Sennacherib: a Pagan King vs. יהוה

March 5, 2021

The record of the pagan Assyrian king Sennacherib, who challenged יהוה, the LORD God of Israel, is found in three biblical texts: 2 Kings 18-19, 2 Chronicles 32 and Isaiah 37. The year was 701 BC. Israel to the north had already fallen to the Assyrians (722 BC). Now (at the time referenced in the above texts) only tiny Judah remained, with its King Hezekiah. At this point Sennacherib had taken forty-six fortified cities of Judah, lastly Lachish, and then came to Jerusalem “with a great army” (Isa. 36:2).

Sennacherib sent the Rabshakeh with the message to Jerusalem, who shouted out in Hebrew, “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria. Thus says the king, Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you from my hand; nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” Then it got worse: “But do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you, saying, The LORD will deliver us. Has any one of the gods of the nations delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria from my hand? Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their land from my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” (2 Kings 18:28-30; 32-35).

Hezekiah went to the house of God. He sent for the prophet Isaiah with the request, “Lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left” (2 Kings 19:4). The Lord’s answer: “Whom have you reproached and blasphemed? And against whom have you raised your voice And haughtily lifted up your eyes? Against the Holy One of Israel!” (Isa. 37:23). Further: “Therefore, thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He will not come to this city or shoot an arrow there; and he will not come before it with a shield, or throw up a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came, by the same he will return, and he will not come to this city, declares the LORD. For I will defend this city to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake. Then the angel of the LORD went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, all of these were dead. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home and lived at Nineveh” (vv. 33-37).

One of the fascinating artifacts housed in the British Museum is Sennacherib’s Prism, otherwise known as Taylor’s Prism, named after the one who discovered it. This is King Sennacherib’s account of his victories. He specifically mentions Hezekiah, and the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem.

Sennacherib’s Prism, British Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The text is in Akkadian Cuneiform, the international language of the time. The reference to Hezekiah reads, “

As for Hezekiah, the Judean, I besieged forty-six of his fortified walled cities and surrounding smaller towns, which were without number. Using packed-down ramps and applying battering rams, infantry attacks by mines, breeches, and siege machines, I conquered (them). I took out 200,150 people, young and old, male and female, horses, mules, donkeys, camels, cattle, and sheep, without number, and counted them as spoil. He himself, I locked up within Jerusalem, his royal city, like a bird in a cage.

(Hallo, W. W., & Younger, K. L. (2000). Context of Scripture: Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World (p. 303). Leiden; Boston: Brill).

Sennacherib fails to mention why he did not take Jerusalem. He fails to mentions that 185,000 of his Assyrian soldiers died in one night. Why would he say only that he had Hezekiah locked up “like a bird in a cage,” but then fail to go on to record Jerusalem’s capture and that of its king? There can be only one explanation; he failed to do so, just as the Bible says. It is a case when the silence of the Assyrian record speaks volumes. This is after all, the same king who at his palace in Nineveh memorialized his conquest of Lachish with numerous carved stone wall panels which include graphic portrayals of the ramp and siege machines, also housed in the British Museum. But the pagan king did not fare so well when he challenged the LORD, the God of Israel.

Hezekiah’s Broad Wall

February 27, 2021

Isaiah prophesied during the reign of good King Hezekiah of Judah (r. 715-686 BC). Isaiah states, “Then you counted the houses of Jerusalem, And you tore down houses to fortify the wall” (22:10). This was done in response to the very real threat of Sennacherib of Assyria (r. 705-681 BC). , as he advanced toward Jerusalem. More details are given in 2 Chronicles:

Now when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to make war on Jerusalem, he decided with his officers and his warriors to cut off the supply of water from the springs which were outside the city, and they helped him. So many people assembled and stopped up all the springs and the stream which flowed through the region, saying, “Why should the kings of Assyria come and find abundant water?” And he took courage and rebuilt all the wall that had been broken down and erected towers on it, and built another outside wall and strengthened the Millo in the city of David, and made weapons and shields in great number. (2 Chron. 32:2-5, NASB).

