Hezekiah Wishes Not to Die & Assyrian Warfare

I was a bit confused because Hezekiah walked with You, but You let the Assyrians win the war.  But then You came an squashed him. 

I guess You were testing Hezekiah, like you did with Abraham and Isaac. 

King Hezekiah
Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz and the 13th king of Judah.

Archaeologist Edwin Thiele has concluded that his reign was between c. 715 and 686 B.C.

He is also one of the most prominent kings of Judah entioned in the Bible and is one of the kings mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.

Hezekiah witnessed the destruction of the northern Kingdom of Israel by Sargon’s Assyrians in c. 720 B.C. and was king of Judah during the invasion and siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib in 701 B.C.

Hezekiah enacted sweeping religious reforms, during which he removed the worship of foreign deities from the Temple in Jerusalem, and restored the worship of Yahweh, God of Israel, in accordance with the Torah.

Isaiah and Micah prophesied during his reign.

“In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.

Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, saying,

I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.

And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying,

Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD. 

And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.

And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.

And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day?

And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?

And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees.

And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz” (2 Kgs 20:1-11).

At this time King Berodach-baladan of Babylon sent letters and a present to Hezekiah because he heard that he was sick.  And Hezekiah showed them all the precious things he had: the silver, gold, spices, precious ointment, and armor, and everything else.  And Isaiah came to him and asked,

Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. He did evil in the Eyes of The LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations The LORD Had Driven Out before the Israelites.

He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them.

“…What said these men?  And from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country, even from Babylon.

And he said, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All the things that are in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewed them.

And Isaiah said unto Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD.

Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD. 

And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.

Then said Hezekiah unto Isaiah, Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. And he said, Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days?

And the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and all his might, and how he made a pool, and a conduit, and brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?

And Hezekiah slept with his fathers: and Manasseh his son reigned in his stead” (2 Kgs 20:14-21).

“Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hephzi-bah” (2 Kgs 21:1).

And he did evil in the eyes of the Lord, after the abominations of the heathen.  He built high places that Hezekiah had torn down, and reared up altars for Baal, made a grove, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them.

“And he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord said, In Jerusalem will I put my name.

And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord.

And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger.

And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which theLord said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever:

Hezekiah’s Pool
This is the view of what is called “Hezekiah’s Pool” but is thought to be a reservoir from the time of Herod that received water from aqueducts that are still visible outside the Jaffa Gate.

It also may have been a quarry outside the city where stones were cut for an Old Testament wall to the east of here.

Some consider this to be the pool mentioned in Is 36:2 and 2 Kgs 18:17 where Sennacherib’s field commander met Hezekiah’s men “at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field”.

It is located in the Christian Quarter and in this photo is viewed from the Petra Hotel which is just inside the Jaffa Gate across from the Citadel.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is not in the top left corner of the photo.

At one time the courtyard around the reservoir was encircled with inns and rest stops for travels and royal couriers.

Today these buildings are workshops and up until recently the pool was used as a trash dump.

The site has never been excavated but there are plans to do so in the future.

Neither will I make the feet of Israel move any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them” (2 Kgs 21:4-8).

But the people ignored God and Manasseh seduced to be more evil than the nations that God had destroyed.

“And the Lord spake by his servants the prophets, saying,

Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols:

Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle.

And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down.

And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies;

Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day.

Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; beside his sin wherewith he made Judah to sin, in doing that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.

Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and all that he did, and his sin that he sinned, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?

And Manasseh slept with his fathers, and was buried in the garden of his own house, in the garden of Uzza: and Amon his son reigned in his stead.

Amon was twenty and two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Meshullemeth, the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah.

And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father Manasseh did.

And he walked in all the way that his father walked in, and served the idols that his father served, and worshiped them:

And he forsook the Lord God of his fathers, and walked not in the way of the Lord.

And the servants of Amon conspired against him, and slew the king in his own house.

And the people of the land slew all them that had conspired against king Amon; and the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his stead.

Now the rest of the acts of Amon which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?

And he was buried in his sepulchre in the garden of Uzza: and Josiah his son reigned in his stead” (2 Kgs 21:10-26).

