Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria Conquers the City of Samaria



 Damien F. Mackey



According to the Second Book of Kings it was “Shalmaneser” who besieged and conquered the city of Samaria (18:9-10): “Shalmaneser king of Assyria marched against Samaria and laid siege to it. At the end of three years the Assyrians took it”.

And, according to my postgraduate thesis revising this era, king Shalmaneser [known as V] was the same person as Tiglath-pileser III, who also occurs in the Bible (e.g. 2 Kings 16:7). From this it would follow, then, that Tiglath-pileser III had conquered Samaria.

And I believe that he really did.


Here follow the relevant portions of my thesis:

A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah

and its Background



Volume 1, p. 127:

I suggested in Chapter 1 (p. 26) that [king] Hoshea’s revolt against Assyria, involving his turning to ‘So King of Egypt’, would have occurred close to 727 BC, the beginning of Hezekiah’s reign. Some years earlier, with the Assyrian forces of Tiglath-pileser III “approaching the very border of Israel and … threatening to push onward to Samaria”, according to Irvine’s construction of events, Hoshea had led “a pro-Assyrian, anti-Pekah movement within Israel …”.290 But now, in the face of Hoshea’s revolt, the swift-acting Shalmaneser V,291 (who I am identifying with Tiglath-pileser), had promptly “confined [Hoshea] and imprisoned him” (2 Kings 17:4) …. Hoshea was thus rendered inactive from about the beginning of Hezekiah’s reign and on into the siege and subsequent capture of Samaria. And so the Egyptian-backed Hezekiah, who had like Hoshea rebelled against Assyria, became for a time the sole ruler of the entire land, prior to the Assyrian incursions into Judah. In this way, one presumes, Hezekiah would have been able to have sent his messengers into northern Israel.

Next I point to indications that Shalmaneser, and not Sargon II, was the actual father of Sennacherib; a relationship supported by the Book of Tobit which has Sennacherib immediately following Shalmaneser as the latter’s son and successor.

In fact, the title of a recent article of mine:

Assyrian King Sargon II, Otherwise Known As Sennacherib


could easily be adapted to this present article, as “Assyrian King Tiglath-pileser III, Otherwise Known As Shalmaneser”.

  1. 139:

My own proposed explanation of this unorthodox situation takes its lead from Russell’s phrase … “… disapproval of [predecessor’s] policies”. And I suggest it can be accounted for only if Sennacherib be merged with Sargon II, who, at the very beginning of his reign had to undo the unpopular policies of his hated predecessor, Shalmaneser (so-called V). Thus Olmstead:322

A slight laid upon the city of Ashur by Shalmaneser proved his undoing. Ashur

became angry at the sacrilegious wretch who feared not the lord of all, overthrew his rule in the wrath of his heart, called Sargon to the kingship, lifted up his head, gave him sceptre, throne, and crown. To establish his royalty, Sargon granted freedom from tribute to the sacred cities of Ashur and Harran, and every citizen found his privileges increased as never before. They were freed from the levy of the whole land for military purposes, from the summons of the levy master; like the other temple cities of Assyria, they were freed of all dues. The charter containing the grant of privileges was written on a great silver tablet which was set up before the image of Ashur.

Clearly Sargon who now claimed to be ‘True King’ (the meaning of ‘Sargon’) – whether or not he may have slain his predecessor – did not want to include in his titulary a king (albeit his father, as I think) who had made himself unpopular with his god Ashur, and with the masses. In the following chapter I shall suggest a stronger reason for why Sargon may have detested Shalmaneser.

And the same comment applies to Sennacherib if he and Sargon are one – and does not Tobit 1:15 inform us after all that Sennacherib’s father was “Shalmaneser”, not Sargon?


Esarhaddon, who remained ever faithful and obedient to his father, Sennacherib – as we are going to see – might well have considered himself to have had good cause to vandalise the Annals of Tiglath-pileser III in damnatio memoriæ, if the latter were indeed the … much hated, Shalmaneser. Certainly Tiglath-pileser III, as described by Smith, would fit Sargon’s description of his odious father Shalmaneser:323 “… the annals of Tiglath-pileser’s reign were mutilated by Esarhaddon, and there can be little doubt that the Sargonid dynasty must have held Tiglath-pileser in peculiar hatred to commit a desecration apparently rare in their land”.

