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SARGON (sar'gŏn, Heb. sargôn, the constituted king)

1. Sargon I was a famous king of early Babylon who founded an empire that extended to the Mediterranean (2400 b.c.). He is not referred to in the Bible. The story is told that he (like Moses) had been put by his mother into an ark of bulrushes in the river, there to be rescued—by Akki the irrigator.

2. Sargon II (722-705 b.c.) was an Assyrian king who is mentioned by name in the Bible only in Isa.20.1. He was a usurper, perhaps of royal blood. Shalmaneser V, his predecessor, besieged Samaria in 724. During the siege Shalmaneser died (722), and in 721 the city fell to Sargon. It is strange that the Bible does not mention him in the record of Samaria’s fall (2Kgs.17.1-2Kgs.17.6). Some authorities believe that Sargon did not become king until after the city fell. However, Sargon claims to have captured Samaria, and a certain ambiguity in 2Kgs.17.6 allows for a new, although unnamed, Assyrian monarch there.

Soon after Sargon came to the throne, the Babylonians, assisted by the Elamites, revolted against him and were subdued with difficulty. According to Sargon’s inscriptions the remnant of the Israelites at Samaria, who had been put under an Assyrian governor, revolted, along with other Syrian and Palestinian provinces (720 b.c.). This revolt Sargon quickly suppressed. At this time he also defeated the Egyptian ruler So, who had come to the aid of rebelling Gaza (2Kgs.17.4).

Later Sargon captured Carchemish, the great Hittite city (717 b.c.), thus precipitating the fall of the Hittite Empire. He also mentions placing Arab tribes as colonists in Samaria. Sargon claims on his inscriptions to have subdued Judah. Evidently Judah became more or less involved in a rebellion against Assyria, led by Ashdod. This Philistine city was captured by the Assyrians and reorganized as an Assyrian province (711; cf. Isa.20.1), and Judah was subdued but not harmed. Hezekiah was later to revolt against Sargon’s son Sennacherib.

Sargon built a new palace and royal city ten miles (seventeen km.) NE of Nineveh, which he called Dur-sharrukin (Sargonsburg), the ruins of which are called Khorsabad. He was murdered in 705 b.c. and succeeded by his son Sennacherib.——JBG

SARGON sär’ gŏn (סַֽרְגֹ֖ון; Akkad. šarrukēn, “the king is legitimate”).

The name is found only once in the Bible (Isa 20:1) where it refers to Sargon II of Assyria (721-705 b.c.). This Sargon was the son of Tiglath-pileser III, successor to his brother Shalmaneser V, and father of Sennacherib. His reign is amply known from his inscrs. at Khorsabad and from letters and historical texts found at Nineveh and Nimrud. Although he is named only once in the OT, his campaigns are of importance for understanding the historical background of the prophecies of Isaiah.

Sargon II claimed the fall of Samaria (721 b.c.), which had been besieged by his predecessor Shalmaneser V for three years (2 Kings 17:5, 6) until his death in 722 b.c. According to Sargon’s records, he deported 27,290 people from the area of Samaria to Mesopotamia. During the first part of his reign he faced serious domestic problems which were settled only by grant of privileges to the citizens of Assur. In the following year (720 b.c.) Ilu-bihdi of Hamath led Arpad, Damascus, and Pal. into revolt. Sargon defeated this anti-Assyrian coalition near Qarqar in N Syria. In 720 b.c. the kingdom of Judah, under Ahaz, together with Philistia, Edom, and Moab, submitted to vassalage and paid tribute. In the following years, people deported from Babylonia, Hamath, and elsewhere were resettled in Samaria; these, with others brought in later, mingled with the surviving Israelite population, and their descendants years later were known as the Samaritans.

Sargon had scarcely completed the reduction of Samaria when he was greeted by a rebellion in Babylonia in 720 b.c. led by the Chaldean prince Marduk-apal-iddina (Biblical Merodach-baladan who ruled 721-711 b.c.) in Babylonia not simply as a barbarian chieftain but as a great Mesopotamian monarch who left behind traces of his building activities in various cities. Although backed by Humbanigash, king of Elam, an indecisive battle was fought at Der, between the Tigris and the Zagros, making it expedient for Sargon to leave Merodach-baladan as king in Babylonia. Thus Sargon lost control of Babylonia and did not regain it for c. twelve years.

Meanwhile, other campaigns claimed his attention. In Asia Minor, Mita (Midas), king of the Phrygian Mushki, proved a troublesome foe. A rebellion by the vassal state of Carchemish in Syria (717 b.c.) provoked Sargon to destroy that ancient center of Hitt. culture and deport its population, and subsequently to make various campaigns into Asia Minor. Sargon also turned on Urartu, already weakened by Tiglath-pileser III and now gravely threatened by the incursions of an Indo-Aryan barbarian people called the Cimmerians who were moving down from the Caucasus. Seizing the opportunity, Sargon broke the power of Urartu completely, thus removing an ancient rival—and Assyria’s strongest dike against the barbarian tide at the same time.

