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secured the alliance of Arpad, Simirra, Damascus, and
Samaria (cf. § 364). The leader of this desperate under-
taking took his stand at Karkar, the scene of the famous
battle of 854 (§ 228 ff.), without his allies. Here the re-
volters were defeated, and Sargon, in Avhose eyes the defec-
tion of Hamath must have seemed especially flagrant,
flayed Iliibi'id alive as an exemplary punishment.

§ 625. Eager to strike at the fountain head of the
trouble, the Assyrian king marched immediately down
the Mediterranean coast. Reaching Gaza, he drove out
Chanun, its kinglet, who again fled for refuge to Egypt,
as he had fled from Tiglathpileser thirteen years before
(§ 832). Seve (/S'iS'm), the prince of Lower Egypt, with

1 Vol. i, p. 415. ZA. X, 22-1 ff. denies all connection with Yahw6.


whom Hoshea had intrigued (§ 343, 348), came to his
relief. But these allies were in their turn defeated at
Raphia (Assyrian Rapihu, the modern Blr-Refd), south-
west of Gaza, on the coast, and Seve retired to his safe
retreat in the Delta ; while Chanun was taken and carried
captive to the city of Asshur. That his life was spared is
certainly not without significance in the policy of Assyria.
It will be noticed that the same leniency had been mani-
fested to Hoshea (§ 350). Further, it would seem that
Palestinian princes were very seldom put to death, even on
account of rebellion (cf. § 644). The object apparently
was to show to those who came directly under Egyptian
influence, and therefore needed to be specially conciliated,
that the yoke of Asshur was not galling. The treatment
of Palestine was a matter of extreme difficulty to Assyrian
diplomacy, and the mixture of rigour and gentleness which
is manifested in the speech of Sinacherib's legate (2 K.
xviii.) was typical of the whole policy. Sargon had no
farther trouble from the side of Egypt during the reign of
Sabako (§ 347 f.). As a matter of course Judah renewed its
allegiance to Assyria during this visit of Sargon. The
Palestinians had been severely crippled and were for a time
thoroughly humbled. Samaria now remained permanently
loyal. Nor do we hear of further trouble from the side of
Damascus. Sabako Avas not strong enough at home to use
Palestine as the base of active operations against Assyria,
and he was compelled to cease his machinations. He died
about 715, and was succeeded by his son Sabataka (715-
703), who will come under our notice later (§ 630, 632). ^

§ 626. Meanwhile Sargon was called to action in the
northerly portion of his hereditary sphere of influence.
Here he was kept busy for the greater part of the next
eiglit years, dissolving combinations, putting down insur-
rections, forming new provinces out of the fragments of
subjugated districts ; in a word, striving to unify and
assimilate the whole vast domain that stretched from
Cilicia to Media under a perpetual bond of common servi-


tude and a common worship. The story of his campaigns
presented in his own annals is not very clear. Indeed, these
northern wars are in general the least intelligible portion of
Assyrian history, mainly on account of our lack of exact
knowledge of some of the localities as well as our general
unfamiliarity with the peoples of these regions, their ante-
cedents and their types of civilization. One thing, at least,
is plain which does not lie on the surface of the official
Assyrian records : Sargon must have met with several seri-
ous reverses. Otherwise we cannot account for the quick
recovery from disaster and the power of prolonged resistance
manifested by the peoples whom the Great King assures us
he so often subdued. As we are mere directly concerned
with those nations whose fortunes immediately affected the
people of Israel and the progress of Revelation, it will not
be in place to narrate minutely the campaigns of Sargon in
the regions of the north. A brief resume of the results is,
however, indispensable.

§ 627. It will be observed that the main difficulties
were encountered in two great regions, the country lying
to the east of the Upper Tigris on the one hand, and those
on the west of the Euphrates on the other. The interven-
ing region seems, at this time, to have been kept pretty
well in hand, and indeed the country north of Charran and
Nisibis had occasioned very little trouble since the days
of Asshurnasirpal (§ 218). Of the western lands, Mita,
king of the Moschi, was the insurrectionary leader. Of the
eastern, Rusa, king of Ararat or Armenia, was the guid-
ing spirit. With the former were drawn into sympathy all
the discontented tribes as far south as Northern Syria,
while the latter had for his allies the peoples on both sides
of the Lakes as well as the western Medes. The task
of dealing simultaneously with the insurgents scattered
throughout these wide areas must have been divided with
his generals by Sargon, who could not have been so
ubiquitous as his annals taken literally would make us


