The Conspiracy of Abimelech & Life in Ancient Palestine (Transjordan)

I guess people are just sinners by nature.

The Temple of Baal-Berith at Shechem
The book of Judges describes the situation at Shechem after the death of Gideon.
Abimelech, the son of Gideon was such a desperate politician that he took money from the Shechemites from the temple of Baal-Berith (Judges 9:4). Dr. Bryant Wood describes the temple of Baal-Berith.
G. Ernest Wright says, “Before 1903 biblical geographers all thought that Shechem was once located where the modern city of Nablus is.” They associated the Roman city of Neapolis with Nablus. The German scholar Herman Thiersch found the walls of “old Shechem” June 26, 1903. He said, “The place is somewhat under cultivation with vegetables and seed-crops.” (G. Ernest Wright, Biblical Archaeologist: Vol. 20 1-4, electronic ed. (Philadelphia: American Schools of Oriental Research, 2001, c1957). This site is identified with the mound of Tell Balata.
The first excavations at Shechem were conducted by Prof. Ernst Sellin in 1913 and 1914. More extensive excavations took place between 1926-1928.

Abimelech went to Shecehm to his mother’s house and his brothers gave him 70 pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith. 

He then went to his father’s house at Ophrah and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubaal, being 70 people.  Only Jerubbaal wasn’t killed because he had hid himself.

“And all the men of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and went, and made Abimelech king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem.

And when they told it to Jotham he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.

The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us.

But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honor God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?

And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us.

But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?

Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us.

And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?

Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.

And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.

Now therefore, if ye have done truly and sincerely, in that ye have made Abimelech king, and if ye have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done unto him according to the deserving of his hands;

(For my father fought for you, and adventured his life far, and delivered you out of the hand of Midian.

And ye are risen up against my father’s house this day, and have slain his sons, threescore and ten persons, upon one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your brother;)

If ye then have dealt truly and sincerely with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice ye in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you:

But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech” (Jdg 9:6-20).

The Killing of Seventy Brothers
According to the Book of Judges, Abimelech went to Shechem to meet with his mother’s brethren and his mother’s father, and claimed that he should be the only ruler over his mother’s brethren and the men of Shechem and not his brothers.
He asked them whether they would prefer to be ruled by seventy rulers or just one, and he claimed them equal brothers. Because Abimelech claimed them his brothers, the men inclined to follow him, and gave him seventy shekels of silver out of the house of Baal Berith.
He and the men went to the house of Gideon which is in Ophrah to kill the seventy sons of Gideon, Abimelech’s brothers. They were killed on the same stone, but only one had escaped, Jotham.
Abimelech Declared King
Since Abimelech was merely a son of Gideon’s concubine, he made good of his claim to rule over Manasseh by killing his half-brothers. Jotham was the youngest brother, and he was the only one to have escaped Abimelech’s wrath.
Abimelech was later declared “king” by the people of Shechem and by the house of Millo next to a pillar within Shechem. When Jotham was told of this news, he went on top of Mount Gerizim and cursed the people of Shechem and the house of Millo for their declaration, then fled to Beer to hide in fear of Abimelech.

And Jotham ran away and went to Beer because he feared Abimelech.  After Abimelech reigned over Israel for three years God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem, and the they dealt with him treacherously. 

So that the cruelty he had done to the 70 sons of Jerubbaal might come.  The men of Shechem sat in wait for him in the top of the mountains and whoever came by they robbed.

Gaal, the son of Ebed came with his brethren and went to Shechem, and the men trusted him.

“And Gaal the son of Ebed said, Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him?  Is not he the son of Jerubbaal?  And Zebul his officer?  Serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem: for why should we serve him?

And would to God this people were under my hand! then would I remove Abimelech. And he said to Abimelech, Increase thine army, and come out.

And when Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled.

And he sent messengers unto Abimelech privily, saying, Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his brethren be come to Shechem; and, behold, they fortify the city against thee.

