The Lachish Reliefs
Skeptics thought for years that the so-called kingdom of Israel was nothing but a collection of small villages and that the kings of Israel were simple tribal chieftains. The nation was relatively weak, and the Old Testament was filled with false or at least wildly exaggerated stories of great warriors. The accounts of victory in battle were meant, skeptics claimed, to mollify a people who was largely at the mercy of their larger, more powerful neighbors. The Lachish Reliefs, however, shattered both those theories. Both modern and ancient Israel were small nations surrounded by larger powers that wanted it destroyed. Both versions of Israel, however, could hold their own against their more dangerous foes.
The Lachish Reliefs are a series of reliefs carved on large alabaster slabs that were placed on the walls of Assyrian King Sennacherib’s palace. The reliefs depict the Assyrian siege of the Israelite fortress of Lachish and eventual capture of the city. The fact that Sennacherib, the king who destroyed Babylon, found the conquest of Lachish worth immortalizing on his palace walls proves that this was not some small village. The Assyrian Empire was the dominant power in the Middle East at the time, and the siege Sennacherib wanted people to remember every time they entered his palace was that of Lachish.
The fall of Lachish was not a case of the Assyrians steamrolling over a small village armed by some angry farmers. This was a fight to the death, and the thousands of arrowheads and skulls unearthed at Tel Lachish support the Assyrian and Jewish story of a fierce resistance. This makes it all the more incredible that Jerusalem managed to hold out under Sennacherib’s onslaught. In fact, Jerusalem is the only city listed in Sennacherib’s Annals as failing to fall before the Assyrian besiegement.