THE IRON AGE II C (722-586 B.C.)
“The Independent State of Judah”
In 722 B.C. the northern kingdom of Israel came to an end with the destruction of Samaria and the deportation of Israelites to the territories in Media controlled by Assyria. The kingdom of Judah survived, thanks in part to the revival and reform by Hezekiah under the spiritual guidance of Isaiah. But the size of the Israelite state of Judah was greatly reduced, and would be reduced even more by Sennacherib to Jerusalem and its surrounding villages. It was hanging on, but by a thread. Never had it been so obvious to the Israelites that their existence was precarious--if they trusted and served the LORD they would be spared, miraculously, but if they rebelled, the enemy was at the door ready to destroy them as well.
The Assyrians and Palestine During Iron Age II C
I. Sargon II (722-705)
720 B.C. A rebellion broke out in 720 in which Samaria again participated (the survivors there under their leaders). Sargon came and devastated Hamath and turned it into an Assyrian province. He also marched as far as Gaza and Raphia, which he destroyed and whose population he exiled.
713 B.C. This time the rebellious groups were led by Ashdod, which had the support of Shabako, founder of the 25th (Ethiopian) Dynasty of Egypt (Isa. 18:20). According to Sargon’s inscription, Judah, Edom, and Moab also participated in the revolt, but they evidently surrendered in the nick of time. The Assyrian blow was mainly levelled at Ashdod, which was then reorganized into an Assyrian province.
712 B.C. The next year Gath, Gibbethon, and Ekron were captured as well as Ashdod and its harbor town, Ashdod-yam (Asdudimmu). Azekah was evidently conquered during the expedition. Its strong position on the Judean border overlooking the Valley of Elah is aptly described in the following text:
“[I returned] a second time, and to the land of Ju[dah . . .]/ . . . /[ . . .] the city of Azaqa, his stronghold which is situated in the mid[st of the mountains . . .]/[. . .] located on a mountain ridge like a pointed dagger [. . .]/[. . . it was made like an eagle’s] nest and rivalled the highest mountains and was inac[cessible . . .]/[. . . even for siege ra]mps and for approaching with battering rams, it was too strong [. . .].
Sargon II eventually fell in battle in 705 B.C. and left the empire to his son, Sennacherib (705/704-681). The new king made his capital at Nineveh; he strongly fortified it and splendidly adorned it with temples and palaces. Sennacherib built a massive wall 40-50 feet high, stretching two and a half miles along the Tigris River and eight miles around the inner city. There were towers on the walls almost a hundred feet high. He also built an aqueduct, the oldest in history, which brought water from 30 miles away. The palace of Sennacherib contained 71 rooms with walls lined with sculptured slabs or bas reliefs. The mound of Kurunjik not only covers this palace, but also the later library of Ashurbanipal. The nearby smaller mound of Nebi Yunus (“prophet Jonah”) got its name from the tradition that the Hebrew prophet was buried beneath the mosque there.
II. Sennacherib (705-681)
Revolts Leading to His Third Campaign. When Sennacherib, the son and successor of Sargon, ascended the throne, revolts broke out in various parts of the Assyrian empire which he only succeeded in finally suppressing after years of warfare.
The arrival in Jerusalem of envoys from Merodach-baladan, King of Babylon (Isa. 39), was evidently related to this revolt which, as usual, was supported by Egypt (Isa. 30:1-5; 31:1-3). Among the many military campaigns that he conducted during these years were those against the kings of Babylon, Elam, and Egypt. Isaiah rebuked his king Hezekiah for showing the Babylonian messenger the treasures of the state
It seems likely that the king of Judah might have been making an alliance (buying protection?) against the Assyrians. But the LORD declared that they would go into captivity in Babylon.
From Sennacherib’s own annals we learn that he conquered Judah on his third campaign, i.e., 701 B.C., in the course of his war against Hezekiah and his allies in Philistia and Trans-jordan who had together risen in concerted revolt against Assyria, on the death of Sargon. The rebellious kings stopped paying tribute to the Assyrian monarch and even seized Padi, the king of Ekron, who had remained loyal to Sennacherib, and carried him off prisoner to Jerusalem.
Hezekiah's Preparations for War. When Hezekiah came to the throne about the time that the northern kingdom was being destroyed (he began as co-regent about 725, but became the monarch in his own rights in 715 ), he immediately set about to fortify Jerusalem.
