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Old 07-16-2014, 08:04 PM
 
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I'm critical of a lot of Jewish Old Testament stories, calling them myths--but one story that cannot be explained historically is Sennacherib suddenly withdrawing from his siege of Jerusalem just as he seemed to have it within his grasp.

Quick history lesson: Hezekiah refuses to pay any tribute to Sennacherib so Sennacherib lays siege to Jerusalem. At the time the Assyrians were the most powerful empire in the world so it was a cinch for them to mass 185,000 troops outside Jerusalem. But Isaiah delivers a prophecy that the angel of the Lord will slay them all and according to Kings and Chronicles 185,000 troops are killed in one night. Sennacherib withdraws with his tail between his legs and is later killed by his own sons.

There is no rational explanation for Sennacherib, on the cusp of a victory over Jerusalem, suddenly withdrawing. The artifact, Sennacherib's Prism--discovered in the early 19th century--relays mostly victorious propaganda of his siege as we would expect it to, but the actual results speak otherwise.

I am a deist in matters like this. I don't believe God intervenes in men's wars, but until a good historical explanation comes along, I think the supernatural account of 2 Kings has to win the day--God literally did slay 185,000 troops in one night. There are attempts to explain it in natural terms: a pestilence of cholera; a pestilence of rodents gnawing the quivers of all the troop's bows, making them unable to shoot arrows, but that wouldn't explain their mysterious deaths; the Hebrews allying with Egyptian troops to overcome the Assyrian army.

There is no historical evidence for any of the naturalistic explanations. Until there is, it seems the supernatural explanation of Yahweh's angel of death intervening is the most plausible. If anyone has any input as to why Sennacherib would give up a sure victory over Jerusalem to return to Nineveh in total disgrace and without an army in tow I'd be curious to hear it.
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Old 07-17-2014, 02:26 AM
 
Location: Nanaimo, Canada
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thrillobyte View Post
I'm critical of a lot of Jewish Old Testament stories, calling them myths--but one story that cannot be explained historically is Sennacherib suddenly withdrawing from his siege of Jerusalem just as he seemed to have it within his grasp.

Quick history lesson: Hezekiah refuses to pay any tribute to Sennacherib so Sennacherib lays siege to Jerusalem. At the time the Assyrians were the most powerful empire in the world so it was a cinch for them to mass 185,000 troops outside Jerusalem. But Isaiah delivers a prophecy that the angel of the Lord will slay them all and according to Kings and Chronicles 185,000 troops are killed in one night. Sennacherib withdraws with his tail between his legs and is later killed by his own sons.

There is no rational explanation for Sennacherib, on the cusp of a victory over Jerusalem, suddenly withdrawing. The artifact, Sennacherib's Prism--discovered in the early 19th century--relays mostly victorious propaganda of his siege as we would expect it to, but the actual results speak otherwise.

I am a deist in matters like this. I don't believe God intervenes in men's wars, but until a good historical explanation comes along, I think the supernatural account of 2 Kings has to win the day--God literally did slay 185,000 troops in one night. There are attempts to explain it in natural terms: a pestilence of cholera; a pestilence of rodents gnawing the quivers of all the troop's bows, making them unable to shoot arrows, but that wouldn't explain their mysterious deaths; the Hebrews allying with Egyptian troops to overcome the Assyrian army.

There is no historical evidence for any of the naturalistic explanations. Until there is, it seems the supernatural explanation of Yahweh's angel of death intervening is the most plausible. If anyone has any input as to why Sennacherib would give up a sure victory over Jerusalem to return to Nineveh in total disgrace and without an army in tow I'd be curious to hear it.
You've discounted one particular explanation:

That Sennacherib withdrew because of Isaiah's prophecy. Historically, there are many accounts of rulers pulling away from a 'sure thing' on the advice of a priest or advisor, or simply because they 'saw 'a sign' that foretold doom.
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Old 07-17-2014, 05:12 AM
 
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Interesting thread. That has been one of the stouter of the Miracles in the Ot. There are some explanations. Some have pointed to problems at home with his sons trying to grab power. Others have suggested disease in the Assyrian camp - one of the primary weapons in breaking a siege.

