Text #9304

Sennacherib, "Assyrian Capture of Jerusalem", in Ancient Near Eastern Texts, edited by Pritchard, James B.
[p. 287]


In 701 B.C. an Assyrian king, Sennacherib, launched a bloody campaign against several princes of Phoenicia and Palestine and captured the city of Jerusalem. What does this passage from an official record of Sennacherib’s conquests tell you about Assyria’s military power?

In the continuation of my campaign I besieged Beth-Dagon, Joppa, Banai-Barqa, Azuru, cities belonging to Sidqia who did not bow to my feet quickly enough; I conquered them and carried their spoils away. The officials, the patricians and the common people of Ekron—who had thrown Padi, their king, into fetters because he was loyal to his solemn oath sworn by the god Ashur, and had handed him over to [king] Hezekiah, the Jew—and he (Hezekiah) held him in prison, unlawfully, as if he (Padi) be an enemy—had become afraid and had called for help upon the kings of Egypt and the bowmen, the chariot-corps and the cavalry of the king of Ethiopia, an army beyond counting—and they had come to their assistance. In the plain of Eltekeh, their battle lines were drawn up against me and they sharpened their weapons. Upon a trust-inspiring oracle given by Ashur, my lord, I fought with them and inflicted a defeat upon them. In the mêlée of the battle, I personally captured alive the Egyptian charioteers with their princes and also the charioteers of the king of Ethiopia. I besieged Eltekeh and Timnah, conquered them and carried their spoils away. I assaulted Ekron and killed the officials and patricians who had committed the crime and hung their bodies on poles surrounding the city. The common citizens who were guilty of minor crimes, I considered prisoners of war. The rest of them, those who were not accused of crimes and misbehavior, I released. I made Padi, their king, come from Jerusalem and set him as their lord on the throne, imposing upon him the tribute due to me as overlord.

As to Hezekiah, the Jew, he did not submit to my yoke, I laid siege to 46 of his strong cities, walled forts and to the countless small villages in their vicinity, and conquered them by means of well-stamped earth-ramps, and battering-rams brought thus near to the walls combined with the attack by foot soldiers, using mines, breeches as well as sapper work. I drove out of them 200,150 people, young and old, male and female, horses, mules, donkeys, camels, big and small cattle beyond counting, and considered them booty. 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 leaving his city’s gate. His towns which I had plundered, I took away from his country and gave them over to Mitinti, king of Ashdod, Padi, king of Ekron, and Sillibel, king of Gaza. Thus I reduced his country, but I still increased the tribute and the katrû-presents due to me as his overlord which I imposed later upon him beyond the former tribute, to be delivered annually. Hezekiah himself, whom the terror-inspiring spendor of my lordship had overwhelmed and whose irregular and elite troops which he had brought into Jerusalem, his royal residence, in order to strengthen it, had deserted him, 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, nîmedu-chairs inlaid with ivory, elephant-hides, ebony-wood, boxwood, and all kinds of valuable treasures, his own daughters, concubines, male and female musicians. In order to deliver the tribute and to do obeisance as a slave he sent his personal messenger.

Text #9306

Isaiah, "", in The Bible
[Ch. 36 ]


Sennacherib Threatens Jerusalem

36 1 In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. 2 Then the king of Assyria sent his field commander with a large army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. When the commander stopped at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Launderer’s Field, 3 Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went out to him.

4 The field commander said to them, “Tell Hezekiah:

“‘This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours? 5 You say you have counsel and might for war—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? 6 Look, I know you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him. 7 But if you say to me, “We are depending on the Lord our God”—isn’t he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, “You must worship before this altar”?

8 “‘Come now, make a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses—if you can put riders on them! 9 How then can you repulse one officer of the least of my master’s officials, even though you are depending on Egypt for chariots and horsemen[a]? 10 Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this land without the Lord? The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.’”

11 Then Eliakim, Shebna and Joah said to the field commander, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, since we understand it. Don’t speak to us in Hebrew in the hearing of the people on the wall.”

12 But the commander replied, “Was it only to your master and you that my master sent me to say these things, and not to the people sitting on the wall—who, like you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?”

