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Assyrian Kings in the British Museum

Julian Spriggs M.A.

With the rise of higher criticism of the Bible in the 19th century, many scholars claimed that the Bible was not reliably historical, but should be merely seen as myths and legends. The Bible mentioned several different kings of Assyria, but there was no evidence that Assyria ever existed, therefore people thought they could not trust the Bible.

However, soon after, Henry Austin Layard, who became known as, The father of Assyriology, went to Ceylon in 1839 to work with his uncle on his tea plantation, but got stuck in the Middle East with no money, where he had incredible adventures. He worked as a spy for an ambassador of Britain, when he met up with a French archaeologist who was searching for the location of the ruins of Nineveh. On the first morning of digging in 1845, he dug up ten slabs at Calah, believing it was Nineveh. Instead, it was the throne room of Ashurnasirpal II. He dug and discovered all the wall reliefs displayed in room 7.

The following Assyrian kings are represented in the British Museum:

1. Ashurnasirpal II (883 - 859) - (room 7)

Ashurnasirpal II reigned at a time of rising Assyrian power, as the Assyrians began to expand west to conquer the Aramean tribes around the Euphrates and reached the Mediterranean. They took tribute from the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon and received homage from Hittite king at Carchemish. They expanded northward, subduing Armenia and Commagene, and to the Zagros mountains in the east. Ashurnasirpal rebuilt the ruins of Calah (also known as Nimrud), using 50,000 prisoners, as his administrative capital. This was a time of rising power. The Assyrian Empire began to expand west to conquer the Aramean tribes around the Euphrates and reached the Mediterranean. They took tribute from the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon and received homage from Hittite king at Carchemish. They expanded northward, subduing Armenia and Commagene, and to the Zagros mountains in the east. The continual pushing west eventually brought her into conflict with Israel, during the time of King Omri. Ashurnasirpal rebuilt the ruins of Calah (also known as Nimrud), using 50,000 prisoners, as his administrative capital. There is a stela depicting Ashurnasirpal II in room 6.

2. Shalmaneser III (858 - 824) - (room 6)

Shalmaneser II organized the administration in the lands his father, Ashurnasirpal, had conquered. He also extended the borders of the empire so he ruled from Urartu in the north, to the Persian Gulf, and from Media, to the Syrian coast and Cicilia (Tarsus). He conquered Carchemish in 857 BC.

In 853 BC he fought against an alliance of ten kings at Qarqar. This alliance included Benhadad of Syria, with 1200 chariots, 1200 calvary and 20,000 infantry; as well as Ahab of Israel, with 2000 chariots and 10,000 infantry. Assyria boasted of a great victory, but in reality it was more of a stalemate, as their expansion was halted for five years. The battle is recorded on the Kurkh Stela of Shalmaneser III in room 6.

By 842 BC, the anti-Assyrian coalition had broken up, so Shalmaneser besieged Damascus, but failed to conquer it, Hazael was king of Syria at this time. He took tribute from Tyre and Sidon, as well as from Jehu of Israel (2 Kg 10:32), which is recorded on the Black Obelisk in room 6. The battle of Qarqar is also depicted on the Balawat Gates in room 6.

Jehu had purged the house of Ahab, leaving Israel weak. Shalmaneser also overran Armenia and Tarsus, conquering mines in the Taurus Mountains. The king of Babylon became subject to him.

3. Tiglath-pileser III (744 - 727) - (room 6) and (room 8)

Pul usurped the Assyrian throne, taking the name Tiglath-pileser III and reigned for eighteen years. He reorganized the army, his aim was to make western Asia one empire to secure trade for merchants of Nineveh, especially from Egypt. He established a vast empire and deported conquered peoples and thereby established strong central administration.

