Sennacherib’s campaign to the southern Levant in 701 bc is an extensively studied episode in the Neo-Assyrian period. Nevertheless, despite the abundance of sources, the existing scholarship has left several questions unanswered. Furthermore, although economic growth is suggested to have been a motor behind Neo-Assyrian expansion, current interpretations of the campaign do not consider this to have been its main goal. This article will present an analysis focussing particularly on this economic motive, an analysis that requires an alternative interpretation of the Neo-Assyrian royal inscriptions. The outcome sheds a new light not only on Assyrian confrontations with Egypt in the late 8th-century bc southern Levant but also on Judah’s and Gaza’s roles in the events, revealing altogether a world of long-distance trade.
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BruggeC. van derKleberK.Moreno GarcíaJ. C.The Empire of Trade and the Empires of Force. Tyre in the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian PeriodsDynamics of Production in the Ancient Near East 1300-500 bc2016OxfordOxbow Books187222
CoganM.KalimiI.RichardsonS.Cross-examining the Assyrian Witnesses to Sennacherib’s Third Campaign: Assessing the Limits of Historical ReconstructionSennacherib at the Gates of Jerusalem. Story History and Historiography2014LeidenBrill5174
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FalesF.M.KalimiI.RichardsonS.The Road to Judah: 701 bce in the Context of Sennacherib’s Political-Military StrategySennacherib at the Gates of Jerusalem. Story History and Historiography2014LeidenBrill223248
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Lawson YoungerK.Jr.VaughnA.C.KillebrewA.E.Assyrian Involvement in the Southern Levant at the End of the Eighth Century bce.Jerusalem in Bible and Archaeology. The first Temple Period2003AtlantaSociety of Biblical Literature235263
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MumfordG.SchneiderT.SzpakowskaK.Egypto-Levantine relations during the Iron Age to early Persian periods (Dynasties late 20 to 26)Egyptian Stories. A British Egyptological Tribute to Alan B. Lloyd on the Occasion of his Retirement2007MünsterUgarit-Verlag225288
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RadnerK.KlinkottH.KubischS.Müller-WollermannR.Abgaben an den König von Assyrien aus dem In- und AuslandGeschenke und Steuern Zölle und Tribute. Antike Abgabenformen in Anspruch und Wirklichkeit2007LeidenBrill213230
RobertsJ.J.M.VaughnA.C.KillebrewA.E.Egypt, Assyria, Isaiah and the Ashdod Affair: An Alternative ProposalJerusalem in Bible and Archaeology. The first Temple Period2003AtlantaSociety of Biblical Literature265283
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UssishkinD.KalimiI.RichardsonS.Sennacherib’s Campaign to Judah: the Archaeological Perspective with an Emphasis on Lachish and JerusalemSennacherib at the Gates of Jerusalem. Story History and Historiography2014LeidenBrill75103
ZamazalováS.MynářováJ.Before the Assyrian Conquest in 671 bce: Relations between Egypt, Kush and AssyriaEgypt and the Near East—the Crossroads: Proceedings of an International Conference on the Relations of Egypt and the Near East in the Bronze Age Prague September 1-3 20102011PragueCzech University, Czech Institute of Egyptology297328
See for instance Bedford2009: 44and Oded 1974: 39 with references.
Already Luckenbill1925: 221made a remark on this subject. See also footnote 79. I shall come back to this in section 4.
See also Evans2009: 160.
See for instance Faust2008: 168-169; Blakely Hardin and Master 2014: 35-36; Hardin 2014: 749 (all with references to excavations). For an elaborate description of the destruction of Lachish see Ussishkin 1982.
