Tag Archives: Assyrians

Visualizing Isaiah 10: “Assyria, the rod of my anger”

The Assyrians are first introduced in Isaiah 7. In chapter 10 we are informed that they are “the rod of [the LORD’s] anger.” They will serve the purpose of God to punish His people. Isaiah tells us that the Assyrians did not plan to be doing the will of the LORD; they only wanted to destroy many nations.

Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. But he does not so intend, and his heart does not so think; but it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few; for he says: “Are not my commanders all kings? (Isaiah 10:5-8 ESV)

In the photos below I hope to illustrate a few ways the Assyrians punished the Judeans. Certainly the same was true of the northern kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 17:5-6).

The Assyrians destroyed northern cities of Israel such as Hazor and the site sometimes identified as Geshur or NT Bethsaida in 732 B.C. By 722/21 Samaria lay in ruins. Assyria continued south into Judah. Sennacherib claims to have destroyed 46 strong cities of Judea in addition to all of the nearby villages (The Taylor Prism).

Assyrian King Sennacherib left reliefs of his war against Lachish on his palace wall at Nineveh. The following photos are portions of that relief now displayed in the British Museum. Many Judeans were taken into captivity. Other begged for mercy in the hilly Shephelah of Judah.

Judeans begging for mercy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Judeans begging for mercy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The plea was unsuccessful for some of them. This portion shows an Assyrian commander killing a Judean.

An Assyrian soldier kills a Judean. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An Assyrian soldier kills a Judean. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This portion of the relief shows heads of the slain being brought together for accounting. Some Egyptian reliefs show hands and other body parts being gathered for the same purpose.

Heads of Judeans being collected to get a count. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Heads of Judeans being collected to get a count. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A 25-minute Discovery Channel video entitled The Assyrians: Masters of War uses Assyrian reliefs to tell the story of their savagery in war. Lachish is emphasized. Click here. (HT: Bible Places Blog).

Visualizing Isaiah 3: a skirt of sackcloth

Isaiah describes the luxurious life of the women of Jerusalem in vivid terms. The prophet was definitely not politically correct.

16 The LORD said: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet,
17 therefore the Lord will strike with a scab the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will lay bare their secret parts.
18 In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents;
19 the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves;
20 the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets;
21 the signet rings and nose rings;
22 the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags;
23 the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils.
24 Instead of perfume there will be rottenness; and instead of a belt, a rope; and instead of well-set hair, baldness; and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty. (Isaiah 3:16-24 ESV)

When the Assyrians captured Lachish and other cities of Judea they took some of the people captive. Something similar must have happened when the Babylonians took captive many of the citizens of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

Our photo shows a portion of the relief Sennacherib left on his palace wall after the capture of Lachish. You may recognize that this is not the original now displayed in the British Museum. This replica is in the Israel Museum. Notice especially the women in the center of the bottom panel.

Sennacherib's relief showing the women of Lachish going into captivity. Replica in Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sennacherib’s relief showing the women of Lachish going into captivity. Replica in Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Here is the original of the same scene as it is displayed in the British Museum. Click the photo for a larger image.

Sennacherib's Relief in British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sennacherib’s Relief in the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The women of the Shephelah were country women and the attire they are wearing may have been normal. The stylish women of Jerusalem would become like the plain women of the country and don a skirt of sackcloth.

David Ussishkin, excavator of Lachish, describes the scene:

The deportees are distinguishable by their appearance and dress. The women—adults and girls alike—wear a long, simple garment. A long shawl covers their head, shoulders and back, reaching to the bottom of the dress. The heads of both the adult men and boys are wound with scarves whose fringed ends hang down, covering the ears and reaching the level of their shoulders. A thick horizontal line below the belt probably marks the bottom of a sleeveless shirt. The garment has a fringed (?) tassel hanging between the legs, apparently attached to the bottom of the shirt. The men have short beards. Both men and women are barefooted. (The Conquest of Lachish by Sennacherib, 109).

New Assyrian town discovered in northern Iraq

An article in Al Arabiya informs us that foreign archaeologists have discovered a new Assyrian site near the Arbil (Erbil) city center. Arbil is located southeast of the modern Kurdish city of Mosul, the area of Assyrian cities such as Nineveh, Calah, and Khorsabad.

Archeologists working in northern Iraq have discovered a new Assyrian site in the vicinity of the historic Arbil city center, the head of the antiquities office in the Kurdish Province of Arbil, Haydar Hassan, was quoted as saying in an Iraqi newspaper.

