Tag Archives: Assyrian Empire

Aleppo National Museum – #2

See our previous post on Aleppo here. Our #1 on the Aleppo National Museum is here.

In the first post on Aleppo I posted a photo of the Hittite Storm god Teshub standing on the back of a bull. I should have mentioned at the time that a large temple of the storm god from the Late Bronze and Early Iron ages has been excavated underneath Islamic buildings at the Aleppo Citadel. A well illustrated article by Kay Kohlmeyer states,

The storm god, first venerated as Hadda, then as Addu, Teshub, Tarhunta, and Hadad, played a supra-regional role in the ancient Near East, which explains the enormous size of his temple at Aleppo and the brilliance of its relief decoration. (Near Eastern Archaeology 72;4 (2009).

A statue of Hadad of poor quality is also displayed in the museum.

Statue of Hadad displayed in the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of Hadad displayed in the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There are several other Neo-Hittite artifacts in the Aleppo National Museum. This first I am showing is a basalt lion with a slight wing relief. This is likely part of a pair that stood along an entrance to some building. Here you will notice that the lion is represented as having five legs. This allows the passerby to see at least four legs from almost any direction. We have become familiar with the huge winged bulls from Assyria that are made in the same fashion. I do not have the original source of the lion, but there are numerous Neo-Hittite sites  to the north of Aleppo in Syria and Turkey.

Lion from the Neo-Hittite Period in the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lion from the Neo-Hittite Period in the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next image is a fascinating one from the palace of Karara at Tell Halaf. It shows a composite creature of basalt consisting of the head of a man with the feet and wings of a bird, and the tail of a scorpion.

Composite creatures were common during the Hittite, Assyrian, and Babylonian periods of Old Testament history, and many of them have been found in the extended region. They provide us some insight into the background of apocalyptic literature. We find these creatures especially in the Old Testament books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah, and in the New Testament book of Revelation (the Apocalypse). See a previous post, “Apocalyptic imagery is not strange,” here.

The composite creature here brought to my mind the events of the sounding of the fifth trumpet in Revelation 9:1-11.

Composite creature showing the head of a man, body and feet of a bird, and the tail of a scorpion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Composite creature showing the head of a man, body and feet of a bird, and the tail of a scorpion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I am adding an additional image that I was able to enhance to show a little better sharpness.

aleppo-museum-composite-creature-fjenkins051302_09en

 1 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.
2 He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft.
3 Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth.
4 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
5 They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone.
6 And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.
7 In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces,
8 their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth;
9 they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle.
10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails.
11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon. (Revelation 9:1-11 ESV)

Knowing that such imagery was common in the ancient Near East should assist us in our understanding of the nature of apocalyptic literature of the Bible.

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Assyrian Nimrud (Calah) destroyed

The phrase “Assyrian Triangle” came to be used of three famous Assyrian cities of northern Mesopotamia: Nimrud, Khorsabad, and Nineveh. I think an understanding of this helps when we study Jonah 3:3.

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. (Jonah 3:1-3 ESV)

Parrot says that the word Nineveh might have been understood by those living far away from Assyria by what we now call “‘the Assyrian triangle’ which stretches from Khorsabad in the north to Nimrud in the south, and with an almost unbroken string of settlements, covers a distance of some twenty six miles” (Nineveh and the Old Testament, 85-86).

As Alexander explains, this is,

“the region between the rivers Tigris, Zabu and Ghazir, extending from Dur-Sharrukin (Khorsabad) in the north to Calah (Nimrud) in the south” (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Vol.26).

A few days back we learned of the wanton destruction of gates at Nineveh and various artifacts from the museum in Mosul. Friday we learned from various news outlets that Nimrud was bulldozed.

Nimrud is identified with the Calah of Genesis 10:11-12. When I made a short visit to the region in 1970, we stopped at Tell Nimrud for only a few photos. Here is one that has held up fairly well.

