Full Text for Political Contacts of the Hebrews with Assyria and Babylonia, part 1 (Text)
MAGAZIN FUER Ev.-LuTH. HOMILETIK
THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY-THEOLOGICAL MONTHLY
Vol. VII June, 1936 No.6
The Principles and Teachings of the Dialectical Theology.
Th. Engelder • . • •• 401
Die Gewissheit des christlichen Theologen. P. E. Kretzmann 411
Political Contacts of the Hebrews with Assyria and Baby-
lonia. Alex. Heidel. . . . . . • . . • . • • • • • • . • . • • • • • • • . • . • •• 418
Eine Gnadenzeit nach dem Tode, die Vernichtung aller
Gottlosen und andere Irrlehren. J. H. C. Fritz ••••••••• 436
Der Schriftgrund fuer die Lehre von der satisfactio vicaria.
P. E. Kretzmann • •. 445
Dispositionen ueber die erste von der Synodalkonferenz
angenommene Evangelienreihe .................... 447
Miscellanea ...... '. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 456
Theological Observer. - Kirchlich-Zeitgeschichtliches. . . .. 460
Book Review. - Literatur. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 471
Em Predlger mu" nicht allein u'eidm . f:. I.t hln Ding, das die Leutp m¥hr
21) A. T. Olmstead, History of AS8yda, pp.206--220.
Political Contacts of Hebrews with Assyria and Babylonia. 431
'son Sennacherib ('705-681). Bruno Meissner, the great German
Assyriologist, characterizes Sennacherib in the following terms:
"Sanhe'l'ib ist in jeder Bezieh1lng eine ungewoehnliche Natur. Er war
,ein aeusserst begabter JJ;Iann, der fuer Sport, Kunst und Wissen-
,schaft, besonders die Technilc, begeistert war>' aber alle diese Vor-
zuege wu.rden aufgehoben dU1'ch seine eigenwiZlige> iaehzornige Ge-
muetsart, die, unbelcuemmert um die Moeglichlceit der Attsfuehrung
,eines V orsatzes, auf win bestimmtc8 Ziel lossteuerte. Darum ist er
gerade das Gegenteil eines guten Staatsmannes gewesen." 22)
The news that an Assyrian king had fallen on the field of battle
lilled the subject states with new hope and soon brought about another
upnsmg. In reliance upon Egypt, which constantly fomented dis-
'content and revolt among the Syro-Palestinians in order, if possible,
to create a fringe of buffer states between her and the Assyrians,
Hezekiah openly defied Assyria in spite of the threats of Isaiah,
'levied an army, introduced mercenary Arabs into Jerusalem, and
renewed the alliance with Tyre, whose king was now the dominant
personality in Southern Phenicia. Under the leadership of Tyre,
Phenicia forgot commercial expediency and revolted in spite of the
fact that throughout their entire history the Phenicians willingly
accepted a nominal foreign rule, provided it was not too expensive
and provided it opened to them wider fields of trade. The Cappa-
docian province, so laboriously formed by Sargon, slipped away
almost unnoticed. The defeat of the king of Urartu had laid open
the northern and eastern frontiers to the invasion of the Cimmerians.
Elam and Babylonia began negotiations to wage war on Assyria;
and much of Assyria proper was infested by Aramean tribes.
Of all of these countries, Babylonia presented the most pressing
danger. In '703 the Babylonians set up as their king a certain
Mardukzakirshum. However, he had hardly occupied the throne
when the forceful Merodach-Baladan reappeared on the scene. Upon
the death of Shalmaneser V, Merodach-Baladan had been able to
secure for himself the throne of Babylon; but after having enjoyed
royal authority and dignity for twelve years, he had been ousted by
Sargon in '709. Then, when Sargon left the land of the living and his
place was taken by SennacheTib, he sent an embassy to the Elamites,
east of the Tigris, who gave him full-hearted support, furnishing
eighty thousand bowmen alone. With the aid of the Elamites he
now reappeared, expelled Jl,rIardukzakirshum, and regained the throne
from which he had been driven by Sargon. He knew quite well that
he would not be permitted to remain in possession of Babylon without
a serious struggle, and he at once began his preparations for the
inevitable conflict with the Assyrian king. Elam was already on
his side; and he now entered upon negotiations with powers yet
22) Bruno Meissner, op. cit., p. 192.
