• Hezekiah Sennacherib Comments Off on THE HEZEKIAH / SENNACHERIB CHRONOLOGY PROBLEM RECONSIDERED – Bibliography

    by Gordon Franz


    Aharoni, Yohanan
    1979    The Land of the Bible. 2nd edition. Trans. by A. Rainey. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster.

    Albright, William F.
    1945    The Chronology of the Divided Monarch of Israel. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 100: 16-22.

    1953    New Light from Egypt on the Chronology and History of Israel and Judah. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 130: 4-11.

    1956    Further Light on Synchronisms Between Egypt and Asia in the Period 935-685 B.C. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 141: 23-27.

    1964    The Original Account of the Fall of Samaria in II Kings. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 174: 66-67.

    Archer, Gleason
    1970    Old Testament History and Recent Archaeology from Solomon to Zedekiah. Bibliotheca Sacra 127: 195-221.

    Avigad, Nahman
    1980    Discovering Jerusalem. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

    Baer, Klaus
    1973    The Libyan and Nubian Kings of Egypt: Notes on the Chronology of Dynasties XXII to XXVI. Journal of Near Eastern Studies 32: 4-25.

    Barkay, Gabriel
    1985    Northern and Western Jerusalem in the End of the Iron Age. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Tel Aviv University (Hebrew, with English summary).

    Breasted, James
    1962    Ancient Records of Egypt. Historical Documents. 4 vols. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago. Reprint of Russell and Russell, New York, 1906.

    Bright, John
    1981    A History of Israel. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster.

    Brinkman, J. A.
    1964    Merodach-Baladan II. Pp. 6-53 in Studies Presented to A. Leo Oppenheimer. Edited by R. D. Biggs and J. A. Brinkman. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.

    1965    Elamite Military Aid to Merodach-Baladan. Journal of Near Eastern Studies 24: 161-166.

    Broshi, Magen
    1974    The Expansion of Jerusalem in the Reigns of Hezekiah and Manasseh. Israel Exploration Journal 24: 21-26.

    Calderone, P. J.
    1961    The Rivers of “Masor.” Biblica 42: 423-432.

    Childs, Brevard S.
    1967    Isaiah and the Assyrian Crisis. Naperville, IL: Allenson.

    Christensen, D. L.
    1976    The March of Conquest in Isaiah 10:27c-34. Vetus Testamentum 26: 385-399.

    Clements, R. E.
    1980    Isaiah and the Deliverance of Jerusalem. Sheffield: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Supplement Series, 13.

    1980    Isaiah 1-39. New Century Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans.

    Cogan, Morton
    1974    Imperial and Religion: Assyria, Judah and Israel in the Eighth and Seventh Centuries B. C. E. Missoula, MT: Scholars.

    Curtis, E. L.; and Madsen, A. A.
    1910   The Book of Chronicles. International Critical Commentary. Edinburgh: T & T Clark.

    De Boer, P. A. H.
    1951    Notes on the Text and Meaning of Isaiah 38:9-20. Oudtestamentische Studien 38: 170-186.

    Dillard, Raymond
    1984    The Literary Structure of the Chronicler’s Solomon Narrative. Journal of the Study of the Old Testament 30: 85-93.

    Dougherty, Raymond
    1930    Sennacherib and the Walled Cities of Judah. Journal of Biblical Literature 49: 160-171.

    Eph’al, Israel
    1982    The Ancient Arabs. Jerusalem: Magnes.

    Faulstich, Eugene
    1986   History, Harmony and the Hebrew Kings. Spencer, IA: Chronology Books.

    Fullerton, Kemper
    1905    A New Chapter Out of the Life of Isaiah. American Journal of Theology 9: 621-642.

    1906    The Invasion of Sennacherib. Bibliotheca Sacra 63: 577-634.

    1907    Shebna and Eliakim: A Reply. American Journal of Theology 11: 503-509.

    1913    The Book of Isaiah: Critical Problems and a New Commentary. Harvard Theological Review 6: 478-520.

    1922    Viewpoints in the Discussion of Isaiah’s Hope for the Future. Journal of Biblical Literature 41: 1-101.

    1925    Isaiah’s Attitude in the Sennacherib Campaign. American Journal of Semitic Languages 42: 1-25, 89-109, 149-162.

    1925    The Original Text of II Kings 20:7-11 = Isaiah 38:7,8,21f. Journal of Biblical Literature 44: 44-62.

    1925    Isaiah 14:28-32. American Journal of Semitic Languages 42: 86-109.

    Gadd, C. T.
    1954    Inscribed Prisms of Sargon II from Nimrud. Iraq 16: 173-201.

    Ginsberg, H. L.
    1950    Judah and the Transjordan States from 734 to 582 B.C.E. Pp. 347-368 in Alexander Marx, Jubilee Volume on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday. Edited by Saul Lieberman. New York: Jewish Theological Seminary.

    1953    Gleanings in First Isaiah. Pp. 245-259 in Jubilee Volume, Mordecai Kaplan. Edited by Moshe Davis. New York: Jewish Theological Seminary.

    1967    Isaiah in Light of History. Conservative Judaism 12: 1-18.

    1968    Reflexes of Sargon in Isaiah After 715 B.C.E. Journal of the American Oriental Society 88: 47-53.

    Goedicke, Hans
    1963    The End of “So, King of Egypt.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 171: 64-66.

    Goncalves, Francolino
    1986    L’Expedition de Sennacherib en Palestine Dans La Litterature Hebraique Ancienne. Paris: Librairie Lacoffre.

    Gray, George B.
    1912    The Book of Isaiah, 1-27. International Critical Commentary. Edinburgh: T & T Clark.

    Hayes, John; and Miller, Maxwell, eds.
    1977    Israelite and Judean History. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster.

    Holsapple, Carl
    1972    The Chronological Problems of Ahaz and Hezekiah. Unpublished Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary.

    Honor, Leo
    1966    Sennacherib’s Invasion of Palestine. New York: AMS.

    Horn, Siegfried H.
    1964    The Chronology of King Hezekiah’s Reign. Andrews University Seminary Studies 2: 40-52.

    1966    Did Sennacherib Campaign Once or Twice Against Hezekiah? Andrews University Seminary Studies 4: 1-28.

    Irwin, W. A.
    1936    The Attitude of Isaiah in the Crisis of 701. Journal of Religion 16: 406-418.

    Jenkins, A. K.
    1976    Hezekiah’s Fourteenth Year. Vetus Testamentum 26: 284-298.

    Josephus, Flavius
    1979    Jewish Wars, Books 4-7. Vol. 3. Trans. by H. Thackeray. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. Loeb Classical Library 210.

    Kaiser, Otto
    1974    Isaiah 13-39. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster.

    Kamphausen, A.
    1901    Isaiah’s Prophecy Concerning the Major-Dumo of King Hezekiah. American Journal of Theology 5: 43-74.

    Katzenstein, H. Jacob
    1973    The History of Tyre. Jerusalem: Schocken Institute for Jewish Research.

    Kieme, Henry G.
    1875   Sennacherib’s Campaign in Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine, According to His Own Annals. San Francisco, CA: Bacon.

    Kitchen, Kenneth A.
    1986    The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100-650 BC). 2nd ed. with supplement. Warminster: Aris & Phillips.

    1973    Late-Egyptian Chronology and the Hebrew Monarchy. Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Studies of Columbia University 5: 225-233.

    Koenig, Eduard
    1906    Shebna and Eliakim. American Journal of Theology 10: 675-686.

    Laato, Antti
    1986    New Viewpoints on the Chronology of the Kings of Judah and Israel. Zeitschrift fur die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 98: 210-221.

    Lewy, Julius
    1942    The Chronology of Sennacherib’s Accession. Analecta Orientalia 12: 225-231.

    Lie, A. G.
    1929    The Inscriptions of Sargon II, King of Assyria. Part 1, The Annals. Paris: Libraire Orientaliste Paul Geuthner.

    Livingston, David
    nd    Sennacherib’s 713 B.C. Attack on Jerusalem. ABR Encounter no. 38.

    Luckenbill, Donald D.
    1924    The Annals of Sennacherib. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.

    1926    Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylon. 2 vols. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.

    Macadam, M. F. L.
    1949    The Temple of Kawa I. The Inscriptions, Text and Plates. London: Oxford.

    Milgrom, J.
    1964    Did Isaiah Prophecy During the Reign of Uzziah? Vetus Testamentum 14: 164-182.

    Millard, A. R.
    1985    Sennacherib’s Attack on Hezekiah. Tyndale Bulletin 36: 61-77.

    Montgomery, J. A.
    1951    The Book of Kings. International Critical Commentary. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.

    Na’aman, Nadav
    1974    Sennacherib’s “Letter to God” on His Campaign to Judah. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 214: 25-39.

    1979    Sennacherib’s Campaign to Judah and the Date of the LMLK Stamps. Vetus Testamentum 29: 61-86.

    1986    Hezekiah’s Fortified Cities and the LMLK Stamps. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 261: 5-21.

    1986    Historical and Chronological Notes on the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah in the Eighth Century B.C. Vetus Testamentum 36: 71-92.

    Noth, Martin
    1958    The History of Israel. New York: Harper and Row.

    Olmstead, A. T.
    1905    The Fall of Samaria. American Journal of Semitic Languages 21: 179-182.

    1908    Western Asia in the Days of Sargon of Assyria, 722-705 B. C. New York: Henry Holt.

    1951    History of Assyria. Chicago: University of Chicago.

    Oswalt, John N.
    1986    The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1-39. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans.