13 Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew, “Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! 14 This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you! 15 Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’

16 “Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern, 17 until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards.

18 “Do not let Hezekiah mislead you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ Have the gods of any nations ever delivered their lands from the hand of the king of Assyria? 19 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? 20 Who of all the gods of these countries have been able to save their lands from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”

21 But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, “Do not answer him.”

22 Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went to Hezekiah, with their clothes torn, and told him what the field commander had said.

Jerusalem’s Deliverance Foretold

37 When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the Lord. 2 He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. 3 They told him, “This is what Hezekiah says: This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the moment of birth and there is no strength to deliver them. 4 It may be that the Lord your God will hear the words of the field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to ridicule the living God, and that he will rebuke him for the words the Lord your God has heard. Therefore pray for the remnant that still survives.”

5 When King Hezekiah’s officials came to Isaiah, 6 Isaiah said to them, “Tell your master, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard—those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. 7 Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.’”

8 When the field commander heard that the king of Assyria had left Lachish, he withdrew and found the king fighting against Libnah.

9 Now Sennacherib received a report that Tirhakah, the king of Cush1, was marching out to fight against him. When he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah with this word: 10 “Say to Hezekiah king of Judah: Do not let the god you depend on deceive you when he says, ‘Jerusalem will not be given into the hands of the king of Assyria.’ 11 Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? 12 Did the gods of the nations that were destroyed by my predecessors deliver them—the gods of Gozan, Harran, Rezeph and the people of Eden who were in Tel Assar? 13 Where is the king of Hamath or the king of Arpad? Where are the kings of Lair, Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah?”

Hezekiah’s Prayer

14 Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: 16 “Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 17 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.

18 “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands. {v19 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. {v20 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are the only God.” 2

Sennacherib’s Fall

21 Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Because you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria, 22 this is the word the Lord has spoken against him:

“Virgin Daughter Zion despises and mocks you. Daughter Jerusalem tosses her head as you flee. 23 Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel! 24 By your messengers you have ridiculed the Lord. And you have said, ‘With my many chariots I have ascended the heights of the mountains, the utmost heights of Lebanon. I have cut down its tallest cedars, the choicest of its junipers. I have reached its remotest heights, the finest of its forests. 25 I have dug wells in foreign lands3 and drunk the water there. With the soles of my feet I have dried up all the streams of Egypt.’

26 “Have you not heard? Long ago I ordained it. In days of old I planned it; now I have brought it to pass, that you have turned fortified cities into piles of stone. 27 Their people, drained of power, are dismayed and put to shame. They are like plants in the field, like tender green shoots, like grass sprouting on the roof, scorched4 before it grows up.

28 “But I know where you are and when you come and go and how you rage against me. 29 Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came.

30 “This will be the sign for you, Hezekiah:

“This year you will eat what grows by itself, and the second year what springs from that. But in the third year sow and reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 31 Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above. 32 For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

33 “Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria:

“He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. 34 By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city,” declares the Lord. 35 “I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!”

36 Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! 37 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.

38 One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king.


  1. Isaiah 37:9 That is, the upper Nile region [OF]

  2. Isaiah 37:20 Dead Sea Scrolls (see also 2 Kings 19:19); Masoretic Text you alone are the Lord [OF]

  3. Isaiah 37:25 Dead Sea Scrolls (see also 2 Kings 19:24); Masoretic Text does not have in foreign lands. [OF]

  4. Isaiah 37:27 Some manuscripts of the Masoretic Text, Dead Sea Scrolls and some Septuagint manuscripts (see also 2 Kings 19:26); most manuscripts of the Masoretic Text roof / and terraced fields [OF]

Text #9307

Micah, "", in The Bible
[Bk. 1 Ch. 12 ]


For the inhabitant of Maroth
Becomes weak awaiting for good,
Because a calamity has come down from the Lord
To the gate of Jerusalem.

Text #9303

"Assyrian Siege of Jerusalem", in Wikipedia.

In approximately 701 BCE, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, attacked the fortified cities of Judah, laying siege on Jerusalem.

