There are few accounts that take place within the Bible that can be cross-referenced by other ancient cultures in such a way such as the Battle of Lachish. In the early 8th century BC Assyria with its king, Sennacherib, campaigned throughout the Levant (that ancient land strip from modern day Lebanon and Syria south all the way to Gaza and Sinai) on a mission to expand his empire and while collecting tribute.
These events are well recorded in Sennacherib's annuls and in wall reliefs at his palace in Nineveh. For those that are familiar with their Old Testament Bible, they should recognize the name Sennacherib and Lachish in passages such as 2 Chronicles 32:9 and Isaiah 36:1-2. However, the event spoken of in the text and what is represented in reliefs and in the famous "Sennacherib Prism" speak of the same event, but it plays out much differently.
In the Sennacherib Prism, also known as the Taylor Prism (one of them kept right here in Chicago at the Oriental Institute of Research Museum), reads:
"As for the king of Judah, Hezekiah, who had not submitted to my authority, I besieged and captured forty-six of his fortified cities, along with many smaller towns, taken in battle with my battering rams. ... I took as plunder 200,150 people both small and great, male and female, along with a great number of animals including horses, mules, donkeys, camels, oxen, and sheep. As for Hezekiah, I shut him up like a caged bird in his royal city of Jerusalem. I then constructed a series of fortresses around him, and I did not allow anyone to come out of the city gates. His towns which I captured I gave to the kings of Ashdod, Ekron, and Gaza" (translation provided by Oriental Institute).
It is intriguing how the two stories conflict considering the Biblical Text claims that the Assyrian army was unsuccessful in taking the city of Jerusalem. What is far more interesting is that in Sennacherib's palace wall reliefs, he is depicted taking the city of Lachish in 701 BC. However, there is no relief showing him conquering Jerusalem, which he even admits is "a royal city." Why does he focus on Lachish and not Jerusalem? A colleague from Andrews University, Bruno Barros, writes a publication for ASOR (American Schools of Oriental Research) this month that perhaps Sennacherib focuses on the victory of Lachish because he was perhaps, as the Bible accounts, unsuccessful in his assault on Jerusalem.
Assyria was well known for its "psychological terrorism" by employing fear upon smaller nations, bullying them to pay tribute to their mighty empire. Much of this imagery is depicted of the Assyrian assaults show how brutal they were in warfare and in maintaining their empire. In the reliefs, one can see people impaled on large stakes, which was one of the fear-tactics that made Assyria infamous. Also, what appears to be a siege ramp for their "battering rams" is shown in the relief.
At Tell Lachish in Israel, remains of the Assyrian siege ramp are still present (see above). For a view of the Siege of Lachish, search "Lachish Reliefs" and online you will find pictures taken at British Museum where they are currently held (below). To see the Taylor Prism, do the same or visit the Oriental Institute museum at the University of Chicago, it's a free museum!
Let me know what you think in the comments!
As part of the Persia Symposium back in February of 2018, three students and myself researched topics of interest and presented our research to the university and community. My paper was on Achaemenid Religion and Zoroastrianism.
I remember in my younger undergraduate days, someone out of the blue asked me if I knew that Zoroastrianism was the world oldest Monotheism and in turn, heavily influenced the writers of the Bible. Coincidently, there are quite a few scholars who follow this line of thinking. As I have often questioned, I asked, "where does this tradition/assumption come from?" I discovered that much of what is assumed about this religion is based off of what we know in modern dayZoroastrianism. In my lecture, I explore Archaeological evidence to determine if there is enough data to exhibit that Zoroastrianism was the state religion of the ancient Achaemenid Persian Empire (550-330 BC). I also explore what critical scholarship considers as "influence" upon another religion. I approach the subject logically and come to several conclusions. One of these conclusions is that we know very little about ancient Zoroastrianism, if it was at all practiced in Ancient Persia. What appears to be happening is a problem of propinquity (something being associated within time and space). Critical Scholars whom believe this, impose modern day Zoroastrian theology and themes upon ancient Judaism. Please watch my lecture and let me know what you think in the comments.