§ 628. In 719 a revolt, instigated by Rusa in the
Assyrian province of Manna, south of Lake Van, and sup-
ported by a neighbouring prince, was put down by Sargon,
and many of the insurgents transported to Damascus.
In 718 the chief theatre of action was Tabal (Tiba-
rene), where an outbreak was put down and the leaders
sent to Assyria. In the following year a more wide-
spread revolt was set on foot. Carchemish, which since
its unsuccessful rising against Slialmaneser II (§ 227)
had remained quiescent and had confirmed its allegiance
to Tiglathpileser III after the capture of Arpad (§ 294),
was now ruled by a prince of the ancient Hettite
line, Pisiris by name. This ruler, perhaps in conse-
quence of kinship with some of the Moschi, received
assistance from that people in an attempt to throw off
the Assyrian yoke. Defeat and deportation followed this
enterprise also, while the Assyrian treasury at Kalach
was enriched with an enormous booty taken from this
wealthiest of the old merchant cities on the immemorial
route of Asiatic trade. The Moschtean allies were not
yet subdued.

§ 629. In the northeast a terrific struggle was waged
in the two succeeding years. Rusa succeeded in effecting
a much larger combination than before and in loosening
the hold of the Assyrians upon most of the tribes from
Lake Van to the Median settlemei:its far to the east of
Lake Urmia,^ and southwards to the very borders of
Assyria proper. In 715 the revolt had attained its
widest dimensions, when the northwest Avas again also
in a state of confusion. The enemies of Asshur were,
however, routed one by one, and in 714 Rusa himself,
bereft of ally after ally in successive defeats, and pur-
sued by the intrepid warriors of Sargon to his inmost
retreat in the mountains of Armenia, put an end to his
life with his own dagger. But in the west the subju-
gation of Carchemish had not quenched the independent

1 See Note 3 in Appendix.


spirit of the insurgents. New allies along with the Mos-
chseans joined their ranks, encouraged by the doubtful
issue of the conflict in Ararat. Considerable sections of
the whole region from Cilicia (Kue) to the Euphrates
were in arms in 715. Their complete subjugation was
not accomplished till 711, when western Cappadocia
(Gamgum) followed Tabal and Milid (Melitene) into
forced submission.

§ 630. But even the details of these operations, ex-
tensive as they were, would not fully indicate the activity
of Sargon at this critical period. At least for several
years after the revolt of Carchemish (717) an Assyrian
army was busily occupied in securing the allegiance of
the more southerly tribes of the west, with those already
made tributary by Tiglathpileser. For 715, the year of
supreme effort, the record runs : "The tribes of Tamudand
Ibadid, Marsiman and Hayapa, far-off Arabians, inhabitants
of the wilderness, of whom no sage or scholar had known,
who had hitherto brought tribute to no king, I smote in
the service of Asshur my lord ; the rest of them I carried
away and settled in Samaria. From Pharaoh, king of
Egypt, SamsT, queen of Arabia (§ 334), and Ithamar of
Sab?ea, kings of the seacoast and of the wilderness, I
received as their tribute, gold the product of the mines,
precious stones, ivory, usu plants, spices of all sorts,
horses and camels." ^ From this instructive passage we
learn that an army was sent south of Palestine, and that
the caravan roads were once more secured for Assyria
after the necessary chastisement and deportation of some
of the fiercer Midianitish tribes. We observe further that
the effect of the demonstration extended to Egypt, which
now for the first time in its history, under the Ethiopian
Pharaoh, Sabataka (vol. i, p. 423), acknowledged the
superiority of Assyria, and even to the most powerful

1 Annals, 94-99; cf. Cyl. 20. Hayapa is the "Epha" (ns^j^) of Gen.
XXV. 4 ; Isa. Ix. 6. See Par. 304, and for the other localities KGF. 263,
and § 334 of this work.


mercantile nation of the Arabian peninsula. After com-
pleting the subjugation and settlement of the whole region
west of the Euphrates, Sargon employed the year 712 in
securing the richest treasures of the country, especially in
precious metals and stones. So great was the abundance
of silver thus amassed that he claims to have reduced
its price to that of copper in Assyria.^

§ 631. In 711 we have to note the famous expedition
to Ashdod, of which special account is taken not only by
Hebrew Prophecy, but also by King Sargon himself. Be-
sides other notices, he has left an inscription devoted solely
to that enterprise.^ These facts indicate the importance
of the event, or rather of the circumstances which occa-
sioned it. The revolt of a single canton was in itself of
little consequence to a power like the Assyrian, but it
became significant in this case because of what it implied.
It was symptomatic of widespread discontent, of a possible
explosion of the inflammable elements of Palestinian society,
to which Eg3'pt was eager to contribute the igniting spark.
The danger was indeed great, or rather would become
great, unless this insurrectionary movement were stifled
at the beginning.

