This video is part of a series of 12 animated maps.

View series: The Bible and History

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The kingdoms of Israel and Judah face to face with the Neo-Assyrian Empire

This map is part of a series of 12 animated maps showing the history of The Bible and History.

According to Biblical tradition, Solomon’s kingdom was divided in two [1 Kings 11.29-39 and chapter 12] after his death in the mid-10th century BCE.

In the North was the powerful kingdom of Israel with Shechem, and later Samaria, as its capital, while, to the South, was the Kingdom of Judah including the city of Jerusalem. The Bible describes the relations between the two kingdoms as conflictual, like those they maintained with neighbouring nations : the Arameans to the north, Ammonites Moabites and Edomites to the east and south, and Philistines in the South-West.

But from the 9th century BCE onwards, the greatest threat to Israel, Judah and their neighbours was the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

Under Ashurnasirpal II [883-859 BCE], Neo-Assyrian rule spread as far as Phoenicia; the cities of Tyr and Sidon paid him tribute.

The Assyrian threat became even more menacing during the reign of Tiglath-Pileser III [745-727 BCE], known in the Bible as Pul. According to the Bible [2 Kings (15.19)], the King of Israel managed to avert the danger, for a while, by offering one thousand silver talents to the Assyrian King. But Ahaz, King of Judah who felt threatened by an alliance between the Kingdoms of Israel and Damascus, asked Tiglath-Pileser for help and offered him presents in return. [2 Kings 16.7-8]. Following Tiglath-Pileser’s offensive, an Assyrian province was created in the northern part of the Kingdom of Israel.

In 722 [BCE], when Hosea was King of Israel, the Assyrians launched a new campaign. This led to the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel, the deportation of its population and the creation of the Assyrian province of Samaria.

The Kingdom of Judah succeeded in escaping this fate.

However, twenty years later, the Assyrian King Sennacherib, who had sought to put down a revolt in Phoenicia and Philistia, also suspected Hezekiah King of Judah of rebellion because he had wanted closer relations with the Egyptians [2 Kings 18.7, 18.20-21].

In the year 701 [BCE], Sennacherib attacked “all the fortified cities in Judah”, says the Bible [2 Kings 18.13]. The Assyrian annals speak of the capture of 46 cities but there is no list of their names. Archaeological research provides evidence that a number of sites in Judah were indeed destroyed at the end of the 8th century BCE. Literary sources, on the other hand, mention sieges of cities such as Lachish, Libnah and Jerusalem.

At Lachish, the access ramp built by the Assyrians can still be seen. Furthermore, archaeological evidence seems to confirm representations of the siege of the city on bas-reliefs in Sennacherib’s Palace at Nineveh. Lachish was taken and its population deported. Yet, the siege of Jerusalem, mentioned in both the Assyrian annals and the Bible, appears to have been a partial failure for the Assyrian army, since it left without capturing the city. Nevertheless, King Hezekiah was forced to pay a heavy ransom [2 Kings 18.14-16].