Between the ninth and seventh centuries B.C., the Assyrian Empire grew in size, conquering an empire that stretched from modern-day Iraq to the borders of Egypt. As the Assyrian Empire grew, it came into contact with both Israel and Judah. The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III claims that an Israeli king named Jehu was forced to pay tribute to Assyrian King Shalmaneser III (reign 859-824 B.C.), the obelisk is now in the British Museum.
The Hebrew Bible states that during the rule of Israel’s King Pekah (who reigned around 735 B.C.) the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 B.C.) launched a military campaign that led to the loss of several cities that Israel controlled. As Israel’s losses mounted, Pekah was assassinated and a new king named Hoshea took control of what was left of Israel.
Accounts recorded in the Hebrew Bible suggest that the Assyrian campaign against Israel was part of a larger war in which Israel and Judah fought against each other — the Assyrians siding with Judah and a kingdom named Aram siding with Israel.
Hoshea was forced to pay tribute to the Assyrians, the Hebrew Bible says. He rebelled but was crushed by Assyrian forces around 723 B.C. (the exact date is not clear). The kingdom of Israel then came to an end, and its remaining territory was incorporated into the Assyrian Empire. Many Israelites were deported to Assyria. The Hebrew Bible says that Judah was the last Jewish kingdom standing although it was forced to pay tribute to Assyria.
In 705 B.C., Sennacherib came to the throne of Assyria and, not long afterward, launched a military campaign against Judah that culminated in the siege of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. Both the Hebrew Bible and cuneiform texts tell of the siege. The Hebrew Bible says that Taharqa, a ruler who controlled both Nubia & Egypt, marched against Sennacherib, something that may have helped end the siege. The Hebrew Bible also says that at one point, “The angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning — there were all the dead bodies!” (2 Kings 19:35 and Isaiah 37:36)
The cuneiform texts the Assyrians wrote also say that Sennacherib failed to take Jerusalem. They don’t specify why, only saying that Sennacherib trapped Hezekiah, the king of Judah, in Jerusalem “like a caged bird” and that the Assyrian king captured other cities that Hezekiah had controlled. The Assyrian texts claim that Hezekiah paid an enormous amount of tribute to Sennacherib before the Assyrian king went home.
Ultimately, it wasn’t the Assyrian Empire that destroyed Judah. Nearly a century after Sennacherib’s unsuccessful siege of Jerusalem, a Babylonian king named Nebuchadnezzar II conquered much of Assyria’s former empire and laid siege to Jerusalem, taking the city in 587 B.C., destroying the First Temple (along with much of the rest of the Jerusalem) and deporting many of Judah’s inhabitants to Babylonia. Both the Hebrew Bible and cuneiform tablets written in Nebuchadnezzar II’s time tell of the events that took place.
The fate of the Ark of the Covenant, which contained tablets recording the 10 Commandments, is unknown. Some ancient writers say the ark was brought back to Babylon, while other suggest that it was hidden away. In the millennia after the destruction of the First Temple a number of stories were spun telling tales of the location of the lost Ark.
In recent years, a number of cuneiform tablets have emerged from Iraq revealing details of the lives of Jewish deportees who lived at a village called Āl-Yahūdu which means the “village of Judea.” Many of the tablets were purchased by private collectors on the antiquities market, raising concerns that some of the tablets may have been recently looted.
The tablets were “written by Babylonian scribes on behalf of the Judean families that lived in and around Āl-Yahūdu,” wrote Kathleen Abraham, a professor at the University of Leuven in Belgium, in a paper she wrote for an exhibition catalog, “Light and Shadows: The Story of Iran and the Jews” (Beit Hatfutsot, 2011).
The “tablets show that the exiles and their descendants had, at least to some extent, adopted the local language, script and legal traditions of Babylonia a relatively short time after their arrival there,” wrote Abraham.
The Babylonians were eventually conquered by the Persian Empire, and the Persian king Cyrus the Great (died ca. 530 B.C.) gave the Jews permission to return to Jerusalem.
From: Ancient Israel: A Brief History (excerpts) at livescience.com.
12A letter from Elijah the prophet came to him which read, “Thus says the Lord God of your father David: Since you have not followed the practices of your father Jehoshaphat and the practices of King Asa of Judah, 13but have followed the practices of the kings of Israel, leading astray Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem as the House of Ahab led them astray, and have also killed your brothers of your father’s house, who were better than you, 14therefore, the Lord will inflict a great blow upon your people, your sons, and your wives and all your possessions. 15As for you, you will be severely stricken with a disorder of the bowels year after year until your bowels drop out.”
16The Lord stirred up the spirit of the Philistines and the Arabs who were neighbors of the Cushites against Jehoram. 17They marched against Judah, breached its defenses, and carried off all the property that was found in the king’s palace, as well as his sons and his wives. The only son who remained was Jehoahaz, his youngest. 18After this, the Lord afflicted him with an incurable disease of the bowels. 19Some years later, when a period of two years had elapsed, his bowels dropped out because of his disease, and he died a gruesome death. His people did not make a fire for him like the fire for his fathers. 20He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He departed unpraised, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings. 2 Chronicles Chapter 21/12-20 Tanakh JPS 1985.
1 “Who can believe what we have heard? Upon whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? Isaiah 53/1 Tanakh JPS 1985.
10The watchmen are blind, all of them,
They perceive nothing.
They are all dumb dogs
That cannot bark;
They lie sprawling,
They love to drowse.
11Moreover, the dogs are greedy;
They never know satiety.
As for the shepherds, they know not
What it is to give heed.
