Damien F. Mackey
“In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him,
and he fought against Ashdod and took it”
This article presupposes my:
Assyrian King Sargon II, Otherwise Known As Sennacherib
The following is taken from my postgraduate thesis (Volume 1, Ch. 6, pp. 154-155):
A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah
and its Background
Now, when Sargon II refers to ‘Ashdod, we need to be clear as to which exact location he had in mind, for he also refers in the same account to an ‘Ashdod-by-the-Sea’. Thus we read: “Ashdod, Gimtu [Gath?], Ashdudimmu [Ashdod-by-the-Sea], I besieged and captured”. It is the maritime Ashdod that I am going to propose – contrary to the usual view – is the well known Ashdod of the Philistine plain; whilst the ‘Ashdod’ mentioned first here by Sargon, I shall identify as the mighty inland stronghold of Lachish (approx. 50 km south west of Jerusalem), the most important Judaean fort after Jerusalem itself.
These three cities of Lachish, Gath and Ashdod, taken together, formed something of a line of formidable forts in Judaea. Assyria had to take them as they were a dangerous base for hostile Egypt.
That Sargon would have had to confront Lachish would seem to be inevitable, militarily, due to the fact that he did indeed capture its neighbouring fort of Azekah. (For more on
this, see pp. 158-159). Did not Sargon II boast anyway of his having been the “subduer of the land of Iaudu (Judah), which lies far away …”?
Now, the fortress of Lachish was the high point of Sennacherib’s western campaign. To no Judaean city apart from Jerusalem itself would the description ‘Ashdod’ – that is, ‘a very strong place’ – apply more aptly than to Lachish. The name ‘Ashdod’, from the root shádad, ‘to be strong’, signifies ‘a stronghold’. “What a surprise, then”, writes Russell, regarding the surrender of Lachish, “to turn to the annalistic account of that same campaign – inscribed on the bulls at the throne-room entrance – and discover that Lachish is not mentioned at all”.
Was it that Sargon II – hence, that Sennacherib – had instead referred to Lachish by the descriptive title of ‘Ashdod’, whose capture Sargon covers in detail?