City That Trusted in Fortifications
LACHISH was a city that thought itself secure and impregnable. Yes, its inhabitants put their trust in the city’s fortifications; they forsook Jehovah. Lachish was about thirty miles southwest of Jerusalem. Before advancing on Jerusalem King Sennacherib of Assyria determined to neutralize the stronghold of Lachish. “Now it came about,” says the Bible, “that Sennacherib the king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and proceeded to seize them. And the king of Assyria finally sent Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem.”—Isa. 36:1, 2.
Archaeological discoveries give us an idea as to the ferocity of the siege against Lachish. Massive reliefs of the siege were produced on orders of King Sennacherib. These reliefs, now in the British Museum, were discovered by Sir Austen Layard at the ruins of Nineveh. Describing the pictures carved on thirteen stone slabs, John Elder writes in Prophets, Idols and Diggers:
“Over them are written the words: ‘Sennacherib, king of the world, king of Assyria, sat upon a nîmedu-throne and passed in review the booty [taken] from Lachish (La-ki-su).’ The walls of the city of Lachish are pictured on the summit of a steep mound. There are towers and projections with small barred windows; wooden railings and what look like round shields project from the parapet of the towers. . . .
“The walls and towers are alive with defenders shooting stones and arrows at the attackers. One can count no less than ten siege mounds which the attackers have raised against the steep glacis protecting the walls. These are built of brick, stone, soil, and the trunks of trees. There are seven battering rams rolled up to the walls on these runways. Each of the siege engines is mounted on four wheels and is leather-covered with a hood in front. Each shelters three men—one to work the battering ram or to use a crowbar with a point to pick stones out of the walls; another to shoot arrows from under cover of the hood; and a third to pour water from a long-handled ladle on the firebrands which the defenders rain down on the primitive tank. Upon this bas-relief everything is happening at once; the investment, the siege, the assault and the surrender.
“Archers are kneeling in the front ranks, in the next they are bending forward, and in the third they are standing upright, all portrayed as discharging arrows at the city’s defenders. Shield-bearers with wicker shields covered with hide are there to protect the archers, who also take shelter behind the ranks. There are slingers and spearmen. Ladders set up for escalading are tumbling from the walls; in a desperate effort to check the advance, the besieged are casting their chariots down on the heads of the attackers.”
When Sennacherib threatened against Jerusalem, King Hezekiah put the defense of the city in the hands of Jehovah, and in one night Jehovah’s angel struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. “Therefore Sennacherib the king of Assyria pulled away.”—2 Ki. 19:35, 36.
Lachish was eventually built up again into a strong city. When Jehovah brought King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon against unfaithful Jerusalem in 607 B.C., Lachish did not escape destruction either. Its inhabitants had forsaken Jehovah, and the city deserved destruction, as Micah had foretold. (Mic. 1:13) The ruins of Lachish were explored in the 1930’s by the Wellcome-Marston Archaeological Research Expedition, headed first by J. L. Starkey. The expedition discovered grim evidence of Nebuchadnezzar’s siege. Says Werner Keller in the book The Bible as History:
“Investigation of the stratum that marked the Babylonian work of destruction produced, to Starkey’s astonishment, ashes. Ashes in incredible quantities. . . . Nebuchadnezzar’s engineers were specialists in the art of incendiarism, past masters at starting conflagrations. Whatever wood they could lay hands on they dragged to the spot, . . . piled the firewood as high as a house outside the walls and set it alight. . . . Day and night sheets of flame leapt sky high: a ring of fire licked the walls from top to bottom. The besieging force piled on more and more until the white-hot stones burst and the walls caved in.”
For trusting in fortifications and military equipment and for forsaking Jehovah, Lachish suffered a just fate. The ruins of this erstwhile stronghold remain as a warning to all who would trust in men and weapons rather than Jehovah Most High.