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BM 124908 (cult objects).jpg

Sennacherib's South West Palace at Nineveh, portraying the capture of Lachish

This panel is part of a series of wall reliefs excavated from the Assyrian king Sennacherib’s (ruled 705–681 BCE) palace at Nineveh. The panels records the Assyrian siege and eventual capture of the city of Lachish. The panel shown here depicts Assyrian soldiers carrying away cultic items from the city. Lachish was one of the most important cities in Judah, perhaps second only to Jerusalem, and it played an important role in the administration and military strength of the kingdom. Sennacherib’s army's siege of Lachish is reported in 2 Kings 18–19 (cf. Isaiah 36–37). On the upper left hand side of the relief the besieged city of Lachish is shown, with archers and siege engines (perhaps spiked battering rams) attacking the walls. On the upper level there are various trees, which probably represent the journey to Assyria on which the deportees in the bottom two registers are embarking. In the middle register Neo-Assyrian soldiers can be seen carrying away the spoils of war. These include a chariot and shields and, to the right of those pulling the chariot, two figures are shown carrying incense stands or burners. These are cultic (religious) items that have been looted from the city, either from its main shrine or from private homes. Cultic items were a prized spoil of war, because they symbolised the defeat of the god associated with them, and the power of the god of the attacking forces.  A similar practice may be seen on one of Tiglath-pileser III's wall reliefs. The Bible does not record the Assyrians plunder of cultic items during Sennacherib's invasion (perhaps because Hezekiah was supposed to have destroyed them, according 2 Kings 18:4), but it does report that the Babylonians took cultic items away from the Temple of Yhwh when they attacked Jerusalem in 597 BCE and when they destroyed it in 586 BCE (2 Kings 24:13; 25:13–17).

ABC 5 (obverse)

Babylonian Chronicle for the year 605–594 BCE

This clay tablet, the Babylonian Chronicle for the years 605–594 BCE, records events from the twenty-first and final year of the Babylonian king Nabopolassar’s reign and the first twelve years of king Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. The text describes king Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Jerusalem, including his capture and exile of king Jehoiachin. The text reads: “In the seventh year, the month of Kislev, the king of Babylon mustered his army and marched to Ḫatti-land (=the Levant). He encamped against the city of Judah and on the second day of Adar he took the city and captured the king. He appointed a king of his own choice there, received its heavy tribute and sent (them) to Babylon.” Nebuchadnezzar invaded because king Jehoiachim (Jehoiachin’s father) had rebelled against him, refusing to send tribute (2 Kings 24:1). Jehoiachim, however, died shortly before or during the siege. He was replaced by his son Jehoiachin who, at the tender age of 18, found himself on the receiving end of Babylonian wrath. Nebuchadnezzar deported Jehoiachin and other members of the royal family and some of the elites of Jerusalem—warriors, priests, artisans, and officials—into exile in Babylon (2 Kings 24:14–16), and placed Zedekiah (Jehoiachin’s uncle) on the throne instead (which indicates that not all of the elite was exiled). The tablet does not say what “heavy tribute” Nebuchadnezzar received, but 2 Kings 24:13 reports that he took all the gold, vessels, and treasures of the Jerusalem temple. The Babylonian Chronicle constitutes an extra-biblical witness to events reported by the biblical text and, in this instance, this evidence corroborates the basic version of events in the Bible. This agreement means that three things may be considered very likely to be historical. First, Jerusalem was invaded but not destroyed in 597 BCE. Second, a king of Jerusalem (Jehoiachin) was deported to exile in Babylon (see also Weidner's ration list). Third, Nebuchadnezzar replaced Jehoiachin with a king of his own choosing—the Bible gives the name Zedekiah. From this point on, Jerusalem's and Judah’s fate were firmly intertwined with that of Babylon. In hindsight, the state and the city had little more than a decade to stand.