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The Prophecy of Amos, Part 1 - Christogenea on Talkshoe 2-1-2013
Many students of the Bible fail to realize, or at least easily forget – and I also at times have probably been guilty of this same thing – that the promise to Abraham that his seed would possess all of the land from Egypt to the Euphrates was indeed fulfilled in the days of King David. Even the Jews often deny the fact of this fulfillment, hoping themselves to be the heirs of this land in modern times and pointing to the prophecy in order to justify their treachery – and in spite of the fact that they are not genetic Israel. Here it is in Genesis 15:18-21: “18 In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: 19 The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, 20 And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, 21 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
Now it is clear from Scripture that the children of Israel did not exterminate all of the tribes of Canaan as they were so commanded. But that does not mean that they did not possess the land. The fulfillment of this promise of Genesis 15:18 is evident in 2 Samuel chapter 8: “1 And after this it came to pass, that David smote the Philistines, and subdued them: and David took Methegammah out of the hand of the Philistines. 2 And he smote Moab, and measured them with a line, casting them down to the ground; even with two lines measured he to put to death, and with one full line to keep alive. And so the Moabites became David's servants, and brought gifts. 3 David smote also Hadadezer, the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to recover his border at the river Euphrates. [Therefore David controlled the land eastward to this point.] 4 And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen: and David houghed [evidently he cut the hamstrings of] all the chariot horses, but reserved of them for an hundred chariots. 5 And when the Syrians of Damascus came to succour Hadadezer king of Zobah, David slew of the Syrians two and twenty thousand men. 6 Then David put garrisons in Syria of Damascus: and the Syrians became servants to David, and brought gifts. And the LORD preserved David whithersoever he went. 7 And David took the shields of gold that were on the servants of Hadadezer, and brought them to Jerusalem. 8 And from Betah, and from Berothai, cities of Hadadezer, king David took exceeding much brass. 9 When Toi king of Hamath heard that David had smitten all the host of Hadadezer, 10 Then Toi sent Joram his son unto king David, to salute him, and to bless him, because he had fought against Hadadezer, and smitten him: for Hadadezer had wars with Toi. And Joram brought with him vessels of silver, and vessels of gold, and vessels of brass: 11 Which also king David did dedicate unto the LORD, with the silver and gold that he had dedicated of all nations which he subdued; 12 Of Syria, and of Moab, and of the children of Ammon, and of the Philistines, and of Amalek, and of the spoil of Hadadezer, son of Rehob, king of Zobah. 13 And David gat him a name when he returned from smiting of the Syrians in the valley of salt, being eighteen thousand men. 14 And he put garrisons in Edom; throughout all Edom put he garrisons, and all they of Edom became David's servants. And the LORD preserved David whithersoever he went. 15 And David reigned over all Israel; and David executed judgment and justice unto all his people. 16 And Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the host; and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder; 17 And Zadok the son of Ahitub, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, were the priests; and Seraiah was the scribe; 18 And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over both the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David's sons were chief rulers.”
So it is evident, that the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, were all subjected to Israel in the days of King David, and that his kingdom did indeed stretch from the border of Egypt to the Euphrates, and that David's sons were delegated rulership over parts of this territory. These things are truly not noticeable in inscriptions or in the Bible, because even in the Bible the original names of these lands were kept, the lands were mostly named after the original occupants, and later on those who inhabited these lands were often called after these names no matter what tribe they were from. The children of Israel also began to mingle with these subject people, which is evident throughout the Biblical narrative, that they went “a whoring after the heathen” (i.e. Ezekiel 23:30) and begot “strange children” (i.e. Hosea 5:7).
The Edomites were subject to Judah for many many years, at least until the days of King Jehoram, when they first revolted, where 2 Chronicles chapter 21:8-10 says this: “ 8 In his days the Edomites revolted from under the dominion of Judah, and made themselves a king. 9 Then Jehoram went forth with his princes, and all his chariots with him: and he rose up by night, and smote the Edomites which compassed him in, and the captains of the chariots. 10 So the Edomites revolted from under the hand of Judah unto this day. The same time also did Libnah revolt from under his hand; because he had forsaken the LORD God of his fathers.” Libnah was a Levitical city of Judah, originally belonging to Canaanites and taken by Joshua. So even cities long occupied by Israelites had independently revolted from their own government during the period of the divided kingdom.
