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The Ashur of the Bible. The North Mesopotamian empire of the city of Asshur stretched along the fertile plain on the upper Tigris River and included the towns of Kalchu and Nineveh. Assyria became a great empire after 1300 B.C.E. when it extended southward and ruled Babylon for a short period. Its drive westward continued for the next eight centuries until it controlled the whole Mediterranean coast and Egypt. The first direct conflict between Israel and Assyria occurred around 854 B.C.E., when King Ahab together with the ruler of Damascus fought King Shalmaneser III of Assyria at Karkar. Among the great rulers of this empire who figure disastrously during the next two and a half centuries in the history of Israel and Judah are Shalmaneser V, Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Assurbanipal. King Sargon defeated Israel, destroyed its capital, Samaria, and deported the flower of Israel’s population to Mesopotamia and Media. The history of Assyria as an independent empire came to an end when the Babylonians and the Medes took Asshur in 616 B.C.E. and Nineveh in 612 B.C.E, destroying them both.

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