I now turn my focus more closely upon King Shalmaneser of Assyria.

  1. 147:

Shalmaneser V (c. 726-722 BC, conventional dates)

Looking at the conventional date for the death of Tiglath-pileser III, c. 727 BC, we can see that it coincides with the biblically-estimated date for the first year of king Hezekiah. But, if the former is to be identified with Shalmaneser V, thought to have reigned for five years, then this date would need to be lowered by about those five years (right to the time of the fall of Samaria), bringing Tiglath-pileser III deeper into the reign of Hezekiah. Now, that Tiglath-pileser III is to be equated with Shalmaneser V would seem to be deducible from a combination of two pieces of evidence from [the Book of Tobit]: namely,

  1. that it was “King Shalmaneser of the Assyrians” who took Tobit’s tribe of Naphtali into captivity (1:1, 2); a deportation generally attributed to Tiglathpileser III on the basis of 2 Kings 15:29; and
  2. that: “when Shalmaneser died … his son Sennacherib reigned in his place”


Unfortunately, very little is known of the reign of this ‘Shalmaneser’ [V] to supplement [the Book of Tobit]. According to Roux, for instance:344 “The short reign of … Shalmaneser V (726-722 B.C.) is obscure”. And Boutflower has written similarly:345 “The reign of Shalmaneser V (727-722) is a blank in the Assyrian records”. It seems rather strange, though, that a king who was powerful enough to have enforced a three year siege of Israel’s capital of Samaria (probably the Sha-ma-ra-in of the Babylonian Chronicle), resulting in the successful sack of that city, and to have invaded all Phoenicia and even to have besieged the mighty Tyre for five years,346 and to have earned a hateful reputation amongst the Sargonids, should end up “a blank” and “obscure” in the Assyrian records. The name Tiglath-pileser was a throne name, as Sargon appears to have been – that is, a name given to (or taken by) the king on his accession to the throne. In Assyrian cuneiform, his name is Tukulti-apil-ešarra, meaning: “My confidence is the son of Esharra”. This being a throne name would make it likely that the king also had a personal name – just as I have argued above that Sargon II had the personal name of Sennacherib. The personal name of Tiglath-pileser III I believe to have been Shalmaneser. 344

Such a proposed merging of supposedly two distinct Assyrian kings is not without its apparent problems (just as was the case with Sargon II and Sennacherib).

  1. 148:

A problem though with my proposed identification of Shalmaneser V with Tiglathpileser III is that, according to Boutflower,347 there has been discovered “a treaty between Esarhaddon and Baal of Tyre, in which Shalmaneser is expressly styled the son of Tiglath-pileser”. Boutflower makes reference here to H. Winckler (in Eberhard Schrader’s Keilinschriften, 3rd Edn. pt. I, p. 62, note 2); Winckler being the Assyriologist, we might recall, who had with Delitzsch spirited Sargon’s name into Eponym Cb6 and whose edition of Sargon’s Annals had disappointed Luckenbill. So far, I have not been able to find any solid evidence for this document.

However, the conventional scenario was not without its own problems:

Boutflower had surmised, on the basis of a flimsy record, that Tiglath-pileser III had died in battle and had been succeeded by Shalmaneser:348 “That Tiglathpileser died in battle is rendered probable by the entry in the Assyrian Chronicle for the year 727 B.C. [sic]: “Against the city of …. Shalmaneser seated himself on the throne”.” Tiglath-pileser is not even mentioned.

And there are certain likenesses and other factors that might favour my merging into of supposedly two Assyrian kings:

A co-regency between Shalmaneser V and Sargon II can be proposed on the basis that the capture of Samaria is variously attributed to either king. According to my revision, that same co-regency should exist between Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon; and indeed we find that both Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon campaigned on the borders of Egypt; both defeated Hanno the king of Gaza, and established (opened) there a karu “quay”; both received tribute from Queen Tsamsi of Arabia; both had encounters with Merodachbaladan. Further, according to my revision, that proposed co-regency can be extended to accommodate Sennacherib (as Sargon). Perhaps a clear proof is that, whilst Sennacherib claimed that the Medes had not submitted to any of his predecessor kings (see p. 153), both Tiglath-pileser and Sargon claimed to have received tribute from the Medes.

