Damien F. Mackey
…. Isaiah taunts Sennacherib with a prediction that could hardly have been uttered about the time of the Assyrian army’s encirclement of Jerusalem (37:33):
“Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria:
‘He shall not come into this city, shoot an arrow there, come before it with a shield,
or cast up a siege ramp against it. …’.”
Most of these things that Isaiah says the Assyrian king will not do,
Sennacherib did in fact do during his Third Campaign!
In Volume Two, Chapter One of my university thesis:
A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah
and its Background
I attempted a “Distinguishing [of] Sennacherib’s Two Major Invasions” (here modified):
We are now well equipped it would seem to answer with conviction an age-long question as formulated by Bright: …. “The account of Sennacherib’s actions against Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18:13 to 19:37 (//Isa., ch.36f.) presents a difficult problem. Does it contain the record of one campaign or two?” The answer is, according to the revised history that was developed in VOLUME ONE, two campaigns. These are:
(i) Sennacherib’s Third Campaign (conventionally dated to 701 BC …); and
(ii) his campaign about a decade later … after the destruction of Babylon.
These were not of course Sennacherib’s only western campaigns, for he (as Sargon II) had conquered Samaria in 722 BC, and had likely reconquered it in 720 BC.
Comment: For Sennacherib as Sargon II, see my series:
Assyrian King Sargon II, Otherwise Known As Sennacherib
Assyrian King Sargon II, otherwise known as Sennacherib. Part Two: The Challenging Azekah Inscription
Sennacherib moreover claimed to have been taking tribute from king Hezekiah of Judah even before his Third Campaign (refer back to p. 145 of Chapter 6).
It remains to separate invasions (i) and (ii) as given in KCI [Kings, Chronicles, Isaiah]; a task that proponents of the ‘two invasions’ theory, myself included, have found far from easy to do. Bright, himself a champion of this latter theory, has referred to the “infinite variations in detail” amongst scholars trying to settle the issue. …. He has rightly observed, as have others as well … that there is a good match between Sennacherib’s Third Campaign account and the early part of 2 Kings. Beyond this, Bright has noticed a polarity in KCI – suggesting the telescoping of what were two separate campaign accounts – with Hezekiah on the one hand being castigated by Isaiah for resisting the Assyrians, by turning to Egypt for help, and on the other being told that the Assyrians would be defeated: ….
… Isaiah’s utterances with regard to the Assyrian crisis are, it seems to me, far better understood under the assumption that there were two invasions by Sennacherib. The sayings attributed to him in II Kings 18:17 to 19:37 (//Isa., chs. 36f.) all express the calm assurance that Jerusalem would be saved, and the Assyrians frustrated, by Yahweh’s power; there is no hint of rebuke to Hezekiah reminding him of his reckless policy which had brought the nation to this pass.
… Yet his known utterances in 701 [sic] and the years immediately preceding (e.g., chs. 28:7-13, 14-22; 30:1-7, 8-17; 31:1-3) show that he consistently denounced the rebellion, and the Egyptian alliance that supported it, as a folly and a sin, and predicted for it unmitigated disaster.
In 701, when Sennacherib had ravaged the whole land and had Jerusalem under blockade (ch. 1:4-9), if words mean anything (“Why be beaten any more, [why] continue rebellion?” v. 5), he counseled surrender; and ch. 22:1-14 … suggests that nothing in the course of these events had caused him to alter his evaluation of the national character and policy. It is not easy to believe that in this very same year he also counseled defiance and promised deliverance.
One can easily agree with Bright when he goes on to say that “different sets of circumstances must be presumed” … and that “telescoping” has been employed. …. For the ancient Jews, apparently, there was a strong link in the overall scheme of things between Assyria’s first and second efforts to conquer Jerusalem, though well separated in time. The KCI narratives read as if virtually seamless. In attempting to separate the two campaigns, we shall need to draw upon a variety of sources in order to determine where the actual break occurs. But, thanks to our findings in VOLUME ONE, we no longer have the problem facing proponents of the ‘two campaigns’ theory of having to establish the fact of a second Assyrian invasion into Palestine.
First Major Invasion
Sennacherib’s first major campaign against Hezekiah (i.e. his Third Campaign… ) was preceded by the Turtan’s arrival at ‘Ashdod’ (Lachish) …..
