It seems that even in ancient times, the succession of kings was decided by someone else.
If these kings were not allowed to make certain decisions on their own, what personality would such a king develop? I’d say he might become a manic-depressive egomaniac, who oscillates between extravagance and decadence, and then frustration and nihilism. There is a Biblical book narrated by an unspecified king that I think expresses just such a split personality: the Book of Ecclesiastes. The narrator endlessly repeats that “all is in vain”. Apart from that, he switches between boasting of his life in luxury—giving tips for a humble lifestyle enjoying little things like eating and drinking— and complaining that you cannot change the way things are run. If that comes from an ancient king, then I’d find it quite troubling, though it might be more honest and closer to the truth than other records that simply list “great deeds”.
While I didn’t set out to criticize the official message of the Biblical scripture, I’ll make an exception here. This “king” narrator, whether historical or not, was based on someone from wealthy ruling elites, and his speech reads like the utter and complete capitulation of an office holder, who states he cannot change anything and then calls this “wisdom”. I respect the first part for its honesty, but the second part is our big clue.
The text of Ecclesiastes has positive and negative verses. I’ll list only the negative ones here to make this aspect more visible. You can read the full text in a Bible of your choice. I will also be nit- picking at the text, criticizing the author’s indifference. You may think that I’m unfairly mistaking a religious text for something it’s not meant to be, but I feel this book is not at all religious. Judge for yourself:
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, Vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What advantage does man have in all his work Which he does under the sun? ECC 1:3
If this is supposed to come from a king, does then a king have no “advantage” from his “work”? Or is this king referring to his subjects?
And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is
ECC 1:1 ECC 1:2
striving after wind .
Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing
pain. ECC 1:18
I can understand that knowledge of unhappy truths results in grief. But what would be so painful
about wisdom? Not having the chance to apply it, as a king?
I enlarged my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself; ECC 2:4I made gardens and parks for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees; ECC 2:5I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees. ECC 2:6
I bought male and female slaves and I had homeborn slaves. Also I possessed flocks and herds
larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem .
Also, I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men – many concubines. ECC 2:8
Note how he lists homeborn slaves with cattle. He seems to have had it all, luxury-wise.
Then I said to myself, As is the fate of the fool, it will also befall me. Why then have I been
extremely wise? So I said to myself, This too is vanity.
For there is no lasting remembrance of the wise man as with the fool, inasmuch as in the coming days all will be forgotten. And how the wise man and the fool alike die! ECC 2:16
So you might as well be a foolish king, and reign foolishly, since all will be forgotten? I can understand rulers might think that way now and then, but why would Biblical editors include this?
Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, for I must leave it to
the man who will come after me .
And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the
fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun. This too is vanity.
If the narrator is a king, wouldn’t he have a say in which man will come after him, say one of his sons, and have influence on whether it will be a wise man or a fool? If not, who decides this?
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven –
A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. ECC 3:2Atimeto andatimetoheal;Atimeto andatimetobuildup.ECC 3:3A time to and a time to sew together; A time to and a time to speak. ECC 3:7A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace. ECC 3:8
When would be a time to be silent for a king? When his superiors give him commands? Shouldn’t a king be able to avert this time for killing, tearing down, hate and war?
Furthermore, I have seen under the sun that in the place of justice there is wickedness and in theplace of righteousness there is wickedness. ECC 3:16
For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. ECC 3:19
Shouldn’t a king have some power to reward the just and punish the wicked, so that their fate is notexactly the same, and so that we’re not all like beasts? If that’s not possible, then why not?
Then I looked again at all the behold I saw the
side of their
which were being done under the sun. And and that they had no one to comfort them; and on the
tears of the oppressed
acts of oppression
, but they had no one to comfort them. ECC 4:1
That is terrible! But he’s a king. He’ll fix the worst excesses of this oppression, right?
oppressors was power
So I congratulated the dead who are already dead more than the living who are still living. ECC 4:2But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed, who has never seen the evil activity that is done under the sun. ECC 4:3
So, the ruler cannot do anything about oppression? Nihilism is the answer of a governor? That’s very honest and matches my modern experience, but I’d still like him to spell out the reasons.
