Monday, November 19, 2018

Kings of Assyria and the Book of Isaiah--Lecture Part 3

Lecture for Lutheran Theological Seminary-Nyamira, Kenya. Part 3.

Sargon II (r. 722–705 BC)

Assyrian: Šarru-ukīn (LUGAL-GI.NA 𒈗𒄀𒈾);
Hebrew: סַֽרְג֖וֹן
Greek: Αρνα, Σαραγω, Σαργων, or Ἀρκεάνου
Ekegusii: Sarigoni

Isaiah 20 begins with the note:
“In the year that Tartan came to Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him, and he fought against Ashdod and took it”
This is the only mention of Sargon in the Bible.

The capture of Ashdod probably took place in 711 BC, in Sargon II’s 10th or 11th year.

Sargon II was the son of Tiglath-Pileser III. From what we can find it looks like he usurped the throne from his brother Shalmaneser V. His son, the crown prince, Sennacherib, pictured in the carving, assisted in ruling.

During his reign Babylon was establishing its independence from Assyria.

After several wars to assert Assyrian rule in other regions he turned his attention to Israel. He finished the work of his predecessor, who had captured Samaria after a three year siege. Sargon II captured Ashdod c 711 BC.

Sargon was killed c. 704 BC while waging war in eastern Turkey against the city of Tabal. After his fall there was uprising throughout Syria and down into Israel and Judah. The Egyptians were inciting rebellion against Assyria during this power vacuum. Babylon ruler Marduk-apla-iddina II took this opportunity to assert Babylonian supremacy toward Assyria and its former subject nations.

Sennacherib (r. 705–681 BC)

Akkadian: Sîn-ahhī-erība,
"Sîn has replaced the brothers"
Hebrew: סַנְחֵרִיב
Greek: Σενναχηριμ
Ekegusii: Senakeribu

2 Kings 18:13
Isaiah 36-39
2 Chronicles 30-32

The transition between the death of Sargon II and Sennacherib’s ascendance to the throne of Assyria was filled with complexities. The power vacuum left by Sargon II’s death allowed Egyptian and Babylonian influence to strengthen in the region of Lebanon, Canaan, Syria, and Philistia.
Outside the Bible, a main source for information about Sennacherib is called Sennacherib’s Annals. Quit a few inscriptions form part of these Annals. But we have three hexagonal clay prisms which appear to have a complete and final form of these annals. These are the Taylor Prism (at the British Museum), the Oriental Institute Prism (at the Oriental Institute of Chicago), and the Jerusalem Prism (at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem). Sennacherib’s Annals record his war against Judah and king Hezekiah.

Dealing with the Babylonian Rebellion First

When Sennacherib’s reign began Babylon had asserted its independence under king Marduk-apla-iddina II. In 703 BC Sennacherib captured Babylon, plundered the palace, and placed his own man on the throne. His strike against Babylon targeted the throne and did not greatly harm the citizens. 

Campaigns to the West and Southwest

701 BC. After dealing with these problems to the southeast he began to focus on the west and southwest. After the death of Sargon II many kingdoms were no longer paying tribute. This included kingdoms along the coast of the Mediterranean from as far north as Byblos and Sidon down to Gaza and Ashkelon, and it included inland kingdoms from Judah to Ammon, Moab, and Edom.

Sennacherib took the Phoenician city state of Sidon and the Philistine city state of Ashkelon by force. Several other cities and states capitulated to Sennacherib’s terms without a fight. These include: Byblos, Ashdod, Ammon, Moab and Edom.

2 Kings 16:9-12 records that King Hezekiah did not follow in the steps of his father, King Ahaz. Sennacherib’s siege of Samaria took place in Hezekiah’s fourth year, ending with the capture of King Hoshea of Samaria in Hezekiah’s sixth year. In Hezekiah’s ninth year all of Samaria was taken and the people deported “because they did not hearken to the voice of the Lord their God, לֹֽא־שָׁמְע֗וּ בְּקוֹל֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵיהֶ֔ם but transgressed His covenant and all that Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded; and they would neither hear nor do them. (v. 12)

2 Kings 16:13 records Sennacherib’s war against Judah. “13 And in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them.” At this point Hezekiah pays a ransom and begins to submit to Sennacherib.

Siege of Azekah

One of the cities captured by Sennacherib is recorded in an inscription but not in the Bible. This is called the Azekah Inscription. Azekah is described as a nearly impregnable “stronghold” of King Hezekiah which Sennacherib overwhelmed by the strength of his god Ashur. 

(line 10) [The city Azekah I besieged,] I captured, I carried off its spoil, I destroyed, I devastated, [I burned with fire…

After this destruction Sennacherib conquered the Philistines cities which Hezekiah had subdued.