See Grabbe2003b: 4for an overview (although not complete and somewhat dated) of the variety in dates of Iron Age iiiaiib and iic. In short the high chronology was constructed in the 1920’s: Iron Age i 1200-1000 bc; Iron Age iia 1000-925 bc; Iron Age iib 925-700 bc. In 1990 a new chronology was suggested by Wightman (1990) the low chronology: Iron Age i 1200-900 bc; Iron Age iia 900-800 bc; Iron Age iib 800-700 bc (all approximate dates). However the discussion in which among others Israel Finkelstein and Amihai Mazar are involved has continued and dates have changed over time because of new information. Nowadays both chronologies agree on the beginning of Iron Age iib: end of the 9th century bc (although not every scholar does; see Sharon 2014: 60). The most important difference still is the question whether the reigns of David and Solomon (ca 1010-930 bc) belong to Iron Age i or iia. Both chronologies date Iron Age iic also named Iron Age iii to the 7th century bc.
Herzog and Singer-Avitz2004: 227-231; they partly follow the high chronology linking the first Iron Age iia phase of habitation to the United Kingdom and the transition to a second phase to the second half of the 10th century bc; since according to them this phase of Iron Age iia may have lasted until the early 8th century bc the fortified settlements may have been built in the reign of Amaziah shortly after 800 bc. However if Fantalkin and Finkelstein´s (2006: 32) low chronology is applied this must have happened already before 800 bc. Hardin’s (2014: 745) high chronology dates both Iron Age iia phases to the 10th century bc. It seems that state organized expansion in the Shephelah and Negev took place earlier than Amaziah’s reign; more research on the start of this development is needed.
Pratico (1986) has reviewed the results of Glueck’s excavations at Tell el-Kheleifeh which the latter had identified as Ezion-Geber Solomon’s harbour. He concluded that pottery that was linked with this phase belonged to the 8th century bc though a few forms could be dated to the 9th (ibid.: 33).
See Johnson and Stager1995: 95. Hosea 12:2 mentions oil exports to Egypt. What is possible (but needs more research) is that a growing Spanish market for olive oil and wine in the 8th century bc led to a relative scarcity of these products in Egypt which encouraged Judah to start or increase production for trade.
For textual evidence of trade see Elat1978: 30-32. For horses probably of Kushite breed see Dalley 1985: 44 and Heidorn 1997; for gold linen byssus alum and natron see Elat 1978: 25-26 and Oppenheim 1967: 242-250. For an overview of archaeological evidence see Mumford 2007: 248-254. Note that he uses the original high chronology (Iron Age iib = ca. 925-700 bc; for the low and adapted high chronologies this would be ca. 800-700 bc).
Mumford1998: 1402-1404(quote on page 1404) and 1415-1419. The excavator Glueck has identified 5 periods. The quote refers to period 2 dated to the 8th century bc by Pratico (1985 and 1986) but the remark cannot be verified due to the fact that Glueck has not published material evidence for this contact. Egyptian artefacts are related to period 3 that probably ended with the conquest of Elath by Aram-Damascus in the Syro-Ephraimite crisis (see subsection 2.2). Glueck’s period 4 contains late 8th-/7th-centuries bc ‘Assyrian’ pottery (Pratico 1985: 25).
See Bagg2011: 215-216for an alternative suggestion (Azriyau was king of a land of which the name is not preserved with a territory located in the Hamath region) and for references to three earlier hypotheses (he was king of Judah and his power extended as far as the Hamath region; he was king of Sam’al; he was king of Hatarikka). Tadmor 1961: 235-238 gives a complete overview of hypotheses and reactions before 1961.
Tadmor and Yamada2011: texts 13 and 31. Both texts start with a gap and therefore part of the context lacks and it is not clear who had seized the land.
Nimrud Inscription: Luckenbill1927: 72(§137). For tribute from Judah during the reign of Sargon see Parpola 1987: text 110. We can assume that Judah had been loyal to Assyria in this period.
