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The Siege Of The City

The English word siege is derived from the Latin word meaning to sit. To besiege a city, an armed force surrounds and isolates it, while usually continuing its attacks upon it. In general, siege warfare involves bombardment (anything from, in ancient times, arrows or flaming arrows, catapulted rocks, or even catapulted corpses of plague victims to cause epidemics among the defenders, to, in modern times, artillery and "smart bombs") and cut off of supply, which causes starvation and deprivation. It was usually only after the city surrendered, or was greatly weakened, that infantry entered. There have been many great sieges of cities throughout human history, some of which are recorded in the Bible.

Biblical Sieges

Roman Soldiers God gave instruction to the Israelites how they were to besiege cities:

"When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. And if its answer to you is peace and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you. But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it; and when The Lord your God gives it into your hand you shall put all its males to the sword, but the women and the little ones, the cattle, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourselves; and you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which The Lord your God has given you." (Deuteronomy 20:10-14 RSV)

"When you besiege a city for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them; for you may eat of them, but you shall not cut them down. Are the trees in the field men that they should be besieged by you? Only the trees which you know are not trees for food you may destroy and cut down that you may build siegeworks against the city that makes war with you, until it falls." (Deuteronomy 20:10-14 RSV) (see Trees Of The Holy Land)

Under the leadership of Joshua, during their taking of the Promised Land the Israelites besieged a number of Canaanite cities, the most famous of which was Jericho:

"And Joshua passed on from Libnah, and all Israel with him, to Lachish, and laid siege to it, and assaulted it" (Joshua 10:31 RSV)

"And Joshua passed on with all Israel from Lachish to Eglon; and they laid siege to it, and assaulted it" (Joshua 10:34 RSV)

"Now Jericho was shut up from within and from without because of the people of Israel; none went out, and none came in. And The Lord said to Joshua, "See, I have given into your hand Jericho, with its king and mighty men of valor." (Joshua 6:1-2 RSV) (see The Fall Of Jericho)

God warned the Israelites that if they became corrupt, the tables would be turned on them - God would allow their enemies to besiege them in their own cities:

"Because you did not serve The Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, by reason of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom The Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and in want of all things; and he will put a yoke of iron upon your neck, until he has destroyed you."

"The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you do not understand, a nation of stern countenance, who shall not regard the person of the old or show favor to the young, and shall eat the offspring of your cattle and the fruit of your ground, until you are destroyed; who also shall not leave you grain, wine, or oil, the increase of your cattle or the young of your flock, until they have caused you to perish. They shall besiege you in all your towns, until your high and fortified walls, in which you trusted, come down throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you in all your towns throughout all your land, which The Lord your God has given you. And you shall eat the offspring of your own body, the flesh of your sons and daughters, whom The Lord your God has given you, in the siege and in the distress with which your enemies shall distress you." (Deuteronomy 28:47-53 RSV)

The Israelites ignored God's warning, and so they were besieged and conquered, first the northern kingdom of Israel at Samaria by the Assyrians in 721 BC, and then the southern kingdom of Judah at Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC (see also When Israel Became "Israel" and "Judah").

The "Lost Ten Tribes of Israel" from Samaria:

"Then the king of Assyria [see Ancient Empires - Assyria] invaded all the land and came to Samaria, and for three years he besieged it. In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes."

"And this was so, because the people of Israel had sinned against The Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom The Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs which the kings of Israel had introduced." (2 Kings 17:5-8 RSV)

The Jews from Judea:

"And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon [see Ancient Empires - Babylon] came with all his army against Jerusalem, and laid siege to it; and they built siegeworks against it round about. So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah." [see Kings of Israel and Judah and Israelite Dynasties]

"On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. Then a breach was made in the city; the king with all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, by the king's garden, though the Chaldeans were around the city. And they went in the direction of the Arabah. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho; and all his army was scattered from him. Then they captured the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, who passed sentence upon him. They slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in fetters, and took him to Babylon."

"In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month - which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon - Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. And he burned the house of The Lord [see Why Babylon?, Temples and Raiders Of The Lost Ark], and the king's house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem." (2 Kings 25:1-10 RSV)

Fact Finder: (a) Just prior to The Return Of Jesus Christ, did Jesus Christ say that Jerusalem will be under siege? (b) Who will break the siege of Jerusalem?
(a) Luke 21:20-24 (b) Zechariah 14:1-21

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