In 2002 Henry T. Aubin published The Rescue of Jerusalem: The Alliance Between Hebrews and Africans in 701 BC. Aubin, an award winning Canadian journalist, explores Jerusalem’s survival in 701 BCE in the face of an Assyrian invasion of the Levant. It is unusual for a book in biblical studies to be reconsidered fifteen to twenty years later. The rationale for a book-length collection devoted to Aubin’s The Rescue of Jerusalem is, first of all, the importance of the issues it raises for the academy and beyond. This volume brings together excellent scholars from several fields to consider certain issues that are raised by The Rescue of Jerusalem. This volume is important for another reason. Not only does The Rescue of Jerusalem raise issues regarding what may have happened in 701 BCE; it also probes the causes of changes in Western biblical scholarly attitudes regarding the Twenty-fifth Dynasty’s involvement in those events. Aubin's approach raises important concerns about scholarly attitudes, not only from the past, but also about the ways in which past attitudes have a way of continuing to color later academic discourse when they are not challenged.
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What saved Jerusalem from destruction by the Assyrian army in 701 BCE? The seemingly invincible Assyrians — the only superpower of the day — had been about to assault the city when they suddenly departed. The Bible says the “angel of the Lord” swept down on the Assyrian camp, killing 185,000 troops as they slept, obliging the survivors to retreat to their homeland in present-day Iraq. Historians for more than a century have generally agreed that if Jerusalem — the only Hebrew city that the invaders had not destroyed — had been seized and the survivors deported (as per imperial policy in such cases), Hebrew society could have been permanently extinguished. Judaism would therefore never have evolved several centuries later and neither of its two kindred monotheisms, Christianity and Islam, would have developed. As if to underscore the event’s importance to Hebrew society, the Bible tells the story of Jerusalem’s miraculous deliverance, three times — in the books of Second Kings, Isaiah and Second Chronicles. The Old Testament/Tanakh/Hebrew Bible presents no other story so often.
Modern historians have proposed more down-to-earth explanations for the failure of the Assyrian emperor, Sennacherib. These include an epidemic that caused him to flee, a crisis elsewhere in the empire with which he had to deal, and a simple surrender by Jerusalem’s King Hezekiah. But now another theory — advanced in a 2002 book, The Rescue of Jerusalem: The Alliance between Hebrews and Africans in 701 BC, by a Canadian journalist, Henry Aubin — is rallying new respectability: an army led by Africans from present-day Sudan repelled the Assyrians. The army’s commander would have been a young Kushite, Taharqo, who later became Pharaoh. After 18 years of the book’s obscurity, the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures , is breathing new life into it, commissioning eight specialists in this period of history to judge the theory’s plausibility. The verdict: six of the scholars tilt in favor of the theory, one is undecided, and only one rejects it.