800 - 700 BCE

The Prophet Isaiah and the Confrontation with the Assyrians

After approximately 50 years of attacks by the Assyrians in the 9th Century BCE, there followed a 50-year period of peace.  During this period, Jonah traveled to Nineveh and Jeroboam II became the King of Israel.   Then in 745 BCE, with Tiglath-Pileser’s rise to the throne, the Assyrians began to reassert their military dominance.  Isaiah begins his prophecy at a time when Israel is again facing the threat of Assyrian attacks and conquest.       

Lachish Relief, The British Museum, London
Photo by Ardon Bar-Hama

The Prophet Jonah, c. 760 BCE

The Assyrian city of Nineveh is located in the Kurdish area of  northern Iraq, in the city of Mosul, 200 miles north of Baghdad. 

Jonah 1:1-2
The word of the L-RD came to Jonah son of Amittai:
Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim judgment upon it; for their wickedness has come before Me.

The Bible relates the story of the Prophet Jonah (circa 760 BCE), who received a prophecy from G-d regarding the destruction of Nineveh, should the king and the city refuse to repent.     
Jonah 1:1-2 The word of the L-RD came to Jonah son of Amittai:Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim judgment upon it; for their wickedness has come before Me.  
  
Trying to escape G-d's charge, Jonah boards a ship for Tarshish. G-d casts a mighty storm that almost destroys the ship. Jonah confesses to the sailors that he has brought this misfortune upon them, and if they cast him overboard, the sea will calm down.   “And they heaved Jonah overboard, and the sea stopped raging.” (Jonah 1:15)  
    
There, a big fish swallows Jonah and after Jonah’s repentance, the fish spits him out on the shore. Jonah delivers the prophecy to the King of Nineveh and the city repents.   The Assyrian city of Nineveh is located in modern-day northern Iraq, in the Kurdish city of Mosul.

The Prophet Jonah before the Walls of Nineveh by Rembrandt

Bronze cast of the original jasper seal found in Megiddo in 1904, Israel Museum

King Jeroboam II of Israel,
 r. 786–746 BCE

2 Kings 14:23
“In the fifteenth year of King Amaziah son of Joash of Judah, King Jeroboam (II) son of Joash of Israel became king of Samaria – for forty one years.” 

Seal of Shema
Belonging to Shema, Servant of Jeroboam (II) ” 

In this picture is an impression of a seal showing a figure of a roaring lion bearing the Hebrew inscription: (לשמע - עבד ירובם) meaning "Belonging to Shema, servant of Jeroboam". It refers to Jeroboam II, King of Israel who ruled from 786–746 BCE.   

  2 Kings 14:23 “In the fifteenth year of King Amaziah son of Joash of Judah, King Jeroboam (II) son of Joash of Israel became king of Samaria – for forty-one years.”    

The original jasper seal was found in the 1904 excavations at Megiddo. The seal itself was lost en route to the Istanbul Museum, but fortunately, this impression cast in bronze had been made prior to its shipment.

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The Seal Impression of Isaiah
c. 745-686 BCE

Isaiah 1:1
The prophecies of Isaiah son of Amoz, who prophesied concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

Found in 2015 by Eilat Mazar and the Ophel Excavations at the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount, the seal impression is inscribed with the name “Yesha‘yah[u],” Hebrew for “Isaiah,” followed by the word “nvy.” Part of the seal is broken off, but “nvy” might be an incomplete word that was once followed by the Hebrew letter aleph. If so, the seal would spell out the Hebrew word for prophet. 

The Seal of Isaiah the Prophet circa 745-686 BCE  

In this picture is a clay seal impression or bulla, that was found in 2015 by archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar during the Ophel Excavations at the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount. The seal is inscribed with the name “Yesha‘yah[u],” Hebrew for “Isaiah,” followed by the letters nun-bet-yud. Part of the seal is broken off, but these three letters might be an incomplete word that was once followed by the Hebrew letter aleph. If so, the seal would spell out [נביא] the Hebrew word for prophet. 

