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Assyrian Stele from Anat

Assyrian Stele from Anat


2,800-Year-Old Cursed Assyrian Stele Brings Bad Luck for Police Commissioner

Whoever discards this image from the presence of Salmanu puts it into another place, whether he throws it into water or covers it with earth or brings and places it into a taboo house where it is inaccessible, may the god Salmanu, the great lord, overthrow his sovereignty may his name and his seed disappear in the land may he live in a contingent together with the slave women of his land

These are the translated words of the curse etched onto an ancient Assyrian artifact dating back to 800 BC, which is currently at the center of a dispute between its former owner and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in London. The Commissioner is being sued by a Lebanese antiquities dealer after the police confiscated the relic due to questions about its provenance. The stele is in two pieces and the British Museum is the keeper of the top half of the ‘cursed’ relic. They declined to purchase the bottom half when it went up for auction in 2014 due to doubts about how it came to be in the hands of the dealer.

Tell Sheikh Hamad in Syria, where the upper portion of the stele was found. ( Eastern Atlas )


3.2 Assyrian Imperialism: The Ideology

The Assyrian empire and imperialism are the heirs and one of the latest manifestations, of an ancient Mesopotamian tradition and concept of power, elaborated during—or immediately after—the Akkadian period. From then on, political power—identified as kingship—was considered to exist, have a function and act in history. While, in the far away past, after descending from the heavens , it was supposed to wander from city to city, and from one dynasty to another without any particular reason, in later periods kingship is described as having settled down in one geographical place: Akkad (Cooper 1993). From that moment on, its movements, formerly represented as linear segments, became a succession of concentric waves, expanding in all directions starting from the centre, its effects and final aims being to integrate and to unify the entire world represented as an endless periphery (Michalowski 1993 Mieroop 1999, 59󈞸). In this system, since there can be only one centre at a time, there can only be one (real) king/emperor in the world, without any rivals, and with whom the gods maintain a special, exclusive relationship. So, when, for the needs of administration and organized exploitation, new authorities must be imposed in lands far from the imperial centre, they can only represent the king’s rule, as lieutenants or governors of their provinces.

Expected to accept imperial structures, peoples living in the periphery were bound to be integrated naturally to the civilization developed within the heart of the empire—eventually enriching it with their own culture and diversity. But the programme of annexation being a strictly political one (Postgate 1992), it never demanded, at least in Assyrian times, an assimilation of the Assyrian culture or religion—though obviously within the limits established by the needs of a correct administration. People were expected to become “as Assyrians”, mainly in their position of “taxpayers,” formal providers for the god Assur’s cult, but nothing more. 2 On the other hand, elites of the Assyrian empire willingly copied and integrated foreign models, for example in art and architecture (Masetti-Rouault 2005), and Assyrian intellectuals and technocrats kept well in mind their dependency on Babylonian culture, to mention only one example (Machinist 1984�). The image of the maximal globalization expressed by the Assyrian ideology was not “only one world,” but a system of countries unified within a network of exchanges of information, raw materials and manufactured goods, controlled by a pivotal centre. In another perspective, a metaphysical one, its teleological aim was conceived as a cosmic integration of nature and culture under the authority of the king. He fights and kills not only his barbaric, chaotic enemy when he refuses integration and threatens the borders, but the lion , too—the wild forces of nature (Weissert 1997 Maul 1999).

In a discussion about imperialism it seems relevant to note that, as a specific aspect of Assyrian ideology , the centrifugal force emanating from the king’s residence towards the periphery—war —is presented in the royal inscriptions as well as in state rituals and ceremonies such as coronations. It is also considered to be the consequence of the right, positive answer given by the legitimate king to the command given by the national god Assur, to “enlarge the country.” The order to unify all lands under the Assyrian rule—that is, to conquer them—has in turn to be understood as an actualization of a traditional, Old Babylonian theological concept perhaps elaborated and described in the myth called Atrahasis , the story of the Flood . Myths show that the human society was created to work, to organize and to transform the natural world, in order to serve the pantheon, and to provide for the gods’ vital needs. With this background, the vocation of Iron Age II Assyrian kingship to rule the world was explained by the royal chancelleries as the historical way of rationalizing the administration of human societies, in order to improve and amplify the quality and the quantity of the services owed collectively to the gods who happen to dwell in the Assyrian temples . This service is due by all peoples and nations, without exception, even if they do not share this knowledge. Only if Assyrians kings succeed in their mission of globalization of the world’s activities and production, did they do the right thing and save the world. In satisfying the gods’ needs, they would gain their approval and blessing: Rain would fall at the right time, agrarian production would be guaranteed, peace would triumph, everybody would be happy (Liverani 1979).


Story of a Rubbing Piece Made from "Nestorian Stele"

The story begins with a piece from the collection of my 86-year-old Canadian-British godmother Beth Leach's - an original rubbing piece bought by her father, Albert Lutley, a stele or stone slab displaying the original Chinese script with the meaning, "Nestorians' Prevalence in China".

I love paintings and my recent love is stone carving wax painting. My godmother talking of having a stone carved art rubbing piece, namely this one, shocked me. The original piece was bought by her father in China during World War II. This stele or monument had been ranked the first among the world's four most famous monuments. It is also most indispensable and important proof for witnessing to and studying about ancient Christianity.

I have long heard of the "Nestorian Stele ". It is 279 cm high and 99 cm wide containing a total of 1780 Chinese characters as well as Assyrian script. The top of the monument is engraved with lotuses and a cross. The stele was originally standing in the Daqin Temple in Chang'an City of the Tang Dynasty (618 A.D. - 907 A.D.). As to when it was buried is unknown, but it is the oldest image that witnesses to Christianity's existance in China.

Knowing that my godmother has the rubbing piece of the monument which is half a century old, I immediately asked the Director of the Dunhuang Institute, Zhao Shengliang, about the stele. The old friend promptly sent many books about Dunhuang with a fairly large amount of information on the history of Nestorianism in Dunhuang. "The Nestorian Stele" has a 1300-year history of being exposed to the elements. What happened after the Tang Dynasty? In Zhao's book, it is affirmed that from the Tang to the Yuan Dynasty (1271 A.D. - 1368 A.D.), there truly were Nestorians in Dunhuang.