The Assyrian civilization flourished in northern Iraq between 1000-700 B.C., archeologists were led to discover the site when they exhumed a burial ground, complete with mud brick grave heads.

To further unearth this site the foreign archeological team had to study and remove two more layers of civilization under which the Assyrian structure was buried, according to a report published by Iraq’s al-Zaman on Monday.

The excavations have shown that the Assyrian graves were covered by remains belonging to the Sassanid Persian Dynasty that ruled Iraq before being dislodged by Muslim Arab tribes from the Arabian desert in the 7th century A.D., said Haydar Hassan.

So far only the brick arches and corridors of the Assyrian layer have been brought to the surface.

Although archaeological teams from Italy, the U.S., Germany, Holland, Poland and Greece are currently working in northern Iraq, Hassan did not say which foreign archaeologists were working on the newly discovered Assyrian site in Arbil.

The article may be accessed here.

Assyria was a threat to Israel from 853 B.C., when they defeated Ahab at the battle of Qarqar, until the LORD defeated them at Jerusalem in 701 B.C., and the final defeat at the battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C. The prophet Isaiah warned the people of God about the Assyrian threat.

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD of hosts: “O my people, who dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrians when they strike with the rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did. For in a very little while my fury will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction.  (Isaiah 10:24-25 ESV)

The photo below is of the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 B.C.). It was discovered in the central palace at Nimrud, and is now displayed in the British Museum.Tiglath-Pileser III is mentioned in 2 Kings 16:7, 15:29, and a few other references.

Who knows what new things may come from other cities yet to be excavated?

Tiglath-Pileser III, king of Assyria, from Nimrud's central palace. Now displayed in the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tiglath-Pileser III, king of Assyria, from Nimrud. Now displayed in the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Agade List

Achziv (Achzib) of Asher

The town of Achziv (English Bibles use Achzib) is located on the Mediterranean coast of Western Galilee about 9 miles north of Acco (Akko, Acre = Ptolemais). This is in the northern portion of the Plain of Acco.

Achziv was assigned to the tribe of Asher (Joshua 19:29; Judges 1:31), but Asher was not able to drive out the Canaanite inhabitants of the land.

Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon or of Ahlab or of Achzib or of Helbah or of Aphik or of Rehob, (Judges 1:31 ESV)

Achziv remained primarily a Canaanite or Phoenician town throughout most of biblical history.

In exchange for cedar and cypress timber and gold, Solomon gave 20 cities in the land of Galilee to Hiram king of Tyre (1 Kings 9:11-13). That portion of western Galilee was called the land of Cabul. This is another indication that this region continued under the influence of the Phoenicians. King Hiram visited the cities but they did not please him.

Sennacherib, king of Assyria (704-681 B.C.), claims in the Taylor and Chicago Prisms to have conquered the cities of Sidon, the mainland city of Tyre, Achziv, and Acco.

In New Testament times Achziv was known as Ecdippa (Ekdippon) (Josephus, JW 1.257).

The map below shows the location of Acziv between Acco and the Ladder of Tyre. The Ladder of Tyre is a natural formation that has served as a border between Israel and Lebanon during many historical periods, including the present time.

Aczib on the Mediterranean coast of Western Galilee. BibleAtlas.org.

Achib (Achziv) on the Mediterranean coast of Western Galilee. BibleAtlas.org.

The Crusaders built a fortress at Achzib and named it Casal Imbert. The Mamluk’s captured the site in 1271, and an Arab village remained there until the War of Independence in 1948.

Achziv is built on a sandstone (kurkar) ridge overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The remaining structures from the Arab period, now part of a National Park, are made from stones of the Crusader fortress.

Arab period structures made from stones of the Crusader fortress at Achziv. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Arab period structures made from stones of the Crusader fortress. The Mediterranean Sea is in view when you reach the top of the tel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This photo was made from Tel Achziv looking north to Rosh Hanikra and the Ladder of Tyre, a distance of about 4 miles.

The view north from Tel Achziv to Rosh Hanikra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The view north from Tel Achziv to Rosh Hanikra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some artifacts from Achziv are exhibited in the Hecht Museum in Haifa.

For an earlier posts about this region, see here and here.

German Archaeologist: Beneath every footstep in Syria is an ancient civilization

The Global Arab Network reports on a statement made by German archaeologist Markus Gschwind, head of the Syrian-German Archaeology Expedition, here. The report says,

Syria, the land of civilizations and history, is rife with ancient monuments that tell the stories of the many peoples and civilizations that lived in it, whose stories endured in the face of time to tell humanity about their greatness.

