History of Assyria In earlier days of critical study scholars were enamored of Egyptian history. Everything in the Bible was made to conform to the latest interpretation of Egyptologists. As with all fads, it wore thin.
Then came an abundance of new material from Mesopotamia. Assyria proved particularly rich. In its buried palaces and libraries were unearthed long lists of Assyrian kings and of officials who gave their names to each succeeding calendar year. These lists were assumed to be consecutive. That is, one Assyrian dynasty was thought to have followed another in orderly succession for century after century. This careless interpretation of Assyrian history was a consequence of German Rationalism. If the scholars even once admitted the lists to be of parallel dynasties, they knew they would have to turn to some other source in order to assemble the dynasties correctly. That meant to the Bible, the only complete written record of the ancient world. That they would not do.
Instead, they contrived to reject the historicity and authority of Scripture. As always they found a way to justify their interpretation of the Assyrian dynastic lists. In the Assyrian "limmu" lists — lists of officials who held an office comparable to Greek "eponyms" — there was found a reference to a summer solar eclipse. It was dated to the "limmu" year of Bur-Sagale. As the lists were drawn up in successive order by the Assyrian scribes, this "limmu" year appeared to fall in 763. In that year, astronomers assured the historians, there was indeed a solar eclipse that could have been seen in Assyria. That pronouncement was deemed all-sufficient. Assyrian chronology — as interpreted by modern scholars — henceforth became the standard of the world. Where the Bible history did not agree with it, the Bible was arbitrarily rejected. Josephus contradicted the new interpretation. Out went Josephus.
Only one little flaw in the historians' conclusions. The astronomers' evidence they accepted would be valid only if the "limmu" lists were themselves correct. What astronomers overlooked is this. They assumed that the "limmu" year of Bur-Sagale was 763, when an eclipse did occur. They overlooked the fact that the "limmu" list was not drawn up until more than a century after 763. And that what really happened is that the eclipse of the year 763 was arbitrarily assigned to the "limmu" year of Bur-Sagale who really held office 124 years later. The scribes who added the astronomical datum to the "limmu" year of Bur-Sagale did so to make this historical record appear confirmed by astronomy, when, in fact, it was not.
The Bible records a more outstanding astronomical event than the solar eclipse of 763. This event occurred in 710 during the reign of Hezekiah. By a divine act the sun was seen in the heavens to return ten degrees in the direction in which it had arisen (Isaiah 38:8).
Egyptians, too, were startled by it. Their priests, who kept the records, informed Herodotus that their history preserved an account in which the sun was seen to set that morning at the place where it was wont to rise!
Ancient Peruvians, too, observed a drastic change in the heavenly movements about Hezekiah's time. See volume II of the Compendium for Yahuar Huquiz, Peruvian contemporary of Hezekiah.
Later Assyrian Kings It is now possible to restore Assyrian history to its original form.
In 745 a new dynasty sat upon the Assyrian throne in Nineveh. It commenced with Tiglath-pileser III. This dynasty existed to the collapse of Assyria in 612. It is correctly dated in all modern history books. The original account of it is found in the Babylonian Chronicle and confirmed by Ptolemy's Canon of Babylonian kings.
Tiglath-pileser III came to power in April of 745. The "limmu" lists designate this as his accession year, but he claimed it as his first year. Altogether he reigned 19 years. He is listed below with his successors.
Dynasty of Tiglath- Lengths of Reign Dates
pileser III at Nineveh
Tiglath-pileser (III) 19 745-726
Shalmaneser (V) 5 726-721
Sargon 17 721-704
Sennacherib 23 704-681
Essarhaddon 13 681-668
Assur-banipal 42 668-626
Assur-etililani 4 626-622
Sin-sarra-ishkun 10 622-612
Assur-uballit (II) — reigned 4 612-608
in Haran after fall of Nineveh,
in 612, then disappears from
Who Was Shalmaneser?
Almost everyone has assumed that Shalmaneser V, whose inconsequential reign extended from 726-721, is the Shalmaneser of the Bible who besieged Samaria. But how, one might ask, could Shalmaneser V, who died late in 722 (in the last year of his reign), execute a three-year siege of Samaria in 721-718 after he was dead? And then wage war against Tyre, including a five-year siege of the famous emporium, as Josephus records? ("Antiquities", book IX, chap. 14.) Shalmaneser V accomplished neither of these two deeds! But the Assyrian records do reveal a Shalmaneser who did accomplish both!
