SENNACHERIB (705-681 B.C.); Assyrian (Part 1)

“The upheaval of the entire Eastern world on the accession of Sennacherib–Revolt of Babylon: return of Merodach-baladan and his efforts to form a coalition against Assyria; the battle of Kish (703 B.C.)–Belibni, King of Babylon (702-699 B.C.)–Sabaco, King of Egypt, Amenertas and Pionkhi, Shabi-toku–Tyre and its kings after Ethbaal II.: Phoenician colonisation in Libya and the foundation of Carthage–The Kingdom of Tyre in the time of Tiglath-pileser III. and Sargon: Elulai–Judah and the reforms of Hezekiah; alliance of Judah and Tyre with Egypt, the downfall of the Tyrian kingdom (702 B.C.)–The battle of Altaku and the siege of Jerusalem: Sennacherib encamped before Lachish, his Egyptian expedition, the disaster at Pelusium.” “Renewed revolt of Babylon and the Tabal (699 B.C.); flight of the people of Bit-Yakin into Elamite territory; Sennacherib’s fleet and descent on Nagitu (697-696 B.C.)–Khalludush invades Karduniash (695 B.C.); Nirgal-ushezib and Mushesib-marduk at Babylon (693-689 B.C.)–Sennacherib invades Elam (693 B.C.): battle of Khalule (692 B.C.), siege and destruction of Babylon (689 B.C.)–Buildings of Sennacherib at Nineveh: his palace at Kouyunjik; its decoration with battle, hunting, and building scenes.”

“The struggle of Sennacherib with Judaea and Egypt–Destruction of Babylon.”

Sennacherib either failed to inherit his father’s good fortune, or lacked his ability.[The two principal documents for the reign of Sennacherib are engraved on cylinders: the Taylor Cylinder and the Bellino Cylinder, duplicates of which, more or less perfect, exist in the collections of the British Museum. The Taylor Cylinder, found at Kouyunjik or Usebi-Yunus, contains the history or the first eight years of this reign; the Bellino Cylinder treats of the two first years of the reign.] He was not deficient in military genius, nor in the energy necessary to withstand the various enemies who rose against him at widely removed points of his frontier, but he had neither the adaptability of character nor the delicate tact required to manage successfully the heterogeneous elements combined under his sway.

He lacked the wisdom to conciliate the vanquished, or opportunely to check his own repressive measures; he destroyed towns, massacred entire tribes, and laid whole tracts of country waste, and by failing to re-people these with captive exiles from other nations, or to import colonists in sufficient numbers, he found himself towards the end of his reign ruling over a sparsely inhabited desert where his father had bequeathed to him flourishing provinces and populous cities. His was the system of the first Assyrian conquerors, Shalmaneser III. And Assur-nazir-pal, substituted for that of Tiglath-pileser III. And Sargon. The assimilation of the conquered peoples to their conquerors was retarded, tribute was no longer paid regularly, and the loss of revenue under this head was not compensated by the uncertain increase in the spoils obtained by war; the recruiting of the army, rendered more difficult by the depopulation of revolted districts, weighed heavier still on those which remained faithful, and began, as in former times, to exhaust the nation. The news of Sargon’s murder, published throughout the Eastern world, had rekindled hope in the countries recently subjugated by Assyria, as well as in those hostile to her. Phoenicia, Egypt, Media, and Elam roused themselves from their lethargy and anxiously awaited the turn which events should take at Nineveh and Babylon. Sennacherib did not consider it to his interest to assume the crown of Chaldaea, and to treat on a footing of absolute equality a country which had been subdued by force of arms: he relegated it to the rank of a vassal state, and while reserving the suzerainty for himself, sent thither one of his brothers to rule as king. [The events which took place at Babylon at the beginning of Sennacherib’s reign are known to us from the fragments of Berosus, compared with the Canon of Ptolemy and Pinches’ Babylonian Canon. The first interregnum in the Canon of Ptolemy (704-702 B.C.) is filled in Pinches’ Canon by three kings who are said to have reigned as follows: Sennacherib, two years; Marduk-zakir-shumu, one month; Merodach-baladan, nine months. Berosus substitutes for Sennacherib one of his brothers, whose name apparently he did not know; and this is the version I have adopted, in agreement with most modern historians, as best tallying with the evident lack of affection for Babylon displayed by Sennacherib throughout his reign.]

