THE KINGDOM OF Israel under David and Solomon had been divided in the days of Solomon’s son Rehoboam, and had become two kingdoms – the kingdom of Israel in the north, made up of ten of the original twelve tribes, with Samaria as its capital city; and the kingdom of Judah in the south, made up of the other two tribes with Jerusalem still as the capital.

In the northern kingdom of Israel there were no good kings at all and during the reigns of kings like Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel, idolatry flourished and corruption increased. Eventually the kingdom fell before the might of Assyria.

The Black Obelisk was discovered by Henry Layard in 1845 and describes the campaigns of Shalmanezer 111 of Assyria who reigned at about 850 B.C. The oblesisk was erected as a public monument to the might of Shalmanezer in 825 BC.

The relief sculptures on this great obelisk highlight the military triumphs of King Shalmaneser III (reigned 858-824 BC) and his chief minister. It portrays their military campaigns over a span of thirty-one years. The inscription above the scene shown in the picture of a panel from the Black Obelisk, is written in Assyrian cuneiform. When translated it reads:

The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri: I received from him silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king [and] spears.

The scenes depicted on the obelisk show tribute being paid to the great Assyrian monarch and actually show Jehu, (2 Kings 10:31-33) bowing before the king in the presence of his officers. The tribute as the translation notes consisted of silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase and cups, gold buckets, tin, a royal staff and fruit. Such tribute was an expression of the Assyrian kings power over a vassal state.

It was during the reign of Hezekiah who was one of the good kings of the southern kingdom of Judah, that Sennacherib invaded and conquered Israel. Following this the Assyrians then came against Judah and attempted to conquer and turn Judah into a vassal state as well.

Hezekiah, in consultation with his ministers decided to make sure that if the invaders came against Jerusalem, they would find difficulty in getting an adequate water supply. At the same time, it was important to ensure that Jerusalem did have a good water supply.