3. Of Tiglath-pileser III, 745-727 BC:
Tiglath-pileser was one of the greatest monarchs of antiquity. He was the first to attempt to consolidate an empire in the manner to which the world has become accustomed since Roman times. He was not content to receive tribute from the kings and rulers of the states which he conquered. The countries which he conquered became subject provinces of his empire, governed by Assyrian satraps and contributing to the imperial treasury. Not long after he had seated himself on the throne, Tiglath-pileser, like his predecessors, turned his attention to the West. After the siege of Arpad, northward of Aleppo, the Assyrian forces made their way into Syria, and putting into operation the Assyrian method of deportation and repopulation, the conqueror annexed Hamath which had sought the alliance and assistance of Azariah, that is Uzziah, king of Judah. Whether he then refrained from molesting Judah, or whether her prestige was broken by this campaign of the Assyrian king, it is not easy to say. In another campaign he certainly subjected Menahem of Israel with other kings to tribute. What is stated in a word or two in the Annals of Tiglath-pileser is recorded at length in the Bible history (2 Kings 15:19):
"There came against the land Pul the king of Assyria; and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand. And Menahem exacted the money of Israel, even of all the mighty men of wealth, of each man 50 shekels of silver, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria tamed back, and stayed not there in the land." In the reign of Pekah, under his proper name of Tiglath-pileser, he is recorded to have raided the northern parts of Israel, and carried the inhabitants away into the land of Assyria (2 Kings 15:29). We next hear of Ahaz, king of Judah, appealing to the Assyrians for help against "these two tails of smoking firebrands," Rezin of Syria and Pekah, the son of Remaliah (Isaiah 7:4). To secure this help he took the silver and gold of the house of the Lord, and sent it as a present to the king of Assyria (2 Kings 16:8). Meanwhile Tiglath-pileser was setting out on a new campaign to the West. He carried fire and sword through Syria and the neighboring lands as far as Gaza, and on his return he captured Samaria, without, however, razing it to the ground. Pekah having been slain by his own people, the Assyrian monarch left Hoshea, the leader of the conspiracy, on the throne of Israel as the vassal of Assyria.
4. Of Shalmaneser IV, 727-722 BC--Seige of Samaria:
In 727 BC Tiglath-pileser III died and was succeeded by Shalmaneser IV. His reign was short and no annals of it have come to light. In 2 Kings 17 and 18, however, we read that Hoshea, relying upon help from the king of Egypt, thought the death of Tiglath-pileser a good opportunity for striking a blow for independence. It was a vain endeavor, for the end of the kingdom of Israel was at hand. The people were grievously given over to oppression and wickedness, which the prophets Amos and Hosea vigorously denounced. Hosea, in particular, was "the prophet of Israel's decline and fall." Prophesying at this very time he says:
"As for Samaria, her king is cut off, as foam upon the water. The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us" (Hosea 10:7,8; compare Hosea 10:14,15). No less stern are the predictions by Isaiah and Micah of the doom that is to overtake Samaria: "Woe to the crown of pride of the drunkards of Ephraim, and to the fading flower of his glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley of them that are overcome with wine" (Isaiah 28:1). "For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria? .... Therefore I will make Samaria as a heap of the field, and as places for planting vineyards" (Micah 1:5,6). No help came from Egypt. With the unaided and enfeebled resources of his kingdom Hoshea had to face the chastising forces of his sovereign. He was made prisoner outside Samaria and was most likely carried away to Nineveh. Meanwhile the land was over-run and the capital doomed to destruction, as the prophets had declared.
5. Samaria Captured by Sargon, 722 BC:
Not without a stubborn resistance on the part of her defenders did "the fortress cease from Ephraim" (Isaiah 17:3). It was only after a three years' siege that the Assyrians captured the city (2 Kings 17:5). If we had only the record of the Hebrew historian we should suppose that Shalmaneser was the monarch to whom fell the rewards and honors of the capture. Before the surrender of the city Shalmaneser had abdicated or died, and Sargon, only once mentioned in Scripture (Isaiah 20:1), but one of the greatest of Assyrian monarchs, had ascended the throne. From his numerous inscriptions, recovered from the ruins of Khorsabad, we learn that he, and not Shalmaneser, was the king who completed the conquest of the revolted kingdom and deported the inhabitants to Assyria. "In the beginning (of my reign)," says Sargon in his Annals, "the city Samaria (I took) with the help of Shamash, who secures victory to me (.... 27,290 people inhabiters of it) I took away captive; 50 chariots the property of my royalty, which were in it I appropriated. (.... the city) I restored, and more than before I caused it to be inhabited; people of the lands conquered by my hand in it (I caused to dwell. My governor over them I appointed, and tribute) and imposts just as upon the Assyrians I laid upon them." The Assyrian Annals and the Scripture history support and supplement each other at this point. The sacred historian describes the deportation as follows:
"The king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes .... because they obeyed not the voice of Yahweh their God, but transgressed his covenant, even all that Moses, the servant of Yahweh, commanded, and would not hear it, nor do it" (2 Kings 17:6,7; 18:11,12).
6. Depopulation and Repopulation of Samaria:
The repopulation of the conquered territory is also described by the sacred historian:
"And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Avva, and from Hamath and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof" (2 Kings 17:24). The fact that Sargon introduced foreign settlers taken in war into Samaria is attested by inscriptions. That there were various episodes of deportation and repopulation in connection with the captivity of the Northern Kingdom appears to be certain. We have seen already that Tiglath-pileser III deported the population of the northern tribes to Assyria and placed over the depopulated country governors of his own. And at a time considerably later, we learn that Sargon's grandson Esarhaddon, and his great-grandson Ashur-bani-pal, "the great and noble Osnappar," imported to the region of Samaria settlers of nations conquered by them in the East (Ezra 4:2,10). Of the original settlers, whom a priest, carried away by the king of Assyria but brought back to Bethel, taught "the law of the god of the land," it is said that "they feared Yahweh, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away" (2 Kings 17:33). The hybrid stock descended from those settlers is known to us in later history and in the Gospels as the Samaritans.
7. The Ten Tribes in Captivity:
We must not suppose that a clean sweep was made Of the inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom. No doubt, as in the Babylonian captivity, "the poorest of the land were left to be vinedressers and husbandmen" (2 Kings 25:12). The numbers actually deported were but a moiety of the whole population. But the kingdom of the Ten Tribes was now at an end. Israel had become an Assyrian province, with a governor established in Samaria. As regards the Golah--the captives of Israel in the cities of the Medes--it must not be supposed that they became wholly absorbed in the population among whom they were settled. We can well believe that they preserved their Israelite traditions and usages with sufficient clearness and tenacity, and that they became part of the Jewish dispersion so widespread throughout the East. It is quite possible that at length they blended with the exiles of Judah carried off by Nebuchadrezzar, and that then Judah and Ephraim became one nation as never before. The name Jew, therefore, naturally came to include members of what had earlier been the Northern Confederacy of Israel as well as those of the Southern Kingdom to which it properly belonged, so that in the post-exilic period, Jehudi, or Jew, means an adherent of Judaism without regard to local nationality.