In 721 BCE, the Assyrian army captured the Israelite capital at Samaria and carried away the citizens of the northern kingdom into captivity. The virtual destruction of Israel left the southern kingdom, Judah, to fend for itself among warring Near Eastern kingdoms. At the time of Samaria’s fall, there existed two kings in Judah — Ahaz and his son Hezekiah — who ruled as co-regents. After the fall of the Northern Kingdom, the kings of Judah tried to extend their influence and protection to those inhabitants who had not been exiled. They also sought to extend their authority northward into areas previously controlled by the Kingdom of Israel.

In 715 BCE, following the death of Ahaz, Hezekiah became the sole regent of Judah and [according to the retrojected religious propaganda of the Deuteronomist historian composing the OT in 272 BC] initiated widespread religious changes, including the breaking of religious idols. He re-captured Philistine-occupied lands in the Negev desert, formed alliances with Ashkelon and Egypt, and made a stand against Assyria by refusing to pay tribute. In response, Sennacherib attacked Judah, laying siege to Jerusalem.

Sennacherib’s Prism, which details the events of Sennacherib’s campaign against Judah, was discovered in the ruins of Nineveh in 1830, and is now stored at the Oriental Institute in Chicago, Illinois. The account dates from about 690 BCE. The text of the prism tells how Sennacherib destroyed forty-six of Judah’s cities, and trapped Hezekiah in Jerusalem “like a caged bird.” The text goes on to describe how the “terrifying splendor” of the Assyrian army caused the Arabs and mercenaries reinforcing the city to desert. It adds that the Assyrian king returned to Assyria where he later received a large tribute from Judah. This description inevitably varies somewhat from the Jewish version in the Tanakh. The massive Assyrian casualties mentioned in the Tanakh are not mentioned in the Assyrian version.

The Hebrew Bible’s suggestion that Jerusalem was victorious rather than defeated, is repeated by the unreliable Jewish historian Josephus. Such expansions on the Hebrew Bible’s account, adding Midrash, none are independent witnesses. Assyrian accounts do not treat it as a disaster, but a great victory — they maintain that the siege was so successful that Hezekiah was forced to give a monetary tribute, and the Assyrians left victoriously, without losses of thousands of men, and without sacking Jerusalem. Part of this is indeed confirmed in the Biblical account, but it is still debated fiercely by historians.

The story of the Assyrian siege is told in the Hebrew Bible books of Isaiah, Chronicles and Second Kings. According to 2 Kings 19:35, the siege failed because the angel of YHWH went forth and struck down 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp.

Text #9309

"Hezekiah", in Wikipedia.

Hezekiah (Ezekias, in the Septuagint; Latin: Ezechias; also transliterated as Ḥizkiyyahu or Ḥizkiyyah) was, according to the Hebrew Bible, the son of Ahaz and the 13th king of Judah. Archaeologist Edwin Thiele has concluded that his reign was between c. 715 and 686 BC. He is also one of the most prominent kings of Judah mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and is one of the kings mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.

According to the Hebrew Bible, Hezekiah witnessed the destruction of the northern Kingdom of Israel by Sargon’s Assyrians in c. 720 BC and was king of Judah during the invasion and siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib in 701 BC. Hezekiah enacted sweeping religious reforms, including a strict mandate for the sole worship of Yahweh and a prohibition on venerating other deities within the Temple in Jerusalem. Isaiah and Micah prophesied during his reign. …

There are extra-Biblical sources that specify Hezekiah by name, along with his reign and influence. “Historiographically, his reign is noteworthy for the convergence of a variety of biblical sources and diverse extrabiblical evidence often bearing on the same events. Significant data concerning Hezekiah appear in the Deuteronomistic History, the Chronicler, Isaiah, Assyrian annals and reliefs, Israelite epigraphy, and, increasingly, stratigraphy”.(Hezekiah.” The Anchor Bible Dictionary. 1992.) Archaeologist Amihai Mazar calls the tensions between Assyria and Judah “one of the best-documented events of the Iron Age” (172). Hezekiah’s story is one of the best to cross-reference with the rest of the Mid Eastern world’s historical documents.

