Truth That Matters

"What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" - Jesus Christ

ARCHAEOLOGICAL FINDS FROM ASSYRIA

The Bible records interaction between the Assyrian Empire and the nation of Israel during the period between 853 BC and 600 BC. The Assyrians kept good records, so the dates of events they record are well established. In fact, the Assyrian records can be used to assign dates to Biblical events.

The Kirkuk Stele/Stela of Shalmaneser III

This stele (shown in the image at right) is now in the British museum. Part of the text reads as follows:-

"I [Shalmaneser III] approached Karkar. I destroyed, tore down, and bound Karkara, his [the king of Hamath's] royal residence. He brought along to help him 1200 chariots 1200 cavalrymen, 20,000 foot soldiers belonging to [Benhadad I] of Damascus, ..., 2000 chariots, 10,000 foot soldiers belonging to Ahab the Israelite."

The boasting notwithstanding, Assyrian Emperor Shalmaneser's failure to capture Syria shows that the campaign was unsuccessful. The Bible has a lot to say about Ahab, king of Israel (1 Kings 16:18). The Bible also tells us that there was a time of peace between Ahab and Benhadad (1 Kings 22:1). The Kirkuk Stele (also spelt Qarqar stele) substantiates the Biblical account of Ahab being one of the powerful kings of Israel.

The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III

A 6.5 foot high pillar in the British museum shows Assyrian Emperor Shalmaneser III (who ruled 859-824 BC) receiving tribute from the Israelite king Jehu. Naming Jehu, Shalmaneser records: "I received from him silver, gold, a golden bowl, tin, a staff from the hand of a king...". This record is 12 years later than the previous one.

The Bible tells us that Jehu overthrew Ahab's son Joram (2 Kings 9:24). Apparently, unlike his predecessors, Jehu thought that it was better to be friends with the powerful Assyrians than be hostile to them. This pillar substantiates the Biblical accounts of the kings of Israel. It is most interesting to note that according to Biblical chronological details, Jehu's first year of reign was 12 years after Ahab's last. The image shows a close-up of the pillar-panel in which Jehu kneels before Shalmaneser III. 

Tiglath Pileser III (Pul) invades Israel

In his first invasion, the Bible tells us he took tribute from Menahem, the king of Israel (2 Kings 15:19-20). This is Pul's version (from his annals):-
 
"As for Menahem, I overwhelmed him like a snowstorm and he fled like a bird alone, and bowed to my feet. I returned him to his place and imposed tribute on him."
 
Pul's second invasion was in 732 BC. A limestone relief (image) from the Assyrian palace at Nimrud records the capture of "Astartu" (Ashtaroth), a place in Gilead. It shows Tiglath Pileser, the victorious king of Assyria, and Israelites being led away as captives. The Bible says in 2 Kings 15:29 that Pul invaded and conquered Gilead and the surrounding areas. The Bible also mentions Ashtaroth as a city in the region of Gilead (Joshua 13:31).
 
In his annals (part of a clay tablet), Tiglath Pileser writes about how he defeated king Rezin of Syria.  The Bible also mentions Rezin king of Syria (2 Kings 16:5). Both the clay tablet and the limestone relief are now in the British Museum.
 
The Bible says that Pekah king of Israel had made an alliance with Rezin king of Syria, and they attacked Ahaz king of Judah. So Ahaz appealed to Pul for help (2 Kings 16:7-9). Shortly after, Pekah fell victim to an assassination plot and Hoshea became king of Israel (2 Kings 16:30). Tiglath Pileser's annals refer to:-
  • Ahaz's appeal for help
  • The capture of Syria
  • The assassination of Pekah and the new king Hoshea: "They overthrew their king Pekah and I placed Hoshea over them as king" 

Thus Tiglath Pileser's records provide strong confirmation of the historicity of the Bible.