For archaeological support see Maeir2012: 247-250who dated two Judean levels in Gath to the period before 701 bc. There is also the phenomenon of the lmlk-stamps that have been found on several sites in the Shephelah and Negev and that had been used during a very short period just before Sennacherib devastated these places. Blakely and Hardin (2002: 12-13) narrow this period to the years 705-701 bc; they suggest that the produce was meant to support a rebellion; I suggest that it was meant for trade. Hardin 2012 has analysed finds in a Judean house from the late 8th century bc at Tell Halif in the northern Negev and has come to the conclusion (ibid.: 544-546) that this household took part in a regional economy by producing wine and perhaps textiles and by consumption of fish from the Mediterranean Sea or the Nile whereas the find of two bullae may have connected this household to the king. Aharoni (1972: 123-126) and Singer-Avitz (1999: 44-46) mention finds of late 8th-century bc Egyptian and Egyptian-style objects in Beersheba. According to Kletter (1998: 47-48 and 121-122) the late 8th century bc was also the period in which a new weight system that was partly connected to the Egyptian system came into use. Finkelstein and Na’aman (2004: 73-74) have argued that in the late 8th century bc the economy of Judah and the Shephelah in particular was well planned and state-organized with olive oil production in Tell Beit Mirsim and Beth-Shemesh. Textual evidence is given by ii Chron 32:27-29. Redford (1992: 356) suggests that some products of Hezekiah’s tribute to Sennacherib may have been of African origin and he mentions Isa 30:6-7 which describes trade between Judah and Egypt.
Tiglath-pileser: Tadmor and Yamada2011: text 42 lines 8’-15’; Sargon: Fuchs 1994: Annalen lines 53-57 and Prunk lines 25-26; Sennacherib: Grayson and Novotny 2012: text 4 lines 42-45.
Ehrlich1996: 94-95similarly presents an economic view on Tiglath-pileser’s actions against Gaza. He underlines the economic importance of Gaza for the Assyrian king but he suggests that just by capturing the city Assyria took control of the trade with Egypt and of Arabian trade routes and thus ignores the positions that Egypt and Arabs had in these trading activities.
The Assur Charter (Luckenbill1927: 69-71) treats Sargon’s campaigns of 720 bc; the Nimrud Inscription (Luckenbill 1927: 71-73) contains campaigns from 720 to 716 bc only mentioning Sargon as ‘Subduer of Judah’; the text of Sargon’s Najafehabad stele (Levine 1972: 34-45) is readable from the revolt of Yaubi’di of Hamath in 720 to the campaign against Mannea in 716 bc.
Some authors for instance Roberts2003: 268Redford 1992: 343 and 348 and Török 1997: 166-167 have stressed the tense or even hostile relation between Assyria and Egypt in the late 8th century bc but except for Tiglath-pileser’s and Sargon’s activities near Gaza (which I describe as negotiations concerning trade) I am not aware of any signs that might be interpreted as enmity between the two powers in this period.
Roberts2003: 266-267referring to Kitchen 1986: 378-379 suggests that Shabaka conquered the Nile Delta and was recognized as overlord by the Delta rulers in the early years of his reign which probably started not later than 721 bc (Kahn 2001: 3). Moje 2014: 342-345 remarks that although local rulers still are attested after this conquest a king of Tanis/Bubastis successor of Osorkon iv is not and that this kingdom must have been placed under direct Kushite control after Osorkon’s death for which in my opinion Iamani’s reign in Ashdod sometime between 715 and 711 bc (Fuchs 1998: 74: vii.B lines 30-33) is a terminus post quem. Note that Moje does not use the new dates for reigns of Kushite kings deduced from the Tang-i Var inscription (see footnote 59). This direct Kushite control must have been organized because the small kingdom being the most north-eastern in the Delta (Kitchen 1986: 372) controlled the southern gateway to the desert part of the Via Maris; direct control made direct trade along this route possible for Kush. This suggestion might also explain why Iamani after his arrival in Muṣri ended up at Shabaka’s court.
