Today’s guest post is from John Barry, the associate editor and project manager for Bible Study Magazine.
The Assyrian King Sennacherib’s invasion of Hezekiah’s Judah in 701 BC is one of the best-documented and most controversial events in the Bible and archaeology. The story “should be on Hollywood’s big-screen, because it is so full of drama, intrigue, big battle scenes, and surprising twists of plot” (Broyles, BSM Nov–Dec 2008, pg. 27). To help you investigate the diverse, discrepant accounts we have created an interactive online map to accompany Dr. Craig C. Broyles’ articles in the first three issues of Bible Study Magazine (the third article is online for free at BibleStudyMagazine.com). This event involves a new hope, an empire striking back and the return of the Angel of the Lord.
A New Hope. After the death of the Assyrian King Sargon II in 705 BC, a new hope of freedom emerges in the minds of several kings whose countries were militarily forced to serve the Assyrian empire, and a rebel alliance is created. Judah’s King Hezekiah joins the insurgents (2 Kgs 18:7).
The Empire Strikes Back. The newly appointed Assyrian King Sennacherib does not tolerate this rebellion—he strikes back and invades Hezekiah’s Judah in 701 BC. In the events leading up to King Sennacherib’s invasion, Hezekiah appeals to the Egyptians for aid, instead of Yahweh. Isaiah, a prophet living in Jerusalem, opposes Hezekiah’s political maneuvers, declaring that Yahweh abhors his alliance and that it will not help save Judah (Isa 30:2, 7, 31:1).
Sennacherib destroys most of Judah, including the prophet Micah’s hometown of Moresheth. Micah views the events as God’s divine judgment (Mic 1:8–16). Sennacherib recorded these events in a prism, dating to 689 BC, discovered in his palace. In the prism, he states “I locked [Hezekiah] up with Jerusalem, his royal city, like a bird in a cage” (cf. 2 Kgs 18:13–14). In a desperate measure to make Sennacherib leave Jerusalem alone, Hezekiah pays tribute to Sennacherib. This would usually not be enough for Sennacherib—he deposes, humiliates and replaces rebellious kings. In spite of Sennacherib attributing unqualified victory to himself in his prism, he does none of these things. He just moves on to crush other rebel alliances. The dark side has clearly put spin on the events. So, what went on here?
The Return of the Jedi. In the “bird . . . cage” of Jerusalem, Isaiah declares that Yahweh will rescue the city (2 Kgs 19:6–7, 22, 32–24; cf. Isa 37:6–7, 23, 33–35), and it happens. Egyptian forces approach Sennacherib, causing him to leave Jerusalem (2 Kgs 10:6‑9a; cf. 19:28, 33). The Assyrian forces then engage the Egyptians, but something unexpected occurs, they “abandon . . . their position and suffer . . . severe losses during their retreat,” according to the fifth century BC Greek historian Herodotus. Could it be that a “Jedi” has returned? “The Bible attributes this setback to ‘the angel of the LORD’ (2 Kgs 19:35), Herodotus to ‘thousands of field mice’ ” (Broyles, BSM Jan–Feb 2009, pg. 25). These events, though based only on circumstantial evidence, help us to determine why Sennacherib failed to take Jerusalem and depose Hezekiah, like he did with other kings.
These diverse, discrepant accounts give us a panoramic perspective on God’s Word, allowing for us to hear it through multiple voices.
Go investigate the story for yourself, and be sure to check out the interactive map. Then tell others about it on your blog, via email, or social network. We have made it easy with an already set-up linkable HTML code at the bottom of the page and social networking buttons at the top.
This is just one of the many excellent articles in the March–April issue of Bible Study Magazine. Subscribe now to read the others.