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The Fertile Crescent - Index

Epic of Gilgamesh Code of Hammurabi Assyrian Siege of Jerusalem Birth of Judaism  


The Assyrian Siege of Jerusalem, 701 BC

Taken from the Prism of Sennacherib

Sennacherib is the name of one of the most powerful of the Assyrian emperors. Named after Sin, the moon god, he was the son of Sargon the Great, who conquered a vast territory spanning most of the Fertile Crescent.

Column 1 (excerpt)

Sennacherib thinks very highly of himself, boasting (as was customary at the time).

Sennacherib, the great king,

the mighty king,
king of the world,
king of Assyria,
king of the four quarters,
the wise shepherd,
favorite of the great gods,
guardian of right,
lover of justice,
who lends support,
who comes to the aid of the destitute,
who performs pious acts,
perfect hero,
mighty man,
first among all princes,
the powerful one who consumes the insubmissive,
who strikes the wicked with the thunderbolt.

Column 3 (excerpt)

Sennacherib attacks the Israelite capital of Jerusalem, ruled by King Hezekiah of Judah.

In my third campaign I marched against Hatti. Luli, king of Sidon, whom the terror-inspiring glamour of my lordship had overwhelmed, fled far overseas and perished....

As to Hezekiah, the Jew, he did not submit to my yoke, I laid siege to his strong cities, walled forts, and countless small villages, and conquered them by means of well-stamped earth-ramps and battering-rams brought near the walls with an attack by foot soldiers, using mines, breeches as well as trenches.

I drove out 200,150 people, young and old, male and female, horses, mules, donkeys, camels, big and small cattle beyond counting, and considered them slaves.

Himself I made a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage. I surrounded him with earthwork in order to molest those who were his city's gate.

Thus I reduced his country, but I still increased the tribute and the presents to me as overlord which I imposed upon him beyond the former tribute, to be delivered annually.

Hezekiah himself, did send me, later, to Nineveh, my lordly city, together with 30 talents of gold, 800 talents of silver, precious stones, antimony, large cuts of red stone, couches inlaid with ivory, nimedu-chairs inlaid with ivory, elephant-hides, ebony-wood, boxwood and all kinds of valuable treasures, his own daughters and concubines. . .


The Israelite Side of the Story

Taken from the Bible

The Bible offers two different versions of the Assyrian attack on Jerusalem. Both are different than the Assyrian version of the event.

2 Kings 18-19 (excerpt)

King Hezekiah tries to pay off Sennacherib to keep him from attacking Jerusalem. The Assyrians attack anyway, but “the angel of the LORD” kills 185,000 of Sennacherib’s soldiers, forcing the Assyrians to retreat.

2 Kings 18

. . .

13 In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah's reign, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. 14 So Hezekiah king of Judah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: "I have done wrong. Withdraw from me, and I will pay whatever you demand of me." The king of Assyria exacted from Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. 15 So Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace.
16 At this time Hezekiah king of Judah stripped off the gold with which he had covered the doors and doorposts of the temple of the LORD , and gave it to the king of Assyria.
. . .

2 Kings 19
. . .

35 That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning-there were all the dead bodies! 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.
37 One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer cut him down with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king.

2 Chronicles 32 (excerpt)

Hezekiah blocks off the city of Jerusalem’s water supply to keep the Assyrians from taking control of it. Without water, the Assyrians will not be able to continue to attack the city. Sennacherib continues to insult the Israelites and the God of the Israelites. King Hezekiah and the prophet Amoz pray for help, and the LORD sends an angel to destroy the Assyrian army. Sennacherib returns to Assyria “in disgrace” and is assassinated by his own sons.

1 After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself. 2 When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to make war on Jerusalem, 3 he consulted with his officials and military staff about blocking off the water from the springs outside the city, and they helped him. 4 A large force of men assembled, and they blocked all the springs and the stream that flowed through the land. "Why should the kings of Assyria come and find plenty of water?" they said.
. . .
16 Sennacherib's officers spoke further against the LORD God and against his servant Hezekiah. 17 The king also wrote letters insulting the LORD , the God of Israel, and saying this against him: "Just as the gods of the peoples of the other lands did not rescue their people from my hand, so the god of Hezekiah will not rescue his people from my hand." 18 Then they called out in Hebrew to the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall, to terrify them and make them afraid in order to capture the city. 19 They spoke about the God of Jerusalem as they did about the gods of the other peoples of the world-the work of men's hands.
20 King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to heaven about this. 21 And the LORD sent an angel, who annihilated all the fighting men and the leaders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian king. So he withdrew to his own land in disgrace. And when he went into the temple of his god, some of his sons cut him down with the sword.
22 So the LORD saved Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all others. He took care of them on every side. 23 Many brought offerings to Jerusalem for the LORD and valuable gifts for Hezekiah king of Judah. From then on he was highly regarded by all the nations.
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