Three accounts have been
left by the Assyrian monarch himself of his campaign against Israel and
Judah. The most famous is the six-sided prism known as the Taylor Prism.
Sennacherib described in detail how he came against the cities of Israel and
then Judah, and 'Hezekiah himself I shut up in Jerusalem his capital city
like a bird in a cage.'
Many smaller towns and
villages fell. The might of all Assyria was marshalled against Hezekiah. But
the Taylor Prism does not record the defeat of Hezekiah or the fall of
Jerusalem as one would expect. Sennacherib returned to Nineveh his capital
city. The boastful account ends not in triumph but with an anticlimax. What
had happened? What made Sennacherib withdraw at the last moment?
"And it came to pass
that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp
of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they
arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. So
Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt
(2 Kings 19:35-36)
In addition to the
evidence of Sennacherib's own account, in 1938 the archaeologist Starkey
found a mass grave outside the city of Lachish, which Sennacherib had
conquered and which was the base for the Assyrian move to Jerusalem. In the
Lachish grave were two thousand human skeletons evidently thrown in with
great haste. Here was the reason for Sennacherib's sudden withdrawal.
The palace at Nineveh was
decorated with massive stone wall panels depicting the siege of Lachish.
These are attractively arranged in the Lachish Gallery in the British Museum
and can be seen as they would have appeared in their original positions.
They provide a detailed background to the Bible account.
The Bible account of
Sennacherib concludes with these words -
"So Sennacherib king
of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. And it
came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god,
that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and
they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in
The same event was
recorded for the library at Nineveh and the clay tablet of the record is now
in the British Museum.
'On the twentieth day
of the month Tebet Sennacherib king of Assyria his son slew him in
rebellion... Esarhaddon his son sat on the throne of Assyria.'
This is one of the many
independent confirmations of details in the Biblical records.
The Assyrian period of
history can provide many similar examples of confirmation. The British
Museum publication, 'Illustrations of Old Testament History' by Barnett
gives many examples. The soldier-prince Pul (11 Kings 15:19) or
Tiglath-pileser, his general Rabshakeh (11 Kings 18:17) or Rab-shaqu, have
left their names in monuments and inscriptions. A limestone relief from
Nimrud portrays the surrender of Ashtoreth in Gilead with the name clearly
labelled in cuneiform script.
Shalmaneser, too, left a
wealth of monuments and inscriptions, a number of which mention the monarchs
of other nations.
A study of the period
gives us a very great confidence in the accuracy of the Biblical records. We
can look at carvings and statues of monarchs mentioned in the Bible.
Scholars have translated accounts of the campaigns and treaties and details
of the private lives of the great men of the period - and these confirm the
archaeology has shown that the Bible records are accurate in some of the
smallest details, we can have confidence in the reliability of the writers.
We should be prepared to consider carefully the writings of the Bible as a