A seal impression dating back to 727–698 BCE, reading “לחזקיהו [בן] אחז מלך יהדה” “Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah” was uncovered in a dig at the Ophel in Jerusalem. The impression on this inscription was set in ancient Hebrew script. (Alyssa Navarro, Archaeologists Find Biblical-Era Seal Of King Hezekiah In Jerusalem “Tech Times” December 6, 2015)

According to the work of archaeologists and philologists, the reign of Hezekiah saw a notable increase in the power of the Judean state. At this time Judah was the strongest nation on the Assyrian-Egyptian frontier. There were increases in literacy and in the production of literary works. The massive construction of the Broad Wall was made during his reign, the city was enlarged to accommodate a large influx, and population increased in Jerusalem up to 25,000, “five times the population under Solomon.” Archaeologist Amihai Mazar explains, “Jerusalem was a virtual city-state where the majority of the state’s population was concentrated,” in comparison to the rest of Judah’s cities (167). Archaeologist Israel Finkelstein says, “The key phenomenon—which cannot be explained solely against the background of economic prosperity—was the sudden growth of the population of Jerusalem in particular, and of Judah in general” (153). He says the cause of this growth must be a large influx of Israelites fleeing from the Assyrian destruction of the northern state. It is “[t]he only reasonable way to explain this unprecedented demographic development” (154). This, according to Finkelstein, set the stage for motivations to compile and reconcile Hebrew history into a text at that time (157). Mazar questions this explanation, since, he argues, it is “no more than an educated guess” (167). (Finkelstein, Israel and Amihai Mazar. The Quest for the Historical Israel: Debating Archaeology and the History of Early Israel. Leiden: Brill, 2007)

Archeologists like William G. Dever have pointed at archaeological evidence for the iconoclasm during the period of Hezekiah’s reign. The central cult room of the temple at Arad (a royal Judean fortress) was deliberately and carefully dismantled, “with the altars and massebot” concealed “beneath a Str. 8 plaster floor”. This stratum correlates with the late 8th century; Dever concludes that “the deliberate dismantling of the temple and its replacement by another structure in the days of Hezekiah is an archeological fact. I see no reason for skepticism here.” ( Dever, William G. (2005) Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel (Eerdmans), pp. 174, 175.)

Under Rehoboam, Lachish became the second most important city of the kingdom of Judah. During the revolt of king Hezekiah against Assyria, it was captured by Sennacherib despite determined resistance).

As the Lachish relief attests, Sennacherib began his siege of the city of Lachish in 701 BC. The Lachish Relief graphically depicts the battle, and the defeat of the city, including Assyrian archers marching up a ramp and Judahites pierced through on mounted stakes. “The reliefs on these slabs” discovered in the Assyrian palace at Nineveh “originally formed a single, continuous work, measuring 8 feet … tall by 80 feet … long, which wrapped around the room” (559). Visitors “would have been impressed not only by the magnitude of the artwork itself but also by the magnificent strength of the Assyrian war machine.”

Sennacherib’s Prism was found buried in the foundations of the Nineveh palace. It was written in cuneiform, the Mesopotamian form of writing of the day. The prism records the conquest of 46 strong towns and “uncountable smaller places,” along with the siege of Jerusalem where Sennacherib says he just “shut him up…like a bird in a cage,” subsequently enforcing a larger tribute upon him. The Hebrew Bible states that during the night, an angel of Yahweh brought death to 185,000 Assyrians troops (2 Kings 19:35). There is no account of that in the prism. However, it remains unclear why Sennacherib left Jerusalem intact considering his conquest of all neighboring Judean provinces.

Sennacherib also recorded a payment of 800 silver talents, which may suggest a capitulation to end a siege. Furthermore, the annals[specify] record a list of booty sent from Jerusalem to Nineveh. Some theorize Hezekiah remained on his throne as a vassal ruler. (The campaign is recorded with differences in the Assyrian records and in the biblical Books of Kings; there is agreement by some that the Assyrian sources should be given priority despite the Assyrian propensity for exaggeration.