The ancient Persian missionary Alopen trekked to the then capital of Chang'an. "Daqin" was the name for "Rome" during the Han and Tang Dynasty. The inscription's content is concise. There are stories of the fall of mankind, the birth of the Messiah, and the story of the Savior.

My godmother particularly acknowledges and values her rubbing piece: "God knows everything! He gives us minds to take in knowledge, but leaves us the choice of what we will take into our minds." Talking to my godmother again, she said that her father Albert Lutley, grieving at having just lost his beloved son, was willing to pay for the rubbing paper as if it was the "Bible" of his life.

It can be imagined people suffered greatly in World War II. When a poor country had no money to protect its homeless people, some people then suggested that because the "Nestorian Stele" wasinternationally famous, rubbings should be made to then sell. Experts could use ancient methods of printing with ink and paper to rub and print five hundred copies of the inscriptions. At that time of turmoil each piece could be sold for at least a hundred dollars. This huge income seemed to have proved that the stone monument is like the power of God--more people could be saved and reborn, and even help the poor China to continue to resist the Japanese.

I was just as moved the last time I saw Beth's old "Bible" which is three centuries old. It was her grandfather Lu Yiquan's working reference Bible when he was selected by Hudson Taylor as one of the 100 missionaries to China. It was then passed on to Albert Lutley and finally to Beth Leach. From Beth's description of the rubbing piece, it can be imagined that for thousands of years the stone monument has gone through water and fire, and even had been abandoned in the wilderness for about two hundred years.

Can it be said that without Emporer Tang Taizong there would be no Christianity today? In 635 A.D., the Tang Dynasty under Tang Taizong's administration was at its strongest. The most powerful religion then in China was Buddhism, but the emperor also granted the newly introduced Christian mission to spread the Gospel in China. He sent the Prime Minister, Fang Xuanling to the western suburbs of Chang'an to welcome the Nestorians as a national delegation. In addition to the Prime Minister, General Guo Ziyi was also a Christian. Tang Taizong Emperor listened to Aroben's sermon and approved his preaching. Nestorianism once flourished in Chang'an. The entire country built "cross temples" (i.e. churches), while allowing translation of the Bible. Christianity in the Tang Dynasty's was recorded with the inscription: "In each state is built a Nestorian temple. Its law flows in ten ways its temples are full of a hundred cities". No wonder Nestorianism were popular for about 200 years. Must there have even been some who celebrated Christmas in the Tang Dynasty?

When Tang Wuzong Emperor destroyed Buddhism, Christianity also suffered, and the monument had been buried until it was unearthed in 1623. In 1907 it was moved to Room #2 of the Xi'an Stone Forest Museum.

I always love drawing. My godmother sent me this message: "He loves beauty, and gives us different abilities to create beautiful things. We too can make things beautiful-as you do! Keep reading the New Testament to get to know the Author more and more! "

The story begins with a piece from the collection of my 86-year-old Canadian-British godmother Beth Leach's - an original rubbing piece bought by her father, Albert Lutley, a stele or stone slab displaying the original Chinese script with the meaning, "Nestorians' Prevalence in China".

I love paintings and my recent love is stone carving wax painting. My godmother talking of having a stone carved art rubbing piece, namely this one, shocked me. The original piece was bought by her father in China during World War II. This stele or monument had been ranked the first among the world's four most famous monuments. It is also most indispensable and important proof for witnessing to and studying about ancient Christianity.

I have long heard of the "Nestorian Stele ". It is 279 cm high and 99 cm wide containing a total of 1780 Chinese characters as well as Assyrian script. The top of the monument is engraved with lotuses and a cross. The stele was originally standing in the Daqin Temple in Chang'an City of the Tang Dynasty (618 A.D. - 907 A.D.). As to when it was buried is unknown, but it is the oldest image that witnesses to Christianity's existance in China.

Knowing that my godmother has the rubbing piece of the monument which is half a century old, I immediately asked the Director of the Dunhuang Institute, Zhao Shengliang, about the stele. The old friend promptly sent many books about Dunhuang with a fairly large amount of information on the history of Nestorianism in Dunhuang. "The Nestorian Stele" has a 1300-year history of being exposed to the elements. What happened after the Tang Dynasty? In Zhao's book, it is affirmed that from the Tang to the Yuan Dynasty (1271 A.D. - 1368 A.D.), there truly were Nestorians in Dunhuang.

The ancient Persian missionary Alopen trekked to the then capital of Chang'an. "Daqin" was the name for "Rome" during the Han and Tang Dynasty. The inscription's content is concise. There are stories of the fall of mankind, the birth of the Messiah, and the story of the Savior.

My godmother particularly acknowledges and values her rubbing piece: "God knows everything! He gives us minds to take in knowledge, but leaves us the choice of what we will take into our minds." Talking to my godmother again, she said that her father Albert Lutley, grieving at having just lost his beloved son, was willing to pay for the rubbing paper as if it was the "Bible" of his life.

It can be imagined people suffered greatly in World War II. When a poor country had no money to protect its homeless people, some people then suggested that because the "Nestorian Stele" wasinternationally famous, rubbings should be made to then sell. Experts could use ancient methods of printing with ink and paper to rub and print five hundred copies of the inscriptions. At that time of turmoil each piece could be sold for at least a hundred dollars. This huge income seemed to have proved that the stone monument is like the power of God--more people could be saved and reborn, and even help the poor China to continue to resist the Japanese.

I was just as moved the last time I saw Beth's old "Bible" which is three centuries old. It was her grandfather Lu Yiquan's working reference Bible when he was selected by Hudson Taylor as one of the 100 missionaries to China. It was then passed on to Albert Lutley and finally to Beth Leach. From Beth's description of the rubbing piece, it can be imagined that for thousands of years the stone monument has gone through water and fire, and even had been abandoned in the wilderness for about two hundred years.

Can it be said that without Emporer Tang Taizong there would be no Christianity today? In 635 A.D., the Tang Dynasty under Tang Taizong's administration was at its strongest. The most powerful religion then in China was Buddhism, but the emperor also granted the newly introduced Christian mission to spread the Gospel in China. He sent the Prime Minister, Fang Xuanling to the western suburbs of Chang'an to welcome the Nestorians as a national delegation. In addition to the Prime Minister, General Guo Ziyi was also a Christian. Tang Taizong Emperor listened to Aroben's sermon and approved his preaching. Nestorianism once flourished in Chang'an. The entire country built "cross temples" (i.e. churches), while allowing translation of the Bible. Christianity in the Tang Dynasty's was recorded with the inscription: "In each state is built a Nestorian temple. Its law flows in ten ways its temples are full of a hundred cities". No wonder Nestorianism were popular for about 200 years. Must there have even been some who celebrated Christmas in the Tang Dynasty?

