Lachish
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Excavations at Lachish. A BIBARCH™ Photo.

One of Judah's largest cities, Lachish served as a fortress guarding the Shephelah region form the 10 - 6th centuries BCE. Standing on the tel today, one can still appreciate the strategic position which made it so important in ancient times. There is a clear view to the coastal plain in the west, the fortress town of Mareshah to the north and the hills of Hebron to the east.

 

Scripture Summary

  • The king of Lachish was one of the five kings of the Canaanites who fought against Joshua at the city of Gibeon and who were killed at the cave of Makkedah (Joshua 10:23).
  • Joshua destroyed Lachish, slaughtering its inhabitants (Joshua 10:31-33).
  • The city as assigned to the tribal territory of Judah (Joshua 15:21, 39).
  • Rehoboam fortified Lachish as part of a western defense wall to protect Judah from attack by the Philistines (2 Chronicles 11:5-12).
  • King Amaziah (798-769 BCE) unsuccessfully tried to escape from the conspirators who launched a palace revolt in Jerusalem by fleeing to Lachish (2 Kings 14:19).
  • The Assyrian king Sennacherib attacked Lachish and sent the three top officials of his court to negotiate with King Hezekiah for the surrender of Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:13-17).
  • Lachish was the last Judean city to fall to the armies of Nebuchadnezzar before they lay siege to Jerusalem (Jeremiah 34:7).
  • Jews resettled Lachish during the Return (Nehemiah 11:30).

The city was first thought to have been located at a tel with the modern Arabic name of Lakis, and then at Tell el-Hesi. Only later was it identified with the imposing mound of Tell ed-Duweir, thirty miles southeast of Jerusalem and fifteen miles west of Hebron. Scholars believe they finally have discovered its true location since:

  1. Tell ed-Dueweir is the largest tel in the region with significant remains from the Bronze and Iron Ages

  2. The ruins of  Tell ed-Duweir from the Iron Age very closely resemble the bas-relief of Lachish from the royal palace at Nineveh

  3. Information about Lachish contained in secular literary sources match the history of occupation of Tell ed-Duweir

The first settled occupation of Lachish dates to the first period of the Middle Bronze Age (Middle Bronze I). In Middle Bronze II Lachish was an important Canaanite fortress, protected by a glacis and a moat. The Egyptians at the time of Thutmose II knew the Lachish of this period. It would appear that it was this city which was destroyed by Joshua. In the Late Bronze Age, the city revived and reached the peak of its development. It's name appears as Lakisu in the Amarna letters ca.1400-1360 BCE.

Excavations at Lachish. A BIBARCH™ Photo.

The first Israelite occupation of the site dates from the late 10th century BCE with the building of a palace, 100 feet on each side, on the ruins of a palace dating to the Late Bronze Age. Archaeologists attribute this construction to Rehoboam at the time he fortified Lachish as part of his western defense line against the Philistines (II Chronicles 11:5-9). It appears that during the reign of Jehoshaphat builders extended the palace southward another 140 feet.

The city known as Lachish III, surrounded by a double wall, had strong fortifications. The destruction of the city by fire was so thorough that the debris formed a layer of ashes about 3 feet thick. For about 50 years, controversy raged over the question, "Who was the destroyer of Lachish III? Excavations on the site, involving a thorough and careful stratigraphic examination, finally resolved the question to the satisfaction of most scholars. The Assyrian King Sennacherib, who invaded Judah ca. 701 BCE, was the destroyer of Lachish III. Not only do Assyrian documents refer to Sennacherib's conquest of the city, but a bas-relief, picturing the siege of the city, occupied a prominent location in Sennacherib's palace at Nineveh.

A new city (Lachish II) rose on the ruins of the city destroyed by Sennacherib. In the gate house of the rebuilt city, the famous Lachish Letters were found. These letters consist of the correspondence between the commander of the city of Lachish and an unidentified Judean outpost at the time of Nebuchadnezzar's invasion of Judah in 587 BCE. As the Babylonian army advanced through the Shephelah region towards Lachish, the unknown commander of the outpost wrote to his superior at Lachish that "...we are watching for the signals of Lachish, according to all the indications which my lord gave, for we cannot see [the signal fire of] Azekah". This simple account by a minor officer to his superior is remarkable, since it confirms the biblical account of Nebuchadnezzar's invasion. Jeremiah records that Azekah and Lachish were the last cities to fall to the Babylonians before they lay siege to Jerusalem (Jeremiah 34:7).

After the Captivity, although the region of Lachish was part of the Persian province of Idumaea,  returning Jews resettled the city (Nehemiah 11:30). On the ruins of the former Israelite palaces builders constructed a Persian palace. After continuous occupation throughout the Persian and Hellenistic periods, the city ceased to exist in the second century BCE.


Page last edited: 04/06/06 09:18 PM


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