It means of course that one has to hold out long enough for disease to spread, supplies to run short and trouble brew up at home.

The walls of Jerusalem had been made enormous and there was an internal water supply. Given that anticipation of an Assyrian attack, stores could be laid in, and when the enemy arrived, they waited it out.

The mention of 'cusp of victory' may be open to challenge. Did it really seem that Sennacherib was about to break in, or does that merely make the story look good? 'God saved us in the nick of time'. When in fact Sennacherib was beginning to realize that the siege was not going to achieve its objective.

As the siege dragged on, the problems I mentioned would become apparent. Probably nobody but the Romans could make a siege stick indefinitely. How long did the Assyrian one last? If it really was a long siege it pretty much is evidence that it had to be called off rather than broken by God striking down over 100,000 Assyrians. An easy claim to make after the event.

P.s a way forward - post the Biblical account, the Assyrian version (there is one) and some factual details about the logistics.
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Old 07-17-2014, 08:56 AM
 
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Originally Posted by FredNotBob View Post
You've discounted one particular explanation:

That Sennacherib withdrew because of Isaiah's prophecy. Historically, there are many accounts of rulers pulling away from a 'sure thing' on the advice of a priest or advisor, or simply because they 'saw 'a sign' that foretold doom.
I find it difficult to believe that Sennacherib would suddenly pull out of a campaign on the word of Jewish sage whose religion he didn't even believe in. As for advisors of his own we can only speculate as there is no evidence such advise was given. Add to that the fact that Sennacherib was determined to capture Jerusalem and make it an example lest all the other cities paying him tribute follow Jerusalem's example. All indications are that that Sennacherib would not let anything short of a catastrophe pull him away from taking Jerusalem.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AREQUIPA View Post
Interesting thread. That has been one of the stouter of the Miracles in the Ot. There are some explanations. Some have pointed to problems at home with his sons trying to grab power. Others have suggested disease in the Assyrian camp - one of the primary weapons in breaking a siege.

It means of course that one has to hold out long enough for disease to spread, supplies to run short and trouble brew up at home.

The walls of Jerusalem had been made enormous and there was an internal water supply. Given that anticipation of an Assyrian attack, stores could be laid in, and when the enemy arrived, they waited it out.

The mention of 'cusp of victory' may be open to challenge. Did it really seem that Sennacherib was about to break in, or does that merely make the story look good? 'God saved us in the nick of time'. When in fact Sennacherib was beginning to realize that the siege was not going to achieve its objective.

As the siege dragged on, the problems I mentioned would become apparent. Probably nobody but the Romans could make a siege stick indefinitely. How long did the Assyrian one last? If it really was a long siege it pretty much is evidence that it had to be called off rather than broken by God striking down over 100,000 Assyrians. An easy claim to make after the event.

P.s a way forward - post the Biblical account, the Assyrian version (there is one) and some factual details about the logistics.
Natural explanations are the thing historians look for first, but there just aren't any natural causes that could wipe out 185,000 men in one night. Wikipedia proffers no explanation other than the theories I mentioned.

Was this just a case of the Jewish sages propagandizing the strength of their god, Yahweh over the Assyrians. It seems to be a fact that the Assyrian empire was never the same afterwards and that shortly afterwards the Babylonian empire took center stage and finally accomplished what the Assyrians could not.

The Jews' explanation for God defeating the Assyrians but not the Babylonians? God had had enough of the Jews awhorin' after other gods so He allowed His people to fall to the Babylonians. Is Jeremiah's prophecy of 70 years captivity accurate or was it written after the fact? Like so much of the New Testament we'll never know.
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Old 07-17-2014, 09:42 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thrillobyte View Post
I'm critical of a lot of Jewish Old Testament stories, calling them myths--but one story that cannot be explained historically is Sennacherib suddenly withdrawing from his siege of Jerusalem just as he seemed to have it within his grasp.