When Tang Wuzong Emperor destroyed Buddhism, Christianity also suffered, and the monument had been buried until it was unearthed in 1623. In 1907 it was moved to Room #2 of the Xi'an Stone Forest Museum.

I always love drawing. My godmother sent me this message: "He loves beauty, and gives us different abilities to create beautiful things. We too can make things beautiful-as you do! Keep reading the New Testament to get to know the Author more and more! "


Iran Stele, 737 BCE

Tiglath-Pileser III was the architect of the Neo-Assyrian Empire’s most extensive westward expansion and swept through the Levant, coming into contact with Israel and Judah. During his reign it became the largest empire the world had yet seen, bested only by Alexander the Great in the late 4th century BCE. His only known monumental stele, known as the Iran Stele because of its supposed place of discovery, is partially preserved in three large fragments. Its provenance is uncertain, though it is said to have come from Iran in accordance with its inscription, which ends with Tiglath-Pileser’s campaign in Western Iran during his 9th year (737 BCE). The text describes Tiglath-Pileser’s various military undertakings through the first nine years of his reign.

Relevance to Ancient Israel- One section of the inscription records a list of kings who paid tribute to Tiglath-Pileser, divided between those in the West and East. The western list includes “Menahem of Samaria,” corroborating the biblical account in which King Menahem of Israel paid a large tribute to Pul. “Pul” is a nickname used in the Hebrew Bible to refer to Tiglath-Pileser. A similar list is in Tiglath-Pileser’s annals.

Circumstances of Discovery and Acquisition- All three fragments of the Iran Stele were initially in private collections. Two have been acquired by the Israel Museum.


Adad-Nirari III: Jonah’s Assyrian King?

10 JANUARY 2018 · 18:09 CET

Adad-Nirari III was king of the Assyrian Empire and reigning roughly from 805-782 BCE. The Saba'a Stele of Adad-Nirari III recording some of Adad-Nirari&rsquos campaigns was discovered in 1905 in the Sinjar Mountains of Syria.

The Stele dates from around 800 BCE and provides one of the earliest archaeological records of the name Palestine (Pa-la-á&scaron-tu). The inscription mentions an Assyrian raid against the king of Aram and the details of the eventual tribute received. The translation of the stele is as follows:

&ldquoIn (my) fifth year of reign, when I took my seat on the royal throne in might, I mobilized (the forces of my) land. (To) the wide spreading armies of Assyria I gave the order to advance against Palashtu (Palestine). I crossed the Euphrates at its flood. The wide-spreading, hostile kings, who in the time of Shamshi-Adad, my father, had rebelled and withheld their tribute. At the command of the gods Assur, Sin, Shamash, Adad, and Ishtar my allies [terror] overwhelmed them and they laid hold of my feet and I received tribute . I gave the command [to march against Aram] to Mari&rsquo [Ishutup] in Damascus,[his royal city]. I received 100 talents of gold and 1,000 talents of silver talents.&rdquo

The date and content of this Stele contains some interesting parallels with 2 Kings 13. The events recorded in this stele coincide with the reign Jehoahaz of Israel. William F. Albright dates his reign to 815&ndash801 BCE. E. R. Thiele suggests 814&ndash798 BCE.

In 2 Kings 13:1-5 we read, &ldquoIn the twenty-third year of Joash the son of Ahaziah, king of Judah, Jehoahaz the son of Jehu became king over Israel at Samaria, and he reigned seventeen years. He did evil in the sight of the Lord, and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, with which he made Israel sin he did not turn from them. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He gave them continually into the hand of Hazael king of Aram, and into the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael. Then Jehoahaz entreated the favor of the Lord, and the Lord listened to him for He saw the oppression of Israel, how the king of Aram oppressed them. The Lord gave Israel a deliverer, so that they escaped from under the hand of the Arameans and the sons of Israel lived in their tents as formerly.&rdquo (NASB)

It is possible that the unnamed deliverer who saved the kingdom of Israel from the oppression and threat of the Arameans is none other than Adad-Nirari III himself.

The parallelisms between the Biblical text and the reign of Adad-Nirari III do not end here. In 2 Kings 14 we have the first mention of the prophet Jonah, the son of Amittai. The story of Jonah is considered by some scholars as an allegory. Some even reject the historical figure of Jonah himself. Certainly it seems from the text of 2 Kings 14 that Jonah was understood to be a historical figure. Furthermore Jesus&rsquo frequent quotes from Jonah seem to suggest that for Jesus, Jonah was a real historical figure also.

In Luke 11:30 Jesus contrasts his generation with the generation that lived in the time of Jonah, &ldquoFor as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.&rdquo (ESV)

2 Kings 14 tells us that Jonah lived during the reign of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. William F. Albright dates his reign to 786&ndash746 BC, E. R. Thiele suggests that he was co-regent with Jehoash 793&ndash782 BC and sole ruler 782&ndash753 BCE.

Both of these dates fall within the reign of Adad-Nirari III (805-782 BCE). Although, other candidates for Jonah&rsquos &ldquoking of Nineveh&rdquo do exist, Adad-Nirari III seems to be an interesting fit due to his little-known monotheistic revolution. For reasons unknown Adad-Nirari III chose Nabu, the Assyrian god of literacy, scribes and wisdom, as the sole god to be worshipped.