Comment: For ‘Ashdod’ as Lachish, see my article:
Sargon II’s “Ashdod” – the Strong Fort of Lachish
KCI, as we saw, telescopes this as if all taking place “in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah” (cf. 2 Kings 18:13 & Isaiah 36:1), though we now know that the Assyrian king did not personally come up in that year. Hezekiah’s fourteenth year corresponds rather with Isaiah 20:1: “In the year that the commander-in-chief, who was sent by King Sargon of Assyria, came to Ashdod and fought against it and took it”. This calculates as the same year of Hezekiah’s near fatal illness (cf. 2 Chronicles 29:1 & Isaiah 38:5), which must have occurred at some stage after the Assyrians had made their move, because Isaiah tells Hezekiah (38:4): “… Thus says the Lord, the god of your ancestor David: … I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and defend this city”. About this time also Merodach-baladan, the king of Babylon, who – with Elamite help – was defying Assyria’s efforts to dislodge him, sent envoys to Hezekiah, as he doubtless did to other kings as well, seeking to enlist their participation against Assyria. (For more on this, see next chapter, pp. 37-38). Merodachbaladan would almost certainly have appealed to Tyre, which now became a ringleader in this sizeable Syro-Palestinian coalition against Assyria (following on from the revolt of 720 BC). Isaiah predicted that, in three years (Jewish reckoning), the Egypto/Ethiopian forces upon which the Jews were relying, would be carried off into captivity (20:2-4).
The Egyptian-backed insurgent, Iatna/Iamani, no doubt encouraged by the prevailing
Syro-Palestinian support, strongly fortified ‘Ashdod’, surrounding it by a moat. And Hezekiah appears to have supported this upstart’s interference in his realm. An ardent nationalist anyway, Hezekiah was no doubt under fearful pressure as well from both ‘patriotic’ Judaean nobles and the Syro-Hittites, all allied now with Egypt. Above all, he may have been bolstered by the promise that the Lord would save Jerusalem from the Assyrians. In spite of the earnest warnings of Isaiah, who branded the whole thing as folly and rebellion against Yahweh, Hezekiah joined in and sent – or allowed – envoys to … Egypt to negotiate a treaty (cf. Isaiah 19:11, 13; 30:1-7; 31:1-3), and to invite Egypt’s assistance in strengthening his kingdom’s defences. In fact, Hezekiah himself became a ringleader in the revolt. He must fully have realised that the king of Assyria would not overlook this. In preparation for the inevitable assault upon Jerusalem, the king built up the walls of Jerusalem and stopped up the flow of waters outside the city.
He hewed a 500 metre long tunnel to channel the water from the Spring Gihon into the south of the city so that the defenders would have an adequate supply of water: the famous Siloam tunnel. He also strongly fortified the city and appointed captains and guards, urging the people not to be afraid of the Assyrians (2 Chronicles 32:2-8).
The Assyrian king’s Year 11 saw him personally stirred into action. We know about this campaign from the notice in 2 Kings 18:13-16, but more especially from Sargon II’s/Sennacherib’s own inscriptions, which corroborate but vastly augment it. Moving against Gurgum, and then southward along the coast, the king of Assyria crushed resistance in the kingdom of Tyre, replacing its king – who had fled to Cyprus – with a ruler of his own choosing. With Tyre’s submission, the revolt began to fall apart. Kings from far and near – Byblos, Arvad, Ashdod, Moab, Edom, Ammon – hastened to Sennacherib with tribute.
But the states of Ashkelon and Ekron, together with Judah, still held out. Sennacherib
marched against them, first reducing dependencies of Ashkelon near Joppa and then
moving southward to deal with Ekron whose king Padi, it will be recalled, was being
held prisoner in Jerusalem. A substantial Egypto-Ethiopian army marching to the relief of Ekron was met at Eltekeh and defeated. Sennacherib then took Ekron and other rebellious Philistine cities at his leisure, punishing offenders with execution or deportation. Around Ekron he left a ghastly ring of impaled corpses. ….
Meanwhile Sennacherib turned on Judah. He tells us that he reduced forty-six of Judah’s fortified cities and deported their population. …. Hezekiah’s case was hopeless. Deserted by his nobles and his mercenary troops, he sent to Sennacherib while the latter was still besieging Lachish and sued for terms. “I have sinned; return from me; whatever you put on me I will bear” (2 Kings 18:14). The terms were severe. The king of Ekron was handed over and restored to his throne. Portions of Judah’s territory were divided amongst him and the loyal kings of ‘Ashdod’ and Gaza. In addition, Sennacherib demanded a dramatically increased tribute.