Now therefore up by night, thou and the people that is with thee, and lie in wait in the field:

And it shall be, that in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, thou shalt rise early, and set upon the city: and, behold, when he and the people that is with him come out against thee, then mayest thou do to them as thou shalt find occasion” (Jdg 9:28-33).

At night, Abimelech and all his people rose up and laid in wait against Shechem in four groups.  When Gaal showed up Abimelech and his men rose up and when Gaal saw them he told Zebul they were coming.

“Then said Zebul unto him, Where is now thy mouth, wherewith thou saidst, Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him? Is not this the people that thou hast despised?  Go out, I pray now, and fight with them.

And Gaal went out before the men of Shechem, and fought with Abimelech.

And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him, and many were overthrown and wounded, even unto the entering of the gate” (Jdg 9:38-40).

Abimelech when to Arumah, and Zebul threw Gaal and his brethren out of Shechem.  The next day the people went out into the field and told Abimelech. 

He then divided the people into three groups, and laid in wait in the field, and when the people came out of the city Abimelech and his men killed them and then went into the city and killed everyone.

When all the men of the tower of Shechem heard they entered the house of the god Berith, and Abimelech went to Mount Zalmon.  And Abilimech took an axe in his hand and cut down a bough from the trees and laid it on his shoulder. 

He told his people to do what he did, and they did and followed Abimelech.  They then set the fire and people on fire, about 1,000 men and women.

Next they went to Thebez and took it, but there was a strong tower within the city.  Abimelech when to the tower  and tried to burn it down.

“And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and all to brake his skull.

Then he called hastily unto the young man his armor-bearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him.  And his young man thrust him through, and he died.

Millo
The Millo was a structure in Jerusalem referred to in the Hebrew Bible, first mentioned as being part of the city of David in 2 Samuel 5:9 in the Books of Chronicles, and in the Books of Kings.
However it previously seems to have been a rampart built by the Jebusites prior to Jerusalem’s being conquered by the Israelites. The texts also describe the Millo built by Solomon and repaired by Hezekiah, without giving an explanation of what exactly the Millo was: there is therefore some debate among scholars as to the Millo’s specific nature.
The most common assumption among archaeologists and historians of ancient Israel is that the Millo is the Stepped Stone Structure uncovered by Kathleen Kenyon and demonstrated by Eilat Mazar to be connected to the recently uncovered Large Stone Structure.
Archeology
A recent excavation by Eilat Mazar shows that the structure connects with and supports the Large Stone Structure. Mazar presents evidence that the Large Stone Structure was an Israelite royal palace in continuous use from the tenth century until 586 BC.
Her conclusion is that they are parts of a single, massive royal palace which makes sense of the biblical reference to the millo as the House of Millo in II Kings 12:20 and II Chronicles 24:25 as the place where King Joash was assassinated in 799 BC while he slept in his bed.

And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they departed every man unto his place.

Thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did unto his father, in slaying his seventy brethren.

And all the evil of the men of Shechem did God render upon their heads: and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal” (Jdg 9:53-57).

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.  Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:23).

Life in Ancient Palestine (Transjordan) 

Map of Palestine/Canaanite
Though a small region, the map of Palestine is littered with different geographical regions.

The Coastal Plain runs right off of the Mediterranean coastline.

The coast produced few natural harbors.

In fact, the coastline was mostly sand dunes and hard limestone ridges, thus uninhabitable. As a result of these geographical features, these people were not great seafarers.

Ancient Israel only occupied parts of this area in times of military and political might.

The Jezreel Valley is considered by many to be an extension of the Coastal Plain.

It is a very important feature of Palestine geography.

Ancient routes permeated the Jezreel, making it a strategic location in Palestine.

A map of the Palestine and its diverse geography.

The valley’s strategic importance can be seen on any map of Palestine.

It led to the heartland of Canaan, and sat amidst influential trading routes.

Great cities in antiquity, such as Megiddo, and Ibleam, sat in this valley.

