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The Defeat of Sennacherib as depicted by Peter Paul Rubens

Discovery of Neo-Assyrian Camp Allegedly Decimated by Biblical Angel

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New evidence discovered at the alleged site of a historic battle appears to support a Biblical account of a failed invasion of Jerusalem by the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911—609 BC) and its notorious King Sennacherib approximately 2,700 years ago. This account is especially notable, because it claims that angelic intervention is what ultimately spared the city of Jerusalem from total destruction. 

The Biblical reference to Sennacharib’s devastating defeat in Jerusalem can be found in 2 Kings 19:35 in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament in the Christian Bible), and reads as follows: 

“That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!” 

The evidence that seems to relate to this account consists of the ruins of what is believed to have been the Neo-Assyrian camp from which the failed invasion of Jerusalem was launched in 701 BC. These ruins were originally identified by archaeologist Stephen C. Compton in 2021 and were first spotted on aerial photographs taken of a site known as Ammunition Hill, which is about one mile from Jerusalem’s borders.  

There is nothing at the site to suggest any supernatural occurrences, nor have any ancient skeletons been unearthed. However, the fact that a fortified military camp dating to the right time period could be found in that location does show that Sennacherib’s army was in the area and was apparently ready to sack Jerusalem 2,700 years ago, before God’s agents intervened and doomed the siege to failure (or so it is alleged). 

Cast of a rock relief of Sennacherib, the king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, discovered in Turkey.  

Cast of a rock relief of Sennacherib, the king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, discovered in Turkey. According to Jewish tradition, King Sennacherib's siege of Jerusalem was defeated thanks to divine intervention. (Timo Roller / CC BY 3.0) 

A Comparative Analysis Reveals Twin Neo-Assyrian Camps 

In a new paper just published in the journal Near Eastern Archaeology, Compton explained how he arrived at the conclusion that he had discovered a previously unrecognized Assyrian army camp looking down over the city of Jerusalem, dating to approximately the late eighth century BC. Fascinatingly, Compton’s process of discovery began with the discovery of another Assyrian archaeological site, found 42 miles (65 kilometers) south of Jerusalem at the site of the ancient city of Lachish 

This site was portrayed in carvings discovered on the still standing walls of Sennacherib’s ancient palace in Mosul in northern Iraq, which is where the Assyrian capital city of Nineveh was located in ancient times. These carvings depicted a large military encampment built by Sennacherib’s forces in anticipation of their invasion of Lachish in the late eighth century BC. This siege of Lachish was executed as part of Sennacherib’s expansionist moves into the Middle East, which were designed to spread the borders of the Neo-Assyrian Empire to secure more land and resources.  

In 1849, explorations near Lachish actually found the ruins of this camp, which were sketched in detail by an archaeologist named Austen Henry Layard. Unfortunately, these ruins were later damaged by human activity and for a long time they could not be found again. 

But in 2021 Stephen C. Compton rediscovered them by performing a comparative analysis of Layard’s detailed sketches and aerial photographs of the area around Lachish taken in 1945 by the British Mandate government of Palestine, as part of a mapping project. Eventually Compton was able to spot distinctive features on some of the British images that matched features found on Layard’s sketches, and as a result he was able to pinpoint the exact location of the long-abandoned Assyrian army fortification at Lachish. 

Compton used historic images of the military site on Ammunition Hill to reach his conclusions 

Compton used historic images of the military site on Ammunition Hill to reach his conclusions. (Public domain) 

Now that he knew what he was looking for, Compton took his research one step further. He compared the 1945 photographs taken by the survey of Palestine with other aerial photographs taken three decades earlier of Jerusalem and the surrounding region. Amazingly, he was able to confirm that ruins of an abandoned army camp found near Jerusalem matched the characteristics of the ruins at Lachish. He therefore concluded that it must also have been an abandoned Neo-Assyrian military encampment from the same period. 

Archaeologists had explored this camp previously but had concluded it was probably built and used by the Romans at a much later time. However, the ancient Romans always built their fortifications in a square shape, while the Assyrians preferred a rounded or circular design—the latter of which was clearly observed in the aerial photographs of the ruins in both Lachish and Jerusalem. 

The site at Lachish has been excavated recently; these explorations recovered pottery shards that date to the time of Sennacherib’s invasion of the lands of ancient Israel. The excavations also showed that the site had remained unoccupied for at least 2,600 years, as would be expected it if was an army camp built by the Assyrians for temporary use. 

Further evidence about the use of the sites at Lachish and at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem can be found in textual references written in Arabic on an ancient map of the region. According to this source, the Arabic name for the ruins of Lachish was Khirbet al Mudawwara, which translates to “The Ruins of the Camp of the Invading Ruler.” Meanwhile, the Arabic name for the elevated area known as Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem was Jebel el Mudawwara , which means “The Mountain of the Camp of the Invading Ruler.” 

Notably, the military camps in the two locations follow the line of Sennacherib’s invasion path, as do several other sites where ancient ruins can apparently be linked to Assyrian movements in the Middle East around 700 BC. Each of the camps was constructed about one mile outside the city that was going to be sacked, a fact which further confirms that both sites were related to military conquest.  

Sennacherib’s Army is Destroyed, in illustration by Gustave Doré. 

Sennacherib’s Army is Destroyed, in illustration by Gustave Doré. (Public domain) 

A Site Plagued by Violence from Biblical Times to the Present 

The newly discovered site near Jerusalem—and the deadly angelic intervention that allegedly occurred there—were mentioned in three books of the Bible (Isaiah and Samuel also included passages about Sennacherib and his disastrous invasion of Jerusalem). The events that supposedly took place there were depicted in paintings by famous artists like Peter Paul Rubens and Gustave Doré, and even written about in a verse composed by the English poet Lord Byron. 

While there is uncertainty about what type of conflict may have taken place in ancient times at the site once known as Jebel el Mudawwara, its connection to violent military ventures in modern times is unquestioned. 

The site was renamed Ammunition Hill in the 1930s, after the British built an ammunition storage depot there. In 1948 the forces of the Jordanian Arab Legion took possession of the hill and built defensive trenches to protect it. It wasn’t until the Six-Day War of 1967 that Israel broke through those trenches and claimed the hill as part of the state of Israel 

Currently there is a memorial at the site dedicated to the battle of 1967. But perhaps a new plaque will be erected soon, officially identifying it as the site where the Lord’s angels intervened to save Jerusalem from destruction by the forces of the infamous Sennacherib.  

Top image: The Defeat of Sennacherib as depicted by Peter Paul Rubens. Source: Public domain 

 
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Nathan

Nathan Falde graduated from American Public University in 2010 with a Bachelors Degree in History, and has a long-standing fascination with ancient history, historical mysteries, mythology, astronomy and esoteric topics of all types. He is a full-time freelance writer from... Read More

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