Commentary on Isaiah 61:1–11


       Born in 740 BCE, as a young man his father Sargon II, king of Assyria, had him run the kingdom at home while he was busy conquering the known world. On Sargon’s death in 705, Sennacherib became king, and in true kingly fashion of the time, set about conquering what his father had missed, moving his capital to Nineveh which he made into a beautiful city. His reign was largely marked by campaigns against Babylon and putting down revolts against Assyrian rule.

        Even though Sargon had entrusted his son Sennacherib with the administration of his kingdom while he went about conquering more territory, he evidently did not think much of him as a warrior type or future kind. The disdain was mutual and after Sargon’s death, Sennacherib never mentions him.  

        As a result many of the conquered territories thought that they would be free from the heavy hand of Assyrian rule. Were they ever mistaken. When he went into Babylon it was expected that much as Sargon had done, he would “take the hand of Marduk,” the god worshiped, and with a bit of diplomacy, hold Babylon under his rule. He simply proclaimed himself as King insulting the Babylonians

        The Babylonians welcomed a tribal chief named Merodach-Baladan to free themselves. After one of his generals failed him, Sennacherib himself invaded Babylon, sacked the city, took 250,000 captives and destroyed the countryside. He then turned his attention to Tyre, Sidon, and Lachish, and then finally toward Jerusalem.

        When he reached the walls of Jerusalem, he shouted to the city in Hebrew, telling Hezekiah that “Like you, they will eat their own dung and drink their own urine.” At that point Hezekiah released his hostage, a vassal to Sennacherib, and paid a tribute.

        At this point Sennacherib’s account and the biblical account differ substantially.