–ѕа°±б>ю€ GIю€€€F€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€м•ЅG њa*bjbjОўОў Zм≥м≥a&€€€€€€]ТТТТТТТ¶¶¶¶¶ ≤¶'ґ““““““““моооооо$Ёф—ҐТ“““““~ТТ“““~~~“^ғғ춶ТТТТ“м~n~мТТм“∆ јњ4Агф√¶¶0Nм C H R O N I C L E O F T H E L I O N Т S F A L L A N N O S T E L L A E 6 8 1 The Twentieth of Tebet Now in the dismal fifth year of his return, with no progress being made and the whole country coming apart daily with outright rebellion, and provinces and tributary nations breaking away from Assyrian rule, the king slackened greatly in his administration of his kingdom as he sickened in his intestines, unable to hold any food. He subsisted on watered-down wine and wafer-thin wheaten cakes pressed between awls in mortars before baking. Even that could not nourish a full-grown man, and he lost much flesh. Nobody seemed to want to attend the ailing king, and whenever he slept he later awakened to find nobody attending him, and his bodyguards absent as well. He grew too weak in body to correct such lapses of palace service and security as time went on. Strangely, the palace was so magnificent in appearance, and the walls so mighty and the city of Nineveh so great and populous and flourishing despite the kingТs condition, that it looked as if nothing was wrong with the land and its kingship. Beautiful and splendid, the skyline of the immense city with the crowning towers of the palace and the chief temples presented an awesome sight to the throngs of men approaching or leaving on the thoroughfares leading from the city gates. Only the true condition was known to those closest to the kingЧAssyria was mortally stricken, its head unable to save her. Now and then the king rallied and was stirred up by the wicked spirit within him enough to try to save his reign and world-ruling kingdom from collapse. At one such time, in the month of Tebet, he went forth to the temple of his god, Nisroch, carried in a litter, for he sought the godТs help in a new venture, to go again against those who had humbled him before the nations. He brought with him rich presents, borne on the backs of Babelite and Median slaves. Surely, he thought, the god would help him out of his difficulties in raising a new army. Though he was not as religious as some kings, he revered the god called Nisroch, who he knew had richly favored him in past campaigns in Babel and Egypt and many other places. Perhaps, despite Jerusalem, the god would be pleased by huge gifts of gold, ivory, and jewels, and restore favor to his adoring son Sennacherib, or so the despairing king hoped. Sennacherib prostrated himself before the gilded image of Nisroch, helped by priests who held his arms in assisting him to lie down and then to rise up again. This accomplished, he was helped to his throne, where he sat down to observe the ceremonies staged by the priests to placate the angry god and gain his favor for the king. He dozed a bit as the priests scurried about, dramatically presenting and then quickly removing the kingТs munificent offerings of stolen Babelite, Median, Egyptian, and Judahite treasure to safer places. Chanting of the kingТs blessings by the god Nisroch filled the kingТs ears with a welcome sound, since it was pleasantly accompanied by beardless eunuchs playing the Assyrian dulcimer. Making themselves busy, the hundred or so priests snapped their fingers before the image of Nisroch in the kingТs behalf. The king must have dozed off for a brief time. He saw a figure in a dream approach him, defying the priests around her in order to speak.--Lady Nibib-shak, an aged widow of most ancient nobility and a prophetess who had studied the court writings from the time of Jona the foreign prophet and was respected among a God-fearing remnant of his people. Recognizing her, the king was made angry by the wicked spirit possessing him. This prophetess he had ordered flayed and slain for daring in the first year of his return from Jerusalem to reproach his majesty, when she warned that unless he repented of his robberies and cruelties inflicted upon the nations he would be punished by the Most High God on the twentieth of Tebet in the fifth year to come. One, two, three, four Tebets came and passed, and then she appeared again, saying: УThus saith the Lord, СI the Lord God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Hezekiah, the only True and Living God, take no pleasure in the death of the wickedЧthough you took great pleasure in the death of the innocent. Your fathers repented, when my servant Jona warned them of an overthrow in forty days. From the smallest to the greatest they put on sackcloth and ashes, and cried sore onto Me for their exceeding great sins, murders, whoredoms, violence, and robberies. And I showed them pity and forgave them! You knew of that generation, how your