    Payne, J. Barton
    1969    The Relationship of the Reign of Ahaz to the Accession of Hezekiah. Bibliotheca Sacra 126: 40-52.

    Pritchard, James
    1969   Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. 3rd ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University.

    Rainey, Anson
    1975    The Identification of Philistine Gath. Eretz-Israel 12: 63*-76*.

    1976    Taharqa and Syntax. Tel Aviv 3: 38-41.

    Reade, J.
    1976    Sargon’s Campaign of 720, 716 and 715 B.C.: Evidence from the Scriptures. Journal of Near Eastern Studies 35: 95-104.

    1981    Mesopotamian Guidelines for Biblical Chronology. Syro-Mesopotamian Studies 4: 1-7.

    Regier, Delbert
    1970    Sennacherib’s Invasion of Judah. Unpublished Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary.

    Rogers, Robert W.
    1914    Sennacherib and Judah. Pp. 317-328 in Studien zwe Semitischen Philologie und Religionsgeschichte. J. Wellhausen Festschrift. Edited by K. Marti. Giessen.

    Rowley, H. H.
    1962    Hezekiah’s Reforms and Rebellion. Bulletin of the John Ryland Library 44: 395-431.

    Shea, William
    1980    One Invasion or Two? Ministry (March): 26-28.

    1985    Sennacherib’s Second Palestinian Campaign. Journal of Biblical Literature 104: 401-418.

    Smith, George
    1878   History of Sennacherib. Edinburgh: William and Norgate.

    Smith, Sidney
    1921    The First Campaign of Sennacherib, King of Assyria, B.C. 705-681. London: Luzac.

    Spalinger, Anthony
    1973    The Year 712 B.C. and its Implications for Egyptian History. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt. 10: 95-101.

    1978    The Foreign Policy of Egypt Preceding the Assyrian Conquest. Chronique d’ Egypte 53: 22-47.

    Stohlmann, Stephen
    1983    The Judean Exile After 701 B.C.E. Pp. 147-175 in Scripture in Context 2. Edited by W. Hallo; J. Moyer; and L. Perdue. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.

    Tadmor, Hayim
    1958    The Campaign of Sargon II of Assur: A Chronological – Historical Study. Journal of Cuneiform Studies 12: 22-40, 77-100.

    1961    Que and Musri. Israel Exploration Journal 11: 143-150.

    1966    Philistia Under Assyrian Rule. Biblical Archaeologist 29: 86-102.

    Tawil, H.
    1982    The Historicity of II Kings 19:24 (=Isaiah 37:25): The Problem of the “Ye’ore Mesor.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 41: 195-206.

    Thiele, Edwin
    1965    The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans.

    1966    Pekah to Hezekiah. Vetus Testamentum 16: 83-107.

    1977    A Chronology of the Hebrew Kings. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

    Ussishkin, David
    1977    The Destruction of Lachish by Sennacherib and the Dating of the Royal Judean Storage Jars. Tel Aviv 4: 28-60.

    1979    Answers at Lachish. Biblical Archaeology Review 5: 10-39.

    1979    The “Camp of the Assyrians” in Jerusalem. Israel Exploration Journal 29: 137-142.

    1980    The “Lachish Reliefs” and the City of Lachish. Israel Exploration Journal 30: 174-195.

    1982    The Conquest of Lachish by Sennacherib. Tel Aviv: Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University.

    Walton, John
    1985    New Observations on the Date of Isaiah. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 28: 129-132.

    Welch, John, ed.
    1981    Chiasmus in Antiquity. Hildesheim: Gerstenberg.

    Williamson, Hugh
    1981    “We Are Yours, O David”: the setting and Purpose of I Chronicles 12:1-22. Old Testament Studies 21: 164-176.

    1982   I and II Chronicles. The New Century Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans.

    Wiseman, Donald
    1951    The Historical Inscriptions from Nimrud. Iraq 13: 21-26.

    Young, Edward J.
    1969    The Book of Isaiah. 3 vols. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans.

    Younker, Randall W.
    nd    Archaeological Evidence for Sennacherib’s Second Campaign Against Judah. Unpublished paper.

    Yurco, F.
    1980    Sennacherib’s Third Campaign and the Coregency of Shabaka and Shebtku. Serapis 6: 221-240.

  • Hezekiah Sennacherib Comments Off on THE HEZEKIAH / SENNACHERIB CHRONOLOGY PROBLEM RECONSIDERED – Appendix 1

    by Gordon Franz


    There are four chronological indicators in the first half of the book of Isaiah (Isa. 1-39). They are, the “year that King Uzziah died” (Isa. 6:1), the “days of Ahaz” (7:1), the “year that King Ahaz died” (14:28), and the “fourteenth year of King Hezekiah” (36:1). Using these as a guide, Isaiah 1-35 may take on a chronological order.

    Isaiah 1-6 is set in the reign of King Uzziah. The material prosperity, the military might, the pride of Uzziah and the great earthquake are all attested to in these chapters (Milgrom 1964: 164-182, except for Isaiah 1:2-9 which he places during the reign of Hezekiah).

    Isaiah 7:1-14:27 recount the days of Ahaz and the Syro-Ephraimite war. It also introduces Assyria as the major threat to the area (Thompson 1982).

    Hezekiah’s reign, in chronological order, is reflected in Isaiah 14:28 to the end of chapter 35. The attack on Philistia, by either Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:8), Shalmaneser V, or Sargon II in the 720’s is recorded in Isa. 14:29-31 (Ginsberg 1968: 47-53). The burden against Damascus (Isa. 17), includes Samaria (Ephraim) and Judah. In 720 BC, Sargon II put down rebellions in Syria, reconquered Samaria, and brought down Gaza and Raphiah (Tadmor 1958: 94). ¹ At this time he also became the “subduer of the country Judah which is far away” (ANET 287; Tadmor 1958: 38-39, footnote 146). Isaiah 18 and 19 were occasioned by the “peace” between Egypt and Assyria when, in Sargon II’s own words, he boasted, “I opened the sealed harbor of Egypt. The Assyrians and Egyptians I mingled together and I made them trade with each other” (Tadmor 1958: 34-35).  This “peace” was established in 716 BC; however, it did not last long. Isaiah 20-22 depict the campaign by Sennacherib in 713/12 BC. The fall of Ashdod (Isa. 20) and the seeming deliverance of Jerusalem after Hezekiah paid tribute to Sennacherib on Shebna’s counsel (Isa. 22). The prediction of the fall of Babylon in 710 BC is given in Isa. 21. Isaiah continues to preach between 710 and 701 BC, however, nothing is recorded of this period. Isaiah 23-35 deals primarily with the 701 BC campaign. The fall of Phoenicia is described (Isa. 23). A poetic description of Sennacherib’s Judean campaign is composed (Isa. 24-27), along with warnings against depending on the might of Egypt to remove the Assyrian threat (Isa. 30:1-5; 31:1-3).

    Again, Isaiah 36-39 is composed in an inverse order to introduce the second section of the prophecy (Isa. 40-66).


    [1] For the identification of the “Sealed karu of Egypt” see, Reich 1984: 32-38. The temple which Reich identifies as Sargonic, might be the “pillar to the Lord near the border” (19:19).


    by Gordon Franz



    The two major views which permeate the scholarly community, with regards to the Sennacherib / Hezekiah chronology problem, have been found wanting. Both have serious flaws in them and should be abandoned.

    This paper set forth a new reconstruction for the life of King Hezekiah and his two encounters with Sennacherib. Hezekiah came to the throne in 727 BC and ruled for 29 years. His first encounter with Sennacherib was in the “fourteenth year,” 713/12 BC, when Sennacherib was used by the Lord to humble Hezekiah because of pride in his material possessions. It cost Hezekiah “all the fortified cities of Judah,” yet Jerusalem was spared.

    In 701 BC, Hezekiah revolted again. This time he trusted Yahweh for the salvation of Jerusalem, and the Angel of the LORD destroyed the Assyrian army in Jerusalem. Sennacherib returned to Nineveh, never to return again.

    The Challenge of the Thesis

    B. Childs laments at the end of his monumental work on Isaiah and the Assyrian crisis that the “historical problems have not been solved; in fact, greater complexity calls for even greater caution,” and proceeds to explain that “it seems unlikely that a satisfactory historical solution will be forthcoming without fresh extra-biblical evidence” (1967: 120).

    Whether this proposed reconstruction has solved the problem remains to be seen. It has been cautiously set forth in preliminary form and awaits criticism, positive and negative, from the scholarly community. Childs is not confident that the problem will be solved without additional historical inscriptions. As much as archaeologists desire to find further written inscriptions, more than likely a solution is possible if the sources available are carefully re-examined and better understood. Such was the attempt of this thesis.

    The Divine Purpose of the Two Campaigns

    The Spirit of God presented the facts of this historical period to illustrate the issue of how to deal with crisis situations. He set forth two similar examples of crisis from the reign of King Hezekiah. The believer is to compare the examples from the crisis situations and draw the proper application for his / her life. In the first crisis (713/12 BC), Hezekiah dealt with the problem his way and did not trust the Lord. Heeding bad counsel served to accentuate his failure. There was a high cost for not heeding the Word of God. After his defeat, he humbled himself and learned from his mistake. The crisis may have appeared to have gone away, but the relief was only temporary. In 701 BC, the state of crisis, though in a different form, returned. This time, having learned well the lessons of the past, Hezekiah received godly counsel and trusted the Lord to deliver Jerusalem. The Lord was faithful. He kept His promise and dealt with the problem permanently. Sennacherib never came back. The personal applications are quite obvious. Might we learn, and apply the lessons to our own lives (James 1:22).


    by Gordon Franz


    Reconsidering the Data
    It has been demonstrated that the two standard interpretations of this period are wanting. A new historical reconstruction will be set forth which conforms to the Biblical records and does justice to the Assyrian, Egyptian, and Babylonian histories.[1]  Literary evidence which justifies this reconstruction will also be set forth.

