Assyrian captivity of Israel

Assyrian captivity of Israel
Deportation of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrian Empire.

The Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Neo-Assyrian monarchs, Tiglath-Pileser III (Pul) and Shalmaneser V. The later Assyrian rulers Sargon II and his son and successor, Sennacherib, were responsible for finishing the twenty year demise of Israel's northern ten tribe kingdom. Sennacherib also invaded some parts of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. He records forty-six fortified towns captured from Judah, and presumably carried away into Assyria. Jerusalem was besieged, but not taken. The tribes exiled by Assyria later became known as the Ten Lost Tribes.


Biblical account

The captivities began in approximately 740 BC, when the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and eastern half-tribe of Manasseh were carried away by one of the first successful Assyrian invasions.

And the Elohim of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away, even the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, and brought them unto Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river Gozan, unto this day.(I Chronicles 5:26)

In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abelbethmaachah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria.(II Kings 15:29)

In 722 BC, nearly twenty years after the initial deportations, the ruling city of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Samaria, was finally taken by Sargon II after a three year siege started by Shalmaneser V.

Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria; and Hoshea became his servant, and gave him presents. And the king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea: for he had sent messengers to So king of Egypt, and brought no present to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year: therefore the king of Assyria shut him up, and bound him in prison. Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.(II Kings 17:3-6)

And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes: because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord their God, but transgressed his covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded and would not hear them, nor do them. (II Kings 18:11-12)

The term "cities of the Medes" mentioned above may be a corruption from an original text "Mountains of Media".[1][2]

Assyrian Cuneiform

Assyrian cuneiform mention 27,290 captives were taken from Samaria,[3] the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, by the hand of Sargon II.

Sargon records his first campaign on the walls of the royal palace at Dur-Sarraku (Khorsabad):

In my first year of reign *** the people of Samaria *** to the number of 27,290 ... I carried away. Fifty chariots for my royal equipment I selected. The city I rebuilt. I made it greater than it was before. People of the lands I had conquered I settled therein. My official (Tartan) I placed over them as governor. (L.ii.4.) [3]

The description of the final defeat of the Northern Kingdom of Israel above appears to be a minor event in Sargon's legacy. Some historians attribute the ease of Israel's defeat to the previous two decades of invasions, defeats, and deportations.

Some estimates assume a captivity numbering in the hundreds of thousands, minus those who died in defense of the kingdom and minus those who fled voluntarily before and during the invasions.

However, it has also been suggested that the numbers deported by the Assyrians were rather limited and the bulk of the population remained in situ.[4] There is also evidence that significant numbers fled south to the kingdom of Judah.

No Historical Return

Unlike the Kingdom of Judah, which was able to return from its Babylonian Captivity, the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom never had a foreign edict granting permission to return and rebuild their homeland. Many centuries later, rabbis of the restored Kingdom of Judah were still debating the return of the lost ten tribes.[5] However, Assyria had been conquered by Babylon, and Babylon had been conquered by the Medo-Persians; the same edict that freed Judah also freed representatives of the tribes of Israel. Members of various northern tribes were in the restored nation in 536 BC[citation needed]. Because of this, many people do not see any support for "Ten Lost Tribes," nor a future (or present-day) restoration of Israel[citation needed].

Rumors of New Names

Two centuries after their exile, there have been theories that they were temporarily conquered again under different names at the hands of a different empire, Persia. This is the mid-19th century interpretation of the Behistun Inscription, King Darius's record of his conquered, by the famous transcriber and translator of the inscription George Rawlinson:

“We have reasonable grounds for regarding the Gimirri, or Cimmerians, who first appeared on the confines of Assyria and Media in the seventh century B.C., and the Sacae of the Behistun Rock, nearly two centuries later, as identical with the Beth-Khumree of Samaria, or the Ten Tribes of the House of Israel.”[6]


  1. ^ Hara, entry by W. Ewing in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
  2. ^ Rea, Cam. The Assyrian Exile: Israel's Legacy in Captivity, p. 47 ISBN 1604811730
  3. ^ a b Luckenbill, Daniel David. Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylon ISBN 1-85417-049-X
  4. ^
  5. ^ Mishnah, Sanhedrin 110b
  6. ^ George Rawlinson, note in his translation of History of Herodotus, Book VII, p. 378

Further reading

See also

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Assyrian Captivity of Israel — The Northern Kingdom of Israel was extorted, invaded, conquered, and taken captive primarily by the Neo Assyrian monarchs, Tiglath Pileser III (Pul) and Shalmaneser V. The later Assyrian rulers Sargon II and his son and successor, Sennacherib,… …   Wikipedia

  • Israel —     Israelites     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Israelites     The word designates the descendants of the Patriarch Jacob, or Israel. It corresponds to the Hebrew appellation children of Israel , a name by which together with the simple form Israel… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Assyrian Siege of Jerusalem — In 721 BCE, the Assyrian army captured the Israelite capital at Samaria and carried away the citizens of the northern kingdom into captivity. The virtual destruction of Israel left the southern kingdom, Judah, to fend for itself in the whirlwind… …   Wikipedia

  • Israel — This article is about the modern country. For other uses, see Israel (disambiguation). State of Israel …   Wikipedia

  • Captivity —    1) Of Israel. The kingdom of the ten tribes was successively invaded by several Assyrian kings. Pul (q.v.) imposed a tribute on Menahem of a thousand talents of silver (2 Kings 15:19, 20; 1 Chr. 5:26) (B.C. 762), and Tiglath pileser, in the… …   Easton's Bible Dictionary

  • Kingdom of Israel (Samaria) — Kingdom of Israel ← …   Wikipedia

  • Babylonian captivity — The Babylonian captivity, Babylonian exile, is the name typically given to the deportation and exile of the Jews of the ancient Kingdom of Judah to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar during the 6th Century BCE. The Captivity and subsequent return to… …   Wikipedia

  • Neo-Assyrian Empire — ←   ←   …   Wikipedia

  • Land of Israel — For other uses, see Israel (disambiguation) The Land of Israel (Hebrew: אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל, Eretz Yisrael,) is the region which, according to the Hebrew Bible, was promised by God to the descendants of Abraham through his son Isaac [See 6th and 7th …   Wikipedia

  • List of Jewish leaders in the Land of Israel — The following is a list of Jewish leaders since the time of Abraham.For thousands of years, Jews have lived in their homeland, sometimes as an independent polity, sometimes not. Although at times the region was ruled by foreign empires Jews in… …   Wikipedia