The Babylonians were indignant at this slight. Accustomed to see their foreign ruler conform to their national customs, take the hands of Bel, and assume or receive from them a new throne-name, they could not resign themselves to descend to the level of mere tributaries: in less than two years they rebelled, assassinated the king who had been imposed upon them, and proclaimed in his stead Marduk-zakir-shumu, [The servile origin of this personage is indicated in Pinches’ Babylonian Canon; he might, however, be connected through his father with a princely, or even a royal, family, and thereby be in a position to win popular support. Among modern Assyriologists, some suppose that the name Akises in Berosus is a corruption of [Marduk-]zakir[shumu]; others consider Akises-Akishu as being the personal name of the king, and Marduk-zakir-shumu his throne-name,] who was merely the son of a female slave (704 B.C.).

This was the signal for a general insurrection in Chaldaea and the eastern part of the empire. Merodach-baladan, who had remained in hiding in the valleys on the Elamite frontier since his defeat in 709 B.C., suddenly issued forth with his adherents, and marched at once to Babylon; the very news of his approach caused sedition, in the midst of which Marduk-zakir-shumu perished, after having reigned for only one month. Merodach-baladan re-entered his former capital, and as soon as he was once more seated on the throne, he endeavoured to form alliances with all the princes, both small and great, who might create a diversion in his favour. His envoys obtained promises of help from Elam; other emissaries hastened to Syria to solicit the alliance of Hezekiah, and might have even proceeded to Egypt if their sovereign’s good fortune had lasted long enough.[2 Kings xx. 12-19; Isa. xxxix. The embassy to Hezekiah has been assigned to the first reign of Merodach-baladan, under Sargon. In accordance with the information obtained from the Assyrian monuments, it seems to me that it could only have taken place during his second reign, in 703 B.C.] But Sennacherib did not waste his opportunities in lengthy-preparations.

The magnificent army left by Sargon was at his disposal, and summoning it at once into the field, he advanced on the town of Kish, where the Kalda monarch was entrenched with his Aramaean forces and the Elamite auxiliaries furnished by Shutruk-nakhunta. The battle issued in the complete rout of the confederate forces. Merodach-baladan fled almost unattended, first to Guzum-manu, and then to the marshes of the Tigris, where he found a temporary refuge; the troops who were dispatched in pursuit followed him for five days, and then, having failed to secure the fugitive, gave up the search.[The detail is furnished by the “Bellino Cylinder”. Berosus affirmed that Merodach-baladan was put to death by Belibni.}

His camp fell into the possession of the victor, with all its contents–chariots, horses, mules, camels, and herds of cattle belonging to the commissariat department of the army: Babylon threw open its gates without resistance, hoping, no doubt, that Sennacherib would at length resolve to imitate the precedent set by his father and retain the royal dignity for himself. He did, indeed, consent to remit the punishment for this first insurrection, and contented himself with pillaging the royal treasury and palace, but he did not deign to assume the crown, conferring it on Belibni, a Babylonian of noble birth, who had been taken, when quite a child, to Nineveh and educated there under the eyes of Sargon. [ The name is transcribed Belibos in Greek, and it seems as if the Assyrian variants justify the pronunciation Belibush.]

While he was thus reorganizing the government, his generals were bringing the campaign to a close: they sacked, one after another, eighty-nine strongholds and eight hundred and twenty villages of the Kalda; they drove out the Arabian and Aramaean garrisons which Merodach-baladan had placed in the cities of Karduniash, in Urak, Nipur, Kuta, and Kharshag-kalamma, and they re-established Assyrian supremacy over all the tribes on the east of the Tigris up to the frontiers of Elam, the Tumuna, the Ubudu, the Gambulu, and the Khindaru, as also over the Nabataeans and Hagarenes, who wandered over the deserts of Arabia to the west of the mouths of the Euphrates. The booty was enormous: 208,000 prisoners, both male and female, 7200 horses, 11,073 asses, 5230 camels, 80,100 oxen, 800,500 sheep, made their way like a gigantic horde of emigrants to Assyria under the escort of the victorious army. Meanwhile the Khirimmu remained defiant, and showed not the slightest intention to submit: their strongholds had to be attacked and the inhabitants annihilated before order could in any way be restored in the country. The second reign of Merodach-baladan had lasted barely nine months.