The Walls of Jerusalem. Hezekiah greatly extended the walls of the city to include the western hills (known [incorrectly] today as Zion). It is very possible that the early rebukes of the prophet in Isaiah 22 refer to these fortifications. If that is the connection, then we may reconstruct that in one of the earlier invasions of the area, possibly 712 B.C., the young king had hastily decided that they should fortify the city (Isa. 22:8-11; 2 Kings 20:20). The prophet saw this as acting in the power of their own strength and not trusting on the LORD. When that invasion failed to take Jerusalem, the people became rather giddy in their celebrations, not realizing that that was only a momentary reprieve before the gathering storm. Isaiah rebuked them (people who lived in the city of “visions”) for this frivolity and failure to see what was really happening.
In the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem today the excavations have left places where the walls of Hezekiah can be seen. In one stretch of the broad wall that has been left open and exposed, it is possible to see that the wall cut through smaller buildings, probably dwellings, just as the prophet said (Isa. 22:10).
Hezekiah’s Water Tunnel. The prophet also rebuked the king for collecting the waters of the lower pool (Isa. 22:9; 2 Kings 20:20). This refers to the famous Siloam tunnel project under the city of David, a tunnel that was dug by two teams working from either end and meeting in the middle. It was designed to bring the water from the Gihon spring outside the walls to the pool of Siloam inside (inside the walls of Hezekiah).
The tunnel is not straight, but zig-zags its ways under the rock to the inner pool for some 1777 feet. The workmen must have followed some channels and fissures in the rock to allow the water to flow. Where the two teams met they inscribed a paragraph into the rock on the wall to detail the completion (it is now in the museum).
This Siloam Tunnel Inscription tells how when they drew near to each other they could hear the other crew, and they worked harder in the fissure in the rock until they broke through and the water flowed. The inscription is written in beautiful classical Hebrew script (and since chiseled in the rock shows the precise formations, as opposed to ostraca). From this we can see what Hebrew looked like around 715-700, or the days of Hezekiah and Isaiah. It reads:
“The boring through it completed. Now this is the story of the boring through. While the workmen were still lifting pick to pick, each toward his neighbor, and while three cubits remained to be cut through, each heard the voice of the other who, called to his neighbor, since there was a crevice in the rock on the right side. And on the day of the boring through the stone cutters struck, each to meet his fellow, pick to pick; and there flowed waters to the pool for a thousand and two hundred cubits, and a hundred cubits was the height of the rock above the heads of the stone cutters.”
The Tomb in Silwan. Isaiah 22 ends with a rebuke of Shebna, the prime minister (“who is over the house of David”) who was building himself a tomb and not paying attention to the needs of the country. It is an interesting incident attached to the chapter, which shows that it is connected. Shebna apparently was lulled into this false complacency like the people, and so continued his own pursuits. The tomb was outside the city, so his building it was not done with any fear of the impending invasion. Isaiah declared that he would be replaced, die in exile and be buried in a forgotten grave.
Across the Kidron valley in the village of Silwan a tomb was found that was cut into the rock; it had an inscription on it, which was written in the same form of the script of the tunnel, and so is from that same time. The name on the tomb is gone (from the opening being uncovered by grave robbers), but it identifies the grave as being for the prime minister. It is quite possible that this was the tomb to which Isaiah referred. The inscription says there is not gold in this tomb--appaently an effort to keep grave robbers from entering, an effort that was unsuccessful.
Other Preparations. Hezekiah also built stables to reinforce his chariotry (2 Chronicles 32:28); built storehouses probably to care for his revised tax-collecting scheme, and carried out a census (1 Chron. 4:38ff.).
Sennacherib's Third Campaign (701 B.C.). This war is one of the most reported wars in Israel’s history; it was a strategic war, judging not only from what happened, but from the amount of coverage it received. It was the war where Hezekiah turned in prayer to the LORD at the taunting threat of Rabshekah; and it was the war in which the Angel of Yahweh confused and destroyed the Assyrian army in one night.