These cities guarded passes through Mount Carmel, thus they were of strategic interest.

The valley was fed by numerous springs, and produces an abundance of crops.

Barley and wheat are the specialized crops of the area.

The valley will occasionally flood, and can create marshes.

The major area in Biblical history concerns the Western Mountains.

This mountain range stretches the length of Palestine.

Only the Jezreel Valley interrupts this chain.

The Western Mountains range anywhere from 1,500 to 4,000 feet in height.

These mountains divide the map of Palestine into three regions: from south to north these regions are; Judah, Samaria, and Galilee.

People today have great difficulty understanding life in ancient societies.  Our urban world of computers, advanced technology, and heavy industry separates us decisively from that of ancient people.

Their world centered village, and their livelihood came primarily from agriculture and herding of animals (pastoralism). The seasons of the year determined the pace of life; changes occurred slowly

Although the coming of Greece and Rome altered society in some ways, life in Palestine tended to be tied closely to the land – essentially rural agrarian.

Location of Settlements

Palestine was not a land of large cities, like Babylon or Ur.   Most settlements were small villages or towns that sprang up where four factors essential to habitation – water, food, defense, and transportation – converged.   

An adequate water supply was a primary concern in a land not blessed with an abundance of water.  Springs, small rivers, and wells usually met this need, although the development of cisterns to catch store rainwater permitted towns to be established apart from sources of water.

Security, likewise, was a basic necessity.  A preference for a place easily fortified was a marked feature of site selection, at least until the Graeco-Roman Period. Since villages and towns depended on a ready food people settled near good farming land. 

Finally, a location on or near trade routes gave an outlet for surpluses and access to goods available locally.

Sites especially favored by these four elements were occupied for centuries, even millennia.  When a city was abandoned or destroyed, people returned to build again.  

Stela of Khu-Sebek.
He is shown seated, accompanied by members of his family, his nurse, and the superintendent of the cabinet.

Discovered by British archaeologist John Garstang at Abydos, Egypt, in 1901, the stela is now on display in the museum of the University of Manchester, England.

Over the years the debris, held in place by fortification walls, arose in the form of flat-topped mounds that archaeologists term “tells” (or “tels”).

Most tells were quite small, less than 10 acres. The Philistine city Ekron, covering 50 acres, was among the largest tells in Palestine.

Hazor covered 30 acres, although its “Lower City” increased the Canaanite city to 200 acres in size, the largest site in Palestine prior to Graeco-Roman times.

Some cities, such as Hazor, Megiddo, Samaria, and Jerusalem, possessed such strategic, political, or economic importance that they grew larger.

Smaller villages and towns depended on their larger neighbors for protection in times of distress and as markets for goods.

The Assyrian kings pursued three military objectives in their campaigns: 

1) to establish a security zone protecting the Assyrian heartland;

2) to gain and maintain control of vital trade routes; and 

3) to ensure access to necessary raw resources (timber, metals, and horses). In addition, Assyrian kings fought for the glory and prestige of Ashur, the national Assyrian god, whose rightful domain was all the earth.

The first phase of Assyrian expansion began with Ashur-dan (934-912 B.C.).  He consolidated his authority and began to establish control over the Assyrian plain.

His successors, Adad-nirari II (911-891 B.C.) and Tukulti-ninurta II (890-884 B.C.), campaigned against Aramean states in the west and mountain tribes in the north.

These forays prepared the way for more ambitious campaigns led by shurnasirpal (883-859 B.C.) and his son Shalmaneser III (859-824 B.C.). 

Hazor
The first settlement of Hazor, in the third millennium B.C. (Early Bronze Age), was confined to the upper city.

The lower city was founded in approximately the 18th century B.C. (Middle Bronze Age) and continued to be settled until the 13th century (the end of the Late Bronze Age) when both the upper and lower city were violently destroyed.

Canaanite Hazor is mentioned on several occasions in external records: it is first mentioned in the 19th century B.C. in the Egyptian Execration texts and is the only Canaanite site mentioned in the archive discovered in Mari (18th century B.C.).

