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Asshur (Hebrew: אשור, ʼAshshūr; "a step") was the second son of Shem, the son of Noah, and progenitor of the Assyrian people and nation-state of Assyria (Genesis 10:22 ). The Assyrians worshiped Asshur, as a god. His brothers were Aram, Arpachshad, Elam, and Lud. He is not to be confused with Abraham's descendant through his son Jokshan, and grandson Dedan, Asshur. He has been identified by some with Meskiagkasher of the Uruk dynasty of Sumeria.
According to the Table of Nations, Asshur was the progenitor of the Assyrians and nation-state of Assyria (Genesis 10:22 ) which was centered on the Upper Tigris River, in northern Mesopotamia (present day northern Iraq). For that reason, Assyria can be no older than 2348 BC, or most likely 2503 BC, which corrects James Ussher's date for the Global Flood for an early birth of Abraham and a "long sojourn" of the Israelites in Egypt. (For details, see here.)
The earliest powers in the region were Sumer, Akkad, and Babylonia. The secular chronology is unsettled, and the Bible is silent on the development of the Assyrian nation or its history sooner than the visit of Jonah to Nineveh, capital of the Assyrian Empire during the final years of the Northern Kingdom (Jonah 3 ). No authority seems to claim any definite Assyrian records or artifacts any earlier than 2400 BC. The 1st century historian Flavius Josephus further gives the following statement:
|“||Ashur lived at the city of Nineve; and named his subjects Assyrians, who became the most fortunate nation, beyond others.||”|
In other words, they were a greatly blessed people, second only to the descendants of Arpachshad. God, by covenanting with Arpachsahd and electing his line to do His work of servant leadership, seemingly lead to Asshur's jealousy of and antagonism towards Arpachshad. Elam was clearly the firstborn of Shem but, for some reason was not granted the birthright—an example of a birthright shift or displacement. Regardless, a birthright shift occured and antagonism seems to have resulted between Asshur and Arpachshad due to the latter inheriting the birthright and blessings, not Asshur.The first capital of what became the Assyrian Empire was the city of Asshur—the same name as the son of Shem. Assyrian lore reveals that the Assyrians deifed Asshur, worshipping him as a god. Easton's Bible Dictionary (1897) says that Asshur was founded in 1700 BC, which would have been during the Sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt. The Catholic Encyclopedia (1917), however, says that Asshur was founded far earlier. These two sources also argue that Asshur was originally a Babylonian colony. The relevant Scriptural authority reads as follows:
"And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, And Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same is a great city." — Genesis 10:8-12"Out of that land went forth Asshur" could suggest that the city of Asshur was a Babylonian colony. But one must bear in mind that all of humanity was settled in the land of Shinar, and under King Nimrod they began building the Tower of Babel, until God scattered the nations:
"And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth." — Genesis 11:1-9
Of the early history of the kingdom of Assyria little is positively known. In 1120 BC, Tiglath-Pileser I, the greatest of the Assyrian kings, "crossed the Euphrates, defeated the kings of the Hittites, captured the city of Carchemish, and advanced as far as the shores of the Mediterranean." He is regarded as the founder of the first Assyrian empire. After this the Assyrians gradually extended their power, subjugating the states of northern Syria. In the reign of Ahab, king of Israel, Shalmaneser III marched an army against the Syrian states, whose allied army he encountered and vanquished at Karkar. This led to Ahab's casting off the yoke of Damascus and allying himself with Judah. Some years after this the Assyrian king marched an army against Hazael, king of Damascus. He besieged and took that city. He also brought under tribute Jehu, and the cities of Tyre and Sidon.
About a hundred years after this (745 BC), the crown was seized by a military adventurer called Pul, who assumed the name of Tiglath-Pileser III. He directed his armies into Syria, which had by this time regained its independence, and took (740 BC) Arpad, near Aleppo, after a siege of three years, and reduced Hamath. Azariah (Uzziah) was an ally of the king of Hamath, and thus was compelled by Tiglath-Pileser to do him homage and pay a yearly tribute.
