03.02.05 701 B.C. Another Assyrians Attack Again
Sennacherib (reigned 705-681 B.C.), the second son of Sargon II, in 701 B.C., led the Assyrian army against forty-two towns and villages of Benjamin and Judah, including the major city of Lachish, destroying all of them but did not relocate the people. As they were preparing their attack against Jerusalem in 701 B.C., Hezekiah, King of Judah and Jerusalem, had a tunnel dug to bring water into the city during the siege. This water flows into the Pool of Siloam, the site of a healing miracle by Jesus. At this point, Sennacherib attacked Jerusalem (Isa. 36:1-37:38). Miraculously, the city was not captured, although it suffered greatly.
The Assyrians were an extremely vicious and destructive enemy who were best known for their torture of captured people and the development of military machines such as the battering ram. They had multiple gods, including Lakhmv, their god of war. They were a fearsome enemy of any non-Assyrians in antiquity.
There are three major points of the Assyrian activities that influenced the cultural events at the time of Jesus:
- They deported the ten northern Israelite tribes, who in turn told their overlords and neighbors that one day a powerful messiah would come.
- They brought in five eastern tribes, who eventually intermarried with the few remaining Israelites and their descendants became known as the Samaritans.
- The horror of being banished from their Promised Land meant – as they understood it at the time – their covenant with God was broken; their fellowship with their Creator was broken, the One who gave them a reason for their existence. However, the words of the prophets that followed years later, and then the arrival of Jesus, confirmed that their opinions were wrong and that God still had a plan for them (Jer. 29:11).
03.02.05.A. CAPTURED ISRAELITES HONOR KING SENNACHERIB. Carved in a stone relief in his palace in Nineveh, the Assyrian King Sennacherib is shown seated as he reviews the plunder surrendered by the Jewish people of Lachish. Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.
God’s judgment upon Sennacherib for his actions against the Israelites finally came when he returned home to Nineveh. He was killed by his own sons as he worshiped in the house of his god, Nisroch.
Finally, as the result of the Assyrian destruction and population transfer, Galilee was for the most part, abandoned and became known as the “Galilee of the Gentiles” (who destroyed it). To confirm the absence of Gentiles living in this area, it is significant that archaeologists have uncovered numerous villages that had no evidence of pig bones – a sure sign of Jewish occupation. In fact, the Jewish population was not restored until after the Maccabean Revolt when thousands migrated from Babylon. So many came in the second century that Josephus said that a “countless multitude” came from Galilee and other areas to Jerusalem at Pentecost, and that they did so by going through Samaria. This underscores the influence of the Assyrian domination, which ended in 609 B.C. with the rise of the Babylonian Empire. However, it should be noted that a growing number of scholars believe that in spite of the political, military, and economic crises in “Eretz Israel” (the land of Israel), the Jewish people maintained a majority over Gentile and Samaritan populations in the first centuries B.C. and A.D.
03.02.05.B. SENNACHERIB’S RECORD OF HIS SIEGE AGAINST JERUSALEM. The Assyrian king had his siege against King Hezekiah recorded on three clay prisms, known today as the Taylor Prism (shown above) and two Sennacherib Prisms. Other records include writings by Herodotus and Isaiah 36-37; 2 Kings 18 and 2 Chronicles 32. Photo by David Castor/Wikipedia Commons.
. Hezekiah is among fifty biblical names whose existence has been verified by archaeological studies in a published article by Lawrence Mykytiuk titled, “Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible.” Biblical Archaeology Review. March/April, 2014 (40:2), pages 42-50, 68. This archaeological evidence confirms the historical accuracy of the biblical timeline. For further study, see the website for Associates for Biblical Research, as well as Grisanti, “Recent Archaeological Discoveries that Lend Credence to the Historicity of the Scriptures.” 475-98. Part of Hezekiah’s preparation to protect Jerusalem from the coming Assyrians was the construction of a city wall, part of which can be seen in the Old City of Jerusalem today.
. Deliverance for King Hezekiah and Jerualem came when an angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrians in a single night. Such a near instant mass execution would not take place again until August 6, 1945, when 100,000 died in Hiroshima, Japan as the result of an atomic explosion. Critics often discredit the huge number of 185,000 killed in ancient warfare, yet they do not question that in 480 B.C. 110,000 Greeks attacked the Persians and killed 260,000 of them. See Packer, Tenney, and White, eds., The Bible Almanac.165.
. Link and Tuente, “Slave, Servant, Captive, Prisoner, Freeman.” 3:590.
. Isa. 9:1; 1 Macc. 5:15; Mt. 4:15.
. Reed, Archaeology. 47; Dunn, “Did Jesus Attend the Synagogue?” 208-10.
. See “Galilee of the Gentiles” in 06.01.08.
. Josephus, Antiquities 20.6.1 and Wars 2.12.3.
. Josephus, Antiquities 17.10.2 and Wars 2.3.1.
. Cohen, “The Attitude to the Gentile in the Halakhah and in Reality in the Tannaitic Period.” 35.