Tel Lachish (Hebrew: תל לכיש; Greek: Λαχις; Latin: Tel
Lachis), is the site of an ancient Near East city, now an
archaeological site and an Israeli national park. Lachish is located
Shephelah region of
Mount Hebron and the
Mediterranean coast. It is first mentioned in the
Amarna letters as
Lakisha-Lakiša (EA 287, 288, 328, 329, 335). According to the Bible,
Israelites captured and destroyed Lachish for joining the league
against the Gibeonites (Joshua 10:31-33). The territory was later
assigned to the tribe of Judah (15:39) and became part of the Kingdom
Of the cities in ancient Judah, Lachish was second in importance only
to Jerusalem. One of the
Lachish letters warns of the impending
Babylonian destruction. It reads: "Let my lord know that we are
watching over the beacon of Lachish, according to the signals which my
lord gave, for Azekah is not seen." According to the prophet Jeremiah,
Lachish and Azekah were the last two Judean cities before the conquest
Jerusalem (Jer. 34:7). This pottery inscription can be seen at the
Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
2 Biblical references
4.1 Paleo-Hebrew letters on ostraca
4.2 LMLK seals
5 See also
7 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
Assyrian siege ramp.
Judean captives being led away into slavery by the Assyrians after the
siege of Lachish in 701 B.C. This relief is important for the
knowledge of Judean dress.
Occupation at the site of Lachish began during the Pottery Neolithic
period (5500–4500 BCE). Major development began in the Early Bronze
Age (3300–3000 BCE). During the Middle Bronze II (2000–1650
BCE), the Canaanite settlement came under strong Egyptian influence.
The next peak was the late Late
Bronze Age (1650–1200 BCE), when
Lachish is mentioned in the Amarna letters. This phase of the city was
destroyed in a fire ca. 1150 BCE. The city, under protection of
the New Kingdom of Egypt, was rebuilt by the Caananites. One of the
two discovered temples was built at the northwest corner of the mound,
outside the city limits and within the disused moat, which led the
archaeologists to call it the Fosse Temple. However, this settlement
was soon destroyed by another fire, perhaps from an invasion by the
Sea Peoples or Israelites. The mound was abandoned for two
Rebuilding of the city began in the Early
Iron Age during the 10th and
9th centuries BCE when it was settled by the Israelites. The
unfortified settlement may have been destroyed c. 925 BCE by Egyptian
Pharaoh Sheshonk I. In the first half of the 9th century BCE, under
the kings Asa and Jehoshaphat, Lachish became an important city in the
kingdom of Judah. It was heavily fortified with massive walls and
ramparts and a royal palace was built on a platform in the center of
the city. Lachish was the foremost among several fortified cities
and strongholds guarding the valleys that lead up to
Jerusalem and the
interior of the country against enemies which usually approached from
The single inscription which identifies the location depicted in the
reliefs reads: "Sennacherib, the mighty king, king of the country of
Assyria, sitting on the throne of judgment, before (or at the entrance
of) the city of Lachish (Lakhisha). I give permission for its
In 701 BCE, during the revolt of king
Hezekiah against Assyria,
it was besieged and captured by
Sennacherib despite the defenders'
determined resistance. Some scholars believe that the fall of
Lachish actually occurred during a second campaign in the area by
Sennacherib ca. 688 BCE. The site now contains
the only remains of an Assyrian siege ramp discovered so far.
Sennacherib later devoted a whole room in his "Palace without a
rival", the South-west palace in Nineveh, for artistic representations
of the siege on large alabaster slabs, most of which are now on
display in the British Museum. They hold depictions of Assyrian siege
ramps, battering rams, sappers, and other siege machines and army
units, along with Lachish's architecture and its final surrender. In
combination with the archaeological finds, they give a good
understanding of siege warfare of the period. So much attention was
given to the success at Lachish also because, unlike it, Jerusalem
managed to withstand Sennacherib's onslaught.
The town was rebuilt in the late 7th century BCE during the decline of
the Neo-Assyrian Empire. However, the city fell to Nebuchadnezzar in
his campaign against Judah in 586 BCE.
Modern excavation of the site has revealed that the Assyrians built a
stone and dirt ramp up to the level of the Lachish city wall, thereby
allowing the soldiers to charge up the ramp and storm the city.