Before watching, if you are not familiar with the arguments, let it be known that Critical Scholarship typically places the composition of the Bible during or after the Persian period (550-330 BC). The assumptions of Zoroastrian ideas imposed on the Bible are made by those that believe in a late composition of the text.
Also, let me know if you would like me to upload the full paper or send a pdf to you personally.
Hope you enjoy! Click the button below to watch the lecture.
The following links are to four lectures from students and myself at Andrews University. Every year, the Institute of Archaeology and Siegfried H. Horn Museum have a Scholar's symposium for the students and local community to attend. Last February, 2018, the Horn Lectureship Series had the "Persia Symposium." We all did research and wrote scholarly papers on a subject of our choice centered around a larger theme of the Persian Empire and its connections to subjects in Archaeology and the Bible (Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and Daniel). These lectures are:
Dorian Alexander: "Fact or Fair Tale? The Historicity of Esther in the Cultural-Historical Context of Ancient Persia"
Maksym Gordiienko: "The Decree of Cyrus in the Bible: Historical Document or Jewish National Propaganda?"
Omwocha Nyaribo: "The Persian Magi and the Stars"
Click on the buttons below to view the lectures.
I will post my own lecture on Zoroastrianism and the Hebrew Bible in a post following this one since I can include a basic summary of the lecture. Andrews University owns the rights to these videos and I did not film the lectures myself. Please click the links and enjoy! Let me know what you think of them in comments.
There is an abundance of information available to us. In a world of subjective truth, fake news, and where everyone is entitled to their opinions, how can one find answers to difficult questions or simply find information which pertains to their interests? I attend a local congregation where I often am given the opportunity to teach and I find more and more, people are ill-informed and settle for information that was found in an instant rather than taking the time to process data and information while considering the source. Technology has come a long way and it has benefited us a culture, however post-modernity has given everyone a voice and unfortunately, not every voice is informed on the subject by which they may be discussing. Sadly, the most uninformed are, in some cases, the loudest. This is one reason why I created this site. I want to make it perfectly clear how archaeology is applied within the realm of Biblical Studies.
Originally, archaeology became popular in the late 19th Century until the mid 20th century on account of evangelicals whom walked through the Holy Land with a shovel in one hand and a Bible in the other. Archaeology as a discipline is ever evolving and becoming more scientific with its methodology. Motivations have changed in the discipline and archaeology has melded in with other humanitarian disciplines such as Anthropology. This, however, is not a bad thing. Those within archaeology have developed ways in order to keep themselves and their colleagues accountable, and more importantly, being able to publish discoveries that help mankind preserve its cultural and intellectual heritage. This makes the finds and discoveries more credible to every party, not just religious or ideological groups.
With that said, I will say this, archaeology is not going prove the Bible and it is safer to simply let the Bible be the Bible and let archaeology be archaeology. This blog was created to simply make information available to those that are interested in Biblical studies and archaeology. There are some that believe that the Bible should not be considered to have historical merit because it does not fall in line with the ways in which we ourselves write history. However, who is to say that we are masters of history? Winston Churchill famously quotes that history in this day and age is often "written by the victors." Does this not imply that there is a bias and lens by which all of history is viewed through? Therefore, the writers of the Biblical Text were writing their form of history in the way they knew how. With research, you will find other cultures, propinquitious with those as the culture of Ancient Israel, writing in a very similar literary function. Archaeologist and historians use king's lists/annuls from Egypt and Mesopotamia (also written with content which contained mythology and the supernatural) and correspond these with their political histories with little to no scrutiny, so why cannot the Bible be used in the same manner?
I believe this is enough for my first blog post. I have brought up several topics that I am sure can each be a discussion and further blog posts on their own. I will however keep philosophical discussions to a minimum and post more about new discoveries and archaeology that illuminate the culture and history of the narratives and events of the Bible. Additionally I will also upload any papers, topics of interest and streamed or videoed lectures that come up as I am working on my PhD. Please let me know what you think and we can start a conversation. I do ask that all comments and discussions stay appropriate and respectful. Thank you for visiting my site!