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Lachish Letters
Lachish Letters
Did the Lachish letters reveal the turmoil in Judah just before the Babylonian captivity?

The discovery of the Lachish Letters in 1935 of eighteen ostraca (clay tablets with writing in ink) written in an ancient Hebrew script, from the 7th century BC reveal important information concerning the last days of the southern kingdom of Judah. 

They were discovered at Lachish (Tell ed-Duweir) among the ruins of an ancient guard room just outside the Lachish city gate.

Then a few years later three inscribed potsherds were also found at the site, and like the others, they contained names and lists from the period just before the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. 

Most of the letters were dispatches from a Jewish commander named Hoshaiah who was stationed at an outpost north of Lachish, who apparently was responsible for interpreting the signals from Azekah and Lachish during the time when the Babylonians came against Jerusalem: 

Jer 34:7 "when the king of Babylon's army fought against Jerusalem and all the cities of Judah that were left, against Lachish and Azekah; for only these fortified cities remained of the cities of Judah."

The ostraca read: "To my lord Ya'osh. May Yahweh cause my lord to hear the news of peace, even now, even now. Who is your servant but a dog that my lord should remember his servant?'"

These final communications which mentioned the political and religious turmoil of the last days of Judah reveal the intensity of this time period and confirm that which was written in the Bible by the prophet Jeremiah.

The Lachish Letters are an important discovery in the study of Biblical Archaeology and shed much light on the last days of Judah.

British Museum Excerpt

Lachish Letter II

Israelite, 586 BC
From Lachish (modern Tell ed-Duweir), Israel

A letter written on a piece of pottery

This is one of a group of letters written on ostraka (pot sherds) found near the main gate of ancient Lachish in a burnt layer which archaeologists have associated with the destruction of the city by the Babylonians in 586 BC. It is written in ink in alphabetic Hebrew. The letters are a poignant record of the city's last days. 

In 598 BC Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, invaded Judah after it had rebelled against him. He captured Jerusalem and took the royal family captive. He installed Zedekiah, the former king's uncle, as his choice of ruler. However, rebellion broke out again. Nebuchadnezzar showed no mercy this time and in 587 BC he beseiged and then destroyed Jerusalem.

This was the period at which this letter was written. It came from an officer named Hosha'yahu who was in charge of a military outpost. He was writing to Ya'osh, military commander at Lachish, as the situation worsened. 

'To my lord Ya'osh. May Yahweh cause my lord to hear the news of peace, even now, even now. Who is your servant but a dog that my lord should remember his servant?'

Peace was not to be. Nebuchadnezzar moved on to Lachish and nearby Azekah, the last two major cities of Judah to be subdued by the Babylonians. There followed a large-scale deportation of a part of Judah's population. Thus began the exile, a period of great significance for the Jews spiritually, and one which would profoundly influence later religious ideology and teaching. 

Height: 9 cm 
Width: 10 cm 

Excavated by J. L. Starkey, Wellcome-Marston Research Expedition.

ANE 125702

Room 57, The Ancient Levant

The British Museum


The Kings of Israel (all wicked)

Jeroboam I (933-911 BC) twenty-two years

Nadab (911-910) two years

Baasha (910-887) twenty-four years

Elah (887-886) two years

Zimri (886) seven days

Omri (886-875) twelve years

Ahab (875-854) twenty-two years

Ahaziah (855-854) two years

Jehoram (Joram) (854-843) twelve years

Jehu (843-816) twenty-eight years

Jehoahaz (820-804) seventeen years

Jehoash (Joash) (806-790) sixteen years

Jeroboam II (790-749) forty-one years

Zechariah' (748) six months

Shallum (748) one month

Menahem (748-738) ten years

Pekahiah (738-736) two years

Pekah (748-730) twenty years

Hoshea (730-721) nine years

 

The Kings of Judah (8 were good)

Rehoboam (933-916 BC) seventeen years

Abijam (915-913) three years

Asa (Good) (912-872) forty-one years

Jehoshaphat (Good) (874-850) twenty-five years

Jehoram (850-843) eight years

Ahaziah (843) one year

Athaliah (843-837) six years

Joash (Good) (843-803) forty years

Amaziah (Good) (803-775) 29 years

Azariah (Uzziah) (Good) (787-735) fifty-two years

Jotham (Good) (749-734) sixteen years

Ahaz (741-726) sixteen years

Hezekiah (Good) (726-697) 29 years

Manasseh (697-642) fifty-five years

Amon (641-640) two years

Josiah (Good) (639-608) thirty-one years

Jehoahaz (608) three months

Jehoiachim (608-597) eleven years

Jehoiachin (597) three months

Zedekiah (597-586) eleven years

 


Related Pages:

Lachish in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Lachish in the ISBE Bible Encyclopedia

Lachish in Smith's Bible Dictionary

The Fall of Judah

The Babylonian Captivity and Archaeology

The Babylonian Captivity in the ISBE Bible Encyclopedia

David in Easton's Bible Dictionary

David in Nave's Topical Bible

Map of the Kingdom of David and Solomon

David - The Rightful King

Tomb of David

Tel Dan Stele

Map of David's Kingdom

Solomon

Solomon in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Solomon's Temple in Easton's Bible Dictionary

Solomon's Temple History

Beersheba in the ISBE Bible Encyclopedia

Biblical Definition of Beersheba

Altar - Background Bible Study

Altar in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Altar in the ISBE Bible Encyclopedia

Israel - The Center of the Ancient World

Israel - Archaeology Links and Resources

The Destruction of Israel in the Old Testament

Archaeological Resources - Israel

Map of Old Testament Israel

Map of New Testament Israel

Bible History Online - Fallen Empires (Biblical Archaeology)

Bible History Links - Ancient Near East : Art & Images

Bible History Online - Ancient Art

The Destruction of Israel - Kings of Israel, Judah and Assyria

Timeline 800 - 700 BC

The Assyrians

The Captivity of Israel

Hebrew History

Ancient Jerusalem

First Century Jerusalem

The Impregnable Strength of Jerusalem

Map of Jerusalem

Jerusalem - Heart Message

Ancient Sketches

 

Biblical Archaeology

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