Tiglath-Pileser II°

views updated


TIGLATH-PILESER II ° (Tukulti-apil-Esharra ("My trust is [in] the son of [the Temple] Esharra")) the Third; reigned 745–727 b.c.e.), founder of the Assyrian Empire, which profoundly affected the history of the ancient Near East and in particular the fate of Israel. He is mentioned six times in the Bible (ii Kings 15:29; 16:7, 10; i Chronicles 5:6, 26; ii Chronicles 28:20), the latter book spelling his name Tillegath-pilneser. He is also mentioned by the name Pul (ii Kings 15:19; i Chronicles 5:26), which he assumed upon becoming king of Babylonia in 729 b.c.e.

The Assyrian sources from this period present many difficulties. In 1845, H.A. Layard discovered Tiglath-Pileser's annals in the excavations at Tell Nimrud, ancient Calah (cf. Genesis 10:11), which was the first capital of the Empire. The inscribed stone slabs had already been removed from their original site by *Esarhaddon (680–669 b.c.e.) for reuse in his own palace. Furthermore, since Assyriology was not yet a science, 20 years were to pass before George *Smith was to decipher these inscriptions from Layard's handwritten copies and squeezes and from the few actual inscriptions taken back to the British Museum, the original inscriptions for the most part having been lost. This material has been supplemented by more recently discovered administrative letters and annal fragments found at Calah and at other sites.

In addition to the annals, the Eponym Chronicle for Tiglath-Pileser's reign provides an almost complete framework for reconstructing the king's military activity:

745 –
On the 13th of Iyar Tiglath-Pileser sat upon his throne. In Tishri he campaigned against the Land of the Two Rivers
744 –
Against Mamri
743 –
Defeat of Ararat in the land of Arpad
742 –
Against Arpad
741 –
Against Arpad. Conquered after three years
740 –
Against Arpad
739 –
Against the land of Ulluba. The fortress established
738 –
Calneh taken
737 –
Against the Medes
736 –
To the foot of Mount Nal
735 –
Against Ararat
734 –
Against Philistia (Pilishta)
733 –
Against Damascus (Dimashqa)
732 –
Against Damascus
731 –
Against Sapiya
730 –
The king remained at home
729 –
The king took the hands of Bel
728 –
The king took the hands of Bel
727 –
Against the city [….]

Tiglath-Pileser, though probably descended from a collateral royal line, usurped the throne and thereby ended a long period of Assyrian military and economic weakness. During his period, most of *Syria and the Land of Israel had come under the direct influence of *Hazael and his son Ben-Hadad *iii of Damascus and later under the northern Israelite kings *Jehoash and *Jeroboam ii and finally *Uzziah of Judah. During the latter period, the kingdom of Urartu (*Ararat) challenged Assyrian hegemony by extending its political influence into Syria, forcing Mati'-ilu of Arpad and with him various states of "upper and lower Aram" into vassalage.

Tiglath-Pileser's earlier campaigns were therefore directed against Ararat. After reducing this enemy, he was faced with a new coalition of Syrian states which he subsequently defeated at *Calneh in 738 b.c.e. (cf. Isaiah 10:9). Of importance is the fact that the leader of this league was "Azariyau of Yaudi," who is to be identified with the prominent military and political figure of the day – King Uzziah (Azariah) of Judah. This piece of information sheds light on Uzziah's sphere of influence and military might, documented so far only in the Bible (ii Chronicles 26:6ff).

Furthermore, the mention of Minihummu the Samarian, bringing tribute at this time, provides a synchronism between the biblical account (ii Kings 15:19–20) which should be dated to Menahem's ninth year and the Battle of Calneh.

Tiglath-Pileser returned again to the western front between 734 and 732 b.c.e., where he either annexed or reduced to vassalage all the small kingdoms of Syria, Philistia, and *Transjordan. The background of this offensive must be found in a new coalition of these minor kingdoms. The leaders of the resistance were now *Rezin of Damascus and *Pekah the son of Remaliah who had deposed the pro-Assyrian *Pekahiah the son of Menahem (ii Kings 15:25). They were joined by Philistine and Edomite allies (see ii Kings 16:6; ii Chronicles 28:17–18). *Ahaz's refusal to join this alliance precipitated the Syro-Ephramite invasion of Judah and the attempt to place the otherwise unknown Ben *Tabeel on the throne (Isaiah 7:5–6; ii Chronicles 28:5ff.). The latter may have been a Davidic prince of a Transjordanian mother.

While the biblical text suggests that Ahaz initiated Assyrian intervention (ii Kings 16:7), the episode must be viewed in the larger context of Tiglath-Pileser's expansionist policy in the west. His strategy was to isolate Rezin by first attacking the Philistine cities. The strategy was the more appropriate since the Phoenician coast, the province of Hamath, and the Judean kingdom already encircled the anti-Assyrian forces. After a two-year campaign *Damascus was taken in 732 b.c.e.

Judging from the contemporary inscription of Barrakab of Sam'al in memory of his father Penamu ii, Tiglath-Pileser's vassals were obliged to take part in the siege of Damascus. This might explain Ahaz's presence there as well (ii Kings 16:10). Certainly, by this time, Ahaz had accepted Tiglath-Pileser as his suzerain, as suggested already by the treaty terminology found in ii Kings 16:7.

The most far-reaching achievements of Tiglath-Pileser were the administrative innovations which became the hallmark of the Assyrian Empire. He reorganized the provincial administration, introduced a more complex tax system, and secured the international lines of trade and communication. The most consequential innovation was the reintroduction of a more efficient method of deportation. This served the dual purpose of removing groups of dissidents from their homeland and also exploiting them for the welfare of the Empire. These exiles were employed in the bureaucracy or army or resettled on farmland in depopulated or border areas.

Tiglath-Pileser was the first who deported large segments of the northern tribes in 732 b.c.e. The Bible specifically mentions that the tribes of *Reuben, *Gad and half of *Manasseh were removed to northwestern Mesopotamia (i Chronicles 5:6,26), which had been depopulated by Ashurnasirpal ii (883–859 b.c.e.). Moreover, the Book of Kings gives a more detailed list of his activities in the Galilee. "In the days of Pekah king of Israel, came Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, and took Ijon and Abel-beth-maacah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and he carried them captive to Assyria" (15:29). This list is supplemented by the annals which name among other northern cities Hannattion, Akbara, and Yodefat, probably following the main arteries to the Mediterranean coast.

The recorded number of exiles taken from each site is important, since it provides the first evidence of the population density in this area of Israel.

It was Tiglath-Pileser's success in military and administrative matters that laid the groundwork for the pattern of government that characterized the Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, and Persian empires over the next 400 years.


W.F. Albright, in: basor, 140 (1955), 34f.; R.D. Barnett and M. Falkner, The Sculptures of Tiglath Pileser iii from the Central and South West Palaces at Nimrud (1962); S. Loewenstamm, in: Leshonenu (1970), 148; B. Oded, in: Ereẓ Israel, 10 (1971), 191–7; H. Tadmor, in: piash (1967); idem, in; Scripta Hierosolymitana, 8 (1961), 252–8; idem, in: Kol Ereẓ Naphtali (1967), 62–67 (Heb.).

[Aaron Demsky]