David and I are once again in Israel, the “Beautiful Land,” as the prophet Daniel described it.
Lachish first appears in the Biblical narrative during Joshua’s conquest of Canaan.
When King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem heard how Joshua had taken Ai and had utterly destroyed it, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, he became greatly frightened, because Gibeon was a large city, like one of the royal cities, and was larger than Ai, and all its men were warriors.
So King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem sent a message to King Hoham of Hebron, to King Piram of Jarmuth, to King Japhia of Lachish, and to King Debir of Eglon, saying, “Come up and help me, and let us attack Gibeon, for it has made peace with Joshua and with the Israelites.”
Then the five kings of the Amorites—the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon—gathered their forces and went up with all their armies and camped against Gibeon and made war against it.Joshua 10
In one of those edge-of-your-seat tales, God told Joshua not to be afraid, because the Lord had already determined to deliver all five kings and their armies into Joshua’s hands.
- The Lord threw the entire conglomeration of enemy forces into a panic at Joshua’s sudden attack, causing them to flee.
- Then God threw down enormous hailstones from the sky onto the fleeing armies. More died from the hailstorm than died by the sword.
- When Joshua commanded the sun and moon to stand still, God caused it to be so, “the sun stopped in midheaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day.”
Meanwhile, all five of the kings who had allied together to capture the city-state of Gibeon had abandoned their men and hidden themselves in a cave. When Joshua found this out, he had them brought to him and executed.
Later, Lachish was given to the tribe of Judah as part of their inheritance from the Lord.
Micah Delivers Prophecy of Disaster
Over time, Lachish became a very important city for Judah, which also made it a military target. Centuries later, the prophet Micah would predict an Assyrian onslaught to come.
Harness the steeds to the chariots,Micah 1:13 (NRSV)
inhabitants of Lachish;
it was the beginning of sin
to daughter Zion,
for in you were found
the transgressions of Israel.
Lachish had become famous for its chariot races, but now its horses would be harnessed in terror as the citizens of Lachish raced to escape.
King of Assyria’s Conquest
The next big story involving Lachish occurred during Hezekiah’s reign, when the King of Assyria laid siege to and then overwhelmed Lachish, which had since become Judah’s second-best fortified city after Jerusalem. There is a famous frieze (housed in the British Museum) that had been requisitioned by the king of Assyria to portray his brutal subjugation of Lachish.
In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, King Sennacherib of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. King Hezekiah of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, “I have done wrong; withdraw from me; whatever you impose on me I will bear.”
The king of Assyria demanded of King Hezekiah of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king’s house. At that time Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord and from the doorposts that King Hezekiah of Judah had overlaid and gave it to the king of Assyria.
The king of Assyria sent the Tartan, the Rabsaris, and the Rabshakeh with a great army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem.2 Kings 18
After receiving all the treasure stripped from God’s holy temple, Sennacherib King of Assyria decided he wanted to have the whole city of Jerusalem as well. He sent his general with a large army to demoralize the people and terrify them into surrendering by mocking God, slandering Hezekiah, and using as evidence of Assyria’s sure victory all the surrounding vanquished countries with their impotent gods who had already been crushed by the Assyrian war machine.
When King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord.
… Isaiah said to them, “Say to your master: Thus says the Lord: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled me. I myself will put a spirit in him so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land; I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.”2 Kings 19
It was another miraculous deliverance, for that night the angel of death came and by morning the entire Assyrian army was dead.
Kings of Israel and Judah at War
One very interesting episode that I have never heard a sermon on happened during King Amaziah’s reign. Evidently Amaziah King of Judah conducted a successful campaign against Edom and, feeling his oats, decided to aggress Joash king of Israel. After diplomacy failed,
King Jehoash of Israel went up; he and King Amaziah of Judah faced one another in battle at Beth-shemesh, which belongs to Judah. Judah was defeated by Israel; everyone fled home.
– King Jehoash of Israel captured King Amaziah of Judah son of Jehoash son of Ahaziah at Beth-shemesh;
– he came to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate, a distance of four hundred cubits.
– He seized all the gold and silver and all the vessels that were found in the house of the Lord
– and in the treasuries of the king’s house,
– as well as hostages;
then he returned to Samaria.2 Kings 14:11-14 (NRSV)
That kind of shocks me that Judah and Israel, brothers in the Lord, could war with each other and not fear God’s grief and wrath.
Amaziah should have at least feared his own administration after having promoted such a disastrous military engagement.
They made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish. But they sent after him to Lachish and killed him there.2 Kings 14:19 (NRSV)
King of Babylon’s Conquest
Nebuchadnezzar dealt the final blow to Lachish
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, when King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon and all his army and all the kingdoms of the earth and all the peoples under his dominion were fighting against Jerusalem and all its cities.
… when the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and against all the cities of Judah that were left, Lachish and Azekah, for these were the only fortified cities of Judah that remained.Jeremiah 36
It was the beginning of the end for Judah, as soon the walls of Jerusalem would be breached, the temple destroyed, and the people hauled off into captivity.
Like all the cities of Judah, Lachish lay in ruins during the years of Judah’s exile until Nehemiah returned to rebuild. “Lachish and its fields” are mentioned among the villages and outlying areas where the people who did not live in Jerusalem went to start life anew in the inheritance of God.
Sadly, little is left of Lachish today, except the lizards and a few crumbling walls.