Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

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Marduk-zakir-shum and Marduk-bel-usate were rivals for the throne. The former, the rightful heir, appealed for help to Shalmaneser, and that monarch at once hastened to assert his authority in the southern kingdom. In 851 B.C. Marduk-bel-usate, who was supported by an Aramæan army, was defeated and put to death.

Marduk-zakir-shum afterwards reigned over Babylonia as the vassal of Assyria, and Shalmaneser, his overlord, made offerings to the gods at Babylon, Borsippa, and Cuthah. The Chaldæans were afterwards subdued, and compelled to pay annual tribute.

In the following year Shalmaneser had to lead an expedition into northern Mesopotamia and suppress a fresh revolt in that troubled region. But the western allies soon gathered strength again, and in 846 B.C. he found it necessary to return with a great army, but was not successful in achieving any permanent success, although he put his enemies to flight. The various western kingdoms, including Damascus, Israel, and Tyre and Sidon, remained unconquered, and continued to conspire against him.

The resisting power of the Syrian allies, however, was being greatly weakened by internal revolts, which may have been stirred up by Assyrian emissaries. Edom threw off the yoke of Judah and became independent. Jehoram, who had married Athaliah, a royal princess of Israel, was dead. His son Ahaziah, who succeeded him, joined forces with his cousin and overlord, King Joram of Israel, to assist him in capturing Ramoth-gilead from the king of Damascus. Joram took possession of the city, but was wounded, and returned to Jezreel to be healed.[454] He was the last king of the Omri Dynasty of Israel. The prophet Elisha sent a messenger to Jehu, a military leader, who was at Ramoth-gilead, with a box of oil and the ominous message, "Thus saith the Lord, I have anointed thee king over Israel. And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master, that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord, at the hand of Jezebel.... And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury her."

Jehu "conspired against Joram", and then, accompanied by an escort, "rode in a chariot and went to Jezreel", so that he might be the first to announce the revolt to the king whom he was to depose.

The watchman on the tower of Jezreel saw Jehu and his company approaching and informed Joram, who twice sent out a messenger to enquire, "Is it peace?" Neither messenger returned, and the watchman informed the wounded monarch of Israel, "He came even unto them, and cometh not again; and the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously".

King Joram went out himself to meet the famous charioteer, but turned to flee when he discovered that he came as an enemy. Then Jehu drew his bow and shot Joram through the heart. Ahaziah endeavoured to conceal himself in Samaria, but was slain also. Jezebel was thrown down from a window of the royal harem and trodden under foot by the horsemen of Jehu; her body was devoured by dogs.[455]

The Syrian king against whom Joram fought at Ramoth-gilead was Hazael. He had murdered Ben-hadad II as he lay on a bed of sickness by smothering him with a thick cloth soaked in water. Then he had himself proclaimed the ruler of the Aramaean State of Damascus. The prophet Elisha had previously wept before him, saying, "I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel; their strongholds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children and rip up their women with child".[456]