Everyone has turned his own way,
Every last one seeks his own advantage.
12“Come, I’ll get some wine;
Let us swill liquor.
And tomorrow will be just the same,
Or even much grander!” Isaiah 56/10-12 Tanakh JPS 1985.
“The Lord stirred up the spirit of the Philistines and the Arabs”.
“In 705 B.C., Sennacherib came to the throne of Assyria and, not long afterward, launched a military campaign against Judah that culminated in the siege of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. Both the Hebrew Bible and cuneiform texts tell of the siege. The Hebrew Bible says that Taharqa, a ruler who controlled both Nubia & Egypt, marched against Sennacherib, something that may have helped end the siege. The Hebrew Bible also says that at one point, “The angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning — there were all the dead bodies!” (2 Kings 19:35 and Isaiah 37:36)”
“The cuneiform texts the Assyrians wrote also say that Sennacherib failed to take Jerusalem. They don’t specify why, only saying that Sennacherib trapped Hezekiah, the king of Judah, in Jerusalem “like a caged bird” and that the Assyrian king captured other cities that Hezekiah had controlled. The Assyrian texts claim that Hezekiah paid an enormous amount of tribute to Sennacherib before the Assyrian king went home.”
There was a time when believing G-d stirred up armies and nations against the Kingdoms of Samaria and Judah and took the sword, pestilence and famine against the Jewish people for not obeying Him fit with how people explained bad events. Whether it was the defeat by an enemy or loss of a Temple or exile G-d had something to do with it because He was angry. For the gentiles it was the Gods of legends and myths who were angry and caused their sufferings in life.
G-d had His stories written with this in mind and also used it as a teaching tool and many other purposes for the Jewish people and the world. As shown above there are two accounts of the siege of Jerusalem by Sennecharib. The Jewish bible says the angel of the Lord performed a miracle of G-d and killed 185,000 Assyrians overnight and the siege was over. The Assyrian account of the siege is that Sennecharib was paid tribute to leave.
Today we gather all the information we can and make an assessment of why a battle or war was lost and the source of a plague and how it is spread. Some people still believe G-d causes everything good or bad that happens but most people look to the facts in this age of information and knowledge.
G-d has descended from heaven and is dwelling upon the earth with man again but this time humanity has evolved with enlightenment of information, science and knowledge. G-d of course is still using His old and trusted method of communicating to the world by and through His prophet.
The truth is G-d does not alter or control anything in creation. For Him it is the unfolding of humanity and its history exactly as He thought it out that pleases Him. Using His power to change events to make it conform to how He imagined, visualized and knew it would be is not necessary.
His control of creation is His absolute knowledge of creation from beginning to end through the Tanakh. There is no need for Him to do anything other than work miracles here and there as it pleases Him.
He shows this in His prophecy. The Jewish people were dispersed throughout the world by Rome and they have returned to Israel and have made the land that became desolate bloom again. Just as He said they would.
He also said there would be another prophet like Moses, Elijah and a descendant of David in a time of His choosing and a time to come of sin forgiveness of the Jewish people. They are all one man and that man is described in the book of Isaiah chapters 11 and 53 and Malachi 3.
This man is part of G-d’s prophecy of redeeming the Jewish people as He promised and foretold by His prophets when they returned to Israel and made it bloom again. A time to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and forgive the people Israel of all their sins and remember those sins no more.
This time is the last time according to His prophecy. They will not be defeated or uprooted again. This repeating story of destruction and exile from the land of Abraham is stopped. And it is only stopped in a world that has hated the Jewish people so much because He returns to them and His prophet is recognized and heeded.
This is the purpose of G-d in Isaiah 53 that might prosper. It can only prosper if His prophet and servant who is Elijah is witnessed to by the Jewish people. Elijah cannot reconcile the families of the Jewish people to HaShem and Judaism if he is not recognized as a man upon whom the arm of the Lord has been revealed. That he is who he says he is. The religious leaders have to witness to him and assist him.
Isaiah 53 describing Elijah begins ““Who can believe what we have heard? Upon whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
G-d’s purpose that might prosper through His righteous servant of Isaiah 53 is the purpose of Elijah in Malachi where G-d says He will strike the land with utter destruction if Elijah’s purpose does not prosper.
If Elijah does not reconcile the Jewish people to HaShem and Judaism G-d’s purpose does not prosper. This is how you know G-d’s righteous servant is Elijah. G-d’s purpose might prosper and lest I strike the land with utter destruction if their is no reconciliation from Isaiah 53 and Malachi 3 go together.
G-d knew in modern times of secularism and reliance on science and technology that His prophet might not be recognized, believed or heeded. The utter destruction is simply on its way just like the Philistines and Arabs of another day long ago.
It is a story that keeps repeating. Not heeding His prophet is why it is not stopped not the cause of it or because G-d is angry. Elijah arrives as the herald of the time to come for sin forgiveness of the Jewish people. G-d is not angry when He arrives with His prophet.
But G-d knows His people:
In the writings of Isaiah after the description of Elijah in chapter 53 G-d says “The watchmen are blind, all of them, They perceive nothing. They are all dumb dogs That cannot bark; They lie sprawling, They love to drowse. Moreover, the dogs are greedy; They never know satiety. As for the shepherds, they know not What it is to give heed. Everyone has turned his own way, Every last one seeks his own advantage.“Come, I’ll get some wine; Let us swill liquor. And tomorrow will be just the same, Or even much grander!”
And that is why His purpose might not prosper. And I will enjoy the wine and G-d and I will do something different. Something more grand than swilling liquor I hope.