Sargon II captures Samaria

Skeptics glibly assumed that "Sargon" was a Biblical myth until in 1843 the French archaeologist Paul Emil Botta uncovered the ruins of Sargon's palace in Khorsabad revealing him as one of the most powerful monarchs of all time. The Bible tells us that

  1. Hoshea, the last king of Israel, rebelled against Assyrian Emperor Shalmaneser V - he stopped paying his tribute (2 Kings 17:1-6).
  2. Shalmaneser reacted by invading Israel and besieging its capital, Samaria.
  3. After three years of siege, Samaria fell and Sargon II deported its inhabitants (2 Kings 17:6).
  4. Then the Assyrian emperor brought people from other countries he conquered to live in Samaria (2 Kings 17:24)

Let's hear from the Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions:-

  1. Sargon II's clay prism records that he invaded the Syria-Samaria region under emperor Shalmaneser V.
  2. After three years of siege, Shalmaneser V died and was succeeded by Sargon II 
  3. "In the first year of my reign I besieged and conquered Samaria, and carried away 27,290 inhabitants." - From the Sargon Inscription, Khosabad, now in the Louvre, Paris (shown in the image)
  4. "I restored the city of Samaria...I brought into it people from the countries conquered by my own hands" - This is from a prism in the Iraq Museum. 

As you can see, the Assyrian inscriptions provide stunning corroboration for the Bible.

The Taylor Prism

In the Taylor Prism (now in the British Museum - see image), Assyrian Emperor Sennacherib boasts about his invasion of Judah. The following are the details he mentions:-

  • "As to Hezekiah the Jew, he did not submit to my yoke" - compare with 2 Kings 18:1-7
  • "I laid siege to 46 of his strong cities, walled forts and to the countless small villages in their vicinity, and conquered (them)" - compare with 2 Kings 18:13
  • "Himself I made a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage." - Compare with Isaiah 36:2
  • "Hezekiah ...sent me...30 talents of gold" - compare with 2 Kings 18:17 

If the Assyrian records hadn't been found, secular historians would insist that Biblical characters such as Hezekiah are myths, (just as they do for older Biblical characters that have not found mention in any extant extra-Biblical record). But this inscription shows that not only was Hezekiah historical, but several Biblical details mentioned about him are correct. The Bible tells us why Sennacherib is silent about the most important question: did he capture Jerusalem? (see Isaiah 37:36).

The Lachish Reliefs

 
The Lachish reliefs (now in the British museum - image at right, shows Israelite prisoners being deported by Sennacherib as  2 Kings 18:13-14 tells us). The following have been found at the site of Lachish:-
  • Stones used by the Assyrian stone-slingers
  • Remains of the camp
  • Remains of the siege-mound/ram
The Assyrian reliefs also include detailed depictions of how they carried out the siege, and how they killed or tortured the captives.
 
Yet again, strong confirmation for the Bible! The Assyrian atrocities exposed in these reliefs may explain the reluctance of the prophet Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach there (Jonah 1:1-3), and also his consternation when God withheld His judgment on the repentant inhabitants of Nineveh (Jonah 4:1-2). Notice how archaeology complements the Bible.
 

Esarhaddon

The Bible tells us that after Sennacherib's unsuccessful attempt to capture Jerusalem, he went back to Nineveh in Assyria where he was assassinated by two of his sons, and succeeded by Esarhaddon (2 Kings 19:37). Esarhaddon's records have been found in Nineveh:-

"In the month of Nisanu...I made my happy entrance into the royal palace, the awesome place wherein abides the fate of kings. A grim determination fell upon my brothers. They forsook the gods and turned themselves to deeds of violence, scheming evil....To seize power they slew Sennacherib their father..."

The later Babylonian emperor Nabonidus also chronicled the same assassination in his stele (shown in the image) which is now at the British museum.

The Bible records how Manasseh, Hezekiah's son, was oppressed by Esarhaddon (2 Chronicles 33:9-11). In an inscribed baked clay prism that is now at the Pennsylvania Museum, Esarhaddon writes:-

"I called up the kings of the Hatti land and of the regions on the other [western] side of the river [Euphrates]; Balu, king of Tyre, Manasseh, king of Judah...all these I sent out and made them transport under terrible difficulties to Nineveh...building materials for my palace..."

Conclusion

As you can see, Assyria lives up to my claim of it being the icing on the Biblical archeology cake. These and other archaeological finds are evidence that the Bible is authentic - true in its history and geography. Therefore, it is logical to believe what it says about theology, because unlike other books, its theology is intertwined with its history and geography.