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Bible and the Holy Land


An Account of some (Recent (Discoveries in
the East

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Formerly of the Assyrian Department, British Museum.




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The more the records of Assyria and Babylonia are studied, the more light they must throw on the history of the neighbouring nation of Israel. The small but fertile and wealthy district on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, intervening between the shores of Egypt and the harbours of Tyre and Sidon, was alternately, in the course of its history, overrun by the powerful nations which dwelt on each side of it: by the armies of the Nile, or by the warriors of the Tigris and Euphrates. On this account Syria, Samaria, and Judah are frequently mentioned in the written monuments of Nineveh and Babylon; and, on the other hand, the Hebrew literature teems with allusions to these great cities. But there was a closer connection than this between the races of Western and Eastern Syria, if we may once use the latter name in the wide sense sometimes given to it by ancient authors. The Hebrews originally proceeded from the plains of Chakhea, according to the statements of their own historians; and the valley of the Euphrates was the cradle of their race. They were, therefore, akin to the Babylonians in speech, in ideas, and in social organisation; and a study of the language, the literature, and the archaeology of the one nation must further the understanding of the phenomena presented by the history of the other.

After the cuneiform inscriptions were first deciphered, it soon became apparent that the historical narratives of the Bible would receive much elucidation from these new sources. Records of the Assyrian and Babylonian monarchs who attacked or carried captive the nations of Israel and Judah were found. On certain clay cylinders, Sennacherib was discovered to have left us a brief account of his war with Hezekiah. The name of Sargon, always a puzzle to commentators, who had tried to identify him with Tiglath-Pileser or Shalmaneser, was found to be that of a powerful monarch who was the father of Sennacherib, and who invaded Syria, according to the native records, as well as according to the prophet Isaiah. In the Assyrian chronicles of Tiglath-Pileser III., this prince alludes to the kings of Israel and Judah, whom he vanquished or who paid him tribute: to Menahem, to Pekah, to Hosea, and to Azariah; and only recently it has been found that Pul was the name given by the Babylonians, as well as by the author of the Second Book of Kings in certain passages, to the same Tiglath-Pileser III. Moreover, an Assyrian monument, known as the Black Obelisk of Nimroud, was found to exhibit the name of Jehu, who paid tribute to Shalmaneser II. Besides these and many other illustrations or confirmations of the history of the people of Israel contained in the Hebrew books.

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