    The reconstruction proposes that Hezekiah reigned from 727 BC to 698 BC and twice Sennacherib attacked Judah. The first time, 713/12 BC, Hezekiah paid a large tribute to Sennacherib to gain the deliverance of Jerusalem. The second, 701 BC, the LORD miraculously delivered Jerusalem by destroying the Assyrian army which was besieging Jerusalem.

    The Beginning of the Reign of King Hezekiah
    The Bible gives several specific chronological indicators for the beginning and length of the reign of King Hezekiah. The writer of the Second Book of Kings states that Hezekiah began his reign in the third year of Hoshea, king of Israel (18:1). A few verses later the writer states that the siege of Samaria began in the fourth year of Hezekiah’s reign and lasted until the sixth year when Samaria fell (18:9-10). The date for the fall of Samaria is quite certain and is to be placed between December, 722 and March, 721 BC (Olmstead 1905: 179). Hence, Hezekiah became king in 727 BC. Since his reign was 29 years long (2 Kings 18:1; 2 Chron. 29:1), he must have died in 698 BC. Those who hold to a two-campaign theory, generally have a co-regency of Hezekiah and Manasseh for about eleven years and place his death in 686 BC (Thiele 1977: 78). There is no need for this hypothesis if the years of the three succeeding kings are added together. Manasseh reigned 55 years (2 Kings 21:1; 2 Chron. 33:1); Amon, 2 years (2 Kings 21:19; 2 Chron. 33:21); and Josiah 31 years (2 Kings 22:1; 2 Chron. 34:1); a total of 88 years. The fall of Carchemish to Pharaoh Necho of Egypt is another well established date from extra-Biblical sources. This occurred in 609 BC, the same year as the death of King Josiah (2 Kings 23:30-33; 2 Chron. 36:1-3; Bright 1981: 324). When the 88 years for the total reigns of these three kings is added to the year 609 BC, a date of 697 BC is concluded. The one year discrepancy can be reckoned for by how the beginning of the regnal year is reckoned. Thus, there is no reason to postulate a co-regency involving Hezekiah and Manasseh.

    It is not the purpose of this thesis to deal with the chronological problems prior to Hezekiah’s reign (Hopsapple 1972; Payne 1963: 40-52; Laato 1986: 210-221; Na’aman 1986: 71-92). It is possible, however, that Hezekiah had a co-regency with his father Ahaz for two years, thus putting the death of Ahaz in 725 BC (Isa. 14:28). This would be also when Hezekiah subdued the Philistines (2 Kings 18:8).

    In the first year of his reign, Hezekiah led the nation in a great religious revival and restored the proper worship at the Passover to the LORD in Jerusalem (2 Chron. 29-31). He also removed the idols from the territory of Judah. The prophet Jeremiah stated that Judah was spared the same fate which would befall Samaria because Hezekiah obeyed the words of the prophet Micah rather than continuing in the ways of Ahaz, king of Judah (Jer. 26:16-19; Micah 3:12).

    There is a fragmentary inscription which was written about 717 BC and referred to Sargon II as the “subduer of the country Judah” in 720 BC (Pritchard 1969: 287a; hereafter ANET). The people had “forgotten the God of their salvation” (Isa. 17:10), so judgment befell them (17:12-14). This semi-Assyrian dominance would lead to the events of the “fourteenth year.”

    The “Fourteenth Year”
    In this proposed reconstruction, the fourteenth year of the reign of Hezekiah is placed in 713/12 BC. This was an eventful year in the life of King Hezekiah. He fell sick, and on his deathbed he gave an appearance of humbling himself and cried out to the Lord to extend his life (2 Kings 20:1-11; Isa. 38:10-20). In spite of Hezekiah’s proud heart, the Lord heard and answered that prayer. God was faithful to His covenant with David in which He promised a Davidic king to rule on the throne of Judah (2 Sam. 7:8-16). Since Hezekiah had no son, [2]  there was a further divine purpose in granting Hezekiah a 15-year extension to his life. This fifteen-year extension, plus the preceding fourteen tears of his reign, made up the 29 years that Hezekiah reigned.

    Merodach Baladen
    Merodach Baladen, who ruled Babylon from 721 BC to 710 BC and then briefly in 703 BC (Brinkman 1964: 6-53), sent an envoy to Hezekiah with a congratulatory message regarding the recovery from his illness (2 Kings 20:12-15; Isa. 39). The Assyrian intelligence service apparently interpreted this visit as the occasion for encouraging Hezekiah to revolt against his Assyrian overlords. Apparently Merodach Baladen was either proposing to have a two-front revolt against the Assyrians, he on the eastern end of the empire and Hezekiah on the western end, or he was assessing the assets of Hezekiah, and the feasibility of a future revolt.

    The Revolt and Tribute

    Sargon, King of Assyria, had to deal with this matter. Since he was preoccupied with other matters, mainly the building of his new residence at Dur-Sarrukin (Tadmor 1958: 79-80, 95-96), he sent his “tartan” (the Assyrian supreme commander) to put down the revolt in the western part of his empire. The identity of the tartan according to this reconstruction should be Sennacherib though there is no clear historical evidence for it at the present. Olmstead, on the other hand, points out that Ashur-icka-danin was the tartan, yet this too is uncertain (1908: 78)³.  In putting down the revolt, Sennacherib conquered Ashdod (Isa. 20:1) and extracted tribute from the rest of Philistia, Judah, Edom, and Moab (ANET 287a).

    Sargon’s annals state that Judah paid tribute. Unfortunately, his annals do not identify the king of Judah, nor the amount of tribute. However, the Bible gives the amount which Hezekiah paid to the tartan, Sennacherib. It was 30 talents of gold and 300 talents of silver (2 Kings 18:14-16). These verses, 14-16, are an expansion of, or commentary on, verse 13 which states that the tribute was paid. This will be important for the discussing relating to the 701 BC tribute.

    The Archaeological Evidence for Two Campaigns

    The Biblical records also state that during the “fourteenth year,” “Sennacherib, King of Assyria, came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them” (2 Kings 18:13; Isa. 36:1). Randall Younker, a doctoral student in archaeology at the University of Arizona [in 1987], in an unpublished paper, has suggested that there is archaeological evidence for two campaigns into Judah at the end of the 8th century BC, or early 7th century BC. In his paper, he examines nine sites in Judah and has shown that six of them have two destruction levels at this time. These sites are Tel Halif, Tel ‘Erani, Tel Beit Mirsim, Tel Beersheva, Tel Arad, and Tel Zakariyeh (Azekah). The other three sites: Tel Miqna (Ekron), Tel Batash (Timnah), and Lachish, show only one destruction level. The literary evidence, both Biblical and Assyrian, indicates these cities were destroyed once, in 701 BC. Lachish was spared during the first campaign in 713/12 BC (2 Kings 18:14).

    Younker, following the standard Two-Campaign chronology, places the first campaign in 701 BC and the second ca. 688 BC. This archaeological investigation determining two phases of the Assyrian encroachment has much to commend it. However, the dating of the two phases should be reconsidered.

    During the “fourteenth year,” Hezekiah had “forgotten his Maker” and depended upon his own military preparations to protect himself from the Assyrian attack (2 Chron. 32:1-5; Isa. 22:8-11). [4]  These preparations included making weapons; repairing walls that had been previously damaged, probably during the reign of Ahaz (Isa. 7:6); and building “another outside wall” (2 Chron. 32:5). Most likely, the “other wall” should be identified with the recently excavated Iron Age wall discovered in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem (Avigad 1980: 45-60). This wall, called “Avigad’s Wall” after the excavator, was built to fortify the inhabited western hill of Jerusalem (Barkay 1985: 166-211; English summary xi-xiv). The abnormal expansion to the Western Hill was a result of a large influx of people to the city. This is attributed to three causes. First, some of the Israelites from the Northern Kingdom stayed after the great revival of the first year of the reign of King Hezekiah (2 Chron. 30:11). They probably could see the Assyrian might on the horizon and knew that the days of the Northern Kingdom were numbered. Second, more Israelites fled before and after the fall of Samaria a few years later. Third, some of the Judeans escaped from their cities as the Assyrians advanced during the campaign of Sennacherib in the “fourteenth year” (Broshi 1974: 23-26). [5]

    Hezekiah also protected Jerusalem’s water source by bringing it into the city. This was done by hewing a tunnel out of solid bedrock from the Gihon Spring, under the City of David, to the valley on the west side of the city (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chron. 32:30; Isa. 22:9, 11). This tunnel is now known as “Hezekiah’s Tunnel.”

    All these military preparations should be dated to the “fourteenth year” of Hezekiah’s reign. They reflect his “proud heart” (2 Chron. 32:25) which caused him to “forget his Maker” (Isa. 22:11).

