Visualizing Isaiah 20: Sargon the king of Assyria

For many years there was no reference to Sargon II (722-705 B.C.) in the available Assyrian records. Yet, the prophet Isaiah, writing at the time of the Assyrian captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel, mentions Sargon’s campaign against Ashdod.

In the year that the commander in chief, who was sent by Sargon the king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and fought against it and captured it– (Isaiah 20:1 ESV)

The palace of Sargon was discovered by Emile Botta at Khorsabad in 1843. This was the period of “monumental” discoveries in archaeology. Both the British Museum and the Louvre have impressive artifacts from the palace of Sargon. The photo below shows Sargon (on the left) receiving one of  his ministers.

Sargon II received a minister. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sargon II receives a minister. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

D. J. Wiseman explains the historical context of what happened at Ashdod.

In 716 bc Sargon sent his army commander (turtan; the *‘tartan’) to war against the Arabs in Sinai. This led to the reception of tribute from the pharaoh Shilkanni (Osorkon IV) of Egypt and from Samsi, queen of the Arabs. Despite these Assyrian successes, the people of Ashdod displaced their Assyrian-nominated ruler, Ahimetu, by a usurper Iadna (or Iamani) who initiated yet another Syro-Palestinian league against Assyria, doubtless relying on Egyptian help. In 712 bc the same turtan was sent to conquer Ashdod (Is. 20:1), which was reduced to the status of an Assyrian province. Since Azaqa (’Azeqah or Tell es-Zakariye) on the Judaean border near Lachish surrendered in this campaign, it will be seen how narrowly independent Judah escaped a further invasion. Iamani fled to Nubia for refuge, only to be extradited to Nineveh by the ruler Shabaka. (The New Bible Dictionary, 3rd edition)

One hundred twenty years after the discovery of Sargon’s palace, archaeologists working at Ashdod discovered fragments of a cuneiform stele of Sargon II at Ashdod. For more information about the discovery and a photograph of it see “Sargon II, Ashdod, and Isaiah 20:1″ here.

This inscription tells of the building of Sargon's palace. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This inscription tells of the building of Sargon’s palace. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

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3 responses to “Visualizing Isaiah 20: Sargon the king of Assyria

  1. I know I’m commenting on this late, and I apologise for that.

    One thing that really struck me about Isaiah’s mention of Sargon is that none of the ancient historians mentioned Sargon — he, like Belshazzar in Daniel, was completely forgotten within 100 years of his death. His son, Sennacherib, left him out of his annals and monuments. He simply disappeared beneath Iraqi sands, and no one remembered him.

    It seems, then, that Isaiah’s mention of Sargon is strong evidence that Isaiah was writing as a near chronological contemporary of Sargon — or how would he have even known of Sargon? That obviously fits with the Biblical account. And it has significant ramifications for how we view Isaiah’s prophecies, and is problematic for those sceptics who argue for a later date.

  2. Pingback: Seal from time of Sargon II found at Roman-era site | Ferrell's Travel Blog

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