The Mari documents clearly demonstrate the importance, wealth and far-reaching commercial ties of Hazor.

There are also several references to Hazor in records of the military campaigns conducted by the Egyptian Pharaohs, during the 15th – 14th centuries B.C.

According to the Biblical narrative, Jabin, the King of Hazor, headed a coalition of Canaanite cities against the advancing Israelites, led by Joshua.

The Israelites won the battle and Joshua burned and ravaged the city.

Evidence of this violent destruction by burning was discovered in various areas of excavation of the site.

Another Israelite battle, this time against a Canaanite army led by Sisera, Jabin’s general, is described in the Book of Judges.

There followed sporadic occupation during the time of the Judges.

A six chambered gate and casemate wall of the 10th century B.C. can most probably be attributed to King Solomon during whose reign only the western part of the upper city was occupied. In the 9th century B.C. most probably under King Ahab, the city expanded.

Hazor suffered repeated destruction, as a result of both the Aramean and Assyrian invasions.

It was finally destroyed by the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pilesser III, who, in 732 B.C. conquered the entire area of Galilee in a campaign that marked the beginning of the end of the independence of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

Ashurnasirpal II

Ashurnasirpal II campaigned vigorously to the east, north, and west, establishing a large security zone for Assyria.

Ashurnasirpal II, King of Assyria (883-859 B.C.), whose name (Ashur-nasir-apli) means, ‘the god Ashur is the protector of the heir’, came to the Assyrian throne in 883 B.C.

He was one of a line of energetic kings whose campaigns brought Assyria great wealth and established it as one of the Near East’s major powers.

Ashurnasirpal mounted at least fourteen military campaigns, many them were to the north and east of Assyria.

Local rulers sent the king rich presents and resources flowed into the country.

This wealth was ploughed into impressive building works undertaken in a new capital city created at Kalhu (modern Nimrud).

Here a citadel mound was constructed and crowned with temples and the so-called North-West Palace.

Military successes led to further capaigns, this time to the west, and close links were established with states in the northern Levant.

Fortresses were established on the rivers Tigris and Euphrates and staffed with garrisons.

By the time that Ashurnasirpal died, in 859 B.C., Assyria had recovered much of the territory that it had lost around 1100 B.C. as a result of the economic and political problems at the end of the Middle Assyrian period.

He employed brutal tactics against rebellious leaders, setting a pattern of psychological warfare that was followed by succeeding kings of Assyria.  

His subjugation of the powerful Aramean state Bit-adini (the Beth-eden of Amos 1:5) paved the way for a victorious march to the Mediterranean Sea by way of Carchemish into Syria, where he received tribute from cities as far south as Tyre.

Ashurnasirpal rebuilt Calah (Nimrud) on a massive scale, complete with his personal palace.  

From here Assyrian armies marched out in a great arc westward through the Habor region to the Euphrates River and then along the Euphrates to the border of Babylon, collecting tribute and punishing rebellious vassals, a pattern repeated many times in the next 200 years.

Shalmaneser III

Shalmaneser III continued his father’s policy of expansion.  His annals record six campaigns in the west between 853 and 838 B.C.  Though unmentioned in the Bible, Shalmaneser’s first western campaign in 853 B.C. brought him to battle with Ahab of Israel.

Ahab was part of a large coalition of Levantine states formed to oppose Assyrian expansion.  According to an Assyrian inscription.

Shalmaneser engaged the coalition in battle at Qarqar in northern Syria.  Though he claimed a great victory, Shalmaneser may have suffered sufficient losses to prevent any immediate expansion southward.  

Later campaigns, however, took him as far south as Mount Carmel.  In 841 B.C. he took tribute from Jehu and other kings of the southern Levant.

The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser shows Jehu prostrate before the Assyrian king. Shalmaneser also campaigned northwest into the Nairi lands, maintaining control of routes leading into Cilicia with its rich iron deposits. 