The blow which ruined Merodach-baladan broke up the coalition which he had tried to form against Assyria. Babylon was the only rallying-point where states so remote, and such entire strangers to each other as Judah and Elam, could enter into friendly relations and arrange a plan of combined action. Having lost Babylon as a centre, they were once more hopelessly isolated, and had no means of concerting measures against the common foe: they renounced all offensive action, and waited under arms to see how the conqueror would deal with each severally. The most threatening storm, however, was not that which was gathering over Palestine, even were Egypt to be drawn into open war: for a revolt of the western provinces, however serious, was never likely to lead to disastrous complications, and the distance from Pelusium to the Tigris was too great for a victory of the Pharaoh to compromise effectually the safety of the empire. On the other hand, should intervention on the part of Elam in the affairs of Babylon or Media be crowned with success, the most disastrous consequences might ensue: it would mean the loss of Karduniash, or of the frontier districts won with such difficulty by Tiglath-pileser III. and Sargon; it would entail permanent hostilities on the Tigris and the Zab, and perhaps the appearance of barbarian troops under the walls of Calah or of Nineveh. Elam had assisted Merodach-baladan, and its soldiers had fought on the plains of Kish.

Months had elapsed since that battle, yet Shutruk-nakhunta showed no disposition to take the initiative: he accepted his defeat at all events for the time, but though he put off the day of reckoning till a more favourable opportunity, it argued neither weakness nor discouragement, and he was ready to give a fierce reception to any Assyrian monarch who should venture within his domain. Sennacherib, knowing both the character and resources of the Elamite king, did not attempt to meet him in the open field, but wreaked his resentment on the frontier tribes who had rebelled at the instigation of the Elamites, on the Cossoans, on Ellipi and its king Ishpabara. He pursued the inhabitants into the narrow valleys and forests of the Khoatras, where his chariots were unable to follow: proceeding with his troops, sometimes on horseback, at other times on foot, he reduced Bit-kilamzak, Khardishpi, and Bit-kubatti to ashes, and annexed the territories of the Cossoans and the Yasubigalla to the prefecture of Arrapkha.

Thence he entered Ellipi, where Ishpabara did not venture to come to close quarters with him in the open field, but led him on from town to town. He destroyed the two royal seats of Marubishti and Akkuddu, and thirty-four of their dependent strongholds; he took possession of Zizirtu, Kummalu, the district of Bitbarru, and the city of Elinzash, to which he gave the name Kar-Sennacherib,–the fortress of Sennacherib,–and annexed them to the government of Kharkhar. The distant Medes, disquieted at his advance, sent him presents, and renewed the assurances of devotion they had given to Sargon, but Sennacherib did not push forward into their territory as his predecessors had done: he was content to have maintained his authority as far as his outlying posts, and to have strengthened the Assyrian empire by acquiring some well-situated positions near the main routes which led from the Iranian table-land to the plains of Mesopotamia. Having accomplished this, he at once turned his attention towards the west, where the spirit of rebellion was still active in the countries bordering on the African frontier. Sabaco, now undisputed master of Egypt, was not content, like Pionkhi, to bring Egypt proper into a position of dependence, and govern it at a distance, by means of his generals.

He took up his residence within it, at least during part of every year, and played the role of Pharaoh so well that his Egyptian subjects, both at Thebes and in the Delta, were obliged to acknowledge his sovereignty and recognise him as the founder of a new dynasty. He kept a close watch over the vassal princes, placing garrisons in Memphis and the other principal citadels, and throughout the country he took in hand public works which had been almost completely interrupted for more than a century owing to the civil wars: the highways were repaired, the canals cleaned out and enlarged, and the foundations of the towns raised above the level of the inundation. Bubastis especially profited under his rule, and regained the ascendency it had lost ever since the accession of the second Tanite dynasty; but this partiality was not to the detriment of other cities. Several of the temples at Memphis were restored, and the inscriptions effaced by time were re-engraved.

