Archaeology Confirms King Hezekiah's War Against Idolatry
Sennacherib's invasion — and his conquest of Tel Lachish in particular — is well known from the archaeological record as well as the Bible. The Assyrian king's victory over the city in 701 B.C. appears in the wall reliefs in Sennacherib's palace in Nineveh.
King Hezekiah reigned between 715 and 687 B.C., and his reign is recorded in 2 Kings 18-20, Isaiah 36-39, and 2 Chronicles 29-32. He reigned during the period of Israel's history known as the "divided kingdom." After the death of Solomon, son of the famous King David, Solomon's son Rehoboam alienated ten of the twelve tribes of Israel, who formed their own country, the northern kingdom of Israel under King Jeroboam around 930 B.C. The original kingdom under Rehoboam became known as the southern kingdom of Judah.
Both kingdoms persisted until around 720 B.C., when the Assyrian King Sargon II conquered and subdued Israel. Hezekiah witnessed that defeat, which Bible authors ascribe to the sin and idolatry of the northern kingdom. The books of 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles document good and bad kings in both Judah and Israel, and Hezekiah was a pious king who followed his impious father Ahaz.
After Sennacherib conquered Lachish, he besieged the Judaean capital of Jerusalem. The Bible recounts Sennacherib goading Hezekiah, mocking Yahweh and declaring that none of the gods of other countries was able to save their lands from him. Nevertheless, the prophet Isaiah promised that Jerusalem would be saved and Sennacherib would fall.
The Bible records that during the night, an angel of the LORD brought death to 185,000 Assyrian troops. In response, Sennacherib withdrew to Nineveh.
Yahweh saved Hezekiah due to his devotion, so archaeological evidence of that devotion is a wonder to behold.
"The uncovering of these finds joins a long list of discoveries that enlighten us about our historic past, a past that is manifested in our country's soil and in the writings of the Book of Books," Israel's minister of culture and sport, MK (Member of Knesset, the Israeli parliament) Miri Regev, said in the IAA statement.
The Bible — the founding book of the Jewish people, draws the country's boundaries and the heritage of the Jewish people that was exiled from its country and returned to its homeland. It boldly commemorates the way of our forefathers, the prophets, the kings, and the judges, and the Israeli Antiquities Authority deserves praise for this important discovery, a discovery that deepens our connection to our ancestors who walked this land.
"Before our very eyes these new finds become the biblical verses themselves and speak in their voice," declared MK Ze'ev Elkin, minister of Jerusalem and heritage and environmental protection. He declared that his ministry works to make sure "as many Israelis as possible will be exposed to the enthralling experience of ancient stones that speak to us of the Bible in their own unique voice."
This find is indeed significant, and lends further credibility to the biblical narrative of the divided kingdom. Other recent archaeological discoveries have also shed light on this period, especially on King Hezekiah and on texts suggesting the Old Testament is older than previously thought. Another discovery shed light on the Philistines, best known as the people of the giant Goliath.
The discovery at Tel Lachish underscores the biblical theme of God's faithfulness, as Hezekiah's loyalty was rewarded with salvation from the Assyrians. Ultimately, Christians look for salvation in Jesus, and Jews still wait for their coming messiah.