Shalmaneser, Emperor of Assyria.

Assyrian Warfare 

The Assyrian army marched with a reputation for unbridled cruelty and professional efficiency.  Nahum’s graphic descriptions of Assyrian chariotry capture the chaotic terror the Assyrian military could inflict (Nah 3:1-3). 

Indeed, the Neo-Assyrian Empire gathered together a finely tuned military machine and employed it judiciously to maintain and expand Assyrian economic and political objectives. 

Far from being sadistic brutes, the Assyrians used cruelty selectively against chronically rebellious peoples to prevent further sedition.

In effect, Assyrian battle tactics served propaganda purposes by clearly demonstrating the consequences of rebellion. The numerous reliefs in Assyrian palaces depicting torture and mutilations of captured leaders were grim reminders to visiting provincial officials of the penalties for rebellion.

Sling-Men
Although the bow and javelin are more famous ancient weapons, the sling was just as important to the skirmishers of old.

More than 3,000 years ago, an army of Israelites led by King Saul confronted a force of Philistine invaders in the valley of Elah. As the Philistines occupied a mountain on one side of the valley, and the Israelites occupied another on the opposite side, an enormous champion clad from head to foot in bronze, wielding a gigantic spear, emerged from among the front ranks and addressed the Israelites.

The warrior declared himself as Goliath of Gath and challenged any soldier among them to face him in single combat. None of the Israelites was brave enough to fight the mighty Philistine warrior, except for one. The challenger was not a soldier, but instead a young shepherd named David.

Assyrian kings commanded armies that could number in the hundreds of thousands.  The nature of the terrain and the military objectives determined the size of the force.  A standing army provided protection for the king, permanent garrison personnel, and immediately available troops. 

These men were professionals, conscripted from both native Assyrian and provincial territories. Provinces were required to provide a certain levy of troops for the army.  Other troops could be conscripted quickly in time of national need. 

Major Assyrian cities – Nineveh, Calah, and Khorsabad – had large royal arsenals where troops could be marshaled, equipped, reviewed, and dispatched.  These arsenals consisted of storage facilities, workshops, and official accommodations surrounding large courtyards. “Fort Shalmaneser” at Calah is a good example of these military bases.

The Assyrian army consisted of many different kinds of troops.  The infantry contained sling-men, spearmen, and archers.  They were used both in pitched battles in open terrain as well as in siege warfare.

The archers, with their strong and accurate composite bows, were the backbone of the infantry.  From the 8th century onward the Assyrians used sling-men, whose deadly projectiles proved especially useful in providing cover fire when besieging fortified cities.  The cavalry consisted of mounted archers and spearmen, valuable in open terrain but seldom used in siege warfare.

The Assyrian chariot corps was among the most feared elements in the army.  Reliefs depict chariots pulled by two or four horses manned by two, three, and even four crewmen.  The two-man crew consisted of a driver and an archer.  

Ivory plaque depicting a winged sphinx, Phoenician, found at Fort Shalameser, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), northern Iraq, 9th-8th century B.C.

]Fort Shalmaneser consisted of a palace, storerooms and arsenal for the Assyrian army.

Later, one and then two shield bearers were added.  The driver also wielded a spear in battle, and all crewmen possessed swords.  In addition to these battle troops, the army carried transport wagons and supply personnel; engineers who cut roads, built bridges, constructed ramps, and built siege machines; intelligence operatives (spies and interpreters); scribes who recorded the campaign and provided lists of the booty taken; and cultic personnel who offered sacrifices and divined omens.  

Normally, the army campaigned in the summer months, avoiding the agricultural season and the bad winter weather.  In friendly territory, local vassals supplied provisions, but in hostile regions the army lived off the land.

The Assyrian army engaged in guerilla warfare (especially in the northern mountain regions), pitched battles in open terrain, and siege warfare. The Battle of Qarqar in 853 B.C. between a coalition involving Ahab of Israel and Shalmaneser III is typical of pitched battles.

Armies took a horrific mauling, and much loss of life could be expected, even in victory.  The people of Israel and Judah were, unfortunately, more familiar with siege warfare.  The Assyrians often surrounded a city with the intent of taking the city by assault or starving the city into submission. 

