Lachish—Blending the Bible, History, & Archaeology

How biblical history weaves a unified story, supporting what the Bible says.

Screams of war had had occurred where I stood. Hebrew and Assyrian arrows spraying at each other. Sling stones crushing armor and skulls. Assyrian battering rams methodically picking apart the city’s outer wall. Finally, Lachish fell.

Tel Lachish—Mixing the Biblical, Historical, & Archeological

(Photo: Relief from Sennacherib’s Victory Over Lachish, in British Museum)

Of all ancient tells in the Holy Land, the Israel Antiquities Authority owns only one—Tel Lachish. It remained the most important city in the southern kingdom of Judah, except for Jerusalem.

Archaeology abundantly points to the biblical events here as historical.

Lachish, Location, Location

Guarding the southern edge of the Shephelah, Lachish served as both a customs outpost and as Jerusalem’s watchdog over invading Egypt. No one could access the Hill Country via Hebron without Lachish’s knowledge.

  • The ruins atop the tell include a large, flat platform—measuring 35 by 75 meters—upon which a series of building stood from the time of King Rehoboam in the 10th-century BC.
  • Below the platform rest the remains of a Canaanite temple, dating from the time Joshua destroyed the city (Joshua 10:31-32).
  • By 1200 BC, three consecutive Canaanite temples had been demolished.

(All pics courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Sennacherib’s Invasion and Victory Reliefs at Lachish

That’s why when the Assyrian tyrant, Sennacherib, invaded Judah in 701 BC, he set his sights on Lachish. Having conquered the northern Shephelah, and having pushed Egypt down and out of the way, the Assyrian army faced an open door to Jerusalem.

Only Lachish stood in their way.

Sennacherib's campaign

(Sennacherib’s campaign, from Crossway ESV Bible Atlas)

Sennacherib was so proud of his victory over Lachish that he commemorated the battle with a series of stone reliefs carved on the walls of his Nineveh palace. Portions of these reliefs are displayed today in the British Museum.

They still reveal the ferocity of the battle.

Bowing before the Assyrians

(Photo: Sennacherib’s reliefs show Hebrews bowing in homage, by Cathy Stiles. British Museum)

Jeremiah’s Note and the Lachish Letters

More than a century later, during the ministry of Jeremiah, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded Judah and laid siege to its most important cites—including again, Lachish.

Jeremiah records that near the end of the invasion, only:

Jerusalem . . . Lachish and Azekah . . . remained as fortified cities among the cities of Judah. —Jeremiah 34:7

The archaeological discovery called the “Lachish Letters” support Jeremiah’s verse.

Lachish Letters

(Photo: The Lachish Letters, by Wayne Stiles. British Museum)

In 1935, archeologists digging in the guardhouse near the gate discovered eighteen ostraca (inscribed pottery shards) with ancient Hebrew inscriptions. These words included a draft letter to Jerusalem that harmonizes with Jeremiah 34:7:

We are watching over the signal of Lachish . . . for Azekah is not to be seen. —Lachish Letter #4

Today, the Gate Area remains the best way to enter the tell. The ramp ascends slowly to the north and passes an outer and inner gate, the largest extant in Israel. Just inside the gate, an interpretive sign reveals the location of the discovery of the Lachish Letters.

Lachish gatehouse where Lachish Letters found

(Photo: Lachish gatehouse where Lachish Letters were found, courtesy of Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The Siege Ramp

The earthen siege ramp erected by the Assyrians still leans against the tell today and remains the only excavated siege ramp in near eastern antiquity. The mobile picks from Sennacherib’s battering rams destroyed the outer gate’s western wall.

As the pictures of the slideshow alternate below, compare the photograph of the siege ramp today with the picture of me pointing to the Assyrians scaling the ramp with arrows and the battering ram.

(Siege ramp pic courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

More than a thousand iron arrowheads were discovered at the siege ramp, giving silent testimony to the savagery of the battle.

Arrowheads from Lachish

(Photo: Arrowheads found at the Lachish siege ramp, by Cathy Stiles. British Museum)

Look at the sling stones discovered at Lachish. They are as big as my hand!

Imagine the damage they could do to a skull.

sling stones from Lachish

(Photo: Sling stones from Lachish, by Cathy Stiles. British Museum)

The archaeology at Tel Lachish combines perfectly with biblical history to weave a unified story, supporting what the Bible says.

In my next post, I’ll share a devotional about Lachish. In the mean time here’s a question . . .

Question: Would our faith still be credible if history didn’t support it? To leave a comment, just click here.

Lachish on the Map:

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I'd love to hear your thoughts. Just keep it kind and relevant. Thanks!

  • Arne Teigland

    if you want to believe something that history doesn’t support, just join the Latter Day Saints or put your faith in Ganesha, the Hindu god with the elephant head. If history doesn’t support our faith, our faith is in the wrong thing.

    • I had to chuckle, Arne, when I read your comment. It’s true: if our faith doesn’t correspond with reality, it isn’t real. I’ve always loved Jesus’ words: “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12). In other words, the physical and the metaphysical don’t contradict. Thanks for your comment.

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  • Grant Mohler

    I’d like to say to say my faith is impenetrable but if history clearly contradicted the Bible then my trust in the Bible would be lost because I take the historicity of the Bible as a huge part of my reason in believing.

    • That makes sense, Grant. The two have matched so perfectly so far that I think we’re on solid ground. I think debunking the resurrection would have to be done first. Thanks.

  • Jeanelle Sims

    Just another proof that history is. His story

  • Gene Dahmes

    Thank you, Wayne. A very good post, and good comments. If history doesn’t seem to “support” our faith, just wait. It will. A discovery will be made.

    • Absolutely, Gene. Yes. Thanks for your affirming words. I love how archaeology affirms what the Bible has said for centuries. The truth is hiding in the ground.

  • ARM BAR

    I remember when a friend of mine asked me 4 years ago about whether the story of Bible was actually really happening,i told him at that time that yes it was really happening and in the deep of my heart i knew that some archaeology evidence had already been discovered and some others are still waiting to be discovered only the matter of time,and now i know that God will eventually reveal all of it, and yes our God in Jesus name is Great and real.

    • Yes, it’s an unusual support—but a strong ally to the truth. Although archaeology proves nothing in the Bible, it supports it all. I love Ravi Zacharias’ words: “God has put enough into this world to make faith in Him a most reasonable thing, but He has left enough out to make it impossible to live by sheer reason alone.”

  • KB

    Good day, Wayne. I very much enjoy these walks through history, thank you!

    Our faith would be absolutely credible still because of God’s always faithful promises. When Im obedient (because of loving The Lord), those promises do happen just as He said. It’s sureal sometimes. I’m still in awe of a few. No unbeliever can “truly” deny many of the miraculous things God has done in mine and millions of others lives (even though they have their rehearsed “coincidental, you planted those” atheist excuses).

    • I think you’re right. It seems that often what we experience is too good to be true – in their minds. It’s much easier to dismiss than to take the risk of having faith. Thanks.

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