Hezekiah’s Defence of Jerusalem

… as described in the chronicles and palace sculptures of King Sennacherib

The Lachish room in the British Museum dis­plays one of the most spectacular confirmations of Bible history ever unearthed. Indeed, these items from the palace of Nineveh were the very first direct proof found of an event in Bible his­tory when discovered in 1847. Sennacherib, king of Assyria, was even more aggressive than his father Sargon II. In 701 BC he swept into Judah with a massive army and proceeded to capture all her fortress cities. At the time Isaiah was resident prophet in Jerusalem, and Hezekiah was king. Sen­nacherib's encounter with the outstanding and godly Hezekiah receives considerable coverage in the Bible. It is also one of the best documented events in the Assyrian records. Sennacherib's chroni­cles were found at Nineveh together with the pictures in stone which lined the walls of his 71-roomed palace.

We look first at the very large stab, covered in text, just outside the Lachish room (pictured below). It is badly scorched because nearly 100 years later, in 612 BC, Nineveh was destroyed by fire (just as Nahum had prophesied). The text gives details of the tribute sent by Hezekiah to the Assyrians, and accounted for after the campaign. The Bible tells us that Hezekiah had refused to serve and pay the king of Assyria 2 KINGS 18:1-8. Sennacherib's anger was aroused, as 2 KINGS 18:13-15 relates (here paraphrased) –

Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the walled cities of Judah, and took them. And Hezekiah sent to the king of Assyria, at Lachish, say­ing, I have offended; return from me: whatever penalty you impose on me I will bear. And the king of Assyria imposed on Hezekiah' 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold. Also Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was in the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king's house.

The tribute imposed upon Hezekiah amounted to 22,500 pounds weight of silver and 2,250 pounds of gold. Despite having extracted this enormous payment, Sennacherib evidently decided to continue with his attempt to sack Jerusalem, and sent his senior commander to say so, while he continued to besiege Lachish, the last fortified city on the main road to Jerusalem from the south-west, and 30 miles away (this is all in 2 KINGS 18:17-37).

Excerpt from Peter Masters: "Heritage of Evidence in the British Museum", The Wakeman Trust, London 2004 (available in book stores)