Assyria’s Temporary Decline

Assyria reached unprecedented heights during the reign of Shalmaneser III. However, his death in 824 B.C. led to a prolonged period of Assyrian weakness that lasted until 745 B.C.

Several factors caused this decline in Assyrian power. The successors of Shalmaneser III were quarrelsome and not particularly effective.  Local governors assumed more power, provoking social unrest.  

Moreover, the kingdom of Urartu contested Assyrian control of the northwest regions, including the Upper Euphrates, thus threatening key trade routes.  Consequently, Assyrian power waned as did the frequency of Assyrian campaigns in the west.

An Assyrian winged bull, or lamassu, from Sargon’s palace at Dur-Sharrukin.
Sargon II waged war in his second year (721 B.C.) against the king of Elam, Humban-Nikash I, and his ally Marduk-apal-iddina II (the biblical Merodach-Baladan), the Chaldean ruler of Babylon, who had thrown off Assyrian rule (2 Kings 20:12), but Sargon was unable to dislodge him on this occasion, as told in ABC 1 Col.1:31-37.

Sargon, able to contain the revolt but not actually retake Babylon on this occasion, turned his attention again to Urartu and Aramea, taking Carchemish in 717, as well as re conquering the Medes, Persians and Manneans, penetrating the Iranian Plateau as far as Mount Bikni and building several fortresses.

Urartu suffered a crushing defeat, its capital city was sacked and its king Rusas committed suicide in shame.

The neo Hittite states of northern Syria were conquered, as was Cilicia and Commagene.

Assyria was belligerent towards Babylonia for ten years while Marduk-apla-iddina ruled Babylon (ABC 1 Col.1:41-42).

In 710 BC, Sargon attacked Babylonia and defeated Marduk-apla-iddina, who fled to his protectors in Elam (ABC 1 Col.2:1-3).

As a result of this victory the Greek rulers of Cyprus gave allegiance to Assyria and king Midas of Phrygia, fearful of Assyrian power, offered his hand in friendship.

Sargon also built a new capital at Dur Sharrukin (“Sargon’s City”) near Nineveh, with all the tribute Assyria had collected from various nations.

The exception to this rule was Adad-nirari III (810-783  B.C.). He led campaigns westward against Arpad in northern Syria and later against Damascus. The later campaign may have relieved Aramean pressure upon Israel.

The Bible describes a “savior” who delivered Israel from Damascus in the reign of Jehoahaz (2 Kgs. 13:5). Perhaps this “savior” was Adad-nirari III.

Recovery of Israel and Judah

Shortly after 800 B.C. Israel and Judah enjoyed a lengthy period of prosperity and peace.  With little Assrian interference and the stable reigns of Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.) and Uzziah (783-742 B.C.), both countries expanded their influence and benefited materially.  

Jeroboam “restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah” (2 Kgs. 14:25), apparently recovering influence northward at the expense of the Aramean states of Damascus and Hamath.

Likewise, in Judah, Uzziah (Azariah) recovered control of the Red Sea port of Elath against Edomite pressure, received tribute from Ammon, and captured cities in Philistia – Gath, Ashdod, and Jabneh (2 Chr. 26).

Statue of Shalmaneser III
Shalmaneser III conducted a series of military campaigns against the eastern tribes.

In 853 B.C. Shalmaneser III lost the Battle of Qarqar (in northwest Syria near the Mediterranean Sea), where he faced a coalition of Egypt, Hamath, Arvad, the Ammonites, and “Ahab of Israel.”

Yes, King Ahab of Israel’s Northern Kingdom .

A seven foot tall monument was discovered by John George Taylor in 1861 called the Kurkh Stela (a round topped stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide).

Tiglath-pileser III

The accession of Tiglath-pileser III (745-727 B.C.) to the Assyrian throne in 745 B.C. marked a new, more aggressive phase of Assyrian expansion.

