Sennacherib seated on his throne receiving booty taken from conquered Judean city Lachish.
Inhabitants of the city kneel before him. (A relief from Sennacherib's palace in Ninevah)

The Great Empires and Israel

Historical Background

Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.) played a significant role in the history of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. His siege and conquest of the Judean city of Lachish in 701 during the reign of Hezekiah is not recorded in the Bible, but Assyrian records and archeological excavation of the site reveals a great deal. Lachish was a heavily fortified city in Judah, probably second only to Jerusalem, but it fell before the mighty Assyrian king. From Lachish Sennacherib laid siege on Jerusalem in that same year. This event is recorded in the Bible (2 Kgs. 18:13-19:37), and it is an immensely exciting story. The Assyrian commander calls for Jerusalem's surrender, mocking the God of Israel. Hezekiah prays before the Lord in the Temple, and through Isaiah the Lord gives his answer: "I will defend this city and save it!" That very night 185,000 Assyrians soldiers die:

Then it happened that night that the angel of the LORD went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home, and lived at Nineveh. (2 Kgs. 19:35-36)

Indeed, the days of the mighty empires -- Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome -- represent perhaps the most exciting period in Old Testament history. The articles on this page are not so much a history of Israel, king-by-king, but a survey of the larger picture of what was going on around Israel in the ancient Near East and how it affected Israel.

The articles in the table below give much detail about the mighty empires during these exciting centuries and their impact on Israel down to the time of Christ. Expect it to be fascinating reading.



Nature of Our Reprint

George Ernest Wright

"The Great Empires of Israelite Times"

Source: "The Great Empires of Israelite Time" in George Ernest Wright and Floyd Vivian Filson, The Westminster Historical Atlas to the Bible (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1956). Read about the rise and fall of these mighty empires and how they impacted Israel.

George Ernest Wright

"Maccabean and Herodian Palestine"

Source: "Maccabean and Herodian Palestine" in George Ernest Wright and Floyd Vivian Filson, The Westminster Historical Atlas to the Bible (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1956). What took place after the time of Ezra and Nehemiah and the close of the canon with the postexilic prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi? Malachi wrote around 435. So there was a little over 400 years between Malachi and the birth of Jesus during the days of Herod the Great. The history of this period is very important. It includes the fulfillment of several prophecies given by Daniel. It includes the atrocities against Judah committed by the Greek king Antiochus IV. It includes the origin of the Jewish sects mentioned in the Gospels, particularly the Pharisees and Sadducees. Finally, it includes how Herod came to power, that wicked king at the birth of Jesus described in the Gospels. This article will give you an excellent overview of this fascinating period.

Leon Wood

"Life in Egypt"

Source: Chapter 6, "Life in Egypt" in Leon Wood, A Survey of Israel's History (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970). Egypt was never a "world empire" in the sense this term is used for Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. However, it was a mighty nation. What was life like in Egypt? What was Egypt like when Joseph brought his family there? Who was the Pharaoh "who knew not Joseph"? This excerpt comes from a chapter in one of the best books available presenting the history of Israel.

Erich Sauer

"The Times of the Nations (The Four World Empires in Daniel)"

Source: Chapter XI, "The Times of the Nations," in Erich Sauer, The Dawn of World Redemption: A Survey of Historical Revelation in the Old Testament, trans. G. H. Lang (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1955).

Kenneth J. Morgan

A Complete Exegesis of the Historical Section of Daniel Chapter 11

Clicking this link takes you to the page where we have posted articles written by us. Scroll down the page until you see this title. The paper is in three parts followed by a bibliography.

This three-part paper offers a verse-by-verse exegesis of verses 1-35, the historical portion of the chapter prior to the introduction of the Antichrist. These verses trace major kings and events from the Persian period to the Greek ruler, Antiochus IV (Epiphanes, 175-164 B.C.), and they represent one of the most remarkably detailed predictions in the Old Testament.

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