Tirhakah King of Ethiopia
      In one of the first battles for Jerusalem, where God intervenes and destroys the army of Assyria, the Lord causes a rumor to be circulated amongst the Assyrians that the powerful king Tirhakah, who ruled over Ethiopia, was advancing toward Assyria.    
       The history surrounding Tirhakah is well documented in the annals of archaeology. Tirhakah is mentioned two times in the Bible.
      In 2Kings chapter 19 as well as the parallel account in Isaiah chapter 37 in which the Assyrian king Sennacherib comes down on a military campaign against Israel and surrounds King Hezekiah at Jerusalem.
      The account begins in 2Kings 19:8: “Then the Rabshakeh returned and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah, for he heard that he had departed from Lachish.
       And the king heard concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, "Look, he has come out to make war with you."
       So he again sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus you shall speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying: “Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you, saying, Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.”
      'Look! You have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by utterly destroying them; and shall you be delivered?
       'Have the gods of the nations delivered those whom my fathers have destroyed, Gozan and Haran and Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar?
      'Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim?
      These statements by the Assyrians have been confirmed in archaeology. For example Sennacherib’s victory at Lachish mentioned in 2Kings 19:8 has been confirmed on Assyrian artifacts. On a wall from the palace of Sennacherib the following inscription mentions his victory at Lachish:
       “Sennacherib, the king over all, king of Assyria, sat upon a throne and viewed the plunder taken from Lachish.  (Anet 288)
Siege of Lachish - Sennacherib’s Palace Wall
      Another confirmation is mentioned in 2Kings 18:17-18: “Then the king of Assyria sent the Tartan, the Rabsaris, and the Rabshakeh from Lachish, with a great army against Jerusalem, to King Hezekiah.”
      All three of these Assyrian titles have been found in archaeology. Dating back to the reign of Shalmaneser III, a fragment of an ancient tablet mentions the titles of certain Assyrian high officials. It mentions “Turtanu (Tartan) and Rab-saqe (Rabshakeh)." Another artifact, a clay tablet dated to 645 B.C., makes mention of the title Rabsaris. It is inscribed with the words “Limmu of Rabsaris Nabu-sar-usur."
      Then in 2Kings 19:13 the Assyrians remind Hezekiah of past victories attained by previous Assyrian rulers over Judah and the kings surrounding their country. Three of them mentioned are the kings of Hamath, Arpad and Sepharvaim.
       An artifact known as the Nimrud inscription by Sargon II, who was the father of Sennacherib, mentions Hamath as follows: “Sargon, the master over the land of Judah which is far away, the conqueror of Hamath”  (Anet 287)
       So this victory over Judah and Hamath would have been fresh in the minds of Hezekiah and the residents of Jerusalem.
       Two artifacts known as the Tel Sheik Hammad Stela and the Orthostat Slab from Adadnirari III mentions the conquest of Arpad. The latter states:
      "Atarshumki (Arpad’s king) . . . came forward to battle. I defeated him and his army. I took treasure from his palace and carried it off."
      Many years earlier another Assyrian king, Tiglath-Pileser II, laid siege to Arpad and massacred its citizens and utterly destroyed the city. It took Tiglath-Pileser three years to take Arpad because it was a fortress city with a two mile long defense wall that was up to 25 foot high. It was thought at that time to be an impenetrable fortress. So what the Assyrians were basically telling Hezekiah was that if he thought he was safe within the city walls of Jerusalem then he better think again.  