Layard1853: 156-159has suggested that the seal of Shabaka (footnote 60) belonged to a peace treaty. Since this article does not suggest enmity between Sargon and Egypt it may have been a commercial treaty and since it contained the name of Shabaka Shebitku’s predecessor this treaty probably was concluded before Iamani was sent back.
Botta and Flandin1972: plates 86-89 (lower sections); Franklin 1994: 265-267.
Grayson and Novotny2012: text 4 lines 36-38. Ashdod had been conquered by Sargon in 711 bc but it had kept or returned to its status as a kingdom and it is likely that its new king Mitinti had been pro-Assyrian or had endured the presence of an Assyrian official. Ammon Moab and Edom probably also traded with Egypt but if they did this via Elath and the King´s Highway they will not have been confronted with the situation created by Judah in the Gaza region.
Grayson and Novotny2012: text 4 lines 39-48. The term anti-Assyrian may technically not be correct because both parties may have been anti-Assyrian and the difference between the two may have been the way in which they wanted to deal with Assyria in order to prevent damage as much as possible.
Grayson and Novotny2012: text 4 lines 49-58; see also subsection 2.3.
Na’aman 1974 and1994: 245-247with references to these different views. Na’aman has attributed the inscription to Sennacherib. The translation presented here is from Grayson and Novotny 2012: text 1015.
Na’aman1974: 34-35and 1994: 245-247 with references The most significant doubts are the fact that Gath had not been a Philistine royal city anymore for over one hundred years (see also Maeir 2012; Amos 1:6-8 concerning Philistia only mentions Gaza Ashkelon Ashdod and Ekron) and that Ekron is not mentioned in Sennacherib’s campaign in the context of a conquest by siege (Grayson and Novotny 2012: text 4 lines 36 39-41 and 46-48).
Grayson and Novotny2012: text 4 lines 53-54 for Ashdod Ekron and Gaza and ibid.: text 46 lines 29-30 for an inclusion of Ashkelon in the list. Sennacherib also mentions the raise of their tribute. In this context Amar’s (1999: 4-5) remark that Sennacherib seems not to have destroyed the fruit trees around Lachish is significant. These areas must have raised Philistine profits and it would not surprise me if this transaction was the outcome of negotiations again.
Grayson and Novotny2012: text 4 line 43; this line also contains Sennacherib’s description of the Egyptian army as ‘forces without number’ that must be read as an amusing detail. Spalinger (1981: 53-54) also has considered the composition of the Egyptian forces problematic. According to him faced by the large Assyrian army the Kushite king was outnumbered both in men and in material.
For the treaty see Parpola and Watanabe1988: text 5; for an interpretation of this treaty see Van der Brugge and Kleber 2016: 195-196. For Qurdi-aššur-lāmur see footnote 40. For queries see for instance Starr 1990: texts 12 20 30 and 63.
Liverani (1979) initiated a discussion on Assyrian imperialist ideology; among subsequent contributions to the debate note Oded 1992; Cogan 1993; Laato 1995; Liverani 1995; Tadmor 1997; Fales 1999-2001.
Dubovský2006: 230gives many examples of similar phrases. He suggests that they have been used to describe the fear for Assyrian military actions after diplomatic measures had failed. I would go one step further and suggest that they have been used to conceal the fact that a mutual agreement had been reached instead of a unilateral diktat.
Grayson and Novotny2012: text 4 lines 55-58. The two sources show a difference in the amount of silver and also in the exact moment of transmission. Sennacherib relates how he let Hezekiah bring tribute to him in Assyria whereas the Bible tells us that Hezekiah paid Sennacherib when the latter was besieging Lachish and therefore some scholars think that Hezekiah might have paid twice. I suggest that it concerned one and the same payment and that it was brought to Assyria but that the Biblical author let it antedate the arrival of the rab šāqê in Jerusalem since he wanted to express that a conquest was prevented by Jahweh not by a payment afterwards which would have taken away the glance of Jahweh’s victory.