VIII. The Annals of Sargon
by miriam berg


How did it happen that the second book of the Kings tells us, both in a single breath, that Samaria was captured by Sargon in the 6th year of Hezekiah's reign, and that Jerusalem was besieged by Sennacherib in the 14th year of Hezekiah, when there were 21 years between the two events, which are known to have been in 722 BCE and 701 BCE respectively? I believe the answer has been staring us in the face for centuries, in the annals of Sargon II himself, meticulously recorded, and boastful though they may be. For they tell of an expedition sent by Sargon through Judea, and against Ashdod, which was defeated, and after which Hezekiah and Judea submitted to Sargon and paid tribute, and which all happened in about the 9th year of Sargon's reign, WHICH IS EXACTLY THE 14TH YEAR OF HEZEKIAH'S REIGN IF HE BEGAN TO REIGN IN THE 6TH YEAR BEFORE THE FALL OF SAMARIA. And later scribes combined the report of this event with the report of Sennacherib's siege of Jerusalem, coincidentally FOURTEEN more years later.

The annals of Sargon report that he became king of Assyria in the year 722 BCE. In his first year he captured Samaria, and carried away 27,200 of the Israelites into captivity. The same year Babylon rebelled, and Marduk-bala-iddin (Merodach-Baladan) was crowned king. In the 3rd year of Sargon's reign (720 BCE) he defeated a revolt of the cities of Hamath, Arpad, and Damascus, and also the Philistines and Egyptians at Raphia. In about the 8th year of his reign (715 BCE) he completely defeated Rusas and the kingdom of Urartu. In about the 9th year of his reign (714 BCE), Marduk-bala-iddin organized a league with Moab, Edom, and Judah to rebel against Sargon, but the same year Sargon sent the expedition against Ashdod and completely defeated the Philistines and Egyptians, after which Edom, Moab, and Judah submitted to him and Sargon later referred to himself as "subduer of faroff Judah." Sargon then led his army against Marduk-bala-iddin, and finally defeated Babylon in 710 BCE and Marduk-bala-iddin was driven into exile. Sargon was crowned king of Babylon in 709 BCE, built a city named after himself called Dur-Sharrukin in 706 BCE, and finally was assassinated in the year 705 BCE, after which his son Sinakhe-erba (Sennacherib) became king, and again Babylon revolted under Merodach-baladan.

That the event referred to as happening in the 14th year of Hezekiah's reign was the Assyrian campaign against Ashdod, is supported by many details in the 18th, 19th, and 20th chapters of the 2nd book of the Kings, and further confirmed by the reports in the book of Isaiah, who was alive at the time of the fall of Samaria. I shall point out these details in the next section. But these details have gone unrecognized because of the tangle in the book of the Kings with the later event, in the 4th year of Sennacherib (701 BCE), when he besieged Jerusalem and after a stalemate with Hezekiah he returned to Nineveh with tribute paid by Hezekiah for him to go away.

The tangle is further increased because the death of Sennacherib, which didn't happen until the year 681 BCE, 22 years after the siege of Jerusalem, is reported as immediately following the end of the siege, and his son Esarhaddon as beginning to reign even before the event of Hezekiah's illness, after which Hezekiah lived for 15 more years. And the tale of Merodach-Baladan involving him in a rebellion is told last, as happening in the 14th year of Hezekiah's reign, when Hezekiah was sick unto death, but it corresponds to the conspiracy organized in the 9th year of Sargon's reign, which was the 14th year of Hezekiah although Merodach could have also sent letters on his return to power after the death of Sargon, but that time he only lasted 9 months, so that he was long out of power during the siege of Jerusalem in 701 BCE.

Figure XI shows the events in the reign of Sargon II, side by side with the correct order of the events reported in chapters 18-20 of the second book of the Kings. This chart shows how the expedition by Sargon against Ashdod occurred in the 14th year of Hezekiah's reign, and how the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib occurred in the 14th year after that, and how the 15 years extra life of Hezekiah came after the expedition by Sargon II. Table IV shows the order in which the verses of chapters 18-20 of the second book of the Kings should be placed.

             JUDAH                           ASSYRIA
BCE                                                                         BCE
                                |----------------------------- 727
727 ----------------------------|  SHALMANESER
      HEZEKIAH                  |----------------------------- 726
726 ----------------------------|    (2nd)
        (2nd)                   |----------------------------- 725
725 ----------------------------|    (3rd)
        (3rd)                   |----------------------------- 724
724 ----------------------------|    (Siege of Samaria begins)
        (4th; 7th of Hoshea     |----------------------------- 723
723 ----------------------------|    (5th)
        (5th)                   |----------------------------- 722
722 ----------------------------|  SARGON II (Samaria falls)
        (6th; 9th of Hoshea)    |----------------------------- 721
721 ----------------------------|    (2nd; battle with Elam)
        (7th)                   |------------ ---------------- 720
720 ----------------------------|    (3rd; battle with Egypt)
        (8th)                   |----------------------------- 719
719 ----------------------------|    (4th; defeat of Urartu)
        (9th)                   |----------------------------- 718
718 ----------------------------|    (5th; defeat of Tabal)
        (10th)                  |----------------------------- 717
717 ----------------------------|    (6th; defeat of Khati)
        (11th)                  |----------------------------- 716
716 ----------------------------|    (7th; war with Sabaco)
        (12th)                  |----------------------------- 715
715 ----------------------------|    (8th; defeat of Medes)
                                |----------------------------- 714
        (13th)                  |    (9th; defeat of Rusas)
714 ----------------------------|
        (14th of Hezekiah; plot |
         by Merodach-Baladan;   |----------------------------- 713
         Isaiah predicts death) |
                                |    (10th; defeat of Ashdod)
713 ----------------------------|    
        (15th, 1st of           |----------------------------- 712
         15 more years          |    (11th; war with Merodach-Baladin)
712 ----------------------------|    
        (16th, 2nd)             |----------------------------- 711
711 ----(17th, 3rd)-------------|__ _(12th)___________________ 710
710 ----(18th, 4th)-------------|____(13th)___________________ 709
709 ----------------------------|    (14th; Merodach-Baladin
                                |           defeated)
        (19th, 5th)             |----------------------------- 708
708 ----------------------------|    (15th)
        (20th, 6th)             |----------------------------- 707
707 ----(21st, 7th)-------------|____(16th)___________________ 706
706 ----------------------------|    (17th; Dur-Sharrakin built)
        (22nd, 8th)             |----------------------------- 705
705 ----------------------------|  SENNACHERIB (Sargon killed)
        (23rd, 9th)             |----------------------------- 704
704 ----------------------------|    (2nd)
        (24th, 10th)            |----------------------------- 703
703 ----(25th, 11th)------------|____(3rd)____________________ 702
702 ----(26th, 12th)------------|____(4th)____________________ 701
701 ----------------------------|    (5th; siege of Jerusalem)
        (27th, 13th)            |----------------------------- 700
700 ----(28th, 14th)------------|____(6th)____________________ 699
699 ----------------------------|
        (29th, 15th of 15 years;|----------------------------- 698
         Hezekiah dies          |
698 ----------------------------|
(Data for Sargon II taken from History of Egypt by G. Maspero)