(Sin‐aḫḫe‐eriba). King of Assyria (705–681 BCE). Sennacherib, as crown prince under his father Sargon II (722–705 BCE), served as administrator in the Assyrian heartland while his father was on campaign. After Sargon had been killed in battle, Sennacherib viewed this as a sign of divine disfavor and dissociated himself from his father. He abandoned Sargon's newly built capital and, contrary to Assyrian custom, omitted his genealogy in official inscriptions. Sennacherib chose as his capital the old city of Nineveh, which he embellished by installing wide boulevards, bringing in mountain water by aqueduct, planting trees, and laying out parks. Sennacherib campaigned actively in foreign lands, chiefly against Babylon (dominated at this time by Chaldeans) and Elam. His struggles with Babylon reached a crisis after the Babylonians had handed over his crown prince, Ashur‐nadin‐shumi, to the Elamites; Sennacherib eventually besieged, captured, and ruthlessly destroyed the city, diverting a watercourse through the ruins so that the site would be permanently obliterated.

In 701 BCE, Sennacherib led an expedition into Palestine to reinstate his ally Padi of Ekron, who had been deposed by his subjects. The siege of Lachish during this campaign is vividly illustrated in the reliefs from the royal palace at Nineveh. After the fall of Lachish, Sennacherib besieged Hezekiah in Jerusalem, imprisoning him, as the Assyrian annals report, “like a bird in a cage”; Hezekiah made peace only by paying extensive tribute (cf. 2 Kings 18–19; Isa. 36–37; 2 Chron. 32). Because of apparent discrepancies in the biblical and extrabiblical accounts of Sennacherib's activities in Palestine, it has sometimes been proposed that Sennacherib mounted another, less successful expedition—not recorded in the cuneiform records—against the area at some time after 689 BCE; but this is unlikely. Nevertheless, the survival of Jerusalem was viewed as the equivalent of a victory by some biblical writers, and this led to the narrative of the city's miraculous deliverance (see Isa. 37.33–37 = 2 Kings 19.32–36), celebrated in Byron's The Destruction of Sennacherib. Sennacherib was assassinated in 681 BCE by his son Arda‐Mulishshi (cf. 2 Kings 19.36–37; 2 Chron. 32.21).

John A. Brinkman