§ 632. The situation at Ashdod was this. Azuri, the
former ruler of that city, had been deposed by the Assyri-
ans (probably in 715) for refusing tribute and endeavour-
ing to unite the other states of Palestine in revolt, and his
more loyal brother Ahimiti was enthroned in his place.
Subjection to foreign rule was, however, still unpopular,
and a certain adventurer of Greek extraction succeeded
in setting him aside and maintaining the antagonism to
Assyria. A select body of veterans of the body-guard,
with horses and chariots, was sent against Ashdod by
Sargon. It reached that city before any successful com-
bination could take place in Palestine, or any effectual aid
could arrive from Egypt, whose promised support was
in any case problematical. Ashdod, with a dependency

1 Annals, -JOT f. 2 ST. pi. 44.


named Asdudimmii, and the famous old Philistian city of
Gath, which seems to have been at this time absorbed in
Ashdod, were quickly taken. The Ionian usurper fled to
Egypt, whence he was delivered up to the Assyrians by
Sabataka, the king of that country, who, after his propitia-
tion of Sargon (§ 630) and his renewed intrigues, must
have dreaded an invasion of his territory by the victorious
troops of that monarch. The captured cities lost many of
their inhabitants by deportation ; and these were replaced
by exiles from other portions of the empire. Thus Philis-
tia was formally made an Assyrian province.

§ 633. The other maritime principalities, as Sargon
calls them, Judah, Edom, and Moab, were concerned in
the conspiracy, in so far as they had negotiated with
Egypt for an alliance in the projected revolt in concert
with Ashdod.^ But as there is no record, either in the
Annals or in the synoptic Inscriptions, which give a full
summary of Sargon's campaigns, that they had been
engaged in actual armed rebellion or invaded by the
expeditionary force, we may safely conclude that Sargon's
lieutenant was satisfied with prompt submission on their
part and the customary indemnity. Accordingly the hy-
pothesis of an actual invasion and devastation of Judah
by Sargon, which has been entertained by Cheyne, Sayce,
and others, may be dismissed as untenable. It is not
necessary, as we shall see (§ 687, 722), for the explana-
tion of Isa. X., and inasmuch as such an invasion would
necessarily have included the other principalities just men-
tioned, operations on so large a scale could not have es-
caped mention in the annals of the conqueror. Besides,
we must remember that there is no evidence from any
quarter that Judah or the kindred states of Edom and
Moab were put under Assyrian administration or stripped
of their inhabitants, as was the case with Ashdod. Sin-
acherib began to do this with Judah ten years later
(§ 675 ff.), but that stage had not yet been reached, nor

1 See Note 4 in Appendix.


had Judah merited such treatment by any conduct of
which we have information (cf. § 288). On the other
hand, the peace of the West must have been considered
by Sargon to have been pretty well secured by the opera-
tions of 715. He knew that Palestine, though it was in a
chronic state of discontent, was helpless without the sup-
port of Egypt, and being well aware of the weakness of
the reigning king, he calculated rightly upon the suffi-
ciency of a small body of chosen troops, under his lieuten-
ant-general, to put an end to the trouble in Ashdod, and
with that to the projected Palestinian rising. Then he
felt that his hands were free to attend to the more serious
difficulties in Babylonia. And yet we must assume that
Judah at this time renewed its allegiance with payment
of tribute, and had to submit to more rigorous terms than
those imposed originally in consequence of the defensive
league with Ahaz (§ 326, 336).i

1 See Note 5 in Appendix.



§ 634. The significance attached by the statesman-
prophet, Isaiah, to the siege of Ashdod (Isa. xx.), sug-
gests to us that this event marked a critical period in the
international relations of Judah. It will, therefore, be
necessary for us to review the history and prophecy of
the times from the point last reached by our survey, the
fall of Samaria, in 722-1. The revolt of Ashdod (711)
exactly bisects the period between that catastrophe and
the more famous invasion of Sinacherib (701). The
first inquiry must be of a chronological character: Who
reigned in Judah during the years we have just been
traversing ? Was it the weak-minded and idolatrous Ahaz
or the enterprising and God-fearing Hezekiah? The im-
portance of the answer need not be pointed out.