432 Political Oontacts of Hebrews with Assyria and Babylonia.
farther afield. He succeeded in gaining the support of the Arabian
queen Yati'e. An embassy was sent to Hezekiah, king of Judah, to
congratulate him on his recovery from a severe illness. Plainly
enough the real motive was to stir up disaffection against Assyria
and to lay the foundations for a rebellion in the Westland. The
'ambassadors were received most hospitably, Hezekiah "hea,r7cened"
to the Babylonian envoys, and showed them all the resources of his
kingdom. Does that not mean that Hezekiah, too, promised to join
the ranks of the rebels ~ Other nations probably were approached as
well, and it may be that the rebellion which subsequently broke out
in the Westland against Assyria was originally intended to syn-
chronize with Merodach-Baladan's revolt in Babylonia.23)
Isaiah severely reproached Hezekiah, telling him that Jehovah
was the all-sufficient Strength for Judah and that alliance with
foreign nations would merely tempt Him to wrath. "Hear the words
of Jehovah: Behold, the days will come when all that is in thy house
and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day shall
be carried to Babylon, and thy sons that shall issue from thee, whom
thou shalt beget, shall they take away, and they shall be eunuchs in
the palace of the king of Babylon." (Op. 2 Kings 20 and Is. 39.)
Some scholars have placed the embassy of Merodach-Baladan in
Sargon's reign. But the great objection to that is the fact that the
CUTent chronology does not permit Hezekiah to be placed back so far.
Nor does it seem to be in harmony with 2 Kings 20.
For six months Merodach-Baladan was permitted to reign in
peace. But then Sennacherib crushed the Babylonian army and
made Bel-ibni viceroy of Babylonia. In 702 Sennacherib undertook
a raid among tIle Kassites and into Ellipi and pacified the entire
eastern section of his empire. And now he was prepared to meet the
situation in the Westland.
The Lebanon region was the first part of the West to bow in
submission, in 701. Then followed Sidon the Great, Little Sidon,
Zarephath, Acco, and Ushu, under Mount Oarmel. At Ushu there
appeared the kings of Ammon, Moab, and Edom to kiss the royal
feet of Sennacheriband to secure his grace and favor. The march
was resumed, and the Assyrian army passed around Oarmel and down
the Plain of Sharon, and one city after the other was attacked
Judah and Jerusalem were the next objective. When Hezekiah
saw that Sennacherib had come to fight against Jerusalem, he took
counsel with his advisers and decided to stop the waters of the foun-
tains outside of the city and the brook that flowed through the midst
23) Sidney Smith, The Fi"st Campaign of Senna,cherib, pp. 7-12.
R. 'V. Rogers, Cuneiform Parallels to the Old 'l'estament, p. 361.
Political Contacts of Hebrews with .Assyria and Babylonia. 433
of the land, for they said: "Why should the king of Assyria come
and find much water?" The city wall was repaired and strengthened.
Shields and weapons were prepared in abundance. Perhaps it was
at this time that Hezekiah made the pool and constructed the under-
ground aqueduct which brought water into the city, 2 ehron. 32, 1-8;
2 Kings 20, 20.
Sennacherib advanced and laid siege to Lachish. It was a strong
city and offered serious resistance; but it was all of no avail.
Assyrian sculptures show the inhabitants standing on the battlements
and towers and shooting down the men who attempt to raise scaling-
ladders or hurling stones and lighted torches against the wicker
shields and wooden sheds of the Assyrian soldiers, who try to extin-
guish the :fire by pouring water on the sheds with long-handled ladles.
There we see Jewish prisoners impaled alive or flung naked upon the
ground to be flayed alive or have their heads struck off by the sword;
and there we behold his majesty the Assyrian monarch receiving
the spoil, the captive soldiers, and ox-drawn carts with captive women
When Lachish was besieged and Hezekiah realized the serious-
ness of the situation, he took steps to avert the approaching disaster
and sent an embassy to the Assyrian king at Lachish, saying: "I have
offended; return from me. That which thou puttest on me I will
bear," 2 Kings 18, 14. The penalty was speci:fied, and Hezekiah
emptied the treasuries of the Temple and of the king's house and cut
off the gold plate of the door-posts of the Temple and sent thirty
talents of gold and three hundred talents of silver to Sennacherib.
Instead of being satis:fied with this enormous sum of money, Sen-
nacherib aspired to take possession of a city which could pour out
on demand such a mass of gold and silver and sent a detachment of
troops from Lachish to demand full surrender of Jerusalem.