Interestingly, nowhere in Kings, Chronicles, or in any other of the books traditionally

called ‘historical’, do we encounter the name ‘Sargon’. Yet we should expect mention of him if his armies really had made an incursion as close to Jerusalem as ‘Ashdod’ (be it in Philistia or Judah). Certainly, Sargon II claimed that Judah (Iaudi), Philistia (Piliste), Edom and Moab, had revolted against him.349 If the Assyrian king, Sargon II, can have two different names – as is being agued here – then so might his father. So I conclude that 2 Kings, in the space of 2 chapters, gives us three names for the one Assyrian king:

– 15:19: “King Pul of Assyria came against the land …”.

– 15:29: “King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria came and captured …”.

– 17:3: “King Shalmaneser of Assyria came up”.

On p. 150 I revisit some of this:

(iv) [Book of Tobit]

[The Book of Tobit], like [The Book of Judith], was a popular and much copied document. The incidents described in [The Book of Tobit] are written down as having occurred during the successive reigns of ‘Shalmaneser’, ‘Sennacherib’ and ‘Esarhaddon’. No mention at all there of Sargon, not even as father of Sennacherib. Instead, we read: “But when Shalmaneser died, and his son Sennacherib reigned in his place …” (1:15). Moreover this ‘Shalmaneser’, given as father of Sennacherib, is also – as we saw – referred to as the Assyrian king who had taken into captivity Tobit’s tribe of Naphtali (vv. 1-2); a deed generally attributed to Tiglath-pileser III and conventionally dated about a decade before the reign of Sargon II. This would seem to strengthen my suspicion that Shalmaneser V was actually Tiglath-pileser III, despite Boutflower’s claim of a treaty document specifically styling Shalmaneser as son of Tiglath-pileser III.

On p. 183 I tentatively introduced another controversial connection, this time between Assyria and Babylonia:

…. That would mean that Tiglath-pileser III was himself the father of Merodach-baladan, and that he (rather than the obscure mid C9th BC Nabu-apal-iddina) was the very ‘Baladan’ of the Scriptures; an illustrious king indeed, and one too well-known for any need for his full name to have been given. Tiglath-pileser III was also known in history and the Old Testament (as we saw), by his supposed Babylonian name, or nickname, Pul (var. Pulu, Pulus, Porus); a name that could well be an abbreviation, deriving from the apal element in -apal-iddina (var. -bal-iddina), presumably the latter part of Tiglathpileser’s name as ruler of Babylon.

If Merodach-baladan were indeed the very son of Tiglath-pileser III, and presumably older than his brother, Sargon II/Sennacherib, then this would explain the former’s tenacity in clinging to the throne of Babylon, presumably as the rightful heir to his father, despite Sargon’s protest that Merodach-baladan had reigned ‘against the will of the gods’. It might also go a long way towards accounting for Sargon II’s hatred of his father, as Shalmaneser, and his utter contempt for Merodach-baladan. In one place, for instance, he (as Sennacherib) will call Merodach-baladan “an evil-doer, whose guilt is heavy”.443 Sargon II had much about which to be resentful in the case of Merodach-baladan:444 “Seriously defeated by [Merodach-baladan and his Elamite allies], Sargon lost control of Babylonia and did not regain it for approximately a dozen years”.

The next section will presuppose certain earlier identifications that I had proposed between Tiglath-pileser I and III, on the one hand, and Adad apla-iddina and Merodach-baladan, on the other, a very brief account of which can be read in my:

Bringing New Order to Mesopotamian History and Chronology


  1. 184 introduces an element of possible intrigue:

Such a dynastic situation might also explain, finally, Sargon II’s choice of throne name, meaning, basically, ‘True King’, which one might take as being somewhat suspicious – as if the man ‘doth protest too much’. Roux, for instance, allows for Sargon to have been a “usurper” (and even a son of Tiglath-pileser, as I am claiming):445 “Equally obscure are the circumstances which brought [Shalmaneser V’s] successor to the throne, and no one can say whether he was a usurper or another of Tiglathpileser’s sons”.