§ 635. We have seen (§ 269, 317) that Ahaz cannot
have come to the throne later than 735. 2 K. xvi. 2
informs us that he reigned sixteen years. This would
bring his reign to a close in 720. As to Hezekiah's acces-
sion we have two sets of dates. It is said in 2 K. xviii. 9 f .
that Shalmaneser came against Samaria in the fourth year
of Hezekiah, and that the city was taken in his sixth
year (722-1). That would make the date of his acces-
sion 727. Again, 2 K. xviii. 13 states that Sinacherib
invaded Judah in Hezekiah's fourteenth year. As that
event is known to have occurred in 701, Hezekiah, accord-
ing to this reckoning, must have acceded in 715. We
thus have in reality three different dates, 727, 7.20, and



715. The first two might possibly be reconciled, if we
chose to suppose that Hezekiah was associated with his
father in the government seven years before the death of
the latter, so that 720 would thus be eliminated. Only
theoretical possibility can be claimed for this assumption,
for which we have not the least evidence of any sort.
And we have still this difficulty in connection with any
of the dates (cf. vol. i, Note 12 in Appendix), that
according to 2 K. xviii. 2, Hezekiah was twenty-five years
of age at his accession, while his father, since he was
twenty years old when he acceded (2 K. xvi. 2), must
have been born about 755, only a few years before the
birth of Hezekiah. It is alleged in favour of 715 that
Isa. xxxviii., as well as 2 K. xx., seem to make the
sickness of Hezekiah synchronous with the invasion of
Sinacherib (701). Now, as Hezekiah lived fifteen years
after his recovery, his death would then have taken place
in 686, and his reign of twenty-nine years have begun in
715 or 714. If this is the correct or approximate date,
Ahaz must have reigned twenty years instead of "sixteen."

§ 636. Is there any way out of this maze of contradic-
tions ? We naturally ask what sorts of data are the most
to be deferred to? It will, I think, be admitted on all
hands that the reported length of any reign, which w^as
presumably a matter of record, is a much safer guide than
a numerical synchronism connected with any given year
of that reign, which was of course a matter of calculation.
Again, of different sorts of synchronisms, that which con-
nects two memorable events is evidently of more weight
than one of the numerical kind just mentioned, which in
the first place is based on abstract reckoning, and in the
next place is liable to accidental clerical alteration through
the absence of any obvious external check, such as that
afforded in the other class of cases by popular acquaintance
with epochs of history.

§ 637. Let us apply these canons to the question before
us. What is, after all, the most probable date of the sick-


ness of Hezekiah ? 2 K. xx. 1 and Isa. xxxviii. 1 connect
that occurrence only vaguely with the invasion of Sin-
acherib, according to the common loose formula "in those
days," which is about equivalent to "in those times."
One thing, however, is clear: it took place before the
invasion, according to the express testimony of 2 K. xx. 6
and Isa. xxxviii. 6. But there is another event associated
immediately with Hezekiah's sickness, the embassy of
Merodach-baladan, king of Babylon, of which it is said
with an exact indication of time : " At that time Mero-
dach-baladan, king of Babylon, sent a letter and a present
to King Hezekiah, for he had heard that Hezekiah had
been sick." When did these negotiations take place ? Not
in 701, for then Merodach-baladan was no longer king of
Babylon (§ 672), but most probably in 705, the year of the
accession of the new king, Sinacherib, against whom the
indomitable Chaldsean hoped to raise up a general combi-
nation after the death of the dreaded Sargon (cf. § 621).

§ 638. If, then, these fifteen years are to be counted
from 705, we get 690 or 691 as the close of Hezekiah's
reign, and 719 or 720 as its beginning. This agrees with
the sixteen years of the reign of Ahaz, and should, I think,
have the preference over either 727 or 715, especiall}' as no
correction is now needed for any of the Biblical figures,
leaving out numerical synchronisms, except for the age
of Hezekiah. If we suppose that "twenty-five," for the
years of Hezekiah's age, is a clerical error for fifteen in
the Hebrew, — a very slight and easy mistake, — all the
conditions of the case are satisfied. The following is a
scheme of the results : ^ —

Date of accession. Age at accession. Length of reign. Date of death.

