Sennacherib attacks and destroys Lachish

2 Kings 18:13-37   The new king of Assyria, Sargon’s son Sennacherib, takes some time to establish his rule. But during the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah's reign (in 702BC), he attacks Judah, and occupies and destroys Lachish in order to punish his rebellious neighbour (see 2 on Map 60). He then moves on to attack Libnah. Hezekiah tries to buy the Assyrians off with a huge payment of silver and gold, but Sennacherib threatens to destroy Jerusalem.

 

Lachish

Lachish, situated 25 miles / 40 km south west of Jerusalem, was one of the five Amorite cities of Canaan who attacked Gibeon at the start of the Israelite conquest in 1406BC. Its king was defeated by Joshua and killed in the cave at Makkedah (see Joshua 10:5-9 & 22-26).

After Israel and Judah became mutual enemies on the death of King Solomon, Lachish was fortified by King Rehoboam of Judah in c.930BC (see 2 Chronicles 11:5-12). By the time King Amaziah fled here from Jerusalem in 767BC, Lachish had probably become the second most important city in Judah (see 2 Kings 14:19). It became the headquarters of the Assyrian King Sennacherib when he invaded Judah and attacked Jerusalem in 702BC (see 2 Kings 18:13, 17 & 19:8). Sennacherib installed huge carved reliefs showing his successful seige of Lachish inside his royal palace at Nineveh. These magnificent bas-reliefs, depicting Assyrian seige engines, archers and slingers attacking the double line of walls at Lachish, can now be seen at the British Museum in London. Also on display is the ‘Taylor Prism’, a six-sided baked clay tablet documenting Sennacherib’s destruction of forty-six cities in Judah and the deportation of over 200,000 people.

 

Syrian archers and battering ram at the seige of Lachish (British Museum)

Assyrian archers and a battering ram at the seige of Lachish 

 

Modern-day visitors toTel Lachish can quickly appreciate the strategic importance of the site, overlooking the coastal plain to the west. As well as observing remains of the Canaanite moat, visitors can walk past the Assyrian seige ramp and climb the access road through remains of the two gateways that protected the double wall. The three-chambered inner gateway is similar to those built by King Solomon at Megiddo, Hazor and Gezer.

Inside the city walls, on top of the mound, remains of the Judaean royal palace sit on a huge rectangular stone platform. Remnants of an earlier Canaanite temple have been uncovered underneath the north west corner of this platform. The Canaanite temple was superceded by a small Israelite sanctuary built by King Rehoboam, and by a larger Jewish temple built after the Exile in the 2nd century BC.

 

2 Kings 19:1-37   The people are terrified at Sennacherib's threat to destroy Jerusalem, but the prophet Isaiah tells King Hezekiah that the Assyrians will be defeated. Word reaches the Assyrian camp that the Egyptians, under Prince Taharka (Hebrew, ‘Tirhakah’) - the nephew of the Cushite (Sudanese) Pharaoh Ahabaka - are honouring their defensive treaty with Judah by sending an army from Egypt to fight the Assyrians (see 3 on Map 60).

The armies of the two super-powers clash, but the Egyptian army of the ‘Black Pharaohs’ is unable to defeat the Assyrians and retreats back to Egypt. Hezekiah prays to the LORD for deliverance. At this vital moment, an epidemic strikes the Assyrian camp and Sennacherib withdraws to Nineveh. Shortly after, he is assassinated by his sons.

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