Of Sennacherib’s eight military campaigns, the most interesting one for biblical scholars is the third one, in 701 BCE, which was partially against Judah and its king, Hezekiah (2 Kings 18–19). Sennacherib’s aim was to quell a revolt in his western provinces, centered in the Philistine city of Ekron. The revolt was fomented by Hezekiah and the Phoenician king Luli, and supported by Sidqia of Ashkelon, another important Philistine city. Sennacherib struck first at Tyre, the Phoenician capital, forcing Luli to flee to Cyprus, where he died. After destroying Ashkelon, further down the Mediterranean coast, the Assyrian army marched into Judah, laid siege to Lakhish and Jerusalem, and eventually cowed Judah into giving a large tribute from the treasuries of the king and Temple.
Some early editions of Sennacherib’s annals date to 700 BCE, less than a year after his third campaign occurred, and describe Hezekiah’s tribute in greater detail than the later editions. The earliest known account of this campaign is on the Rassam Cylinder. Archaeologists discovered four well-preserved copies of this barrel cylinder in the foundations of Sennacherib’s “Palace without Rival.” The British Museum also has fragments of dozens of other copies, which likely come from there as well. The foundation work for the “Palace without Rival” was completed in 700 BCE and it seems that numerous copies of Sennacherib’s annals were placed in it.
Learn more about this fascinating archaeological discovery in a film created in partnership with Megalim: The City of David Institute for Jerusalem Studies.