• by Gordon Franz



    The one-campaign theory postulates that Hezekiah submitted to Sennacherib in the year 701 BC (2 Kings 18:14-16). Soon after, Sennacherib attempted to take Jerusalem, but was repulsed (2 Kings 19:17ff.). According to this theory, Hezekiah saw the Assyrian might in the victories that were achieved in Phoenicia and Philistia. This convinced him to surrender to Sennacherib at Lachish. Sennacherib imposed tribute on him, but changed his mind and demanded that Hezekiah surrender the city of Jerusalem. Isaiah encouraged Hezekiah to trust the Lord and resist the threat. For some unknown reason, Sennacherib was forced to withdraw from the city, sparing it again (Childs 1967: 12-13). There are variations within this theory (Honor 1966: xiii).

    Problems with This Theory

    Some who hold to a one-campaign view date Hezekiah’s ascension to the throne in 715 BC to accommodate the Assyrian records. The Bible states that Sennacherib campaigned against Judah in the “fourteenth year” (2 Kings 18:13; Isa. 36:1), which according to the Assyrian records was 701 BC. The ascension year in 715 BC is impossible to reconcile with other chronological statements made a few verses prior. Hezekiah came to the throne in the third year of Hoshea (2 Kings 18:1). In his fourth year, Shalmanesser laid siege to Samaria (18:9). In the sixth year, Samaria fell (18:10) – all this was before the fall of Samaria in 721 BC. Archer commented, that the “… dating of Hezekiah’s reign as commencing at 715 BC rather than 728 involves the acknowledgement of error in the original autograph of Scripture” (1970: 207). Interestingly, he goes on to say, “… there is a very simple solution, and that is to recognize here a palpable scribal error” (1970: 208). ¹ Archer, along with others (Montgomery 1951: 483; Rowley 1962: 411-413; Young 1969: 2: 541-542), emends the text from the “twenty-fourth year” to the “fourteenth year.” Thus, Hezekiah coming to the throne in 727, minus the 24 years emended date, gives a date of 703 BC. This, they contend, is the date for the beginning of the revolt. There are at least two problems with this view. First, it is hardly likely that a scribe would change two letters to one in order to get “fourteen.” Second, the year 703 BC is till not 701 BC when the Assyrian annals state that Sennacherib came up against Judah. This emendation is wishful thinking and should be abandoned. There is a better solution.

    Order of Events
    Another problem with this theory is the order in which the events occur in the Biblical narrative. K. Fullerton says that his first impression reading this account was “that the biblical narrative of Sennacherib’s invasion in its present form is unintelligible and self-contradictory” (1906: 578). Because of that, he postulates a two-campaign theory. Regardless of his conclusions, his observations on the one campaign are valid. In 2 Kings 18:13-16, Hezekiah sent word of his capitulation to Sennacherib at Lachish. Yet in the verses that follow, Sennacherib sent his forces from Lachish to demand Hezekiah’s surrender. Why send forces to demand his capitulation when he has already capitulated? Some have conjectured that Hezekiah revolted a second time after he paid tribute; or his first surrender was not complete; or Sennacherib had a change of mind. None of these proposals have any Biblical warrant. Oswalt tries to suggest that Sennacherib had every reason to go up to Jerusalem after he took Lachish (1986: 702). After all, why would not the mightiest king in the world take Jerusalem? There are several problems with Oswalt’s proposal. First, as will be seen in Chapter 4, there is a better reconstruction of these events. Second, Sennacherib would have been content with the tribute given him. Thirty talents of gold and 300 talents of silver is a handsome tribute and would have drained Hezekiah’s treasury and prevented him from engaging in military activities, or building projects.

    The Tribute

    The one-campaign theory would say that the Biblical account and Sennacherib’s annals are essentially the same. This runs into serious difficulties when the tribute Hezekiah paid to Sennacherib is examined. The Biblical records record 30 talents of gold and 300 talents of silver. Sennacherib claimed he extracted 30 talents of gold and 800 talents of silver. There is a difference of 500 talents of silver. This issue will be reconciled in Chapter 4.

    Merodach-Baladan II

    Merodach-Baladan II creates a problem for both theories. Both agree that the mentioning of Merodach-Baladan should be placed before the 701 BC campaign (2 Kings 20:12-15; Isa. 39). Yet he ruled Babylon from 722 to 710 BC, and then for a few months in 703 BC (Brinkman 1964: 6-53). He sent envoys to Hezekiah with congratulatory messages on recovering from his near fatal illness. The problem is that he is in a position of power for only a few months in 703 BC. After that, he is chased into the swamps and marshes of Guzummanu (Luckenbill 1924: 10). Hardly a place from which to send envoys to influence Hezekiah to join his revolt! Merodach-Baladan fits better elsewhere. Chapter 4 will reconcile this problem.


    The one-campaign theory suggests that Sennacherib went up against Judah only once in 701 BC. In order to reconcile a chronological problem in Hezekiah’s reign, the text must be emended from the “twenty-fourth year” to the “fourteenth year.” In so doing, more problems are created. The text should be taken at face value and another solution pursued.

    The order of events appears to be self-contradictory if everything happens in one campaign. Hezekiah surrendered, and then Sennacherib asks him to surrender again!

    There is a discrepancy between the tribute lists in the Bible and Sennacherib’s annals, a five-hundred-silver-talent discrepancy! Also, in 701 BC, Merodach-Baladan was not in a position of power or influence to send envoys to visit Hezekiah as the Bible described.

    This theory also is found wanting. Another solution must be sought.


    [1] The Hebrew, asrh for “fourteenth” would have to be emended to asrim for “twenty-fourth.” The Septuagint has “fourteenth” as well as the oldest Hebrew text found at Qumran. The Septuagint Version of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), pp. 516, 869. Scrolls from Qumran Cave 1 (Jerusalem: Albright Institute of Archaeological Research and the Shrine of the Book, 1972), p. 71.

    Posted by Gordon Franz @ 8:00 pm

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