Israel Museum, Jerusalem / Israel Antiquities Authority 
Photo by Ouria Tadmor / Eilat Mazar

Пророк Исаия и цари Ассирии 

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The Digital Dead Sea Scrolls, ​Israel Museum and Google ​Photography by Ardon Bar-Hama, Courtesy of George Blumenthal 

Relief from the palace of Tiglath-Pileser III (Pul)

A panel from the palace of Tiglath-pileser III depicts Israelite captives from Astartu, as identified in the inscription, which was a fortified town in northern Galilee (East of the Sea of Galilee).  

In this photo by Ardon Bar-Hama is a section of the relief from the palace of Tiglath-pileser III at Nimrud, currently on display in the British Museum, depicting Israelite captives from Astartu, as identified in the inscription, which was a fortified town in northern Galilee. ​ 

The British Museum, London, Photo by Ardon Bar-Hama

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The captured Israelites were taken to Nimrud, the Capital City of Sargon of Assyria circa 720 BCE   An 8th Century BCE ostracon found at Nimrud contains Biblical Hebrew names written in Aramaic.  

 In conventional English, these names are: Michael, Menahem, Elisha, Hanan, Shubael, Uzziah,  Hazael, Haggai, Achbor and Hananeel.

W. F. Albright

King Hezekiah Builds the Siloam Tunnel to Protect Jerusalem’s Water Supply from the Assyrians 

2 Chronicles 32:30
“It was Hezekiah who blocked the upper outlet of the Spring of Gihon and channeled it down to the west side of the City of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all that he did.” 

City of David Megalim Institute, Courtesy of George Blumenthal and the Gol Family

2 Chronicles 32:30 “It was Hezekiah who blocked the upper outlet of the Spring of Gihon and channeled it down to the west side of the City of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all that he did.”

Watch the video by the Megalim Institute on the construction of the legendary Hezekiah’s tunnel, courtesy of George Blumenthal and the Gol Family

2 Kings 20:20
The other events of Hezekiah’s reign, and all his exploits, and how he made the pool and the conduit and brought the water into the city, are recorded in the Annals of the Kings of Judah. 

2 Kings 20:20 
The other events of Hezekiah’s reign and all his exploits, and how he made the pool and the conduit and brought the water into the city, are recorded in the Annals of the Kings of Judah.

In this picture, you can see the cross-section of the City of David showing the path of the tunnel running underneath the city.

Tower of David Museum, Jerusalem

The Siloam Tunnel Inscription From 

Hezekiah's Tunnel, 

The Oldest Hebrew Text, 701 BCE

“The tunneling was completed... While the hewers wielded the ax, each man toward his fellow... there was heard a man's voice calling to his fellow... the hewers hacked each toward the other, ax against ax, and the water flowed from the  (Gihon)  spring to the  (Siloam)  pool, a distance of 1,200 cubits...” 

 

Replica of the Shiloah Inscription, Photo by Zev Radovan, City of David Archives
Original inscription is at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum

Pictured here is a replica of the Siloam Tunnel Inscription from Hezekiah's Tunnel, the Oldest Hebrew Text dating back to 701 BCE.  The inscription describes the digging of the tunnel by two crews of workmen working from opposite ends to meet in the middle.  It was discovered carved into the tunnel wall in 1880 by boys playing near the southern end of the tunnel.    Although it was naturally carved into the tunnel wall, thieves chiseled it out of the wall, breaking it into pieces. The original inscription is currently on display at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.

  The Inscription reads: “The tunneling was completed... While the hewers wielded the ax, each man toward his fellow... there was heard a man's voice calling to his fellow... the hewers hacked each toward the other, ax against ax, and the water flowed from the  (Gihon)  spring to the  (Siloam)  pool, a distance of 1,200 cubits...” 

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King Sennacherib of Assyria Attacks the City of Lachish, 701 BCE

2 Chronicles 32:9
Later, as Sennacherib king of Assyria and all his forces besieged Lachish, he sent his servants to Jerusalem with a message for King Hezekiah of Judah and all the people of Judah who were in Jerusalem.

Inscription from Sennacherib’s Palace at Nineveh
“Sennacherib, king of the universe, king of Assyria, seated upon a sedan chair, the spoils of Lachish passed before him.” 