Who was this Shalmaneser?
Surprising though it may appear, the Shalmaneser of the Biblical record — and of Josephus — is Shalmaneser "the Great" or the III. Ever since archaeology became a fad — as well as a science — scholars have assumed that Shalmaneser "the Great" was a contemporary of Israel's king Ahab and of king Jehu. They had no proof of it. They merely wanted to believe it.
The dates in the Assyrian annals were 40 years too low for the reign of Ahab (914-892) It was impossible to reconcile the Assyrian records as understood by the critics with the Bible. It was much easier to strip away about 40 years from the Biblical record and make it conform to the assumed date of Shalmaneser III. Thus the end of Solomon's reign was changed from 971 to about 930 by historians.
But, ask the critics, did not Shalmaneser III refer to an Ahab of Israel and to a Jehu son of Omri in his monuments? Indeed he did! But once again the historians have had recourse to deception. The Jehu of the Bible is "the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi" (II Kings 9:2). The Jehu of the Assyrian records is another person — the son of Omri! Two different people. How did the scholars resolve this dilemma? They concluded the Assyrians did not know what they were writing about!
Furthermore, not one word is in the Bible that Jehu ever paid tribute to any Assyrian king. Assyria is not so much as mentioned in his reign. Who the Jehu of the Assyrian records is will be revealed shortly.
But what of Ahab? In the Assyrian account this king of Israel is allied with the Arameans against the Assyrians. He contributed a contingent of troops to fight against Shalmaneser III at Karkar near the Euphrates. The Arameans and their allies were routed. Shalmaneser, follows up the victory by the conquest of Syria and Phoenicia and neighboring nations. (See Shalmaneser's annals in Pritchard's "Ancient Near Eastern Texts".)
Does this political situation conform to the era of the Ahab of the Bible?
Certainly not! The Ahab of Scripture fought many battles with the Arameans, none with the Assyrians. Aram (Syria), in Ahab's day, was a powerful confederation. There is not the slightest Biblical indication that any Aramean king was the least concerned over Assyrian expansion. Nor is there any shred of evidence that Ahab, the son of Omri, ever sent troops to Aram to defend the eastern Mediterranean lands against Assyrian incursions at the time of his death.
Modern historians mistakenly place the death of Ahab in 853 — the supposed year of the battle of Karkar. In the Biblical history Ahab died fighting the Arameans, not as an ally of the Arameans at Karkar against the Assyrians!
Who then is the "Ahab of Israel" mentioned by Shalmaneser "the Great" in his monuments? And at what period were Israel and Aram allied against Assyria?
The last question first. II Kings 16 unveils the answer. Israel and Aram (Syria) were allied shortly before the fall of Samaria! Rezin king of Syria and Pekah king of Israel united to attack Judah. In defense the Jews sought the assistance of the Assyrians who attacked Aram first, then later Israel.
But who was "Ahab of Israel"? The answer again is found in Scripture. II Kings 15:30 reveals that Hoshea made a conspiracy against Pekah, king of Israel, slew him and reigned in his stead. This occurred in the autumn of 737, the fourth year of Ahaz or twentieth of Jotham. Yet later, the Bible records Hoshea again returning to the throne, this time in the summer of 728, near the end of the twelfth year of Ahaz (II Kings 17:1). Tiglathpileser (III) records in his monuments that Hoshea has been deposed and that he had restored him to power.
About nine years occurred between Hoshea's seizure of the throne and his restoration. Who was king during those years? The Bible does not reveal the answer — but the Assyrian records do! The king was Ahab II, who perished in his wars with Assyria.
In his year 14 — 722-721, spring-to-spring reckoning — king Shalmaneser III sent 120,000 troops across the Euphrates to crush a revolt, which had suddenly developed along the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean. His attack met with brilliant success. The next three years are silent in Shalmaneser's annals.