After 720 b.c. Sargon conducted no major campaign in Pal. This may have encouraged the restless vassals to imagine that he was a man who could be trifled with. By 713 b.c. Ashdod rebelled and other Philistine towns were drawn into the revolt and, as Sargon told it, Judah, Edom, and Moab were invited to join. That Egyp. aid had been promised is clear both from the Assyrian texts and the Bible (Isa 20). In fact, according to Isaiah 18, ambassadors of the Ethiopian king himself waited on Hezekiah, hoping to enlist his cooperation. Opinions were divided in Judah: to go or not. Isaiah was bitterly opposed, both calling on his king to give the Ethiopian envoys a negative answer, and symbolically illustrating (Isa 20) the folly of trusting in Egypt by walking about Jerusalem barefoot and clad only in a loincloth.

Sargon at this time was at the peak of power and preparing to reconquer Babylon. Ashdod, the center of revolt, was quickly taken by storm, and Judah, Moab, and Edom paid homage to the conqueror. The expected Egyp. aid failed completely to materialize and Judah was held in subjection. Later Hezekiah revolted against Sargon’s son, Sennacherib.

At the beginning of 710 b.c., Sargon was everywhere victorious. The whole of Syria-Pal. and most of the Zagros range were firmly in Assyrian hands; Urartu was dressing its wounds; the Egyptians were friendly; the Elamites and Phrygians were hostile but peaceful. Babylon, under Merodach-baladan, remained a thorn in the side of Assyria, and in 710 b.c. Sargon attacked it for the second time in his reign. It was a smashing victory, with Merodach-baladan fleeing to Elam for refuge, and the fame of Sargon continued to grow. The repeated efforts made by its enemies to undermine the Assyrian empire had been of no avail; at the end of Sargon’s reign it was larger and apparently stronger than ever.

As a war chief, Sargon liked to live in Kalḫu (Nimrud), the military capital of the empire, where he occupied, restored, and modified Ashurnasirpal’s palace. Moved by great pride, he soon decided to have his own palace in his own city. In 717 b.c. he laid the foundations of “Sargon’s fortress,” Dur-Sharrukin, a hitherto virgin site twelve m. NE of Nineveh, near the modern village of Khorsabad.

Ten years later the workmen completed a town which was square in plan, each side measuring c. one in. The palace itself stood on a sixty-ft. high platform overriding the city wall and comprised more than 200 rooms and thirty courtyards. The royal abode was richly decorated and the gates of the town were guarded by colossal bull-men. Evidence, however, indicates that the city was scarcely inhabited and almost immediately abandoned at the king’s death. One year after Dur Sharrukin was officially inaugurated, Sargon was killed (705 b.c.). His successors preferred Nineveh, and Khorsabad, deserted, fell slowly to ruins.


Malamat, “The Historical Setting of Two Biblical Prophecies on the Nations,” IEJ, 1 (1950/51), 150ff.; G. Roux, Ancient Iraq, 257-262; H. W. F. Saggs, Iraq, 17 (1955), 146-149; H. Tadmor, “The Campaigns of Sargon II of Assyria,” JCS 12 (1958), 22-40; 77-100; W. W. Hallo, “From Qarqar to Carchemish: Assyria and Israel in the Light of New Discoveries,” BA, 23 (1960), 50-56.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The name of this ruler is written cargon, in the Old Testament, Shar-ukin in the cuneiform inscriptions, Arna, in the Septuagint, and Arkeanos, in the Ptolemaic Canon. Sargon is mentioned but once by name in the Old Testament (Isa 20:1), when he sent his Tartan (turtannu) against Ashdod, but he is referred to in 2Ki 17:6 as "the king of Assyria" who carried Israel into captivity.

Shalmaneser V had laid siege to Samaria and besieged it three years. But shortly before or very soon after its capitulation, Sargon, perhaps being responsible for the king’s death, overthrew the dynasty, and in his annals credited himself with the capture of the city and the deportation of its inhabitants. Whether he assumed the name of the famous ancient founder of the Accad dynasty is not known.

Sargon at the beginning of his reign was confronted with a serious situation in Babylon. Merodach-baladan of Kaldu, who paid tribute to previous rulers, on the change of dynasty had himself proclaimed king, New Year’s Day, 721 BC. At Dur-ilu, Sargon fought with the forces of Merodachbalddan and his ally Khumbanigash of Elam, but although he claimed a victory the result was apparently indecisive. Rebellions followed in other parts of the kingdom.

In 720 BC Ilu-bi’di (or Yau-bi’di), king of Hamath, formed a coalition against Sargon with Hanno of Gaza, Sib’u of Egypt, and with the cities Arpad, Simirra, Damascus and Samaria. He claims that Sib’u fled, and that he captured and flayed Ilu-bi’di, burned Qarqar, and carried Hanno captive to Assyria. After destroying Rapihu, he carried away 9,033 inhabitants to Assyria.

In the following year Ararat was invaded and the Hittite Carchemish fell before his armies. The territory of Rusas, king of Ararat, as well as a part of Melitene became Assyrian provinces.

In 710 BC Sargon directed his attention to Merodachbaladan, who no longer enjoyed the support of Elam, and whose rule over Babylon had not been popular with his subjects. He was driven out from Babylon and also from his former capital Bit-Yakin, and Sargon had himself crowned as the shakkanak of Babylon.

In 706 BC the new city called Dur-Sharrukin was dedicated as his residence. A year later he was murdered. It was during his reign that the height of Assyrian ascendancy had been reached.