Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III
- For the band see: Black Obelisk (band)
The "Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III" is a black limestone Neo-Assyrian bas-relief sculpture from Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), in northern Iraq, commemorating the deeds of King Shalmaneser III (reigned 858-824 BC).
It is the most complete Assyrian obelisk yet discovered, and is historically significant because it is thought to display the earliest ancient depiction of a biblical figure - Jehu King of Israel. The traditional identification of "Yaw" as Jehu has been questioned by some scholars, who proposed that the inscription refers to another king, Jehoram of Israel. Its reference to 'Parsua' is also the first known reference to the Persians.
Tribute offerings are shown being brought from identifiable regions and peoples. It was erected as a public monument in 825 BCE at a time of civil war. It was discovered by archaeologist Sir Austen Henry Layard in 1846 and is now in the British Museum. Replicas can be found at the Oriental Institute in Chicago, Illinois, at Harvard's Semitic Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the ICOR Library in the Semitic Department at The Catholic University of America, in Washington, District of Columbia, in Salem, Oregon, at Corban University's Prewitt/Allen Archaeological Museum and in the library of the Theological University of the Reformed Churches in Kampen, the Netherlands.
Height: 197.85 cm-(~6.5 ft). Width: 45.08 cm-(~1.5 ft).
The obelisk features twenty reliefs, five on each side. They depict five different subdued kings, bringing tribute and prostrating before the Assyrian king. From top to bottom they are: (1) Sua[disambiguation needed] of Gilzanu (in north-west Iran), (2) "Jehu of Bit Omri" (Jehu of the House of Omri), (3) an unnamed ruler of Musri (probably Egypt), (4) Marduk-apil-usur of Suhi (middle Euphrates, Syria and Iraq), and (5) Qalparunda of Patin (Antakya region of Turkey). Each scene occupies four panels around the monument and is described by a cuneiform script above them.
On the top and the bottom of the reliefs there is a long cuneiform inscription recording the annals of Shalmaneser III. It lists the military campaigns which the king and his commander-in-chief headed every year, until the thirty-first year of reign. Some features might suggest that the work had been commissioned by the commander-in-chief, Dayyan-Assur.
The second register from the top is thought to include the earliest surviving picture of a biblical figure. The name appears as mIa-ú-a mar mHu-um-ri-i. Rawlinson's original translation in 1850 seminal work "On the Inscriptions of Assyria and Babylonia" stated: "The second line of offerings are said to have been sent by Yahua, son of Hubiri, a prince of whom there is no mention in the annals, and of whose native country, therefore, I am ignorant" Over a year later, a connection with the bible was made by Reverend Edward Hincks, who wrote in his diary on 21 August 1851: "Thought of an identification of one of the obelisk captives — with Jehu, king of Israel, and satisfying myself on the point wrote a letter to the Athenaeum announcing it". Hincks' letter was published by Athenaeum on the same day, entitled "Nimrud Obelisk". Hincks' identification is now the commonly held position by biblical archaeologists.
The name is now commonly read as "Yaw, son of Omri (Bit-Khumri", see House of Omri), understood by Hincks as the Biblical Jehu, king of Israel. The identification of "Yaw" as Jehu has been questioned, based on the fact that Jehu was not an Omride, as well as transliteration and chronology issues.
The stele describes how Jehu brought or sent his tribute in or around 841 BCE. Jehu severed Israel’s alliances with Phoenicia and Judah, and became subject to Assyria. The caption above the scene, written in Assyrian cuneiform, can be translated:
- P. Kyle McCarter, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 216 (Dec., 1974), pp. 5-7
- Edwin R. Thiele, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 222 (Apr., 1976), pp. 19-23
- On the Inscriptions of Assyria and Babylonia, 1850
- The Bible in the British Museum: Interpreting the Evidence, T. C. Mitchell, page 14
- Studies on the Text and Versions of the Hebrew Bible in Honour of Robert Gordon, edited by Geoffrey Khan, Diana Lipton, p159
- "Nimrud Obelisk, Athenaeum, 1251, 1384-85
- Millard, Alan (1997) Discoveries from Bible Times, Oxford, Lion, p121
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