A Judean city in the Shephelah. (Josh. 15:21, 33, 39) Lachish is generally identified with Tell ed-Duweir, a mound surrounded by valleys and lying some fifteen miles (24 kilometers) 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 eighteen acres (7 hectares) 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. (Josh. 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, and the kings themselves were trapped in a cave and thereafter executed. (Josh. 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.—Josh. 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 Rameses was found. But the Bible does not state that the city was burned, as it does in the case of Jericho (Josh. 6:24, 25), Ai (Josh. 8:28) and Hazor. (Josh. 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 it cannot be definitely established to which Rameses the scarab should be assigned. At least one archaeologist attributed the scarab to Rameses III and advanced the thought that Lachish was destroyed by the Philistines in the twelfth century B.C.E.
During Rehoboam’s reign (997-980 B.C.E.) Lachish was strengthened militarily. (2 Chron. 11:5-12) Later, in 829 B.C.E., King Amaziah fled to Lachish to escape conspirators but was pursued and put to death there.—2 Ki. 14:19; 2 Chron. 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.—2 Ki. 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).”
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, eighteen of which were found at Tell ed-Duweir in 1935 and three 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 signal-stations of Lachish, according to all the signs which my lord gives, because we do not 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 YHWH [Yahweh or Jehovah] cause my lord to hear this very day tidings of good!” This shows that the name “Jehovah” was then in common use.
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.