“Beneath every footstep in Syria is an ancient civilization,” says Archaeologist Markus Gschwind, head of the Syrian-German Archaeology Expedition working at al-Rafina in Hama. He notes that this saying is repeated around Germany, as most Germans consider Syria the most historically deep-rooted country in the Mediterranean.

In a statement to SANA, Gschwind said that he has been living and excavating in Syria for six years, each day discovering many secrets from the history of mankind.

Gschwind is working at the ancient city of al-Rafina in Hama. Hama is at the site of Biblical Hamath  (2 Kings 14:25; 2 Chronicles 8:4).

My limited visits to Syria have convinced me that the statement by Gschwind is correct. Of course, the same could be said of Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, et al.

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. Qarqar is north of Hammath. Both are on the Orontes River.

Qarqar on the Orontes. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.The tell of Qarqar in northern Syria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Biblical Paths

Plea for help comes too late

The Times Online recently carried an article by Hannah Devli about a dig in southeastern Turkey under this headline: “Desperate plea for help came too late for ancient Assyrian leader.”

A letter scratched into a clay tablet reveals a desperate plea for reinforcements that came just too late. Alone, petrified and facing almost certain death, the ancient Assyrian leader Mannu-ki-Libbali scrawled a call for help to his commander, but his cry for extra troops came too late.

Soon after it was sent, the ancient city of Tushan was overrun by Babylonian invaders, its temples and palaces pillaged, then torn down or set aflame.

The letter, scratched into a clay tablet in 630BC, may never have reached its intended recipient. But more than 2,500 years later it has been unearthed almost intact by archaeologists, offering an unprecedented glimpse into the downfall of the one of the most powerful empires of the ancient world.

Assyrian tablet with plea of Mannu-ki-Libabli. Photo: Times Online.

Assyrian tablet with plea of Mannu-ki-Libabli. Photo: Times Online.

The archaeologists working at the site say that the author of the letter was a city treasurer who was responsible for building an army to defend the city of Tushan. The article continues…

John MacGinnis, an archaeologist from the University of Cambridge who led the excavation, said: “The letter is written during the process of downfall. The chances of finding something like this are unbelievably small.” Mannu-ki-Libbali laments that he has neither the equipment nor the troops needed for the onerous task ahead. He lists cohort commanders, craftsmen, coppersmiths, blacksmiths, bow makers and arrow makers as essential to building a resistance.

It is apparent that all of the above have already fled the city and that he has been left with a near-impossible task. “Nobody mentioned in this letter, not one of them is there!” he writes. “How can I command?”

He also lacked horses, containers, bandage boxes and chariots.

Expecting the imminent arrival of the Babylonians, armed with arrows, spears, boulders and battle rams, the letter ends with the despairing declaration: “Death will come out of it! No one will escape. I am done!”

Irving Finkel, a British Museum specialist in Assyrian history, said that the tablet captured an epic event. “It has almost a Hollywood quality, this sense of the enemy are coming. I can hear their hooves,” he said.

The Times Online article only mentions Cambridge archaeologist Dr. John MacGinnis as being involved in the dig. Checking on the web I discovered that this project has been carried out by teams from Akron University, Cambridge, Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Marmara University in Istanbul, University of Helsinki, University of Copenhagen, University of Munich, and Sweet Briar College.

The site is known today as Ziyaret Tepe.

Here are some important links:

  • Johannes Gutenberg University (2008 report with photos). It appears that this university is no longer a participant.
  • Ziyaret Tepe website at the University of Akron. There we are told that Dr. Timothy Matney of Akron is the Project Director. This is a nice web site.
  • The Times Online full article is available here.

The cuneiform tablet is now in the Diyarbakir Museum. I had the opportunity to visit this small Museum in 2007.

This photo from the Johannes Gutenberg University shows the “discovery of a rare treasure trove of more than 20 bronze vessels under the paving stones in the courtyard.” Photo courtesy of the Ziyaret Tepe Archaeological Project. This discovery seems to have been in 2008.

Bronze vessels under paving stones at Ziyaret Tepe in SE Turkey.

Bronze vessels under paving stones at Ziyaret Tepe in SE Turkey.

Why is this of interest to our readers? The Assyrians dominated the politics of the Middle East, including Israel and Judah, between 853 B.C. and 605 B.C. Numerous of the biblical kings had contact with the Assyrians. The Judean king at 630 B.C., the time of the cuneiform plea for help, was Josiah (2 Kings 22-23). Josiah was killed at Megiddo by Pharaoh Neco who was on his way to assist the Assyrians at Carchemish in 609 B.C. (2 Kings 23:28-30).


