Record of Defeat -- By: Abraham Rabinovich

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 12:3 (Summer 1983)
Article: Record of Defeat
Author: Abraham Rabinovich


Record of Defeat

Abraham Rabinovich

Victory albums have gone out of fashion in Israel since 1967, but Tel Aviv University’s Archeology Institute has now apparently come up with a new form of the genre — a Defeat Album. It records a major beating for Our Side. And to rub salt in the wound, the album’s price is $70.

But, The Conquest of Lachish by Sennacherib by David Ussishkin recounts a chapter in biblical archeology so tremendous as to transcend partisan emotion.

The story includes one of the greatest and earliest examples extant of com bat “photography.” It was executed by an Assyrian artist accompanying his nation’s army in an expedition against Judea 2, 700 years ago. His sketches, translated into stone reliefs, provide the only portraits we have of Jews from the biblical period.

The story also includes one of the great adventures of archeology — the unearthing of Sennacherib’s palace by a British aristocrat in the great tradition of inspired archeological amateurs, Austen Henry Layard, and the carrying off of its treasures, in the best colonial tradition, to the British Museum.

The story concludes with the current dig at Lachish, headed by the book’s author, Dr. Ussishkin, which has determined the

destruction layer marking Sennacherib’s victory and uncovered one of the ramps used by Sennacherib’s assault force.1

The Kingdom of Assyria, based in the area of today’s Iraq, became the superpower of the Near East towards the end of the 8th century BCE. The powerful battering rams designed by its royal engineers toppled the walls of fortified cities that stood in the way of the growing empire. The last of the Kingdom of Israel, embracing 10 of the 12 Israelite tribes, fell to Assyria in 720.

Judah was one of the few states in the region that remained independent. In 701, Sennacherib set out to rectify that. There is a remarkable diversity of sources to tell us what happened. The Bible was the first, but the sculptings and texts uncovered by Layard in Sennacherib’s palace at Nineveh giving the Assyrian version of events and the evidence found in Lachish itself by British and Israeli archeologists provide a rare perspective on a single historical event.

Judah was ruled by Hezekiah when the Assyrian hosts approached from Nineveh, almost 1,000 kilometres away. He had been king for 26 years and proved himself a vigorous and foresighted ruler. He had shored up Jerusalem as his capital spiritually by abolishing shrines outside the city. He strengthened it physically with...

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