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Sennacherib was the king of the Assyrian empire (705-681 BC). His reign was tested several times by revolts -- each of which was brought down. Then in 701 BC an Egyptian-backed rebellion broke out in Judah and was led by Hezekiah. Sennacherib was able to sack many cites in Judah, however he was not able to take its capital -- Jerusalem. This famous event was recorded by both Sennacherib himself, and by several biblical writers.

Following is a summary of Sennacherib's account (recorded in Sennacherib's Prism) and then we will turn our attention to Isaiah 36 and 37 which records the events according to the Biblical Isaiah.

Sennacherib's Account

Sennacherib first recounts several of his previous victories and how his enemies had become overwhelmed by his mere presence. He was able to do this to the cities of Great Sidon, Little Sidon, Bit-Zitti, Zaribtu, Mahalliba, Ushu, Akzib and Akko. After taking these cities, Sennacherib installed a puppet leader named Ethbaal as ruler over the vanquished cities. Sennacherib then turned his attention to Beth-Dagon, Joppa, Banai-Barqa, and Azjuru which were cities that were ruled by Sidqia. These cites too were conquerored and looted.

Egypt and Nubia then came to the aid of the stricken cities and joined the battle. Sennacherib then defeated the Egyptians and according to his own account, he single-handedly captured the Egyptian and Nubian charioteers. Sennacherib then went about caturing and sacking several other cities, including Lachish. He then set about punishing the criminal citizens of the cities and he reinstalled Padi their leader, who had been held as a hostage in Jerusalem.

After this, Sennacherib turned to Hezekiah, who stubbornly refused to submit to Sennacherib. Forty-six of Hezekiah's cities were conquered by Sennacherib but Jerusalem did not fall.

Isaiah's Account

Isaiah's account of Sennacherib's siege of Jerusalem is rather long. It starts with the obvious, about Sennacherib's march against the cities of Judah and simply states that Sennacherib takes them. Isaiah then recounts how Hezekiah prayed to the God of Israel to save Jerusalem. His account then ended in the way in which the God of Israel defeats Sennacherib's army: many of Sennacherib's troops are simply killed in their sleep.

Detailed Analysis

Sennacherib Sin (the god) sends many brothers, son of Sargon, whom he succeeded on the throne of Assyria (705 BC). His first act was to break up the powerful combination of princes who were in league against him, among whom was Hezekiah, who had entered into an alliance with Egypt. Sennacherib accordingly led a very powerful army (reportedly 200,000 men in size) into Judah, and devastated the land on every side, taking and destroying many cities (2 Kings 18:13-16; compare Isaiah 22, 24, 29, and 2 Chronicles 32:1-8). His own account of this invasion, as given in the Assyrian annals, is as follows:

Because Hezekiah, king of Judah, would not submit to my yoke, I came up against him, and by force of arms and by the might of my power I took forty-six of his strong fenced cities; and of the smaller towns which were scattered about, I took and plundered a countless number. From these places I took and carried off 200,156 persons, old and young, male and female, together with horses and mules, asses and camels, oxen and sheep, a countless multitude; and Hezekiah himself I shut up in Jerusalem, his capital city, like a bird in a cage, building towers round the city to hem him in, and raising banks of earth against the gates, so as to prevent escape...Then upon Hezekiah there fell the fear of the power of my arms, and he sent out to me the chiefs and the elders of Jerusalem with 30 talents of gold and 800 talents of silver, and divers treasures, a rich and immense booty...All these things were brought to me at Nineveh, the seat of my government."

(See Isa. 22:1-13 for a description of the feelings of the inhabitants of Jerusalem at such a crisis.)

Hezekiah was not disposed to become an Assyrian vassal. He accordingly at once sought help from Egypt (2 Kings 18:20-24). Sennacherib, hearing of this, marched a second time into Palestine (2 Kings 18:17, 37; 19; 2 Chr. 32:9-23; Isa. 36:2-22. Isa. 37:25 should be rendered "dried up all the Nile-arms of Matsor," i.e., of Egypt, so called from the "Matsor" or great fortification across the isthmus of Suez, which protected it from invasions from the east). Sennacherib sent envoys to try to persuade Hezekiah to surrender, but in vain. He next sent a threatening letter (2 Kings 19:10-14), which Hezekiah carried into the temple and spread before the Lord. Isaiah again brought an encouraging message to the pious king (2 Kings 19:20-34). "In that night" the angel of the Lord went forth and smote the camp of the Assyrians. In the morning, "behold, they were all dead corpses." The Assyrian army was annihilated.

There is no mention of this great disaster in the Assyrian annals.

Sennacherib did not campaign again against Jerusalem. He was murdered by two of his own sons (Adrammelech and Sharezer), and was succeeded by another son, Esarhaddon (681 BC), after a reign of twenty-four years.

See: Rabshakeh - Sennacherib's cupbearer

Initial text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897 -- Please update as needed