Rezin (the last king of Syria before it was incorporated into the Assyrian empire) and Pekah, king of Israel wanted Jotham of Judah to join a coalition against Assyria (2 Kg 15:37). Both Jotham and his son Ahaz of Judah refused, so Rezin and Pekah came against Judah (2 Kg 16:5-9), Edom also rebelled. Ahaz's response was to submit to Tiglath-pileser (1 Chr 5:26), and ask for help. Isaiah exhorted Ahaz not to bow to Assyria, but Ahaz did not take any notice (Is 7). Ahaz took the treasures of the temple and king's house and gave them to the king of Assyria. Ahaz became a vassal of Assyria and had to adopt Assyria's gods (2 Kg 16:10-16).

In 743 BC, in response to Ahaz's request, Tiglath-pileser marched into Northern Syria, conquering Hamath and extracting tribute from a number of major cities, including Damascus (2 Kg 15:29).

In 738 BC, Pul took 1000 talents of silver as tribute from King Menahem of Israel, becoming the first Assyrian king to be mentioned in Scripture (2 Kg 15:19).

In 732 BC, he conquered and destroyed Damascus, taking the people captive (2 Kg 16:7-9). He also invaded northern Israel taking people from Galilee and Naphtali captive to Assyria (2 Kg 15:29-31), leaving only the land around Ephraim. This was the first deportation from the northern kingdom. This plundering of Israel is depicted in the Astartu tablet in room 6. Pekah was assassinated, and Tiglath-Pileser placed Hoshea on the throne of Samaria as a puppet-king.

In 728 BC, Tiglath-Pileser marched into Babylon and was made king of Babylon.

4. Shalmaneser V (726 - 722)

Shalmaneser was the son of Tiglath-pileser and continued fighting in the west and made Hoshea of Israel one of his vassals (2 Kg 17:3). Hoshea rebelled by refusing to pay tribute, expecting help from Egypt (2 Kg 17:4), so Shalmaneser invaded Israel, and besieged Samaria (2 Kg 17:5-6) but died during the siege in 722.

5. Sargon II (721 - 705) Fall of Samaria - (room 8)

Sargon seized the Assyrian throne and finished the job of capturing Samaria, claiming credit for the victory. He took 27,290 people from Israel into captivity. They were carried away to the upper Euphrates and Media, losing their cultural and religious identity. He built himself a palace in Khorsabad, ten miles north east of Nineveh (room 8), while Calah remained the military centre.

At this time Hezekiah of Judah rebelled against Assyria (2 Kg 18:7). His reforms, by clearing out the idols and return to worship of Yahweh would be seen by Assyria as rebellion.

In 717 BC, Carchemish, the Hittite capital was captured. Also a revolt in southern Palestine was suppressed and Merodach-Baladan of Babylon was driven back to the Persian Gulf.

In 705 BC, Sargon was murdered and succeeded by his son Sennacherib.

6. Sennacherib (704 - 681) - (Lachish room 10)

Sennacherib was an able soldier who restored the capital to Nineveh. In his first years, he had to suppress revolts which broke out at the time of his father's death as well as a revolt by Merodach-Baladan in Babylon, who asked Hezekiah of Judah for help (2 Kg 20:12-19).

In 701 BC, Sennacherib invaded Philistia and Judah to bring his rebellious vassal Hezekiah back under Assyrian control. He took forty-six walled cities of Judah and 200,000 people captive (2 Kg 18:13). During the siege of Lachish (2 Kg 18:14-16), Sennacherib sent messages to Hezekiah, who paid tribute, 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold, even stripping the gold from the door of the temple, but this was not enough. Jerusalem was besieged by Sennacherib's Tartan (the second in command of the army), who mocked the God of Hezekiah (2 Kg 18:35, 19:10). Sennacherib said that "He had shut up Hezekiah in Jerusalem as a bird in a cage", and demanded his surrender. Sennacherib himself did not come against Jerusalem, he was busy fighting other battles, such as Lachish. The Assyrian account of this campaign is recorded on the Taylor Prism in Room 55.