       Another city mentioned in 2Kings 19:13 was the city of Sepharvaim whose name refers to a two-part city. Many believe this was the city of Sippar on the east side of the Euphrates river while its sister city, Akkad, was on the west. These cities were indeed conquered by Sennacherib as mentioned on the following artifact:
      "In the third year of Belibni; Sennacherib marched against the country of Akkad and carried away the goods plundered from Akkad . . . Sennacherib then placed his son Ashurnadinshumi upon the throne there (at the city of Akkad) . . .  Afterwards, the king of Elam counterattacked the Akkadians . . . entered Sippar and killed its inhabitants . . . and captured Ashurnadinshumi and brought him to Elam. . . . Later Sennacherib marched against Elam and demolished the country.”(Anet 301-302)
      So these artifacts definitely confirm the history behind the Assyrians threats being made to Hezekiah. To see more artifacts which actually mention Sennacherib’s encampment against King Hezekiah, see Chapter 23 of our first volume of Bible Believer’s Archaeology - Historical Evidence that proves the Bible.
      Now as to Tirhakah, who ruled over Ethiopia, mentioned in 2Kings 19:9, his story is a very interesting one indeed. He is mentioned multiple times by King Esarhaddon who was the son of Sennacherib. From the British Museum there is an artifact from Esarhaddon that reads:
       “During my military actions I threw up earthworks for a siege against Ba’lu, the king of Tyre, who had put his faith in his friend Tirhakah king of Nubia to defend him . . . I marched directly toward Meluhha - a distance of 30 double hours from the town of Apku which is in the land of Samaria.”  (Anet 292)
      From Tyre, Esarhaddon then marches against Egypt and Ethiopia as mentioned on the following two artifacts:
       “I conquered the island of Tyre in the sea. I plundered all the towns and the possessions of king Ba’lu, who had befriended Tirhakah the king of Nubia. I conquered Egypt, Paturisi, and Nubia. It’s king, Tirhakah, I shot five times with arrows and took control over his entire land. Many kings from amidst the sea, from the country of Cyprus, as far as Tarisi, bowed down to my feet and from them I received honor. (Anet 290)
      The second artifact from Esarhaddon, known as the Senjirli Stela states: “From the town of Ishupri all the way to Memphis, his royal residence, a distance of 15 days march, I fought daily, without ceasing, a very bloody war with Tirhakah, the king of Egypt and Ethiopia, the one whom I hate . . . Five times I hit him with the point of my arrows, wounding him . . . , and then I laid siege to Memphis, his royal palace, and conquered it in half a day. (Anet 293)
Senjirli Stela
Senjirli Stela
of Esarhaddon
      After Esarhaddon dies, his son Ashurbanapal ascends to the throne. When Tirhakah once again begins to cause trouble for the Assyrians, Ashur-banapal leads his armies against Egypt and Ethiopia, just like his father had done previously.
       An artifact located in the British Museum known as the Rassam Cylinder of Ashurbanapal details these events:  
      “In my first expedition I marched against Tirhakah king of Egypt and Nubia, whom Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, my own father, had defeated and in whose land he was king. This same Tirhakah gave little thought to the power of Ashur.   . . . He rebelled against the kings and his regents whom my own father had appointed to rule over Egypt. He took control and set up his residence at Memphis, the city which my own father had conquered and made subject to the Assyrian empire. A courier was dispatched to me at Nineveh with an urgent report of these things. I became furious on account of these reports . . . So I called to arms my great army . . . and they advanced by the shortest possible route to Egypt and Ethiopia. During my march to Egypt, 22 kings from along the sea, Islands and the mainland, those who were my subjects, brought great tribute to me and kissed my feet. I made these kings accompany my army as I passed through their lands.” (A list of these various kings are listed on Esarhaddon’s Prism - ANET 291, they included “Manasseh king of Judah.")
      “I advanced rapidly. . . to bring relief to the kings and governors of Egypt, those servants who are loyal to me. Tirhakah the king of Egypt and Nubia heard in Memphis that his army was defeated by the overwhelming majesty of Ashur and he became like a madman . . .  He left Memphis, in order to save his life, and fled to Thebes. I then led my army against this town and seized it as well.
      Necho, king of Memphis, . . . As well as Mantimanhe, king of Thebes, these kings, governors and officials who were left in charge by my father in Egypt, who had fled their positions during the rebellion of Tirhakah and had scattered throughout the land, I reinstated them to their former posts (as rulers in Egypt) . . .
