The Jerusalem Prism and Sennacherib



The Jerusalem prism was acquired by the Israel Museum at a Sotheby's auction in 1970. It was only published in 1990. The three known complete examples of this inscription are nearly identical, with only minor variants, although the dates on the prisms show that they were written sixteen months apart (the Taylor and Jerusalem Prisms in 691 BC and the Oriental Institute prism in 689 BC). There are also at least eight other fragmentary prisms preserving parts of this text, all in the British Museum, and most of them containing just a few lines.

The Chicago text was translated by Daniel David Luckenbill and the Akkadian text, along with a translation into English, is available in his book The Annals of Sennacherib(University of Chicago Press, 1924).


It is one of three accounts discovered so far which have been left by Sennacherib of his campaign against the Kingdom of Israel and Kingdom of Judah, giving a different perspective on these events from that of the Book of Kings in the Bible.

Some passages in the Hebrew Bible agree with at least a few of the claims made on the prism. The Bible recounts a successful Assyrian attack on Samaria, as a result of which the population was deported, and later recounts that an attack on Lachish was ended by Hezekiah suing for peace, with Sennacherib demanding 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold, and Hezekiah giving him all the silver from his palace and from the Temple in Jerusalem, and the gold from doors and doorposts of the temple.


Compared to this, the Taylor Prism proclaims that 46 walled cities and innumerable smaller settlements were conquered by the Assyrians, with 200,150 people, and livestock, being deported, and the conquered territory being dispersed among the three kings of the Philistines instead of being given back. Additionally, the Prism says that Sennacherib’s siege resulted in Hezekiah being shut up in Jerusalem "like a caged bird", Hezekiah's mercenaries and 'Arabs' deserting him, and Hezekiah eventually buying off Sennacherib, having to give him antimony, jewels, ivory-inlaid furniture, his own daughters, harem, and musicians. It states that Hezekiah became a tributary ruler.


On Sennacherib's prism, he says this of Hezekiah: "As for the king of Judah, Hezekiah, who had not submitted to my authority, I besieged and captured forty-six of his fortified cities, along with many smaller towns, taken in battle with my battering rams. ... I took as plunder 200,150 people, both small and great, male and female, along with a great number of animals including horses, mules, donkeys, camels, oxen, and sheep. As for Hezekiah, I shut him up like a caged bird in his royal city of Jerusalem. I then constructed a series of fortresses around him, and I did not allow anyone to come out of the city gates. His towns which I captured I gave to the kings of Ashod, Ekron, and Gaza."


The tribute given by Hezekiah is then mentioned but in this account, nothing is said of Sennacherib capturing the city of Jerusalem.

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