Tiglath-pileser, or “Pul” as he also was known in the Bible, turned chronically troublesome vassal states into Assyrian provinces.  He also deported rebellious populations and replaced them with foreign captives imported from other areas.

This policy, often practiced by later Assyrian kings, dampened nationalistic fervor among Assyria’s enemies.  Yet Assyrian policy still favored extending Assyrian power through compliant native vassal rulers who received the promise of Assyrian military support in exchange for loyalty, logistical support for the Assyrian army, and yearly tribute. 

Tiglath-pileser reasserted Assyrian control in the west.  Urartu had long fostered anti-Assyrian unrest in Syria.  Tiglath-pileser campaigned westward to break Urartian influence and also brought direct military pressure on Urartu itself.

Rebellious provinces were annexed, while kings of vacillating areas quickly rendered tribute.  By 738 B.C. Menahem of Israel had yielded allegiance to Assyria (2 Kgs 15:18-20).

Tiglath-pileser dealt ruthlessly with other anti-Assyrian plots in the west. Moreover, in 729 B.C.

Tiglath-pileser conquered Babylon, where Aramean and Chaldean elements threatened to create an independent kingdom free of Assyrian influence.  Generally speaking, the reign of Tiglath-pileser signaled the coming of age of a new imperial power whose tentacles none of the Near East could escape.  

A resurgent Assyria led by Tiglath-pileser III soon threatened Israel and Judah. With the deaths of Jeroboam II and Uzziah, neither Judah nor Israel possessed the leadership to negotiate successfully the troubled waters ahead.  

Israel and Judah were related Iron Age kingdoms of the ancient Levant.

Kingdom of Israel emerged as an important local power by the 9th century B.C. before falling to the Neo-Assyrian Empire in 722 B.C.

Israel’s southern neighbor, the Kingdom of Judah, emerged in the 8th century and enjoyed a period of prosperity as a client-state of first Assyria and then Babylon before a revolt against the Neo-Babylonian Empire led to its destruction in 586 B.C.

Following the fall of Babylon to the Persian king Cyrus the Great in 539 B.C., some Judean exiles returned to Jerusalem, inaugurating the formative period in the development of a distinctive Judahite identity in the Persian province of Yehud.

Yehud was absorbed into the subsequent Hellenistic kingdoms that followed the conquests of Alexander the Great, but in the 2nd century B.C. the Judaeans revolted against the Hellenist Seleucid Empire and created the Hasmonean kingdom.

This, the last nominally independent Judean kingdom, came to an end in 63 B.C. with its conquest by Pompey of Rome.

Six kings from five different families ruled Israel from 746-722 B.C. after the death of Jeroboam; most were assassinated in office.  Faithless Ahaz (735-715 B.C.) brought Judah into Assyrian vassalage.  

Only Hezekiah steered a course of independence, although he and his Judean citizens paid a great price for their action.  

Tiglath-pileser’s western campaigns affected Israel by 738 B.C. when Menahem paid tribute to Assyria (2 Kgs. 15:19-20).

Perhaps Menahem displayed anti-Assyrian tendencies that caught Tiglath-pilesers attention.

Tiglath-Pileser III
In 745 B.C., Tiglath-Pileser III became the new king came to the throne of Assyria, who would make it into an empire under absolute rule.

He was also the first outside power to intervene militarily in a war between the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

Tiglath-Pileser III came to power in a palace coup and killed every member of the royal family to which Ashur-dan III had belonged.

He called himself Ashur-Dan’s grandson, but more likely he had no such relationship.

Possession, even by conquest, was nine points of the law of succession in ancient times.

As soon as he was secure in his throne, Tiglath-Pileser was determined to weaken the power of the noblemen of the court, and to transform his by-now very weak kingdom into an empire.

Assyrian inscriptions also mention an Azariah – perhaps Uzziah of Judah, but this is debated – who resisted the Assyrian advance and, likewise, paid the consequences.  By 738 B.C. all of Syria and Palestine felt the Assyrian yoke.