In 738 BC, in the reign of Menahem, king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser invaded Israel, and imposed on it a heavy tribute (2_Kings 15:19 ). Ahaz, the king of Judah, when engaged in a war against Israel and Syria, appealed for help to this Assyrian king by means of a present of gold and silver (2_Kings 16:8 ); who accordingly "marched against Damascus, defeated and put Rezin to death, and besieged the city itself." Leaving a portion of his army to continue the siege, "he advanced through the province east of Jordan, spreading fire and sword," and became master of Philistia, and took Samaria and Damascus. He died 727 BC, and was succeeded by Shalmaneser IV, who ruled till 722 BC. He also invaded Syria (2_Kings 17:5 ), but was deposed in favour of Sargon the Tartan, or commander-in-chief of the army, who took Samaria after a siege of three years, and so put an end to the Kingdom of Israel, carrying the people away into captivity, c. 722 BC (2_Kings 17:1-24 ; 2_Kings 18:7-9 ). He also overran the land of Judah, and took the city of Jerusalem (Isaiah 10:6 , Isaiah 12 , Isaiah 22 , Isaiah 24 , Isaiah 34 ). Mention is next made of Sennacherib (705 BC), the son and successor of Sargon (2_Kings 18:13 ; 2_Kings 19:37 ; Isaiah 7:17-18 ); and then of Esarhaddon, his son and successor, who took Manasseh, king of Judah, captive, and kept him for some time a prisoner at Babylon, which he alone of all the Assyrian kings made the seat of his government (2_Kings 19:37 ; Isaiah 37:38 ).
Ashurbanipal, the son of Esarhaddon, became king, and in Ezra 4:10 is referred to as Asnapper or Osnappar. From an early period Assyria had entered on a conquering career, and having absorbed Babylon, the kingdoms of Hamath, Damascus, and Samaria, it conquered Phoenicia, and made Judah feudatory, and subjected Philistia and Idumaea. At length, however, its power declined. In 727 BC, the Babylonians threw off the rule of the Assyrians, under the leadership of the powerful Chaldean prince Merodach-baladan |(2_Kings 20:12 ), who, after twelve years, was subdued by Sargon, who now reunited the kingdom, and ruled over a vast empire. But on his death the smouldering flames of rebellion again burst forth, and the Babylonians and Medes successfully asserted their independence (625 BC), and Assyria fell according to the prophecies of Isaiah (Isaiah 10:5-19 ), Nahum (Nahum 3:19 ), and Zephaniah (Zephaniah 3:13 ), and the many separate kingdoms of which it was composed ceased to recognize the "great king" (2_Kings 18:19 ; Isaiah 36:4 ). Ezekiel (Ezekiel 31 ) attests (about 586 BC) how completely Assyria was overthrown. It ceased to be a nation.
Today, the Assyrian people (Neo-Aramaic: ܣܘܪܝܐ, Sūrāyē; ܣܘܪܝܝܐ, Sūryāyē; ܐܬܘܪܝܐ, Āthūrāyē; ܐܪܡܝܐ, Ārāmayē) still live in their ancestral homeland, which is currently divided between Northern Iraq, Syria, Western Iran, and Turkey's Southeastern Anatolia Region but, many have migrated to the Caucasus, North America and Europe during the past century. Assyrians traditionally belong to either the East Syrian Rite Assyrian Church of the East, the Ancient Church of the East (both of which are Nestorian), and the Chaldean Catholic Church (whose members are often referred to as Chaldeans or Chaldo-Assyrians) or the West Syrian Rite Syrian Orthodox Church and the Syriac Catholic Church (also known as Syriacs or Jacobites). They speak various Neo-Aramaic dialects (such as Western Neo-Aramaic, Turoyo, Assyrian, and Chaldean) which are written using Syriac script, a derivative of the ancient Aramaic script. Assyrians also may speak one or more languages of their country of residence, usually Arabic, Armenian, Persian or Turkish.
- ↑ Antiquities 1:7:4
- Catholic Encyclopedia - Assur
- Ashur - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Asshur (WebBible™ Encyclopedia) - ChristianAnswers.Net
- JewishEncyclopedia.com - Asshur