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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 212

In 854 B.C. Shalmaneser III of Assyria was engaged in military operations against the Aramaean Syrians. Two years previously he had broken the power of Akhuni, king of Bit-Adini in northern Mesopotamia, the leader of a strong confederacy of petty States. Thereafter the Assyrian monarch turned towards the south-west and attacked the Hittite State of Hamath and the Aramaean State of Damascus. The various rival kingdoms of Syria united against him, and an army of 70,000 allies attempted to thwart his progress at Qarqar on the Orontes. Although Shalmaneser claimed a victory on this occasion, it was of no great advantage to him, for he was unable to follow it up. Among the Syrian allies were Bir-idri (Ben-hadad II) of Damascus, and Ahab of Israel ("Akhabbu of the land of the Sir'ilites"). The latter had a force of 10,000 men under his command.

Four years after Ahab began to reign, Asa died at Jerusalem and his son Jehoshaphat was proclaimed king of Judah. "And he walked in all the ways of Asa his father; he turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of the Lord: nevertheless the high places were not taken away; for the people offered and burnt incense yet in the high places."[450]

There is no record of any wars between Israel and Judah during this period, but it is evident that the two kingdoms had been drawn together and that Israel was the predominating power. Jehoshaphat "joined affinity with Ahab", and some years afterwards visited Samaria, where he was hospitably entertained.[451] The two monarchs plotted together. Apparently Israel and Judah desired to throw off the yoke of Damascus, which was being kept constantly on the defence by Assyria. It is recorded in the Bible that they joined forces and set out on an expedition to attack Ramoth in Gilead, which Israel claimed, and take it "out of the hand of the king of Syria".[452] In the battle which ensued (in 853 B.C.) Ahab was mortally wounded, "and about the time of the sun going down he died". He was succeeded by his son Ahaziah, who acknowledged the suzerainty of Damascus. After a reign of two years Ahaziah was succeeded by Joram.

Jehoshaphat did not again come into conflict with Damascus. He devoted himself to the development of his kingdom, and attempted to revive the sea trade on the Persian gulf which had flourished under Solomon. "He made ships of Tharshish to go to Ophir for gold; but they went not; for the ships were broken (wrecked) at Ezion-geber." Ahaziah offered him sailors--probably Phoenicians--but they were refused.[453] Apparently Jehoshaphat had close trading relations with the Chaldaeans, who were encroaching on the territory of the king of Babylon, and menacing the power of that monarch. Jehoram succeeded Jehoshaphat and reigned eight years.

After repulsing the Syrian allies at Qarqar on the Orontes in 854 B.C., Shalmaneser III of Assyria found it necessary to invade Babylonia. Soon after he came to the throne he had formed an alliance with Nabu-aplu-iddin of that kingdom, and was thus able to operate in the north-west without fear of complications with the rival claimant of Mesopotamia. When Nabu-aplu-iddin died, his two sons


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