In his book titled The Ancient World From c. 1400 to 586 B.C., Francis Nicole makes the following observation: &ldquoA strange religious revolution took place in the time of Adad-nirari III, which can be compared with that of the Egyptian Pharaoh Ikhnaton. For an unknown reason Nabu (Nebo), the god of Borsippa, seems to have been proclaimed sole god, or at least the principal god, of the empire. A Nabu temple was erected in 787 B.C. at Calah, and on a Nabu statue one of the governors dedicated to the king appear the significant words, 'Trust in Nabu, do not trust in any other god'.&rdquo

Nicole continues: &ldquoThe favorite place accorded Nabu in the religious life of Assyria is revealed by the fact that no other god appears so often in personal names. This monotheistic revolution had as short a life as the Aton revolution in Egypt. The worshipers of the Assyrian national deities quickly recovered from their impotence, reoccupied their privileged places, and suppressed Nabu. This is the reason that so little is known concerning the events during the time of the monotheistic revolution. Biblical chronology places Jonah's ministry in the time of Jeroboam II, of Israel, who reigned from 793 to 753 B.C. Hence, Jonah's mission to Nineveh may have occurred in the reign of Adad-Nirari III, and may have had something to do with his decision to abandon the old gods and serve only one deity. This explanation can, however, be given only as a possibility, because source material for that period is so scanty and fragmentary that a complete reconstruction of the political and religious history of Assyria during the time under consideration is not yet possible.&rdquo

Under this scenario, if indeed Adad-Nirari III is the king of Nineveh, it would seem reasonable to conclude that by sending Jonah, the God of Israel was extending a hand of mercy to the very king that had earlier delivered Israel from the oppression of the Arameans.

Jonah&rsquos message led the population to repentance and in their turn to monotheism perhaps they identified Jonah&rsquos god with Nabu. Although it is difficult to say with precise certainty if this is indeed the nature of the events that unfolded, it nonetheless makes for a compelling possibility!

Marc Madrigal is a member of the Istanbul Protestant Church Foundation in Turkey.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Luckenbill, Daniel David, Phd. Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia. Vol 1: Historical Records of Assyria. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago, IL 1926. p. 261

The Ancient World From c. 1400 to 586 B.C. in Vol. 2 of: Nichol, Francis D., The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1978.

Pasinli, Alpay. Istanbul Archaeological Museums. A Turizm Yayinlari. Istanbul, 2012.

Published in: Evangelical Focus - Archaeological Perspectives - Adad-Nirari III: Jonah’s Assyrian King?


Assyrian Stele from Anat - History

Syriac, the classical Assyrian language, on the bottom of the stele, explains the names of missionaries and local landscapes. ( Xi'an Beilin Museum) When did Christianity first appear in China? Well, you may come across a much reasonable answer by examining the over 4,000 stone tablets at Xi'an Beilin Museum, or Stele Forest, located in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

A much-justified answer to that question is in 635 AD during the early Tang Dynasty (618--907), the time of which was inscribed on the world famous Nestorian Stele, a 279-centimeter tall limestone block.

It's the monument that helps unravel some of the mysteries regarding Christianity and its less influential branch, Nestorianism (Jingjiao in Chinese or the Luminous Religion), which stresses the independence of the divine and human natures of Christ.

In modern times, Nestorians are represented by the Church of the East, or Persian Church usually referred to in the West as the Assyrian, or Nestorian, Church. Most of its members - numbering about 170,000 - live in Iraq, Syria and Iran.

In a sense, the Nestorian Stele epitomizes flourishing cultural exchanges in ancient time between China and Asian countries.

Based on the texts written in Chinese and Syriac, an ancient version of the Syrian language, those countries were referred to as Daqin, denoting the Byzantine Empire, or Eastern Roman Empire (395--1453), as held by mainstream scholars in China.

The stone tablet carries about 2,000 Chinese characters in total. Based on it, in the year 635, a man named Alopen came to the City of Chang'an, the capital of Tang Dynasty, along with his fellow Syriac missionaries. Emperor Taizong of Tang sent his chancellor Fang Xuanling and other officials to welcome their arrival.

A close-up view of the unique pattern of Nestorianism on an ink rubbing version of the Nestorian Stele. ( Xi'an Beilin Museum)

It seems Nestorianism was well-received, as soon, there were churches set up across the Tang territory. In addition, the tablet serves as a concrete proof to China's earliest celebrations of Christmas, during which it says the emperor of the time held special rituals and shared the delicious food to people who believed in Christianity.

Lu Yuan is a retired research fellow at Xi'an Beilin Museum. After working there for more than 30 years, he spent more than two years working out a 260,000-character book explaining Nestorianism in China and the Nestorian Stele. He thinks highly of the stele's significance to both the general public and academicians in evaluating the presence of Christianity in ancient China.

In his book, published in May 2009, Lu quoted Frits Holm, a Danish scholar and adventurer who came to Xi'an in 1907, and attempted but failed to take the monument to Europe, by saying that the Nestorian Stele ranks on top of the four most famous stone tablets of the world, with the other three being the Rosetta Stone of Egypt, the Mesha Stele of Jordan, and the Aztec Sun Stone of Mexico.

The Nestorian Stele documents a nearly 150-year history of Christianity in China's Tang Dynasty. ( Xi'an Beilin Museum)

Lu told CGTN in an interview that when different cultures and traditions meet, they clash with each other, and then integrate, the pattern of which conforms to the trajectories of human history. In his perspective, this best explains the prevalence of Christianity in ancient China.

Echoing Lu's words, Will Chen, a museum educator working at the same Beilin Museum, explains an underlying meaning of a unique pattern on top of the tablet, which is formed by a cross, a lotus, and auspicious clouds. According to Chen, these three elements reflect the inclusion of local cultures of Buddhism and Taoism of ancient China into Christianity.

As the stone tablet was erected in 781, it sheds much light to a nearly 150-year development of Christianity in the Tang Dynasty, since Alopen came to China in 635. During an era of religious suppression by subsequent Tang emperors, the monument was buried in the year 845.

It was only rediscovered in 1625 during the Ming Dynasty. Then in 2002, considering its cultural and historical values, China decided to prohibit the famous stone tablet from attending any overseas exhibitions.


Editors

Ruth Ezra is a doctoral candidate at Harvard University, where she specializes in the art of late-medieval and Renaissance Europe. Upon completion of her BA at Williams College, she studied in the UK on a Marshall Scholarship, earning an MPhil in history and philosophy of science from the University of Cambridge and an MA in history of art from the Courtauld Institute. A committed educator, Ruth has recently served as a Gallery Lecturer at both the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the National Galleries of Scotland, as well as a Teaching Fellow at Harvard.