The Philistines were also subject to Judah for a very long time. In the days of Jehoshaphat, who ruled around 872-847 BC, we read in 2 Chronicles 17:11: “Also some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents, and tribute silver; and the Arabians brought him flocks, seven thousand and seven hundred rams, and seven thousand and seven hundred he goats.” Later the Philistines successfully revolted, around the same time that the Edomites did, in the reign of Jehoram king of Judah, the son of Jehoshaphat.
The Moabites were subject to Israel, not Judah, until the days of Joram [also Jehoram] king of Israel, which is described in 2 Kings chapter 3 thusly: “ 1 Now Jehoram the son [actually grandson] of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years. 2 And he wrought evil in the sight of the LORD; but not like his father, and like his mother: for he put away the image of Baal that his father had made. 3 Nevertheless he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom. 4 And Mesha king of Moab was a sheepmaster, and rendered unto the king of Israel an hundred thousand lambs, and an hundred thousand rams, with the wool. 5 But it came to pass, when Ahab was dead, that the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel.” The Moabites were defeated, but rebelled and fought Israel again in the days of Jehoahaz (circa 814-798 BC, 2 Kings chapter 13), and once more in the days of Jehoshaphat king of Judah did they take league with the Ammonites and Edomites against Judah, and their armies were all destroyed (2 Chronicles chapter 20).
Likewise the Ammonites were still tribute to Judah in the days of Uzziah the king of Judah, around the very time when Amos is prophesying, where at 2 Chronicles 26:8 we read: “And the Ammonites gave gifts to Uzziah: and his name spread abroad even to the entering in of Egypt; for he strengthened himself exceedingly.”
Here in the opening chapters of Amos we see seven nations, if they can properly be called nations, being chastised by Yahweh: Damascus and the people of the Syrians (Aram), Gaza (a Philistine city, it was not a region at that time) and the Philistines, the Tyrians, the Edomites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, Judah and Israel all being chastised by Yahweh. Until this time, or not long before, all of these regions were part of the kingdom left behind by David, all were occupied by a great number of Israelites, and all were ruled over by the princes of Judah. After the time of Solomon Israel and Judah were divided, and we are not told many of the specifics concerning the circumstances of the outlying countries which had been or still are subject to either Israel or Judah.
2 Kings chapter 14 describes the reign of Jeroboam II during which Amos prophesied, and a reading of it will help to establish the context of the prophet to some degree:
2 Kings 14:1: “In the second year of Joash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel reigned Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah. 2 He was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. 3 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, yet not like David his father: he did according to all things as Joash his father did. 4 Howbeit the high places were not taken away: as yet the people did sacrifice and burnt incense on the high places. 5 And it came to pass, as soon as the kingdom was confirmed in his hand, that he slew his servants which had slain the king his father. 6 But the children of the murderers he slew not: according unto that which is written in the book of the law of Moses, wherein the LORD commanded, saying, The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children be put to death for the fathers; but every man shall be put to death for his own sin. 7 He slew of Edom in the valley of salt ten thousand, and took Selah by war, and called the name of it Joktheel unto this day. 8 Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash, the son of Jehoahaz son of Jehu, king of Israel, saying, Come, let us look one another in the face. 9 And Jehoash the king of Israel sent to Amaziah king of Judah, saying, The thistle that was in Lebanon sent to the cedar that was in Lebanon, saying, Give thy daughter to my son to wife: and there passed by a wild beast that was in Lebanon, and trode down the thistle. 10 Thou hast indeed smitten Edom, and thine heart hath lifted thee up: glory of this, and tarry at home: for why shouldest thou meddle to thy hurt, that thou shouldest fall, even thou, and Judah with thee? 11 But Amaziah would not hear. Therefore Jehoash king of Israel went up; and he and Amaziah king of Judah looked one another in the face at Bethshemesh, which belongeth to Judah. 12 And Judah was put to the worse before Israel; and they fled every man to their tents. 13 And Jehoash king of Israel took Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Jehoash the son of Ahaziah, at Bethshemesh, and came to Jerusalem, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem from the gate of Ephraim unto the corner gate, four hundred cubits. 14 And he took all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king's house, and hostages, and returned to Samaria. 15 Now the rest of the acts of Jehoash which he did, and his might, and how he fought with Amaziah king of Judah, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? 16 And Jehoash slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel; and Jeroboam his son reigned in his stead. [This is Jeroboam II, the king of Israel in the days of Amos, and we see that Edom is still subject to Judah in these days.] 17 And Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah lived after the death of Jehoash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel fifteen years. 