Between 724–22 BCE, Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, besieged Israel’s capital, Samaria. Hoshea, king of Israel, had refused to pay tribute to him and Assyria was merciless against vassal states who rejected its authority. When Shalmaneser died in 722 BCE, Sargon II succeeded. Hamath, Arpad and Samaria rebelled against their new Assyrian overlord. Sargon subdued and annexed Hamath and Samaria, making them Assyrian territories; Arpad had been annexed by Assyria 16 years earlier in 738 BCE. The city of Gaza had asked for the support of the Egyptians against the Assyrians and Sargon also halted an Egyptian advance into the city. Two decades later (701 BCE), the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, angered by King Hezekiah’s renunciation of Assyria, reconquered the region and Hezekiah was forced to pay punitive reparations. Sennacherib then attempted, and failed, to take Jerusalem. The Bible states that God smote the Assyrians; a more prosaic theory is that the city’s fortifications were too strong for Sennacherib’s exhausted army.
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