In the early ninth century BCE, Damascus and Israel were under the effective control of Assyria, but a rebellion by an impressive coalition led by Israel defeated the Assyrian army at the battle of Qarqar in 853 BCE. Interestingly, the overthrow of the Omrite dynasty in 843 BCE, described in the Bible as an Israelite rebellion, could have actually been brought about by a Syrian invasion, which would indicate the fragile nature of ancient Levantine alliances.

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Assyria returned in 841 BCE, reaching first Damascus, and from there marched south through the Hauran and into Israelite territory. Submission was exacted from the Israelite king, Jehu, who is depicted on the so-called ‘Black Obelisk’ paying tribute to the Assyrian king.

The one obvious omission from this coalition was the tiny state of Judah, to the south of Israel. Although its terrain made Judah defensible, it may have failed to join because it was simply too small to have made much difference at that point in its history.

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