He sent his tartan (turtanu), rabsaris, and rab-shakeh (three
Assyrian officials whose functions have not yet been clearly de:fined)
to Jerusalem, who took up their position by the aqueduct of the
upper pool on the highway passing the fuller's :field; and there they
negotiated with the Judean ambassadors. In effect, the rab-shakeh
told the Jews: "Say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the
king of Assyria: In what dost thou trust? Is not thy strength for
war but useless talk? In whom, then, dost thou trust that thou hast
rebelled against me? Behold, thou trustest in Egypt, this staff of
a shattered reed, which hath pierced the hand of him who leaned
upon it. But if thou sayest, 'It is Jehovah, our God, in whom we
trust,' is not that He whose high places and altars Hezekiah hath
taken away and hath said to Judah and Jerusalem, 'Ye shall worship
24) .A. T. Olmstead, History of Assyria, p. 308.
434 Political Contacts of Hebrews with Assyria and Babylonia.
before this altar in Jerusalem'! Now, therefore, I pray thee, give
pledges to my lord, the king of Assyria, and I will give thee two thou-
sand horses if thou canst place riders upon them. How, then, wilt
thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master's
servants and put thy trust in Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?
In truth, it was by order of Jehovah Himself that I have come up
against this land to destroy it."
Horrified at the claim of Jehovah's approval, the Jewish repre-
sentatives told the rab-shakeh to continue in Aramaic, the diplomatic
language, lest the men crowded on the wall might understand it.
But he at once improved the opportunity 'and said, "Was it to your
master and to you that my lord sent me? No, it was to these very
men on the wall." Then, in a loud voice, he shouted to the men
hanging over the battlements: "Hear the words of the great king,
the king of Assyria: Let not Hezekiah deceive you; for he cannot
deliver you, neither let him tell you that the Lord will deliver you,
so that this city will not fall into the hands of the king. Make
a treaty with me, and every man shall eat of his own vine and fig-
tree and drink the water of his own cistern until I come and take
you away to a land like your own, a land of grain and wine, of
bread and vineyards, a land of oil and honey, that ye may live and
not die. Let not Hezekiah deceive you by saying that the Lord
will deliver you. Hath any of the gods of the other nations delivered
his land from the hands of the Assyrian king? Where are the gods
of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have
they delivered Samaria out of my hands? Which god of all these
nations hath delivered his land out of my hand that your God should
deliver Jerusalem out of my hands?"
The people held their peace and answered the rab-shakeh not
a word, in conformity with Hezekiah's injunctions. But there may
have been many among them to whom a peace treaty made a strong
appeal. With rent garments the Jewish representatives went to the
king, who, in turn, rent his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth,
and entered the Temple in supplication. Eliakim, Shebna, and the
priestly elders were sent to Isaiah, who told Hezekiah not to be afraid.
The rab-shakeh departed and found Sellllacherib at Libnah,
somewhat to the northeast of Lachish. About this time the army
of the Egyptians and Ethiopians under Tirhaka arrived to aid the
Jews and took up their position at Eltekeh. The situation grew
more serious for the Assyrians, and Sennacherib, probably fearing
that Jerusalem, if left alone, might swoop down on him while in
the thick of the battle with Tirhaka, at once wrote a letter to
Hezekiah and sent his rab-shakeh back to Jerusalem. Then the
armies of Tirhaka and of Sennacherib joined battle at Eltekeh. The
commander of the Egyptian chariotry, the sons of the Egyptian
kings, the generals in charge of the Ethiopian chariots, all were
Political Contacts of Hebrews with .Assyria and Babylonia. 435
taken alive, and the cities Eltekeh and Timnah fell into the hands of
the Assyrians. Ekron, one of the five Philistine cities, was destroyed.
Hezekiah took the blasphemous letter of Sennacherib and spread
it before the Lord and prayed. Thereupon Isaiah sent to the king
of Judah with a wonderful promise of deliverance. (Op. Is. 36 f.;
2 Kings 18,17-37; 19; 2 OhI·on. 32, 9-20.)
This deliverance came through the angel of the Lord, who went
forth and smote in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and
eighty-five thousand men. And when they arose early in the morning,
behold, they were all dead corpses. Sennacherib's own record natu-
rally makes no mention of a disaster to his own troops in the South-
west. But the Biblical account is supported in a number of ways.