Hezekiah’s decision to try to buy off Sennacherib was perhaps based on his hope of a last minute Divine intervention. He might also have reasoned that, because Egypt was Sennacherib’s primary goal, and the Assyrian was already some distance on the way there, he might continue en route after receiving the heavy tribute, without taking the time needed to complete the siege of Jerusalem. This operation would later take Nebuchednezzar II ‘the Great’ (C6th BC) about one and a half years to complete.
A Proposed Break
It as at this point – the conclusion of the account of Hezekiah’s paying heavy tribute to Assyria – that Ellis, for instance, chooses to make a break between the two invasions, cleanly separating the tribute-giving episode from the very next portion of the narrative that describes Sennacherib’s sending up of a large army to Jerusalem. …. This manoeuvre by Ellis clearly has points in its favour. For instance:
- Hezekiah had apparently yielded completely to the king of Assyria, yet the latter immediately sends an army against him; the spokesman of which army asks why Hezekiah continues so stubbornly to resist.
- Hezekiah’s act of filling in the breaches in the city’s walls is seen as being an action in response to an already prior assault on the walls of Jerusalem by the Assyrian army.
However, I think that Ellis’s decision turns out to be premature, and that no actual break in campaign ought to be read into the KCI texts at this point. A comprehensive scenario may be attained by ‘reading between the lines’, so to speak, by turning to other sources.
The two incidents that Ellis completely separates, whilst not significantly apart in time – as he would have it – neither follow immediately the one from the other. There were other interim events that, not only took up a certain amount of time, but the recognition of which makes more intelligible the whole flow of incidents. I refer for example to:
- Isaiah 33:7, where we learn that the “ambassadors of peace”, apparently those who had taken the tribute to Sennacherib, then returned “weeping bitterly”. And 24:16 (cf. 21:2): “For the treacherous deal treacherously, the treacherous deal very treacherously”. Sennacherib, marked as “treacherous” according to Boutflower … received the tribute, but now demands the surrender of the city!
- 2 Chronicles 32:9-10, where we learn that there was a further prelude to the arrival of the main Assyrian army. Sennacherib had even before this sent his servants to undermine Hezekiah’s confidence in his God.
Nor should we have expected, given the nature of the Assyrian king, that he would ever have intended for Jerusalem to have gone free after her pre-meditated rebellion.
There is also the fact to be considered, in the context of this revision, that Sobna (Shebna) was still at this point in Jerusalem; an unlikely scenario if this were the time of a second Assyrian invasion.
As to the breaches in the wall, we are told that Hezekiah repaired and greatly strengthened these, adding a second wall, as well as fortifying the Millo; all probably
achieved even prior to Sennacherib’s arrival at Lachish. (Cf. 2 Chronicles 32:5-6 &
With all this in mind, I would be inclined towards accepting a scenario according to which Hezekiah’s payment of tribute was followed, in the course of the same campaign, by the Assyrian army’s siege of Jerusalem.
Great would have been the alarm amongst the Judaeans when, eventually – and there may have been a reasonable lapse of time – a strong force made its appearance on the neighbouring hills, for a visible and unmistakable proof was then given that the Assyrian ‘Great King’ meant to have the fortress of Jerusalem. (2 Kings 18:17): “The king of Assyria sent the Turtan, the Rabsaris and the Rabshakeh with a great army from Lachish to king Hezekiah at Jerusalem”. (I have already, in Chapter 7, p. 186, proposed an identification of Sennacherib’s Rabshakeh with the famous Ahikar, or Achior).
There are several reasons though for thinking that the army, even at this stage, did not come all the way to Jerusalem, but stood some distance off – Sennacherib’s plan being to terrify the Jews into submission rather than having to undergo the inevitable long siege.