fathers turned to me, yet you despised your own fathers and the kings before you on the throne who believed in Me. These accounts, were they not written in the royal records of your fathersТ courts? Yet you gave them no heed, you blasphemed my name, and have perished on the bloody throne of thieves and murderers. So I have given heed to my people and their cries, which have come up to heaven without ceasing. And I have now answered their prayers and the supplications of my servant Hezekiah the king and the prayers of my prophets, giving you into the hand of your own sons after your return, lest you say to your heart, СI will now gather my strength and go up again against the city of the Lord, to burn it and make it a dunghill, and carry away all its treasure from the house of the Lord to my own city and my own house, that I might glorify my name with it. Nevertheless, out of evil you have done and again design in your heart to do I will bring good. I will cast down this costly and bloody house you raised for your glory, and I will cast down this great city and kingdom to the dust and drive out its wicked and deceiving spirits. Men who formerly feared you shall hiss at the mention of your name until your name is utterly forgotten. They shall pass by this city and not be able to see there was any human habitation in this place. It will become a nest for owls and the viper, though round about the people will not be altogether driven out. People of a strange god will come and oppress the remnant that remains. It will be bitter and sore, the long trials of their faith, for they will fear Me and know Me. Through the time of the Gentiles they will be oppressed unto death by their enemies. Yet I will remember Assyria my people, and they shall return with joy to the good land I gave to your fathers, when after many were slain and driven off the land and dispersed among the nations. A holy remnant will I preserve shall again become a great nation, and they shall fear my Name and inhabit this good land amidst the rivers, in the time I have prepared for them, in the time of the reign of my beloved Son over all the earth.Т Ф The dream and the prophetess faded as Lady Nibib-shek finished speaking. As darkness came back to cover his mind, the king wondered how she had been able to pull her skin back over her face and body. He hadnТt suspected she was so great a sorceress. But as for her words, the spirit within him told him it was all a lie, so he dismissed the words as mere folly. As he rested on the throne, his eyes closed, the king did not see his royal guard withdraw or hear the two men creep up beside him where he sat in the golden throne. He did not see they were his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer carrying drawn swords. But as someoneТs arm went under his chin, pulling his beard and head back and cutting off his breath in his throat, he felt the thrusts of swords into his back through the chair and deep into his belly as his hooded assailants slew him without pity. Flung to the floor like a dead dog, they cut off his head and presented it to Nisroch. Life blood poured out the kingТs mouth and nostrils and severed neck, his last offering to his godЧand Nisroch his guiding spirit and idol? Causing many priests to flee in terror, Nisroch rocked on his high throne and then tumbled face down to the floor despite no one touching him, and his head and feet broke off. Surely as noteworthy as the later assassination of another world-ruling despot in the distant West on the Ides of March, the slain prophetessТs words had been proven true. An unknown, Most High God had mortally smitten the king and also driven away the wicked, deceiving spirit that inhabited him, all on the twentieth day of the month of Tebet. And the kingТs sons, they did with him as he had done to so many others, including Lady Nibib-shak. The king was flayed of his skin. After they had draped his flayed skin on the front of the royal chariot, they dragged his carcass behind on ropes through the main thoroughfares of the city as dancing girls and musicians performed before and after the chariot in the grand procession. It was a time of great rejoicing, particularly among the poor of the city, for the kingТs taxes had been increased and doubled, year after year until the poor had to sell daughters and even wives in the slave markets to make payment. Yet the sons were not liked any better for their patricide, and Esar-haddon, a member of the royal family, rose up to punish them, so they were forced out of the Palace Without Rival, where they had been sitting upont wo golden thrones side by side, and after a bloody struggle at the palace with Esar-haddonТs forces they fled almost penniless to Urartu. 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