The Decline and Fall of Assyria by Cam Rea
Strive not with a man without cause, if he hath done thee no harm" (Proverbs 3;30).
And the channels of the sea appeared, the foundations of the world were discovered, at the rebuking of the LORD, at the blast of the breath of his nostrils.
He sent from above, he took me; he drew me out of many waters: (2-Samuel 22;16-17).
Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee" (Proverbs 4;24)
"This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper." T.S. Elliot
The fall of Assyria was a whimper and in no way ended in a bang. Instead it was slow agonizing death process, and in no way was a one day orchestrated event. Ashurbanipal, Assyria's last great king ascended the throne only to inherit the storm forming on the horizon. From the time Ashurbanipal became king until his death, wars and revolts were common place throughout his Empire. One could easily speculate that Ashurbanipal died from pure exhaustion due to the series of wars that took place one after another in various places all over his fragile Empire, and lets not forget that his army most likely was stretched to the limit, and thus exhausted and depleted from further continuing on in any military endeavor.[i] Once the great Ashurbanipal died, his successors were in no way ready for the job and duty to support and defend the Empire. His younger son who was just a boy was chosen over Ashurbanipal's oldest by Sin-shumu-lishir the chief eunuch who is said to have used a private army from his estate in 631 or 627 BC.[ii] Now when Ashur-etil-ilani took power he also took on at least several others (including Sin-shumu-lishir just mentioned) claiming power instead of him. This testifies to the political instability of the region.[iii] But, out of the many claiming the throne one was powerful enough to be mentioned in the ever so obscure Assyrian tablets that are so silent in this time period. His name was Nabu-rihtu-usur and he emerges from obscurity to lay claim to the throne. Nabu-rihtu-usur gained much support from Sin-shar-ibni who was the governor of Te, as well as from many of the Assyrian citizens who threw their lot in with his claim, as did the city of Ashur.[iv] Another example would be King Josiah for it seems that he rebelled around the same time period give or take a few years. Josia rebelled by throwing out objects considered pagan that had some connection to Assyria (2 Kings 23: 12). He also went on the attack taking back former lands once occupied by Ten Tribes of Israel that had been under Assyrian control (2 Kings 23: 15-20).[v] Now when the wars had subsided Ashur-etil-ilani gave to Sin-shumu-lishir his chief Eunuch who also was the commander-in-chief, property in gratitude for his loyal support and military ability in defeating Ashur-etil-ilani's enemies[vi]. Sin-shumu-lishir was also exempted from paying taxes, as were those of his household and anyone else of power who had recognized the young king as the rightful heir on the throne. It now becomes evident that the royal house was under siege by those much stronger and more influential then the royals themselves. This led to a total breakdown in royal authority and influence which not only affected the court but the Empire as well.[vii] Ashur-etil-ilani did not last long on the throne for his trusted eunuch, Sin-shumu-lishir, disposed of him took control but reigned for only a year, if even that. It could be possible that Sin-shumu-lishir did not take over the throne, but instead was given the title of "sub-king" whose task was to act as king when the actual king was gone. The reason for this is that some sources indicate that Ashur-etil-ilani and his brother Sin-shar-ishkun were at war with one another over who was the rightful heir, thus leaving behind Sin-shumu-lishir as the acting king until Ashur-etil-ilani returned from his campaign against his brother, and most likely other enemies of Assyria.[viii] We do know that when Sin-shar-ishkun (the brother of the king) took power he did so by deposing Sin-shumu-lishir )the eunuch) from the throne quite easily. It could be suggested that the Assyrian populace had supported Sin-shar-ishkun over his younger brother due to the fact that Sin-shar-ishkun most likely was the rightful heir to the throne of Assyria. It is not entirely clear what happened to his younger brother, Ashur-etil-ilani. It could be speculated that he was ether killed by Sin-shumu-lishir, or killed in battle against his older brother. The only other alternatives is that he was killed by some other enemy or just captured, put in prison, and totally forgotten. In any case, Sin-shar-ishkun became the new king of a decayed body once known as Assyria. Now when Sin-shar-ishkun became king around 626-625 BC give or take 5 years since most can't fully agree on a closer to precise date on the actual rule or events which is justly understandable. Now once Sin-shar-ishkun took power as the rightful king in Assyria, he also took the Babylonian crown for himself as well, since there was no king in Babylon due to his younger brother possibly having taken the title for himself and deposing of the then vassal king Kandalanu. Thus, Sin-shar-ishkun took the Babylonian title from his younger brother or from Sin-shumu-lishir for himself. Because of these events, another leader rose up to challenge him for his kingship of Babylon. His name was Nabopolassar.[ix]
The origins of Nabopolassar are not quite known. There are more speculations then facts. It is said that Nabopolassar may have been the son of Bel-ibni who some say was a Chaldean and viceroy of the Sealands by the Persian Gulf. This is quite possible but not probable,[x] since Bel-ibni was appointed governor of Babylon during the early years of Sennacherib's reign around 703-700 BC give or take a few years. Because of the wide gap in years between Bel-ibni and Nabopolassar one could speculate that Bel-ibni may have been his Grandfather or Great Uncle, but that is mere speculation.[xi] The other possibility is that Naboplassar was the son of or just related to Merodach-baladan, but even that idea holds no ground. Also it's possible that he was an Assyrian general appointed by Ashurbanipal to look after the region but even this idea can sway ether way. In any case Nabopolassar had to have some connection to royalty for such support, and at the same time he may have been the William Wallace of his day for he may have had no distinct background in terms of nobility, but represented a growing unrest building up due to the Assyrian occupation that controlled all things Babylonian.[xii]
Nabopolassar gained adherents to his cause, which most likely was the common cause of the people in southern Babylonia which had a history of being anti-Assyrian. This applies especially to the Babylonian tribes of Bit-Yakin and Bit-Amukani. The reason for this is that these two tribes wanted to form an independent Babylonian state. Because of this Assyria would invade their territory time after time to smash their rebellions. This was not to be forgotten or forgiven among the people that occupied the southern portion of Babylonia. Nabopolassar gained kingship in the marshlands of southern Babylonia, and he may have came from the Bit-Yakin tribe.[xiii] Now once Nabopolassar established himself as king, and independent from Assyrian rule he made plans to recover the rest of Babylonia from Assyria. It has been suggested that Nabopolasser had no intension of expanding his borders into Assyria and thus claiming the Assyrian throne for himself. This could be true but none the less once Nabopolasser decided to go to war against Assyria he had to know that the only way to win was to invade, defeat, and take Assyria, on their own land. Nabopolasser would do just that by attacking Assyrian garrisons stationed on Babylonian soil. Once Nabopolasser pushed the remaining Assyrian forces from Babylonia after a back and forth campaign. He then in 616 BC began his invasion of Greater Assyria in hopes of extinguishing their absolute power.