Assyrians are the nation that exiled the people of Israel. At their height of power, the Assyrians’ military might was matched only by their cruelty and ruthlessness with their defeated foes.
The Assyrians lived in the northern part of what is known today as Iraq. They were the first nation to rule over the entire Fertile Crescent, stretching from the head of the Persian Gulf up to southeast Turkey and down into Palestine. For over three hundred years they pieced together their empire (911–612 BC), and at their height made major raids into Egypt.
As far as the people of Israel were concerned, the most significant event associated with the Assyrians was their attack at Samaria and the annexation of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. The Assyrians exiled many Israelites to faraway places and resettled other foreign peoples in Israel. As these foreign peoples intermarried with Israelites and combined their religious practices with the religion of Israel, they formed a group of people known as Samaritans. These people are spoken about later in several places in the New Testament (Matthew 10:5; Luke 17:16; John 4; Acts 8).The Assyrian Empire was eventually overtaken by the Babylonians around 612 BC and later by the Persians.
The Bible records another important event that occurred between the Assyrians and King Hezekiah of Judah: At one point, Hezekiah refused to pay the tribute that was expected of them by the Assyrians, so the Assyrians besieged Jerusalem. One night after Hezekiah prayed to the Lord, an angel went throughout the camp and killed 185,000 Assyrians. The king of Assyria withdrew to his own country, and Jerusalem was spared destruction (2 Kings 18– 19).