    Shebna and Eliakim

    Isaiah seems to hint at another factor which influenced Hezekiah’s self-dependency: – the “royal steward” (prime minister), Shebna. He apparently was a Phoenician who somehow worked his way into this very influential position (Avigad 1953: 151-152; His is called a “steward” [NASB] which is a Phoenician loan word for “governor”). In Isaiah’s rebuke, he repeated the word “here” three times, indicating that he is a foreigner and did not belong in the courts of Judah (22:16). There is no mention of his father which, if he was a Judean, would be the case (cf. 2 Kings 18:18). As a foreigner, probably he would not be interested in the spiritual matters of the kingdom or seeking the Lord’s direction in times of trouble. Thus, he did not have a positive influence on the decision-making in the courts of Hezekiah (Isa. 22:15-19). [6]

    He probably influenced Hezekiah to capitulate to Sennacherib and pay the tribute imposed by him (2 Kings 18:14-16). Hezekiah did this, thus securing Sennacherib’s departure from the area, albeit as a high cost to Judah. The treasury was depleted, and the cities were in ruin. After the Assyrians left, there was a measure of humility among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Shebna, at least outwardly, was numbered among the “inhabitants of Jerusalem” (2 Chron. 32:26). Isaiah had proclaimed judgment upon Shebna, but apparently because of his outward humility, that judgment was stayed, at least temporarily.[7] He was, however, removed from being royal steward and demoted to scribe. Eliakim was promoted to royal steward. In the year 701 BC, approximately twelve years after the “fourteenth year,” Shebna still held the position of scribe and Eliakim the position of royal steward (2 Kings 18:18, 26, 37; Isa. 36:3, 22). The fact that the Biblical records state that there were two different royal stewards during the incursion by Sennacherib seems to indicate that they administered during two different periods of time. This fact cannot be reconciled by either of the other theories.

    According to Rabbinic tradition (Sanhedrin 26a), the remainder of Isaiah’s prophecy regarding Shebna’s departure from the land of Judah and subsequent death was fulfilled in 701 BC. As scribe, he still had influence in the court of Judah. There he tried to persuade the people of Jerusalem to surrender to the Assyrians. Isaiah admonished Hezekiah to trust the Lord for the deliverance of the city from the hands of the Assyrians. Shebna’s influence, at least with the people, seemed to prevail, and he convinced the people to surrender. As he was leading the Jerusalemites out the city gate, the angel Gabriel (so goes the tradition) shut the city gate behind him. Alone and embarrassed by this turn of events, he told the Assyrians that the rest of the people had deserted him. Not to be taken for fools, they put holes in his feet and dragged him over thorns and thistles, apparently to a far country and his death, thus fulfilling the words of Isaiah the prophet (Isa. 22:17-18).

    The Year 701 BC
    In 705 BC, Sargon II died and Sennacherib became the sole ruler of Assyria. As usual, the vassal states revolted, testing the power and resolve of the new king. Sennacherib set out to solidify his rule and to put down the various rebellions. While he was involved in the eastern part of his empire, Hezekiah took advantage of the opportunity to enlist the support of other kings in his area and revolted against Assyria.

    The Third Campaign
    After conducting two campaigns in the east, the first against Merodach-Baladen and Babylon (703 BC), and the second against the Kassites and Yasubigallians, east of the Tigris River (702 BC), Sennacherib turned his attention to the rebellion in the “Hittiteland” (Luckenbill 1924: 10-11). The ultimate objective of this third campaign was the subjection of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem. [8]

    The first objective of the campaign was Phoenicia. He successfully overpowered the Phoenician cities and forced Luli (=Eloulaios), king of Sidon, to flee to Kittim (Katzenstein 1973: 245-258), thus fulfilling the words of Isaiah, “… though you arise and cross over to Kittim, even there you shall find no rest” (Isa. 23:12). Then he installed Ethba’al upon the throne and imposed tribute on them.

    The defeat of the Phoenicians was apparently devastating and instilled fear in some of the kings who participated in the initial revolt. As the Assyrians marched down the Phoenician coast to Philistia, the kings from Samsimuruna, Sidon, Arvad, Byblos, Ashdod, Beth-Ammon, Moab, and Edom brought tribute to Sennacherib and paid him homage.

    There were till two kings who had not given up, the kings of Judah and Ashkelon. Thus the next objective in his campaign was Philistia. Sidqia, the king of Ashkelon, continued to resist the Assyrians. Sennacherib took the cities which belonged to the “Joppa-Aphek-Lod Triangle” (Beth-Dagon, Joppa, Banai-Barqa, Azura as well as Ashkelon) and deported Sidqia and his family to Assyria. Having put down two of the five Philistine cities (Ashdod and Ashkelon; however, Gath belongs to Hezekiah at this time), Sennacherib turns his attention to Ekron. The king of Ekron called for Egyptian help, but this arrived too late. The city fell.

    The Egyptians, with the objective of first cutting the Assyrian supply line, sent an expeditionary force to cut it before they engaged the main Assyrian force. A battle on the Plain of Eltekeh ensued (Aharoni 1979: 392). [9] The result was a devastating defeat for the Egyptians. Sennacherib boasted that he personally captured the Egyptian charioteers with their princes as well as the charioteers of the king of Ethiopia.

    This stunning victory on the Plains of Eltekeh was later used by the Rabshakeh to try and convince Hezekiah to forego his struggle against Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:21; Isa. 36:6). Rabshakeh argued that the Egyptians, the “bruised reed,” had been defeated and could not be trusted to come to their aid. On the other hand, Isaiah used this defeat to admonish Hezekiah to put his confidence in the Lord, rather than the Egyptians (Isa. 30:1-5; 31:1-3).

    With the Egyptians temporarily out of the way, Sennacherib turned his attention back to Philistia. Timnah, apparently a Philistine city, and Ekron fell.

    The third and final objective of this campaign was the capitulation of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem. Before going up to the Hill Country, the routes leading to it in the Shephelah had to be secured. If Na’aman’s date for his recently rejoined tablet of Sennacherib’s “Letter to God” is correct, i.e. 701 BC, then it gives some valuable and important details of the beginning of his campaign against Judah (1974: 25-39). [10] The first two Judean cities to fall were Azekah and Gath. Since the text was broken on the name of the second city, it is not certain, but Na’aman suggests that it was Gath. This identification makes good geographical sense, assuming Gath is located at Tel es-Safi (Rainey 1975: 63*-76*), because Sennacherib effectively secured the Elah Valley and a route up into the Hill Country of Judah. The text states of the second city that it was “a royal city of the Philistines, which Hezekiah had captured and strengthened for himself” (Na’aman 1974: 27). An archaeological confirmation of this is seen in the “LMLK” seal impressions which were found at Tel es-Safi. These seal impressions clearly date to the reign of King Hezekiah (Ussishkin 1977: 28-60; Na’aman 1979: 61-86).

    Sennacherib boasted in his annals (ANET 288a) that he took 46 strong cities of Judah, walled forts, and countless small villages in the vicinity of these cities. He also made an exaggerated claim of carrying away 200,150 Judeans into captivity (Stohlmann 1983: 152-155).

    Lachish, the capital of the Shephelah, was the next major objective in Judah. Since he did not conquer Jerusalem, this was the crowning achievement of his third campaign. A trophy room for storing the booty was erected in a prominent place in the palace at Nineveh. It had a large relief on its walls commemorating this feat (Ussishkin 1982). The violent destruction of Level III at Tel Lachish is an archaeological confirmation of the fall of the city depicted on the relief and mentioned in the Bible (2 Kings 19:8; see also Ussishkin 1982; 1979).

    With the fall of Lachish at hand, Sennacherib felt confident enough to press his attack on Jerusalem. He sent his Tartan, Rab-saris, and Rabshakeh [11] with a large army, up to Jerusalem to offer them terms of surrender (2 Kings 18:17). Most likely they went up via the Elah Valley which had been secured at the beginning of the Judean campaign. [12]

    The Assyrian army set up camp to the northwest of the ancient city of Jerusalem (Ussishkin 1979: 137-142).  [13] From here the Rabshakeh left to speak with Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah at the “conduit of the upper pool, which is on the highway to the fuller’s field” (2 Kings 18:18).  [14] The Rabshakeh engaged himself in psychological warfare by casting doubt on who and what Hezekiah was trusting in for deliverance, i.e. Yahweh and Egypt (2 Kings 18:18-25). He offered Hezekiah terms of peace (2 Kings 18:26-37). Isaiah advised Hezekiah to trust the Lord for the salvation of the city because the Lord had said it would happen (2 Kings 19:1-7). Hezekiah followed his advice.

    The Rabshakeh, apparently leaving the army in Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:8), returned to Sennacherib at Libnah [15]  to give Sennacherib word of Hezekiah’s refusal to surrender. While there, the Assyrian intelligence service warned Sennacherib that Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia, was advancing with an Egyptian army (2 Kings 19:9).
    As was previously stated (Chapter 2), Tirhakah was at least 20 years of age and fully capable of leading an expedition against the Assyrians in 701 BC. This second attack would be in keeping with the well attested Egyptian custom of deploying several distinct divisions when they campaigned in the Levant (Kitchen 1986: 159, footnote 309). [16]  Sennacherib left Libnah with his forces to engage Tirhakah. Soon after, he received word that his forces in Jerusalem were defeated. Hearing this, he returned to Assyria. There was apparently no confrontation between Sennacherib and Tirhakah; at least neither mentions it in their annals.