Records. The war is described in the
Book of Isaiah (36,37),
Book of Kings (2 Kings 18--19, and 20:20-21),
Book of Chronicles (2 Chron. 32),
Micah 1 (which describes the invasion from the west),
Isaiah 10 (which describes the invasion from the north,
Isaiah 1 (which refers to the general devastation), and then,
Sennacherib’s Third Campaign
(which is parallel to the Judean account up to a point)
Sennacherib directed his first attack against Tyre and Sidon, whereupon all the kings who had revolted, with the exception of Hezekiah and Zidqa, the ruler of Ashkelon, surrendered to him. Continuing his advance, the Assyrian king penetrated into Judah and captured its fortified cities. The battle for Lachish was particularly fierce. (In addition to his annals, wall reliefs [see the pictures] have been recovered at Nineveh from his reign, depicting the conquest of Lachish). According to the Assyrian annals, he captured 46 fortified Judean cities and also many un-walled towns. He then laid siege to Jerusalem, shutting Hezekiah up in it “like a bird in a cage” (see ANET).
We learn from the Assyrian accounts that “Tartan” (Assyrian turtannu) means “second in rank,” Rabshekah (Assyrian rab-shaqu) means “chief officer,” and Rabsaris (Assyrian rabu-sha-reshi) means “chief eunuch.” These were titles of officials and not names.
The accounts are amazingly similar. But there are a few differences that are worth mentioning. Hezekiah’s tribute is put at 30 talents24 of gold in both places, but in the Bible (2 Kings 18:14) only 300 talents of silver as opposed to 800 in Sennacherib’s account. Sennacherib might have been including some other things in this, or there may be a difference between the Babylonian light talent and the Assyrian heavy talent.
The major difference is the ending of the story. The biblical account of the destruction of the king’s army offers a likely explanation for why the king never returned to fight in the region of Judah. Sennacherib’s own records clearly evidence that he never actually took Jerusalem--he would not have been silent on it if he had taken it. Since he did not take it, he made up a strong description of locking up Hezekiah. But Hezekiah was reposing quite comfortably in his “cage.”
Like his predecessors, Sennacherib was a fiendishly cruel and inhuman ruler, guilty of impaling and flaying his foes alive and of other incredible atrocities. He died, as he lived, a victim of violence and treachery.25 His own sons killed him while he was worshiping in his temple (2 Kings 19:37). The account is likewise reported by Esarhaddon, who says
“A firm determination fell on my brothers. They forsook the gods and turned to their deeds of violence, plotting evil. To gain the kingship they slew Sennacherib their own father."
And even the next king, Ashurbanipal, recalls it:
“The rest of the people, alive, by the Colossi, between which they had cut down Sennacherib, the father of the father who begot me--at that time I cut down those people there as an offering to his Shade.26 Their dismembered bodies I fed to the dogs . . . .”
Tirhaqa and the Problem of Sennacherib’s Campaign. In the record of the events connected to this war, 2 Kings 19:9 mentions Tirhaqa. This has caused considerable discussion concerning the date of Sennacherib’s campaign(s) in the land. According to 2 Kings 18:13 Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against the fortified cities of Judah and Jerusalem in the 14th year of King Hezekiah. That has to be 701 if we date from 715 when he became king in fact (--or earlier if his co-regency is counted). The account in the Bible is remarkably corroborated and supplemented by Sennacherib's own account of the campaign in his 3rd year, 702/1 B.C.
From Egyptian sources, however, it is known that the Pharaoh of Egypt at this time was Shabaka, Taharqa’s uncle, a fact which has led some (e.g, Noth, The History of Israel, p. 268) to regard the biblical text as being in error, and others (e.g., Albright and Bright--see Excursis 1) to contend that 2 Kings 18:13 to 19:37 refer to two campaigns, one in 701 (2 Kings 18:13-16) and the other about 688 (2 Kings 18:17--19:37), that have been put together as if one. The problems with this second view are that the biblical record does not indicate such a telescoping of the events, the Assyrian inscriptions mention no such campaign, and the mention of Tirhaqa can be satisfactorily harmonized with the 701 campaign. The remainder of this discussion will show this harmonization.26
Sennacherib, in that section of the annals concerned with his military activities in 701, states that Hezekiah had appealed for help to the kings of Egypt and Ethiopia and that he (Sennacherib) defeated them in the plain of Altaqu (ANET, pp. 267f.). The Assyrian king has here distinguished between Egypt and Ethiopia, and it is of interest to note that the Hebrew prophet-historian (who wrote Kings) has referred to Tirhaqa not as king of Egypt nor yet as Pharaoh, but as “king of Ethiopia,” melek Kush.
