war in the Bible
Graphic depiction of soldiers removing the skin of captives at Lachish
Assyrian wall relief, showing impaled captives (upper left)
Siege warfare, which involved the entire noncombatant population of the besieged town, was governed by a strict rule: before any hostile action, peace was offered in return for surrender to the besieging army. If this offer was refused,
The Assyrians had capable generals, well-trained soldiers, and excellent weapons. At the height of their power they were virtually invincible on the battlefield.
So if they invaded a country (like the little kingdom of Judah), and the inhabitants were not prepared to surrender, it was marginally safer for the people to hole up in their fortified city and wait out the inevitable siege. This is what the people of Lachish tried to do.
Having the psychological edge
There was little chance of beating the Assyrians, since part of their power lay in their reputation - first for success, but also for dealing unmercifully with kingdoms who did not toe the line.
Assyrian kings used prominently-displayed inscriptions in their own palaces, and abroad, as a warning to foreign nations. They boasted that they destroyed all cities they took, and they often claimed to have killed entire populations.
(denoted by their long fringed robes) Assyrian officials carry away the
loot from the
The fate of captives was severe. The luckiest among them (women and children) have lost all their possessions and became slaves. The men were tortured in a variety of ways - this wall relief shows them being skinned alive and left to die. In the bottom panel of the wall relief, the reason for the destruction is shown: the rich palm groves of the city.
War propoganda in the ancient world
The wall reliefs were meant as deterrents, warnings to anyone who even thought about rebellion or resistance.
According to these inscriptions, the most imaginative refinements of cruelty were reserved for cities resisting the Assyrians:
Another inscriptions says:
The Bible records that at the siege of Jerusalem, Sennacherib's officer, taunting the Jews on the city, wall, assured them that they were doomed to 'eat their own faeces and drink their own piss' (2 Kings 18:27). This seems mild compared with the fate described in the inscriptions above.
As it happened, Jerusalem was saved - probably by cholera or dysentery from a polluted water supply, which affected the Assyrians so badly that they withdrew their forces and accepted an enormous ransom/bribe instead.
Rubble of a destroyed city