World Empires and Ancient Israel

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Which world empires had direct contact with ancient Israel? Which ones fought God's people and what was the outcome of the conflict? Which foreign kings actually blessed Israel and her people?

Below is a list of three empires and their interactions with Israel. The dates for the below foreign kings, which are all in B.C., and their interactions with God's people are derived from "The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings" by Edwin R. Thiele.

The Assyrian Empire

A number of Assyrian rulers mention contact with Hebrew kings. The Judean kings they mention include Azariah, Ahaz and Hezekiah. The kings of Israel (northern ten tribes) refererenced by the Assyrians include Omri, Ahab, Jehu, Menahem, Pekah and Hoshea.

It was the Assyrian empire, under King Shalmaneser V, that in 723 B.C. conquered Israel's capital of Samaria and carried away as captives what is commonly referred to as the lost ten tribes of Israel.

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859 - 824
Shalmaneser III
First Assyrian king to come in conflict with Israel. King Ahab of Israel fought him at the battle of Qarqar in 853. King Jehu paid tribute to him in 841.

745 - 727
Tiglath-pileser III
"Pul" was his personal name. Menahem, King of Israel, paid tribute money to him (Isaiah 7, 2Kings 15:19, 1Chronicles 5:26).

727 - 722
Shalmaneser V
This king initially came up against Northern Israel and forced its king, Hoshea, to pay him taxes (2Kings 17:1 - 3). Shalmaneser then "found treachery in Hoshea" (verse 4) and after a three-year campaign conquered Samaria in 723 B.C. (2Kings 17). The Israelites are taken out of the land as captives and transported to Assyria.

705 - 681
Most famous of Assyrian kings. He arrogantly boasted that the God of Israel could not save them from his hand. God, however, begged to differ and had a death angel kill 185,000 of his troops as they prepared to take Jerusalem (2Kings 18 - 19, Isaiah 37:33 - 38).

681 - 669
Mentioned in Isaiah 37:38, was paid tribute money by Manasseh, King of Judah.

669 - 633
Ashurbanipal (Osnapper)
Ezra 4:10 refers to the king as Asnappar. Manasseh, King of Judah, paid tribute to him.

The Neo-Babylonian Empire

Babylon was a dependency of Assyria before it became a world empire in its own right. Its period of dominance lasted only from 612 to 539 B.C. Its splendor as the Queen city of the pre-Christian world, the "glory of kingdoms" and "the city of gold" (Isaiah 13:19, 14:4) was clearly envisioned by Isaiah.

Isaiah the prophet sang of the fall of Babylon one-hundred years BEFORE its rise on the world stage (Isaiah 13:1, 13:19, 14:22). Its fall is prophecied in great detail, even to the point of naming the then unknown Medes (Persians) as its destroyers (Isaiah 13:17 - 19).

605 - 562
Greatest of all Babylonian Kings. Jerusalem falls at his hands in 597 B.C. He captures Judah's King Jehoiachin and takes him, as prisoner, to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar sets up Zedekiah as a "puppet" King of Judah (2Kings 24 - 25).

The Jews, including the prophets Daniel and Ezekiel, are taken into captivity by Babylon. King Zedekiah sits on the throne for eleven years before Nebuchadnezzar returns to destroy both the city of Jerusalem and its temple in 586 B.C. (2Kings 24 - 25). Daniel became one of his chief advisers.

561 - 560
Evil-Merodach (Amel-Marduk)
This Babylonian king takes King Jehoiachin of Judah out of prison and gives him a place at his table (2Kings 25:27 - 30, Jeremiah 52:31 - 34).

Feast of Belshazzar
Feast of Belshazzar
Andrea Celesti, 1705

553 - 539
Son of Nabonidus and co-regent with his father. His responsibility was to defend the city of Babylon. He saw God's handwriting on the wall during a feast (Daniel 5).

The Persian Empire

The Persian Empire, often called the Medo-Persian Empire, was the second great world empire represented in the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2) of Babylon. It was the largest empire in ancient history in terms of total land controlled.

Persia itself was the mountainous plateau east of the lower end of the Euphrates-Tigris River Valley and its empire extending eastward into India and reached westward to Greece. Its capitals were Persepolis and Susa, with its kings sometimes residing at Babylon. One of the first acts of the first Persian king, Cyrus, who was a "singularly noble and just monarch," was to authorize the return of the Jews to Jerusalem and to their own land (2Chronicles 36:22 - 23).

559 - 530
Cyrus the Great
Considered first true king of the Persian empire. Conquered the Median Empire in 549 B.C. and the Babylonian empire in 539 B.C. Cyrus issued decree to allow Jews to return to Jerusalem and conquered Babylon more than 150 years after it was prophesied by Isaiah (Isaiah 44:28, 45:1, Ezra 1:1 - 4, 2Chronicles 36:22 - 23).

536 - 534
Darius the Mede (Probably Cyaxares II, Astiages, last king of the Medes)
Although not a King of the empire, Darius received the kingdom of Babylon as viceroy from Cyrus when he was 62 years old (Daniel 5:31). He is mentioned in Daniel 6:1, 9:1, 11:1.

521 - 486
Darius I the Great (Hystaspes)
Third king of the Persian Empire. Authorized work to continue on Jerusalem's Temple, which is completed in 516 B.C. (Ezra 4:24, 6:15).

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