Lachish, the second largest city in Judea after Jerusalem, became the battlefield between the Assyrians and the ancient Jews. Lachish fell under the weight of the Assyrian assault, and the siege was recorded in bloody detail on the Lachish Relief artifacts.
At the height of their power, the Assyrians dominated the Middle East, and they expanded their kingdom by means of military expeditions, which were often commanded by the king himself. In 722, the Assyrians succeeded in conquering the northern kingdom of Israel, laying siege to its capital and exiling a large proportion of its population.
Shortly after Sennacherib became king of Assyria in 705 B.C.E., Egypt, the Philistine cities of the coastal plain, and Judea allied themselves to take advantage of the temporary weakness during a political transition. Judea at that time was ruled by one of the most prominent kings of the House of David, King Hezekiah. By the time Sennacherib was ready for his third annual campaignin 701 B.C.E. he was able to direct his attention to the defiance of these three powers.
Many details of Sennacherib's third campaign in 701 remain uncertain, but two things are clear. First, Sennacherib utterly destroyed Lachish. Second, Sennacherib laid siege to Jerusalem and Hezekiah paid enormous tribute to Sennacherib in order to break the siege and cause Sennacherib to return to Assyria.
The destruction of Lachish in 701 B.C.E. is important not only historically, but also because it is uniquely documented. There exists no other ancient event of comparable significance that was recorded in such a variety of sources. The events surrounding the conquest of Lachish, the destruction of the city, and the deportation of its inhabitants are documented (or evidenced) in at least four independent contemporary sources: (1) in the Bible, (2) in Assyrian cuneiform prisms accounting of the same events, (3) in archaeological excavations at the site of Lachish, and (4) remarkably, in monumental pictorial reliefs uncovered at Sennacherib's palace at Nineveh.
The uniform background of Sennacherib's Lachish reliefs shows a pattern of overlapping panels that when viewed as a whole, depict the entire battle for Lachish. Starting from the left, the first reliefs depict the advancing Assyrian infantrymen and rows of archers taking aim at the city's defenders. The next panels show the outer walls of the city as they are stormed by the advancing Assyrian armies. As the hoard of invaders inch closer to the main gate of the city, we see several Assyrian battering rams and mobile assault towers as they penetrate the defenses of the fortified city. The next set of panels, which appear to depict later scenes of the battle, show Judean captives marching out of the city and into bondage, while their fallen brethren are stripped naked and impaled on Assyrian spears. The next panels depict the grisly torture and murder of captured Judeans, while those still alive beg for mercy. The last panels show the Assyrian king Sennacherib on his throne observing the procession of booty that had been taken from Lachish.