Thebes, happy under the government of Amenertas and her husband Pionkhi, profited largely by the liberality of its Ethiopian rulers. At Luxor Sabaco restored the decoration of the principal gateway between the two pylons, and repaired several portions of the temple of Amon at Karnak. History subsequently related that, in order to obtain sufficient workmen, he substituted forced labour for the penalty of death: a policy which, besides being profitable, would win for him a reputation for clemency. Egypt, at length reduced to peace and order, began once more to flourish, and to display that inherent vitality of which she had so often given proof, and her reviving prosperity attracted as of old the attention of foreign powers. At the beginning of his reign, Sabaco had attempted to meddle in the intrigues of Syria, but the ease with which Sargon had quelled the revolt of Ashdod had inspired the Egyptian monarch with salutary distrust in his own power; he had sent presents to the conqueror and received gifts in exchange, which furnished him with a pretext for enrolling the Asiatic peoples among the tributary nations whose names he inscribed on his triumphal lists.[ It was probably with reference to this exchange of presents that Sabaco caused the bas-relief at Karnak to be engraved, in which he represents himself as victorious over both Asiatics and Africans.] Since then he had had some diplomatic correspondence with his powerful neighbour, and a document bearing his name was laid up in the archives at Calah, where the clay seal once attached to it has been discovered. Peace had lasted for a dozen years, when he died about 703 B.C., and his son Shabitoku ascended the throne.[One version of Manetho assigns twelve years to the reign of Sabaco, and this duration is confirmed by an inscription in Hammamat, dated in his twelfth year. Sabaco having succeeded to the throne in 716-715 B.C., his reign brings us down to 704 or 703 B.C., which obliges us to place the accession of Shabi-toku in the year following the death of Sargon.]

The temporary embarrassments in which the Babylonian revolution had plunged Sennacherib must have offered a tempting opportunity for interference to this inexperienced king. Tyre and Judah alone of all the Syrian states retained a sufficiently independent spirit to cherish any hope of deliverance from the foreign yoke. Tyre still maintained her supremacy over Southern Phoenicia, and her rulers were also kings of Sidon.[ Eth-baal II., who, according to the testimony of the native historians, belonged to the royal family of Tyre, is called King of the Sidonians in the Bible (1 Kings xvi. 31), and the Assyrian texts similarly call Elulai King of the Sidonians, while Menander mentions him as King of Tyre. It is probable that the King of Sidon, mentioned in the Annals of Shal-maneser III. side by side with the King of Tyre, was a vassal of the Tyrian monarch.] The long reign of Eth-baal and his alliance with the kings of Israel had gradually repaired the losses occasioned by civil discord, and had restored Tyre to the high degree of prosperity which it had enjoyed under Hiram. Few actual facts are known which can enlighten us as to the activity which prevailed under Eth-baal: we know, however, that he rebuilt the small town of Botrys, which had been destroyed in the course of some civil war, and that he founded the city of Auza in Libyan territory, at the foot of the mountains of Aures, in one of the richest mineral districts of modern Algeria.[The two facts are preserved in a passage of Menander. I admit the identity of the Auza mentioned in this fragment with the Auzea of Tacitus, and with the “Colonia Septimia Aur. Auziensium” of the Roman inscriptions the present Aumale.] In 876 B.C. Assur-nazir-pal had crossed the Lebanon and skirted the shores of the Mediterranean: Eth-baal, naturally compliant, had loaded him with gifts, and by this opportune submission had preserved his cities and country from the horrors of invasion.[the King of Tyre who sent gifts to Assur-nazir-pal is not named in the Assyrian documents: our knowledge of Tyrian chronology permits us with all probability to identify him with Eth-baal.]

Twenty years later Shalmaneser III. had returned to Syria, and had come into conflict with Damascus. The northern Phoenicians formed a league with Ben-hadad (Adadidri) to withstand him, and drew upon themselves the penalty of their rashness; the Tynans, faithful to their usual policy, preferred to submit voluntarily and purchase peace. Their conduct showed the greater wisdom in that, after the death of Eth-baal, internal troubles again broke out with renewed fierceness and with even more disastrous results. His immediate successor was Balezor (854-846 B.C.), followed by Mutton I. (845-821 B.C.), who flung himself at the feet of Shalmaneser III., in 842 B.C., in the camp at Baalirasi, and renewed his homage three years later, in 839 B.C. The legends concerning the foundation of Carthage blend with our slight knowledge of his history.

