(Eʹsar-hadʹdon) [Asshur has given brother(s)].
A younger son and successor of Sennacherib, king of Assyria. In one of his inscriptions Esar-haddon confirms the Scriptural account of his father’s death (Isa. 37:37, 38), saying: “A firm determination fell upon my brothers. They forsook the gods and turned to their deeds of violence, plotting evil. . . . To gain the kingship they slew Sennacherib their father.”
Esar-haddon states that, prior to his father’s death, he had already been selected as heir apparent (after due consultation of the gods and liver-divination), and he seems to have served as viceroy at Babylon before becoming king of Assyria. Following his father’s assassination, Esar-haddon tells of pursuing the murderers to Armenia (the “land of Ararat,” 2 Ki. 19:37), where he defeated them. His official reign is considered to have lasted twelve years.
Early in his reign Esar-haddon began the restoration of Babylon, which Sennacherib had destroyed. The temple of Esagila was restored and, of the city itself, Esar-haddon says: “Babylon I built anew, I enlarged, I raised aloft, I made magnificent.”
His records recount military operations against the Gimirrai or Cimmerians, believed to be the descendants of Gomer. (Compare Genesis 10:2; Ezekiel 38:6.) He also sacked the city of Sidon, setting up a new city on a nearby site, which he named Kar—Esar-haddon. In one of his inscriptions he lists some twenty vassal kings, including Manasseh of Judah (Menasi king of Yaudi).
The record at 2 Chronicles 33:10-13 shows that Manasseh was captured by “the chiefs of the army that belonged to the king of Assyria” and taken to Babylon. In the past some have thought this reference to Babylon to be in error, considering Nineveh to be the place to which Manasseh would be taken. However, as has been seen, Esar-haddon, whose inscriptions show him to have been contemporaneous with Manasseh, had rebuilt Babylon and is said to have been “much less interested than any other Assyrian king in the embellishment of his capital, Nineveh.” (The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 2, page 125) If it was during Esar-haddon’s reign that Manasseh was captured, there would be nothing incongruous about his being taken to Babylon, about whose restoration Esar-haddon so proudly boasted. It may be noted, however, that Esar-haddon’s son Ashurbanipal also makes reference to Manasseh as tributary during his reign.
THE “SIXTY-FIVE YEARS”
At the time of the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem some of the non-Israelite inhabitants of the land referred to their having been brought to Palestine by “Esar-haddon the king of Assyria.” (Ezra 4:2) That the Assyrian transplantation of people to and from Palestine continued till his reign is viewed by some as a clue to the understanding of the period of “sixty-five years” stated at Isaiah 7:8 with regard to the desolation of Ephraim (with its capital at Samaria). The interval extending from the reign of Tiglath-pileser III (who initiated the deportation of people from the northern kingdom of Israel shortly after Isaiah’s prophecy) to that of Esar-haddon would allow for such a sixty-five-year period until the complete ‘shattering to pieces’ of Ephraim “so as not to be a people.”
CONQUEST OF EGYPT, AND ESAR-HADDON’S DEATH
Esar-haddon’s outstanding military accomplishment was the conquest of Egypt, overcoming the Egyptian army under Ethiopian ruler Tirhakah (mentioned as the “king of Ethiopia” at 2 Kings 19:9) and taking the city of Memphis. Esar-haddon thus added to his many titles that of “King of the kings of Egypt.”
Although Esar-haddon organized Egypt into districts and placed Assyrian governors over the princes of these districts, within a couple of years revolt developed. The Assyrian king set out on a second campaign to crush the rebellion, but died at Haran while on the way. In his inscriptions Esar-haddon had said: “I am powerful, I am all powerful. I am a hero, I am gigantic, I am colossal.” Yet, like all other imperfect humans, he was shown to be but an enslaved subject of the rule of Kings Sin and Death, who now claimed him.—Compare Psalm 146:3, 4; Ecclesiastes 9:4; Romans 5:21.
Before his death Esar-haddon had made arrangements to ensure a smooth succession to the throne by proclaiming his son Ashurbanipal as crown prince, while assigning another son, Shamash-shum-ukin, as king of Babylon. Thus, upon Esar-haddon’s death, Ashurbanipal became Assyria’s next monarch.