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Sennacherib’s army camps

22 June 2024
Ancient history, Archaeology

This concerns Sennacherib, otherwise Sin ahe eriba, in his war of conquest in the southern Levant. William Thompson, in his MS Word document, Cosmic Catastrophism Affecting the Earth – Bibliography and Handbook.docx … see http://cosmictusk.com/a-comprehensive-modern-catastrophist-bibiography/ … which you can access via the SIS web site. Simply type in William Thompson in the search facility and it will take you to the link and url. You don’t seem to be able to get to it via the Cosmic Tusk web site which has recently had a makeover. William added the link to Sennacherib’s army camps under the title, ‘Jerusalem Bolide Postulated in 701BC’ – which is quite different from the take at  https://www.dailymail.co.uk … or Yahoo [see https://www.yahoo.com/news/clues-bloody-biblical-battle-between-183117120.html … where the emphasis is on the Angel of the Lord decimating the army of Sennacherib bivouaced beyond the walls of Jerusalem in the time of Hezekiah. All 185,000 of them. Obviously, no angels were involved. However, as the angel of the Lord that destroyed Sodom [Tall el-Hammam] has turned out to be an exploding meteor in the lower atmosphere, it seems reasonable to me to think in terms of something similar, but smaller, in the time of Sennacherib. However, exactly how death came to the army is probably more to do with blast and an electromagnetic pulse running through the camp. It aso seems significant that Hezekiah, ensconced in Jerusalem, was bed ridden – and may have remained bed ridden for the remaining 15 years of his reign. How many other citizens of Jerusalem were also affected?

The press, from the New York Times to the Daily Mail appear to have gone over the top with lurid lines about the deathly actions of the angel of the Lord, but a more prosaic response is available at https://popular-archaeology.com/article/first-ever-discovery-of-ancient-assyrian-military-camps-includes-biblical-site/ … which is basically a review of an article by one Stephen Compton in Near Eastern Archaeology [accessed through membership of ASOR]. The title of the article is, ‘The trail of Sennacherib’s Siege Camps’ and pertains to first identifying the site of the camp of the army before Lachish, famously depicted in a relief on a stone  wall at Nineveh, the capital of Sennacherib’s Assyria – and much embellished and rebuilt by that particular ruler. William notes that the Bible refers to God’s victory over the Assyrians at Jerusalem, laid siege after the fall of Lachish, on three occasions. In Isaiah 37:36-38, 2 Kings 19:35 and 2 Chronicles 32:21. Popular Archaeology says Compton’s initial discovery concerned Lachish. He used a scene carved into the stone wall of his palace and he matched the landscape there with the actual landscape using aerial photographs of Lachish in 1945, well before modern development in the region. He went on to create a virtual map that led to ruins of similar shape and size to the camp in Sennacherib’s relief. An archaeological survey, or field walk over the site, found no evidence of human habitation of the site over 2600 years. This takes us into the 20th century. Compton adds, the Arabic name of the site was Khirbet al Mudawwara, which he says has the meaning of ‘the ruins of the camp of the invading ruler.’ [or something like that]. One  media report has king and another sultan, presumably a reference to the Turkish empire in the Levant.

At this point the article is spot on as he is publishing his findings in a perfectly logical way, including how he arrived at the site close to Lachish. At that point he says he went out searching for other sites that have the Mudawwara element in their name. He found one applied to a conical hill overlooking Jerusalem. The inference was that this was the site of the camp of Sennacherib that was decimated by an angel of the Lord. This is what got the media very excited. What will archaeologists find there when they excavate the hill. Unfortunately, that is not very likely as it is a war grave and contains a memorial to another blood battle, more recently, during the 6 Day War. In the 1930s the hill was used by the British army as a munitions dump and became known as Ammunition Hill. In 1948 the site was captured by the Arab League who built trenches there – and defended it against the Israelis in the 6 Day War. It was duly camptured by Israeli paratroopers with heavy losses on both sides. The site remains sensitive. However, if anything is found at the proposed site of the camp outside Lachish this may lead to invesigation of some kind on Ammunition Hill. Not anytime soon one would think.

Compton goes on to say that after victory at Lachish Sennacherib’s army advanced towards Jerusalem, stopping at Nob and challenging Hezekiah from there. This is a central part of Compton’s theory as walls were discovered. Nob is the lost priestly location that held the portable Tabernacle associated with Moses and his journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. A holy site one might say. However, according to 1 Samuel 21-22, after the priests came out in favour of David in his dispute with Saul, the latter had every man, woman and child in Nob killed. Nob is not then mentioned for the next 300 years, or so, until Sennacherib tarried there. It is of course an extrapolation by Compton as we don’t know that Sennacherib camped his troops at Nob – or even if Nob was on Ammunition Hill. Compton alighted on this site as it included the element mudawwara – which he was sure had the meaning of camp of the invading ruler. However, Israeli archaeologists are not necessarily convinced, and neither is wikipedia as mudawwara is otherwise translated from Arabic as rounded, or a round location – as in a conical hill. The site at Lachish seems to have an oval feature which could also be explained as a rounded location. Hence, the jury is out on whether or not Compton has found any Assyrian camps, even though he went on to locate several others simply on the basis of the term mudawwara. For the aticle in question the link is https://www.asor.org/news/2024/5/nea87.2-toa/ … but see also https://www.livescience.com/archaeology/long-lost-assyrian-military-camp-devastated-by-the-angel-of-the-lord-finally-found-scientist-claims …  where the headline has Compton as a scientist but in the article he is described as a scholar. Some people say the angel of the Lord ‘passed over’ the Assyrian camp rather than passing through it. That needs  some clarification. Neither seems to comply with an airburst event  but it has been suggested an electromagnetic pulse could have passed through the camp as a result of the force of the blast of the explosion [somewhat like a nuclear explosion]. Hugh Crosthwaite, a professor of classics, some years ago, wrote an interesting book, ‘Ka: a handbook of mythology, social practises, electrical phenomena‘ back in 1992. He claimed an electrical component to the blast that struck the camp, in the form of a javelin with an aura, or glow. He went no further than that but one can see a connection with the holy lance of Romance, and so on. Herodotus has another explanation and the idea of a plague involving mice [rodents have been associated with bubonic plague]  gnawing at the bowstringe of the Assyrians. Quite how this managed to kill 185,000 soldiers in one night is far from clear. The bolide explosion is much more likely as the angels Michael and Gabriel, for example, are seen as agents used by God to kill the enemies of Judah and Israel, on other occasions.


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