Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 242

Merodach Baladan, the Chaldaean king, whom Sargon had deposed, supported by Elamites and Aramaeans, was also a party to the conspiracy. "At that time Merodach Baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah.... And Hezekiah was glad of them."[532]

Merodach Baladan again seized the throne of Babylon. Sargon's son, who had been appointed governor, was murdered and a pretender sat on the throne for a brief period, but Merodach Baladan thrust him aside and reigned for nine months, during which period he busied himself by encouraging the kings of Judah and Tyre to revolt. Sennacherib invaded Babylonia with a strong army, deposed Merodach Baladan, routed the Chaldaeans and Aramaeans, and appointed as vassal king Bel-ibni, a native prince, who remained faithful to Assyria for about three years.

In 707 B.C. Sennacherib appeared in the west. When he approached Tyre, Luli, the king, fled to Cyprus. The city was not captured, but much of its territory was ceded to the king of Sidon. Askalon was afterwards reduced. At Eltekeh Sennacherib came into conflict with an army of allies, including Ethiopian, Egyptian, and Arabian Mutsri forces, which he routed. Then he captured a number of cities in Judah and transported 200,150 people. He was unable, however, to enter Jerusalem, in which Hezekiah was compelled to remain "like a bird in a cage". It appears that Hezekiah "bought off" the Assyrians on this occasion with gifts of gold and silver and jewels, costly furniture, musicians, and female slaves.

In 689 B.C. Sennacherib found it necessary to penetrate Arabia. Apparently another conspiracy was brewing, for Hezekiah again revolted. On his return from the south--according to Berosus he had been in Egypt--the Assyrian king marched against the king of Judah.

And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was come, and that he was purposed to fight against Jerusalem, he took counsel with the princes and his mighty men to stop the waters of the fountains which were without the city: and they did help him.... Why should the kings of Assyria come and find much water?

Sennacherib sent messengers to Jerusalem to attempt to stir up the people against Hezekiah. "He wrote also letters to rail on the Lord God of Israel, and to speak against him, saying, As the gods of the nations of other lands have not delivered their people out of mine hand, so shall not the God of Hezekiah deliver his people out of mine hand."[533]

Hezekiah sent his servants to Isaiah, who was in Jerusalem at the time, and the prophet said to them:

Thus shall ye say to your master. Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.[534]

According to Berosus, the Babylonian priestly historian, the camp of Sennacherib was visited in the night by swarms of field mice which ate up the quivers and bows and the (leather) handles of shields. Next morning the army fled.

The Biblical account of the disaster is as follows:

And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote the camp of the Assyrians an hundred and four score and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned and dwelt at Nineveh.[535]