In the first place, we have the testimony of Herodotus. Oenturies
after the destruction of Sennacherib's army the Egyptians told
Herodotus a rather curious story about the disaster the Assyrian
army had met with. Herodotus writes: "The next king, I was told,
was a priest of Vulcan, called Sethos. This monarch despised and
neglected the warrior class of the Egyptians, as though he did not
need their services. Among other indignities which he offered them,
he took from them the lands which they had possessed under all
the previous kings, consisting of twelve acres of choice land for each
warrior. Afterwards, therefore, when Sanacharib, king of the
Arabians and Assyrians, marched his vast army into Egypt, the
warriors one and all refused to come to his aid. On this the monarch,
greatly distressed, entered into the inner sanctuary and, before the
image of the god, bewailed the fate which impended over him. As
he wept, he fell asleep and dreamed that the god came and stood at
his side, bidding him be of good cheer and go boldly forth to meet
the Arabian host, which would do him no hurt, as he himself would
send those who would help him. Sethos -then, relying on the dream,
collected such of the Egyptians as were willing to follow him, who
were none of them warriors, but traders, artisans, and market people,
and with these marched to Pelusium, which commands the entrance
into Egypt, and there pitched his camp. As the two armies lay here
opposite one another, there came in the night a multitude of field-
mice, which devoured all the quivers and bowstrings of the enemy and
ate the thongs by which they managed their shields. Next morning
they commenced their :flight, and great multitudes fell, as they had
no arms with which to defend themselves. There stands to this day
in the temple of Vulcan a stone statue of Sethos, with a mouse in
his hand, and an inscription to this effect: 'Look on me and learn
to reverence the gods.'" 25) The story of the mice seems to point
to a common and well-known pestilence in the Near East, the bubonic
25) Herodotus, II, 141; G. Rawlinson, The History ot Herodotus,
436 (gine @nabett3eit Mel) bem ~obe ufttl.
plague, which under the name of Black Death once swept over Europe
and killed a quarter of the population. Barton says: "In modern
times this plague first attacks rats and mice, which in their suffering
swarm the dwellings of men and spread the disease." 26) It may well
be that the angel of the Lord availed himself of this horrible pesti-
lence to destroy the Assyrian army.
In the second place, Sennacherib subdued the entire coast-line
of the Mediterranean Sea and maintains to have carried off an
enormous amount of booty and levied tribute on the conquered
peoples; yet there is no hint in his records that he ever again visited
this region, although he still reigned for twenty more years. Nor does
the Babylonian Chronicle of this period mention a second expedition
of Sennacherib against the Westland. Some specter seems to have
haunted the memory of the Assyrian monarch and chilled his ambi-
tion to conquer Egypt, which was constantly stirring up revolt among
the peoples of Palestine and Syria. The cuneiform records seem to
imply that there was something rotten in Denmark.
As we pointed out above, Sennacherib does not make mention
of any disaster to his army. On the contrary, he boasts that he
shut Hezekiah up in Jerusalem like a caged bird (which is most
likely true); that he threw up earthworks against him; that to his
former tribute he added a special gift, thirty talents of gold, eight
hundred of silver, precious stones, stibium, lapis lazuli, couches and
seats of ivory, elephant hide and raw ivory, ebony and boxwood,
cloths and chitons of various colors, implements of various metals,
all of which was brought by Hezekiah's ambassadors to Nineveh after
the return of the Assyrian; and that Hezekiah's male and female
musicians also were taken to Nineveh and his women were incorpo-
rated in the Assyrian harem.27)
Oriental Institute, Chicago University. ALEX. HEIDEL.
(To be concluded.)
~ine ~nttben5eit nttdj bem ;to be, bie ~efnidjtung ttnef
~J)ttlofen nnb ttnbere ~fdeijfen.*)
~urdj feine im Eauf bieIer ~afjre erfdjienenen @ldjriften - ~aIii~
ftinabefdjreibungen, ~rebigtbiidjer, (frinnetung£lbiinbe - foroie burdj
feine merbinbung mit bern @l~rifdjen ~aifenfjau£l aU ~etufaIem if!
26) G. Barton, Archeology and the Bible, p. 436 f.
27) D. D. Luckenbill, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 119 ff.
*) !IDa~ foll idj betm madjen mit ~~fu~? ~tebigten bon ~bbent bHl
~fingften. mon D. ~ u b ttl i g (6 eI) n err e t. ~. ®. }!BaUmann, ~eil>3ig. 1935.
420 (6eiten 5X7%. :;Sn ~einen gebunben. ~tei~: M. 5.50. - 'lld elUige &e6et •
.8e~n materunfet"~tebtgten. mon D. ~ u b ttl t g (6 eI) n e ( ( e t. ~. ®. }!BaUmann,
~eil>3i\J. 1935. 120 (6eiten 5X71/ 2 • :;Sn ~einen gebunben. ~tei~: M.2.80.