Assyrian Kings in the Bible -- By: Bryant G. Wood

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 04:2 (Spring 1991)
Article: Assyrian Kings in the Bible
Author: Bryant G. Wood


Assyrian Kings in the Bible

Bryant G. Wood

There is one interval in the Old Testament period when Bible history can be profitably compared with secular history — the time of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, ca 900–600 BC. During this era, the Assyrian Empire expanded to the Mediterranean Sea, taking in Palestine, and, for a time, even Egypt. It was the Assyrians who devastated the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the eighth-century BC, and eventually brought the nation to an end with the sacking of Samaria in 722 BC. They then turned their attention to Judah, bringing death and destruction to this tiny nation, until the Assyrians were finally overthrown by the Babylonians in 612 BC. The Babylonians, in turn, finished what the Assyrians had started, taking the citizens of Judah into captivity in 597, 586 and 582 BC.

The Old Testament, of course, carefully records these events and even provides detailed information on the people involved. At one time, the Assyrian kings named in the Old Testament were merely lifeless individuals on the pages of Holy Writ. But now, thanks to the discoveries of archaeology, they have taken their place on the stage of history as real flesh-and-blood characters. The clay-tablet records recovered from the ancient Assyrian palaces have provided us with much information about their activities. From these records an accurate chronology for their reigns has been established, as well as details on some of their contacts with Israel and Judah. In fact, it is these synchronisms with Assyrian chronology that have allowed scholars to reconstruct a reliable chronology for the kings of Israel and Judah.

When the Assyrian and Biblical records are compared, they are found to agree with astonishing precision, each one providing confirmatory as well as supplementary information on the other. The Bible has been around so long that we take it for granted. In reality, however, it is the most remarkable collection of ancient documents known to man. In discussing various historical sources from antiquity, A.K. Grayson, noted Assyriologist, wrote:

In the books of the Old Testament historiography reaches an unprecedented height. The clarity and beauty of style found in the ancient Hebrew narratives is unique among historical documents from the ancient Near East. (ABC, p. 1)

In this short sketch, we shall briefly consider five Assyrian kings that are named in the Bible — Tiglath-pileser III, Shalmaneser V, Sargon II, Sennacherib, and Esarhaddon. Not only are these five kings named in the right order in the Bible, and correct information given about each one, but the accuracy of the recording and transmission process of the Old Testament is also attested by the

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