A Lamassu at one of the entries to Assyrian Nimrud. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1970.

A Lamassu at one of the entries to Assyrian Nimrud. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1970.

For examples of these winged bulls in better condition we must visit the British Museum or one of the other museums where a few good examples may be found.

The other photo I am sharing is of the ruins of the ancient ziggurat at Nimrud. Our guide, George, is seen talking with a man I recall as being a keeper at the site. Ziggurats are common in Iraq, but because many of them were were made of mud brick they often resemble a pile of dirt from a distance.

Ruins of the ziggurat at Nimrud. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1970.

Ruins of the ziggurat at Nimrud. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1970.

Christopher Jones continues his good updates on the Gates of Nineveh here. The Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) has a helpful report here.

If you like to follow this sort of thing, the National Geographic report is here. A friend on FB sent the TIME report here.

Eleanor Robson, Professor of Ancient Near Eastern History at the University College London, recommends Nimrud: Materialities of Assyrian Knowledge Production.

The Fall of Nineveh (again)

The ancient site of Nineveh is located about 300 miles north of Baghdad. The mound is one mile east of modern Mosul near the bank of the Tigris River.

Nineveh, the most renowned capital of the Assyrian Empire, is most prominent in the Bible during what we call the Neo-Assyrian Period (900-612 B.C.). Well known kings include Ashurnasirpal (885-860 B.C.), Shalmaneser III (859-824 B.C.), Tiglath-pileser (745-727 B.C.), Shalmaneser V (727-722 B.C.), and Sargon II (722-705 B.C.), Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.), Esarhaddon (681-669 B.C.), and Ashurbanipal (669-c. 627 B.C.). [List and dates from the revised ISBE article by Donald J. Wiseman.]

Nineveh fell in 612 B.C., and the Assyrian Empire came to an end at the battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C.

The LORD called it “that great city” (Jonah 1:2), but little remains of the grandeur and the beauty of ancient Nineveh. My only opportunity to visit Nineveh was on May 14, 1970. I would like to have better photos, but I wanted to share a few slides that I made of the gates.

The first photo shows some reconstruction around the Addad Gate. Ancient ruins can be seen at the entry. This is the gate we have seen continuously on various news programs since the first week we learned of the Islamic State (also ISIS and ISIL) in the area. (I have replaced the colorless sky with blue. Or, is it gold?)

Addad Gate of ancient Nineveh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1970.

Addad Gate of ancient Nineveh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1970.

The next gate is known as the Nergal Gate. In 1970 there was one complete winged bull and one partially destroyed bull within the reconstructed gate.

Reconstructed Nergal Gate at Nineveh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1970.

Reconstructed Nergal Gate at Nineveh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1970.

The only other gate I was able to photograph is the Shamash Gate.

Reconstructed Shamash Gate at Nineveh in 1970. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Reconstructed Shamash Gate at Nineveh in 1970. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The traditional tomb of Jonah is at Nebi Yunus.

Ancient Nineveh. Map by Fredarch, Wikimedia Commons.

Ancient Nineveh. Map by Fredarch, Wikimedia Commons.

Jonah the prophet was sent to preach in Nineveh. See the book of Jonah and the comment Jesus made on this in Matthew 12:38-41. You will notice Nebi Yunus on the sketch map. This designated the tomb of the Prophet Jonah according to Islamic tradition. Incidentally, Jonah is popular in the Muslim religion and there are several monuments to him. He is said to be buried at Nebi Yunus and at Mashad (Gath-hepher) in Israel. Some reports indicate that this tomb has been destroyed by IS.

At another time we may discuss some of the significant biblical events associated with Nineveh.

Yesterday I watched the 5+ minute video of the destruction of artifacts in the Mosul Museum. Later last evening I thought I would watch it again, but discovered that it had been taken down by YouTube. Excerpts are currently available at the BBC, the Daily Mail, and likely other news outlets.