    The Rabshakeh left the army which was besieging Jerusalem to report to Sennacherib at Libnah (2 Kings 19:8-9). A large portion of this army was later destroyed by the Angel of the LORD in answer to Hezekiah’s prayer (2 Kings 19:35-36; 2 Chron. 32:21-22; Isa. 31:8-9; 37:36). Sennacherib, however, claimed to have made Hezekiah a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, and “caged him up like a bird” (ANET 288). This could be Sennacherib’s way of “saving face.” He could not admit he was defeated. [17]

    In his annals, Sennacherib claimed to have extracted 30 talents of gold and 800 talents of silver in tribute from Hezekiah (ANET 288). The account in 2 Kings 18:14 says that Hezekiah paid 30 talents of gold and 300 talents of silver to the Assyrian king. Is there a discrepancy here? As far as the gold is concerned, there is no discrepancy between the two accounts. However, the silver creates a problem. The Assyrian account says 800 talents, while the Biblical records state 300. Some scholars have maintained there is an exact agreement because there is a difference between the “light” talent and “heavy” talent (Montgomery 1951: 485, also the references he cites). Others suggest that one tradition exaggerated or reduced the number on purpose over the course of time (Rowley 1962: 415). Shea says a “scribal error in either tradition could easily explain this minor discrepancy” (1985: 402).

    The difference between the two accounts should not be brushed off as a “minor discrepancy” but viewed as two distinct accounts. The problem is resolved by carefully reading the Assyrian account which states that Sennacherib “increased the tribute and katru-presents” due to him. This tribute was imposed “above the former tribute” (ANET 288, italics the authors). Most likely, Sennacherib never collected this tribute of 30 talents of gold and 800 talents of silver in 701 BC. In light of his defeat, he had to save face by exaggerating his claim. To make it look credible, he stated that he increased the former tribute, referring to the tribute of 30 talents of gold and 300 talents of silver which he imposed in 713/12 BC (2 Kings 18:14). It is also possible that he was describing the booty which he captured on the campaign rather than the alleged tribute from Jerusalem.

    This section has tried to reconstruct the chronological aspects of Hezekiah’s life as well as attempt to harmonize the various sources which deal with Hezekiah’s encounters with Sennacherib on two different occasions, 713/12 BC and 701 BC. If it is correct, it will solve one of the major problems plaguing Old Testament scholarship.

    The Literary Justification for the Reconstruction
    If this historical reconstruction is accepted, than a straightforward reading of the Biblical narratives would be unacceptable and contradictory. The order recorded in the Biblical records creates at least three problems for this reconstruction. The first is in Isaiah 36. Verse 1 of this chapter states that the campaign recorded is attributed to the “fourteenth year.” Is this actually the case, or are there two campaigns here? The second problem is found in 2 Chronicles 32. Here, the sickness of Hezekiah is recorded in the last part of the chapter (vss. 24-26), after the 701 BC campaign of Sennacherib. Yet in this reconstruction, Hezekiah’s sickness is placed in the “fourteenth year.” The third problem, similar to the second, is found in Isaiah 38 and 39. In these chapters, there is an account of Hezekiah’s sickness and the visit by the envoys from Babylon is given. Again, it would seem that the events are out of order.

    Isaiah 36 and the 701 BC Campaign
    A straightforward reading of Isaiah 36 would suggest that it were describing one event. If that is the case, then the campaign mentioned in this chapter should be attributed to the “fourteenth year,” i.e. 713/12 BC. However, this reconstruction has placed Isaiah 36:2 to 37:37 in the year 701 BC. How can this be reconciled?

    John Walton has pointed out that Isaiah reversed the chronological order of Isaiah 36-39 to introduce the second part of the book (1985: 130). The author of 2 Kings 18-20, possibly Isaiah, [18]  borrowed the account in the book of Isaiah and added the details of the tribute (2 Kings 18:14-16).

    The proposed separation of Isa. 36:1 and 36:2 is not without support. In 2 Kings 18, these two verses are separated (18:13 and 18:17). Thus 36:2 is the beginning of another historical section. This section is “bracketed” by the mentioning of Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah at the beginning (36:2-3), and end (36:21-22). The unit opens with the three going out from Hezekiah to the Rabshakeh, while it closes with them returning to Hezekiah with the words of the Rabshakeh. Between the opening and closing, are two speeches by the Rabshakeh. The first, 36:4-10, and the second, 36:13-20. Between these two speeches, the three Judeans reply to the Rabshakeh and he replies to them (36:11-12). If Isaiah is using a literary device, then it is possible that this historical unit could date to a different event than recorded in the first verse. Thus, Isaiah 36:1 should be dated to 713/12 BC, while Isaiah 36:2-22 should be attributed to 701 BC.

    Isaiah, along with the author of Kings and Chronicles, telescopes historical events. A clear case of this is found between Isaiah 37:36 and 37:37 (// 2 Kings 19:35-37 and 2 Chronicles 32:21). Verse 36 and 37 reports the destruction of the Assyrian army which was in Jerusalem and the return of Sennacherib to Nineveh. While verse 38 recounts the death of Sennacherib 20 years later in 681 BC (Luckenbill 1924: 18). Just as there is 20 years between 37:36 and 37, so there is approximately 12 years between 36:1 and 36:2.

    2 Chronicles 32

    The account of the illness of Hezekiah appears toward the end of this chapter (vss. 24-26). If, as this reconstruction has suggested, this took place in the “fourteenth year”, i.e. 713/12 BC, and Sennacherib’s 701 BC is recorded in the verses prior (vss. 9-23), than the chapter is not in chronological order.

    A very interesting chiastic structure of the two campaigns occurs in this chapter. The balanced chiasm for the “fourteenth year” (713/12 BC) may be set out as shown:

    A. Test. Assyria. 32:1
    B. Object of Trust. Military preparation. 32:2-5
    C. Outward Action. Proclaimed. 32:6-8
    D. The contrasting response of depending on the Lord for deliverance in the year 701 BC. 32:9-23
    C’. Outward Action. Prayed. 32:24-26
    B’. Object of Trust. Material possession. 32:27-30
    A’. Test. Babylon. 32:31

    The beginning of the three panels are; verse 1, “After these deeds …”, verse 9, “After this Sennacherib …”, and verse 24, “In these days …” It is proposed that the first and third panels be attributed to the “fourteenth year” (713/12 BC), the first Assyrian campaign. The middle panel (vss. 9-23) should be attributed to 701 BC, or the second Assyrian campaign.

    In the opening and closing panels, the development is identical but inverted. In each, the test, trust and action are brought into focus. The key to understanding Hezekiah’s heart attitude is seen in verse 25. It is stated that “Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor shown him, for his heart was lifted up.” This explains his actions in verses 6-8 and 24-26. He admonished the people to put their confidence in the Lord although he was secretly trusting in the military preparation that he had just completed (32:6-8). He also prayed for healing (32:24-26), but apparently not with a sincere heart. He did all the “right things,” even though his heart was not right before the Lord. The center of the chiasm, verses 9-23, is the important lesson the Chronicler is trying to convey. “Trust the Lord for your salvation.” That the events are recorded out of their historical order is no uncommon for the Chronicler (Williamson 1981: 164-176). [19]

    There has been a recent resurgence of interest in the Biblical use of chiastic structure in the scholarly world (Welch 1981). Herein may lay a helpful solution to the double campaign problem. If so, then the ordering of the material in 2 Chronicles 32 may be explained in terms of a literary device, rather than following a historical development.

    The Babylonian Visit and the Order of Isaiah

    If this reconstruction is accepted, the events of 713/12 BC are placed last in the Isaiah account. Chronologically, Isaiah 38 and 39 are to be placed after 36:1. When Merodach Baladen sent his envoys to Jerusalem, Hezekiah showed them all his wealth, being proud of it and trusting in it. Following upon this historically, the Lord used the Assyrians to remove the wealth which caused Hezekiah’s fall. The king was obliged to strip the treasuries to pay the tribute, 2 Kings 18:14-16. Yet God promised that they would not be taken captive by the Assyrians, but rather, their descendants would be taken captive by the Babylonians (Isa. 39:6-8). This was the “beginning of the end” for Judah, thus the order in the book of Isaiah. Further, by placing the Babylonian visit after the Assyrian unit (Isa. 36-37), the Spirit of God through Isaiah has provided an introduction to the second major section of his prophecy. This section provides consolation while in the Babylonian Captivity and Israel’s return from it.

    The content of Isaiah 36-39 with its handling, firstly of Assyria and then secondly of Babylon, suggest that the prophet is using this historical inversion as a summary signpost for his book. Chapter 36 and 37 conclude the ministry of Isaiah set against the backdrop of the Assyrian threat. On the other hand, chapters 38 and 39 introduce the more distant exile and return from exile in Babylon. Since the prophet has supplied such a literary “hinge,” it is reasonable to seek an Assyrian and more chronological interpretation of chapters 1-35 of his prophecy. That bring the case, it might be profitable to consider Isaiah 1-35 in chronological order, which may throw further light on the Assyrian period and even the two campaigns. See Appendix I.

    This rather lengthy chapter has set forth a new reconstruction of the Biblical and historical data relating to the reign of King Hezekiah and his encounter, on two different occasions, with Sennacherib, King of Assyria. It established the beginning of Hezekiah’s reign in 727 BC. The “fourteenth year” was determined to be in 713/12 BC when Hezekiah fell ill and on his deathbed prayed for his life for which the Lord gave him a fifteen year extension. Pride in his material possessions was a prominent factor in his life at this time. To humble him, the Lord sent Sennacherib against Judah to destroy it and extract 30 talents of gold and 300 talents of silver in tribute. The archaeological evidence for two campaigns by Sennacherib was discussed as well as the problem of Shebna and Eliakim. Shebna was a great (yet poor) influence in the life of King Hezekiah during this time.
    A detailed reconstruction of the eventful year of 701 BC was given. During this year, Sennacherib conducted a military campaign in the Hittiteland where he attacked Phoenicia, Philistia, and Judah. The Egyptians attempted two attacks against the Assyrians. The first resulted in a defeat for them; the outcome of the second was unknown. Sennacherib’s boastful claims were examined and found to be exaggerations and cover-ups for his defeat at the hands of the Lord in Jerusalem.
    The final section analyzed three “problem” passages for this reconstruction. They are found to be employing literary devices to convey certain spiritual truths, rather than concerning themselves with a strict chronological order.