An Assyrian relief from the palace of Tiglath-pileser III at Nineveh showing an Assyrian battering ram at work.

The keys to resisting a siege successfully were threefold:

(1) strong fortifications,
(2) a secure water supply, and

(3) adequate food supplies.  

The archaeology of many cities of  Israel and Judah during the Assyrian period shows a preoccupation with these Assyrian reliefs contain many scenes displaying their siege strategies.  The “Lachish Frieze” is especially pertinent, since it depicts Sennacherib’s siege of Lachish in his campaign aimed at Jerusalem in 701 B.C.

A grain storage silo at Megiddo.

Typically, the Assyrians encamped near their target and established a perimeter around the city, ensuring no escape for the defenders.  Assyrian siege machinery, including battering rams with mobile siege towers, were maneuvered into position along ramparts of earth and stones constructed by engineers.  The battering rams were used to attack gates and weak points in walls (Ez 4:2; 21:22).

Crews inside operated the ram, while from above archers gave protecting fire.  Rams even carried firemen whose mission was to thwart any attempt by defenders to set the siege machines on fire. Assault troops used scaling ladders to reach the upper walls of a city, while sappers tunneled beneath the fortifications or attempted to breach walls at weak points.

Detail of the siege of Lachish recorded on the walls of the palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh.

Assyrian battering rams attack the desperate defenders of the Judean city who attempt to counteract the assault by hurling flaming torches toward the battering rams.

At the left captives stream out of the doomed city.

Archers and sling-men provided covering fire to the assault forces from the periphery.  This coordinated attack involving different elements placed maximum pressure upon the defenders, whose hopes rested on hurling projectiles at the attackers while attempting to set the siege machine on fire.

If resistance proved too costly to the attackers or if the siege could be prolonged until help came or the enemy simply gave up, the city might be spared.  Often cities suffered severe famine during a siege; inhabitants occasionally resorted to cannibalism to relieve their desperate plight (2 Kgs 6:24-30).

The Assyrians employed a type of psychological warfare to break the resistance of a city.  During Sennacherib’s campaign against Judah, he sent military officials (the Rabshakeh, Tartan, and Rabsaris) to Jerusalem along with a military contingent to threaten Hezekiah (2 Kgs 18-19).

The Rabshakeh addressed the Inhabitants of Jerusalem in the Hebrew language as he warned them of the futility of resistance.  He seems to have been well informed of Hezekiah’s reform efforts and used his information to suggest that Hezekiah had offended the God of Israel (2 Kgs 18-22).

The Rabshakeh also taunted Hezekiah for trusting in Egyptian help and his own military preparations.  The Assyrian intelligence system provided reliable information, a fact demonstrated often in other Assyrian documents. 

When the city surrendered or was taken by assault, various fates awaited the survivors.  Many were killed, especially the leaders.  Their mutilated bodies were often displayed on Assyrian reliefs.  This was especially true of chronically rebellious territories.

This is the Sennacherib Prism, almost identical to the Taylor Prism.

What is written on it is too long to post, to read it go here.

The cuneiform inscriptioin reads: Sennacherib, king of the world, king of Assyria, sat upon a (nimedu) – throne and passed in review the body (taken) from Lachish (La-ki-su). (ANET 288).

More often, the Assyrians gathered groups of survivors and deported them to other parts of the Assyrian Empire.  The Assyrians chose areas similar to the deportee’s homeland when possible.  These people were important sources of labor and could be used to make agriculturally unproductive lands valuable again.

Families were not broken up, and some effort was expended to make the transition successful.  The experience must have been traumatic, although interestingly, the Israelite deportees must have quickly assimilated to their new surroundings and did not retain their identity as those of their later kindred in the Babylonian captivity.

King Sennacherib (pronounced Sin-ahhe-criba) is one of the greatest Assyrian rulers, whose reign from 704 BC to 681 BC ended rather abruptly. 

