“Ancient Israel under Siege,” Ensign, Sept. 1986, 32
Ancient Israel under Siege
A photographic look at selected Old Testament sites that came under Assyrian and Babylonian attack.
This year, members of the Church worldwide are studying the Old Testament. The following photographs are of sites that will be discussed during the remainder of the year. The photography is by David H. Garner and Richard Cleave. (The Cleave photos are used by permission of Pictorial Archive, Jerusalem, Israel.)
TEL SAMARIA: At this point in our study, the Judges are gone, David and Solomon are dead, and the united kingdom has split into two nations—Israel and Judah. Thundering into the Holy Land in about 721 B.C., “in the fourth year of king Hezekiah, … Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria, and besieged it.” (2 Kgs. 18:9.) Yet the city of Samaria was so well situated atop a hill, and so well fortified, that it took Assyria three years to capture it. (2 Kgs. 18:10.) Then, in an act that changed the nation, Assyria sent inhabitants from other conquered nations to occupy the cities of Samaria. (See Ezra 4:10.)
LACHISH: Knowing that his beloved city of Jerusalem was in mortal danger from the forces that were decimating the hill cities to the southwest, “Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria to Lachish, saying, I have offended; return from me: that which thou puttest on me will I bear. And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.
“And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king’s house.
“At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.” (2 Kgs. 18:14–16.)
But Sennacherib was not satisfied. In a stroke meant to humble Jerusalem, “the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem.” Just outside the walls of Jerusalem, Rabshakeh addressed three of Hezekiah’s counselors, demanding more booty and taunting the Lord, “Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arpad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? have they delivered Samaria out of mine hand?
“Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?” Rabshakeh deliberately spoke in Hebrew rather than Syrian so that the people on the walls could understand him. (See 2 Kgs. 18:17–35.)
This threat was answered by the prophet Isaiah, who “said unto them, Thus shall ye say to your master, Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.
“Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.”
A short time later, the Assyrian army was stricken by the angel of the Lord, and Sennacherib returned to Nineveh, only to be assassinated by two of his sons. (See 2 Kgs. 19:6–8, 35–37.)
JERUSALEM: In approximately 701 B.C., when his victory at Lachish seemed certain, “the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to king Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem.” (2 Kgs. 18:17.) This terrible threat caused Hezekiah to seek counsel from the prophet Isaiah, who said, “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard. …
“And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.” (2 Kgs. 19:20, 35.)
About a hundred years later, the Lord commanded Jeremiah and Lehi to warn the city to repent upon the pain of utter destruction. (See 1 Ne. 1:4.) This time the people did not repent, but rejected the prophets. A few years after Lehi fled Jerusalem with his family, in the ninth year of the reign of king Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. (See Jer. 52:1–5.)
During the Jews’ captivity in Babylon, while officiating in the palace at Shushan, Nehemiah received the news that “the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.” In great sorrow he “sat down and wept, and mourned certain days.” (See Neh. 1:3–4.)
MEGIDDO: Megiddo had originally been a Canaanite city, conquered by the Egyptian pharaoh Tutmoses III in 1479 B.C., by Joshua when he defeated the king of Megiddo (see Josh. 12:7, 21), and again by the Philistines in the twelfth century. King David defeated the Philistines and brought Megiddo back under Israelite rule about 1000 B.C. His son Solomon fortified the city and built a formidable gateway (see 1 Kgs. 9:15) that became the inspiration for King Ahab, who raised Megiddo to an important city. In 609 B.C., “Pharaoh-nechoh king of Egypt went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates: and king Josiah went against him; and he [Necho] slew him [Josiah] at Megiddo. …
“And his servants carried him in a chariot dead from Megiddo, and brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own sepulchre.” (2 Kgs. 23:29–30.)
The defeat at Megiddo was the beginning of the end for Judah. The death of Josiah ended the religious revival of Judah, and the nation went into rapid spiritual decline. Within a span of twenty-three years, Jerusalem had been captured twice, Daniel had been carried away captive to Babylon, a band of Jews had taken Jeremiah to Egypt as a sort of fetish, and Lehi, as directed by the Lord, had fled to the New World.
MIZPAH: Jeremiah was “bound in chains among all that were carried away captive of Jerusalem and Judah, which were carried away captive unto Babylon.
“And the captain of the guard took Jeremiah, and said unto him, … Behold, I loose thee this day from the chains which were upon thine hand. … Behold, all the land is before thee: whither it seemeth good and convenient for thee to go, thither go. …
“Then went Jeremiah unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and dwelt with him among the people that were left in the land.
“Now when all the captains of the forces which were in the fields, even they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam governor in the land, and had committed unto him men, and women, and children, and the poor of the land, of them that were not carried away captive to Babylon;
“Then they came to Gedaliah to Mizpah. …
“And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan sware unto them and to their men, saying, Fear not to serve the Chaldeans: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you.
“As for me, behold, I will dwell at Mizpah to serve the Chaldeans. …
“Likewise when all the Jews that were in Moab, … and that were in all the countries, heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant of Judah, and that he had set over them Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan;
“Even all the Jews returned out of all places whither they were driven, and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah, unto Mizpah.” (Jer. 40:1–2, 4, 6–12.)
“Then arose Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with him, and smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword, and slew him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.
“Ishmael also slew all the Jews that were with him [Gedalia]. …
“Then Ishmael carried away captive all the residue of the people that were in Mizpah, even the king’s daughters, and all the people that remained in Mizpah. …
“But when Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done,
“Then they took all the men, and went to fight with Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and found him by the great waters that are in Gibeon. …
“But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites.” (Jer. 41:2–3, 10–12, 15; see also 2 Kgs. 25:22–26.)