Through Isaiah, God promised deliverance. Hezekiah sought God and God delivered Judah from the hand of Assyria (2 Kg 18:17 - 19:36, Is 36-39). When there was a rumour that Tirhakah of Ethiopia was coming against Assyria (2 Kg 19:9), they withdrew from Jerusalem. When they returned, God's angel killed 185,000 of their troops (2 Kg 19:35). Herodotus wrote that the Assyrian army was killed by a plague of mice (possibly bubonic plague carried by rats).

In 697 BC, Sennacherib suppressed a revolt in Cilicia, fighting against the Greeks, and conquered Tarsus. In 689 BC, he levelled and burnt down Babylon because of the rebellion by Merodach-Baladan, who was driven out.

Finally, in 681 BC, Sennacherib was assassinated by his sons in the temple of Nisroch in Nineveh (2 Kg 19:37).

7. Ashurbanipal (681 - 627) - (Lachish room 10) and (room 9)

He was the last of the strong Assyrian kings. King Manasseh of Judah was present at his inauguration. He was a scholar who collected a huge library of over 100,000 tablets in Nineveh, having his scribes copy the libraries of ancient Babylon. These were discovered in the ninteenth century. He was a keen big game hunter. Ezra 4:10 mentions "the great and noble Osnappur", probably referring to Ashurbanipal. His had a cruel war policy and repopulated Samaria with Babylonians. The prophet Nahum probably prophesied against Nineveh during his reign.

During the 640's, he subdued rebellions in Babylon. Then in 663 BC, he continued the suppression of the revolt in Egypt and conquered No-amman (Thebes) (Nahum 3:8). Assyria now came to its greatest territorial extent, ruling most of the fertile crescent, from southern Egypt, north to the mountains of Armenia, and east to the Persian Gulf.

During his reign, Assyria began to be weakened by internal strife, and Nabopolassar of Babylon as well as others began to rebel. After 626 BC, the death of Ashurbanipal, Assyria rapidly declined.

Other galleries in the British Museum

Introduction Room 4: Ancient Egypt
Room 22: Ancient Greece Room 88: Palestine
Room 61: Ancient Egypt Room 57: Canaanites
Room 56: Ur Babylonia Room 55: Neo Babylonia
Room 54: Hittites Room 52: Persians
Assyrian Kings Room 7: Ashurnasirpal
Room 6: Shalmaneser Room 8: Sargon
Room 10: Lachish Room 9: Nineveh
Room 89: Ashurbanipal

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Twelve Books of the Apocrypha
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NT 3: Paul's Missionary Journeys
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Matthew's Gospel Mark's Gospel Luke's Gospel
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Book of Acts

Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians
Galatians Ephesians Philippians
Colossians 1 & 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy
2 Timothy Titus Philemon

Hebrews James 1 Peter
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Old Testament History

Information about the different nations surrounding Israel, and other articles concerning Old Testament history and the inter-testamental period.

Canaanite Religion
Israel's Enemies During the Conquest
Syria / Aram
The Assyrian Empire
Babylon and its History
The Persian Empire
The Greek Empire
The 400 Silent Years
The Ptolemies and Seleucids
Antiochus IV - Epiphanes

Old Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for OT studies. These include a list of the people named in the OT and confirmed by archaeology. There are also pages to convert the different units of measure in the OT, such as the talent, cubit and ephah into modern units.

More theological topics include warfare in the ancient world, the Holy Spirit in the OT, and types of Jesus in the OT.

OT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Jewish Calendar
The Importance of Paradox
Talent Converter (weights)
Cubit Converter (lengths)
OT People Search
Ephah Converter (volumes)
Holy War in the Ancient World
The Holy Spirit in the OT
Types of Jesus in the OT

Studies in the Pentateuch (Gen - Deut)

A series of articles covering studies in the five books of Moses. Studies in the Book of Genesis look at the historical nature of the early chapters of Genesis, the Tower of Babel and the Table of the Nations.

There are also pages about covenants, the sacrifices and offerings, the Jewish festivals and the tabernacle, as well as the issue of tithing.

