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,
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
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
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
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
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
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.
. . .