Hostile empire; conquerers of Israel


Assyria, a prominent nation in the ancient Near East, is known for its influential role in the violent and dynamic histories of other regional societies, including the civilizations of the Israelites. It is located around the Tigris River in present-day northern Iraq and covers roughly two millennia (mid-third to mid-first millennia B.C.). The Assyrian Empire reached its zenith during the Neo-Assyrian period (mid-ninth through late seventh centuries B.C.), becoming the largest empire in the ancient Near East of its time (2 Nephi 17:17, 20).

Reflective of its political and geographical hegemony during this era, Assyria’s interactions - often marked by warfare and conquest - with the Israelite kingdoms feature heavily in the regional historical narrative. A notable event includes the conflict with Hoshea, the last king of Israel (732–722 B.C.) which led to the Assyrian conquest of Israel and subsequent deportation of Israelites (2 Kings 17:5; 18:9; 2 Nephi 21:11,16). This led to the formation of what were known to later generations as the “lost ten tribes” of Israel. Later in 701 B.C., Sennacherib, an Assyrian King launched successful attacks on many cities in Judah although Jerusalem was spared (2 Kings 18:13–19:37).

Assyria eventually lost its dominance, with Nineveh, its capital, falling to the Medes and Babylonians in 612 B.C. and finally being creamated by the Neo-Babylonian empire in 609 B.C. Despite its demise, Assyria’s historical and political legacy persisted. It is referenced in the Book of Mormon due to its inclusion in the Isaiah passages quoted, where Assyria is often portrayed as a figure of powerful judgment used by the Lord (2 Nephi 17:17 // Isa. 7:17; 2 Ne. 17:20 // Isa. 7:20; 2 Ne. 18:6–8 // Isa. 8:6–8). Assyria is also mentioned in relation to Israel’s future recovery and gathering (2 Ne. 21:11 // Isa. 11:11). Thus, Assyria’s representation in these ancient texts provides a nuanced depiction of its relationship with the Israelites and its role as an instrument of divine consequence.


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