Ahaz c. 735 20 16 719

Hezekiah 719 15 29 690

§ 639. The reign of Ahaz was supremely critical for
Judah, both politically and religiously. Uzziah and Jotham

1 See Note 6 in Appendix.


had brought the little kingdom to a position of influence
both in war and commerce, and had made their people
acquainted with some of the wider movements of the
great world outside the narrow horizon of Judaic politics.
But the early years of Ahaz, which had beheld the great
Tiglathpileser marching at his will over the length and
breadth of Palestine, and had seen the Judaite king wel-
come him as his deliverer and own him as suzerain,
witnessed also an inner transformation as significant as
this outward revolution. The triumph of the irresistible
Assyrians brought with it to Ahaz and to most of his
people not only the evidence of invincible military power,
but also tokens of the possession of singular supernatural
favour. The acknowledgment of the superiority of the
Assyrian gods, which this vassalage made obligatory (§ 61,
299), was commended alike to their interest, their preju-
dices, and their imagination. The deference due to the
deities of their protectors could, in superstitious minds,
be scarcely withheld from a religion of such immemorial
sway and of such unrivalled prestige, in its triumphant
progress among the nations and in the pomp and splendour
of its observance. One can imagine the impression made
upon Ahaz and his courtiers by what they observed at the
great durbar at Damascus (§ 336) : the submission of so
many princes, the imperial haughtiness of the conqueror,
and the shrines once dedicated to the terrible but now
dethroned and impotent gods of Syria, here beset with
images of the victorious deities supreme over all.

§ 640. That the weak and impressionable soul of the
youthful Ahaz was deeply affected by these influences we
have evidence from the Biblical narrative. We are told .
that the model of a certain altar which he had seen durinar
his visit was, by his command, adopted for the regular
temple services, to the exclusion of the old more simple
brazen altar, whose place it took between the court and
the sanctuary proper. Just as at first, Avhen the Sj-rians
began to gain the upper hand, he adored the gods which


seemed to give them the victory (2 Chr. xxviii. 23), so
now the worship of their conquerors became in turn the
object of his servile imitation, in as far as it was possible
in a nation still owing outward allegiance to Jehovah.^
It is easily understood that in such innovations he had the
sympathy of the ruling class, when even a priest of the
standing of Urijah (cf. Isa. viii. 2) carried out unhesi-
tatingly his views with regard to the Temple usages.
Other adaptations to the customs of the ruling nation
were gradually introduced. While the possession of a
sundial (2 K. xx. 9 ff.) simply evidenced a disposition to
profit in practical matters from the scientific acquisitions
of the Babylonians, the fitting up of an astrological ob-
servatory, with accompanying sacrificial altars, testified to
the firm hold taken of Ahaz by the religious customs of
the conquerors of the world (2 K. xxiii. 12).

§ 641. With this relaxing of the national bond of
religious unity, effected by such a compromise and sur-
render of faith and worship, there came the inevitable
acceleration of moral decline and corruption. Here again
we have to take the Prophets of the period as our guides.
Isaiah has left us one of his most vivid and powerful
pictures of contemporary life and action in a prophecy
describing the condition of Judah and Jerusalem after
more than ten years' experience of the rule of Ahaz.
The text of this matchless Old Testament sermon (Isa.
xxviii.) was the impending fall of Samaria. Its bearing
upon that city and kingdom we have already considered
(§ 355). The discourse was wholly composed in the
interest of the Prophet's own country ; and so, after a
glance of mingled sternness and pity at the beautiful city
of the north, borne down to hopeless destruction in her
godless frivolity and debauchery, he turns to his compa-
triots and upbraids them, in a tone of equal severity, for
vices just such as those that brought ruin to Samaria. It
■was precisely this sin of uncontrolled self-indulgence,

i See Note 7 in Appendix.


especially in the form of inebriety (of. § 596), which was
now rampant in Jerusalem, and that to a degree incredible
to those who fancy that " the drinking-customs of the
present day " are a distinctive feature of modern life, and
of western civilization. To such lengths had the unbridled
license of the ruling classes been carried that the courts of
justice and the ordinances of religion were vitiated by the
habitual drunkenness of their ministers.

Online LibraryJames Frederick McCurdyHistory, prophecy and the monuments (Volume 2) → online text (page 23 of 39)