Empires Attack the Promised Land
SAMARIA, capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, was taken by the Assyrians in 740 B.C.E. The Israelites thus fell into the hands of a cruel empire. Assyria was located at the northern end of the Mesopotamian plains, near the Tigris, one of the mighty rivers of the Fertile Crescent. Nimrod had founded Assyria’s main cities, Nineveh and Calah. (Ge 10:8-12) In the days of Shalmaneser III, Assyria expanded westward, into the well-watered and productive regions of Syria and northern Israel.
Under the King Tiglath-pileser III (Pul), named in the Bible, Assyria began to oppress Israel. His military campaign also affected Judah to the south. (2Ki 15:19; 16:5-18) In time, the flooding “waters” of Assyria spread into Judah, eventually reaching its capital, Jerusalem.—Isa 8:5-8.
Assyrian King Sennacherib invaded Judah in 732 B.C.E. (2Ki 18:13, 14) He sacked 46 Judean cities, including Lachish, strategically situated in the Shephelah. As the map shows, this put his armies behind Jerusalem, thus encircling Judah’s capital. In his annals, Sennacherib boasted that he kept Hezekiah “like a bird in a cage,” but Assyrian records avoid mentioning the destruction of Sennacherib’s soldiers by God’s angel.—2Ki 18:17-36; 19:35-37.
The days of the Assyrian Empire were numbered. The Medes, centered on the rugged plateau of what is now Iran, began troubling what was left of the Assyrian army. This diverted Assyria’s attention from her western provinces, which also began to rebel. Meanwhile, the Babylonians were growing stronger, even capturing the city of Asshur. In 632 B.C.E., Nineveh—a “city of bloodshed”—fell to an alliance of Babylonians, Medes, and Scythians, a warlike people from north of the Black Sea. This fulfilled the prophecies of Nahum and Zephaniah.—Na 3:1; Zep 2:13.
Assyria’s last gasp came at Haran. Attacked by a determined force of Babylonians, the Assyrians tried to hold out until help from Egypt could arrive. But on his way north, Pharaoh Necho was blocked at Megiddo by the resistance of Judean King Josiah. (2Ki 23:29) When Necho finally reached Haran, it was too late—the Assyrian Empire had fallen.
What city is brought to mind by the term “hanging gardens”? Babylon, the capital of the world power of that name and prophetically depicted as a winged lion. (Da 7:4) The city was well-known for its wealth, trade, and development of religion and astrology. The empire was centered in the marshy plains of southern Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The city straddled the Euphrates, and its walls made it seem impregnable.
The Babylonians developed trade routes across the rocky desert of northern Arabia. At one point, King Nabonidus resided at Tema, leaving Belshazzar to rule in Babylon.
Babylon invaded Canaan three times. After Nebuchadnezzar routed the Egyptians at Carchemish in 625 B.C.E., the Babylonians pushed south to Hamath, where they again defeated the retreating Egyptians. The Babylonians then swept down the coast to the torrent valley of Egypt, destroying Ashkelon on the way. (2Ki 24:7; Jer 47:5-7) During this campaign, Judah became a vassal of Babylon.—2Ki 24:1.
King Jehoiakim of Judah rebelled in 618 B.C.E. Babylon then sent the armies of nearby nations against Judah, and Babylon’s own troops besieged and subjugated Jerusalem. Before long, by allying his kingdom with Egypt, King Zedekiah aroused the Babylonians to climactic fury against Judah. They invaded again and began to destroy the cities of Judah. (Jer 34:7) Finally, Nebuchadnezzar turned his army’s attention to Jerusalem, conquering it in 607 B.C.E.—2Ch 36:17-21; Jer 39:10.
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BIBLE BOOKS FROM THIS PERIOD:
1 and 2 Kings
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(For fully formatted text, see publication)
B4 Memphis (Noph)
C2 CYPRUS (KITTIM)
Main Roads (See publication)
[Bodies of water]
B3 Mediterranean Sea (Great Sea)
C5 Red Sea
H1 Caspian Sea
H5 Persian Gulf
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Model of ancient Megiddo
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Concept of Babylon’s hanging gardens