Excavations revealed approximately 1,500 skulls in one of the caves
near the site, and hundreds of arrowheads on the ramp and at the top
of the city wall, indicating the ferocity of the battle. The city
occupied an area of 8 hectares (20 acres) and was finally destroyed in
587 BCE. Residents were exiled as part of the Babylonian
During Babylonian occupation, a large residence was built on the
platform that had once supported the Israeli palace. At the end of the
captivity, some exiled Jews returned to Lachish and built a new city
with fortifications. Under the Babylonian or Achaemenid Empire, a
large altar (known as the Solar Shrine) on the east section of the
mound was built. The shrine was abandoned after the area fell in the
hands of Alexander the Great. The tell has been unoccupied since
Lachish is mentioned in several books in the Hebrew Bible. The Book of
Joshua refers to Lachish in chapter 10 (verses 3, 5, 23, and 31-35),
describing the Israelite conquest of Caanan. Japhia, the King of
Lachish, is listed as one of the Five
Amorite Kings that allied to
repel the invasion. After a surprise attack from the Israelites, the
kings took refuge in a cave, where they were captured and put to
death. Joshua and the
Israelites then took the city of Lachish after a
two-day siege, exterminating the populace. In 12:11, the King of
Lachish is mentioned as one of the thirty-one kings conquered by
Joshua. The city is assigned to the
Tribe of Judah
Tribe of Judah in 15:39 as part of
the western foothills.
Rehoboam son of Solomon's fortifications of Lachish are recorded in II
Chronicles (11:9). In II Kings (14:19) and II Chronicles 25:27,
Amaziah of Judah
Amaziah of Judah flees to Lachish after he was defeated by Jehoash of
Israel, where he is captured and executed.
Book of Micah
Book of Micah (1:13) warns the residents of Lachish that the
destruction of Samaria by the Assyrians will soon spread to Judah. II
Kings 18:14 mentions the Siege of Lachish;
Hezekiah sends a message
there offering tribute to
Sennacherib in exchange for the city. In
verse 17, the Assyrians leave Lachish and head to
Jerusalem to begin
the unsuccessful Assyrian Siege of Jerusalem. This is also mentioned
in II Chronicles 32:9 and Isaiah 36:2. The
Israelites learn of the
departure of the Assyrians from Lachish in II Kings 19:8 and Isaiah
Book of Jeremiah
Book of Jeremiah (34:7) lists Lachish as one of the last three
fortified cities in Judah to fall to the Babylonian king
Nebuchadnezzar II. In the
Book of Nehemiah
Book of Nehemiah (11:30) Lachish is
mentioned as an area where the people of Judah settled during the time
of the Achaemenid Empire.
The Assyrian campaign against Lachish is documented in a series of
wall reliefs, now on display in the British Museum.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Lachish was identified with
Tell el-Hesi from a cuneiform tablet found there (EA 333). The tablet
is a letter from an Egyptian official named Paapu, reporting cases of
treachery involving a local kinglet, Zimredda. However this hypothesis
is no longer accepted. The Starkey-Tufnell expedition identified
Tell ed-Duweir as Lachish.
The first expedition at Lachish, then Tell ed-Duweir, from 1932 to
1939, was the Starkey-Tufnell British expedition which included
James Leslie Starkey as expedition leader, Olga Tufnell, G.L. Harding
and C. Inge. It was funded by
Charles Marston and Henry Wellcome
with the aim of finding the Biblical city of Lachish. They
succeeded in finding Lachish, with a "wealth of well-stratified
pottery", a "key part of the ceramic corpus of Palestine", and the
Lachish Letters, c. "written to the commander of the garrison at
Lachish shortly before it fell to the Babylonians in either 589 or 586
B.C." Starkey was murdered in 1938 while traveling to
open the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum. Tufnell, Harding and Inge
remained for the 1938-9 season. Tufnell returned to London and over
the next two decades, worked at the Institute of Archaeology in
London, "sorting, collating, studying and presenting the material
found at Lacshish. She completed her final publication Lachish IV in
1957. She became a Fellow of the
Society of Antiquaries of London
Society of Antiquaries of London in
The second was an Israeli expedition directed by
Yohanan Aharoni that
took place over two seasons in 1966 and 1968. The dig, which
focused mainly on the "Solar Shrine", was worked on behalf of Hebrew
University and Tel Aviv University. Aharoni published the findings
in his 1975 publication, Investigations at Lachish: The sanctuary and
The third expedition, 1973 and 1994, by a Tel Aviv University
Institute of Archaeology and
Israel Exploration Society team was led
by David Ussishkin.:1-97:97-175:3-60 Excavation and
restoration work was conducted between 1973 and 1994 by a Tel Aviv
University Institute of Archaeology and
Israel Exploration Society
team led by David Ussishkin. The excavation focused on the Late Bronze
(1550–1200 BCE) and
Iron Age (1200–587 BCE) levels. The
Issishkin expedition's comprehensive 5-volume report set a new
standard in archaeological publication. According to Yosef Garfinkel,
"The Starkey-Tufnell and Ussishkin expeditions set new standards in
excavation and publication. They revolutionized our understanding of
various aspects of Lachish, such as the later history of Judah and the
Bronze Age Canaanite city."