18 And the rest of the acts of Amaziah, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? 19 Now they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem: and he fled to Lachish; but they sent after him to Lachish, and slew him there. 20 And they brought him on horses: and he was buried at Jerusalem with his fathers in the city of David. 21 And all the people of Judah took Azariah, which was sixteen years old, and made him king instead of his father Amaziah. 22 He built Elath, and restored it to Judah, after that the king slept with his fathers. 23 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel began to reign in Samaria, and reigned forty and one years. 24 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD: he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. [Amos prophesies that Jeroboam would die by the sword for this. ] 25 He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gathhepher. 26 For the LORD saw the affliction of Israel, that it was very bitter: for there was not any shut up, nor any left, nor any helper for Israel. 27 And the LORD said not that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven: but he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash. 28 Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, and all that he did, and his might, how he warred, and how he recovered Damascus, and Hamath [major cities of Syria, so the Syrians are subject to Israel when Amos writes], which belonged to Judah, for Israel, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? 29 And Jeroboam slept with his fathers, even with the kings of Israel; and Zachariah his son reigned in his stead.”
While we cannot possibly discuss all of the history leading up to and even encompassing the events of the prophecies of this book, with this general context now understood we can now begin to examine the Book of Amos:
Amos 1:1 The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.
The name Amos means burden. Tekoa was a city of Judah fortified in the days of Rehoboam, the first king of Judah after Solomon, as can be seen in 2 Chronicles chapter 11. So Amos was literally a shepherd in Judah. This Jeroboam is Jeroboam II, who ruled over the northern kingdom of Israel from about 793 BC to about 753 BC. The reign of this Jeroboam, the son of Joash, is recounted in 2 Kings chapter 14. The prophet Hosea has his ministry around this same time, so Amos was certainly his contemporary, however Hosea's ministry must have lasted some time longer than that of Amos. The prophet Isaiah began his ministry in the time of this same Uzziah, who is also called Azariah and who ruled Judah until about 739 BC. Isaiah does not mention a king of Israel until Pekah in Isaiah chapter 7, who ruled around 740 BC. Therefore it is evident that Amos probably preceded Isaiah by at about 15 years, and perhaps even longer. While the prophecy of Amos knows no king in Israel except for Jeroboam, and the prophet foretells of Jeroboam's death, it cannot be told from the text how long Amos' ministry lasted but it in all likelihood ended before that death in 753 BC.
The phrase “two years before the earthquake” may itself be a prophecy, or it may be that these words were written later, and in retrospect. However verse 2 is a prophetic statement which seems to forebode that earthquake. The earthquake mentioned in several places in Amos is generally believed by archaeologists to have occurred circa 750 BC and to have been as high as 8.0 on the Richter scale. It may have been the model for the imagery projected in the prophecy of an earthquake in the last days, described in Isaiah chapter 2. Zechariah, a prophet of the much later second temple period, referred to this earthquake when he wrote at Zechariah 14:5: “And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.” Isaiah 5:25 also seems to be a look back at this earthquake, which Isaiah must have lived through in his younger years: “ 25 Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.” It is possible, but not necessarily so, that Micah also was prophesying this earthquake at Micah 1:3-6, if indeed Micah began his prophetic ministry at the very beginning of the reign of Jotham, king of Judah.
2 And he said, The LORD will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither.
This seems to forebode the coming great earthquake which is mentioned in verse 1. The following verses of Amos are an oracle against Damascus. Syria was subjected to Israel by David. Damascus first revolted under Rezon in the days of Solomon (1 Kings chapter 11). In 1 Kings chapter 15, Damascus is still independent and in league with Judah against Israel.
3 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron: 4 But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, which shall devour the palaces of Benhadad.
Hazael was anointed king by the prophet Elijah, which we see in 1 Kings 19: “15 And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. 17 And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay.” Ahab presumably ruled from 874-853 BC, and both Ahaziah and Joram (Jehoram) ruled over Israel before Jehu became king in 841 BC. In 1 Kings chapter 20 we see an account concerning “Benhadad the king of Syria”. Now here it is possible that Benhadad is a reference to Hazael, and since the name presumably means son of hadad, a Syrian idol, it may simply be a title. Hazael's death is recorded in 2 Kings 13:24, where it is described that he is succeeded by his son, who is called Benhadad.
