The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III

After King Solomon’s death his son and successor, King Rehoboam, refused to lessen the heavy tax burden his father had imposed on the people of Palestine.  This forced the ten tribes that occupied the northern half of the kingdom to separate from the southern tribes (Judah and Benjamin).  Their northern kingdom, known as Israel, would last for 200 years until the Assyrians conquered it and carried off its peoples in 722 B.C., erasing the northern nation of Israel from history.

The Divided Kingdoms of Judah & Israel, Courtesy of Bible Lands & Cities, at bible-lands.net

Meanwhile, after this split in 922, the southern kingdom, Judah, endured until 587 B.C., before it was destroyed by the armies of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, and its survivors were enslaved and deported to Babylon.  We’re concerned with a period of time in between the split of Israel and Judah, and their eventual subjugation.

In the book of 2 Kings 9-10, Jehu, a commander in the army of the sitting king of Israel, King Joram, was anointed and instructed by the prophet Elisha, to kill King Joram, and Queen Jezebel, and to assume the throne.  The Lord had condemned the house of Ahab for ignoring and threatening the life of the prophet Elija, the murder of Naboth, promoting Baal worship, and general refusal to ignore the will of the Lord.  So Jehu executed Joram, and took his place on the throne of the northern kingdom.

He acted quickly to bring about death of the wicked Jezebel.  Next, Jehu had the sons of Ahab executed.  He eradicated the worship of Baal, and killed all its priests just as the Lord directed him to.  He then he proceeded to rule for 28 years (from 842-814 B.C.).    However, despite eradicating Baal worship in Israel, he still worshiped heathen gods which displeased God1.  He installed idols just as his predecessor, King Jeroboam had done2.

Having received the kingdom from God, he should have relied on the divine protection. But he did not. With a view to withdraw the people from the temple and destroy the sacred associations connected with Jerusalem, he made serious and unwarranted innovations on the religious observances of the country, on pretext of saving the people the trouble and expense of a distant journey. First, he erected two golden calves[,] (in the Egyptian fashion) of the true God [.] [O]ne was placed at Dan, in the northern part of his kingdom; the other at Beth-el, the southern extremity, in sight of Jerusalem, and in which place he probably thought God was as likely to manifest Himself as at Jerusalem.  [] The innovation was a sin because it was setting up the worship of God by symbols and images and departing from the place where He had chosen to put His name. Secondly, he changed the feast of tabernacles from the fifteenth of the seventh to the fifteenth of the eighth month. The ostensible reason might be, that the in-gathering or harvest was later in the northern parts of the kingdom; but the real reason was to eradicate the old association with this, the most welcome and joyous festival of the year3.

For King Jehu’s continued worship of these false gods, God removed his protection from Israel.  Many countries began to invade and conquer parts of it, causing Jehu to very possibly turning to Assyria for protection in exchange for tribute.  No mention of this tribute paying is mentioned in the bible, but archeological evidence has been discovered that provides, #1 the first ever portrait of an Israelite king, and #2, a revelation of the northern kingdom’s subjugation to Assyria.

Sir Austen Henry Layard, Courtesy of Wikipedia.com

In 1845, British archeologist Sir Austen Henry Layard (1814-1894), was digging at the ancient Assyrian city of Calah (now known as the city of Nimrud).

His team dug up a 6 foot high, four sided black obelisk that depicts King Jehu in a subservient posture before an Assyrian king, as a repercussion for the loss of God’s protection in approximately 842 B.C.:

On each side panel of the obelisk were carved five registers of relief sculptures depicting various scenes of tribute to the Assyrian court.   In addition, above and below the panels on all sides were almost 200 lines of cuneiform text.  Once the cuneiform text was translated it was found they cataloged 31 military campaigns by the Assyrian monarch Shalmaneser III.  However, the big surprise came when the lines above one register showing a figure kneeling before the Assyrian king were translated4:

The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, Courtesy of the British Royal Museum.

“Tribute of Jehu, son of Omri. Silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden beaker, golden goblets, pitcher of gold, tin, staves for the hand of the king [and] javelins, [Shalmaneser] received from him.”  Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III.

King Jehu Paying Tribute to King Shalmaneser III, Courtesy of British Royal Museum.

Once again archaeology has verified the existence of one more person, event, or place revealed in the Holy Scriptures.

  1. 2 Kings 10:31.
  2. 1 Kings 12:28-29.
  3. Commentary by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, 1871.
  4. Randall Price, The Stones Cry Out, (Harvest House Publishers, 1977), p.77.

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