A poor yet wise lad is better than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to receive instruction. ECC 4:13
From whom then does such a king receive his instructions?
Then comes an interesting passage. He talks of visits to God, using the word Elohim, which can also mean high-ranking human “lords”. Is he visiting God, or some lords? You can read it both ways. He talks of obtaining “dreams” (חלם), which also means “leniency” in Arabic.
Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the
sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil.
Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For
God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few. ECC 5:2
For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words. ECC 5:3
When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay
what you vow!
It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. ECC 5:5
Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God
that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work
of your hands?
ECC 5:6For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God. ECC 5:7
Are these tips for future kings-to-be on how to deal with their superiors? Be careful what topics you bring up? Don’t promise too much? Don’t admit mistakes beforehand?
If you see in the province, do notat the sight; for one official watches over another official, and there are higher
officials over them. ECC 5:8
And a king apparently cannot do anything about oppression of the poor, or denial of justice? Good
thing that this reliable chain of officials takes care of the oppression and injustice business.Whatever exists has already been named, and it is known what man is; for he cannot dispute
with him who is stronger than he is. ECC 6:10
Just who exactly are those people who are stronger than a king?
There’s another passage about proper behavior towards superiors. It’s translated as applying to the king’s subjects, but could again have a double-meaning as the king himself obeying the command of “lords”. The “king” isn’t in the Hebrew original for ECC 8:5. Other king verses are phrased strangely.
I say, Keep the command of the king because of the oath before God. ECC 8:2Do not be in a hurry to leave him. Do not join in an evil matter, for he will do whatever he
oppression of the poor and denial of justice and righteousness
He who keeps a experiences no trouble, for a wise heart knows the proper time
ECC 8:3Since the is authoritative, who will say to him, What are you doing? ECC 8:4
word of the king
So then, I have seen the wicked buried, those who used to go in and out from the holy place, and
they are soon forgotten in the city where they did thus. This too is futility. ECC 8:10
Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the
sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.
Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly. ECC 8:12
Again, can’t a king do anything against wicked people doing evil deeds and lengthening their lives?
If the ruler’s temper rises against you, do not abandon your position, because composure allays great offenses. ECC 10:4
Again a tip about how to deal with superiors.
Men prepare a meal for enjoyment, and wine makes life merry, and money is the answer to
everything. ECC 10:19It sure seems that way.
Furthermore, in your bedchamber do not curse a king, and in your sleeping rooms do not curse a rich man, for a bird of the heavens will carry the sound and the winged creature will make the matter known. ECC 10:20
Apparently the kings and rich folk have their little birdies everywhere, so watch your mouth.The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because
this applies to every person .
For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.
Much as I’d like to believe that the author believes this, he’s been saying exactly the opposite until now. It’s a pity, because he was an honest man.
Hezekiah and Sennacherib
In the Ecclesiastes text, kings couldn’t decide about oppression and injustice, or about the time for killing and war. Were wars managed then as they are now? It would again be the “god” perspective: Rulers have always claimed war, victory and defeat to be the will of their respective gods. The same theme is used in the Bible: God drives out enemy nations before the Israelites, but also occasionally gives the Israelites into the hands of their enemies.
We also get hints that money could be a decisive factor in wars, then as now:
He hired also 100,000 valiant warriors out of Israel for one hundred talents of silver. 2 CHRON 25:6
Even divine wonders sometimes emulate hired mercenary armies, and their wargear, with entire kingdoms apparently being for hire.
For the Lord had caused the army of the Arameans to hear a sound of chariots and a sound of
horses, even the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, “Behold, the king of
Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians, to come uponus.” 2 KINGS 7:6
Weapons are also traded: Although chariots are described as superweapons (JOSH 17:16,JOSH 17:18, JUDG 1:19, JUDG 4:3, 2 KING 18:24), they are happily imported and exported around, and even hired out to foreign nations.