A section of Hezekiah’s Wall in Jerusalem. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This wall was excavated by Nahman Avigad in 1969. Biblical Archaeological Review has the following info:

This massive wall, which once probably stood 27 feet high, provides the key to dating Jerusalem’s spread from the eastern to the western hill.

Before unearthing a 130-foot section of the wall, Avigad had already discovered remains of houses in the same area containing pottery and other artifacts datable to the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.E. The wall itself stood partly on bedrock and partly on recently built houses. Avigad reasoned that only a king could have ordered the building of so major a structure, and the fact that new housing had to be destroyed in the process indicates that the wall was erected during a crisis. Two passages in the Bible helped Avigad pinpoint the date and purpose of the wall: King Hezekiah, in 701 B.C.E., “saw that [the Assyrian ruler] Sennacherib had come, intent on making war against Jerusalem.… He [Hezekiah] acted with vigor, rebuilding the whole breached wall, raising towers on it and building another wall outside it” recounts 2 Chronicles 32:2–5 and Isaiah 22:10 states that Hezekiah “pulled houses down to fortify the wall.” Hezekiah, thanks in part to this wall, successfully repulsed Sennacherib’s attack.

From the angle in the wall and from data revealed by other excavations, Avigad argued that the wall enclosed more of the western hill of Jerusalem than previously believed; archaeologist Magen Broshi estimated that 25,000 people had lived within the wall’s boundaries in the eighth century B.C.E.


The Holman Bible Atlas has this interesting information:

Recent archaeological excavations have confirmed a western expansion of Jerusalem dating from the reign of Hezekiah (715–687 B.C). Archaeologists speculate that a population influx, in part of Israelite refugees fleeing the Assyrian invasions, made the expansion necessary. Clear evidence indicates the southwestern hill was now incorporated into Jerusalem’s defenses. A segment of a “broad wall” sixty-five meters long and seven meters wide, south of the Transversal Valley, has been unearthed by Nahman Avigad. Avigad attributed the wall to Hezekiah, who “counted the houses of Jerusalem, and … broke down the houses to fortify the wall” (Isa. 22:10). Indeed, Hezekiah’s wall was built on top of the foundations of houses visible under the outer edge of Avigad’s wall. This massive wall, made to withstand Assyrian siege tactics, enclosed the western hill; its line apparently turned south above the Hinnom Valley and continued eastward, joining the City of David’s fortifications near the juncture of the Hinnom and Kidron Valleys.

The “broad wall” enclosed an additional ninety acres of land, making the total fortified area of Jerusalem approximately one hundred and fifty acres. The area taken in included the mishneh—“Second Quarter,” where the prophet Huldah lived (2 Kgs. 22:14)—and the maktesh (the Mortar), probably a reference to the depression between the western and eastern slope (Zech. 1:11). Population estimates for the city at this time range from fifteen to twenty-five thousand.

Brisco, T. V. (1998). Holman Bible atlas (p. 145).

This photo gives a more detailed look:

Hezekiah’s Wall, detailed view. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Later in the days of Nehemiah, who returned from the captivity to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, it is stated, “. . . and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall” (Neh. 3:8; cf. 12:38). There is general consensus that the “broad wall” here is that built by Hezekiah.

It is fascinating to read of YHWH’s deliverance of Jerusalem against all odds (2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chron. 32; Isa. 37).

Click images for larger view.

Jerusalem Panorama

December 8, 2017

In this panoramic shot of Jerusalem you can see several landmarks, including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher at left, the Dome of the Rock, right center, and the Mount of Olives in the Distance.

Panorama of Jerusalem. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

It would be difficult to overestimate or overstate the importance of this city in both Old and New Testament studies!

I have numerous posts on Jerusalem, including here, here and here. Use the search box for more.

I took this photo this past April, 2017, on a personal study/photography trip with Ferrell Jenkins.

From Dan to Beersheba

March 17, 2011

Tonight as I write this we are in Beersheba, so we have traveled the biblical “from Dan to Beersheba” that is referenced so many times in Scripture (1 Sam. 3:20, etc.), having been to Dan earlier last week.