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The central battle in Sennacherib’s campaign against Judah was at Lachish in 701 BCE.  Lachish was an important fortress city, located 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem.  

Amazingly, Sennacherib recreated in great detail scenes from the merciless battle on reliefs that adorned the walls of his “Palace without Rival” in Nineveh.  The Lachish Reliefs are currently on display in the British Museum in London.   Part of the inscription from Sennacherib’s Palace at Nineveh reads:
Sennacherib, king of the universe, king of Assyria, seated upon a sedan chair, the spoils of Lachish passed before him.”    

2 Chronicles 32:9 Later, as Sennacherib king of Assyria and all his forces besieged Lachish, he sent his servants to Jerusalem with a message for King Hezekiah of Judah and all the people of Judah who were in Jerusalem.

The British Museum, London
Photo by Ardon Bar-Hama

The Lachish Reliefs Depict the Battle of Lachish and the Deportation of Israelites in 701 BCE

City of David Megalim Institute, Courtesy of George Blumenthal and the Gol Family

Learn more about the Battle of Lachish in this Megallim Institute video, courtesy of George Blumenthal and the Gol  Family. 

Judeans from Lachish Are Exiled to Assyria

In this panel of the Lachish Reliefs, Judean priso​ners are depicted taking their families, goods, and animals with them into exile. 

Lachish Relief,  The British Museum, London, Photo by Ardon Bar-Hama

Recreation of Lachish Reliefs in Sennacherib’s Palace in Nineveh

Institute for the Visualization of History, Courtesy of George Blumenthal 

This video, created by the Institute for the Visualization of History courtesy of George Blumenthal, recreates Sannecherib’s palace in Nineveh, envisioning what it was like to walk through the palace to the Lachish Battle Room. 

King Sennacherib at Lachish sends Rabshakeh to Jerusalem, c. 701 BCE

Isaiah 36:2-16
F rom Lachish, the king of Assyria sent the Rabshakeh, with a large force, to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem.

And the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in Judean: “Hear the words of the Great King, the king of Assyria! ...

Don’t listen to Hezekiah. For thus said the king of Assyria: Make your peace with me and come out to me, so that you may all eat from your vines and your fig trees and drink water from your cisterns..."

King Sennacherib at Lachish sends Rabshakeh, a Jewish deserter who knew Hebrew, to Jerusalem in 701 BCE, to start a psychological intimidation campaign, mocking the Judeans’ trust in their G-d and king.   

Isaiah 36:2-16 From Lachish, the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh, with a large force, to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. And Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in Judean: “Hear the words of the Great King, the king of Assyria! ... Don’t listen to Hezekiah. For thus said the king of Assyria: Make your peace with me and come out to me, so that you may all eat from your vines and your fig trees and drink water from your cisterns..."

Sling Stones from the Battle of Lachish
Israel Antiquities Authority / Israel Museum, Photo by Neta Dror

King Hezekiah and Sennacherib

Isaiah 36:6
You are relying on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which enters and punctures the palm of anyone who leans on it. That’s what Pharaoh king of Egypt is like to all who rely on him.

Sennacherib's Prism 
He (Hezekiah) called upon the kings of Egypt. The bowmen, the chariots and the calvary of the King of Ethiopia...  I fought with them and inflicted a defeat upon them... I personally captured alive the charioteers of the King of Ethiopia.  

View Verse in 
the Great Isaiah scroll

Israel Antiquities Authority / Israel Museum
Photo by Ardon Bar-Hama

Sennacherib used different ways to chronicle his war campaigns. The final versions were three prisms made of red baked clay and hexagonal in shape inscribed in Akkadian script.   In the picture is the Jerusalem Prism, which was dedicated to his campaigns against the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah.   

One of the sections reads as follows: He (Hezekiah) called upon the kings of Egypt. The bowmen, the chariots, and the cavalry of the King of Ethiopia...  I fought with them and inflicted a defeat upon them... I personally captured alive the charioteers of the King of Ethiopia.  

  This inscription confirms Isaiah’s account in 36:6 of Rabshake’s intimidating speech during the besiegement:   You are relying on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which enters and punctures the palm of anyone who leans on it. That’s what Pharaoh king of Egypt is like to all who rely on him.

