Ancient military base found: Does this prove Bible story of angelic slaughter?

By Joe Kovacs

(Image courtesy Pixabay)

A Bible story about God sending His angel to kill in a single night 185,00 soldiers attacking Jerusalem may just have gotten some historical corroboration with the discovery of an ancient military base.

The account in the Bible is found in three locations – 2 Kings 19:35; 2 Chronicles 32:21; and Isaiah 37:36-38 – and describes how King Sennacherib of Assyria suffered a divine defeat as an angel was directly dispatched by God to slay the enemy troops.

“That night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians. When the people got up the next morning ​– ​there were all the dead bodies!” (2 Kings 19:35 CSB)

“and the LORD sent an angel who annihilated every valiant warrior, leader, and commander in the camp of the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria returned in disgrace to his land. He went to the temple of his god, and there some of his own children struck him down with the sword.” (2 Chronicles 32:21 CSB)

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The conflict is said to have occurred some 2,700 years ago, with the the Assyrian Empire operating from 1,365 to 609 B.C.

While there has been physical evidence of neither the battle nor supernatural event, archaeologist Stephen Compton now says modern mapping techniques have helped him discover compelling evidence of the epic fight.

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Compton posted a news release stating:

A peer-reviewed paper in the prestigious journal Near Eastern Archaeology reports the first-ever discoveries of ancient Assyrian military camps. Created circa 700 BC during military conquests across the Middle East, they mark the expansion of the Assyrian Empire, which became the prototype for the subsequent Persian, Greek, and Roman empires.

The initial discovery came from a scene carved into the stone walls of the Assyrian King Sennacherib’s palace commemorating his conquest of Lachish, a city to the south of Jerusalem. Matching the landscape in this image to features of the actual landscape (using early aerial photographs of Lachish prior to modern development) created a virtual map to the site of Sennacherib’s camp. This led to ruins similar in size and shape to the camp in Sennacherib’s relief. An archaeological survey of the site found no evidence of human habitation for 2,600 years, followed by pottery sherds from the exact time of Sennacherib’s invasion of Lachish, after which it was again abandoned for centuries. Moreover, the ancient Arabic name for the ruins was Khirbet al Mudawwara, “The Ruins of the Camp of the Invading Ruler.”

The Survey of Palestine had investigated a very similar ruin to the north of Jerusalem and found it consistent with a military camp. They hypothesized that it had been built by Titus during the later Roman invasion of Jerusalem. However, Roman military camps were always rectangular, whereas this was oval, the characteristic shape of Assyrian camps. The hill it occupied was known in Arabic as Jebel el Mudawwara, “The Mountain of the Camp of the Invading Ruler.”

The Daily Mail reported: “Before Compton discovered the Assyrian site, researchers had only encountered one other ancient military campsite in the area.

“The secondary site was occupied during the Roman siege of Jerusalem and its layout gave researchers a way to compare the layout of its military camp to the Assyrians.

“‘Roman military camps were always rectangular, whereas this was oval, the characteristic shape of Assyrian camps,’ Compton wrote …

“The methods Compton used to find Sennacherib’s camp site has led to the discovery of other Assyrian military camps.

“‘In some cases, it has also been possible to use the newly discovered camps to locate the sites of ancient cities that were known to have been besieged by the Assyrians but whose locations were unknown or uncertain,’ Compton wrote.”

The images below are excerpted from the peer-reviewed paper, “The Trail of Sennacherib”s Siege Camps,” by Stephen C. Compton.

Stone panels commemorating the conquest of Lachish from the walls of the Assyrian Emperor Sennacherib's palace show his military camp. The twenty-four guard towers in the camp's perimeter wall, each with three windows visible, indicate a substantial fortification. (S.C. Compton)
Stone panels commemorating the conquest of Lachish from the walls of the Assyrian Emperor Sennacherib’s palace show his military camp. The twenty-four guard towers in the camp’s perimeter wall, each with three windows visible, indicate a substantial fortification. (S.C. Compton)
Bottom: The entire scene from Sennacherib's palace wall as drawn by its excavator, Austen Henry Layard, in 1849. Top: The same landscape as photographed from a plane in 1945, prior to modern alterations to the landscape. Correlating the two indicated a likely location for the ruins of Sennacherib's camp. Created from two public domain images: Austen Henry Layard's 1849 excavation drawings of the Lachish relief and a 1945 aerial photograph taken as part of a mapping effort by the British Mandate government of Palestine.
Bottom: The entire scene from Sennacherib’s palace wall as drawn by its excavator, Austen Henry Layard, in 1849. Top: The same landscape as photographed from a plane in 1945, prior to modern alterations to the landscape. Correlating the two indicated a likely location for the ruins of Sennacherib’s camp. Created from two public domain images: Austen Henry Layard’s 1849 excavation drawings of the Lachish relief and a 1945 aerial photograph taken as part of a mapping effort by the British Mandate government of Palestine.
Ruined walls visible today at the site of Sennacherib's Lachish camp. (S.C. Compton)
Ruined walls visible today at the site of Sennacherib’s Lachish camp. (S.C. Compton)
The earliest aerial photograph of Jerusalem (lower left) with an oval fortification visible on a hill in the upper right. (Public domain, from the collection of the Library of Congress.)
The earliest aerial photograph of Jerusalem (lower left) with an oval fortification visible on a hill in the upper right. (Public domain, from the collection of the Library of Congress.)
The site of Sennacherib's Jerusalem camp, now known as Ammunition Hill. (S.C. Compton)
The site of Sennacherib’s Jerusalem camp, now known as Ammunition Hill. (S.C. Compton)

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