Isaiah the prophet declared:
“In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him, and he fought against Ashdod and took it” (20:1).
Is this text historically reliable?
In the early part of the last century, this passage was a point of controversy among critics of the Bible. Some alleged that there was never a king named Sargon, while others contended that Isaiah had confused this name with someone else.
Then, in 1843, French archaeologist Paul-Emile Botta discovered the palace of Sargon II at Khorsabad about 14 miles north of ancient Nineveh. The magnificent palace complex occupied some 25 acres and the walls of the palace proper were from 9 1/2 to 16 feet thick. One of the huge, winged bulls from Sargon’s palace, carved from stone, is in “The Oriental Institute” museum in Chicago. It is 16 feet long, 16 feet high, and weighs 40 tons. Visit this museum if you are ever able.
In 1963, fragments of an Assyrian monument were found in Ashdod. They contained a commemoration of Sargon’s defeat of the city. And so, these various archaeological discoveries demonstrate that:
- The Assyrian army, under the rule of Sargon, invaded Ashdod during the time of Isaiah;
- Sargon did not personally accompany the invasion; rather it was led by Tartan (the title of his commander-in-chief —see ASV fn);
- The city was conquered. The biblical facts are confirmed.
The Bible is historically accurate. Block off Isaiah 20:1, and in your margin note: Formerly doubted; confirmed in 1843.