They attribute to Mutton I. a daughter named Elissa, who was married to her uncle Sicharbal, high priest of Melkarth, and a young son named Pygmalion (820-774 B.c.). Sicharbal had been nominated by Mutton as regent during the minority of Pygmalion, but he was overthrown by the people, and some years later murdered by his ward. From that time forward Elissa’s one aim was to avenge the murder of her husband. She formed a conspiracy which was joined by all the nobles, but being betrayed and threatened with death, she seized a fleet which lay ready to sail in the harbour, and embarking with all her adherents set sail for Africa, landing in the district of Zeugitane, where the Sidonians had already built Kambe. There she purchased a tract of land from larbas, chief of the Liby-phoenicians, and built on the ruins of the ancient factory a new town, Qart-hadshat, which the Greeks called Carchedo and the Romans Carthage. The genius of Virgil has rendered the name of Dido illustrious: but history fails to recognise in the narratives which form the basis of his tale anything beyond a legendary account fabricated after the actual origin (814-813 B.C.) of the great Punic city had been forgotten. Thus weakened, Tyre could less than ever think of opposing the ambitious designs of Assyria: Pygmalion took no part in the rebellions of the petty Syrian kings against Samsi-ramman, and in 803 B.C. he received his suzerain Ramman-nirari with the accustomed gifts, when that king passed through Phoenicia before attacking Damascus. Pygmalion died about 774 B.C., and the names of his immediate successors are not known;[The fragment of Menander ‘which has preserved for us the list of Tyrian kings from Abi-baal to Pygmalion, was only quoted by Josephus, because, the seventh year of Pygmalion’s reign corresponding to the date of the foundation of Carthage,–814–813 B.C. according to the chronological system of Timssus,–the Hebrew historian found in it a fixed date which seemed to permit of his establishing the chronology of the kings of Israel and Judah on a trustworthy basis between the reign of Pygmalion and Hiram I., the contemporary of David and Solomon.] it may be supposed, however, that when the power of Nineveh temporarily declined, the ties which held Tyre to Assyria became naturally relaxed, and the city released herself from the burden of a tribute which had in the past been very irregularly paid.

The yoke was reassumed half a century later, at the mere echo of the first victories of Tiglath-pileser III.; and Hiram II., who then reigned in Tyre, hastened to carry to the camp at Arpad assurances of his fidelity (742 B.C.). He gave pledges of his allegiance once more in 738 B.C.; then he disappears, and Mutton II. takes his place about 736 B.C. This king cast off, unhappily for himself, his hereditary apathy, and as soon as a pretext offered itself, abandoned the policy of neutrality to which his ancestors had adhered so firmly. He entered into an alliance in 734 B.C. with Damascus, Israel and Philistia, secretly supported and probably instigated by Egypt; then, when Israel was conquered and Damascus overthrown, he delayed repairing his error till an Assyrian army appeared before Tyre: he had then to pay the price of his temerity by 120 talents of gold and many loads of merchandise (728 B.C.). The punishment was light and the loss inconsiderable in comparison with the accumulated wealth of the city, which its maritime trade was daily increasing:[For a description of the trade carried on by Tyre, cf. Ezelc. xxvi., xxvii., and xxviii.-Tr.] Mutton thought the episode was closed, [Pygmalion having died about 774 B.C., and Hiram II. not appearing till 742 B.C., it is probable that we should intercalate between these two Kings at least one sovereign whose name is still unknown.]but the peaceful policy of his house, having been twice interrupted, could not be resumed.