Are chapters 1-11 of Genesis historical?
Chronology of the Flood
Genealogies of the Patriarchs
Table of the Nations (Gen 10)
Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9)

Authorship of the Pentateuch
Chronology of the Wilderness Years
Names of God in the OT
Covenants in the OT
The Ten Commandments
The Tabernacle and its Theology
Sacrifices and Offerings
The Jewish Festivals
Balaam and Balak
Highlights from Deuteronomy
Overview of Deuteronomy

Studies in the Old Testament History Books (Josh - Esther)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the history books. These include a list of the dates of the kings of Israel and Judah, a summary of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and studies of Solomon, Jeroboam and Josiah.

There are also pages describing some of the historical events of the period, including the Syro-Ephraimite War, and the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701 BC.

Dates of the Kings of Judah and Israel
King Solomon
The Kings of Israel
King Jeroboam I of Israel
The Syro-Ephraimite War (735 BC)
Sennacherib's Invasion of Judah (701 BC)
King Josiah of Judah
Differences Between Kings and Chronicles
Chronology of the post-exilic period

Studies in the Old Testament Prophets (Is - Mal)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the OT prophets. These include a page looking at the way the prophets look ahead into their future, a page looking at the question of whether Satan is a fallen angel, and a page studying the seventy weeks of Daniel.

There are also a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of two of the books:
Isaiah (13 pages) and Daniel (10 pages).

Prophets and the Future
The Call of Jeremiah (Jer 1)
The Fall of Satan? (Is 14, Ezek 28)
Daniel Commentary (10 pages)
Isaiah Commentary (13 pages)
Formation of the Book of Jeremiah

Daniel's Seventy Weeks (Dan 9:24-27)

New Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for NT studies. These include a list of the people in the NT confirmed by archaeology.

More theological topics include the Kingdom of God and the Coming of Christ.

NT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Kingdom of God / Heaven
Parousia (Coming of Christ)
The Importance of Paradox

Studies in the Four Gospels (Matt - John)

A series of articles covering various studies in the four gospels. These include a list of the unique passages in each of the Synoptic Gospels and helpful information about the parables and how to interpret them.

Some articles look at the life and ministry of Jesus, including his genealogy, birth narratives, transfiguration, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the seating arrangements at the Last Supper.

More theological topics include the teaching about the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete and whether John the Baptist fulfilled the predictions of the coming of Elijah.

Unique Passages in the Synoptic Gospels
The SynopticProblem
Genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1)
Birth Narratives of Jesus
Understanding the Parables
Peter's Confession and the Transfiguration
Was John the Baptist Elijah?
The Triumphal Entry
The Olivet Discourse (Mark 13)
Important themes in John's Gospel
John's Gospel Prologue (John 1)
Jesus Fulfilling Jewish Festivals
Reclining at Table at the Last Supper
The Holy Spirit as the Paraclete

Studies in the Book of Acts and the New Testament Letters

A series of articles covering various studies in the Book of Acts and the Letters, including Paul's letters. These include a page studying the messages given by the apostles in the Book of Acts, and the information about the financial collection that Paul made during his third missionary journey. More theological topics include Paul's teaching on Jesus as the last Adam, and descriptions of the church such as the body of Christ and the temple, as well as a look at redemption and the issue of fallen angels.

There are a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of five of the books:
Romans (7 pages), 1 Corinthians (7 pages), Galatians (3 pages), Philemon (1 page) and Hebrews (7 pages)

Apostolic Messages in the Book of Acts
Paul and His Apostleship
Collection for the Saints
The Church Described as a Temple
Church as the Body of Christ
Jesus as the Last Adam
Food Offered to Idols
Paul's Teaching on Headcoverings
Who are the Fallen Angels
The Meaning of Redemption
What is the Church?
Paul and the Greek Games

Romans Commentary (7 pages)

1 Corinthians Commentary (7 pages)

Galatians Commentary (3 pages)

Philemon Commentary (1 page)

Hebrews Commentary (7 pages)

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the study of the Book of Revelation and topics concerning Eschatology (the study of end-times).

