and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

Written copies of Isaiah existed in what we know as the Dead Sea Scrolls nearly 2000 years before the discovery of Sargon’s palace and archive. Perhaps we should be slow to think of Isaiah and other biblical writers as being unhistorical. To say this in a positive way, this illustrates the historical trustworthiness of the Bible. That the only reference to Sargon is specifically linked to Ashdod is even more impressive.

The Philistine city of Ashdod in the Bible

Ashdod is mentioned in the Bible as one of five cities of the Philistine Pentapolis (1 Samuel 6:17). The city is mentioned earlier among the Canaanite cities in the Ebla tablets. Here is a brief survey of the events recorded in the Bible.

  • Some of the Anakim were left in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod after Israel entered the land (Joshua 11:22).
  • Ashdod was among some cities that remained under Philistine control even though it had been assigned to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 13:2-3; 15:46-47).
  • When Israel lost the Ark of the Covenant at Ebenezer, the Philistines brought it to Ashdod and placed it in the temple of Dagon (1 Samuel 5:1-8).
Representation of the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness at Timna. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Representation of the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness at Timna.

  • Uzziah, king of Judah (767-740/39 B.C.), made war against Ashdod. He broke down the wall of Ashdod and built cities in the area (2 Chronicles 26:6).
  • King Sargon II of Assyria captured Ashdod in 712/711 B.C. (Isaiah 20:1).
  • After the return from Babylon, Nehemiah faced problems because some of the Judeans had married women of Ashdod. Their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah (Nehemiah 13:23-24).
  • The prophets Jeremiah, Amos, Zephaniah, and Zechariah spoke against Ashdod (Jeremiah 25:20; Amos 1:8; 3:9; Zephaniah 2:4; Zechariah 9:6).
  • Ashdod was known as Azotus in New Testament times (Acts 8:40).

In the next post we hope to discuss Isaiah 20:1 and the archaeological discovery that complements this text.

Massive Iron Age fortifications found at Ashdod-Yam

The American Friends of Tel Aviv University announced Monday the discovery of a massive fortification from the Iron Age.

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Researchers from Tel Aviv University have unearthed the remains of massive ancient fortifications built around an Iron-Age Assyrian harbor in present-day Israel.

At the heart of the well-preserved fortifications is a mud-brick wall up to more than 12 feet wide and 15 feet high. The wall is covered in layers of mud and sand that stretch for hundreds of feet on either side. When they were built in the eighth century B.C.E., the fortifications formed a daunting crescent-shaped defense for an inland area covering more than 17 acres.

The finding comes at the end of the first excavation season at the Ashdod-Yam archaeological dig in the contemporary Israeli coastal city of Ashdod, just south of Tel Aviv. Dr. Alexander Fantalkin of TAU’s Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures is leading the project on behalf of the Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology.

“The fortifications appear to protect an artificial harbor,” says Fantalkin. “If so, this would be a discovery of international significance, the first known harbor of this kind in our corner of the Levant.”

Building up and putting down. When the fortifications were built, the Assyrians ruled the southeastern part of the Mediterranean basin, including parts of Africa and the Middle East. Assyrian inscriptions reveal that at the end of the century, Yamani, the rebel king of Ashdod, led a rebellion against Sargon II, the king of the Assyrian Empire. The Kingdom of Judah, under King Hezekiah, rejected Yamani’s call to join the insurrection.

The Assyrians responded harshly to the rebellion, eventually destroying Philistine Ashdod. As a result, power shifted to the nearby area of Ashdod-Yam, where the TAU excavations are taking place. The fortifications seem to be related to these events, but it is not yet clear exactly how. They could have been built before or after the Ashdod rebellion was put down, either at the initiative of the locals or at the orders of the Assyrians.

“An amazing amount of time and energy was invested in building the wall and glacis [embankments],” says Fantalkin.

3D castles in the sand. More recent ruins — from the Hellenistic period, between the fourth and second centuries B.C.E. — were also found on top of the sand of the Iron Age fortifications. The buildings and walls were apparently built after the fortifications were abandoned and then probably destroyed by an earthquake in the second half of the second century B.C.E. Among the unusually well-preserved ruins were artifacts, including coins and weights.

The researchers employed a powerful new digital technique, photogrammetry, to create a 3D reconstruction of all the features of the excavation. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln provided the equipment. Dr. Philip Sapirstein, a postdoctoral fellow at TAU, served as a digital surveyor on the project.

The only archaeological work done previously at Ashdod-Yam was a series of exploratory digs led by late Israeli archaeologist Dr. Jacob Kaplan on behalf of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Museum of Antiquities between 1965 and 1968. Kaplan believed the Ashdod rebels built the fortifications in anticipation of an Assyrian attack, but Fantalkin says the construction appears too impressive to have been done under such circumstances.

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Broken columns lie scattered among the wild flowers on the sand dunes covering Ashdod-Yam. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Broken columns lie scattered among the wild flowers on the sand dunes covering Ashdod-Yam. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Ashdod-Yam Excavations website is here.

HT: Joseph Lauer

The Assyrians at the Source of the Tigris River

The Tigris River (called Dicle in Turkish) begins in the mountains of ancient Ararat and flows to the Persian Gulf. The Tigris is mentioned twice in the Bible. It is said to be the third of the rivers flowing out of the garden of Eden. It flows on the east side of Assyria (Genesis 2:14). The river is also mentioned in Daniel 10:4. The prophet stood beside “the great river, the Tigris.” Ancient Nineveh, near Mosul in northern Iraq, was built on the Tigris.

The Tigris River south of Diyabakir, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Tigris River south of Diyabakir, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ziyaret Tepe is identified with the Assyrian city of Tushhan. The city dates back to the Early Bronze Age (about 3000 B.C.), but there is a concentration of interest in the Late Assyrian period, c. 882–611 B.C. This corresponds to the biblical period of the Divided Kingdom.

Dr. Tim Matney, director of the Ziyaret Tepe Archaeological Expedition in southeastern Turkey, writes today about a visit to the source of the Tigris.

About 90km north of Diyarbakir there is a place in the Taurus Mountains where the Dibni Su, one of the two main sources of the Tigris River, comes flowing out of a large cave. The Dibni Su actually originates much deeper in the mountains, but the ancient Assyrians thought this to be the source of the Tigris and it is a dramatic landscape that had great significance to them. The modern name of the place is Birkleyn Gorge.

Take a look at three nice photos posted by Matney at the Ziyaret Tepe website here.

Matney says there are four small rock inscriptions made by Assyrian kings Tiglath-pileser I (1114–1076 B.C.) and Shalmaneser III (858–824 B.C.). Six Bible references may be found for Tiglath-pileser (2 Kings 15:29; 16:7,10; 1 Chronicles 5:6,26; 2 Chronicles 28:20), and two for Shalmaneser (2 Kings 17:3; 18:9). [See Comments below. The biblical kings are Tiglath-pileser III (745–727 B.C.), and Shalmaneser V (726–722 BC). Perhaps I will say more about these kings in a future post. My oldest son and I have the same name, and sometimes folks get us mixed up unless they know us.]

Ziyaret Tepe is scheduled to be flooded by the Tigris River as part of the project by the Turkish government to provide power and irrigation for the southeastern region of Turkey.

I have not visited Ziyaret Tepe, but have visited the general area (Diyabakir, Batman, et al. The photo below was made at Hasankef, an old town also scheduled to be flooded by the Tigris.

The Tigris River at Hasankef in southeastern Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Tigris River at Hasankef in southeastern Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In addition to the Ziyaret Tepe blog, there is an interesting report on the site, with maps, at Past Horizons.

HT: Jack Sasson