Southern Phoenicia, having once launched on the stream of Asiatic politics, followed its fluctuations, and was compelled henceforth to employ in her own defence the forces which had hitherto been utilized in promoting her colonial enterprises. But it was not due to the foolish caprice of ignorant or rash sovereigns that Tyre renounced her former neutral policy: she was constrained to do so, almost perforce, by the changes which had taken place in Europe. The progress of the Greeks, and their triumph in the waters of the Ægean and Ionian Seas, and the rapid expansion of the Etruscan navy after the end of the ninth century, had gradually restricted the Phoenician merchantmen to the coasts of the Western Mediterranean and the Atlantic: they industriously exploited the mineral wealth of Africa and Spain, and traffic with the barbarous tribes of Morocco and Lusitania, as well as the discovery and working of the British tin mines, had largely compensated for the losses occasioned by the closing of the Greek and Italian markets. Their ships, obliged now to coast along the inhospitable cliffs of Northern Africa and to face the open sea, were more strongly and scientifically built than any vessels hitherto constructed. The Egyptian undecked galleys, with stem and stern curving inwards, were discarded as a build ill adapted to resist the attacks of wind or wave. The new Phoenician galley had a long, low, narrow, well-balanced hull, the stern raised and curving inwards above the steersman, as heretofore, but the bows pointed and furnished with a sharp ram projecting from the keel, equally serviceable to cleave the waves or to stave in the side of an enemy’s ship. Motive power was supplied by two banks of oars, the upper ones resting in rowlocks on the gunwale, the lower ones in rowlocks pierced in the timbers of the vessel’s side. An upper deck, supported by stout posts, ran from stem to stern, above the heads of the rowers, and was reserved for the soldiers and the rest of the crew: on a light railing surrounding it were hung the circular shields of the former, forming as it were a rampart on either side.

The mast, passing through both decks, was firmly fixed in the keel, and was supported by two stays made fast to stem and stern. The rectangular sail was attached to a yard which could be hoisted or lowered at will. The wealth which accrued to the Tyrians from their naval expeditions had rendered the superiority of Tyre over the neighbouring cities so manifest that they had nearly all become her vassals. Arvad and Northern Phoenicia were still independent, as also the sacred city of Bylos, but the entire coast from the Nahr-el-Kelb to the headland formed by Mount Carmel was directly subject to Tyre, [The kings of Arvad and Byblos are still found mentioned at the beginning of Sennacherib’s reign.] comprising the two Sidons, Bit-ziti, and Sarepta, the country from Mahalliba to the fords of the Litany, Ushu and its hinterland as far as Kana, Akzib, Akko, and Dora; and this compact territory, partly protected by the range of Lebanon, and secured by the habitual prudence of its rulers from the invasions which had desolated Syria, formed the most flourishing, and perhaps also the most populous, kingdom which still existed between the Euphrates and the Egyptian desert. [The extent of the kingdom of Tyro is indicated by the passage in which Sennacherib enumerated the cities which he had taken from Elulai. To these must be added Dor, to the south of Carmel, which was always regarded as belonging to the Tyrians, and whose isolated position between the headland, the sea, and the forest might cause the Assyrians to leave it unmolested.] Besides these, some parts of Cyprus were dependent on Tyre, though the Achaean colonies, continually reinforced by fresh immigrants, had absorbed most of the native population and driven the rest into the mountains.

