Many of the nations mentioned in the Bible still exist today. For example, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, and others can be found in the pages of the Bible and on a modern map. But not Assyria. Though it played a critical role in biblical history, Assyrian civilization simply ceased to exist around 600 B.C.
Just like God said it would.
The only knowledge most people have of Assyria is what they learned from reading the Book of Jonah. The irritable prophet was sent to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, because their wickedness had been noted by the Lord.
The Assyrians needed to repent, for sure! They were led by warrior-kings who didn’t always play well with others. They ruthlessly destroyed their rivals on the battlefield; the Greeks, Babylonians, Egyptians, and even the Israelites were just a few of the Assyrian’s victims. Prisoners who were captured during battle were often paraded in front of the brutal Assyrian kings where they might be skinned alive, mutilated, beheaded, blinded, or impaled on poles for amusement. Furthermore, the Assyrians held to a religious system that was polytheistic in nature, one which God detested.
One thing’s for sure: Assyria was good at being bad. At its height, the Assyrian Empire was spread across three different continents!
But Jonah wasn’t the only prophet to speak out against Assyria or its capital in Nineveh. God used Nahum to try and get their attention, as well.
“I am against you,” declares the LORD Almighty. “I will burn up your chariots in smoke, and the sword will devour your young lions. I will leave you no prey on the earth. The voices of your messengers will no longer be heard.” (Nahum 2:13)
Even the prophet Zephaniah uttered a desperate warning to the Assyrians:
He [God] will stretch out his hand against the north and destroy Assyria, leaving Nineveh utterly desolate and dry as the desert. Flocks and herds will lie down there, creatures of every kind. The desert owl and the screech owl will roost on her columns. Their calls will echo through the windows, rubble will be in the doorways, the beams of cedar will be exposed. This is the carefree city that lived in safety. She said to herself, “I am, and there is none besides me.” What a ruin she has become, a lair for wild beasts! All who pass by her scoff and shake their fists. (Zephaniah 2:13-15)
In short, God told the Assyrians, that, because of their great sin, He was going to strike them so forcefully, that they would be completely eradicated from the earth. In fact, God said that their cities would no longer be inhabited by people, but only by wild animals!
But who would believe such a “doom and gloom” message about the undisputed heavyweight champion of the ancient world? After all, Nahum’s prophecy (663 B.C.) and Zephaniah’s prophecy (625 B.C.) were announced at the pinnacle of Assyria’s power!
But God wasn’t joking. Nor was He exaggerating.
In 612 B.C., a joint force of Babylonians and Medes crushed the Assyrian army that had been crippled by civil wars, and left them in utter ruin.
But here’s the really interesting part.
Famed British archaeologist Henry Layard excavated the pitiful remains of Nineveh in the 1850s and discovered that the palace of Assyria’s King Sennacherib, which was “without rival” in ancient times, had been burned, looted, and totally destroyed. The only form of life that Layard discovered were gazelles, jackals, and hyenas that built their dens into the sides of the barren mounds that was once the world’s greatest superpower.
From an empire to a wasteland, the fate of Assyria was exactly what God’s Word said it would be.
The Stones Cry Out: What Archaeology Reveals About the Truth of the Bible by Randall Price. Harvest House Publishers, 1997, Pages 252-253.
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