In 2013, a fourth expedition to Lachish was begun under the direction
of Yosef Garfinkel, Michael G. Hasel, and Martin G. Klingbeil to
Iron Age history of the site on behalf of the
Institute of Archaeology, The
Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the
Institute of Archaeology, Southern Adventist University. Other
consortium institutions include Virginia Commonwealth University,
Oakland University and Korea Biblical Geography Research
In 2014, during the Fourth Expedition to Lachish, a small potsherd
with letters from a 12th century BCE alphabet, was found in the ruins
of a Late
Bronze Age temple. One researcher called it, a “once in a
The Korean Lachish Excavation Team led by Hong Soon-hwa, reported that
they had "uncovered a wide range of 10th century BC items, from houses
with earthenware items and cooking stoves, to animal bones, olive
seeds, spearheads, fortress walls and other objects" on July 5,
An expedition found indications of Hezekiah's position against
Paleo-Hebrew letters on ostraca
Main article: Lachish letters
The first archaeological expedition, the Starkey-Starkey-Tufnell
(1932-9) uncovered the Lachish letters, which were "written to the
commander of the garrison at Lachish shortly before it fell to the
Babylonians in either 589 or 586 B.C." The Hebrew letters were
written on pieces of pottery, so-called ostraca. Eighteen letters were
found in 1935 and three more in 1938, all written in Paleo-Hebrew
script. They were from the latest occupational level immediately
before the Chaldean siege of 587 BC. At the time, they formed the only
known corpus of documents in classical Hebrew that had come down to us
outside of the Hebrew Bible.
Another major contribution to
Biblical archaeology from excavations at
Lachish are the LMLK seals, which were stamped on the handles of a
particular form of ancient storage jar. More of these artifacts were
found at this site (over 400; Ussishkin, 2004, pp. 2151–9) than
any other place in
Jerusalem remains in second place with more
than 300). Most of them were collected from the surface during
Starkey's excavations, but others were found in Level 1 (Persian and
Greek era), Level 2 (period preceding Babylonian conquest by
Nebuchadnezzar), and Level 3 (period preceding Assyrian conquest by
Sennacherib). It is thanks to the work of David Ussishkin's team that
eight of these stamped jars were restored, thereby demonstrating lack
of relevance between the jar volumes (which deviated as much as 5
gallons or 12 litres), and also proving their relation to the reign of
Biblical king Hezekiah. Ussishkin observed that "The renewed
excavations confirmed Tufnell’s suggestion that Level III had been
destroyed in 701 BCE. All the royal storage jars, stamped and
unstamped alike, date to the reign of Hezekiah, to shortly before the
The 1898 Reference by Bliss, contains numerous drawings, including
examples of Phoenician, etc. pottery, and items from pharaonic Egypt,
and other Mediterranean, and inland regions.
Archaeology of Israel
^ a b c d e f g h i King, Philip J. (August 2005). "Why Lachish
Matters". Biblical Archaeology Review. 31 (4). Retrieved November 18,
^ Schaalje, Jacqueline. "Lachish". The Jewish Magazine. Archaeology in
^ David Ussishkin, The conquest of Lachish by Sennacherib, Tel Aviv
University Institute of Archaeology, 1982, ISBN 965-266-001-9
^ William H. Shea, Sennacherib's Description of Lachish and of its
Conquest, Andrews University Seminary Studies, vol. 26, no. 2, pp.
^ Samuel, Rocca (2012). The Fortifications of Ancient
Israel and Judah
1200–586 BC. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. p. 32.
^ Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, Tell el Hesy (Lachish),
Published for the Committee of the Palestine exploration fund by A. P.
^ a b c d Garfinkel, Yosef; Hasel, Michael; Klingbeil, Martin G.
(December 2013). "An Ending and a Beginning: Why we're leaving Qeiyafa
and going to Lachish" (PDF). Biblical Archaeology Review. 39 (6).
Retrieved January 30, 2018.
^ a b c d "Olga Tufnell, 1905-1985". London, UK: The Palestine
Exploration Fund. nd. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
^ Henry and, Ros; Hankey, Vronwy (1 January 1986). "Obituary: Olga
Tufnell (1904–1985)" (PDF). Levant. 18 (1): 1–2.
doi:10.1179/lev.1918.104.22.168. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
^ Ussishkin, David (1978). "Lachish Renewed Archaeological
Excavations: Lachish and the Previous Excavations" (PDF). Penn Museum.
p. 18. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
^ Magrill, Pamela (2006). A Researcher’s Guide to the Lachish
Collection in the
British Museum (PDF). The British Museum.
