Colonel R. Taylor discovered a clay prism in ancient Nineveh in 1830. The six-sided prism contains 500 lines of text written in the Akkadian language describing the exploits of King Sennacherib (705-681 BC). Dated to 689 BC, it is only 15” x 5.5”. Of Biblical significance is Sennacherib’s account of his invasion of Judah and siege of Jerusalem in 701 BC. The prism reads:
Because Hezekiah, king of Judah, would not submit to my yoke, I came up against him, and by force of arms and by the might of my power I took 46 of his strong fenced cities; and of the smaller towns which were scattered about, I took and plundered a countless number. From these places I took and carried off 200,156 persons, old and young, male and female, together with horses and mules, asses and camels, oxen and sheep, a countless multitude; and Hezekiah himself I shut up in Jerusalem, his capital city, like a bird in a cage, building towers round the city to hem him in, and raising banks of earth against the gates, so as to prevent escape… Then upon Hezekiah there fell the fear of the power of my arms, and he sent out to me the chiefs and the elders of Jerusalem with 30 talents of gold and 800 talents of silver, and diverse treasures, a rich and immense booty… All these things were brought to me at Nineveh, the seat of my government.
Notice what Sennacherib does not mention: the defeat of Jerusalem. He besieged the city and took away booty, but did not defeat it. According to the Bible, God sent an angel into the Assyrian camp during the night and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers, causing Sennacherib to retreat.
Sennacherib Murdered by his own sons
2 Kings 19:37 Now it came to pass, as he (Sennacherib) was worshiping in the temple of Nisroch his god, that his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. Then Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.”
Isaiah’s prophecy came to pass 20 years later. This exact account was discovered on a clay tablet (in The British Museum): “On the twentieth day of the month Tebet Sennacherib king of Assyria his son slew him in rebellion… Esarhaddon his son sat on the throne of Assyria.’”
There is a problem with the reconciling the Biblical and extra-biblical dating. According to 2 Kings 18:10 Samaria fell in the 9th year of Hoshea’s reign, and 6th year of Hezekiah’s reign. Then 18:13 says Sennacherib invaded the fortified cities of Judah in Hezekiah’s 14th year. That’s only 8 years later, which would be 714 BC, not 701 BC as we know from extra-biblical sources. It could not have been much earlier than 701 BC because Sennacherib did not begin to reign until 705. One solution is to understand the Biblical text to refer to the time that Sennacherib began his campaigns against Judah’s fortified cities, not the time at which Lachish fell, or the time at which Hezekiah was corresponding with Sennacherib at Lachish. This would explain how Hezekiah was able to accomplish all the preparations described in 2 Chron 32:2-6,32. He didn’t begin preparing in 701 BC (his 27th or 28th regal year), but in his 14th.