ASSYRIA was an empire whose record was dominated by military conquest, frequently coupled with sadistic treatment of captives. One of the foremost influences in Assyrian life was religious, and war was viewed as a true expression of their religion. Historian W. B. Wright reports: “Fighting was the business of the nation, and the priests were incessant fomenters of war. They were supported largely from the spoils of conquest, of which a fixed percentage was invariably assigned them before others shared, for this race of plunderers was excessively religious.”—Ancient Cities, 1886, p. 25.
Both the Bible and secular history report repeated contacts between Israel and Assyria. In time Israel was forced to pay tribute to the king of Assyria. Then in 740 B.C.E., Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom, was conquered, and thereafter thousands were sent into exile. The fact that Jehovah allowed this to occur reflects the low level to which apostate Israel had sunk. But when Sennacherib attempted to add Jerusalem to his list of conquests, an angel of Jehovah annihilated 185,000 of Assyria’s troops in one night. (Isa 36:1–37:38) As Jehovah’s prophets foretold, Assyria in time became a desolate ruin, and Babylon succeeded it on the world scene.—Isa 23:13; Zep 2:13.