Assurnasirpal Boasts No More

Upon these stone tablets of Assyrian King Assurnasirpal II, we read a number of boastful claims. It is fair to say that he was not crippled by a sense of modesty:

“Assurnasirpal, priest of Ashur, favourite of Enlil and Ninurta, beloved of Anu and Dagan, the weapon of the great gods, the mighty king, king of the world, king of Assyria; the great king, the mighty king, the valiant man, and has no equal among the princes of the four quarters of the world; the wonderful shepherd who is not afraid of battle; the great flood that none can oppose; the king who makes those who are not subject to him submissive; who has subjugated all mankind; the mighty warrior who treads on the neck of his enemies, tramples down all foes, and shatters the king who acts...brought into submission at his feet the lands from beyond the Tigris to Mount Lebanon and the Great Sea [the Mediterranean], the whole of the land of Lage, the land of Suhi as far as Rapiqu, and whose hand has conquered from the source of the river Subnat to the land of Urartu…”

It goes on. And on. Not only was he powerful, but he was brutal. On other tablets, he brags:

Their men young and old I took prisoners. Of some I cut off their feet and hands; of others I cut off the ears noses and lips; of the young men's ears I made a heap; of the old men's heads I made a minaret. I exposed their heads as a trophy in front of their city. The male children and the female children I burned in flames; the city I destroyed, and consumed with fire.


Even if the tablet is not prone to self-flattery and exaggeration, which is doubtful, Assurnasirpal was graciously made to expire in 859BC, giving his contemporaries relief and respite from his violence and pride. Now he sits in darkness, awaiting the summons to judgement, that he might answer for his crimes to the great God who made heaven and earth. That which Isaiah spoke of the King of Babylon in his fourteenth chapter, and of Lucifer shortly afterwards, may be said of this fellow, too:

“How the oppressor has ceased,

The golden city ceased!

The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked,

The scepter of the rulers;

He who struck the people in wrath with a continual stroke,

He who ruled the nations in anger,

Is persecuted and no one hinders.

The whole earth is at rest and quiet;

They break forth into singing.

Indeed the cypress trees rejoice over you,

And the cedars of Lebanon,

Saying, ‘Since you were cut down,

No woodsman has come up against us.’


“Hell from beneath is excited about you,

To meet you at your coming;

It stirs up the dead for you,

All the chief ones of the earth;

It has raised up from their thrones

All the kings of the nations.

They all shall speak and say to you:

‘Have you also become as weak as we?

Have you become like us?

Your pomp is brought down to Sheol,

And the sound of your stringed instruments;

The maggot is spread under you,

And worms cover you.’ NKJV


Death stalks our friends and families, robbing us of their good company; it also steals the disagreeable and abominable, too, limiting their evil. For the ills of this dying world, death can be a cure as well as a symptom. Yet we Christians can rejoice in our resurrected Saviour who defeated death itself. Assurnasirpal yielded to Death, and Death yielded to Christ.