No record has been preserved. Then, in year 18 — 718-717 — Shalmaneser receives tribute from "Jehu, son of Omri." The three intervening years (721-718) were those of the siege. When the war was over, the Assyrian reorganized Palestine into an Assyrian province and appointed Jehu, son of Omri, to administer Assyrian affairs temporarily in the land of Israel! Nebuchadnezzar treated the Jews in similar fashion when he appointed Gedaliah temporarily to supervise Babylonian affairs in Judah after the fall of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 40:5).
It is now possible to date the Calah Dynasty of Assyrian kings from the reign of Shalmaneser "the Great" to the revolt at Calah in 622-621. Calah, a suburb of Nineveh, was one of the three capitals of the late Assyrian Empire. It was also called Nimrud. (See page 53 of "Chronicles of Chaldean Kings", by D. J. Wiseman.)
Observe the exact parallel between these dates and the collapse of the Assyrian Empire. The last six years of Shalmaneser III's reign are the years 706-700. These years are each marked by the word "revolt" in the "limmu" canon. They are the six years of the incursion of the Elamite king Marbiti-alap-usur — 706-700.
Names of Assyrian Lengths of Reign Dates
Kings at Calah
Shalmaneser "the Great" (III) 35 735-700
Shamshi-Adad (V), whose queen 13 700-687
Semiramis (III), exercised
great authority for 42 years
Adad-nirari (III) 28 687-659
Shalmaneser (IV) 10 659-649
Assurdan (III) 18 649-631
Assur-nerari (V) 10 631-621
During the reigns of the last three kings in Calah (659-621) the Assyrian Empire gradually disintegrated. Plagues ravaged the homeland. Revolt flared throughout the length and breadth of the Empire. Then a final revolt in Calah in the last year of Assur-nirari V brought the downfall of the dynasty in the calendar year 622-621. This is the very year that the Babylonian Canon records a revolt and a great victory over the Assyrian army.
For details, compare the "Chronicles of Chaldean Kings", by Wiseman, with the corresponding "limmu" canons on pages 288-290 in Thiele's "Mysterous Numbers of the Hebrew Kings". Remember that Thiele misdates the reigns of Shalmaneser III and his successors 124 years too early:
Predecessors of Shalmaneser III In the Assyrian Canon are listed 20 predecessors of Shalmaneser III who reigned altogether 323 years. These kings are usually dated about 124 years too early in most books because the dynasty is made to end about 745 instead of 621!
The following chart lists these 20 kings from the beginning of the dynasty through the reign of Shalmaneser III. (The cumbersome spelling of "Ashshur" is reduced to the simple Assur in this list.)
Of these kings it is known that Assur-reshishi II was a contemporary of Nebuchadnezzar I of Isin, and that Tiglath-pileser II of Marduk-nadin-ahhe of Isin. Van der Meer and most other historians mistakenly assumed Assur-resh-ishi I and Tiglath-pileser I were the contemporaries. This error arose when the Assyrians drew up in two opposite columns the kings of Assyria and the kings of Babylonia. Kings which were not contemporary were made to appear so, and those who were contemporary appeared not to be.
Names of Kings of Lengths of Reign Dates
The Calah Line
Ninurta-apil-Ekur, son of 3 1058-1055
Ilu-ihadda, seized the throne
Assur-dan (I) 46 1055-1009
Ninurta-tukulti-Assur reigned for calendar
a "bab tuppisu", year
that is, for 1010-1009
part of the
Mutakkil-Nusku, his brother,
fought with him, held the
throne, then died. 1009
Assur-resh-isshi (II) 18 1009-991
Tukulti-apil-Esarra 39 991-952
Asarid-apil-Ekur 2 952-950
Assur-bel-kala 18 950-932
Eriba-Adad (II) 2 932-930
Shamshi-Adad (IV), son of 4 930-926
Tiglath-pileser (I), deposed
Eriba-Adad, seized throne
Assur-nasir-apli (I) 19 926-907
Shulmanu-asarid 12 907-895
Assur-nirari (IV) 6 895-889
Assur-rabi (II) 41 889-848
Assur-resh-ishi (II) 5 848-843
Tukulti-apil-Esharra 32 843-811
Assur-dan (II) 23 811-788
Adad-nirari (II) 21 788-767
Tukulti-Ninurta (II) 7 767-760
Assur-nasir-apli (II) 25 760-735
Shulmanu-asarid 35 735-700
(Shalmaneser III — "the Great")
A similar error occurred when the late kings counted the years between themselves and their ancestors. Kings who lived no more than 200 years earlier, for example, were recorded to have lived perhaps 500 or 600 or more years previous. The cause of this kind of error is readily determined. The king lists were drawn up with the kings of the city Assur listed first, then the kings of Calah followed by Nineveh. This naturally placed the rulers of Assur, who were contemporary with those of Calah, centuries too early and centuries apart. These errors did not, however, completely obscure the known total length of time that had elapsed since Babel. But the contradictory statements of elapsed time between any two kings led later scholars in the Greek and Roman world into confusion. Van der Meer sums up these supposed durations of time between early and late Assyrian kings by saying: "The statements of Esserhaddon and Salmanasser also fail to agree with one another"; and "hence all the statements which we have from Nabonaid are incorrect" (pages 36, 35 of "Chronology of Ancient Western Asia and Egypt").