Sometime after 701 Shabaka was succeeded on the throne of Egypt by his nephew Shebitku, who in turn was succeeded by his younger brother, Tirhaqa, in 689. Tirhaqa (or Taharqa) ruled for 26 years (see R. Parker, Kush 8 , pp. 268,9). In an inscription dated to his 6th year Tirhaqa relates that as “a goodly youth, a king’s brother” he, in the company of other “goodly youths,” came north (from Nubia) to Thebes to rejoin his brother Shebitku, who was then the reigning Pharaoh (see M. F. Laming Macadam, The Temples of Kawa I [London, 1949], Inscr. IV, 7f.). In another inscription of “year 6" he tells how he left his mother in Nubia when he was “a youth of 20 years when (he) came with His Majesty to Lower Egypt.” He goes on to say that “after an interval of years” his mother came to see him and found him crowned king of Egypt (ibid., Inscr. V, 17-18). Macadam is of the opinion that Tirhaqa came north to join his brother on the throne as a co-regent, that he numbered his regnal years from the start of his co-regency, that Shebitku died about 5 years later, and that “year 6" was in reality Tirhaqa’s first year as sole ruler (ibid., pp. 18-20, n. 30). If it is assumed with Macadam that Tirhaqa became co-regent as a youth of 20, and it is known that he ruled for 26 years, then he would have been 46 at the time of his death in 664/663--and 8 or 9 years old in 701! This calculation has led Macadam to reject the account in 2 Kings 19:9 as a manifest “mistake.”
J. Leclant and J. Yoyotte, however, have argued cogently against Macadam’s conjecture of a co-regency of the two brothers. They point out that
(1) Inscription V, 15 states explicitly that the successor of Shebitku had ascended the throne, had been crowned king, and had received the Horus name only after his predecessor’s death,
(2) Tirhaqa engaged in royal activities in Nubia and in Egypt from his second year,
(3) royal attributes are accorded him in texts and representations before his “year 6,” and
(4) there exist private documents from Thebes dated according to his first years (see Bulletin de l'Institut francais d'archeologie orientale LI , p. 24).
The co-regency of Tirhaqa with his older brother, Shebitku, being now generally regarded as unlikely (see Les peuples de l'orient mediterranean. II L'Egypte, par Etienne Drioton et Jacques Vandier [3 d.; Paris, 1952], p. 548, no. 10), some interval of time must have elapsed between Tirhaqa’s arrival at Thebes when he was 20 and his first year of reign. To compute his age at his death in 664/663, then, we must total
20 years (his age on leaving his mother to join his brother),
x years (- the interval of time between his arrival in Thebes and
his enthronement in Memphis), and
26 years (the length of his reign).
In that inscription in which Tirhaqa tells that he was 20 when he came north at the bidding of the king, his brother, he tells also that he “appeared” (i.e., became king) after his brother’s death, that his mother came to see him “after an interval of years” and that she found him enthroned as king. It seems reasonable to assume that this visit by the mother was occasioned by the death of one son and the coronation of the other. If this assumption is valid, then the reference to the “interval of years” signifies a minimum of 3 years between his arrival and his coronation. This would mean he would have been 49 years old--or more--when he died in 664/3, and 12 or 13 at least when he led his (Nubian = Ethiopian) forces into battle in 701. Since the indefinite “interval of years” can signify more than three years, however the chronology of Tirhaqa be resolved, it may be said that when he led his troops into battle he was probably under 20 and older than 12. In other words, he was in his teens in 701 B.C.
Does this work with the reference in Kings that he came to fight in 701? There is a good deal of evidence that warriors, and more particularly war-leaders of the royal family, as well as heroes in the ancient world were considerably younger than we might imagine. The evidence is largely circumstantial, but sufficient to confirm the point. Among the military figures of classical antiquity about whom clear and relevant evidence is available may be cited Alexander the Great, who, though of scholarly bent and reluctant to follow the military career of his father, was nevertheless in command of the cavalry at the Battle of Chaeronea at the age of 18. At 19, after his father died, Alexander reconquered all Macedonia and Greece and at 20 invaded Asia. Hannibal, it is known, was being trained in the art of war at least as early as his 9th year. And Ramses claims to have been chief of the army when he was 10. While the title could have been honorific, and an exaggeration, there is no reason to doubt its essential validity, namely that he had accompanied his father to war as a young prince and been delegated some responsibilities. At any rate, the idea of a youthful warrior was not unusual to them. See in the Bible Gideon’s son in Judges 8:20, and the “boy” or youthful warrior that Lamech brags of slaying in Genesis 4:23,24.27
From cuneiform sources we learn that Yasmah-Addu, set upon the throne of Mari by his conqueror father Shamshi-Addu, was evidently very young and hardly, perhaps, out of childhood. Yet the father berates the boy for failing to emulate his older brother who “has made a great name” for himself by gaining military victories. Despite his youth, he was expected to “act the man” and lead his troops on military expeditions.
