Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

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The time seemed ripe for Assyrian conquest. In 843 B.C. Shalmaneser III crossed the Euphrates into Syria for the sixteenth time. His first objective was Aleppo, where he was welcomed. He made offerings there to Hadad, the local Thor, and then suddenly marched southward. Hazael went out to oppose the advancing Assyrians, and came into conflict with them in the vicinity of Mount Hermon. "I fought with him", Shalmaneser recorded, "and accomplished his defeat; I slew with the sword 1600 of his warriors and captured 1121 chariots and 470 horses. He fled to save his life."

Hazael took refuge within the walls of Damascus, which the Assyrians besieged, but failed, however, to capture. Shalmaneser's soldiers meanwhile wasted and burned cities without number, and carried away great booty. "In those days", Shalmaneser recorded, "I received tribute from the Tyrians and Sidonians and from Yaua (Jehu) son (successor) of Khumri (Omri)." The following is a translation from a bas relief by Professor Pinches of a passage detailing Jehu's tribute:

The tribute of Yaua, son of Khumri: silver, gold, a golden cup, golden vases, golden vessels, golden buckets, lead, a staff for the hand of the king (and) sceptres, I received.[457]

The scholarly translator adds, "It is noteworthy that the Assyrian form of the name, Yaua, shows that the unpronounced aleph at the end was at that time sounded, so that the Hebrews must have called him Yahua (Jehua)".

Shalmaneser did not again attack Damascus. His sphere of influence was therefore confined to North Syria. He found it more profitable, indeed, to extend his territories into Asia Minor. For several years he engaged himself in securing control of the north-western caravan road, and did not rest until he had subdued Cilicia and overrun the Hittite kingdoms of Tabal and Malatia.

Hazael of Damascus avenged himself meanwhile on his unfaithful allies who had so readily acknowledged the shadowy suzerainty of Assyria. "In those days the Lord began to cut Israel short: and Hazael smote them in all the coasts of Israel; from Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the river Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan."[458] Israel thus came completely under the sway of Damascus.

Jehu appears to have cherished the ambition of uniting Israel and Judah under one crown. His revolt received the support of the orthodox Hebrews, and he began well by inaugurating reforms in the northern kingdom with purpose apparently to re-establish the worship of David's God. He persecuted the prophets of Baal, but soon became a backslider, for although he stamped out the Phoenician religion he began to worship "the golden calves that were in Bethel and that were in Dan.... He departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin."[459] Apparently he found it necessary to secure the support of the idolators of the ancient cult of the "Queen of Heaven".

The crown of Judah had been seized by the Israelitish Queen mother Athaliah after the death of her son Ahaziah at the hands of Jehu.[460] She endeavoured to destroy "all the seed royal of the house of Judah". But another woman thwarted the completion of her monstrous design. This was Jehoshabeath, sister of Ahaziah and wife of the priest Jehoiada, who concealed the young prince Joash "and put him and his nurse in a bedchamber", in "the house of God". There Joash was strictly guarded for six years.[461]