Of course, much could be written about a people with as much as history as the Assyrians. But, for the sake of space and time, we will stick with the larger facts… and those events that pertain to the biblical record.
At the height of their power, the Assyrians’ military might was matched only by their cruelty and ruthlessness with their defeated foes.
The Assyrians lived in the northern part of what we know today as Iraq. They were the first nation to rule over the entire Fertile Crescent, stretching from the head of the Persian Gulf up to southeast Turkey and down into Palestine. For over 300years, they pieced together their Empire (911-612BC), and at their height they made major raids into Egypt.
As far as the people of Israel were concerned, the most significant event with the Assyrians was their attack at Samaria and the annexation of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722BC. The Assyrians exiled many Israelites to faraway places and resettled other foreign peoples in Israel.
As these foreign people groups intermarried with Israelites, and combined their religious practices with Judaism, they formed a group of people known as Samaritans. These Samaritans would be spoken of later in several places in the New Testament (ie. Matt. 10:5; Luke 17:16; John 4; Acts 8).
The Assyrian Empire was eventually overtaken by the Babylonians, around 612BC… and later by the Persians.
The Assyrians were certainly not inclined toward the One True God (although, in response to Jonah’s preaching, they did respond in repentance… for awhile). In fact, throughout most of their Old Testament history, they were anti-God (though their descendants are considered a Christian people today).
But, though fighting against God… they were often used by God to accomplish His purpose with His people. Even when Assyria conquered Israel.
Imagine that… fighting against God, yet being used by God.
That’s how big God is. And that’s what God can do. Praise God!
You can read about the Assyrians throughout the Old Testament… but especially in the book of Jonah, and 2Kings 17-19; 2Chronicles 32,33.