Beth Harris is co-founder and executive director of Smarthistory. Previously, she was dean of art and history at Khan Academy and director of digital learning at The Museum of Modern Art, where she started MoMA Courses Online and co-produced educational videos, websites and apps. Before joining MoMA, Beth was Associate Professor of art history and director of distance learning at the Fashion Institute of Technology where she taught both online and in the classroom. She has co-authored, with Dr. Steven Zucker, numerous articles on the future of education and the future of museums, topics she regularly addresses at conferences around the world. She received her Master&rsquos degree from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, and her doctorate in Art History from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.


Assyrian Stele from Anat - History

The origin of the Jews &ndash Race Myth and 'Sacred History'

Genesis:

First invent your Jew, then invent your Christ.

Jew Who?

Asiatic traders, tomb of Beni Hassan, Middle Egypt. Jews – or not Jews?

'About the year 1000 B.C. there was nothing distinctive about the Jews ethnically, linguistically, politically or economically.'

N. Cantor (The Sacred Chain, p52)

Jews worship Queen of Heaven

"Then . all the people who dwelt in Egypt . answered Jeremiah: &ldquoWe will not listen to you! We will . burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, were well-off, and saw no trouble."

&ndash Jeremiah 44.15-17.

The rambling, repetitive book of Jeremiah is a collection of disparate material assembled no earlier than the 6th century BC.

Jews worship Tammuz

'Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the LORD's house which was toward the north and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz.'

– Ezekiel 8:14.

The Babylonian god actually gives his name to the 4th month of the Jewish religious year.

Jews Worship Anat-Bethel

Jewish mercenaries, garrisoned at Elephantine on the upper Nile from the early 7th century BC, maintained their own Temple.

As a "treasurer's report" records, the Judaean soldiers worshipped both Yahweh (Yahu) and his Canaanite girlfriend Anat, despite the prohibitions of Deuteronomy.

Mrs God

"At two sites, Kuntilet Ajrud in the southwestern part of the Negev hill region, and Khirbet el-Kom in the Judea piedmont, Hebrew inscriptions have been found that mention 'YHWH and his Asherah', 'YHWH Shomron and his Asherah', 'YHWH Teman and his Asherah'.

These inscriptions, from the 8th century BCE, raise the possibility that monotheism, as a state religion, is actually an innovation of the period of the Kingdom of Judea, following the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel."

– Ze'ev Herzog (Prof. Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University)

Symbolically, Asherah was portrayed as a heifer and Yahweh as a bull.

First mention of Israelites by their neighbours

The Moabite Stele - Large slab of basalt that records King Mesha of Moab's defeat of Israel "which hath perished forever".

– 9th century BC (Louvre, Paris)

Back Projection .

"The Bible writers projected backwards into time the kind of political rivalry that was happening in their own day [6th c BC] in order to explain that rivalry and perhaps justify the Israelite position over current border disputes."

Magnus Magnusson (The Archaeology of the Bible Lands - BC, p76)

Race is a sensitive subject. To use the word almost invites the charge of racism. Yet to understand the rise of Christianity one must come to terms the people who were its original authors – the Jews.

The Myth of the Jewish ‘Race’


"Thus saith the Lord God unto Jerusalem Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite."

&ndash Ezekiel, 16.17.


The Jews claim themselves to be a race – but are they?

The earliest reference yet found to this singular people is on a statue from the Syrian city of Alalakh, dated to about 1550 BC. The inscription refers to hapiru warriors in the land of Kin’anu – a presence confirmed by clay tablets from Akhenaten’s capital of Amarna, referring to marauders in the hill country of Palestine. The famous stele of Pharaoh Merneptah dated to 1207 BC records 'Israel is laid waste, his seed is not’. 'Israel' here is a reference to a people, not a territory.

The weight of evidence suggests these original ‘Hebrews’ coalesced during the bronze age from successive migrations, some from the periphery of the Nile delta (in Egyptian, ‘Peru or apiru meant a labourer) but most from across the Jordan and Euphrates rivers. In their own semitic tongue, habiru meant ‘beyond’, suggesting an origin elsewhere. In Babylonian script khabiru referred to a class of slaves. As a people, therefore, the Hebrews combined Mesopotamian and Egyptian stock, almost certainly drawn from the lowest social order, conceivably including runaway slaves. One migration, at least, brought with it a mountain/sky god – Yahweh – destined for higher things.

As barbarous newcomers to what was the land of Canaan, these semites (speakers of a tongue common to Syrians, Arabs and Mesopotamians) took up migratory occupation of the less fertile hill-country of the interior. Neither their limited sub-culture – an illiterate donkey nomadism nor their social organisation – patriarchal and authoritarian – distinguished them from other tent-dwelling pastoralists. These early, polytheistic, Hebrews scratched an existence in an unpromising land on the fringes of the major civilisations, occasionally moving with their animals into the Nile delta in times of draught.

It seems as if they were joined, over time,by outcasts or refugees from the more sophisticated Canaanite (Phoenician) coastal cities. ‘Israel emerged peacefully and gradually from within Canaanite society ‘ concluded Karen Armstrong, the noted religious scholar. (A History of Jerusalem, p23]

Ethnic cleansing &ndash by God's order

"And the Lord said to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho,

"Say to the people of Israel, When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images, and demolish all their high places and you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it .

But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as pricks in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell.

And I will do to you as I thought to do to them."

The Canaanite migrants brought with them cultic practices and images of their traditional gods. A major Canaanite god was El, and the phrase ‘El has conquered’ gives us the word Isra’el. The Canaanite god El had a ghostly presence in a host of Jewish heroes: Dan-i-El Ezek-i-El Sam-u-El, Ish-ma-El, El-i-jah, El-o-him, etc.

God-inspired names were common throughout the west-Semitic language region. Other Canaanite gods included Baal (a storm god) – also honoured in a host of Hebrew names, Asherah (a fertility goddess, consort of El), Shalem (a Syrian sun god – later to be honoured in the name Jeru’salem ), Milcom, Chemosh, etc. Ru’shalimum is mentioned in records of the Pharaoh Sesostris III (1872 - 1847 BC) – the settlement actually pre-existent long before the tribe of Hebrews made it their own. The site then appears to have been unoccupied for three hundred years until the Jebusites (otherwise known as Kereti or Peleti – Cretans or Philistines) arrived.

