During his excavations at biblical Calah (Genesis 10:11; Neo-Assyrian Nimrud) in 1846, Henry Austen Layard discovered an extensively inscribed four-sided stone obelisk. The black basalt monument featured five rows of bas-relief panels on each side depicting vassals offering tribute to Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (858-824 BC; Grayson 1996: 5-180). The second panel located on the front side of the monument depicts a bearded vassal king with a cap bowing low before Shalmaneser offering tribute. The inscription identifies this vassal as Jehu, son of Omri (of the Omride dynasty of Israel). The location where this meeting between Jehu and Shalmaneser took place was at Mount Carmel, a promontory often visited by invading armies. The date is 841 BC, just after Jehu’s rebellion against the Omride dynasty and his slaughter of the entire royal house and their attendants (2 Kings 9-10), but Assyrian annalists mistakenly identified Jehu as one of the Omrides, apparently ignorant of Jehu’s bloody eradication of this royal family. The original obelisk is now in the British Museum.
Relevance to the Biblical Account
Ironically, the Old Testament does not specifically mention Jehu giving tribute to Shalmaneser III, but does provide the historical background. Renewed pressure from Israel’s enemy, Aram-Damascus, probably forced Jehu to approach the Assyrian king as a vassal requesting assistance. Uncertainty exists regarding whether the inscription refers to Jehu or his predecessor Jehoash (McCarter 1974), but most scholars identify the name as Jehu, although chronologically either one is possible (Thiele 1976). Hosea (10:14) probably mentions to Shalmaneser III when he reminds his audience that: “Shalman devastated Beth Arbel (a city across the Jordan in Gilead) on the day of battle, when mothers were dashed to the ground with their children.” Moreover, the figure depicted on the relief bowing before Shalmaneser III may be an Israelite envoy or representative of Jehu and not Jehu himself. Nevertheless, the weight of p