(line 11) [ ], a royal ci[ty] of the Philistines (Pi-lis-ta-a-a), which [Hezek]iah had captured and strengthened for himself

Siege of Lachish

After these conquests Sennacherib described his conquest of Lachish, which is also recorded in II Kings 18; II Chronicles 32, and Micah 1:13. Sennacherib’s siege and conquest of Lachish is found in the Assyrian Annals and commemorated on the wall of the South-West Palace of Sennacherib in Nineveh. This carving is called the Lachish Reliefs and is housed in the British Museum. Sennacherib made his encampment at Lachish and sent his Rabsheka (“Head of Princes”) to attack Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 32:1-9)

Siege of Jerusalem

Sennacherib was not present at the siege of Jerusalem. Part of the preparations King Hezekiah had made, in addition to fortifying Jerusalem, was the construction of a waterway from the Spring of Gihon. The waterway is known as the Siloam Tunnel. The Bible records the events of the siege and the miraculous intervention of God in 2 Kings 18-19, 2 Chronicles 32:9-23, and Isaiah 36-37. The Assyrian Annals record Sennacherib’s deeds in this way:
18] As for Hezekiah the Judahite, 19] who did not submit to my yoke: forty-six of his strong, walled cities, as well as 20] the small towns in their area, 21] which were without number, by levelling with battering-rams 22] and by bringing up siege-engines, and by attacking and storming on foot, 23] by mines, tunnels, and breeches, I besieged and took them. 24] 200,150 people, great and small, male and female, 25] horses, mules, asses, camels, 26] cattle and sheep without number, I brought away from them 27] and counted as spoil. (Hezekiah) himself, like a caged bird 28] I shut up in Jerusalem, his royal city. 29] I threw up earthworks against him— 30] the one coming out of the city-gate, I turned back to his misery. 31] His cities, which I had despoiled, I cut off from his land, and 32] to Mitinti, king of Ashdod, 33] Padi, king of Ekron, and Silli-bêl, 34] king of Gaza, I gave (them). And thus I diminished his land. 35] I added to the former tribute, 36] and I laid upon him the surrender of their land and imposts—gifts for my majesty. 37] As for Hezekiah, 38] the terrifying splendor of my majesty overcame him, and 39] the Arabs and his mercenary troops which he had brought in to strengthen 40] Jerusalem, his royal city, 41] deserted him. In addition to the thirty talents of gold and 42] eight hundred talents of silver, gems, antimony, 43] jewels, large carnelians, ivory-inlaid couches, 44] ivory-inlaid chairs, elephant hides, elephant tusks, 45] ebony, boxwood, all kinds of valuable treasures, 46] as well as his daughters, his harem, his male and female 47] musicians, which he had brought after me 48] to Nineveh, my royal city. To pay tribute 49] and to accept servitude, he dispatched his messengers.
Careful reading of Sennacherib’s record shows that he claims to have captured several cities of Judah, but after laying siege to Jerusalem he did not capture the city or destroy it. Rather than claiming the glory of battle victory Sennacherib claims tribute based on a messenger sent to him. This appears to be a way of keeping public honor and the appearance of greatness in the face of his unstated military loss. According to the Biblical account, Sennacherib went home after his army was defeated at Jerusalem by the Angel of the Lord. Sennacherib did not return to Judah. There it is noted that after a bit of time Sennacherib was assassinated, to be replaced by his son, Esarhaddon. (Isaiah 37:36-38)

Babylon, Again

In 699 BC, Sennacherib replaced the Babylonian viceroy, Bel-ibni, with his eldest son, Ashur-nadin-shumi. Marduk-apla-iddina allied with Elam, who captured Ashur-nadin-shumi in 694 BC. In 689 BC Babylon fell to Sennacherib.


Sennacherib was assassinated in 681 BC. His son, Esarhaddon took the throne.

Esarhaddon (r. 681–669 BC)

Akkadian: Aššur-aḫa-iddina "Ashur has given a brother"
Hebrew: אֵסַר חַדֹּן
Greek: Ασαρχαδδων
Latin: Asor Haddan
Ekegusii: Ezara-Hadoni
Esarhaddon does not figure much into the biblical account. He is chiefly noted as the son of Sennacherib who succeeded his father after his brothers assassinated their father.

2 Kings 19:37=Isaiah 37:38 Now it came to pass, as he was worshiping in the temple of Nisroch his god, that his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. Then Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.

Ezra 4 records that some people who had lived in the Land of Israel near Jerusalem were placed there by Esarhaddon.

Esarhaddon extended the influence of Assyria into Lower (Northern) Egypt. But the texts we have remaining to us do not mention any military interactions with Judah. Judah would have been surrounded by the military influence of Assyria at this point toward the end of Isaiah’s ministry.

End of Lecture