King Sennacherib was the son of Sargon II.  Upon his father’s death, Sennacherib got right down to business without so much as a learning curve, thanks to his experience dealing with issues at home while his father was away on campaigns.

Much of Sennacherib’s rule consisted of him protecting what his father had acquired of land and power, but in the midst of all that maintenance, Sennacherib did manage a few substantial accomplishments of his own and established himself and his empire as a force to be reckoned with.  His greatest achievement is an achievement within an achievement.

A relief showing King Sennacherib on a throne in camp during a conquest.

Upon his father’s death, Sennacherib moved the Assyrian capital from Dur-Sharrukin (modern-day Khorsabad) to the city of Nineveh.  The rulers of Nineveh were horrible, when they conquered certain people they would skin them and cover the walls of the kingdom with their skins.  You will hear more of this in the Book of Jonah (the guy that spent three days in the belly of a whale).

Before its epic revamp, Nineveh had been the empire’s religious hub, waning in importance, despite its perfect location on the trade route between the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf. Enter the visionary ruler, and it became the capital of a most powerful empire, a pulsating metropolis twice the size of Sargon’s capital, and suddenly the envy of the ancient world.  Nineveh is believed to have been the first planned city.

Herodotus relates the following Egyptian story that some historians refer to as a more believable account of Sennacherib’s army being devastated.

King Sethos I, sometimes called Seti
The Temple (also known as The Great Temple of Abydos) is recognized as among the most significant structures in the area, as was primarily built as a memorial to King Seti I (father of Ramses II), and a place of reverence for the lineage of the past Pharoahs.

The temple is well known for the “Abydos King List”, a list of rulers of the principle dynasties, carved onto a wall. The site includes seven chapels dedicated to the worship of the pharaoh and the six gods Ptah, Re-Horakhty, Amun-Re, Osiris, Isis and Horus.

These chapels provide an invaluable resource for the study of Ancient Egyptian religion as they contain the first complete form of the Daily Ritual, which was performed throughout Egypt during the the pharaonic period. The reliefs on the temple walls are acclaimed for their detail, technique and high artistic accomplishment.

The next king, I was told, was a priest of Vulcan, called Sethos.  This monarch despised and neglected the warrior class of the Egyptians, as though he did not need their services.  Among other  indignities which he offered them, he took from them the lands which they had possessed under all the previous kings, consisting of twelve acres of choice land for each warrior.  

Seti I was the second ruler of the 19th Dynasty and ruled over Egypt from about 1290 to 1279 BC. He comes from the marriage of his father Ramses I with the daughter of a military official. His mother was called SA.t-Ra (Sat-Re) and was elevated to the rank of Hm.t-nTr (God’s Wife) by her husband, King Ramses I, although she was not a princess by birth.

vSetho’s wife, whom he had married before his accession to the throne, was Thuja / Thije / Tuja / Mut – Tuja. She was the daughter of a general of the cavalry named Raias. She gave her husband at least three children (according to Schneider Lexicon of the Pharaohs) of which the second was the later King Ramses II.

Afterwards, therefore, when Sanacharib, king of the Arabians and Assyrians, marched his vast army into Egypt, the warriors one and all refused to come to his aid.  On this the monarch, greatly distressed, entered into the inner sanctuary, and, before the image of the god, bewailed the fate which impended over him.

As he wept he fell asleep, and dreamed that the god came and stood at his side, bidding him be of good cheer, and go boldly forth to meet the Arabian host, which would do him no hurt, as he himself would send those who should help him. 

Sethos, then, relying on the dream, collected such of the Egyptians as were willing to follow him, who were none of them warriors, but traders, artisans, and market people; and with these marched to Pelusium, which commands the entrance into Egypt, and there pitched his camp.

As the two armies lay here opposite one another, there came in the night, a multitude of field-mice, which devoured all the quivers and bowstrings of the enemy, and ate the thongs by which they managed their shields.  

Next morning they commenced their fight, and great multitudes fell, as they had no arms with which to defend themselves.  There stands to this day in the temple of Vulcan, a stone statue of Sethos, with a mouse in his hand and an inscription to this effect – “Look on me, and learn to reverence the gods.” (couldn’t find that statute).