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Sennacherib was resolved to meet Tirhakah, and, through the medium of Rabshakeh, he sent a boasting letter to Hezekiah, defying the God of Israel, and threatening Jerusalem with eventual destruction, although he was now compelled to break up the siege.
The conduct of Hezekiah, when he received this letter, is very pleasing; and it would be well for Christians to follow his example in the hour of distress. He hastened to the throne of grace; he spread its contents before the Lord, and ardently besought him to interpose, for his own name's sake. His prayer prevailed. The prophet was again commissioned to confirm the promise, and to assure him of speedy relief. On that night, the promise was fulfilled. As they lay slumbering in their tents, and probably dreaming of victory and revenge, the angel of the Lord smote in the camp of the Assyrians, a hundred and eighty-five thousand men, 2 Kings xix. 35.
Sennacherib now returned to Nineveh, where, being exasperated by his defeat, he inflicted many cruelties upon his subjects, and especially upon the captive Israelites. The author of the book of Tobit thus speaks of these cruelties: "And if the king Sennacherib had slain any, when he was come, and fled from Judea, I buried them privily; for in his wrath he killed many; but the bodies were not found, when they were sought for of the king. And when one of the Ninevites went and complained of me to the king, that I buried them, and hid myself; understanding that I was sought for to be put to death, I withdrew myself for fear. Then all my goods were forcibly taken away, neither was there any thing left me, beside my wife Anna and my son Tobias,"
Tobit i. 18-20.
The cruelties of Sennacherib were not, however, long continued. As he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch, his god, (signifying "king of flight," and corresponding to Jove, the " god of flight," among the Greeks,) he was assassinated by two of his sons; who, after committing the sanguinary deed, escaped into the land of Armenia; while a third son, Esarhaddon, reigned in his stead.
The death of Sennacherib is alluded to, Isa. xxxi. 8, where it is said,
"Then shall the Assyrian fall with the sword, not of a mighty man ; And the sword, not of a man, shall devour him."
At this juncture, when the Assyrians were weakened by so
great a blow, the Babylonians and the Medes revolted. Merodach-baladan reigned over Babylon; and, soon after his accession, he sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, to congratulate him on his recovery. Hezekiah was flattered by this embassy; and in the pride of his heart he made a vain display of his grandeur, and exhibited to the wondering ambassadors his palaces and treasures. For this vanity, Isaiah was commissioned to reprove him, and to denounce a woe upon him and his people. The very men to whom he had paid his court were to seize upon the treasures he had exhibited, and to reduce his descendants to the most abject bondage, 2 Kings xx. 12—19.
This king is the "great and noble Asnapper" of Ezra iv. 10; the Sargon of Isa. xx. 1; the Sarchedonus of Tobit i. 21; and the Asaradin of Ptolemy. His reign commenced, according to Dr. Hales, B. C. 710.
Esarhaddon came to his throne at a season of general rebellion and revolt of the provinces of Assyria. The Medes led the way, and, after a severe battle, regained their liberty, and retained their independence. They were followed by the Babylonians, Armenians, and others. From this cause, Esarhaddon had full employment on his hands for many years. At length, however, in the thirtieth year of his reign, or B. C. 680, he recovered Babylon, and annexed it to his former dominions.*
As soon as he had re-established his dominion, and confirmed his authority at home, Esarhaddon undertook an expedition against the states of Phenicia, Palestine, Egypt, and Ethiopia, to avenge his father's defeat, and to recover the revolted provinces on the western side of the Euphrates. For three years he ravaged those countries, and brought away many captives; fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, which says, "Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot,
The government of Babylon seems to have fallen into great disorder and confusion after Merodach-baladan; at least, if we may judge from the recurrence of five reigns and two interregnums of ten years, all in the course of twenty-nine years, preceding its reduction again under the Assyrian yoke. We are unacquainted with the story of these kings of Babylon; for their names, and that of others, the reader is referred to the table given at the conclusion of this history, from the pen of Dr. Hales, who framed it from a careful comparison of Scripture with Ptolemy's Canon of the reigns of the contemporary kings of Babylon.
three years for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and_upon Ethiopia; so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyp tians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt," Isa. xx. 3, 4.
That the country of Palestine might not become a desert, he sent colonies of idolatrous people, taken out of the countries beyond the Euphrates, to dwell in the cities of Samaria; thereby fulfilling another prophecy: "And within three-score and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people," Isa. vii. 8.
This was the precise space of time which elapsed between the prediction and the event: and the people of Israel did then, B. c. 675, truly cease to be a visible nation; the remnant being mixed and confounded with other nations.
About two years after, Esarhaddon invaded and ravaged Juden; and the captains of his host took Manasseh the king alive, and bound him with fetters, and carried him away captive, with many of the nobles and people, to Babylon. 2 Chron. xxxiii. 11. Manasseh, however, having afterwards been brought to a sincere and lively repentance, obtained his liberty, and returned to Jerusalem.
