The Sennacherib Prism (2 Chronicles 32)

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Upon his ascension to the Assyrian throne, Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.) had to quell numerous revolts throughout his domain. The Sennacherib Prism, a monumental texts recorded in Akkadian, recounts his campaign to the region now known as Palestine in 701 B.C. Comparing Biblical accounts (2 Kings 18:13-19:37, 2 Chronicles 32:1-22, Isaiah 36-37) to Assyrian annals and other archaeological data helps us to make sense of the sequence of events:

  • 2 Chronicles records a massive invasion against the cities in Judah (32:1, 9), and Sennacherib, in his prism, claims to have laid siege to 46 of Hezekiah’s fortified, walled cities and surrounding towns.
  • Archaeological data supports these accounts, with evidence of widespread destruction throughout Judah (e.g. Beersheba and Lachish).
  • The prism describes, in general terms, Sennacherib’s advance through the coastal cities of Phoenicia and Philistia toward Jerusalem. This ferocious assault, in which he “slew… nobles who had provoked rebellion and hung their bodies on watchtowers”, vividly illustrated the threats made by the Assyrian messengers (32:13-19). Even so, Sennacherib never claimed to have captured Jerusalem but rather to have “shut up Hezekiah in Jerusalem like a bird in a cage”. This boast tacitly admits his failure to capture Jerusalem and agrees with the Biblical account.

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