Benhadad the son of Hazael is known from 2 Kings chapters 8 through 12. An inscription bearing the name of Benhadad of Damascus was found in an ancient cemetery near Aleppo in northern Syria, dedicated “to his lord Melqart”, a pagan Syrian deity (Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Princeton University Press, J. Pritchard editor, 1969 [Hereinafter ANET], p. 655). However Hazael and Benhadad are also mentioned in other inscriptions.
The Shalmaneser of 2 Kings chapters 17 and 18 is known to archaeologists as Shalmaneser V, and he ruled in Assyria near the middle of the 8th century BC. The Bible usually does not tell us much of what is happening outside of its own immediate scope, which is usually the events surrounding the capital cities of Israel, Samaria and Jerusalem. But by the middle of the 9th century BC, the time of Elijah, the Assyrians are already making conquests of the cities of the Syrians, Hittites and others of the north, and put Hamath, Damascus, Byblos, Sidon and Tyre under tribute. All of these things are known from ancient Assyrian inscriptions. From a basalt statute discovered by archaeologists which contained an inscription from the reign of Salmanassar III, who presumably ruled from 854-828 BC – which is consistent with the time of the rule of Ahab provided above, and the anointing of Hazael as king of Damascus in the days of Elijah, we have the following:
“I defeated Hadadezer of Damascus together with twelve princes, his allies. I stretched upon the ground 20,900 of his strong warriors like šu-bi [the meaning is unknown], the remnants of his troops I pushed into the Orontes river and they dispersed to save their lives; Hadadezer (himself) perished. Hazael, a commoner (literally: son of a nobody), seized the throne, called up a numerous army and rose against me. I fought with him and defeated him, taking the chariots of his camp. He disappeared to save his life. I marched as far as Damascus, his royal residence [and cut down] his gardens.” (ANET, p. 280) There were at least 4 campaigns described in the inscriptions by Salmanassar III against Damascus, but he never took the inhabitants nor did he destroy the city.
So it is evident that in 1 Kings chapter 19 Yahweh tells Elijah to anoint Hazael king, and seems to be indicating that Syria's immediate attack against Israel under Hazael, seen in 1 Kings chapter 20, is by His commission as a punishment against Ahab. However at the same time from the north Assyria is encroaching upon Syria and the northern cities which were once subject to Israel. The Bible tells us that Hazael was anointed king by the prophet of Yahweh, however the Assyrians saw him as an interloper, the “son of a nobody”. Yet the Assyrian records corroborate the Old Testament accounts, albeit indirectly since they have an entirely different perspective. The prophet Jonah wrote during the time of these earlier Assyrian conquests, and for that reason he feared the Assyrians and had hoped that Yahweh would destroy them. Some years later Jeroboam II, the king of Israel at the time of Amos, subjected Syria to Israel once again. In 2 Kings 14:28, speaking of this same time in which Amos is writing, it says of Jeroboam II: “Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, and all that he did, and his might, how he warred, and how he recovered Damascus, and Hamath, which belonged to Judah, for Israel, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?” Of course, the victories of Jeroboam II were short-lived and within a few decades of his passing, all of the cities of Syria and Samaria itself would fall to the Assyrians.
5 I will break also the bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitant from the plain of Aven, and him that holdeth the sceptre from the house of Eden: and the people of Syria shall go into captivity unto Kir, saith the LORD.
Under Tiglath Pileser III, who presumably ruled Assyria from 744 to 727 BC, Assyria “conquered the town of Hadara, the inherited property of Rezon of Damascus, [the place where] he was born” (ANET, p. 282), fully verifying 2 Kings 16:9 where it says “9 And the king of Assyria hearkened unto him: for the king of Assyria went up against Damascus, and took it, and carried the people of it captive to Kir, and slew Rezin.” The Assyrian inscription cited above goes on to describe many of the prisoners taken away by the Assyrians at this time, and says that “592 towns … of the 16 districts of Damascus I destroyed (making them look) like hills of (ruined cities over which) the flood (had swept).” (ANET, p. 282)
In the text of Amos, the name Kir is not accompanied with the article, and the word simply means wall. Therefore the exact reference is ambiguous. The word appears as a prefix to the names of many cities, and is related to the word which provides the first syllable in the names Carthage and Carchemish which is also found in the names of many other walled cities. Strong's Concordance states that Kir was “a place in Assyria; also one in Moab” (7024), however I have not yet seen its name in inscriptions. There was a city named Kirkuk in ancient Mesopotamia, in a district formerly known as Arrapha, which is mentioned in several inscriptions, which still exists in Iraq today.