This is a lively instance of the grace of God, and true repentance. Reader, let it not pass by unimproved. We all need repentance, for "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God:" all have provoked his just wrath and indignation. How comforting, then, is the example before us, that God is merciful! and still more comforting is the assurance of the apostle, that, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," 1 John i. 9. Like Manasseh, then, return to the Lord, and that without delay; for,
"By nature's law, what may be, may be now;
As on a rock of adamant, we build
Our mountain hopes; spin out eternal schemes,
Our hopes should be fixed on Christ; for "Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for
o give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins," Acts v. 31. In him alone our help is found; and whoever neglects o flee to him, neglects his best interests for time and for eternity.
Esarhaddon was a great and prosperous prince. He appears not only to have recovered all the revolted provinces of Assyria, except Media, but to have added thereto Babylonia, Mesopotamia, Cilicia, Syria, Phenicia, Judea, Persia, Arabia, and Egypt, unto the borders of Ethiopia, or Abyssinia; such at least, were possessed by his grandson Nabuchodonosor, as may be gathered from Judith i. 6-10.
Ésarhaddon is ranked by Ptolemy, in his Canon, among the Babylonian kings, probably because he made it his chief residence during the last thirteen years of his reign, which he did, by way of preventing another defection. By Diodorus and Justin he is called Sardanapalus; and they confound him with the last king, Sarac, who perished in the overthrow of Nineveh, about B. c. 606; which, Dr. Hales says, is the grand error which has chiefly perplexed and embarrassed the Assyrian chronology, and given rise to the supposed double capture of Nineveh. This learned writer proves the position he here takes, thus:
1. "Athenæus relates, from Clitarchus, that Sardanapalus died of old age, after he had lost the Syrian or Assyrian empire." He lost the empire, as recorded, in his youth, but he recovered it in his age.
2. His statue was erected at Anchiale, in Cilicia, with this inscription: Sardanapalus, the son of Anacyndaraxes [Sennacherib,] built Anchiale, in Tarsus, in one day. Stranger, eat, drink, and play; for all other human concerns are not worth this;" which word this referred to a fillip, which the statue was in the attitude of giving with his fingers. To this inscription the apostle evidently alluded, when, writing to the Corinthians, he said, "Let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die." and to which he replied, in the following iambic of Menander, "Evil communications corrupt good manners," 1 Cor. xv. 32, 33. Thus intimating, from a better heathen authority, that the conversation of such sensualists as scoff at the hope of another life, is subversive not only of religion, but of sound morality.
3. Herodotus, also, so well skilled in Assyrian affairs, records the following curious incident: "Some robbers, who were solicitous to get possession of the immense treasures of Sardanapalus, king of Nineveh, which were deposited in
subterraneous apartments, began, from the place where they lived, to dig under ground, in a direction towards them. Having taken the most accurate measurement, they continued their mine to the palace of the king: as night approached, they regularly emptied the earth into the Tigris, which flows near Nineveh, and at length accomplished their purpose.' This would demonstrate, that the second Sardanapalus could not be meant; for he perished with his treasures.
According to Syncellus, a prince of the name of Ninus succeeded Sardanapalus at Nineveh; and we learn from Ptolemy, that Saosduchin, who was either his son or his deputy, succeeded him also at Babylon. According to Dr. Hales, they began their reign B. c. 667. Nothing is known conceaning this Ninus: he was succeeded in his empire by
or Saosduchin, whose accession is dated B. c. 658.
In the twelfth year of the reign of Nabuchodonosor, he declared war against Arphaxad, or Phraortes, king of the Medes, and he summoned all the states of his mighty empire to his aid. The western and southern provinces of Cilicia, Phenicia, Judea, Moab, Ammon, and Egypt, refused to obey the summons, and to furnish him with troops, and they even insulted and ill-treated his ambassadors. This caused a delay of five years in his projected invasion of Media, at the end of which time, B. c. 641, he took the field, when he defeated the Median army near Ragau, or Rages, took Arphaxad prisoner, and slew him the same day. After this, he stormed Ecbatana, his capital, demolished its towers, and ravaged its palaces, and then returned to Nineveh, where he feasted his troops for four months.
Flushed with this victory, in the ensuing spring, B. c. 640, Nabuchodonosor sent Holofernes with an army of 120,000 foot, and 12,000 horse, to chastise the states that had refused their assistance in the Median war. The commands which Holofernes received were of the most rigorous nature; and, acting upon them, he proved himself a cruel conqueror. He ravaged and reduced Cilicia and Syria, and part of Arabia, Ammon, and Edom; destroying with a high hand the fair fruits of the earth, and smiting the inhabitants with the edge of the sword.