“Until I Come and Take You Away To A Land Like Your Own”

A gendered look at siege warfare and mass deportation

Authored by: Peggy L. Day

Women in Antiquity

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138808362
eBook ISBN: 9781315621425
Adobe ISBN: 9781317219910


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The biblical quote 1 I have incorporated into the title of this chapter is taken from a story complex, found in 2 Kings 18–19 (cf. Isa. 36–37), which centers on a military campaign of the Neo-Assyrian king Sennacherib (705–681 bce) 2 into the territory of ancient Judah. The Judahite king, Hezekiah (727–698 bce), an erstwhile Assyrian vassal, had rebelled against him and so the Assyrian army was attacking Judah’s walled cities (2 Kgs 18:7, 13). While the dominant streams of tradition hold that Yahweh, the god of Judah, rescued Jerusalem by causing Sennacherib to abandon his siege of it (2 Kgs 19:5–7, 32–37), another tradition maintains that Hezekiah admitted his wrongdoing and paid a hefty price to either avert (Mayer 2003: 179–181) or bring a swift close to Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem (2 Kgs 18:14–16). Straddling these discordant traditions, a further plot line asserts that Sennacherib sent a large army and three top officials from the Judahite fortress city of Lachish, where the Assyrian forces were encamped, to Jerusalem, to persuade the recalcitrant Hezekiah and the city’s defenders to surrender (2 Kgs 18:17–27). In the Judahites’ own language and in a loud voice, so that those manning the city walls could both hear and understand, the Assyrian official called the Rabshakeh continued:

Do not listen to Hezekiah; for thus says the king of Assyria: “Make your peace with me and come out to me; then every one of you will eat from your own vine and your own fig tree, and drink water from your own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive oil and honey, that you may live and not die”.

(2 Kgs 18:31–32)

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