It seems that the Syrians had originated in Kir, as at Amos 9:7 Yahweh says in part “Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?” The ancient district of Padan-aram, known from Genesis chapters 25 through 46, is a name which means plain of Aram, and Aram is a name for that tribe which is akin to the Hebrews (Genesis 10:22 ff.). But the Hebrew name for Aram is usually translated as Syrian in the King James Version and in reference to their land it is translated as Syria. If the original land of Aram was in northern Mesopotamia, where Padan-aram is clearly located, then Kir must be there, and the Syrians of Damascus must have been deported back to that region from whence their ancestors had once come.
In the later annals of Sargon II, who ruled from 721 to 705 BC, there are records that not only did he destroy Samaria, the capital city of Israel, and take away 27,290 of its inhabitants into captivity, but in records that are broken and quite incomplete, Damascus had suffered a similar fate. Hamath also was conquered by Sargon II around this same time, after the city rebelled under the leadership of “a cursed Hittite”, as the Assyrian records attest (ANET, pp. 284-285).
As an aside, in the even later Greek and Roman histories, the inhabitants of Cappadocia in eastern Anatolia are called “White Syrians”, however Herodotus merely refers to “the Cappadocians, whom we Greeks know by the name of Syrians” (Histories, 5.49 and cf. 1.72). The geographer Strabo merely explains that the Syrians of Cappadocia north of the Taurus Mountains lack the tanned skin of those who dwelt south of the Taurus Mountains, but that nevertheless they were Syrians and were therefore called “White Syrians” (Geography, 12.3.9). Strabo later took care to explain that while the Cappadocians were called “White Syrians”, the other Syrians were not black, for he makes a sarcastic comment, saying “as though some Syrians were black”, indicating that there certainly were not any black Syrians (Geography, 16.1.2).
While the cities of Syria were certainly populated with the people of Aram, they must also have been populated with many Israelites, since the cities of Syria were for a long time subject to Israel as we have already established here. This is also evident in the words of Isaiah 10:5-11, where several cities taken by the Assyrians are compared: “ 5 O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. 6 I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. 7 Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few. 8 For he saith, Are not my princes altogether kings? 9 Is not Calno as Carchemish? is not Hamath as Arpad? is not Samaria as Damascus? 10 As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria; 11 Shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols?” In these comparisons, Calno and Hamath, cities in northern Syria, must have been inhabited by Israelites as Samaria was. Jeroboam II, as it says in 2 Kings 14:28 , recovered Hamath for Israel. Arpad and Damascus may have been primarily Aramaean. Carchemish was of course the principle city of the Hittites, also subjected by the Assyrians.
6 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they carried away captive the whole captivity, to deliver them up to Edom: 7 But I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, which shall devour the palaces thereof: 8 And I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and him that holdeth the sceptre from Ashkelon, and I will turn mine hand against Ekron: and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, saith the Lord GOD.
The beginning of the prophecy is realized in the days of Hezekiah, king of Judah, who ruled from about 729 BC. This is a couple of decades after Amos' time. Here it is in 2 Kings 18: “1 Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. 2 Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Abi, the daughter of Zachariah. 3 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did. 4 He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan. 5 He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. 6 For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses. 7 And the LORD was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not. 8 He smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city. 9 And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria, and besieged it.”
Yet this did not totally destroy the Philistines, and we also see here that the Assyrian deportations of the northern kingdom of Israel had begun. Yet many of the people of the Philistines were also carried away captive by the Assyrians.
From the annals of Sargon II we read this, which is part of a longer description describing the conquest of Philistia by this Assyrian king: “I besieged and conquered the cities Ashdod, Gath, Asdudimmu; I declared his [referring to Azuri, king of Ashdod] images, his wife, his children, all the possessions and treasures of his palace as well as the inhabitants of his country as booty. I reorganized the administration of these cities and settled therein people from the regions of the East which I had conquered personally...” (ANET, p. 286). Later, in the annals of Sargon II, that king takes offense that a “Greek commoner” had come to rule Ashdod, and the city is again besieged and defeated.
