Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

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Tiglath-pileser was operating successfully in middle Syria when he had dealings with, among others, "Menihimme (Menahem) of the city of the Samarians", who paid tribute. No resistance was possible on the part of Menahem, the usurper, who was probably ready to welcome the Assyrian conqueror, so that, by arranging an alliance, he might secure his own position. The Biblical reference is as follows: "And Pul the king of Assyria came against the land: and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand. And Menahem exacted the money of Israel, even of all the mighty men of wealth, of each man fifty shekels of silver, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back, and stayed not there in the land."[507] Rezin of Damascus, Hiram of Tyre, and Zabibi, queen of the Arabians, also sent gifts to Tiglath-pileser at this time (738 B.C.). Aramaean revolts on the borders of Elam were suppressed by Assyrian governors, and large numbers of the inhabitants were transported to various places in Syria.

Tiglath-pileser next operated against the Median and other hill tribes in the north-east. In 735 B.C. he invaded Urartu, the great Armenian state which had threatened the supremacy of Assyria in north Syria and Cappadocia. King Sharduris was unable to protect his frontier or hamper the progress of the advancing army, which penetrated to his capital. Dhuspas was soon captured, but Sharduris took refuge in his rocky citadel which he and his predecessors had laboured to render impregnable. There he was able to defy the might of Assyria, for the fortress could be approached on the western side alone by a narrow path between high walls and towers, so that only a small force could find room to operate against the numerous garrison.

Tiglath-pileser had to content himself by devastating the city on the plain and the neighbouring villages. He overthrew buildings, destroyed orchards, and transported to Nineveh those of the inhabitants he had not put to the sword, with all the live stock he could lay hands on. Thus was Urartu crippled and humiliated: it never regained its former prestige among the northern states.

In the following year Tiglath-pileser returned to Syria. The circumstances which made this expedition necessary are of special interest on account of its Biblical associations. Menahem, king of Israel, had died, and was succeeded by his son Pekahiah. "But Pekah the son of Remaliah, a captain of his, conspired against him and smote him in Samaria, in the palace of the king's house, ... and he killed him, and reigned in his room."[508] When Pekah was on the throne, Ahaz began to reign over Judah.

Judah had taken advantage of the disturbed conditions in Israel to assert its independence. The walls of Jerusalem were repaired by Jotham, father of Ahaz, and a tunnel constructed to supply it with water. Isaiah refers to this tunnel: "Go forth and meet Ahaz ... at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field" (Isaiah, vii, 3).

Pekah had to deal with a powerful party in Israel which favoured the re-establishment of David's kingdom in Palestine. Their most prominent leader was the prophet Amos, whose eloquent exhortations were couched in no uncertain terms. He condemned Israel for its idolatries, and cried:

For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me and ye shall live.... Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves.[509]

Pekah sought to extinguish the orthodox party's movement by subduing Judah. So he plotted with Rezin, king of Damascus. Amos prophesied,

Thus saith the Lord.... I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, which will devour the palaces of Ben-hadad. I will break also the bar of Damascus ... and the people of Syria shall go into captivity unto Kir.... The remnant of the Philistines shall perish.