Ira Spar is a research Assyriologist in the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art.
Posted: Monday, November 24, 2014
Hezekiah became king of Judah in ca. 727 B.C. We learn from the Bible that he purified and repaired the Temple, purged its idols, reformed the priesthood, and witnessed the land prosper. But events in far-off Assyria were to have a fateful effect upon his kingdom. When Sargon II, the king of Assyria, died in battle in 705 B.C., states, including Judah, that were subject to Assyrian hegemony saw the opportunity for revolt (2 Kings 18:7). In 703 B.C. Sennacherib, Sargon's son and successor, began a series of major campaigns to quash opposition to Assyrian rule.
Posted: Thursday, November 6, 2014
The ancient Phoenician city-states (principally Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, and Arwad) lay along the coast and islands of modern-day Lebanon. In Greece and Rome the Phoenicians were famed as "traders in purple," referring to their monopoly on the precious purple dye derived from the shells of murex snails found along its coast. In the Bible they were famed as sea-faring merchants; their dyes used to color priestly vestments (Ex. 28:4–8), adornments, curtains, yarns, and fabrics used in the Temple of Jerusalem (Ex. 26:31; 36:35; 2 Chr. 2:6; 3:14; cf. Jer. 10:9). Archaeologically, we know that their trading networks extended from the Levantine coast to the Iberian Peninsula, linking ports in the Mediterranean into a vast mercantile network.
Posted: Friday, July 19, 2013
Toward the end of the first century a.d. Jerusalem lay in ruins, the second temple built by Herod the Great (74/73–4 b.c.) destroyed and ransacked by the Roman army. Meanwhile, in Babylon, scribes continued to copy ancient texts, inscribing some of them on cuneiform tablets made of clay. After the last cuneiform scribe passed to his fate, no one remained who could read or write documents in Babylonian, Assyrian, or Sumerian. In 1893, pioneer archaeologists and explorers digging in Iraq began to uncover vast archives of cuneiform tablets that had been buried for two thousand years. Today, philologists, archaeologists, and historians are able to combine narratives previously known only from the Bible with information gleaned from thousands of historic, literary, religious, and scientific texts, illuminating the world of Nebuchadnezzar, Sennacherib, and Cyrus. The Cyrus Cylinder, now on view at the Met, helps us understand the peoples and policies of the ancient Near East.