They for 600 shekels of silver apiece and horses for 150 apiece,
and by the same means they them to all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Aram.2 CHRON 1:17
imported chariots from Egypt
So they hired for themselves 32,000 chariots, and the king of Maacah and his people, who came and camped before Medeba. And the sons of Ammon gathered together from their cities and came to battle. 1 CHRON 19:7
It was probably less than 32,000. Still I’m reminded of today’s world, where Western deep staters first arm a Middle Eastern country to the teeth, and then have it attacked by their own armies, milking both countries’ treasuries.
Since we’ll be visiting the Assyrians again, let’s first have a look at their elaborate tank-like siege engines, complete with wheels and turrets. They had more gadgetry and gimmicks under their hood. Imagine what one of these would cost. And you’d need iron and durable wood to build them, not found in resource-poor central Mesopotamia. Think of the business opportunities! There’s another relief about a siege tower being grappled and burned by the defenders. So they are used up in wars. Good for whoever produces them. Of course the Assyrians had chariots as well, also destroyed in wars, like the expensive horses.
War machinery – before and after
Even enemy leaders are described in the Bible as knowing their God-given victory beforehand, such as the Egyptian king Neko, who warns the Judean king Josiah not to enter his war with Charchemish, since God has already sorted it out (2 CHRON 35:21).
The central example is a war that Miles has already analyzed: The invasion of Judah under king Hezekiah by Sennacherib king of Assyria. The Assyrian leader, titled Rab-Shaqeh, taunts the Judean defenders, by claiming that their own God YHWH has sent him to destroy them.
Have I now come up without the LORD’S approval against this place to destroy it? The LORD said to me, ‘Go up against this land and destroy it.’2 KING 18:25
He also openly claims that the smashing of altars in Judah was not about purging foreign religions, but about destroying the altars of God himself to centralize worship in the capital.
But if you say to me, ‘We trust in the LORD our God,’ is it not He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and has said to Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem’? 2 KING 18:22
His full derisive rant could be read at Wikipedia but has been deleted. If the Wiki authors wouldn’t leave this in, why did the Bible authors? It’s as if they weren’t Israelites.
As Miles has discussed, the Assyrian king Sennacherib was later assassinated “in obscure circumstances” once again. Sadly, I cannot fully solve that puzzle here. But I can give further evidence that the war was faked, and records have been forged on both sides. In pursuit of that, let’s look at the siege of Jerusalem again. Both kingdoms claim to have won it in their chronicles. In the Bible, a tribute of 300 silver talents is said to have been paid before the war by Hezekiah (2 KING 18:14). When the invasion is ordered nonetheless, God’s messengers destroys the Assyrian army in a single night (2 KING 19:35). God promised that no siege mound would be erected against Jerusalem (2 KING 19:32). But the Assyrian Annals of Sennacherib, inscribed on three prisms stored in the US, UK and Israel, give a different account: Hezekiah’s mercenaries flee, Jerusalem is besieged with a mound, but the city is not taken here either. Hezekiah pays tribute after the invasion, but via messenger only.
The “tribute” is the largest from the entire campaign and includes luxuries that do not chime with the humble Judah from Bible accounts. An anecdote about Hezekiah’s later life mentions his immense treasures (2 KING 20:13), but doesn’t state where they came from, much less why they’re still there after a “tribute” like this:
…30 talents of gold, 800 talents of silver, choice antimony, large blocks of carnelian, beds inlaid with ivory, armchairs inlaid with ivory, elephant hide, ebony, boxwood, garments with multi- colored trim, linen garments, blue-purple wool, red-purple wool, utensils of copper, iron, bronze, tin and iron, chariots, shields, lances, coats of mail, swords on belts, bows and arrows, equipment, instruments of war without number…
This is from the prism called Rassam cylinder, said to have been written closer to the events, and more detailed than the other two (Taylor and Oriental Institute). And there’s one bit of information on at least the Rassam and the Oriental Institute cylinders that is absent from most books and Wiki pages: Hezekiah didn’t only send luxury items, but also his own daughters, “palace women” and entertainers to Sennacherib’s capital Nineveh.
