Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Lachish Relief

Sennacherib placed a great deal of importance on the siege of Lachish as evidenced by the manner in which he had the Lachish relief constructed in his palace.  Sennacherib was the first of the Assyrian kings to use this method of depth perception in the visual reliefs of important events[1].  The fact that Sennacherib went to the trouble of either inventing this type of visual display or instructing his artisans to improve on the old way signifies that he placed a great deal of importance on the siege of Lachish.  It is possible that with the relative unrest in the world around him at this time that Sennacherib wanted to be sure that all classes of people were able to understand the size and scope of the siege, and that his Assyrian military was not one to be trifled with. 

The relief is a very accurate depiction of the city of Lachish, and was clearly done in great detail so that the city would be easily recognizable[2].  Contrary to previous styles of reliefs, Sennacherib has done away with the horizontal lines.  He has also used a line to mark-out the mountains.  This could have been done in an effort to make Lachish more readily recognisable, as well as so that a more impressive display of the siege could be achieved.  The reasoning for Lachish to be made such a prominent and powerful example by Sennacherib could be due to the city’s importance to Judah[3].   Another feature of the relief is that each group of people depicted is wearing different style clothing.  This could be to help differentiate the people depicted from each other, and also to show which people were involved both on the giving and receiving end of the siege, as Sennacherib’s men are clearly dressed in the Assyrian garb and the men from Lachish are in their traditional dress[4]. 

Further evidence of the actuality of Sennacherib’s campaigns and the rebellion of Hezekiah can be found both in the archaeology and in the Biblical accounts.  In Isaiah 36:1-2 it states that “…in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, that Sennacherib, king of Assyria came up against all the defenced cities of Judah, and took them.  And the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem…”[5].  Here there is not only reference to Sennacherib waging war, but also specifically on Lachish.  This is also recorded in 2 Kings 18:13-17 and 2 Chronicles 32.  These chapters and the ones surrounding them also dictate Hezekiah and his refusal to pay a tribute to Sennacherib.  Only after Sennacherib invaded Judah and took Lachish did Hezekiah decide to pay the tribute[6].  This tribute raises another question which Edelman discusses quite in-depth and thoroughly; what was the full amount of tribute paid by Hezekiah?[7]  There are differing amounts between the Assyrian record and the account given in Isaiah, with the Biblical account once again showing the least amount paid, and therefore the best outcome for Hezekiah. 

These biblical accounts overlap mostly with Sennacherib’s relief, with a little deviation in storyline and timeline, which is to be expected when coming from not only a different source, but a different side of the same event.  Between the accounts in Isaiah, 2 Kings, and 2 Chronicles, there is a difference in the story of Hezekiah paying tribute.  This is only mentioned in the account from 2 Kings, although in Isaiah 36 it could be alluded to.  This can be accounted for by the fact that these accounts were all recorded by different people who were either present at the event, hearing about the event second- or third-hand, or possibly even trying to depict the best possible view of Hezekiah in their opinion. 


Edelman, D.  (2000).  ‘What If We Had No Accounts Of Sennacherib’s Third Campaign Or The Palace Reliefs Depicting His Capture Of Lanchish?’  Biblical Interpretation, 8, ½, pp. 88-103. 

Holy Bible, The.  King James Version.  (1989).  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Salt Lake City, UT.

Russell, J.  (1993).  ‘Sennacherib’s Lachish Narratives’.  Narrative and Event in Ancient Art.  Cambridge University Press.  pp.  55-73. 

Ussishkin, D.  (1982).  The Conquest of Lachish by Sennacherib.  Tel Aviv University.  pp.  24-30, 77, 127, 130. 

[1] Russell, Sennacherib’s Lachish Narratives, p. 60-62
[2] Ibid, p. 64-65
[3] Ussishkin, The Conquest of Lachish, p. 130B
[4] Ibid, p. 130A
[5] Isaiah 36:1-2
[6] 2 Kings 18:14-16
[7] Edelman, Sennacherib’s Third Campaign, p. 92

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