I refer to this combination of data:
- the description of the place of meeting between the Assyrian delegation and
the Judaean officials (Eliakim now having taken leadership over Sobna, who had succumbed to the Assyrian pressure), combined with
- the geographical description of the Assyrian advance in Isaiah 10 … plus the fact that
III. the Judaean officials “went out” to meet the Assyrians.
Let me try to explain these points:
According to Isaiah 36:2: “The cupbearer-in-chief (i.e. Rabshakeh) took up a position
near the conduit of the upper pool on the road to the Fuller’s Field”. Commentators usually presume that the Rabshakeh’s position was right outside the walls of Jerusalem, and that he had addressed Eliakim and his fellow Judaean officials within earshot of those on the ramparts of the capital city. After all, Sennacherib had sent his army to the king in Jerusalem (Isaiah 36:2).
The geographical experts, as well, generally seem to accept this view; although none of them has, to my knowledge, succeeded in pinpointing this rather precisely named spot in a way that inspires complete confidence.
There are reasons I think to suspect that the Upper Pool was not right at Jerusalem at all, but was some distance off from the city.
The very fact that the Judaean delegation “went out” … (Isaiah 36:3), to the Assyrians, to meet the Rabshakeh, might indicate that Hezekiah’s embassy went some distance from Jerusalem, to a strategic position guarding the capital city. That the Rabshakeh marched from Lachish towards Jerusalem, but did not come all the way, might also be implied by a clever passage in Isaiah (10:27-32) that describes the onrushing Assyrian cavalry force, moving with incredible speed to within close range of Jerusalem – and that I am going to suggest just might describe the Rabshakeh’s march:
He advances from the district of Rimmon, he reaches Aiath,
he passes through Migron, he leaves his baggage train at Michmash.
They file through the defile, they bivouac at Geba.
Ramah quakes, Gibeah of Saul takes flight.
Bath-gallim, cry aloud! Laisah, hear her!
Anathoth, answer her!
Madmenah is running away, the inhabitants of Gebim are fleeing.
This very day he will halt at Nob. He will shake his fist against the mount of the
daughter of Zion, against the hill of Jerusalem.
Now Boutflower … thought that this fearsome charge might pertain to Sargon II’s army, as it was certainly a characteristic tactic of his. What would seem most likely, at least, was that this passage pertains to an Assyrian action (and not e.g. to a Syro-Ephraimitic one), given that these verses are located in Isaiah after a speech about the Assyrians (10:5-27). Though, in my context, it needs to be explained how a Rabshakeh, departing from Lachish to the south-west of Jerusalem, would all of a sudden be approaching the capital city from the north. An important consideration of strategy may come in here. It is an interesting fact that, though Sennacherib’s army was commanded by three officials, it is only the Rabshakeh of whom we hear as being present before the Judaean officials, and it is only the Rabshakeh who then returns to tell Sennacherib of the outcome (Isaiah 37:8). The clue to the precise Assyrian strategy and progress may well lie in the reversion in Isaiah 10 from the plural (v. 29) … “they file through” and … “they bivouac” [i.e. the masculine plural form of the verb], to the singular (v. 32) … “he will shake his fist”.
The Rabshakeh, after having left Lachish where Sennacherib had established himself, may have firstly had to connect with the main body of the Assyrian army – which was steadily dismantling the forts of Judah – before coming in person to parley with Hezekiah’s officials at ‘Nob’ – so far not unequivocally identified, but apparently in sight of Jerusalem. If so, then this location must coincide with the “conduit of the upper pool … Fuller’s Field”. Certainly the verse, “he will shake his fist against the mount of the daughter of Zion”, is an appropriate description of the Rabshakeh’s contemptuous words against Jerusalem and its king (e.g. Isaiah 36). So where was this precise location?
Boutflower who, keeping open his geographical options, was not sure if the Upper Pool were “north, west or south of the Sacred City”, imagined that it must have been at least “very close to the walls”. ….
He refers here to Josephus’ testimony that north of the city, in the same quarter as the “camp of the Assyrians”, there “stood a monument called ‘the Monument of the Fuller’.”
According to Burrows … it was probably to the south of the city, near the Gihon Spring.
I think however that one can be somewhat more specific than any of this, and can perhaps tie up, all together, (a) the Upper Pool location, (b) the Fuller’s Field, and (c) the ‘Nob’ of Isaiah 10.
