A Judean city in the Shephelah. (Jos 15:21, 33, 39) Lachish is identified with Tell ed-Duweir (Tel Lakhish), a mound surrounded by valleys and lying some 24 km (15 mi) W of Hebron. Anciently this site occupied a strategic position on the principal road linking Jerusalem with Egypt. At one time the city covered an area of about 8 ha (20 acres) and perhaps had a population numbering between 6,000 and 7,500 persons.
At the time of Israel’s conquest of Canaan, Japhia the king of Lachish joined four other kings in a military offensive against Gibeon, a city that had made peace with Joshua. (Jos 10:1-5) In response to Gibeon’s appeal for aid, the Israelite army staged an all-night march from Gilgal. With Jehovah’s help, they defeated the Canaanite alliance, trapped the kings themselves in a cave, and thereafter executed them. (Jos 10:6-27; 12:11) Later, the city of Lachish was taken in less than two days of fighting and its inhabitants were slain. Also, Horam the king of Gezer, who came to the aid of Lachish, suffered defeat.—Jos 10:31-35.
Some archaeologists link Israel’s campaign against Lachish with a thick layer of ash uncovered at Tell ed-Duweir, in which, among other things, a scarab of Ramses was found. But the Bible does not state that the city was burned, as it does in the case of Jericho (Jos 6:24, 25), Ai (Jos 8:28), and Hazor (Jos 11:11). Rather, Joshua 11:13 seems to indicate that the Israelites rarely burned “cities standing on their own mounds.” So there is no Scriptural basis for placing the destruction causing the ash layer in the time of Joshua and then dating the Israelite conquest of Canaan accordingly. It is also noteworthy that the Ramses to whom the scarab should be assigned cannot be definitely ascertained. At least one archaeologist attributed the scarab to Ramses III and advanced the thought that Lachish was destroyed by the Philistines in the 12th century B.C.E.
During Rehoboam’s reign (997-981 B.C.E.) Lachish was strengthened militarily. (2Ch 11:5-12) Later, in about 830 B.C.E., King Amaziah fled to Lachish to escape conspirators but was pursued and put to death there.—2Ki 14:19; 2Ch 25:27.
Besieged by Sennacherib. Lachish was besieged by Assyrian King Sennacherib in 732 B.C.E. From there he sent Rabshakeh, Tartan, and Rabsaris with a heavy military force to Jerusalem in an effort to move King Hezekiah to surrender. Through his chief spokesman Rabshakeh, Sennacherib defied Jehovah and later sent messengers to Jerusalem with letters of continued taunt and threat designed to bring about Hezekiah’s surrender. This defiance of Jehovah God finally led to the annihilation by God’s angel of 185,000 Assyrian warriors in one night.—2Ki 18:14, 17-35; 19:8-13, 32-35; Isa 36:1-20; 37:8-13, 33-36.
A portrayal of the siege of Lachish, from Sennacherib’s palace at Nineveh, indicates that the city was encompassed by a double wall having towers at regular intervals and that palms, grapes, and figs flourished in the surrounding hilly area. The scene showing Sennacherib receiving the spoils of Lachish is accompanied by the following inscription: “Sennacherib, king of the world, king of Assyria, sat upon a nimedu -throne and passed in review the booty (taken) from Lachish (La-ki-su).”—Ancient Near Eastern Texts, edited by J. B. Pritchard, 1974, p. 288.
Captured by Babylonians. When the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar overran Judah (609-607 B.C.E.), Lachish and Azekah were the last two fortified cities to fall before Jerusalem was taken. (Jer 34:6, 7) What are known as the Lachish Letters (written on pottery fragments, 18 of which were found at Tell ed-Duweir in 1935 and 3 more in 1938) appear to relate to this period. One of these letters, evidently directed by a military outpost to the commander at Lachish, reads in part: “We are watching for the signals of Lachish, according to all the indications which my lord hath given, for we cannot see Azekah.” This message suggests that Azekah had already been taken so that no signals were received from there. It is also of interest that nearly all the legible Lachish Letters contain words such as “May יהוה [Yahweh or Jehovah] cause my lord to hear this very day tidings of good!” (Lachish Ostracon IV) This shows that the divine name was then in common use.—Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 322.
After Judah and Jerusalem lay desolate for 70 years, Lachish was reoccupied by the returning Jewish exiles.—Ne 11:25, 30.
Prophetic Mention. At Micah 1:13, Lachish is addressed prophetically: “Attach the chariot to the team of horses, O inhabitress of Lachish. The beginning of sin was what she was to the daughter of Zion, for in you the revolts of Israel have been found.” These words constitute part of a picture of defeat and appear to suggest that Lachish prepare for flight. The “sin” of Lachish is not discussed elsewhere in Scripture. Perhaps a form of idolatry introduced in Jerusalem originated at Lachish. Or, the sin possibly involved Judah’s reliance on horses and chariots, which may have been received at Lachish from Egypt.