Last evening we spent the night at the Dead Sea at En Boqeq, but the internet was down when I was attempting to use it. Yesterday AM before leaving Jerusalem we visited the Wailing Wall. This wall was not part of the temple itself, but was the retaining wall for the temple and the structures on the temple mount.

Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Jerusalem is defined by three valleys: the Kidron, Tyropean and Hinnom. In the above photo we are standing in the Tyropean Valley.

The first several courses of larger stones starting from bottom are Herodian. Jews come here to mourn the destruction of the temple, among other reasons.

Just south of the wailing wall, excavations have reached down to first century street level. There you can see the stones that have been uncovered that were part of the temple buildings, hurled down into the valley during the AD 70 destruction. This photo shows the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that not 0ne stone would be left upon another, that would not be cast down (Matt. 24:2). He said that this would occur during that generation (v.34).

Temple Stones from AD 70 Destruction. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

After leaving Jerusalem, we went to see Anathoth. This was the site of the city which was home to Jeremiah.

Anathoth, home of prophet Jeremiah. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We also went to Old Testament Jericho. While there I took a group photo.

Group Photo at OT Jericho. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We’ve learned a lot on this journey. We are truly blessed.

This morning upon leaving En Boqeq we went to Masada.

Leon Mauldin at Zoar.

En route to Masada we stopped at Zoar for the view. The brook drains down to the Dead Sea. It is not clear if there is any connection between  this location and the Zoar mentioned in Gen. 19:22ff., in connection with the narrative of lot and the destruction of Sodom and its surrounding cities. The mountains just south of this area are called the Mountains of Sodom.

Masada was a Herodian fortress. It was here that the Zealots fled after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The Romans laid siege to Masada, and in AD 73 broke through the wall. They found the Jews inside chose death by their own hands rather than be captured by the Romans.

Tomorrow is a full schedule of sites from Tel Sheva (Beersheba) working our way up to Joppa, and from then to TLV for our departing flight home, the Lord willing.  Thanks again for following our travels, and for the many kind notes & prayers.

Click on photos for higher resolution.

Gordon’s Calvary

March 15, 2011

Today was a walking tour of Jerusalem, and beginning at Herod’s Gate included the sites of the Old City such as the Via Dolorosa, the Cardo, as well as the Temple Model, and finally Calvary.

Dr. W. Harold Mare discussed the merits of Calvary as the actual location of Jesus’ crucifixion in Bible and Spade:

Gordon’s Calvary and the Garden Tomb are located a short distance north of the present Damascus Gate, just east of Nablus Road. In 1885 General Charles Gordon, following the proposal made by Otto Thenius of Dresden in 1842, argued that a rocky hill there, 250 yards northeast of the Damascus Gate, was Calvary. The identification was based on several arguments: It was presumed to be a Jewish place of stoning, it lay outside the city wall, and what looked like the face of a skull could be seen in the rocky hillside.
As to location, Gordon’s Calvary fits the biblical requirements of being outside the gate. Although the side of the hill looks like the face of a skull, this may be due to man-made cuttings in the hill. The biblical reference to Calvary as the place of a skull (Matthew 24:33, etc.), may mean that it was shaped like a skull, or simply that skulls of crucified criminals could be found there.

Gordon's Calvary. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The nearby rock-hewn Garden Tomb, though aesthetically satisfying, is not of the first century A.D. It contains a Byzantine (fourth to sixth centuries A.D.) trough-type burial place, and two Byzantine crosses were found painted on one wall (Vol.3, no. 2).

Garden Tomb at Calvary. Photo by Leon Mauldin.


Mare went on to say, “The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, besides being outside the walls of Jerusalem in Jesus’ time, has other supportive evidence” (ibid). We will plan to write more re: this on a future post.

I do like the truth engraved on the door of the garden tomb:

Door at Garden Tomb. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Thanks again for following our travels. Tomorrow we are to leave Jerusalem and visit sites southward to the Dead Sea.

Click on images for higher resolution.

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