Thursday, July 22, 2010

History and Me - Lachish 2

Lachish? Why on earth would the mighty warrior and king Sennacherib dedicate an entire room in his palace in Khorsabad to the Judean town of Lachish? The Assyrian kings had conquered an empire stretching from Egypt to Iran. Sennacherib had conquered Elam in Southwestern Iran and Babylonia. But hanging over him always was the fact that his fathers before him had destroyed the majority of the Land of Israel. He must have felt that it was his destiny to finish the job.
Lachish was a city made great by King Solomon's son Rechavam. It controlled the passageway from the coast to the capital. So, not to leave anything to chance, Sennacherib marched his entire Army to Judea. He laid a mega-siege to Lachish, and when he conquered it, ahhhhhhh, he probably believed, this was the beginning of the complete subjugation of all of Judea, and ultimately Jerusalem. So intoxicated was he with his own power and domination after the capture of Lachish, he actually dedicated an entire room in his palace at Khorsabad (next to ancient Nineveh) to this battle of 701 BC.
There around the British Museum were these sculpted reliefs of the Assyrian conquest of Lachish. They were so lifelike. I saw the faces of my brothers, anguished and weary. I saw the haughty Assyrian soldiers and their mighty war machine. I stroked the shoulders of the Jewish slaves and tried to console them through the millenia.
I slowly inched from panel to panel, engrossed in each scene, helpless to change the outcome of Sennacherib's assault.
The Capture of Lachish, according to the British Museum:
"In 701 BC, Hezekiah, king of Judah, was implicated in a rebellion against Assyrian rule in Palestine [my emphasis, because there was no Palestine then, not at all. There was Israel and Judea. So why did they write that? Does the BM have a political agenda? If so, well...changing history is not appropriate for such a respected institution.]."
"Sennacherib, king of Assyria, attacked and defeated the rebels and their Egyptians allies. He did not capture Hezekiah's capital, Jerusalem, he may not even have planned to [my emphasis], but instead he devastated the very strong and important city of Lachish." (Liar, I screamed at the sign. I was wild with anger. Liar. Folks in the museum turned around. Liar, I told them Sennacherib marched against Jerusalem with 185,000 soldiers and G-d made a miracle and killed them all. Sennacherib was panting to destroy Jerusalem. That sign in the British Museum did not tell the real story. Was that an intentional political move, like calling Eretz Yisrael "Palestine" when there was no "Palestine", or was it a mistake from lack of research? I didn't know, but I was outraged. The parents took their children by the hand and sidled away from me.)
Not only did Sennacherib want to destroy Jerusalem, he was obsessed with defeating the Judean king Chezkiyahu (Hezekiah). A full two chapters of Kings II – 18 and 19 – are packed with Sennacherib's fixation on Jerusalem. First he captured Lachish and the cities of Judea. Then he sent his generals from Lachish to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. They called to the Jews of Jerusalem to surrender, telling them not to delude themselves into thinking Hashem would save them. They said, no gods of any nation that the Assyrians attacked ever saved their people. Just as the Assyrians had destroyed all the lands before them, they would destroy Jerusalem. They told residents to give up, and allow the Assyrians to bring them "to a land like your land," i.e. exile them from their homeland to a faraway place.
But Hezekiah and the people prayed and repented, and the generals continued to deride Hashem (which was a b-i-g mistake). "Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the L-rd deliver Jerusalem from my hand?" (Kings II 18: 35)
Ha, a double dare, eh! So Hashem declared that the King of Assyria would not enter Jerusalem, or even shoot an arrow there or put up his ramp against it. "I shall protect this city, to save it, for My sake and for the sake of My servant David." (Kings II 19:34)
Yes, the Assyrians intended and did their best to conquer Jerusalem with a force of 185,000 warriors. And on that very night, an angel of Hashem went out and struck down the entire camp. "The rest rose in the morning and behold – they were all dead corpses!"…So after his war against Hashem, Sennacherib returned a defeated man to Nineveh, where he was killed by his own sons.
(Jerusalem and Judea were safe until Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE destroyed the Holy Temple, Jerusalem and the cities of Judea.)

Continue to Lachish Part 3:

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