So the Biblical account of the battle in 701 is accurate. There is no reason to posit (as even some study Bibles do) that there were two campaigns.
III. Esarhaddon (681-669)
Both the Bible and the Assyrian sources picture Manasseh as almost a vassal of Assyria’s mighty king Esarhaddon--he was required to forward materials for Esarhaddon’s building project:
“I called up the kings of the country Hatti and the region of the other side of the Euphrates, namely Ba‘lu, king of Tyre, Manasseh (Me-na-si-i), king of Judah (Ia-u-di) . . . ; all these I sent out and made them transport under terrible difficulties to Nineveh, the city where I exercise my rulership, as building material for my palace: big logs, long beams . . .” (ANET, p. 29).
In his tenth campaign in 671 he conquered Egypt by passing through Canaan.
The reference to Manasseh’s captivity to Babylon was once commonly regarded as a mistake on the part of the Chronicler, because Nineveh was the capital of Esarhaddon. However, the inscriptions prove that Esarhaddon did rebuild Babylon:
“And at the beginning of my rule, in the first year of my reign, when I took my seat upon the royal throne in might, there appeared favoarable signs in the heavens . . . . Through the soothsayers’ rites encouraging oracles were disclosed, and for the rebuilding of Babylon and the restoration of [the step-tower] Esagila they caused the command to be written down.”
“Babylon I built anew, I enlarged, I raised aloft, I made magnificent.”
With such pride over this splendid achievement, it is unlikely that Esarhaddon would have permitted the kings he summoned to Nineveh to return to their countries without seeing this magnificent evidence of his glory. Manasseh would most likely have gone to Nineveh, and to Babylon, during his exile. The biblical text focuses on Babylon as a harbinger of the exile.
IV. Asshurbanipal (669-633)
Forced Conscription. Again, Manasseh had to assist his overlord Asshurbanipal in the campaign against Egypt:
“In my first campaign I marched against Egypt and Ethiopia . . . . During my march 22 kings from the seashore, the islands and the mainland, servants who belonged to me, brought heavy gifts to me and kissed my feet. I made these kings accompany my army over the land as well as over the sea-route with their armed forces and ships” (ANET, p. 294).
From another text we learn that this list included Manasseh, king of Judah.
This Assyrian king is best known today for his fabulous library.
V. Asshur-etil-ilani (633-629?)
The Disintegration of the Assyrian Empire. The reign of Asshurbanipal comprised the last days of Assyrian greatness. The mighty empire fell apart rapidly after his death. Egypt had broken away while he was still alive. Psamtik I had founded the 26th Dynasty in about 655. In Babylonia his brother Shamash-shum-ukin revolted along with the Elamites. In the north various Indo-Aryan peoples including the Medes were pressing his frontiers. After a bitter struggle on all these fronts Asshurbanipal mastered the situation, but did not attempt to re-conquer Egypt.
In 626 Babylon gained its independence from Assyria under Nabopolassar, founder of the Neo-Babylonian empire. Asshur fell in 614, and Nineveh was conquered by the Babylonians in 612.
Judah's expansion was closely linked with the disintegration of the Assyrian authority. Josiah (640-609), for example, began his independent activity in his 8th year (2 Chron. 34:3) which coincided with the death of Ashurbanipal (633). The second stage took place in his 12th year (629), apparently at the death of Ashur-etil-ilani.
