Assyria's Climax and Decline
Ultimately Sennacherib was the victim of a conspiracy by two of his sons, Adrammelech and Sharezer, who killed him at Nineveh. Another son, Esarhaddon (681–669), succeeded, and pursued his elder brothers to Hanigalbat west of the Upper Tigris, but they escaped to ‘the land of Ararat’, that is, Urartu (2 Kgs. 19: 36–7 ). His early attempts against Egypt met with failure, but subsequently he did enter Egypt, conquered Memphis, and brought Egypt within his empire, though the defeated pharaoh Tirhakah escaped to Napata. Esarhaddon even claimed to have conquered Ethiopia (Cush), and called himself ‘king of Assyria, governor of Babylon, king of Karduniash [Babylonia], king of Egypt, Paturisi [biblical Pathros, Upper Egypt] and Ethiopia’. On Esarhaddon's way back from Egypt, Ashkelon submitted to him. According to 2 Chronicles 33: 10–13 , Manasseh of Judah was exiled to Babylon, though there is no mention of this in Kings. If this reflects a real happening, it may have been a reprisal for his being involved in revolts in that part of the Asyrian Empire or for withholding tribute. On his north‐west frontier, Esarhaddon defeated both Teushpa, king of the Gimarrai (Cimmerians), and the people of Khilakku, and he temporarily stopped the southward advance of the Scythians.
Esarhaddon's successor, Ashurbanipal (669–627), made a first campaign into Egypt, capturing Memphis and occupying Thebes. Then, in a second campaign, he defeated Tirhakah's successor, Tandame, and sacked Thebes. Ashurbanipal is mentioned in Ezra 4: 10 as ‘the great and noble Osnappar’. It was under Ashurbanipal that Assyria reached the peak of her cultural development, as witnessed by the royal residences and great library excavated at Nineveh. But the Assyrian grip on Egypt and Babylonia was diminishing, and after the death of Ashurbanipal the decline was rapid. Babylonia, under Nabopolassar, gained independence in c.626 after an unsuccessful Assyrian attack on Babylon. To the east, the power of the Medes was increasing, and Asshur fell to them in 614. Nineveh was destroyed by the Medes and Babylonians in 612. (The fall of Nineveh provides the background to the Book of Nahum.) Ashuruballit assumed control over what remained of Assyria in Haran, but Haran too was captured by the Medes and Babylonians in 610 and the might of Assyria was ended.