Syro-Ephraimite War

Anti-Assyrian sentiment flared again, apparently fanned by Rezin, king of Damascus.  Rezin organized an anti-Assyrian coalition that included Pekah of Israel, certain Philistine city-states, and perhaps Edom.

Judah, first under Jotham and then Ahaz, refused to join the coalition even in the face of military pressure.  Damascus and Israel besieged Jerusalem (the “Syro-Ephraimite War”) in 735 B.C. with the intent of replacing Ahaz with a king willing to join the coalition (2 Kgs 16:5; Isa. 7:1-14).

Ahaz, an Assyrian vassal, appealed to Tiglath-pileser for help, resulting in a three-pronged Assyrian attack against the coalition.  In 734 B.C. Tiglath-pileser campaigned along the Mediterranean coast as far south as Gaza.  

This move punished the rebellious Philistine states and checked any support Egypt might give to the coalition.  

Then in 733 B.C. the Assyrian armies marched against Israel, moving down the Huleh Basin taking key cities fortifying the northern approaches: Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah Janoah, Kedesh, and Hazor (2 Kgs 15:29).Assyrian forces ranged throughout Israel taking many captives for deportation.  ABotu 80% of Israel was divided into four New Assyrian provinces (Dor, Megiddo, and Karnaim).Pekah was killed by Hoshea, who subsequently became king of a much-reduced Israel centered on Samaria.  In 732 B.C Tiglath-pileser attacked Damascus and converted the conquered kingdom to an Assyrian province.  

These campaigns greatly reduced Israel and plunged Judah deeper into Assyrian bondage (2 Kgs 16:10-19; 2 Chr 28).

Fall of Samaria

Shalmaneser V (727-722 B.C.) reigned only briefly upon the death of Tiglath-pileser III; he left very few remains.  During Shalmaneser V’s reign, Hoshea rebelled agaisnt Assyria with the expectation of Egyptian aid (2 Kgs 17:1-4).

Khorsabad Inscriptions
As was the custom of Assyrian kings, Sargon II (721-705 B.C.) inscribed his annals in word and picture on stone slabs that lined the palace walls.

Perhaps Tefnakhte, the founder of the 24th Egyptian Dynasty, stirred up the revolt in fear of Assyrian incursions further south.  The rebellion probably was more widespread and may have involved Phoenician cities. 

Shalmaneser responded by besieging Samaria for three years until the city fell in 722 B.C. (2 Kgs 17:5-6).  Though Sargon II (722-705 B.C.), successor to Shalmaneser V, claims credit for the capture of Samaria, the Bible implies that Shalmaneser was primarily responsible for the final destruction of the Northern Kingdom Israel (2 Kgs 17:5). 

Hanunu of Gaza, shown on his knees in front of Tiglath-pileser III, formally submits to the king of Assyria.
Stone relief from the wall decoration of Tiglath-pileser’s palace at Kalhu.

During the reign of Tiglath-pileser III (744-727 B.C.) the city of Gaza was ruled by Hanunu.

In 734 B.C., faced with the advancing Assyrian army, Hanunu fled to neighboring Egypt, control over which was then split between a number of dynasts in the Delta and the kingdom of Kush in the south.

Historically and economically, Gaza and the Nile Delta enjoyed a close relationship and we can safely assume that Hanunu was seeking protection against Tiglath-pileser.

However, no help was forthcoming and Hanunu eventually returned to his city.

During Sargon’s early reign many Israelites were deported and resettled in the         upper Habor Valley (Gozan), near Nineveh at Halah, and as far away as Media (2 Kgs 17:6; 1 Chr 5:26).Sargon’s inscriptions mention 27,290 captives taken from Israel. Captive peoples from the area of Babylon (Cuthah) and Syria (Hamath and Sepharvaim) were resettled in Samaria (2 Kgs 17:24).  

Some Israelites fled southward, seeking refuge in Jerusalem, but most had to suffer the indignity of Assyrian occupation in the newly formed Assyrian province of Samaria.