…together with his daughters, his palace-women, his male and female musicians (which) he had (them) bring after me to Nineveh, my royal city.
The few books that discuss this speculate a lot about the status of the princesses as hostages, and a Jewish exile before the Babylonian one. But to me this doesn’t look like war booty any more, not even like regular tribute. It looks like Hezekiah and Sennacherib are forging an alliance, and part of Hezekiah’s entire family is migrating to Nineveh, together with their personal items, to inhabit new palaces there, built with the spoils looted off common people on the Assyrian campaigns. There is one final clue that the princesses and luxury items were not a “tribute” from a subdued king. It is said that the Rassam cylinder has never been fully translated, apparently because it differs so little from the other Two. That is false, it differs significantly! Not only does it have this very detailed description of the booty from Judah, but remember the list starting with “…30 talents of gold”? Well, that is perhaps not the start of the tribute list. Rather, it’s preceded by a conjunction, indicating that the gold is just a continuation: “…along with 30 talents of gold”.
Most historians translate this as the start of the phrase: “Along with 30 talents of gold [he sent all those other items]”. But that doesn’t make sense, because then you wouldn’t need a conjunction. And there is actually something important preceding it, usually translated away. Now what did Hezekiah send to Nineveh, along with gold and luxury items and princesses?
(As for) him, Hezekiah, the fear of the radiant splendor of my lordship overwhelmed him and hesent after me to Nineveh, my capital, ambushers and his select troops whom he had brought in to strengthen Jerusalem, his royal city, and whom he had acquired as auxiliary troops, (as well as) 30 talents of gold, 800 talents of silver, choice antimony…
According to these few straightforward translations, he sent soldiers. Soldiers! And not just any soldiers, he sent his selected elite troops! Of course, most historians try to separate the soldiers into the preceding phrase. The few that actually use “along” as a conjunction (soldiersalong with gold) try to explain the soldiers away as “deserters” or being of “no further need”. But this breaks the entire narrative. Why would a victorious king Sennacherib accept enemy soldiers being sent into his capital, even if they were unarmed, or deserters, or auxiliary? How could he conquer so many kingdoms if he did? The only explanation is the usual banal yet hurtful truth: He wouldn’t, he couldn’t, and he didn’t. It was likely the bodyguard of the princesses, just like the luxury items were their personal endowments. This would make Sennacherib and Hezekiah not enemies, but agents and members of the same manufactured- war machine that has plagued our planet in the millennia ever since. Wars are scams by the elites, now as then. The skirting around the Rassam cylinder and this passage indicates that major historians know this, and play along.
Was Sennacherib then killed by his elder sons, because he favored his youngest? I think not. The date given is 681 BC, and we will later see that by this period, the Global Hoax was already in full swing. For the alleged conspiracy, it would be interesting to know if any of Hezekiah’s daughters were among Sennacherib’s wives. However, I think any stories about subversion of kingdoms by marriage likely originate from the Book of Esther and are just that: stories. If this was the great secret of the spooks, they wouldn’t give it away like that. Rather, we’ll see that the Ancient Spooks never operated from a position of weakness, butalways possessed great power and global reach. In any case, I couldn’t find more details about Hezekiah’s daughters, so I have given up here. Still we can deduce larger patterns from what happened afterwards. First note that a lot of looted wealth from the campaigns was amassed in Nineveh, including Hezekiah’s “tribute”. That city had existed before, but Sennacherib made it a new capital, in a massive building project which included his legendary “Palace Without Rival”. Many reliefs I cited are from there. There are some about the work on the palace itself. Much of the work is done by prisoner slaves, but I bet a lot of money still changed hands for it. So some of the wealth from the campaigns went somewhere else again, and to someone else.
