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Shalmaneser III°

SHALMANESER III° (Shulmānu-asharid ("Shulmanu is leader") III), ruler of Assyria 859–824 B.C.E. Shalmaneser inherited from his father, the cruel Ashurnasirpal II (883–859 B.C.E.), a well–equipped army and the desire to extend his rule over Syria and Phoenicia. Over a period of some 20 years (858–838 B.C.E.), he succeeded in subduing most of the small kingdoms from the Euphrates in the north to the Jordan in the south. He was the first Assyrian king to come into direct contact with an Israelite monarch and probably the first to traverse Israelite territory.

The main sources for the history of Shalmaneser's reign are the royal annals, which were "edited" some five times during his lifetime. The texts have been compiled and translated by E. Michel in Die Welt des Orients 1 (1947) and following volumes. In addition to these and other inscriptions, there are also many reliefs from the reigns of Ashurnasirpal and Shalmaneser which clearly indicate their military innovations as well as their contacts with foreign countries. Of particular interest is the Black Obelisk, one of whose registers depicts an Israelite delegation from King *Jehu presenting gifts to Shalmaneser (c. 841 B.C.E.).

Shalmaneser's western campaigns began in his first regnal year when he defeated the league of north Syrian states, including *Beth-Eden, *Carchemish, Kummukh (i.e., *Commagene), Samal, Hattina, and *Cilicia. A direct result of this was the formation of an even stronger south-Syrian league which succeeded in holding off the Assyrian advance for over a decade.

In 853 B.C.E., Shalmaneser crossed the Euphrates for the second time and proceeded to the city of Pethor (see Numbers 22:5), where he received tribute from the north-Syrian kingdoms. He continued on to Halab, the center of the cult of Hadad, where he met the combined forces of 12 states in one of the great battles of antiquity. Opposing the Assyrians was the triumvirate of Hadadezer (*Ben-Hadad II) of Damascus, Irhuleni of Hamath, and *Ahab the Israelite: they were accompanied by smaller contingents from the Phoenician coast-Byblos (!), Arqanta, Arvad, Sianu (see Genesis 10:17–18), and Usanta in addition to troops from Egypt, the south Syrian Amanah (or perhaps the Ammorites), and an Arabian tribe. According to the Syrian text, this army totaled 3,940 chariots, 1,900 cavalry, over 62,000 infantry, and 1,000 camel riders. Judging from the fact that Shalmaneser did not press on beyond Karkar nor resume his successive campaigns against the league for another four years in 849, and then again in 848 and 845 B.C.E., it seems that at best the battle ended in a military deadlock, if not in an Assyrian defeat. Of note is the large force under Ahab's command, which may indicate, as Malamat suggests, a minor league including Ahab's vassals, Moab, and possibly Ammon, in addition to Jehoshaphat king of Judah with his vassals Edom and possibly Philistia (see I Kings 22:4; II Kings 3:4ff.). Certainly, this text sheds much light on Ahab's stature in the international theater, a fact only hinted at in the Bible (I Kings 18:10, see also Meg. lla).

It was only in Shalmaneser's 18th year (841 B.C.E.) that he succeeded in breaking through the south-Syrian front. To a great extent this was made possible by internal changes among the allies. *Hazael had usurped the throne after killing Ben Hadad II, probably to be identified with Hadadezer mentioned in the annals. While he continued the anti-Assyrian policy of his predecessors, Hazael renewed the border wars against Israel with greater vigor (II Kings 8:12). This new source of tension was one of the factors that precipitated the overthrow of the dynasty of Omri by the military officer Jehu Ben Nimshi (II Kings 9:1ff.). The latter may have made overtures to Shalmaneser, thereby disengaging the Israelite army from the south-Syrian camp, which ultimately led to its dissolution.

Shalmaneser first met Hazael's troops in the mountain passes of the anti-Lebanon (Sirion). Hazael retreated to his capital *Damascus, where he withstood the siege. Shalmaneser, after burning the outskirts of Damascus, continued into the Hauran, "the bread basket" of Syria and Israel, probably destroying many settlements in his wake. Some scholars would see a later historic reference to this march in Hosea's mention of the spoiling of Beth Arbel in Transjordan by a certain Shalman (10:14). From there Shalmaneser crossed Israel to the mountains of Ba'li-ra'si, which is on the Mediterranean coast. There he received tribute from Jehu "the son of Omri" and from Baalimanzeri the king of Tyre. Quite plausibly, this mountain should be identified with Mount Carmel, which traditionally served as the boundary between Israel and Phoenicia.

Shalmaneser returned only once more, in 838 B.C.E., in a punitive expedition against Hazael, who subsequently became the dominant power in the area. During his later years, Shalmaneser was occupied with campaigns in northern Syria and with rebellion in Assyria proper against his heir Sham-shi-Adad V.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.