King Sennacherib Withdraws from Jerusalem

2 Kings 19:35-36
That night an angel of the L-RD went out and struck down one hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp, and the following morning they were all dead corpses.  So King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and retreated, and stayed in Nineveh. 

Sennacherib’s Palace Relief, The British Museum, London
Photo by Ardon Bar-Hama 

As Sennacharib’s army reached Jerusalem, Hezekiah turned to G-d in prayer. The Prophet Isaiah returns with G-d's response.   

Isaiah 37:33-35 Therefore, thus says the L-RD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come unto this city, nor shoot an arrow there, neither shall he come before it with shield, nor cast a mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and he shall not come unto this city, saith the L-RD. For I will defend this city to save it, for My own sake, and for the sake of David, my servant.'   In a strange turn of events, the Assyrian camp was hit by a divine plague.  

  2 Kings 19:35-36 That night an angel of the L-RD went out and struck down one hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp, and the following morning they were all dead corpses.  So, King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and retreated, and stayed in Nineveh.

The Tomb of Shebna, the Royal Steward

Isaiah 22:15-16
Thus says the L-RD G-D of hosts, "Come, go to this steward,
To Shebna, who is in charge of the royal household…
You have hewn a tomb for yourself here,
You who hew a tomb on the height,
You who carve a resting place for yourself in the rock?"

In this picture is the Tomb marker presumed to belong to Shebna, the Royal Steward.   In Isaiah 22:15-16, the royal steward Shebna, appointed by King Hezekiah, is admonished for building himself too grandiose a tomb.    
Thus says the L-rd G-D of hosts, "Come, go to this steward, 
To Shebna, who is in charge of the royal household…You have hewn a tomb for yourself here, You who hew a tomb on the height,You who carve a resting place for yourself in the rock?"

The British Museum, London, Photo by Ardon Bar-Hama

Visualizing Isaiah:  The Book of Isaiah Envisioned through Archaeology from the Israel Museum

Archaeology has played a pivotal role in bringing the Book of Isaiah to life. Not only through the discovery of the ancient Great Isaiah Scroll in Qumran, but also through countless artifacts that are connected to its narrative.   Click on the link below to see the Book of Isaiah Envisioned through Archaeology from the Israel Museum.

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לְאַחַר שֶׁשָּׁאוּל הַמֶּלֶךְ וּבְנוֹ יְהוֹנָתָן מֵתִים בַּקְּרָב, פּוֹנִים רָאשֵׁי הַשְּׁבָטִים לְדָוִד, שֶׁמָּלַךְ כְּבָר שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים וָחֵצִי בְּחֶבְרוֹן. הֵם מְמַנִּים אוֹתוֹ לְמֶלֶךְ עַל הַקּוֹנְפֵדֵרַצְיָה הַשִּׁבְטִית הַמְּאֻחֶדֶת שֶׁל יִשְׂרָאֵל.     

דָּוִד הַמֶּלֶךְ פּוֹנֶה מִיָּד לְכִוּוּן יְרוּשָׁלַיִם, אַחַת הֶעָרִים הָאַחֲרוֹנוֹת שֶׁטֶּרֶם נִכְבְּשָׁה בְּמַהֲלַךְ כִּבּוּשׁ הָאָרֶץ בִּידֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.   דָּוִד בּוֹחֵר בִּירוּשָׁלַיִם מֵאַרְבַּע סִבּוֹת עִקָּרִיּוֹת: מַיִם, בִּטָּחוֹן, אִחוּד וְשִׁלְטוֹן קַרְקָעִי נֵיטְרָלִי, אַךְ חָשׁוּב מֵהַכֹּל, בִּגְלַל הַקְּדוֹשָׁה שֶׁל יְרוּשָׁלַיִם הַטְּבוּעָה בַּמָּקוֹם הַנִּבְחָר, שֶׁבּוֹ יִבָּנֶה בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ הָעֲתִידִי.     

לְפָנֶיךָ סִרְטוֹן הַמְּסַפֵּר אֶת הַסִּבּוֹת שֶׁל דָּוִד בְּכִבּוּשׁ הָעִיר.