Lachish Letter Iv

Lachish and Azekah were two of Judah's fortresses first mentioned in 2Chronicles 11:5-12:

"So Rehoboam dwelt in Jerusalem, and built cities for defense in Judah. And he built Bethlehem, . . . Lachish, Azekah, Zorah, Aijalon, and Hebron, which are in Judah and Benjamin, fortified cities. And he fortified the strongholds, and put captains in them, and stores of food, oil, and wine. Also in every city he put shields and spears, and made them very strong, having Judah and Benjamin on his side."

The Lachish letters were written by the commander of Lachish who was under siege. Letter IV seems to indicate that the city of Azekah had fallen. This historic event confirms the Biblical account found in Jeremiah 34:6-7 which says: "Then Jeremiah the prophet spoke all these words to Zedekiah king of Judah in Jerusalem, when the king of Babylon's army fought against Jerusalem and all the cities of Judah that were left, against Lachish and Azekah; for only these fortified cities remained of the cities of Judah."

Another pottery fragment found at Lachish had the following inscription written on it which mentions two biblical figures:

Letter III: "The commander of the army, Coniah son of Elnathan, has arrived and will shortly leave for Egypt." "And as for the letter from the servant of the king, Tobiah, which came to Shallum son of Jaddu'a through the prophet, saying 'Be on your guard!', your subject has sent it to my lord."

The first biblical name found in Letter III is Elnathan. There are references to two men named Elnathan in the Bible during this time frame; the first being Elnathan of Jerusalem who was the grandfather of king Jehoiachin, father-in-law to king Jehoi-akim. He is found in 2Kings 24:8:

"Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. His mother's name was Nehushta the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem . . . At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. And he carried Jehoiachin captive to Babylon . . .Then the king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin's uncle, king in his place, and changed his name to Zedeki-ah."

The appointment of Zedekiah as king over Judah mentioned in the preceding passage has also been found in records from Babylon known as the Babylonian Chronicles. The tablet records that after Jerusalem was captured by Nebuchadnezzar in March of 597 B.C., "He installed a king of his own choosing." (Zedekiah)

The second Elnathan found in the Bible is Elnathan son of Achbor, who was a prince in king Jeh-oiakim's household. He is mentioned in Jeremiah 26:22 and Jeremiah 36:12.

In the second part of letter III is an astonishing statement about a letter which came to Shallum son of Jaddu'a through the Prophet. Since there was only one major prophet at the time the Lachish letter was written, it seems very likely that this is an amazing reference to the prophet Jeremiah of the Old Testament. And Shallum son of Jaddu'a may in fact be the uncle of Jeremiah who is mentioned in Jeremiah 32:6-9:

"And Jeremiah said, "The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 'Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you, saying, "Buy my field which is in Anathoth, for the right of redemption is yours to buy it."

"Then Hanamel my uncle's son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the LORD, and said to me,

'Please buy my field that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin; for the right of inheritance is yours, and the redemption yours; buy it for yourself.' Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.

"So I bought the field from Hanamel, the son of my uncle who was in Anathoth, and weighed out to him the money; seventeen shekels of silver."

(Note: a shekel is a weight, 17 shekels would be approximately 30 average size silver pieces.)

God told Jeremiah that he would one day buy for himself a field for thirty pieces of silver, because the right of inheritance and redemption was his. He also foretold this event to the prophet Zechariah.

Zechariah 11:7-13: "So I fed the flock for slaughter, in particular the poor of the flock. I took for myself two staffs: the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bonds; and I fed the flock.

I dismissed the three shepherds in one month. My soul loathed them, and their soul also abhorred me. Then I said, "I will not feed you. Let what is dying die, and what is perishing perish. Let those that are left eat each other's flesh." And I took my staff, Beauty, and cut it in two, that I might break the covenant which I had made with all the peoples. So it was broken on that day. Thus the poor of the flock, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the LORD.

Then I said to them, "If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain." So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said to me, "Throw it to the potter"; that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD for the potter."

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