Quick history lesson: Hezekiah refuses to pay any tribute to Sennacherib so Sennacherib lays siege to Jerusalem. At the time the Assyrians were the most powerful empire in the world so it was a cinch for them to mass 185,000 troops outside Jerusalem. But Isaiah delivers a prophecy that the angel of the Lord will slay them all and according to Kings and Chronicles 185,000 troops are killed in one night. Sennacherib withdraws with his tail between his legs and is later killed by his own sons.

There is no rational explanation for Sennacherib, on the cusp of a victory over Jerusalem, suddenly withdrawing. The artifact, Sennacherib's Prism--discovered in the early 19th century--relays mostly victorious propaganda of his siege as we would expect it to, but the actual results speak otherwise.

I am a deist in matters like this. I don't believe God intervenes in men's wars, but until a good historical explanation comes along, I think the supernatural account of 2 Kings has to win the day--God literally did slay 185,000 troops in one night. There are attempts to explain it in natural terms: a pestilence of cholera; a pestilence of rodents gnawing the quivers of all the troop's bows, making them unable to shoot arrows, but that wouldn't explain their mysterious deaths; the Hebrews allying with Egyptian troops to overcome the Assyrian army.

There is no historical evidence for any of the naturalistic explanations. Until there is, it seems the supernatural explanation of Yahweh's angel of death intervening is the most plausible. If anyone has any input as to why Sennacherib would give up a sure victory over Jerusalem to return to Nineveh in total disgrace and without an army in tow I'd be curious to hear it.
Is there any reason you are ignoring the Assyrian account of the conflict? Unless we have some archaeological evidence that a massive siege and battle for Jerusalem happened, why is it impossible that the Assyrians got the tribute and fealty they wanted, and went home satisfied? I don't know that this is what happened, but it seems you have dismissed it out of hand...

-NoCapo
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Old 07-17-2014, 10:10 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thrillobyte View Post
I'm critical of a lot of Jewish Old Testament stories, calling them myths--but one story that cannot be explained historically is Sennacherib suddenly withdrawing from his siege of Jerusalem just as he seemed to have it within his grasp.

Quick history lesson: Hezekiah refuses to pay any tribute to Sennacherib so Sennacherib lays siege to Jerusalem. At the time the Assyrians were the most powerful empire in the world so it was a cinch for them to mass 185,000 troops outside Jerusalem. But Isaiah delivers a prophecy that the angel of the Lord will slay them all and according to Kings and Chronicles 185,000 troops are killed in one night. Sennacherib withdraws with his tail between his legs and is later killed by his own sons.

There is no rational explanation for Sennacherib, on the cusp of a victory over Jerusalem, suddenly withdrawing. The artifact, Sennacherib's Prism--discovered in the early 19th century--relays mostly victorious propaganda of his siege as we would expect it to, but the actual results speak otherwise.

I am a deist in matters like this. I don't believe God intervenes in men's wars, but until a good historical explanation comes along, I think the supernatural account of 2 Kings has to win the day--God literally did slay 185,000 troops in one night. There are attempts to explain it in natural terms: a pestilence of cholera; a pestilence of rodents gnawing the quivers of all the troop's bows, making them unable to shoot arrows, but that wouldn't explain their mysterious deaths; the Hebrews allying with Egyptian troops to overcome the Assyrian army.