Did Sargon II actually kill his father, and then attempt to dispose of his brother, Adadapla-iddina (Merodach-baladan), who was however long able to withstand him: all the while blackening their names for posterity?

Come p. 360, we encounter this significant historico-biblical event:

The Syro-Ephraïmitic War (and “the son of Tabeel”).

On p. 355 of the previous chapter, I gave Irvine’s summary of Procksch’s useful interpretation of Isaiah 9:7-10:4; with Procksch outlining Isaiah’s historical background to the Syro-Ephraïmitic crisis. This Syro-Ephraïmitic activity, a union eventually of Rezin of Syria and Pekah of Israel, was, as I suggested, a forerunner to the Syro-Palestinian revolt of 720 BC against Sargon II of Assyria … in which the

rebels against the Assyrian crown would now be supported by Egypt. Hence I basically accepted Irvine’s interpretation (though not his date) “that the episode in fact related to a broad anti-Assyrian movement in Syria and Palestine during the late 730s”. Irvine has somewhat, I think, captured the essence of the early Isaian phase of history in his account of Isaiah 9:10-11 and the activity of what he has called the “western powers”:1043

Verses 10-11 recount a second instance of divine punishment. Because the earthquake did not bring about the repentance of the people, Yahweh struck Israel again, this time by means of foreign enemies.

  1. So Yahweh exalted the oppressors [in the charge] of Rezin … over it, and stirred up its enemies.
  2. Syria from the east and the Philistines from the west devoured Israel by the


The verses are understandable against the background of Israel’s territorial reduction during the last part of Jeroboam’s reign [I should add, ‘and during the interregnum’] and the early years of Menahem.

Under the leadership of Rezin, Syria and/or surrogate powers encroached on Israelite holdings in Transjordan and the Galilee. At the same time, Syria and Philistia together may have overrun the Sharon Plain. The aggression of both countries fits into a larger pattern of Syrian expansionism and anti-Assyrian movements during the second half of the eighth century. Rezin was intent on two related goals: (1) re-establishing a “Greater Syria:” that would dominate Palestine; and (2) leading other western powers into a coalition that could eventually check Assyrian efforts to control the Eastern Mediterranean Seaboard.

And I added this chronological note on p. 361:

Always to be kept in mind in relation to this particular era, given that I am identifying

Tiglath-pileser III with Shalmaneser V, is that Assyrian activity involving the former (e.g. campaigns dated to the 740’s-730’s) may need to undergo about 5 years of shortening. Even Assyrian support from Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria for Menahem of Israel was not able to prevent the Ephraïmite hill country (2 Kings 15:19) from eventually falling … thanks now to the strong union now between Rezin and Pekah, who had overthrown Pekahiah of Israel (15:25). According to Irvine:1045 “Rezin likely engineered the coup, thereby reducing Israel to a client state”.

This war was followed by another celebrated incident that is also recorded in the Bible.

  1. 365:

Hoshea’s Call to ‘King So of Egypt’


The Syro-Palestinian resistance to Assyria – a resistance now to be supported by Egypt – will be a consistent factor throughout the reign of Hezekiah, who, unlike his father, Ahaz, would choose to be politically ‘pro-Egyptian’, as would Hezekiah’s contemporary, Hoshea of Israel. Hoshea’s decision to throw off the Assyrian yoke and to court pharaoh ‘So’ was simply the next link – and by no means the last – in the chain of Syro-Palestinian rejections of Assyrian overlordship. The invitation to ‘So’ was apparently the first Egyptian-related incident that occurred during the reign of king Hezekiah of Judah, having taken place in approximately the latter’s first year (c. 727 BC). According to the account of it in 2 Kings 17:4: “Hoshea … sent messengers to King So of Egypt, and offered no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year; therefore the king of Assyria confined him and imprisoned him”. The king of Assyria was then “Shalmaneser” (v. 3), who, in my scheme, was none other than Tiglath-pileser III.

And this leads us into the Conquest of Samaria and the involvement in this, now, of king Tiglath-pileser III.