    [1] This chapter is an expansion of a paper read by the author at the Evangelical Theological Society meeting held at Talbot Theological Seminary, November 21, 1985.

    [2] Manasseh was not born until 711 or 710 BC. He was twelve years old when his father died (2 Kings 21:1; 2 Chron. 33:11). If our reconstruction is correct, Hezekiah died in the year 698 BC. Twelve years prior to that would be 710 or 711 BC.

    [3] D. Livingston has also suggested that Sennacherib was co-regent, or crown prince, in 713 BC when he made his attack on Ashdod (nd: 38). He cites J. Lewy’s article (1942: 225-231) in which Lewy shows that Sennacherib had considerable power before he came to the throne in 705 BC, possibly in the form of a co-regency. When it started, and how long it lasted, is a matter of conjecture. If there was a co-regency with Sargon II in 713/12 BC, Sennacherib could legitimately be called the “King of Assyria.” If not, and he was the tartan, the Biblical writer used the literary device of prolepsis, when they called him “King of Assyria.” Similar is the case of Tirhakah, “King of Cush.”

    [4] There are several reasons to suggest that Isaiah 22 should be dated to the “fourteenth year”, i.e. 713/12 BC. Verses 1-3 describes the rejoicing by the inhabitants of Jerusalem for some sort of deliverance even though some of their leaders were taken captive. However, in verses 4-8a, Isaiah sees the Assyrians returning to Jerusalem. It should be pointed out that some commentaries have taken this passage as a reference to the Babylonian attack on Jerusalem in 587/6 BC because in verse 6, the Elamites were part of the forces which attacked Jerusalem. In 713/12 BC, Elam was allied with Babylon against Assyria. However, it is possible that there were captives forced into Assyrian military service and sent to fight on the “western front”, away from Elam or Babylon. Or, they were mercenaries employed by Assyria. It seems the Elamite king, Sutruk-Nahhunte, would do almost anything for money (Brinkman 1965: 161-166). Also, in verses 20-25, Eliakim is not yet royal steward which he is in 701 BC. See also Ginsberg (1968: 47-49).

    [5] Broshi places the date of the construction of this wall at 701 BC. In light of this new proposal, it should be redated to 713/12 BC.

    [6] As shown before (footnote 4), Isaiah 22 should be dated to the “fourteenth year” of Hezekiah, 713/12 BC. This oracle records the departure of the Assyrian army with a host of Judean captives (22:1-3), the military preparations which Judah made for the Assyrian attack (22:8-11, cf. 2 Chron. 32:3-5, 30). This date will be justified later in this chapter.

    [7] Two examples can be cited for stays in judgment. First, Jonah the prophet. His message to Nineveh was, “Forty days and then comes destruction” (3:4). Nineveh repented, and judgment was averted, at least temporarily. Nineveh eventually returned to her wickedness and the city fell (cf. Nahum). The second example, cited earlier, is that of Judah. Hezekiah called the people back to the Lord in the first year of his reign at the encouragement of the prophet Micah, thus averting judgment (Micah 3:12, cf. Jer. 26:16-19).

    [8] Sennacherib describes this and other campaigns in various annals and inscriptions. The accounts of the third campaign can be read in Luckenbill 1926: 2: 118-121, 136-137, 142-143, 154 and ANET 287-288.

    [9] Aharoni believed in only one Egyptian attack against the Assyrians.

    [10] Contra Bill Shea’s opinion (1985: 404-407). As was pointed out in Chapter 2, this text could possibly be dated to the reign of Sargon II and the campaign of 713/12 BC. No matter what date is assigned to this text, from a military perspective, the Assyrians would begin their campaign against Judah with these two cities.

    [11] These names are titles for the three top-ranking officials in Sennacherib’s army.

    [12] Some have suggested that Sennacherib penetrated Jerusalem from the north because of a line of attack mentioned in Isa. 10:28-32. More than likely, this attack should be attributed to Tiglath-pileser III in the 730’s (2 Chron. 28:20).

    [13] Flavius Josephus, in his Jewish Wars 5: 303, 504-507, mentioned that the Roman army, under Titus, set up their camp in the same location. Both camps should be situated in the area between the northwest corner of the Old City and the Russian Compound.

    [14] The “upper pool” is probably located somewhere in the area of the present day Damascus Gate or the sherut parking lot across the street (oral communications with G. Barkay).

    [15] The identification of Libnah has been a problem for historical geographers. Several sites have been proposed, but most likely it should be located at Tel Goded.

    [16] Kitchen cites several examples of this from the campaigns of Sethos I, Ramesses II at the Battle of Qadesh, and Shishak. Also, Na’aman 1979: 64-70. Yurco (1980: 221-240) gives a detailed historical reconstruction for the year 701 BC.

    [17] A recent example of this sort of face-saving interpretation took place when Israel removed their troops from the Shoufe mountains in Lebanon after the first War in Lebanon (1982). The party which was in power in Israel (Likud) called this maneuver “tactical redeployment”! The opposition party (Labor) called it “retreat.” Reagan followed the Likud line when he withdrew the Marines from Lebanon after their headquarters at the Beirut airport were blown up.

    [18] P. Gilchrist, “The Sources and Authorship of 1 and 2 Kings,” paper given at the Southeastern Evangelical Theological Society meeting, March 27, 1987. Gilchrist argues that the authors of the Kings narrative were a succession of prophets, thus Isaiah could have composed this section from his own work.

    [19] Williamson proposes a chiastic structure in 1 Chron. 11 and 12. This structure would cause the historical events to be out of chronological order. See also Dillard 1984: 85-93.


    [1] Contra Bill Shea’s opinion (1985: 404-407). As was pointed out in Chapter 2, this text could possibly be dated to the reign of Sargon II and the campaign of 713/12 BC. No matter what date is assigned to this text, from a military perspective, the Assyrians would begin their campaign against Judah with these two cities.


    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.




    The History and Proponents of the Theory
    In 1858, G. Rawlinson first introduced the idea that Sennacherib invaded Judah on two occasions (1884: 1: 584, footnote 454). Since then, scholars have been divided on this issue. The leading proponents for two campaigns are Albright (1953: 4-11; 1956: 23-27), Bright (1981: 278-288, 298-309), Fullerton (1906: 577-634). Horn (1966: 1-28), and Shea (1980: 26-28; 1985: 401-418). There are others, but these are the main proponents (Rowley 1962: 405-406).

    This section will define this theory, set forth the arguments and show their weaknesses. Special attention will be given to Dr. Bill Shea’s recent article (1985).

    There are variations within this theory regarding the order of events and date of each campaign (Honor 1966: xiii-xiv). However, a basic outline can be set forth. The year 701 BC was the “fourteenth year” of King Hezekiah and the third campaign of Sennacherib. In this year, Sennacherib destroyed “all the cities of Judah” (2 Kings 18:13), which he numbered as 46 strong-walled cities, but he spared Jerusalem because he extracted tribute from her. The records of these events are found in 2 Kings 18:13-16 and 2 Kings 20, as well as Sennacherib’s Annals.

    The second campaign occurred around 688/7 BC (Shea 1985: 417) and is recorded in 2 Kings 18:17-19:36. During this campaign, Sennacherib encountered an Egyptian army led by Tirhakah, King of Ethiopia; and he suffered some sort of setback in Jerusalem. Unfortunately there are no clearly dated Assyrian inscriptions describing this campaign.¹  There is an undated mention of an Arabian campaign late in the reign of Sennacherib, but whether he campaigned against Judah at this time is uncertain (Honor 1966: 12).

    The date for the campaign by Tirhakah against the Assyrians is probably the strongest argument the “two campaign” theory has. Based on the Kawa stela published by Macadam (1949), the second campaign must have taken place sometime after 690 BC because Tirhakah did not become king of Ethiopia (and Egypt) until then (Albright 1953: 8-11; Horn 1966: 1-11). Furthermore, Tirhakah could not have led the army in 701 BC because he was only 9 years old! A renewed look, however, at the Kawa stela has shown that Tirhakah was at least 20 years old in 701 BC and could easily have led the campaign with the aid of his generals (Kitchen 1986: 154-172, 383-391; 1973: 225-233; Rainey 1976: 38-41).

    Even if Tirhakah led the army in 701 BC, another problem arises. In the Biblical record, he is called “King of Cush (Ethiopia)” (2 Kings 19:9; Isa. 37:9). How could he be called king when he has yet to be crowned? Kitchen points to a universal literary device called back-referencing, or prolepsis. In fact, the Kawa Stela IV, which has raised this problem, is a good contemporary example of this device. It is stated of Tirhakah, “Now His Majesty was in Nubia, being a goodly youth and a king’s brother pleasant of love, and he came north to Thebes among the goodly youths whom His Majesty King Shebitku had sent to fetch from Nubia” (Macadam 1949: 15). When this event transpired, Tirhakah was not king, yet he is called “His Majesty.” A phrase used solely of kings and gods. Kitchen goes on to give a modern illustration of prolepsis by the statement, “Queen Elisabeth II was born in 1926.” When she was born, she was not queen, but a princess. This device also explains why the writer of Kings and Isaiah called Sennacherib “King of Assyrian” in 713/12 BC, even though he was not yet king. When the account was written down sometime in the late 690’s or 680’s BC, Sennacherib was presently, or had been, king of Assyria. This points to the writers of these books being contemporary with the events.