"It will come as an unpleasant shock to many that the God of Israel, YHWH, had a female consort and that the early Israelite religion adopted monotheism only in the waning period of the monarchy and not at Mount Sinai."

" However, in the Second Temple period, the Shema&lsquo Yisrael text in Deuteronomy would have been read &ldquoHear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.&rdquo

The Shema&lsquo Yisrael was originally a monaltric statement it stated that Israel had an exclusive relationship with its God, but it did not deny the existence of other national deities for other peoples. "

&ndash Noah Wiener, Bible History Daily (BAR) 04/12/2013

Influenced by these Canaanite cults, but devoid of artistic or metal working skills of their own, the early Hebrews adopted a way of honouring their god of choice by genital mutilation. This sometime practice of the Egyptian priesthood became, for the ‘Jews’, a tribal obligation, part of the male regenerative organ offered as a blood sacrifice to the ‘jealous’ god Yahweh. Other gods were worshipped but Yahweh demanded precedence.

For generations, millions of babies were routinely circumcised without anaesthetic – sometimes using a sharpened stone. Even today infant deaths result from this barbarous mutilation.

The unkindest cut.

Thus though the Hebrews were not a race, the males at least acquired a distinctiveness from other Semitic tribesmen who did not practice circumcision. Women, regarded as mere chattels, were spared this mutilation.

In this period of proto-Judaism, polygamous males acted as ‘priests’ for their extended families and kinship groups and exercised absolute authority over wives and children. At some point in the tenth century BC the Hebrews were completely overwhelmed by the more advanced Philistines, moving down from the north. Armed with iron weapons and deploying chariots the Philistines scattered the primitive Hebrew nomads into the hill country and a few austere places in the Jordan River valley.

The various Hebrew clans had no single warlord but were led by tribal elders and shamans. The backward Hebrews remained under the sway of their shamanic ‘judges’ to a much later date than neighbouring peoples. Theirs was a harsh culture of ‘scapegoat’ sacrifice and collective and inherited guilt (‘eye for an eye’ vengeance). As marginalised pastoralists they were acutely xenophobic and demonized the city dwellers and farmers. With the ebb and flow of empires over centuries, and the endless movement of peoples, we might have expected this marginal tribe to have passed into history, along with countless other peoples, assimilated into a greater multitude.

But we have a story, a tale of tribal fidelity – with frequent, and instructive, lapses – to a protector god Yahweh, who had chosen this ‘people’ as his very own. For them, he has a divine purpose. In particular, their migration into Canaan is given an heroic re-interpretation. No longer do we have piecemeal migration over centuries but a single glorious conquest by a cohesive people. The ‘idolatrous’ city dwellers (of ‘Jericho’, etc.) get their comeuppance and the whole land is promised to the Jews in perpetuity. They have, it would seem, arrived as a single group from Egypt, released from slavery by divine intervention.


The extraordinary thing about this ‘history’ - complete with verbatim dialogue between man and god - is that it was not written until more than a thousand years after the supposed events.

" The first millennium of Jewish history as presented in the Bible has no empirical foundation whatsoever. "

&ndash Cantor , The Sacred Chain, p 51 .


The impressive race history, tracing the Jews (the people of Judah), back through Hebrews in Canaan and Israelites in Egypt, to a noble ancestor called Abraham (father, it seems, of all the races, including Greeks and Arabs!), and the whole melodramatic story of the Exodus, was concocted at a much later date, after the tribal leadership of these Judaean tribesmen had been taken into exile and had learned the rudiments of civilization from their Babylonian captors. This was not at the dawn of time but in the seventh century BC, when Greece was already a civilization and Carthage had a maritime empire.

Earliest Jewish writings: 9th century

There was no written Hebrew before the 9th century BC. At that time, the Hebrews adapted the Phoenician script.
Phoenician Alphabet (alternates)

The original Hebrew/Canaanite occupants of Palestine did pass into history. Many, including the so-called ‘lost tribes’ of Israel (those living in northern Palestine) were assimilated by Assyrian conquerors during the eighth century.

But the ‘victors’, a Persian-sponsored priesthood who settled in Judaea in the 6th century BC, wrote a sacred history, known to the Jews as the Torah (or Pentateuch ) and to the Christians as the first 'five books' of the Old Testament. Together with the 'Prophets' and 'Wisdom' literature this voluminous text purports to be an account of the trials and tribulations of the Jews through the previous two millennia. Rather oddly, its detail and obvious accuracy peters out the closer it approaches the time when it was actually written. Joshua, supposedly on the rampage in the thirteenth century BC gets vast reportage, whereas several 7th century kings known to history are omitted.

Indeed, the four hundred years between the last book of the Old Testament (the 5th century Malachi) and the first book of the New Testament echo in a biblical silence.

No biblical text gives the conquest of Palestine by Alexander the Great (in 323 BC) a mention. Ptolemaic Egypt’s loss of her Palestinian provinces to Syria in 198 BC is unrecorded. 'Minor' personages like Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great are overlooked. And the books of Maccabees – which should tell us the ‘recent’ story of the successful Jewish rebellion against Greek rule in the second century BC – are so blatantly filled with error and incoherence that even biblical editors shunted them into the ‘Apocrypha’ or omitted them entirely.

But of course we are not speaking of history but rather, of sacred testimony, designed to control, justify and inspire.

Anyone can be factual. In the Bible we have a book with a purpose.

"Lachish Letters" – only first hand 'evidence' for the entire corpus of the Old Testament

"They have entered the land to lay waste . strong is he who has come down. He lays waste."

The Lachish Letters (British Museum) – a collection of 21 pottery shards or 'ostraca'.

Found in the ruins of Tell ed-Duweir in the 1930s the fragments bear a few words of Hebrew relating to the fall of Judaean cities to the Babylonians in the 580s BC.

The letters are from outposts of Lachish to the city's military commander (a man named Ya'osh) and represent field reports monitoring the situation as the armies of Nebuchadnezzar closed in.

Some writers find confirmation of the biblical 'Jeremiah' in these scraps (Letter XVI to be precise) though the reference could equally well have been to a 'Urijah'.