HT: J. P. van de Giessen, Aantekeningen bij de Bijbel.

A Judean seal in Assyrian style

There is so much archaeological work going on in Jerusalem today that we are not surprised about the announcement of another seal discovery.

An excavation at the Western Wall plaza has uncovered a seal in a building belonging to the seventh century B.C. This is the time when Manasseh, Amon, and Josiah ruled over the House of David in Jerusalem (2 Kings 20:21 – 2 Kings 21).

The seal is made of black stone and shows the image of an archer shooting a bow and arrow. The name in ancient Hebrew script reads LHGB (meaning for Hagab). Perhaps the most interesting thing about the seal is that it is decorated in Assyrian style. Here is what the Israel Antiquities Authority press release says about it.

The seal was sent for expert evaluation to Professor Benjamin Sass of the Tel Aviv University and Dr. Tali Ornan of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. According to them the image of the archer was influenced by Assyrian wall reliefs in which archers are portrayed shooting bows and arrows – such as those that are known from the Lachish relief. The image of the archer appears in profile: he is standing in a firing position with his right foot in front of his left. His face is portrayed schematically but his body, his dress and especially the muscles of his arms and legs stand out prominently. He is barefoot. His attire includes a headband and a skirt that is wrapped around his hips. A quiver hangs from his back and its straps are drawn tightly across his exposed chest. He is holding a bow and arrow in his hands. His right hand is extended forward holding the bow while his left is pulled back grasping the arrow. The seal is quite unique since this is the first time that a private seal has been discovered that bears a Hebrew name and is decorated in the Assyrian style. The seal attests to the strong Assyrian influence that existed in Jerusalem in the seventh century BCE. It is usually assumed that the owner of private seals were individuals who held government positions. We can suggest that the owner of the seal – Hagab, who chose to portray himself as a Hebrew archer depicted in the Assyrian style – served in a senior military role in Judah.

The name Hagab is found among the list of Judean exiles who returned from Babylon to Jerusalem and Judah in 536 B.C. (Ezra. 2:46). The text says that his sons returned. We have no way of knowing whether there is any connection between the Hagab named in the Bible and the one named on the seal. The actual size of the seal is .04 inches by .55 inches.

Clara Amit, IAA.

Seal of Hagab in Assyrian style.Photo: Clara Amit, IAA.

The photo below is one I made in the British Museum of the reliefs showing the siege of Lachish by the Assyrian King Sennacherib. It shows Assyrian archers behind shields with bows drawn and arrows ready to fly. This gives you an opportunity to see how the image on the seal compares with known images of Assyrian archers.

Assyrian archers at Lachish. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Assyrian archers at Lachish. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

David used the figure of the archers metaphorically to describe the wicked.

For, behold, the wicked bend the bow, They make ready their arrow upon the string To shoot in darkness at the upright in heart. (Psalm 11:2)

Sunset at Lachish

This photo was made from inside the gate at Lachish looking west toward the Mediterranean Sea. The city faced two significant sunsets. It fell to the Babylonians in 587 B.C. The Lachish Letters were found immediately outside this gate in a room on the left. My friend and colleague, the late Phil Roberts, worked in the gate when we were at Lachish in 1980. Phil continued to work there each year until the excavation came to a close. When the prophet Jeremiah wrote, only Lachish and Azekah remained of the fortified cities of Judah (Jeremiah 34:7).

Lachish fell to the Assyrians more than a hundred years earlier in 701 B.C.The Bible records the events after the fall of Samaria this way,

Now in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and seized them. Then Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, “I have done wrong. Withdraw from me; whatever you impose on me I will bear.” So the king of Assyria required of Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. Hezekiah gave him all the silver which was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasuries of the king’s house. At that time Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the doorposts which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria. Then the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rab-saris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah with a large army to Jerusalem. So they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they went up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is on the highway of the fuller’s field. (2 Kings 18:13-17)

Sennacherib was unable to capture Jerusalem. I take it that the destruction of Lachish was his greatest achievement because he plastered the walls of his palace in Nineveh. This photo shows the king receiving the surrender of Lachish.

The cuneiform inscription reads as follows:

Sennacherib, king of the world, king of Assyria, sat upon a (nîmedu) -throne and passed in review the booty (taken) from Lachish (La-ki-su). (ANET 288).