Siege and Fall of Samaria

  1. 371-372:

I should like now to add a further dimension to the Assyrian aspect of it all, based on Irvine. According to my revised neo-Assyrian chronology (as argued in detail in Chapter 6), Tiglath-pileser III himself was heavily involved in the last days of the kingdom of Israel. And indeed Irvine has discussed the surrender of Hoshea to Assyria, interestingly, and quite significantly, to Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria, in connection with what he refers to as “ND4301 and ND4305 … adjoining fragments of a summary inscription found during the 1955 excavations at Nimrud and subsequently published by D. J. Wiseman”.1082 Here is Irvine’s relevant section of this:1083

Line 11 reports that Hoshea … submitted personally to Tiglathpileser. Where and when this occurred is not altogether clear, for the Akkadian text is critically uncertain at this point. Wiseman reads, ka-ra-ba-ni a-di mah_-ri-ia, and translates, “pleading to my presence”. This rendering leaves open the date and place of Hoshea’s submission. More recently, R. Borger and H. Tadmor restored the name of the southern Babylonian town, Sarrabanu, at the beginning of the line …. On linguistic grounds this reading is preferable to “pleading” (karabani). It appears then that Hoshea paid formal homage to Tiglathpileser in Sarrabanu, where the Assyrian king was campaigning during his fourteenth year, Nisan 731 – Nisan 730. The event thus occurred well after the conclusion of the Assyrian campaigns “against Damascus” (Nisan 733 – Nisan 731).

This may have vital, new chronological ramifications. If this were indeed the “fourteenth year” of the reign of Tiglath-pileser III, who reigned for seventeen years,1084 and if he were Shalmaneser V as I am maintaining, then this incident would have been the prelude to the following Assyrian action as recorded in 2 Kings 17:5: “Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Samaria; for three years he besieged it”. These “three years” would then approximate to Tiglath-pileser III’s 14th-17th years. “In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria captured Samaria; he carried the Israelites away to Assyria” (v. 6). That event, as we know, occurred in c. 722 BC. And it may just be that this apocalyptical moment for Israel is recorded in the fragments of Tiglath-pileser III now under discussion. I continue with Irvine’s account:1085

The Assyrian treatment of Israel at large, presumably once described in 1. 10, is also uncertain. According to Wiseman’s translation, the text refers cryptically to “a district” and “their surrounding areas” …. Alternatively, Borger and Tadmor restore the Akkadian along the lines of III R 10,2:15-18: “[House of Omri] in [its] en[tirety …together with their pos]sessions [I led away] to [Assyria]” …. This reading is conjectural but possible. If it is correct, the text reports the wholesale deportation of Israel. The truth of this sweeping claim is a separate question ….

Further on, Irvine will propose that this “statement exaggerates the Assyrian action

against Israel”, though he does not deny the fact of an Assyrian action. Thus:1086 “Not all the people could have been exiled, for some people obviously must have remained for the new king Hoshea to rule”. But if this were, as I am maintaining, the time of Hoshea’s imprisonment by Assyria, with the subsequent siege and then capture of Samaria, his capital city, then there may have been no king Hoshea any more in the land of Israel to rule the people.

As Thiele has found out, it is often extremely difficult to date with precision campaign events associated with Tiglath-pileser III. Thiele agonises over, for instance, whether the Assyrian king’s campaign to ‘Kullani’ – in connection also with his collecting of payment from Menahem of Israel – had taken place in 742 BC or 738 BC (conventional reckoning).1087 Here though, I believe, we have a classic instance of the 5-year discrepancy that might be expected as a result of the failure to identify Tiglath-pileser III with Shalmaneser V, who reigned for five years. (I have already discussed this in Chapter 6, section: “Shalmaneser V”, beginning on p. 147).


One might conclude from the above that Tiglath-pileser III, who was Shalmaneser, was the Assyrian ruler who had ordered the historico-biblical incident of the siege of Samaria and the mass deportation of its citizens. The 3-year siege of the city of Samaria – whose fall is customarily dated to 722/721 BC – occurred during the 14th-17th years of the reign of said Tiglath-pileser III.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s