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Some notes on Shalmaneser III
From "The Ancient World From c. 1400 to 586 B.C." in Vol. 2 of: Nichol, Francis D., The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1978.

Shalmaneser III, who came to the throne at an advanced age in 859 BC, not only knew how to keep his father's empire intact but was successful in extending it into new areas. He was the first Assyrian king to have contact with the little kingdom of Israel. Israel had developed into a respectably large kingdom during the reign of David and Solomon, when Assyria and Egypt were too weak to interfere. However, the breakup of the Hebrew kingdom into two states after Solomon's death (931/30 BC) coincided with the resurrection of Assyrian power when Ashur-dan II came to the throne in 933 BC, and Assyrian eyes again turned greedily toward the west. Yet, as long as the battle was waged only against the states in northern Mesopotamia, Israel had not much to fear from the powerful state on the Tigris; but when the danger of being overrun came nearer and nearer with every new king and each new expansion of the Assyrian Empire, the kings of Israel must have felt increasing alarm. Finally they were drawn into this conflict, as Judah was also eventually.

Whether Ahab, who is mentioned as one of the allies fighting against Shalmaneser III at Qarqar in 853 BC, took part in the anti-Assyrian alliance of his own volition or whether he was forced to do so by Damascus (Syria) is uncertain. This will be discussed in the section on the history of the divided kingdom of Israel and Judah. From now on, royal Assyrian inscriptions mention Israelite kings rather frequently. During the next 130 years there were many clashes of interest between the two powers, until the kingdom of Israel followed the example of other Syrian and Palestinian states in becoming an Assyrian province.

It would lead too far afield to follow Shalmaneser III on his numerous campaigns, of which good records in word and picture are extant; nevertheless a short outline of his military accomplishments is necessary in order to understand the political situation in Western Asia during the time of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. The Assyrian king conquered, first, Til-Barsip, capital of the powerful Aramaean state of Bit-Adini on the upper Euphrates. The population was deported to Assyria, and Assyrian colonists were moved into the area. Til-Barsip was rebuilt and called "Shalmaneser's castle." Henceforth this city became the headquarters and point of departure for several campaigns against city states in Cilicia and Syria, whose conquest opened the silver mines of the Taurus Mts. and the forests of the Amanus Mts. to the land-hungry Assyrians.

In Syria 12 allied princes, including Ahab of Israel, met Shalmaneser at Qarqar in 853 BC. Adadidri of Damascus (the second of three Ben-hadads mentioned in the Bible) was the leader. Although Shalmaneser claimed in high-sounding words to have won a brilliant victory, he could not hide the fact that his first encounter with the Syrian opponents had ended at best in a draw, perhaps even victory, for the allies. However, Shalmaneser did not forget his objective, and in 848 made a second attempt against practically the same coalition. Again the allies withstood him successfully, and even his third campaign was not a full success. When Hazael followed Adadidri on the throne of Damascus, the Assyrian king marched up to Hazael's capital and destroyed its palm gardens, but was not able to conquer the city. Jehu of Israel, who had usurped the throne and was not ready for a fight, thought it wise to pay tribute. This fact is depicted on the famous Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser, which was found in Calah and is now in the British Museum. The Assyrian king reached the Mediterranean at the Dog River near Beirut, farther south than any of his predecessors. There he had his picture cut in relief on rock.

Shalmaneser III also gained some territory in the north and reached the sources of the Tigris, where he offered sacrifices. He did not, however, attack the strong kingdom of Urartu, which, under Sardur I, was determined to remain independent. Shalmaneser later entered Babylonian politics, upon an occasion when two brothers contested the throne. He allowed Babylonian politics, upon an occasion when two brothers contested the throne. He allowed Babylonia to retain its independence, but exhibited Assyrian power to the people of Lower Mesopotamia by marching down to the Persian Gulf, on the way accepting tribute in gold, ivory, and elephant hides from the region to the south of Babylonia, including the important Aramaean state of Bit-Jakin. The fame and awe of Assyria had become so great that all gates were opened to the king. Very seldom was so great success gained with so little effort.

During the greater part of his reign, which lasted for more than 30 years, Shalmaneser enjoyed the faithful assistance of his commander in chief (turtan), Daian-ashur. During his last years, however, a serious revolt of the governors broke out and destroyed his lifework. From now on till his death in 824 BC he was scarcely able to maintain his position at Calah. The reasons for this revolt, led by one of Shalmaneser's sons, are not clear, and lay either in the discontent with the old king's decision concerning his successor or in his foreign or domestic policy.

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