These include a description of the structure of the book, a comparison and contrast between the good and evil characters in the book and a list of the many allusions to the OT. For the seven churches, there is a page which gives links to their location on Google maps.

There is a page studying the important theme of Jesus as the Lamb, which forms the central theological truth of the book. There are pages looking at the major views of the Millennium, as well as the rapture and tribulation, as well as a list of dates of the second coming that have been mistakenly predicted through history.

There is also a series of ten pages giving a detailed commentry through the text of the Book of Revelation.

Introduction to the Book of Revelation
Characters Introduced in the Book
Structure of Revelation
List of Allusions to OT
The Description of Jesus as the Lamb
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
The Nero Redivius Myth
The Millennium (1000 years)
The Rapture and the Tribulation
Different Approaches to Revelation
Predicted Dates of the Second Coming

Revelation Commentary (10 pages)

How to do Inductive Bible Study

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study the Bible inductively, by asking a series of simple questions. There are lists of observation and interpretation questions, as well as information about the structure and historical background of biblical books, as well as a list of the different types of figures of speech used in the Bible. There is also a page giving helpful tips on how to apply the Scriptures personally.

How to Study the Bible Inductively
I. The Inductive Study Method
II. Observation Questions
III. Interpretation Questions
IV. Structure of Books
V. Determining the Historical background
VI. Identifying Figures of Speech
VII. Personal Application
VIII. Text Layout

Types of Literature in the Bible

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study each of the different types of book in the Bible by appreciating the type of literature being used. These include historical narrative, law, wisdom, prophets, Gospels, Acts, letters and Revelation.

It is most important that when reading the Bible we are taking note of the type of literature we are reading. Each type needs to be considered and interpreted differently as they have different purposes.

How to Understand OT Narratives
How to Understand OT Law
Hebrew Poetry
OT Wisdom Literature
Understanding the OT Prophets
The Four Gospels
The Parables of Jesus
The Book of Acts
How to Understand the NT Letters
Studying End Times (Eschatology)
The Book of Revelation

Geography and Archaeology

These are a series of pages giving geographical and archaeological information relevant to the study of the Bible. There is a page where you can search for a particular geographical location and locate it on Google maps, as well as viewing photographs on other sites.

There are also pages with photographs from Ephesus and Corinth.

Search for Geographical Locations
Major Archaeological Sites in Israel
Archaeological Sites in Assyria, Babylon and Persia
Virtual Paul's Missionary Journeys
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
Photos of the City of Corinth
Photos of the City of Ephesus

Biblical archaeology in museums around the world

A page with a facility to search for artifacts held in museums around the world which have a connection with the Bible. These give information about each artifact, as well as links to the museum's collection website where available showing high resolution photographs of the artifact.

There is also pages of photographs of important artifacts from the British Museum in London, the Louvre in Paris and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Search Museums for Biblical Archaeology
British Museum Photos
Israel Museum Photos
Paris Louvre Photos

Difficult Theological and Ethical Questions

These are a series of pages looking at some of the more difficult questions of Christian theology, including war, suffering, disappointment and what happens to those who have never heard the Gospel.

Christian Ethics
Never Heard the Gospel
Is there Ever a Just War?
Why Does God Allow Suffering
Handling Disappointment

How to Preach

These are a series of pages giving a practical step-by-step explanation of the process of preparing a message for preaching, and how to lead a small group Bible study.

What is Preaching?
I. Two Approaches to Preaching
II. Study a Passage for Preaching
III. Creating a Message Outline
IV. Making Preaching Relevant
V. Presentation and Public Speaking
VI. Preaching Feedback and Critique
Leading a Small Group Bible Study

Information for SBS staff members

Two pages particularly relevant for people serving as staff on the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) in YWAM. One gives helpful instruction about how to prepare to teach on a book in the SBS. The other gives a list of recommended topics which can be taught about for each book of the Bible.

Teaching on SBS Book Topics for SBS