We can be thankful that great collections from the ancient Assyrian Empire can be seen at the British Museum and the Louvre, with smaller collections scattered in other museums. To this thought Todd Bolen added, “where they are safe, for now.” Another friend wrote by Email, “If they [ISIS thugs] are not stopped, this could be coming to a museum or library near you!!”

I just came across a blog called Gates of Nineveh written by Christopher Jones, a Ph.D student in ancient Near Eastern history at Columbia University. Some of our readers might find this site helpful.

Update. Christopher Jones assesses the damage at the Mosul Museum. He identifies many of the pieces recently destroyed in a current post here. I have added this blog to my list of blogs I follow on the Scholarly Page of the Biblical Studies Info Page.

Visualizing Isaiah 37: Sennacherib’s assassins escape to the land of Ararat

After the LORD struck down 185,000 of the Assyrians who were camped outside Jerusalem, Sennacherib returned home and lived at Nineveh. In the final verse of this chapter we are told that his sons killed him and fled to the land of Ararat.

Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home and lived at Nineveh. And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword. And after they escaped into the land of Ararat, Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place. (Isaiah 37:37-38 ESV; see also 2 Kings 19:37)

The Biblical land of Ararat (Urartu) is located in modern eastern Turkey. We might think of the land of Urartu being centered in Lake Van. From Nineveh to Van is an air distance of about 150 miles. The map below is from the Wikipedia entry on the Urartu-Assyria War. Click the map to enlarge. Lake Van is 5737 feet above sea level.

Wikimedia Commons.

Map of the Urartu-Assyrian war in 743 B.C. Wikimedia Commons.

The entirety of the land of Urartu is mountainous. Our photo below shows the region between Van and Batman in Turkey. Note the snow-covered slopes in the distance.

A house in Turkey between Van and Batman. In ancient times the area was known as Urartu (Biblical Ararat). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A house in Turkey between Van and Batman. In ancient times the area was known as Urartu (Biblical Ararat). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Use our search box to look for more entries dealing with Urartu. Remember that the ark built by Noah came to rest on the “mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8:4).

The photo below was taken in the Anatolian Civilizations Museum in Ankara, Turkey. It shows (the metal legs of) some Urartian furniture. In the left bottom corner you should see some of the ivory pieces that decorated walls and furniture.

Urartian furniture displayed in the Anatolian Civilization Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Urartian furniture displayed in the Anatolian Civilization Museum. Photo: F. Jenkins.

 

 

Viewing Jerusalem from Paul Emile Botta Street

The photo below shows a portion of the western wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. There are ruins here belonging to the time of John Hyrcanus (2nd century B.C.), but most of what we see belongs to the Turkish construction from the 16th century A.D. The large structure is known as the Citadel. Jaffa Gate is out of sight on the left side of the photo.

View of the Citadel and the Tower of David. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of the Citadel and the Tower of David. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Our photo was made from Paul Emile Botta Street near the King David Hotel. The French excavator Botta is known for his discovery of the palace of Sargon at Khorsabad in northern Iraq.

Visualizing Isaiah 20: Sargon the king of Assyria

For many years there was no reference to Sargon II (722-705 B.C.) in the available Assyrian records. Yet, the prophet Isaiah, writing at the time of the Assyrian captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel, mentions Sargon’s campaign against Ashdod.

In the year that the commander in chief, who was sent by Sargon the king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and fought against it and captured it– (Isaiah 20:1 ESV)

The palace of Sargon was discovered by Emile Botta at Khorsabad in 1843. This was the period of “monumental” discoveries in archaeology. Both the British Museum and the Louvre have impressive artifacts from the palace of Sargon. The photo below shows Sargon (on the left) receiving one of  his ministers.