    The evidence for Tirhakah being old enough to lead an army against Assyria in 701 BC is sufficient, thus taking away one of the main arguments of the two campaign theory.

    A “Rejoined” Assyrian Text
    Nedav Na’aman recently rejoined two Assyrian texts, one attributed to Sargon II and the other to Tiglath-pileser III, and determined that the text belonged, in fact, to Sennacherib (1974: 25-39). This text gave a detailed account of the beginning of the campaign against Judah in 701 BC and described the conquest of Azekah and another city, a royal Philistine city which was captured by Hezekiah, probably Gath.

    Shea uses this text to prove an alleged second campaign later than 701 BC (1985: 405-407). He points out that Sennacherib’s god Ashur is spelled in the Babylonian form, Anshar. This form was employed by Sennacherib only after he conquered Babylon in 689 BC. Na’aman recognized this as a serious problem for those who hold to a single 701 BC campaign, yet he leaves this problem unresolved (1974: 31).

    A detailed study of one of the fragments was first published by Hayim Tadmor in 1958. The name Anshar and the “Letter to God” style prompted him to date this fragment to the reign of Sargon II (1958: 80-64). In his article he lists a number of examples in Sargonic texts where Anshar is used (1958: 82). He also notes the style is similar to another “Letter to God” describing Sargon’s campaign to Urartu in 714 BC (1958: 82).

    An impasse has been reached on the dating of this rejoined fragment. Na’aman recognizes the serious difficulties in placing it in 701 BC. Shea could be correct in dating it after the fall of Babylon in 689 BC. However, it is entirely possible that the fragment was written by Tartan Sennacherib when he campaigned in Judah for Sargon in 713/12 BC, the “fourteenth year” of Hezekiah (See chapter V for details). A more exact date cannot be reached unless the rest of the text is found and rejoined.

    Hydraulic Engineering
    Shea notes in the account in Kings and Isaiah, one of the boasts of Sennacherib is, “I dug wells and drank foreign waters, and with the sole of my feet I dried up all the rivers of Egypt” (2 Kings 19:24; Isa. 37:25; Shea 1985: 407-408). Recently, H. Tawil has re-identified the “rivers of Egypt” (ye’ore masor) with the water conduits built by Sennacherib in 694 BC, which flowed from Mount Musri to Nineveh (1982: 195-206). If his identification is accepted, it has far-reaching implications for the date of Isaiah’s speech. He could not have given it in 701 BC because the conduits were not built until 694 BC. Thus, the speech by Isaiah must have been during the alleged second campaign which took place after 694 BC.

    Tawil, in this author’s opinion, does not give conclusive evidence that the “masor” is really Mt. Musri. Interestingly, in Akkadian, the word for Egypt and (Mount) Musri are the same. Tawil objects to this identification with Egypt on spelling and historical grounds, the historical reason being that Sennacherib never invaded Egypt.

    Calderone, in an article on the rivers of “masor” (1961: 423-432) points out that the identification of “masor” with Egypt is, at best, a 12th century tradition (1961: 423). He goes on to suggest that the word is an enclitic mem and should be translated “rivers of the mountains, or the rock” (1961: 425).

    If this translation is correct, then in Isaiah 19:6b the “channels of the rock” could refer to the cataracts of the Upper Nile (1961: 428). That being the case, verse 5 and 6 could be describing a drought in the whole Nile River system: “And the waters from the sea (the Delta region at flood stage) will dry up, and the river (main course of the Nile) will be parched and dry. And the rivers (main courses of Upper Egypt, the Blue and While Nile and Atbara) will emit a stench; the “streams of Egypt” (cataracts of the Upper Nile) will emit a stench” (1961: 429). The context of Isaiah 18-20 is the oracles concerning Cush (Ethiopia) and Egypt, so it would make sense that the whole Nile River is in view (1961: 430).

    The suggestion of Tawil, that ye’ore masor represents the conduits from Mt. Musri, seems to lack support. Calderone’s hypothesis, that this phrase represents the cataracts of the Upper Nile, fits nicely with the context of Isaiah 19. If this hypothesis is accepted, the spelling problem which Tawil envisioned has been removed by the enclitic mem. The historical problem could also be resolved.

    In Isaiah’s speech (2 Kings 19:21-28), he accused Sennacherib of blaspheming the Lord. Among other things, Sennacherib claimed he dried up the Nile River. Historically, Isaiah 19 describes a severe drought which took place sometime between 720 and 710 BC. Sennacherib, as Tartan, heard of it while he was in the area of Philistia in 713/12 BC. In the year 701 BC, he took credit for this phenomenon. Such blasphemy! It was Yahweh who caused it (Isa. 19:1; Kitchen 1986: 553).²

    The speech of Isaiah in 2 Kings 19:21-28 should be placed in 701 BC rather than during the alleged “second campaign” after the conduit was built. No pun intended, but Tawil’s conduit theory does not hold water!

    The Re-dated Tirhakah Inscription

    Recently, an inscription which was attributed to Sheshonk I (Shishak) was re-examined by P. Vernus and attributed to Tirhakah (Shea 1985: 413-415). A. Spalinger used this inscription as a basis for an article on Tirhakah’s foreign policy toward western Asia (1978: 22-47).

    This inscription is a long poetic speech by Tirhakah to his patron god, Amun. In it he describes his coronation and the unusual overflowing of the Nile River in the “6th year.” Then he turns his attention to some failure, dealing with his loss of control of the Asiatic lands. Tirhakah is at fault, yet he will not blame himself or Amun. On one line, Tirhakah says to Amun, “Let me do it with your tribute of Khor (Syria-Palestine) which has been turned aside from you” (1978: 30). Tirhakah goes on to ask Amun if he should press on with another attack to Khor.

    Vernus places this reversal somewhere between 677-674 BC, most likely when Esarhaddon carried out his subjugation of Phoenicia in 677/6 BC. Spalinger says the inscription must be dated before 675 BC because Tirhakah mounted a counter-offensive against Esarhaddon in 674/3 BC. Shea objects to both ideas because “the relevant Assyrian texts make no mention of any contact with Egyptian troops during either of these campaigns” (1985: 414). Shea goes on to argue that Tirhakah’s reversal came when he met Sennacherib sometime during his “second campaign,” ca. 688/7 BC (1985: 415-417).

    There are at least two problems with Shea’s view. First, the reversal of Tirhakah had to take place after the “6th year” when there was an unusually high inundation of the Nile River. This year, according to Kitchen, was ca. 685 BC (1986: 388). The second problem is that the inscription mentions the tribute of Khor which has been turned aside. It says nothing of the Assyrians (Spalinger 1978: 43).³  It is possible that there was a revolt of just Judah, Philistia, and Phoenicia, with no opposition from Assyria. The date for this reversal cannot be ascertained with certainty (Kitchen 1986: 558; Yurco 1980: 240, footnote 246). However, it is certain that it cannot be dated to Sennacherib’s alleged 688/7 BC campaign.

    Two campaigns, the first in 701 BC and the second in 688/7 BC, by Sennacherib have been proposed to reconcile some of the problems between the Biblical records and the histories of Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon. Unfortunately, Sennacherib’s annals post-dating 689 BC have not been found (if they exist at all), thus no extra-Biblical sources exist to substantiate this theory.

    One of the biggest problems to resolve for those holding one campaign in 701 BC is Tirhakah, king of Cush (Ethiopia). He was not crowned king until 690 BC. The two campaign theory nicely reconciles this problem by placing Tirhakah during the second campaign, after he became king. However, recent studies have shown that he was at least 20 years of age in 701 BC and fully capable of leading an army. The fact that he is called “king” in the Biblical narrative is due to the use of a literary device called prolepsis, which is also used in Egyptian records.

    Several arguments in Dr. Shea’s recent article were examined. In it, he re-dated a recently rejoined Assyrian text to post-690 BC. This was done primarily based on the use of the Babylonian form of Sennacherib’s god’s name, Anshar. However, it is possible that this text belongs to the Sargonic period and was written by Sennacherib in 713/12 BC. Thus, this text cannot be used as absolute proof of a second campaign after 690 BC.

    Shea favorably reviewed H. Tawil’s suggestion that the “rivers of Egypt” mentioned in 2 Kings 19:24 and Isa. 37:25 were actually the conduits which brought water to Nineveh from Mount Musri. The construction of these conduits was completed in 694 BC. Thus, Isaiah could not mention this in 701 BC. Based on the word usage in Isa. 19, the “rivers of Egypt” were the cataracts in the Upper Nile. Sennacherib apparently heard that the Nile dried up when he was campaigning in Philistia in 713/12 BC When he returned in 701 BC, he blasphemed the Lord, taking credit for drying up the Nile, rather than giving it to Yahweh. If there is no connection between the “rivers of Egypt” and the conduits from Mount Musri, then the evidence for the second campaign is weakened.

    Finally, a re-dated text belonging to Tirhakah, in which he mentions a military reversal in Palestine, is used to support a second campaign. Yet a careful reading of that text places it after the sixth year of Tirhakah (ca. 685 BC), thus too late to be the second campaign about 688/7 BC.

    The evidence for two campaigns, the first in 701 BC and the second after 690 BC, is wanting and fits another reconstruction much better.