Sources:
Finkelstein and Silberman, The Bible Unearthed (Touchstone, 2002)
Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (Phoenix Grant, 1987)
Dan Cohn-Sherbok, The Crucified Jew (Harper Collins,1992)
Henry Hart Milman, The History of the Jews (Everyman, 1939)
Josephus, The Jewish War (Penguin, 1959)
Leslie Houlden (Ed.), Judaism & Christianity (Routledge, 1988)
Karen Armstrong, A History of Jerusalem (Harper Collins, 1999)
Jonathan N. Tubb, Canaanites (British Museum Press, 1998)
Norman Cantor, The Sacred Chain - A History of the Jews (Harper Collins, 1994)
Thomas L. Thompson, The Bible in History (Pimlico, 2000)
Shlomo Sand, When and How Was the Jewish People Invented? (Resling, 2008)


Archaeologists discover an Assyrian sea wall from a legendary battle

About 3,000 years ago during the Iron Age, the Assyrians were a major power in the Middle East and North Africa. Their military might was terrifying. And now, a new archaeological finding reveals more about this fierce but vanished empire's defensive strategies.

Tel Aviv University archaeologist Alexander Fantalkin led a team that found a massive mud-and-stone wall used to defend an artificial harbor on what is today the Israeli coast. Up to 15 feet high and 12 feet thick, it is hundreds of feet long and would have formed a crescent-shaped defense for the Assyrian stronghold (you can see a 3D rendering of it above). It's likely that this wall was built in the midst of several bloody conflicts between the Assyrians and two Israeli kingdoms, as well as Israel's neighbors the Philistines.

The Assyrians produced an enormous amount of monumental art (such as these winged bulls, housed in the Louvre, below) and left behind detailed descriptions of their military triumphs on engraved stone slabs called stele.

According to a release about this new finding , the seawall was probably built in the wake of a legendary battle between the Assyrians and a Philistine uprising led by a king called Yamani:

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.

Hezekiah's refusal to join the rebellion against the Assyrians didn't do much good. The Kingdom of Judah was later attacked by the Assyrians — with both Assyrians and Israelites claiming victory . (This was after the Assyrians had already sacked Samaria, the northern kingdom of Israel, enslaving all its citizens.) The point is, the Assyrians basically attacked everybody in the area, creating several restless client states like Judah, and it makes perfect sense that theyɽ need a serious wall like this to protect themselves from all their enemies.


Assyrian Stele from Anat - History

Ahab the Israelite

Ahab is one of the best known of the rulers of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Some seven chapters of the Old Testament are devoted to his activities (1 Kgs 16:29-22:40 and 2 Chr 18). Ahab was the son of Omri and seventh king of Israel after the monarchy split. He ruled for 22 years, ca 874-853 BC, and married the infamous Phoenician princess Jezebel who introduced the worship of the heathen gods Melkart, Baal and Ashtoreth into Israelite religious life. Ahab did not try to stop this alien cult and, in fact, seems to have condoned it:

Because of his association with these pagan deities, Ahab is castigated in the biblical record as one who had done 'more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him' (1 Kgs 16:33). Elijah condemned Ahab as one who had troubled Israel, having forsaken the commandments of the Lord to follow Baal (1 Kgs 18:18). It was during Ahab's reign that the famous confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal took place on Mount Carmel (1 Kgs 18:19-40).

Ahab was evidently a great builder. We have already seen that he built a temple to Baal in his capital of Samaria (1 Kgs 16:32). The concluding statement on Ahab in 1 Kings 22 reads:

Now the rest of the acts of Ahab, and all that he did, and the ivory house which he made, and all the cities that he built, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? (verse 39).

The mention of a house of ivory is interesting in view of an archaeological discovery at Samaria. In the 1930's the remains of buildings constructed by Ahab and his father Omri were excavated at their capital city. Among the finds were fragments of carved ivories which had once adorned the walls and furniture of the palace at Samaria.


Monolith Inscription of Shalmaneser III. Found in 1861 at Kurkh on the Tigris River in southeastern Turkey, the inscription records the principal events of the king's first six military campaigns against the Arameans in Syria. The campaign of year six, 853 BC, mentions Ahab, king of Israel, as being part of an anti-Assyrian coalition that confronted the Assyrians at Qarqar on the Orontes River in western Syria. According to the numbers of foot soldiers and chariots listed in the inscription, Ahab was one of the major partners in the coalition. Although Shalmaneser boasted of a great victory, that is questionable since he returned immediately to Assyria following the battle and was obliged to later return to the area to face the same coalition in his 10th, 11th and 14th years. The writing is inscribed on both sides of the stele. On the front, it covers most of the area, including over the body of Shalmaneser, from his shoulders to below his feet.
- Mike Luddeni

Much of Ahab's attention, however, was taken up with a war against Syria to the north (1 Kgs 20). When Israel had gained the upper hand, a peace treaty between the two nations was struck which lasted three years (1 Kgs 20:31-34, 22:1). This period of peace was born out of necessity, for both Syria and Israel now faced a common enemy-Assyria.

Shalmaneser III (859-825 BC) was on the throne of Assyria and he was steadily pushing westward. In order to counteract this powerful foe, the kingdoms of the west joined to form a unified coalition. In the year 853 BC this coalition, including Ahab of Israel, came face to face with Shalmaneser III and his forces at Qarqar, in north Syria. This confrontation undoubtedly took place during the three years of peace between Israel and Syria mentioned in 1 Kings 22:1. Shalmaneser tells of the battle, from his own point of view of course, in his Monolith Inscription:

A significant fact that emerges from this inscription is that Ahab had one of the largest forces in the coalition. The four largest contingents may be compared as follows:

Ahab was second only to Ben-Hadad in the number of foot soldiers, but had the largest number of chariots. From the time of Solomon on, the Israelites maintained a chariot corps. In 2 Chronicles 4:25 we read that 'Solomon had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots, and 12,000 horsemen,' and in 1 Kings 10:26, 'And Solomon gathered chariots and horsemen: and he had 1,400 chariots, and 12,000 horsemen, whom he bestowed in the cities for chariots, and with the king at Jerusalem.' Unique long pillared buildings from the period of the divided kingdom, found in sites throughout Israel, are thought by some to be stables. A large complex of these buildings was found at Megiddo in the 1930's. The excavators immediately identified them as Solomon's stables. Later analysis, however, has shown that they date to the time of Ahab. It has been estimated that about 500 horses could have been quartered in the Megiddo buildings.

