Thursday, July 14, 2011

Remembering Shalmaneser

Hoshea, last king of Israel, was defeated by what king of Assyria? Shalmaneser (II Kings 17:9, 10)

The northern kingdom of Israel was defeated by the Assyrians under the leadership of Shalmaneser V, known in the Bible simply as Shalmaneser (II Kings 17:3, 18:9). As a result of Hoshea’s undoing, the tribes of the northern kingdom dissolved and became the fabled ten lost tribes of Israel.

Hoshea had become Israel’s ruler by conspiring with Shalmaneser’s predecessor, Tiglath-Pileser III, to assassinate King Pekah (II Kings 15:30). For nine years, Hoshea served as Tiglath-Pileser III’s vassal but when Shalmaneser assumed the Assyrian throne, Hoshea attempted to form another cabal. He ceased paying his annual tribute and instead attempted to enlist Egyptian support (II Kings 17:4). In response, Shalmaneser directed a punitive campaign, imprisoning Hoshea (II Kings 17:4) and leading a three-year siege on Israel’s capitol Samaria (II Kings 17:5) that resulted in the Israelites’ deportation (II Kings 17:6).

What is the biggest loss of your life? Have you ever been forced to do anything you did not wish to by the government? How can Americans, who have never lost their homeland, relate to the magnitude of this loss?

Shalmaneser ascended the throne unchallenged in 727 BCE after his father, Tiglath-Pileser III, died of natural causes. Tiglath-Pileser III (referenced in II Kings 15:29, 16:7, 10) founded the Neo-Assyrian Empire. Shalmaneser was born Ululayu but took an Assyrian throne name. Like his predecessor, Shalmaneser ruled not only Assyria but also Babylon.

Shalmaneser’s reign lasted less than five years as he lost a succession war to his brother, Sargon II (721-705 BC, referenced in Isaiah 20:1). The circumstances of his dethroning are tenebrous but it can be assumed that they were violent. The succession is presumed awkward as Sargon II wrote an expansive body of royal inscriptions and the only mention of his predecessor condemns Shalmaneser as a godless tyrant who deprived the city of Assur. Shalmaneser likely met his death in the struggle for the kingship of Assyria. His grave has never been found.

None of Shalmaneser’s royal inscriptions, if he composed any, have survived either. As such, knowledge of his reign is indirect. One of the primary sources is through the Bible. In addition to II Kings 17-18, Shalmaneser also appears in the Apocrypha, in the book of Tobit, where Tobit finds favor in Shalmaneser’s court, only to lose influence under Sargon II’s son, Sennacherib (Tobit 1:15, 16).

Despite serving as his nation’s ruler, Shalmaneser’s own writings are largely absent from the annals of his own nation’s history. Instead, remembrances of him survived in the documents of a nation he conquered.

What do you feel you will be remembered for? Who will be remembering you? How many times are you in the background of other people’s snapshots?

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