Comment: I have since written about:
The Conduit of the Upper Pool on the Highway to the Fuller’s Field
Since Sennacherib had sent his officials, and did not come in person, “the strong, proud Hezekiah” – as Sennacherib called him … – perhaps would not give the Assyrians the satisfaction of his coming out in person to meet them, but would send his own chief officials, Eliakim, Sobna and Joah. Although there is also the possibility that Hezekiah himself was by now too feeble to come out, despite his having recovered from his illness.
Ahikar the Rabshakeh delivered his notorious harangue in which he made it clear that the Jews were to go into captivity. He ridiculed their continuing reliance upon Egypt, “that broken reed of a staff” (Isaiah 36:6); no doubt a telling reference to the disastrous (for the ‘allies’) battle of Eltekeh. The fact that the Jews were continuing to rely on Egypt (Ethiopia?), though, would indicate that they thought there was more help to come from that direction.
Most interestingly, Childs – who has subjected the Rabshakeh’s speech to a searching form-critical analysis, also identifying its true Near Eastern genre – has considered it as well in relation to an aspect of the speech of BOJ’s [Book of Judith’s] Achior (who I shall actually be identifying with this Rabshakeh in Chapter 2, e.g. pp. 46-47) to Holofernes (Judith 5:20f.). ….
After his having delivered his speech in Hebrew, so that all could understand it, the Rabshakeh “returned, and found the King of Assyria fighting against Libnah; for he had heard that the king had left Lachish” (2 Kings 19:8). Now, whilst the Rabshakeh went to report back to Sennacherib, Hezekiah, his clothes torn and in sackcloth, sent his trio of officials to Isaiah to inform the prophet of the speech by the Rabshakeh whom Sennacherib “had sent to mock the living God” (2 Kings 19:1-4).
This was to be the turning point for Isaiah who, when he heard the message – realizing that the Assyrian king had now gone too far – would thus confidently predict his downfall (37:6-7):
Thus says the Lord: ‘Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled me. I myself will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumour … and return to his own land; I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land’.
The first part of this prophecy will be fulfilled very soon – at least in terms of scriptural
verses – as we are going to see. The second part, much later. The fulfilment of the first part of Isaiah’s response will be our actual break point between the two campaigns.
Sennacherib, having received his Rabshakeh’s report, would then have ordered his army to proceed against Jerusalem, and commence the siege. The Assyrian king tells us that he threw up earthworks against Hezekiah, ‘shutting him in like a bird in a cage’, and preventing any egress. Akhi-miti/Eliakim, on the other hand, came out of it all rather well, perhaps due to his having followed the counsel of Isaiah. He was given back the fort of ‘Ashdod’ that Yatna … had taken from him; Akhi-miti being the loyal king Mitinti of ‘Ashdod’ of Sennacherib’s records, to whom the Assyrian gave – as we saw – portions of Judaean territory.
There is no reason to believe that the siege of Jerusalem was of short duration.
Eventually, though, Sennacherib “heard concerning King Tirhakah of Ethiopia, ‘He has set out to fight against you’” (Isaiah 37:9); this presumably being the “rumour” referred to above, that was to prompt Sennacherib’s “return to his own land”. Probably, also, Tirhakah’s predecessor (Shebitku) had died, or as Tirhakah put it, “the Falcon flew to heaven” …. and it was left to the energetic Tirhakah to continue the war. Sennacherib opted at this stage to lift the siege. Perhaps he also had in mind now finally to finish off Merodach-baladan, before committing his troops to any further action in the west.
…. The Greek (Septuagint) version of 2 Kings 18:9 (Greek uses IV Kings) reinforces this scenario with the crucial phrase, “and he returned” … corresponding precisely with Isaiah’s prediction two verses earlier (v. 7) that Sennacherib would “return to his own land” upon hearing the “rumour”. …. (This important text will be considered further … ). This was in effect a first deliverance of Jerusalem.
We know that Sennacherib proceeded in his next (Fourth) campaign to attack the rebellious Merodach-baladan. He also made his [eldest] son Viceroy at this stage.
Second Major Invasion
Hezekiah had been left in utter misery by the Assyrians, with his once wide kingdom
greatly reduced. But now a more optimistic Isaiah would predict for the Jews happier
days: the king of Judah in his glory once again, ruling over a wide land; the memory of the besieging Assyrian army having all but faded (33:17-20).
Meanwhile, the Assyrians were again at war in the east. And, judging by BOJ Chapter 1, the ‘whole world’ must have been cheering on Merodach-baladan (i.e. ‘Arphaxad’, see next chapter, p. 38) when he found himself the target of Assyria yet again, in his Year 12.