Text #9305

Plants. "The Assyrian Attack on Jerusalem"


In order to judge which of the two primary accounts is more valid, it is necessary to take a step back and review them for other flaws and tendencies that may hinder the interpretation of this particular story. To begin, Sennacherib’s Prism is very accurate when it comes to describing the mighty king’s successes. However, failures are often overlooked within the inscription. For instance during one of Sennacherib’s campaigns against Elam, both the annals and the Babylonian Chronicle agree that the Assyrians marched against and ravaged the Elamite homeland. However, the Prism conveniently says nothing of a retaliatory attack by Hallshu, the king of Elam, in which he drives his army deep into Akkad, capturing Sennacherib’s son, and forcing an Assyrian retreat, as is mentioned within the Babylonian Chronicle. This pattern of recording victories and overlooking setbacks is consistent throughout the entire Prism. Because of this, the possibility that an Israelite “miracle” may have defeated the Assyrians cannot be overlooked simply because it is not recorded within the Assyrian account (Laato).

The problems with the Old Testament books of II Kings, II Chronicles, and Isaiah are less obvious than those of the Prism. However, even a few problems can be substantial enough to make an entire account problematic. First of all, neither the Deuteronomist (author of the book of II Kings) or the Chronicler (possibly Ezra) were present at the actual event. It is probable that both of these men had access to Isaiah’s writings along with other sources and simply re-wrote the event in their own words. Sometimes this is not even the case as often passages from Isaiah match up word for word with those from these two books (See II Kings 19:24 compared to Isaiah 37:25). So what are the flaws of the only first-hand account of the siege? First of all, Isaiah is a book of prophesy not of history which makes it even more susceptible to religious bias. For example, there is no mention throughout the book of any tribute paid to Sennacherib at all. However in the accounts in Kings and Sennacherib’s Prism, a mention of tribute is definitely evident.

Scholars now believe that the there may have actually been two different sieges of Jerusalem perhaps weeks apart. The Bible faintly hints at this, but it is not expressly stated in any source. To begin, Hezekiah defies Sennacherib and Judah is invaded (Isaiah 36:1; II Kings 18:7, 13). As Sennacherib is taking Lachish, Hezekiah sends tribute payment to appease him (II Kings 18:14-16). Although appeased for a period of time, eventually Sennacherib changed his mind and besieges Jerusalem anyways (Isaiah 33:1, 8). However once there, the Assyrian army has to withdraw to aid a separate Assyrian force fighting at Libnah (Isaiah 37:8; II Kings 19:8). This is the point in the story when Sennacherib actually sends his officials to Jerusalem to demand surrender (II Kings 19:9-13; Isaiah 37:9-13). During this second siege is when the God of Israel supposedly slew 185,000 men in their sleep (II Kings 19:14-36; Isaiah 37:14-37). (Miller 411,412)

The Annals of Sennacherib declared a victory at Jerusalem. This is a true statement because Hezekiah stripped the temple of its precious metals in order to apologize for his rebellion to Sennacherib. This was his form of initial surrender. However after the second siege that Sennacherib attempts, it was found that the Assyrians never entered the walls of the city and that Hezekiah remains king in Jerusalem, an act that would never happen according to common Assyrian practice. This leads one to believe that although probably a literal angel did not slay a majority of Sennacherib’s camp perhaps a more natural cause did. Hezekiah did after all shut up all water outside the city so thirst and the fatigue of a long and tiring war possibly could have forced the Assyrians to retreat. It’s also a possibility that a disease spread throughout the camp and killed a large number of Sennacherib’s men. Either way it is known that Jerusalem was not physically taken by the Assyrians.

The only outside account of the siege was written by the Greek historian Herodotus approximately 250 years after the event. Only one small paragraph in the historian’s second bookHerodotus of Histories details the conquest. “After this, Sennacherib, King of the Arabians and Assyrians, marched a large army against Egypt…a number of field-mice, pouring in upon their enemies, devoured their quivers and their bows, and moreover, the handles of their shields; so that on the next day, when they fled bereft of their arms, many of them fell. (Herodotus 137)” Herodotus then gives credit to the god Vulcan for defeating the blasphemous Assyrian king.