After the Assyrian threat had passed, Ahab continued his war with Ben-Hadad (1 Kgs 22). This time, however, Ahab was mortally wounded in a battle at Ramoth-Gilead in Transjordan. His body was brought back to Samaria, where he was buried and 'slept with his fathers.'

Jehu Son of Omri

Following the death of Ahab, his son Ahaziah took the throne. He ruled for two years and died from injuries received in a fall in the palace at Samaria (2 Kgs 1). Since Ahaziah had no son, another of Ahab's sons, Jehoram (or Joram), ruled Israel for the next 12 years. Both of Ahab's sons 'did evil in the sight of the Lord' (1 Kgs 22:52, 53 and 2 Kgs 3:2, 3). Because of the sin of the house of Ahab, God put an end to the dynasty by means of Jehu, a chariot-riding general from Jehoram's army. In a bloody coup, Jehu massacred all of Ahab's family, including his wife Jezebel (2 Kgs 9-10), and went on to rule Israel for the next 28 years, ca 841-814 BC.

Jehu eliminated Baal worship (2 Kgs 10:18-27), but otherwise his reign marked a decline in the fortunes of Israel. This is most apparent from an Assyrian monument. In the year 841 BC, after Jehu had scarcely taken the throne, the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III, the same king who fought against Ahab at Qarqar in 853 BC, mounted another western offensive. This time he defeated Damascus and then turned his attention southward to Israel as recorded on the 'Black Obelisk' or 'Obelisk of Shalmaneser.' This memorial stele was discovered by the pioneer English archaeologist A.H. Layard at Nimrud (biblical Calah) in Iraq in 1846. It records the tribute Shalmaneser received from five different kings.

It is quite possible that it was this campaign that Hosea referred to in his warning to Israel 100 years later:

Shalman is a shortened form of Shalmaneser and Beth-arbel is a large mound near the modern city of Irbid in northern Jordan. The Ba'li-ra'si where Shalmaneser received his tribute from Jehu is thought to be Mount Carmel, or possibly Rasen-Naqura at the mouth of the Dog River in central Lebanon. We are fortunate in that we have a pictorial representation of this event on the Black Obelisk. The second set of panels (from the top) depicts Jehu (or his representative) bowing before Shalmaneser, followed by 13 Israelite porters bearing tribute. The inscription above the prostrate figure reads:

Jehu king of Israel bowing down before the Assyrian king Shalmaneser lll on the obelisk of Shalmaneser.
- Mike Luddeni

The Black Obelisk represents the only possible likeness of a king of Israel or Judah. All 14 of the Israelites are bearded, have long hair and wear a pointed cap. They also wear a belted tunic that has a fringe at the bottom. In addition, the Israelite porters wear a mantle or cloak over the tunic that extends over the shoulders and is fringed or tasseled down the front on both sides. The kneeling figure, however, does not wear the outer cloak. His position before Shalmaneser may explain its absence. He is bowing in obeisance on his hands and knees before the Assyrian king with his chin and beard towards the ground. As a part of this humiliation, it seems that he had to remove his outer garment, thus forcing him to bow before the emperor of the world in what amounts to his underwear! All of the Israelite porters wear pointed shoes.

The inscription refers to Jehu as the 'son of Omri.' Of course, Jehu was not an actual descendant of Omri, but rather was the one who exterminated Omri's line in order to become king himself. The word 'son' usually means a descendant, but in this case it simply refers to an unrelated successor in office. After Jehu, his son Jehoahaz ruled for 17 years (2 Kgs 13:1-9) and then Jehoash, or Joash, son of Jehoahaz, ruled for 16 years, ca 798-782 BC.

Jehoash the Samarian

The Bible speaks of Jehoash's military successes against Syria (2 Kgs 13:24) and against Judah (2 Kgs 14:8-14), but nothing is said about a contact with Assyria. That there was such a contact is now known because of a stele found at Tell al-Rimah in Iraq in 1967. The Assyrian king Adad-Nirari III (ca 811-782 BC) led a number of campaigns to the west during the course of his reign. On one of those campaigns he defeated Damascus and then collected tribute from Israel, Tyre and Sidon. On the way home, he erected a monument at Tell al-Rimah commemorating the event. The section of the stele which refers to Jehoash reads:


Stela of Adad-Nirari III found at Tell al-Rimah, Iraq, in 1967. It mentions tribute from Jehoash the Samarian in ca. 800 BC.
ABR File Photo.

Manasseh King of Judah

We now leave the kings of the Northern Kingdom to consider two references in the Assyrian records to Manasseh king of Judah. Manasseh came to the throne when he was only 12 years old and ruled for 55 years, ten of which were probably a coregency with his father Hezekiah. This represents the longest reign of any of the kings of Judah or Israel. The dates for his rule are ca. 697-643 BC. Manasseh has the dubious reputation of being the wickedest king of either Judah or Israel (2 Kgs 21:9-11). He undid the work of his father's religious reform by reestablishing idolatry in Judah. He even instituted pagan worship in the Temple (2 Kgs 21:4-5). The Bible concentrates on Manasseh's religious practices at home, but we know from the Assyrian records that he also was active in the international political sphere. Because of his unusually long reign, he was on the throne during the entire reign of Esarhaddon and about half the reign of Ashurbanipal, two of the strongest kings of Assyria. Manasseh is mentioned by each of these two kings. Manasseh was among 22 kings who were obliged to provide building materials for Esarhaddon's royal palace at Nineveh:

Ashurbanipal was intent on subjugating Egypt. In order to accomplish his goal, he conscripted troops from his western provinces, including Judah:

Ashurbanipal, the Assyrian king who conscripted troops from Manasseh, king of Judah, on a lion hunt.
- Mike Luddeni

The Bible writers were concerned with religious matters more than political matters, and as a result much of the political history of Israel and Judah went unrecorded. The mention of nine of the kings of Israel and Judah in the Assyrian tablets is important not only because it verifies the historical reliability of our biblical documents for this period (which would surely be under greater attack by the critics were it not for the Assyrian records), but also because it places Israel and Judah on the larger stage of international politics.

ANET-Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, edited by James B. Pritchard, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969.

S. Page, 'A Stela of Adad-Nirari III and Nergal-Eres from Tell al Rimah,' Iraq 30(1968): pp. 139-53.

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