ISBN 086159 161 5. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
^ Starkey, James Leslie (1938). Lachish I (Tell ed Duweir): Lachish
Letters. Oxford University Press.
Olga Tufnell et. al (1940). Lachish II., (Tell ed Duweir). The Fosse
Temple. Oxford University Press.
^ Yohanan Aharoni, Investigations at Lachish: The sanctuary and the
residency (Lachish V), Gateway Publishers, 1975,
^ Ussishkin, David (1978). Excavations at
Tel Lachish - 1973–1977,
Preliminary Report (Report). 5. Tel Aviv. pp. 1–97.
^ Ussishkin, David (1983). Excavations at
Tel Lachish - 1978–1983:
Second Preliminary Report (Report). 10. Tel Aviv.
^ Ussishkin, David (1996). Excavations and Restoration Work at Tel
Lachish: 1985–1994: Third Preliminary Report (Report). 23. Tel
^ Wiener, Noah (November 8, 2013). "Khirbet Qeiyafa and Tel Lachish
Excavations Explore Early Kingdom of Judah: After seven seasons at
Khirbet Qeiyafa, the team heads to Lachish". Washington,D.C.: Biblical
Archaeology Society. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
^ "Publications and Bibliography". Collegedale, TN: Southern Adventist
University. nd. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
^ "Potsherd With Canaanite Inscription Unearthed At Tel Lachish".
December 12, 2017. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
^ Sass, Benjamin; Garfinkel, Yosef; Hasel, Michael G.; Klingbeil,
Martin G. (2015). "The Lachish Jar Sherd: An Early Alphabetic
Inscription Discovered in 2014". Bulletin of the American Schools of
Oriental Research. The Fourth Expedition to Lachish. 374: 233–245.
^ "Israel's Lachish is a planned city from the Rehoboam period".
Kukmin Daily. Seoul, Korea. July 11, 2017. Retrieved January 30,
^ "Excavated Olive Seeds May Confirm Area as Rehoboam Period
Archeological Site". Kukmin Daily. Seoul, Korea. July 25, 2016.
Retrieved January 30, 2018.
^ "When a king means business: Archaeologists find stone toilet that
desecrated massive shrine". Retrieved 7 January 2017.
^ Albright, W. F. (1938). "The Oldest Hebrew Letters: The Lachish
Ostraca". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (70):
^ W. F. Albright, A Reëxamination of the Lachish Letters, Bulletin of
the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 73, pp. 16-21, 1939
^ Ussishkin, David (1976). "Royal Judean Storage Jars and Private Seal
Impressions". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research.
223: 1–13. (Chapter 29, Section B in the Lachish final
^ Ussishkin, David (1977). "The Destruction of Lachish by Sennacherib
and the Dating of the Royal Judean Storage Jars". Journal of the
Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University. Tel Aviv. 4: 28–60.
Cities of the ancient Near East
List of artifacts significant to the Bible
Barnett, R. D. "The Siege of Lachish."
Israel Exploration Journal,
vol. 8, pp. 161–164, 1958
Bliss, Frederick. Numerous artifact drawings, also "Layer by Layer"
drawings of Tell el-Hesy. Also an original attempt of the only el
Amarna letter found at site, Amarna Letters, EA 333. A Mound of Many
Cities; or Tell El Hesy Excavated, by Frederick Jones Bliss, PhD.,
explorer to the Fund, 2nd Edition, Revised. (The Committee of the
Palestine Exploration Fund.) c 1898.
Grena, G.M. (2004). LMLK--A Mystery Belonging to the King vol. 1.
Redondo Beach, California: 4000 Years of Writing History.
Lawrence T. Geraty, Archaeology and the Bible at Hezekiah's Lachish,
Andrews University Seminary Studies, vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 27–37,
Magrill, Pamela, A researcher's guide to the Lachish collection in the
British Museum, 2006,
British Museum Research Publication 161,
ISBN 0861591615, fully available online
Arlene M. Rosen, Environmental Change and Settlement at Tel Lachish
Israel, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no.
263, pp. 55–60, 1986
D. Ussishkin, The Renewed Archaeological Excavations at Lachish
(1973–1994), Volumes I-V, Monographs of the Institute of Archaeology
vol. 22, Tel Aviv University, 2004, ISBN 9652660175
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