The entire empire virtually snubbed the king of Assyria when he “sent messengers”, as was his wont, to garner support against the Chaldaeo-Aramaean coalition. We have seen Esarhaddon refer to these rebels as “insolent” (Chapter 6, p. 170).
The leaders of many of these nations would live to regret – even die regretting – their choice. But that would be still some years in the future.
We now come to a seemingly seamless section of Scripture that would appear immediately to link incidents that I am going to argue were in fact years apart.
Isaiah 37:9-10 directly connects Sennacherib’s learning about Tirhakah, the “rumour”, with his sending to king Hezekiah, via Assyrian messengers, of the blasphemous letter that would elicit Isaiah’s taunt song against Sennacherib …. This incident, in turn, is directly linked to the destruction of the Assyrian army. “That very night” … according to 2 Kings 19:35 – presumably ‘the night’ following either Isaiah’s issuing of the taunt, or Hezekiah’s reception and reading of it – “… the angel of the Lord set out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians”.
…. However, there is reason for believing that the Tirhakah “rumour”, and the issuing of the taunt song, could not have belonged to the same invasion period.
…. Isaiah taunts Sennacherib with a prediction that could hardly have been uttered about the time of the Assyrian army’s encirclement of Jerusalem (37:33): “Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He shall not come into this city, shoot an arrow there, come before it with a shield, or cast up a siege ramp against it. …’.” Most of these things that Isaiah says the Assyrian king will not do, Sennacherib did in fact do during his Third Campaign!
Isaiah 37:36 does not use 2 Kings’ chronologically specific phrase: “That very night
(19:35); but simply has: “Then the angel of the Lord set out … and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians …”. The Septuagint equivalent to 2 Kings 19:35, too, gives the far less temporally specific: “And it came to pass at night that the angel of the Lord went forth …” … (IV Kings 19:35). …. On this point, I think it would be strange if the Assyrian army were in fact routed closer to the time of Isaiah’s issuing of his taunt, because Isaiah’s words seem to indicate the passing of a substantial period of time – certainly, at least, beyond three Jewish years (37:30-32). “And this shall be the sign for you: This year eat what grows of itself, and in the second year what springs from that: then in the third year sow, reap, plant vineyards, and eat their fruit …”. And this was to be only “the sign”, pointing to – and confirming – what was to follow: namely, the failure of the Assyrian king to reach Jerusalem (vv.
This is where a form critical analysis, such as Childs, can be most useful, even though Childs himself will conclude that: …. “The results of our study in reference to the historical problem have been mainly negative”. Childs has textually distinguished 2 Kings 18:13-16, the account of “Hezekiah’s capitulation to Sennacherib” (or Account A), from 2 Kings 18:17-19:37 // Isaiah 36:1-37:8 (Account B) – the latter of which he then splits up into a B1 and a B2; the break occurring between 19:9a and 19:9b: ….
The change in style from the condensed, descriptive report of the annal to the extended, dramatic representation of events and persons is striking. Moreover, the latter account in II Kings 18.17-19.37 // Isa. 36.1-37.38 (= B account) makes no reference to the events in A, and, in fact, takes no cognizance whatever of the reported capitulation.
… Stade’s initial insight was in recognizing in 19.9 the seam by which the two accounts were connected. He suggested that 9a related closely to the prophecy in 7. There the prophet announced that Sennacherib would ‘hear a rumour’ (šama‘ šemû‘ ah), and would ‘return to his own land’ (šabh le ars_ô). In v. 9 he ‘hears’ and ‘returns’. Stade assumes that the reference to his own land had been omitted by the fusion of the two sources, but that it was implicit.
Following Stade, others … have attempted slight modifications of his theory. The expression ‘he returned’ (wayyašobh) in 9b was usually taken as the beginning of the B2 account, and, in accordance with the well-known Hebrew idiom, translated ‘again’ (cf. II Kings 1.11). This seemed to establish an excellent beginning for B2.
Apart from the historical considerations … there is also to be considered the interesting personal development of king Hezekiah himself. In the first case the king of Judah, having learned of the Rabshakeh’s words, had most nervously sent his trio of delegates to Isaiah. For rightly does Childs say, in this case: …. “[Hezekiah’s] request for intercession is given with the utmost reserve and even timidity”. Thus the king told his officials to say to Isaiah (2 Kings 19:4): ‘It may be that the Lord your God heard all the words of the Rabshakeh …’.
