Erich Lessing

The siege of Lachish. Assyrian soldiers attack the walled city of Lachish in this seventh-century B.C.E. relief from the walls of Sennacherib’s palace in Nineveh. The assault pictured here was not included in the stories of the Judahite battles described in Sennacherib’s annals, a cuneiform account of his military campaigns, but the clash against Jerusalem was. The attack described in the annals can be dated to 701 B.C.E. The Bible recounts the Assyrian assault; yet the Biblical text seems to tell two stories, one of Jerusalem’s surrender to Assyria and the other of a miraculous deliverance of the city. Some scholars believe this indicates two separate attacks on Judah, in 701 B.C.E. and 688 B.C.E.; Mordechai Cogan, author of the accompanying article, counters that the Biblical accounts were written by different authors at different times. The second story, he claims, was simply an embellishment by a faithful writer who believed that Jerusalem was saved by God’s hand.