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Sennacherib’s Prism

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Sennacherib’s Prism

That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? The Sennacherib (suh-NA-ke-rib) Prism or Sennacherib’s Annuls is the cuneiform record of an Assyrian king’s exploits from 704 to 681 BC. There are actually several of these clay “prisms.” The first was discovered by Colonel Robert Taylor (1790–1852) in 1830 at Nineveh and is now housed in the British Museum, London. Archaeologists discovered two additional prisms – the Oriental Institute Prism and the Jerusalem Prism. They are all nearly identical.

The significance of these discoveries is that they corroborate the biblical story of King Hezekiah and the Assyrian invasion of Judah (2 Kings 18:13-19:37; 2 Chronicles 32:1-23; Isaiah 36-37). Of course, Sennacherib’s Prism focuses entirely on the successes of the Assyrian king. It records that King Sennacherib captured 46 of Judah’s fortified cities, deported 200,150 of their inhabitants, and exacted a tribute of 30 talents of gold and 300 talents of silver. What the prism fails to mention is the outcome of the campaign’s chief objective – conquering Judah’s capitol, Jerusalem, and capturing its rebellious king, Hezekiah.

Now, Sennacherib, does state that he “shut up Hezekiah like a caged bird in his royal city.” He mentions that he built siege ramps around Jerusalem. But he doesn’t mention Hezekiah’s death, nor Jerusalem’s capture and destruction. This omission is conspicuous to historians familiar with the braggadocios accounts of such kings. To historians it’s a clear indication of “unfinished business,” that Sennacherib wasn’t able to conquer Jerusalem or kill its king.

Actually, Sennacherib’s Prism fails to mention the most significant event of the entire campaign. It fails to mention its most decisive battle which left 185,000 dead – all of them on one side, Assyria’s. It fails to mention the huge spiritual conflict which raged behind the scenes. It doesn’t tell us how God sent His angel to destroy the Assyrian army and sent Sennacherib whence he came. Thus, it gives a wholly slanted view of what really happened – that Sennacherib’s campaign was a costly and catastrophic defeat.

Much of the history and news we read follows this very same pattern. It only tells us a slanted fraction of the whole story. And quite often, it draws the wrong and very worst conclusions.

Historians and journalists are not biblical prophets. They don’t record the activities of God like the biblical prophets did in the historical books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. They will only talk about wars, natural and man-made disasters, and the downfall of nations and empires.

Historians won’t tell you anything of how God continually raises up men and women to nurture families. They won’t tell you how God raises up champions to fight corruption and injustice. They won’t tell you how God raises up leaders in the churches to turn millions to Christ and righteousness. Historians will not tell you about the millions of times God poured out His Spirit on whole generations to alter the deadly course of society.

Therefore, historians and journalists will omit the vast majority of activity that holds society together. They’ll omit the strategic moments which bring about the best good for humanity. Their description of history will tend to be dark and dreary. And they’ll focus on all that’s broken, to the neglect of all that’s functional and good.

Therefore, if you only tune into the news or read the secular annuls of history, then you’ll be out of touch with most of reality. You’ll be oblivious to the infinite, intelligent, and omnipresent Force that upholds the existence of every sub-atomic particle, upholds the order of every atom and molecule, and sustains the life of every living organism.

So, get a grip on reality. Tune in to the God who keeps your heart beating 118,000 times a day, your lungs breathing 23,000 times each day, and your brain firing away millions of commands every second. Count your blessings. Review God’s flawless record of faithfulness in your life. Recall the times He’s answered your prayers, protected you from life-long injury, spared your children from death, and supplied your every need. And give Him thanks. It will let the light into your soul and dispel the darkness and depression. It will help you see the way things really are.

Follow David’s example when he commanded himself, “Praise the LORD, O my soul! All that is within me – praise His holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits” (Psalm 103:1-2).


PRAYER: Almighty and merciful Father, please help me to get a greater and grander view of history. Help me to see all Your relentless activity on behalf of this world and all the people which inhabit it. May I not fear the wicked schemes and conspiracies of men! But give me a glimpse of Your vast and overriding conspiracy to save humanity and to establish Your Kingdom here on earth – to the glory of Jesus Christ. In His most holy name, I ask this, Amen.


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