Sargon II received a minister. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sargon II receives a minister. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

D. J. Wiseman explains the historical context of what happened at Ashdod.

In 716 bc Sargon sent his army commander (turtan; the *‘tartan’) to war against the Arabs in Sinai. This led to the reception of tribute from the pharaoh Shilkanni (Osorkon IV) of Egypt and from Samsi, queen of the Arabs. Despite these Assyrian successes, the people of Ashdod displaced their Assyrian-nominated ruler, Ahimetu, by a usurper Iadna (or Iamani) who initiated yet another Syro-Palestinian league against Assyria, doubtless relying on Egyptian help. In 712 bc the same turtan was sent to conquer Ashdod (Is. 20:1), which was reduced to the status of an Assyrian province. Since Azaqa (’Azeqah or Tell es-Zakariye) on the Judaean border near Lachish surrendered in this campaign, it will be seen how narrowly independent Judah escaped a further invasion. Iamani fled to Nubia for refuge, only to be extradited to Nineveh by the ruler Shabaka. (The New Bible Dictionary, 3rd edition)

One hundred twenty years after the discovery of Sargon’s palace, archaeologists working at Ashdod discovered fragments of a cuneiform stele of Sargon II at Ashdod. For more information about the discovery and a photograph of it see “Sargon II, Ashdod, and Isaiah 20:1” here.

This inscription tells of the building of Sargon's palace. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This inscription tells of the building of Sargon’s palace. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Visualizing Isaiah 14: cedars of Lebanon rejoice over the fall of Babylon

Isaiah 14 continues to deal with the downfall of Babylon. In great poetic language we learn that the cedars of Lebanon will rejoice that there is no longer a woodcutter to come up against them.

The whole earth is at rest and quiet; they break forth into singing. The cypresses rejoice at you, the cedars of Lebanon, saying, ‘Since you were laid low, no woodcutter comes up against us.’ (Isaiah 14:7-8 ESV)

The Assyrians came before the Babylonians to take advantage of the wonderful cedars of Lebanon. Sargon II left a frieze on the wall of his palace at Khorsabad showing timber being transported for use in the construction of Assyrian palaces.

Assyrians transporting Cedars from Lebanon. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Assyrians transporting Cedars from Lebanon. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The above frieze was produced at Khorsabad during the Neo-Assyrian period, about 713-706 B.C. The Louvre website has this explanation about procuring timber.

Timber was needed to build monumental palaces, but Assyria lacked quality building timber. Lebanon was famous for its cedar forests and from the end of the 2nd millennium, the Assyrian kings imported wood
from this region as the cuneiform inscriptions explain. The trees felled in the Lebanese mountains were carted from Sidon to a port south of  Tyre. The timber was loaded on ships that sailed north along the Phoenician coast, skirting Tyre then Ruad; it was no doubt unloaded at the mouth of the Orontes River. From there the timber could be transported to Assyria by river or road.

More information about the frieze is available at the Louvre website here.

Esarhaddon, the king of Assyria and Babylon between 681-669 B.C., says he made numerous kings,

transport under terrible difficulties, to Nineveh, the town (where I exercise) my rulership, as building material for my palace: big logs, long beams (and) thin boards from cedar and pine trees, products of the Sirara and Lebanon (Lab-na-na) mountains, which had grown for a long time into tall and strong timber… (ANET)

The Cedars of Lebanon grow at an altitude of more than 5000 feet above sea level in the northern Lebanon mountains. Only about 300 of the great trees remain near Besharre. In the photo below I show a cedar that has fallen during a storm and is now being cut for use in souvenirs. The trees are protected against indiscriminate cutting.

Cedars of Lebanon are now protected from cutting. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cedars of Lebanon are now protected from cutting. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The little village at the Cedars is built around one of the larger remaining trees. You can see the cedar wood plaques displayed at the shops along the main road.

Cedar of Lebanon in a little village at the location of the largest remaining grove. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A large Cedar of Lebanon in a little village at the location of the largest remaining grove of trees. Only small bands of snow could still be seen on the mountains in early May. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.