Sennacherib’s Attack On Hezekiah -- By: A. R. Millard

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 36:1 (NA 1985)
Article: Sennacherib’s Attack On Hezekiah
Author: A. R. Millard


Sennacherib’s Attack On Hezekiah

A. R. Millard

For more than a century biblical scholars have drawn information about Israelite history from the Assyrian monuments. Although the passages naming kings of Israel and Judah are few, less than a dozen distinct references, they are valuable because they are totally independent of the biblical text. Indeed, it is quite an instructive way to illustrate the survival of information from antiquity to attempt to reconstruct Israelite history from Assyrian and Babylonian records alone; this is to reverse the situation that existed before 1850 when the Bible and a few Greek and Latin authors were the only sources for the history of Assyria and Babylonia. The majority of the Assyrian references to kings of Israel or Judah do no more than list the royal names among other tributaries, and in so doing they correspond with the naming and ordering of those rulers in the biblical text. There is one Assyrian text which offers a much longer account of dealings with Judah, a text renowned since the beginning of Assyriology, the text which is the main subject of this lecture: Sennacherib’s report of his attack on Judah and Jerusalem in the reign of King Hezekiah.

Modern knowledge of Sennacherib’s report dates from 1851 when (Sir) Henry Rawlinson published a translation of it in The Athenaeum.1 The text was identified engraved on stone bulls guarding a palace entrance unearthed in Nineveh by (Sir) Henry Layard two years earlier, and on an hexagonal clay prism now in the British Museum. The latter is the often-quoted ‘Taylor Prism’ which the British Resident in Baghdad, Colonel R. Taylor, had acquired at Nineveh in 1830. In Ireland the other pioneer in the decipherment of Assyrian cuneiform writing, Rev. Edward Hincks, worked simultaneously, and his translation of the report was printed

in 1853 in Layard’s Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon.2 The Trustees of the British Museum issued lithographic reproductions of the cuneiform text of the whole of the Taylor Prism (it carries 487 lines of writing) in 1861, making it available to scholars throughout the world.3 In translation the Prism’s text relating to Judah reads:

‘As for Hezekiah the Judahite who had not submitted to my yoke, I surrounded 46 of his strong walled towns, and innumerable small places around them, and conquered them by means of earth ramps and siege engines, attack by infantrymen, mining, breaching, and scaling. 200,150 people of all ranks, men and women, horses, mules, donkeys, c...

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