There is no historical evidence for any of the naturalistic explanations. Until there is, it seems the supernatural explanation of Yahweh's angel of death intervening is the most plausible. If anyone has any input as to why Sennacherib would give up a sure victory over Jerusalem to return to Nineveh in total disgrace and without an army in tow I'd be curious to hear it.
What are you arguing? That there is no archaeological or written historical evidence? Or that you can't believe that God would interfere in the lives of men?
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Old 07-17-2014, 10:21 AM
 
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Originally Posted by NoCapo View Post
Is there any reason you are ignoring the Assyrian account of the conflict? Unless we have some archaeological evidence that a massive siege and battle for Jerusalem happened, why is it impossible that the Assyrians got the tribute and fealty they wanted, and went home satisfied? I don't know that this is what happened, but it seems you have dismissed it out of hand...

-NoCapo
And here lies the solution, if we take NoCapo and Arequipa's advice and consult the Assyrian version and try to weed out such unhistorical things as miracles, which a historian can never accept as the most probable outcome of events. The historian's task is to find the most probable thing to have happened, and by its very definition a miracle is the least probable thing to have happened. A middle ground must be sought between two accounts of the very same thing, and propaganda (which miracles are a part of in this case) taken into account before blithely accepting the most improbable conclusion.

Assyria did not always have to conquer a city to subdue it into a vassal state paying tribute. Sometimes, the stories of what had happened to other cities or nations was enough to make someone see the futility of their way. Hezekiah made an enormous mistake in trusting in Egypt to come through in the anti-Assyrian coalition that had formed. Perhaps the very zeal that Jeremiah condemned (that Jerusalem and the Temple would NEVER fall), and written in hindsight, of course, is what prompted Hezekiah's advisors to take his newly formed Yahweh-Alone movement and put it to the test. Perhaps it was the fall of Israel to Assyria, and the perceived "apostasy" of the Northern Israelites that prompted him - the Deuteronomistic Historian certainly saw it this way. So it was in the Deuteronomistic Historian's agenda to paint Hezekiah as a pious man of Yahweh who bravely withstood Assyria's might by relying on Yahweh alone, as the Divine Warrior. the later fall of Judah to Babylon would once again be blamed - in hindsight - on Judah's apostasy, and Jeremiah would blame it on their nationalistic pride in thinking that the Temple would never ever fall.

The Biblical account shows this agenda, when in the siege they are taunted for putting their faith in Yahweh to save them. Isaiah assures Hezekiah that Yahweh will protect him and the city. In the Biblical account, Yahweh fights for Jerusalem and saves them, but despite this great demonstration in the saving power of Yahweh, the later king Manasseh reigns and gives little respect to Yahweh. Strange, one would think that if such a great Yahwistic victory had occurred, Manasseh would have been foolish to give up the protection of this great and mighty deity.


The Assyrian version paints a much more believable picture. But before we get to that, we must remember that Assyria had already taken some important steps to ravage the countryside, and even taken the very valuable and important city of Lachish (image from an Assyrian relief at Nineveh, which will probably be destroyed by members of ISIS any day, those bastards - excuse my French):





The siege was successful, the city paid tribute and became a vassal state. The Biblical record does not even come close to representing how much of a complete and utter vassalage the Judahite territories eventually had become. The status of the other cities barely get a mention, and the Biblical account is very sparing with details.

The Assyrian account begins by talking about previous conquests of other nations, and then has a section on Hezekiah:
As for Hezekiah, the Judean, I besieged forty-six
of his fortified walled cities and surrounding
smaller towns, which were without number. Using
packed-down ramps and applying battering rams,
infantry attacks by mines, breeches, and siege machines,
I conquered (them). I took out 200,150
people, young and old, male and female, horses,
mules, donkeys, camels, cattle, and sheep, without
number, and counted them as spoil. He himself, I
locked up within Jerusalem, his royal city, like a
bird in a cage. I surrounded him with earthworks,
and made it unthinkable for him to exit by the
city gate. His cities which I had despoiled I cut off
from his land and gave them to Mitinti, king of
Ashdod, Padi, king of Ekron and Silli-bel, king of
Gaza, and thus diminished his land. I imposed
dues and gifts for my lordship upon him, in addition
to the former tribute, their yearly payment.

