In the year 550 news reached Babylon that Cyrus, the king of Anzan, had dealt a fatal blow to the Median empire, capturing its king, Astyages, and joining Media to his own district. He founded what was afterwards known as the Persian empire. The overthrow of the Medes gave Cyrus control over Assyria, and it was to be expected that his gaze should be turned in the direction of Babylonia.
A small people, originally exiled from India, that had had eight thousand years of vicissitudes since; sometimes, it is necessary to think, high fortunes; no doubt an age of splendor once under their great king Solomon, or some one else for whom the traditional Solomon stands; oftenest, perhaps, subjected to their powerful neighbors in Egypt, Babylon, or Assyria, and latterly Rome: you may say that no doubt they were in the long run no better and no worse than the rest of mankind.
Besides this, a payment, the nature and amount of which was also fixed, had to be made in kind, each province being required to furnish that commodity, or those commodities, for which it was most celebrated. This latter burthen must have pressed very unequally on different portions of the Empire, if the statement of Herodotus be true that Babylonia and Assyria paid one-third of it.
Now therefore, O LORD our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD God, even thou only. Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.
Solomon married a daughter of Pharoah and carried on with Egypt an extensive commerce and for his wife's sake no doubt introduced the worship of Egyptian gods. Assyria. This country as well as Egypt had lost much of her former power and was not in a position to antagonize Solomon.
Without interruption, wild people from Asia were attacking those strong walls behind which Egypt was hoarding the riches of the entire civilized world. At first the Egyptian garrisons could hold their own. One day, however, in distant Mesopotamia, there arose a new military empire which was called Assyria. It cared for neither art nor science, but it could fight.
Ashurbanabal chooses this "favorable" day as the one on which to break up camp in the course of one of his military expeditions. We would naturally expect to find a festival month devoted to the god Ashur in Assyria. This month was Elul the sixth month. The choice of this month lends weight to the supposition that Ashur was originally a solar deity.
It would seem that neither in Chaldæa nor still less in Assyria was any such lengthy restriction imposed. It is only by exception that crude bricks of which the desiccation has been carried to the farthest possible point have been found in the palaces of Nineveh; almost the only instance we can give is afforded by the bricks composing the arches of the palace doorways at Khorsabad.
Ordinary houses were probably not much better than log-huts and hovels, until wealth was accumulated by private persons. The earliest monuments of enduring magnificence were the temples of powerful priests and the palaces of kings; and in Egypt and Assyria these appear earliest, as well as most other works showing civilization.
Yes, my friends, this is the lesson which the Jews had to learn, and which the king of Assyria had to learn, and which we have to learn also; and which God will, in His great mercy, teach us over and over again by bitter trials whensoever we forget it; that The Lord is King; that He is near us, living for ever, all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving; that those who really trust in Him shall never be confounded; that those who trust in themselves are trying their paltry strength against the God who made heaven and earth, and will surely find out their own weakness, just when they fancy themselves most successful.