       Afterwards, these same rulers whom I had reinstated broke their allegiance to me, and did not keep their agreements . . . , they forgot that I had treated them with mercy and they hatched a plan of conspiracy. They talked about rebellion and came to a conclusion, saying to themselves: “Tirhakah has been driven out of Egypt, how can we ourselves hope to stay here?” . . . And they sent messengers to Tirhakah, the king of Nubia, to establish an alliance saying: “Let peace reign between us and let us come to a mutual agreement to divide the land amongst ourselves in order that no foreigner shall rule over us!” . . .
       My officers heard about these rumors and intercepted their messengers carrying their proposals bound for Tirhakah and so the plot of their rebellion was uncovered. They arrested these kings and put their hands and feet into iron cuffs with chains.
       . . .  Those kings who had repeatedly schemed against me were brought alive to me at Nineveh. From all of them, I had mercy only upon Necho and spared his life. I made a treaty with him that he pledged to honor which greatly surpassed those of the former treaty. (Anet 294-295)
Rassam Cylinder
Rassam Cylinder
Of Ashurbanapal
British Museum
      This alliance between Necho and Assyria would later be reinforced when his son Necho II would lead an expedition to Assyria and come to the aid of an Assyrian ruler fighting against the invading armies of Babylon. At this time Necho II would then be hampered on his journey by King Josiah of Judah, whom Necho’s armies would defeat as recorded in 2Kings 25:20
      So as you can see, both the Ethiopian king Tirhakah and the Necho dynasty in Egypt are confirmed in the pages of ancient history as important players in the Biblical accounts.
       These battles fought by the Assyrians against king Tirhakah also fulfilled the prophet Isaiah’s words which he had spoken against Egypt and Ethiopia as prophesied in Isaiah 20:1-6:
      “In the year that Tartan came to Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him, and he fought against Ashdod and took it, at the same time the LORD spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, "Go, and remove the sackcloth from your body, and take your sandals off your feet." And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.
      Then the LORD said, "Just as My servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and a wonder against Egypt and Ethiopia, "so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians as prisoners and the Ethiopians as captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.
       "Then they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation and Egypt their glory. "And the inhabitant of this territory will say in that day, 'Surely such is our expectation, wherever we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria; and how shall we escape?'
      “Who among you will give ear to this? Who will listen and hear for the time to come? Who gave Jacob for plunder, and Israel to the robbers? Was it not the LORD, He against whom we have sinned? For they would not walk in His ways, Nor were they obedient to His law. Therefore He has poured on him the fury of His anger And the strength of battle; It has set him on fire all around, Yet he did not know; And it burned him, Yet he did not take it to heart.
      But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel:
      "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
       Since you were precious in My sight, You have been honored, And I have loved you; Therefore I will give men for you, And people for your life. . . .Bring My sons from afar, And My daughters from the ends of the earth; Everyone who is called by My name, Whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him." Bring out the blind people who have eyes, And the deaf who have ears. Let all the nations be gathered together, And let the people be assembled. Who among them can declare this, And show us former things? Let them bring out their witnesses, that they may be justified; Or let them hear and say, "It is truth.
      "You are My witnesses," says the LORD, "And My servant whom I have chosen, That you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, And besides Me there is no savior.
       I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, And there was no foreign god among you; Therefore you are My witnesses," Says the LORD, "that I am God. Indeed before the day was, I am He; And there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?" Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, The Holy One . . . . you have burdened Me with your sins, You have wearied Me with your iniquities. "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.
       Put Me in remembrance; Let us contend together; State your case, that you may be acquitted. Isaiah 42:23-43:26
      This article is a chapter from our 3 volume book series "Bible Believer's Archaeology" which can be downloaded for your ebook reader or mobile device by visiting our resource download page by Clicking Here.
Photo Links to Artifacts Mentioned in this Article
Rassam Cylinder
mentions Tirhakah
Esarhaddon Prism mentions Manasseh
   Senjirli Stela
mentions Tirhakah
Tell Sheik Hammad
Arpad's Conquest
The Holy Bible, Author: The Lord God
Scripture taken from the New King James Version unless noted.
Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament Princeton University Press 1969
Edited by James Pritchard. ISBN 0-691-03503-2.
Anet 288 - Epigraph from a relief depicting the conquest of Lachish at the palace of Sennacherib.
Anet 287 - From the Nimrud Inscription which mentions Sargon II  victory over Judah and Hamath.
Anet 532 - The British Museum text 79-7-8,195 - Artifact from the reign of Ashurnirari V  mentions Arpad as being subject to Assyria.
Anet 301-302 - The Babylonian Chronicle in the British Museum mentions Sippar and Akkad being taken by Sennacherib and appointing his son Ashurnadinshumi as ruler over them. (Sippar and Akkad being associated with Sepharvaim.
Anet 292 - From the British Museum text K3082+S2027+K3086 from the reign of Esarhaddon which mentions Ba’lu, king of Tyre who trusted Tirhakah king of Nubia to defend him.
Anet 290 - Esarhaddon Text mentions his capture of Tyre who put his trust in Tirhakah king of Nubia.
Anet 293- From the Senjirli Stela mentions Esarhaddon’s campaign against Memphis and his wounding in battle of Tirhakah.
Anet 294-295 - Rassam Cylinder of Ashurbanapal’s first campaign against Tirhakah, also mentions how the Necho dynasty started.
Anet 294  A list of  kings subject to Assyria is listed on Cylinder C.  They include Manasseh king of Judah.  
Anet 291 - The Esarhaddon Col. 5 - “I called up the kings of the country Hatti and on the other side of the river (Euphrates) Ba’lu king of Tyre, Manasseh king of Judah
Registration # 1929, 1012.1.
Anet 303 - The Esarhaddon Chronicle 627 B.C.
“First year of Shamashshumukin (king of Babylon, brother of Ashurbanapal ) -  The army of Assyria marched against Egypt, Tirhakah king of Egypt . . , the country of Egypt . . .  Necho [king of ] Egypt.
Anet 281 The Calah Slab mentions Adadnirari III putting many countries under his rule including Israel. Two other inscriptions, the Tell Sheik Hammad Stela as well as the Orthostat Slab mention Adadnirari’s defeat of Arpad.
The Bible in the British Museum - Interpreting the Evidence. Author  T.C. Mitchell.  ISBN: 0-8091-4292-0
pg 76 Document 35 Tablet fragment from Shalmaneser mentions Assyrian titles Tartan and Rabshakeh. ANE 82-5-22. 526
Pg 77 Document 36 Bilingual clay label dated to 645 B.C. makes mention of the title Rabsaris. ANE 81-2-4, 147
Tell Sheik Hammad Stela British Museum #131124
Mentions the conquest of Arpad as follows:
“Atarsumki [from Arpad and the kings] of the land of Hatti who had rebelled . . . In a single year, I conquered the land of Hatti”
Orthostat Slab also mentions Arpad’s conquest.
Atars[umki …] trusted [in his own strength, attacked to wage war and battle. I decisively defeated him. I took away his camp. […] the treasure of [his pal]ace [I carried off.]
Artwork: “Bas Relief Siege of Lachish by Sennacherib” Illustrated in “Popular and Critical Bible Encyclopedia Vol. 2 (1910).
Author: S. Fallow, Publisher: Howard-Severance Co.
Artwork: “Rassam Cylinder: Illustrated in “Popular and Critical Bible Encyclopedia - Vol.1” (1910). Pg.180  Author: S. Fallows, Publisher: Howard-Severance Co.  
Artwork: “Senjirli Stela from Esarhaddon located at the Pergamon Museum mentions Tirhakah”, Illustrated in ‘Book of History Volume 4  (The Near East Section) pg.1680,  publisher: Grolier Society.
Tirhakah article Internet sources (2012) :
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Bible Evidence found in Bible Archaeology