He, Hezekiah, was overwhelmed by the awesome
splendor of my lordship, and he sent me after my
departure to Nineveh, my royal city, his elite
troops (and) his best soldiers, which he had brought
in as reinforcements to strengthen Jerusalem, with
30 talents of gold, 800 talents of silver, choice
antimony, large blocks of carnelian, beds (inlaid)
with ivory, armchairs (inlaid) with ivory, elephant
hides, ivory, ebony-wood, boxwood,n multicolored
garments, garments of linen, wool (dyed) redpurple
and blue-purple, vessels of copper, iron,
bronze and tin, chariots, siege shields, lances,
armor, daggers for the belt, bows and arrows,
countless trappings and implements of war, together
with his daughters, his palace women, his male
and female singers. He (also) dispatched his
messenger to deliver the tribute and to do obeisance.
(The Sennacherib Prism, trans. COS II 2.119B, M. Coogan)

Except for the number of spoil (which is probably exaggerated), the story seems a LOT more plausible than the Biblical account and does not rely on any miracles. In fact, if one were to choose, this would be the obvious winner. But we still might be better off looking to find a happy medium between the Biblical and Assyrian accounts.

We have plenty of archaeological evidence for Sennacherib's other conquests in Judah, so we know that he was indeed ravaging Judah. That Judah would eventually capitulate and pay tribute seems very likely, and both sides avoid expending more troops and resources than necessary. One has to remember that the Biblical account was written a long time after the actual siege.


For a very good and accessible look at this entire story and the archaeological evidence, see Finkelstein and Silberman's The Bible Unearthed (The Free Press, 2001) and the chapter devoted to it. Or just do a web search and try to avoid apologetic websites. There is a lot of information available out there, much of it difficult to access, but much of it freely available. There are entire books written on the subject, in fact.

Personally, I think it is clear that no miracle occurred as such. Did a plague run rampant through the Assyrians? Maybe. Did the Assyrians save face? Maybe. Did the Assyrians siege the city and receive tribute? PROBABLY. The later history of Judah seems to point to this, with Manasseh's reign, and the Bible hid such important historical events as Jehu's tribute to Assyria - for which we have archaeological evidence for.
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Old 07-17-2014, 11:07 AM
 
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Good work, Whoppers. I should have done it myself, but I was a bit busy.

Oh, btw you will be pleased to know that the Lachish murals are here in London, in the British Museum. Let me know when you arrive and we'll have a look together.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vizio View Post
What are you arguing? That there is no archaeological or written historical evidence? Or that you can't believe that God would interfere in the lives of men?

The usual line - that there are other equally or more plausible explanations than Goddunnit, let alone no other possible explanation than goddunnit. As for archaeological evidence, yes. that is what will shed 'New Light on the Bible' as they say- and show up the flaws in the story.

Last edited by TRANSPONDER; 07-17-2014 at 11:16 AM..
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Old 07-17-2014, 11:09 AM
 
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Originally Posted by NoCapo View Post
Is there any reason you are ignoring the Assyrian account of the conflict? Unless we have some archaeological evidence that a massive siege and battle for Jerusalem happened, why is it impossible that the Assyrians got the tribute and fealty they wanted, and went home satisfied? I don't know that this is what happened, but it seems you have dismissed it out of hand...

-NoCapo
No, I don't discount the Assyrian account, though it is at total odds with the Jewish account. I think there'd be some historical evidence of Sennacherib actually occupying Jerusalem, even if he did get the tribute from Hezekiah, to teach other vassals around him what happens when you mess with him. That he'd go to all the trouble to mass his troops outside Jerusalem and then march away without at least sacking it makes no sense.

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Originally Posted by Vizio View Post
What are you arguing? That there is no archaeological or written historical evidence? Or that you can't believe that God would interfere in the lives of men?
Both.
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Old 07-17-2014, 11:21 AM
 
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Originally Posted by thrillobyte View Post


Both.
I haven't seen why we'd believe otherwise.
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