We often get the false perception that the fall of an empire is a moment of instantaneous change for an entire people group.Â In most cases the situation is far more complicated than this.
Simo Parpola corrects this notion in an article about the Assyrians after the fall of Assyria.Â He notes that even though the major Assyrian cities likely saw significant change such as heavy looting, turnover of administrators, and the death of many individuals, life probably went on as usual for residents of outlying communities and small towns.
Parpola also comments that most history books perpetuate a mistaken notion of change by ending the discussion of people groups at the moment of a new regime:
In 612 BC, after a prolonged civil war, Assyria’s two former vassals, the Babylonians and the Medes, conquered and destroyed Nineveh, the capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. The great city went up in flames, never to regain its former status. Three years later the same rebels razed Assyria’s Western metropolis, Harran, crushing the last-ditch resistance of Assyria’s last king,Ashur-uballit II. This event sealed the fate of the Assyrian Empire, and that is where the story of Assyria usually ends in history books.
What happened to the Assyrians after the fall of Assyria?
One book that attempts a more nuanced discussion of this issue within ancient Israel and Judah is Jill Middlemas’ The Templeless Age: An Introduction to the History, Literature, and Theology of the â€œExile.â€Â Middlemas corrects a deeply ingrained perception within biblical studies regarding the “exilic period.”Â She gives five reasons for her call to redesignate the â€œexileâ€ as the â€œtempleless ageâ€:Â 1) there were three separate Judean exiles, 2) some people chose to flee, 3) â€œexilicâ€ represents only the Babylonian perspective while there were diverse communities, 4) the â€œexilicâ€ perspective uncritically adopts the â€œmyth of the empty land,â€ and 5) the â€œexileâ€ falsely represents a period with a clear beginning and end (3-5).
Here’s the lowdown on Middlemas’ book (and take a look at Parpola’s article while you’re at it–let me know what you think):
The Templeless Age
An Introduction to the History, Literature, and Theology of the Exile
by Jill Middlemas
Westminster / John Knox Press, 2007
176 pages, English
Paper, 6 x 9
List Price: $24.95
Your Price: $22.46