Jehu/The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III (2 Kings 10)

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In 841 B.C. Jehu became king of the northern kingdom by means of a bloody coup (2 Kings 9-10). He moved to rid Israel of Baal worship (10:18-28), but this did not end idolatry, for Jehu continued to worship the golden calves at Bethel and Dan (10:29).

No sooner had Jehu established his rule than he found himself forced to pay homage to Shalmaneser III, king of Assyria (an event not mentioned in the Bible but recorded in several inscriptions by Shalmaneser). The most interesting record is the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser, discovered by Englishman Sir Henry Layard in Calah, Iraq, in 1846. This obelisk provides both a written and a pictoral record of the kings who paid tribute to Assyria.

It depicts Jehu, on his hands and knees with his nose and chin toward the ground, before Shalmaneser. Behind Jehu (on the other three sides of the obelisk) are 13 Israelite emissaries bearing tribute. The inscription reads “I received the tribute of Jehu of the House of Omri (i.e. Israel): silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden goblet, golden cups, golden buckets, tin, a staff of the king’s hand, (and) javelins (?).” All 14 of the Israelites pictured are bearded, with long hair and pointed caps. Each wears a belted tunic with fringe at the bottom. In addition, each of the 13 porters wears a mantle or cloak over the tunic, which extends over the shoulders and is fringed or tasseled down the front on both sides. Jehu is not wearing the outer garment, possibly as a sign of humiliation before Shalmaneser. The Obelisk of Shalmaneser provides the only known surviving likeness of a king of Israel or Judah.

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