The Later Campaigns
In the last century scholars became aware that there were
two invasions of Palestine by Sennacherib and that it is possible to discern
in the scriptural record an early and a late campaign against Hezekiah.(1)
The first campaign to Palestine took place about -701. The second campaign
is dated by modern historians to -687 or -686.(2)
The annals of Sennacherib record only eight campaigns.
The second march into Palestine, which ended disastrously and which probably
was his last military undertaking, was not recorded by the Assyrian king,
who had no intention of preserving for posterity the story of his reverses.
The last two campaigns memorialized by Sennacherib on the
eight-faced Taylor Prism were against Elam. Elam, occupying roughly the
territory of modern Iran, was already the goal of earlier Assyrian kings,
Sargon II, father of Sennacherib among them. During the seventh campaign
Sennacherib succeeded to invade only a marginal part of the country; he
recorded reducing to ashes thirty-four strong cities together with their
countless surrounding towns. I besieged, I conquered,
I despoiled, I destroyed, I devastated, I burned with fire; with the smoke
of their conflagration I covered the wide heavens like a hurricane.
But extreme cold and heavy storms with rain
upon rain and snow set in. I was afraid of the swollen mountain
streams; the front of my yoke I turned and took the road to Nineveh.
But before long Sennacherib returned to Elam to continue
the orgy of destruction. To the king and people of Elam went an alarm
from the people of Babylon, who still warred for independence, asking
for aid. Without delay Sennacherib set out on his eighth campaign: My
great battle chariot . . . I hurriedly mounted. Defeating the Elamites
I cut their throats like lambs . . . My prancing steeds,
harnessed for my riding, plunged into the streams of their blood. .
. . The wheels of my war chariot . . . were bespattered with blood and
filth. . . . Their testicles I cut off and tore out their privates .
. . their hands I cut off . . .
Next Sennacherib turned towards Elams allies, the Babylonians, and
brought them to a panicky flight: They held back their urine, but
let their dung go into their chariots and in hot pursuit 150,000
of their warriors I cut down with the sword.
After this feast of carnage Sennacherib again, as before
the campaign against Elam, seized the mighty bow which Assur had
given me . . . in my hands; the javelin I grasped and faced to road
The first to realize that there were two Palestinian
campaigns by Sennacherib was Henry Rawlinson. While some scholars
continued to maintain a one-campaign hypothesis, recent studies by
Albright (Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research
no. 141, Feb. 1956, pp. 23-26) and John Bright, (A History
of Israel [Philadelphia, 1962], Excursus I, The
Problem of Sennacheribs Campaigns to Palestine, pp.
296-308) support the view that there were indeed two campaigns. Brights
conclusion is that a two-campaign theory seems at present to
satisfy the evidence best. He suggests a date ca. -688 for the
second (unrecorded) campaign of Sennacherib.
H. R. Hall, The Ancient History of the Near
East (New York, 1913), pp. 490f.; D. N. Freedman, The Chronology
of Israel and the Ancient Near East, Essays in honor of William
Foxwell Albright (New York, 1961); Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious
Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (Chicago, 1951), p. 156.
Luckenbill, Records of Assyria II. 260.