Josiah’s Finding the Book of the Law. Two events in Josiah’s life need to be looked it from archaeology. One is the important finding of the Book of the Law. The discovery is probably linked with the work of stone masons and carpenters. It seems likely that a copy of the Law had been placed in the cornerstone of the temple by Solomon (966). The masonry had so cracked that as they were repairing it the documents came to light. This is a far more reasonable explanation than the liberal view that the Law was actually produced and foisted upon a credulous king (he was 8 when he began to reign) as an ancient Mosaic document. Archaeology has demonstrated that it was customary in ancient times to place documents in the foundations of buildings--as is done even today (see J. P. Free, Archaeology and Bible History, pp. 215f.). Nabonidus, a king of the same period roughly, delighted to dig into foundations of buildings that were ancient in his day to recover documents placed there centuries earlier. This he did at the temple of Shamash at Sippar:
“When I had brought out Shamash from within it, and made him dwell in another house, that house I tore down, and made a search for its foundation record; and I dug in a depth of 18 cubits and the foundation record of Naram-Sin the son of Sargon, Shamash . . . permitted me to behold.”
The Death of Josiah. Archaeology has facilitated a correct translation of the passage about Josiah’s death and revealed the reason for Pharaoh Necho’s advance north. 2 Kings 23:29 says that Pharaoh Necho (II) went up to the king of Assyria to the River Euphrates. King Josiah went out to meet him, and Necho slew him at Megiddo. Up to now this has been wrongly translated to say Necho went up “against” the king of Assyria. Historians used to be perplexed why Josiah went out against Necho if the Pharaoh was on his way to fight the Assyrian king. The Babylonian Chronicle tells us that Necho was not going to fight the Assyrian king, but was going to his aid.
In 633 with the death of Asshurbanipal the Assyrian Empire had fallen apart. In 612 Nineveh fell under a coalition of Babylonians, Medes, and Scythians. A remnant of the Assyrian army fled west to Haran and made it the temporary capital. Necho came up to help the young Ashuruballit, who stood at bay for several years at Carchemish under the attacks of the Medes and Babylonians. Josiah was no lover of Assyria, and did not wish any aid to get to her king. So he went to try to stop Necho, and was killed in battle. Necho was subsequently overwhelmingly defeated when he clashed with the young general, Nebuchadnezzar, at Carchemish, in 605 B.C. At the Battle of Carchemish, two ancient empires came to an end--Assyria forever, and Egypt for a while, but for all practical purposes forever as a power. The city of Carchemish was utterly destroyed and remained so until modern archaeologists uncovered it.
With the death of Josiah in 609, Judah temporarily came under Egyptian control. Jehoahaz the son of Josiah was made king but after three months he was deposed by Necho (2 Kings 23:33), who took him to Egypt. Necho made Eliakim, another son of Josiah, king, and changed his name to Jehoiakim (609-598). This king paid tribute to the Egyptian overlord. But when Nebuchadnezzar became master of Palestine after Carchemish, Jehoiakim shifted his allegiance to him (2 Kings 24:1). Jehoiakim was the one who hated Jeremiah and any religious moral reform. He also thought he could throw off Babylonian control, and tried to do so. But this only brought the full power of Babylon against him. In the conflict he was assassinated and given the burial of an ass (Jer. 22:18-19).
Jehoichin succeeded him to the throne in 598. He only lasted three months before he was carried off to Babylon, where he was a political prisoner for 37 years, being released by Nebuchadnezzar’s son Ewil-merodach who gave him a daily allowance and treated him as a king (2 Kings 25:27-30). This little detail has been confirmed by the Babylonian records themselves which list “Yaukin of the land of Yahud” as one of the recipients of royal rations.
In the next study we shall look more closely at the fall of Jerusalem and the deportations to Babylon.
When we speak of these puppet states rebelling against Assyrian, it means that they refused to send the allotted tribute money and products that had been imposed on them by the overlord in Nineveh. The Assyrians then had to come and beat them into submission again so that they would obey (see Genesis 14).
The chronology of the kings is somewhat uncertain because of co-regencies. Hezekiah starts to reign 3 years before Samaria is destroyed in 722 (in his 4th year). But Sennacherib comes to invade Jerusalem in his 14th year, 701. This must refer to the 14th year that he alone was king, for his father died in 715.
25 It may very well be that the subject of Isaiah 14 is Sennacherib. He is described in the chapter as the king of Babylon, as well as the king of Assyria. In Isaiah’s day, Sennacherib would be the likely candidate for such descriptions. The chapter describes this king descending in Sheol, where all the other kings and criminals are surprised to see him there too.
26The point needs to be stressed that all too often archaeologists and historians take a superficial view of the data. What is needed is a painstakingly careful analysis of the data to see if indeed it can be harmonized. But if the scholar has no such desire to harmonize the texts, this will not happen.