The Lachish reliefs (2 Kings 18)

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In 1850 12 stone slabs were discovered in Sennacherib’s palace in Nineveh. The reliefs on these slabs originally formed a single, continuous work, measuring  2,4 m tall by 24,4 m long, which wrapped around the room. They vividly depict Sennacherib’s victory over the fortified Judahite town of Lacish in 701 B.C. (2 Kings 18:13-15).

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The “story” begins on the far left, with the Assyrian vanguard carrying spears and shielding screens  to protect the archers ans sling-throwers behind them. The viewer gets the impression of a large body of troops moving in a dense wave over the terrain. Next we see the storming of the citadel, with siege engines climbing ramps to the city gate. The defending Judahites hurl down stones and firebrands, while the Assyrians dowse their battering rams with water. Captives are led out of the first captured tower with three Judahites impaled on stakes. Two more rows of captives (men, women and children) are led out of the defeated city. They are brought before Sennacherib to acknowledge him as their new sovereign before being deported to Assyria.

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When these reliefs were originally displayed in the palace room, foreign emissaries and dignitaries awaiting an audience with the king would have been impressed not only by the magnitude of the artwork itself but also by the magnificent strength of the Assyrian was machine. Having viewed the fate of Lachish, visitors from other vassal states would presumably have been reluctant themselves to rebel.

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For more on Sennacherib, see The death of Sennacherib under 2 Kings 19, The Sennacherib Prism under 2 Chronicles 32 and Sennacherib’s campaign against Merodach-Baladan under Jeremiah 34.


 

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