Also note what happened right before and after Sennacherib’s death. Miles cited the complete destruction of Babylon by Sennacherib in 689 BC:
Sennacherib put an end to the “Babylonian problem” by utterly destroying the city and even the mound on which it stood by diverting the water of the surrounding canals over the site.
What then did his son Esarhaddon do? He rebuilt Babylon eight years later. Maybe the destruction hadn’t been that complete? [Also note the number 8.]
He was formally declared king in the spring of 681 BC. His brothers fled to the land of Ararat and their followers and families were put to death. In the same year Esarhaddon began the rebuilding of Babylon, including the well-known Esagila and the Ekur at Nippur (structures sometimes identified with the Tower of Babel).
You may say that Sennacherib was evil and Esarhaddon was good, like many historians frame it, or that Esarhaddon was a Babylonian mole. I personally see a different pattern here: Every other decade or century, the cryptocrats seem to shift their global administrative centeraround, mopping the old place up and building a new one, but often later rebuilding the old one as well. We will encounter this pattern again and again. One advantage of this is obvious: It is very expensive. Public expenses are private profits for the people who own the quarries, woods, mines, art workshops, means of transportation. We will see that all these things were monopolized by the Ancient Spookians. If some artifacts weren’t really destroyed but merely hidden, they could even bag the profit without giving anything in return. Other reasons might be a shift of their business to new regions, and possibly a sort of exploitative crop rotation: They let commoners slowly rebuild an area they destroyed, until the amount of local wealth is large enough to be skimmed off by another war. This is all speculation on my part, though we will encounter some clues when we get to Rome and Carthage in the next part.
As for the fact that the governors are simply migrating to a new administrative center, we can get that clue right from the Bible. Nineveh, the city where all the loot was amassed, was itself mopped up half a century later. A strange migration pattern is noted in the Book of Nahum, which is three chapters of wailing over Nineveh’s destruction, addressing the city as “you”.
You have increased your traders more than the stars of heaven – The creeping locust strips and flies away. NAHUM 3:16
…and seeks a new host body, we might add. The author points out the fact that Nineveh-based merchants, like maturing locusts, are abandoning the city and seeking out new hosts. While his likening of merchants to locusts isn’t flattering, he doesn’t seem to mind, or at least is aware, that they don’t share the fate of lesser citizens. We can induce from this that the elites by and large weren’t affected by wars, which were likely arranged to be net profitable to them.
Guess what other kind of people proliferated in Nineveh, and are always able to leave the sinking ship? Nazir-ed people. There’s only this one occurrence of the word, but they’re translated as “from the crown”, written M-NZR (מנזר), with the Nazir root from Part I.
Thy crowned are as the locusts, and thy captains as the great grasshoppers, which camp in the hedges in the cold day, but when the sun ariseth they flee away, and their place is not known
where they are .
מנזריך כארבה וטפסריך כגוב גבי החונים בגדרות ביום קרה שמש זרחה ונודד ולא־נודע מקומו אים
Most versions try to hide this by assuming a Ṣade misspelled as Zayin and translate as “guardsmen”, but he really means the very top. If you speak Hebrew, you’ll appreciate that he found three different words for locusts, to insult each group individually.
So, it was well known that the elites don’t go down with their cities and kingdoms, even though officially divine punishment was brought down on these cities and kingdoms because of them. If they’re all assumed to be spared in Nineveh, we may assume they were spared in all wars.
How did it work? We’ll see later with Nebuchadnezzar II that foreign soldiers in capitals were not the exception, but the rule. Perhaps aristocrats were only ever allowed to be “captured” by such “foreign elite troops” (!), which were really globalized champaign units of princelings and spooklings. We’ll have to watch out for this trope in future research.
To conclude, we’ve seen that the Assyrian invasion of Judah seems to have been resolved through a pact between allies, and could even have been a project between many allies from the start. And while there is no direct proof, the economic setup at the time would already allow for wars to be not about actual conquest, but all about profiteering, just like today!