    [1] Shea (1985: 404-407) tries to redate a recently rejoined inscription to this campaign. As will be shown, this is not certain.

    [2] Kitchen considers the “drying up the Nile” to be a metaphor referring to the defeat of the Egypto-Nubian force at Eltekeh.

    [3] Contrary to Spalinger who states “only the Assyrians can be the enemy.”


    by Gordon Franz

    Chapter 1


    The Significance of this Study
    Sennacherib’s campaign(s) against the land of Judah during the reign of King Hezekiah has created much debate among Bible scholars. Yet few Biblical events are as well attested as this one. It is recounted in several places in the Biblical records as well as on a number of cuneiform inscriptions from Assyria. Josephus, the 1st century AD Jewish historian, wrote a free rendering of the Biblical narratives by trying to smooth over the apparent discrepancies in the text as well and including information which he had gleaned from Herodotus, the Greek historian.

    It seems that each generation of Biblical scholars has produced an abundance of articles, monographs, and books on this subject, each trying to grapple with new material as it becomes available or recapitulate old theories, pointing out their strengths and weaknesses. The motivations of the scholars varied from person to person. Some sought to harmonize the sources, while others threw up their hands in despair saying it cannot be done. There are others who labeled these accounts as fictitious or legendary.

    The importance of this study lies primarily in developing a chronological sequence of events based on the primary sources, the Biblical and Assyrian records, along with results from various excavations that have been conducted in Israel in the past half century.

    The Introduction to the Problem

    The account of Sennacherib’s invasion(s) is recorded in 2 Kings 18:13-19:35. A similar account is found in Isaiah 36-37, with the exception of three verses which have been omitted (2 Kings 18:14-16). An abbreviated version is found in 2 Chronicles 32:1-22.

    In an attempt to harmonize the Biblical sources with themselves, as well as with extra-Biblical sources, various reconstructions have been proposed. Leo Honor, in his dissertation on this subject, has pointed out six different reconstructions proposed by various scholars to understand these accounts (1966: xiii-xiv). Basically there are two major theories each with variations.

    The “Two-Campaign” reconstruction suggests that there were two separate invasions by Sennacherib, the first in 701 BC and corresponding to Sennacherib’s third campaign listed in his annals, and the second campaign sometime between 690 and 686 BC. The first campaign, recorded in 2 Kings 18:13-16, resulted in an Assyrian victory with Hezekiah submitting to Assyrian sovereignty and paying tribute to them. The second campaign, recorded in 2 Kings 18:17ff., and the parallel accounts, resulted in an unexpected Assyrian setback with Jerusalem being delivered.

    The “One-Campaign” reconstruction places all the events recorded in the historical narratives in the year 701 BC. The variations within this view range from the campaign being a complete success for Assyria to success in the beginning and defeat at the end.

    The Purpose of this Thesis

    The primary purpose of this thesis is to reexamine the two major reconstructions. In so doing, Honor’s lament will be reconfirmed. “… that such an analysis will indicate the impossibility, in our present state of knowledge, of coming to an definitive conclusions in regards to the reconstruction of the events we are considering, and that all our conclusions must remain hypothetical in character until some new evidence will come to light, which will settle some moot question once for all” (1966: xiv; Italics Honor’s).

    Brevard Childs concludes his monograph Isaiah and the Assyrian Crisis by stating that “the historical problems have not been solved” (1967: 120). He then goes on to declare, “In terms of the specific historical problem of 701, it seems unlikely that a satisfactory historical solution will be forthcoming without fresh extra-biblical evidence” (1967: 120). It is always an archaeologist’s dream to uncover written inscriptions. Realistically, however, such discoveries are few and far between. The solution lies, not in waiting for that rare discovery, but in a re-analysis of the sources and evidence which we do possess.

    It is the author’s presupposition that the Biblical text should be taken as reliable historical documents. When there is a discrepancy between the Biblical text and the extra-Biblical texts, the Biblical text should not be interpreted in light of the extra-Biblical text, but rather, taken at face value. The extra-Biblical texts should also be taken at face value, except where it is obvious that the author is exaggerating. Emendations not supported by ancient witnesses should be avoided and all possible avenues should be examined in an attempt to harmonize both the Biblical and extra-Biblical sources.

    The Plan of the Thesis

    Chapter two will deal with the strengths and weaknesses of the “Two-Campaign” reconstruction by closely examining some recent arguments set forth by the proponents of this idea. Then attention will be turned to the “One-Campaign” reconstruction in chapter three. Since both reconstructions have serious weaknesses, chapter four will set forth a new proposal. Finally, chapter five will suggest some of the implications of this thesis for Biblical studies.


    by Gordon Franz

    A Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Arts in Old Testament

    Columbia Biblical Seminary and Graduate School of Missions
    Columbia, South Carolina
    May 1967


    Sennacherib’s campaign(s), well attested in Biblical and Assyrian sources, against the Land of Judah during the reign of King Hezekiah has created much debate among Biblical scholars. Was there only one campaign against Judah by Sennacherib, or two? If two, when were they?

    This thesis attempts to develop a chronological sequence for the life of King Hezekiah, and specifically the campaigns of Sennacherib against Judah, based on primary sources, i.e. the Biblical, Assyrian and Egyptian records along with the results from various excavations that have been conducted in Israel in the past half century.

    The standard “One-Campaign” (701 BC) and “Two-Campaign” (701 BC and 688/7 BC) reconstructions are examined and found wanting.

    A re-examination of the Biblical, as well as the extra-Biblical sources was done and a new proposal set forth for the reign of King Hezekiah. It is suggested that he reigned for 29 years, from 727 BC to 698 BC. Sennacherib made two incursions against Judah. The first in the “fourteenth year” (713/12 BC) ended after Hezekiah paid tribute to Sennacherib. Merodach-Baladan II also sent his envoys to Jerusalem during this year to congratulate Hezekiah on his recovery from sickness. The second incursion by Sennacherib (his “third campaign”) in 701 BC included the conquest of Phoenicia, Philistia, and a large portion of Judah. His forces besieging Jerusalem were destroyed by the Angel of the LORD. Egyptian / Ethiopian forces attacked the Assyrians twice. The first attack of the combined forces resulted in an Assyrian victory on the Plains of Eltakah. The result of the second battle, under the command of Tirhakah, is not known.

    The Biblical writers use various literary devices to convey the truths of these historical accounts.
    Isaiah 1-39 is seen as historical and 2-35 appears to be in chronological order.




    The Significance of this Study
    The Introduction to the Problem
    The Purpose of this Thesis
    The Plan of this Thesis


    The History and Proponents of the Theory
    A “Rejoined” Assyrian Text
    Hydraulic Engineering
    The Redated Tirhakah Inscription


    Problems with this Theory

    Order of Events
    The Tribute
    Merodach-Baladan II


    Reconsidering the Data
    The Beginning of the Reign of King Hezekiah
    The “Fourteenth Year”

    Merodach-Baladan II
    The Revolt and Tribute
    The Archaeological Evidence for Two Campaigns
    Shebna and Eliakim

    The Year 701 BC

    The Third Campaign

    The Literary Justification for the Reconstruction

    Isaiah 36 and the 701 BC Campaign
    2 Chronicles 32
    The Babylonian Visit and the Order of Isaiah



    The Challenge of the Thesis
    The Divine Purpose of the Two Campaigns



    In any large undertaking, there are many people to thank. This thesis is no exception. My appreciation and love to all those who worked with, prayer for, and supported me in various ways. However, there are eight people who should be singled out for special recognition.

    First and foremost, my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth A. Franz. Without their constant encouragement and support, this project would never have been completed. I love you.

    The second person is Mr. Cyril Hocking, a Bible teacher from Cardiff, Wales. He introduced me to the chronological problem in the life of King Hezekiah in 1979. Subsequently, his initial ideas and our many talks on the subject laid the foundation for this study. His insights into this period have been a source of inspiration, while his gentle prompting encouraged me to pursue this topic further.

    Two Israeli colleagues deserve special thanks, Professor David Ussishkin and Dr. Gabriel Barkay. It has been a pleasure working with these two men excavating various sites relating to the life of King Hezekiah. Dr. Ussishkin, the director of the Lachish Excavation, gave me a sense of excitement for the last half of the 8th century BC as we grappled with the issue of the destruction of Level III at the site (attributed to Sennacherib), as well as unearthed the Assyrian siege ramp.

    Dr. Barkay has instilled a love for Biblical Jerusalem and the people who live in that city. It has been a pleasure working with him on various sites in and around Jerusalem which relate to this period. First, the burial caves at the “Shoulder of Hinnom” as well as other burial caves around the city. Second, the tumulus in the western part of Jerusalem where probably a memorial service in honor of King Hezekiah was conducted after his death (2 Chron. 32:35). And finally, the palace of King Hezekiah at Ramat Rachel. These invaluable experiences have created a sense of reaching out and touching Biblical history and people, especially King Hezekiah. I almost feel like I know him!

    Dr. Bill Shea, of the Biblical Research Institute, deserves special thanks for all his help with my research on this problem. While we disagree in our conclusions, he has been gracious in providing me with those “hard-to-get” articles, as well as his valuable time for discussing my ideas and reading my rough draft.

    My two advisors, Dr. Alex Luc and Dr. Paul Fowler, for their prompting, encouragement, fellowship, and role-model. Thanks.

    Special thanks goes to the Princeton Theological Seminary library for allowing me to use their facilities. It was great to be able to go to one library and find most of what I needed, as well as a 4-cents-a-page copy machine!


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