King Pul and the Bible This dynasty provides a clue to the ancestry of Tiglath-pileser III, who ascended a separate dynastic throne in 745. Tiglath-pileser III named "Adad-nirari" as his father. This is Adad-nirari II — 788-767. Upon the death of the father the direct line of descent passed to Tukulti-Ninurta II. But the throne was shared with Tiglath-pileser, who, at that time, had the personal name of Pul, which he also later used when he ascended the throne of Babylon in 729.
In his later annals Tiglath-pileser refers to kings Uzziah of Judah and to Menahem of Israel. As both of these rulers were dead several years before 745, historians assume that the Bible is woefully in error. It never occurred to them to verify how many years elapsed between the death of Adad-nirari and 745, years in which the young Pul might have been ruling jointly with an older brother.
In the Bible the name "Pul" refers to those early years, and "Tiglath-pileser" or "Tilgath-pilneser" to the later independent reign beginning in 745. See II Kings 15:19 and 29. Also I chronicles 5:26, which should be translated: "And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, EVEN the spirit of Tilgath-pilneser king of Assyria, and HE carried them (Israel) away."
Historians generally have been unwilling to recognize the possibility of joint reigns among Assyrian kings. Yet their own discoveries prove it. Events which Shalmaneser III dates as years 11 and 18 in his annals are dated to years 14 and 21 on the Black Obelisk (page 280 of Pritchard's "Ancient Near Eastern Texts"). He therefore reigned 3 years jointly with his predecessor. Similarly, Sennacherib was king of Assyria in year 14 of Hezekiah — 711-710 (II Kings 18:13) — although he did not succeed his father until 704.
Tiglath-pileser I and Thutmose III Another king in the Calah list is very significant — Tiglath-pileser I. His reign commences in 991, almost the exact midpoint of Solomon's reign. Tiglath-pileser wrote in his annals that he beheaded the kings of Meshech at that time. "In the beginning of my reign, twenty thousand men of the land of Mushki and their five kings, who for fifty years had held the lands of Alzi and Purukuzzi, which (in former times) had paid tribute and tax unto Assur, my lord, and no king had vanquished them in battle," he beheaded. ("Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia", by Daniel David Luckenbill, vol. I, page 74.) What is the significance of the 50 years from 1041 to 991 when Tiglath-pileser I defeated Meshech (Musku)? In year 32 of Hammurabi (1041-1040) he and his allies defeated Assyria and annexed it to his expanding realm! (See Van der Meer's "Chronology of Ancient Western Asia", page 30.) It was exactly 50 years between Hammurabi's victory and Assyria's return to power.
In the latter days of Tiglath-pileser I's reign Assyria was again defeated and conquered. who was the conqueror? Thutmose III! In his annals Thutmose recorded receipt of tribute from Assur. "The tribute of the chief of Assur" (Breasted's "Ancient Records", vol. II, sec. 446).
In conclusion. The first king of the Calah line — Ninurta-apil-Ekur — began his sole rule in 1058 (near the end of the reign of King Saul of Israel). The SDAS King List assigns a 13-year reign to him, implying a 10-year joint rule with a predecessor. Who were the kings that ruled Assyria before the Calah line came to power? The next chapter will answer!