Text #9308

Editorial comment by Laura Knight-Jadczyk

Second Kings 18:7 gives a seriously spin-doctored version of this event by commending Hezekiah’s decision to join the rebellion (“And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him”). The prophet Isaiah, however, condemns Jerusalem’s rulers for joining in rebellion with Egypt. What is interesting is that Isaiah says that Yahweh will “protect Jerusalem,” and cause “the Assyrian [to] fall by a sword, not of mortals” (Isa 31:5, 8; also see 30:31). Even though Judah has “deeply betrayed” the Lord, Isaiah promises their rescue (Isa 31:5–6). Meanwhile, Micah laments a calamity come down from the Lord at the gates of Jerusalem (Mic 1:12).

Something is obviously going on with this text. The clue may lie in Chapter 38 of Isaiah about “Hezekiah’s Illness”

38 1 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

4 Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: 5 “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. 6 And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city.

7 “‘This is the Lord’s sign to you that the Lord will do what he has promised: 8 I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.’” So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had gone down.

At the end, after a psalm, we get a clue about what ailed Hezekiah:

21 Isaiah had said, “Prepare a poultice of figs and apply it to the boil, and he will recover.”

It may be that a pestilence struck not only the forces of Sennacherib, but the inhabitants of Jerusalem as well.

The later composition, 2 Kings, uses Isaiah almost word for word:

20 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

4 Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: 5 “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. 6 I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’”

7 Then Isaiah said, “Prepare a poultice of figs.” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered.

8 Hezekiah had asked Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the Lord will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the Lord on the third day from now?”

9 Isaiah answered, “This is the Lord’s sign to you that the Lord will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?”

10 “It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps,” said Hezekiah. “Rather, have it go back ten steps.”

11 Then the prophet Isaiah called on the Lord, and the Lord made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.

The following chapter tells us a bit more:

39 1 At that time Marduk-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of his illness and recovery. 2 Hezekiah received the envoys gladly and showed them what was in his storehouses—the silver, the gold, the spices, the fine olive oil—his entire armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.

3 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, “What did those men say, and where did they come from?”

“From a distant land,” Hezekiah replied. “They came to me from Babylon.”

4 The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?”

“They saw everything in my palace,” Hezekiah said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.”

5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord Almighty: 6 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. 7 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

8 “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.”

This is certainly a spin-version of Sennacherib’s claim that Hezekiah sent him all the treasures of Jerusalem as tribute. Here, it is made to appear that there was still plenty of wealth and that the king of Babylon was independent and friendly with the king of Jerusalem. This is followed by “the word of the Lord” to Isaiah which could be a record of the fact that all the wealth of Jerusalem was already sent to Sennacherib. Obviously, the prophecy of the Babylonian captivity is written after the fact by an editorial hand.

The final interesting clue about this elaborate tale is found in Seneca’s tragedy, Atreus, where the sun is described as setting shockingly early. He was obviously referring to Plato who, in his dialogue The Statesman, tells a “famous tale” that “the sun and the stars once rose in the west, and set in the east, and that the god reversed their motion, and gave them that which they now have as a testimony to the right of Atreus.”

The Hebrew tradition says the event took place on the night of Passover in early Spring of 687 BC, not in 701 BC as traditionally dated, and Chinese records report that on March 23 of the same year “during the night the fixed stars did not appear, though the sky was clear. In the middle of the night, stars fell like rain.” E#398 This reminds us of the passage in Herodotus: “After this, Sennacherib, King of the Arabians and Assyrians, marched a large army against Egypt…a number of field-mice, pouring in upon their enemies, devoured their quivers and their bows, and moreover, the handles of their shields; so that on the next day, when they fled bereft of their arms, many of them fell.” (Herodotus 137) Stars that “fell like rain” and field mice “pouring” seems to reflect a mythological transposition of a shower of burning stones. This seems to be reinforced by the fact that Herodotus gave the credit to the god Vulcan. What is of additional interest is that Herodotus does not even mention Jerusalem, but states that the event occurred when the Assyrians went against the Egyptians.

Please view our Legal Notice before you make use of this Database.

See also our Credits page for info on data we are building upon.