A hybrid civilization had developed among these early Greek settlers, amalgamating the customs, religions, and arts of the ancient eastern world of Egypt, Syria, and Chaldoa in variable proportions: their script was probably derived from one of the Asianic systems whose monuments are still but partly known, and it consisted of a syllabary awkwardly adapted to a language for which it had not been designed. A dozen petty kings, of whom the majority were Greeks, disputed possession of the northern and eastern parts of the island, at Idalion, Khytros, Paphos, Soli, Kourion, Tamassos, and Ledron. The Phoenicians had given way at first before the invaders, and had grouped themselves in the eastern plain round Kition; they had, however, subsequently assumed the offensive, and endeavoured to regain the territory they had lost. Kition, which had been destroyed in one of their wars, had been rebuilt, and thus obtained the name of Qart-hadshat, “the new city.”[The name of this city, at first read as Amtikhadashti, and identified with Ammokhostos or with Amathous,–”Amti-Khadash” would in this case be equivalent to “New Amathous”,–is really Karti-Khadashti, as is proved by the variant reading discovered by Schrader, and this is identical with the native name of Carthage in Africa. This new city must have been of some antiquity by the time of Elulai, for it is mentioned on a fragment of a bronze vase found in Cyprus itself: this fragment belonged to a King Hiram, who according to some authorities would be Hiram II., according to others, Hiram I.]
Mutton’s successor, Elulai, continued, as we know, the work of defence and conquest: perhaps it was with a view to checking his advance that seven kings of Cyprus sent an embassy, in 709 B.C., to his suzerain, Sargon, and placed themselves under the protection of Assyria. If this was actually the case, and Elulai was compelled to suspend hostilities
against these hereditary foes, one can understand that this grievance, added to the reasons for uneasiness inspired by the situation of his continental dominions, may have given him the desire to rid himself of the yoke of Assyria, and contributed to his resolution to ally himself with the powers which were taking up arms against her. The constant intercourse of his subjects with the Delta, and his natural anxiety to avoid anything which might close one of the richest markets of the world to the Tyrian trade, inclined him to receive favourably the overtures of the Pharaoh: the emissaries of Shabitoku found him as much disposed as Hezekiah himself to begin the struggle. The latter monarch, who had ascended the throne while still very young, had at first shown no ambition beyond the carrying out of religious reforms. His father Ahaz had been far from orthodox, in spite of the influence exerted over him by Isaiah. During his visit to Tiglath-pileser at Damascus (729 B.C.) he had noticed an altar whose design pleased him. He sent a description of it to the high priest Urijah, with orders to have a similar one constructed, and erected in the court of the temple at Jerusalem: this altar he appropriated to his personal use, and caused the priests to minister at it, instead of at the old altar, which he relegated to an inferior position. He also effected changes in the temple furniture, which doubtless appeared to him old-fashioned in comparison with the splendours of the Assyrian worship which he had witnessed, and he made some alterations in the approaches to the temple, wishing, as far as we can judge, that the King of Judah should henceforth, like his brother of Nineveh, have a private, means of access to his national god.

This was but the least of his offences: for had he not offered his own son as a holocaust at the moment he felt himself most menaced by the league of Israel and Damascus? Among the people themselves there were many faint-hearted and faithless, who, doubting the power of the God of their forefathers, turned aside to the gods of the neighbouring nations, and besought from them the succour they despaired of receiving from any other source; the worship of Jahveh was confounded with that of Moloch in the valley of the children of Hinnom, where there was a sanctuary or Tophet, at which the people celebrated the most horrible rites: a large and fierce pyre was kept continually burning there, to consume the children whose fathers brought them to offer in sacrifice.[Isa. xxx. 33, where the prophet describes the Tophet Jahveh’s anger is preparing for Assyria.] Isaiah complains bitterly of these unbelievers who profaned the land with their idols, “worshipping the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers had made.”[Isa. ii. 8.] The new king, obedient to the divine command, renounced the errors of his father; he removed the fetishes with which the superstition of his predecessors had cumbered the temple, and which they had connected with the worship of Jahveh, and in his zeal even destroyed the ancient brazen serpent, the Nehushtan, the origin of which was attributed to Moses. [2 Kings xviii. 4. I leave the account of this religious reformation in the place assigned to it in the Bible; other historians relegate it to a time subsequent to the invasion of Sennacherib.]

On the occasion of the revolt of Yamani, Isaiah counselled Hezekiah to remain neutral, and this prudence enabled him to look on in security at the ruin of the Philistines, the hereditary foes of his race. Under his wise administration the kingdom of Judah, secured against annoyance from envious neighbours by the protection which Assur freely afforded to its obedient vassals, and revived by thirty years of peace, rose rapidly from the rank of secondary importance which it had formerly been content to occupy. “Their land was full of silver and gold, neither was there any end of their treasures; their land also was full of horses, neither was there any end of their chariots.” [Isa. ii. 7, where the description applies better to the later years of Ahaz or the reign, of Hezekiah than to the years preceding the war against Pekah and Rezin.]

Now that the kingdom of Israel had been reduced to the condition of an Assyrian province, it was on Judah and its capital that the hopes of the whole Hebrew nation were centred.

SOURCE: HISTORY OF EGYPT, CHALDEA, SYRIA, BABYLONIA, AND ASSYRIA (Vol. 8 of 12)
By G. MASPERO, Honorable Doctor of Civil Laws, and Fellow of Queen’s College, Oxford; Member of the Institute and Professor at the College of France
Edited by A. H. SAYCE, Professor of Assyriology, Oxford
Translated by M. L. McCLURE, Member of the Committee of the Egypt Exploration Fund

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