The Bible, Herodotus, and Assyria

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When Hezekiah was ruler of Judah, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, marched against Israel’s southern kingdom (see 2 Kings 18:13ff; Isaiah 36:1ff). According to his records, the monarch took forty-six Judean cities. In fact, he sent his army to Jerusalem where he boasted that he shut up Hezekiah “like a bird in a cage.” He did not, however, take the holy city. Why not? Because Jehovah intervened, in response to Hezekiah’s prayer, and destroyed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night (2 Kings 19:35).

Herodotus has a garbled account of this disaster that crippled the Assyrian forces. He records that Sennacherib marched against Egypt. During a certain night, though, field mice supposedly invaded the Assyrian camp and gnawed the quivers, bow strings, and leather shield handles, thus disarming the military force. As a consequence, many of the soldiers were killed and others fled (ii.141).

Dr. I. M. Price, who served as professor of Semitic languages and literature at the University of Chicago, noted that this account “has some basis, doubtless, in fact, and is an echo of some calamity to the Assyrian army” (1907, 191). Wood commented that the account provides “indirect confirmation of the biblical miracle” (1986, 306). Joseph P. Free observed: “There is no evidence in the archaeological records that Sennacherib ever returned to the region of Palestine” (1950, 209).

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