In Zechariah 9:6 there is a prophecy which states “ 6 And a bastard shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines.” Of course, the Philistines were not bastards but had descended from Mizraim (Genesis 10:14). The prophecy does help to establish that the current inhabitants are indeed bastards, since the word arab means mixed and they are its fulfillment.
Yet here at this time long before Zechariah not quite all of the Philistines had yet been destroyed, which is clear from historic and Biblical records. Many of them must have escaped, where some of the children of Israel dwelling in those lands which were long subject to Israel must have escaped with them. In a different prophecy Isaiah says at 11:13-14: “13 The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim. 14 But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them.” Where the King James Version has shoulders, the Septuagint has ships.
In the annals of Sennacherib, who presumably ruled from 704 to 681 BC, Ashkelon was reduced and the king of Ashkelon and his entire family was deported to Assyria, and the city put under tribute with another Philistine appointed as king (ANET, p. 287). While the subsequent history of the city is murky, it is mentioned by Herodotus who seems to have visited it. There he says, among other things, that he found the “most ancient of all the temples” to the pagan idol “Celestial Aphrodite” (Histories, 1.105).
[The Babylonians too had once taken Ashkelon, and it is mentioned in a surviving fragment (48) of the poems of Alcaeus. Allusions to Greek mercenaries in the service of the Babylonians also survive in this poet (350), and are clarified by Strabo who quoted a more complete copy of his work.]
Gaza was already a vassal state of the Assyrians, evident in the Annals of Sennacherib who presumably ruled from 704 to 681 BC (ANET, p. 288). In the records of Esar-Haddon, king of Assyria who ruled from 680 to 669 BC, we see that Gaza was under tribute to Assyria during this period (ANET, p. 291). That situation had not changed in the later reign of Ashurbanipal, who ruled from 668 to 633 BC (ANET, p. 294). It cannot be told in the inscriptions which I have access to just how Gaza had been subjected. Later, Gaza is listed in a fragmented inscription from the rule Nebuchadnezzar II which lists the officials set over the various cities during the time of his administration, from 605 to 562 BC (ANET, p. 308).
The fate of the rest of the inhabitants of the cities of the Philistines is in part revealed in the annals of Sennacherib (704 to 681 BC):
“In the continuation of my campaign I besieged Beth-Dagon, Joppa, Banai-Barqa, Azuru, cities belonging to Sidqia who did not bow to my feet quickly (enough); I conquered them (and) carried their spoils away. The officials, the patricians and the (common) people of Ekron – who had thrown Padi, their king, into fetters (because he was) loyal to (his) solemn oath (sworn) by the god Ashur, and had him handed over to Hezekiah, the [Judahite] (and) he (Hezekiah) held him in prison, unlawfully, as if he (Padi) be an enemy – had become afraid and had called (for help) upon the kings of Egypt (and) the bowmen, the chariot(-corps) and the cavalry of the king of Ethiopia, an army beyond counting- and they (actually) had come to their assistance. In the plain of Eltekeh, their battle lines were drawn up against me and they sharpened their weapons. Upon a trust(-inspiring) oracle (given) by Ashur, my lord, I fought with them and inflicted a defeat upon them. In the melee of the battle, I personally captured alive the Egyptian charioteers with the(ir) princes and also the charioteers of the king of Ethiopia. I besieged Eltekeh (and) Timnah, conquered (them) and carried their spoils away. I assaulted Ekron and killed the officials and patricians who had committed the crime and hung their bodies on poles surrounding the city. The (common) citizens who were guilty of minor crimes, I considered prisoners of war. The rest of them, who were not accused of crimes and misbehavior, I released. I made Padi, their king, come from Jerusalem and set him as their lord on the throne, imposing upon him the tribute (due) to me (as) overlord.” (ANET, pp. 287-288) The very next paragraph in the same inscription describes Sennacherib's taking of the 46 fenced cities of Judah, the deportation of over 200,000 of their inhabitants, and the siege of Jerusalem, which are all recorded in the Bible.
The Bible, especially considering its great antiquity, is found to be a very reliable book both historically and prophetically when it is compared to the secular records.