…. ‘It may be … Lord your God …’. The king of Judah, the great erstwhile reformer, was no longer confident that God was listening – certainly not to him, at least – and was now entirely dependent upon Isaiah’s own faith and trust in Yahweh. Contrast this with what Childs has written about the presumably later source: …. “However, in B2 Hezekiah does not even inform Isaiah, but enters the temple, approaches the very presence of God, and offers as a royal priest the prayer of his people”.
So radical a change in attitude would presuppose the passing of a significant period of time, I should imagine.
During its second invasion, the Assyrian army – as Isaiah had predicted – did not come unto the city (Jerusalem) … (37:33), let alone into it. As is going to be fully argued in the next chapter, with the integration of the important BOJ, the army did not manage to proceed even beyond the towns facing the plain of Esdraelon in the north, including Judith’s town of Bethulia.
The Douay and (the longer) Greek versions of BOJ are unanimous in saying that the king of Nineveh made war against the Chaldean foe in his “twelfth year” (1:1). They diverge in assigning the destruction of the latter’s city to, respectively, the “twelfth year” and the “seventeenth year”. This may be explained to some degree by the fact that Sargon II/Sennacherib twice conquered Babylon. ….
The destruction of Babylon in the “seventeenth year” though accords well with the sequence … which took us as far as Sennacherib’s Seventh Campaign. For, in his Eighth Campaign … against the Elamite king, Umman-menanu, the Assyrian king ravaged the southern capital, Babylon – which I shall argue in the following chapter (see ii. “Ecbatana”, commencing on p. 40) to have been intended by the name “Ecbatana” in BOJ.
Then, still in the “seventeenth year” according to BOJ, “… he returned to Nineveh, he and all his combined forces … and there he and his forces rested and feasted for one hundred and twenty days” (v.16). Sargon II does not actually tell how long his ‘Dedication Feast’ lasted, upon the completion of the construction of Dur Sharrukin and its palaces. He dates this feast however to “the month of Tashrîtu”…..
This “feast” I believe connects back to BOJ 1:2, which tells of the king … building, or restoring, a great city.
Sennacherib’s Eighth Campaign, though, is about as far as the Great King’s war records take us. And we could be left feeling very empty. Where is the account of that most notorious of all wars of his, the one against the west – as recorded by Herodotus, and in the Scriptures and in the pseudepigrapha (BOJ, BOT [Tobit], 2 Maccabees 8:19; 15:22) – when Sennacherib’s army of almost 200,000 was devastated? So catastrophic a defeat for Assyria cannot by any means be accommodated during Sennacherib’s Third Campaign, against the west, which was by and large, as we saw, a complete success for Assyria; though Jerusalem was not actually taken.
Historians have agonised over this. Was there a further western campaign after Hezekiah of Judah had initially been brought into submission?
By contrast to this, the impressive Greek version of BOJ records a massive military campaign – ultimately disastrous – first envisaged by the Great King of Assyria in his
Year 18 … and to be led by a commander of enormous prestige:
In the eighteenth year, on the twenty-second day of the first month, there was talk in the Palace of [the] king of Assyrians about carrying out his revenge on the whole region, just as he had said. (Judith 2:1).
…. When he had completed his plan, Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Assyrians,
called Holofernes, the chief general of his army, second only to himself … (v. 4).
The commander-in-chief duly raised an army of 120,000 picked troops by divisions … together with 12,000 archers on horseback, plus immense numbers of animals for
baggage and food, ample rations and a huge amount of gold and silver from the royal
palace (vv. 14-18).
Sheer desire for revenge is given as being the Great King of Assyria’s motivation for this campaign, especially against the west, because the nations from “Cilicia” (used here seemingly in the later sense of the coastland adjoining Syria) as far as the borders of Ethiopia had refused to support him upon his request during his “twelfth year” war against the Chaldaeo-Elamite coalition (1:7-12). “… they were not afraid of him, but regarded him as only one man. So they sent back his messengers empty-handed and in disgrace” (v. 11).
A desire to conquer wealthy Egypt was undoubtedly a major motivational factor for Sennacherib. ….