John Hobbins, Ancient Hebrew Poetry writes a fascinating post: Did a black Pharaoh wage war against Sennacherib and drive him away from Jerusalem? (9 March 2007). This post is a great starting point for anyone wishing to explore this issue further and includes a nice bibliography at the end.
According to Henry T. Aubin, a black Pharaoh named Taharqa came to the aid of king Hezekiah of Judah, waged war against Sennacherib king of Assyria, and forced him away from Jerusalem. The title and subtitles of Aubin’s book are certainly impressive: The Rescue of Jerusalem: The Alliance between Hebrews and Africans in 701 BC. An online summary of Aubin’s book is available here. Aubin’s captivating theory is highlighted in an article by Robert Draper entitled “Black Pharaohs: Conquerors of Ancient Egypt,” in the February 2008 issue of National Geographic.
Until recently, theirs was a chapter of history that largely went untold. Only in the past four decades have archaeologists resurrected their story—and come to recognize that the black pharaohs didn’t appear out of nowhere. They sprang from a robust African civilization that had flourished on the southern banks of the Nile for 2,500 years, going back at least as far as the first Egyptian dynasty.
. . . The ancient world was devoid of racism. At the time of Piye’s historic conquest, the fact that his skin was dark was irrelevant. Artwork from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome shows a clear awareness of racial features and skin tone, but there is little evidence that darker skin was seen as a sign of inferiority. Only after the European powers colonized Africa in the 19th century did Western scholars pay attention to the color of the Nubians’ skin, to uncharitable effect.
. . . In any event, when the Assyrians left town and massed against the gates of Jerusalem, that city’s embattled leader, Hezekiah, hoped his Egyptian allies would come to the rescue. The Assyrians issued a taunting reply, immortalized in the Old Testament’s Book of II Kings: “Thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed [of] Egypt, on which if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: So is Pharaoh king of Egypt unto all that trust on him.”
Then, according to the Scriptures and other accounts, a miracle occurred: The Assyrian army retreated. Were they struck by a plague? Or, as Henry Aubin’s provocative book, The Rescue of Jerusalem, suggests, was it actually the alarming news that the aforementioned Nubian prince was advancing on Jerusalem? All we know for sure is that Sennacherib abandoned the siege and galloped back in disgrace to his kingdom, where he was murdered 18 years later, apparently by his own sons.
The deliverance of Jerusalem is not just another of ancient history’s sidelights, Aubin asserts, but one of its pivotal events. It allowed Hebrew society and Judaism to strengthen for another crucial century—by which time the Babylonian king Nebuchadrezzar could banish the Hebrew people but not obliterate them or their faith.
For his part, Hobbins offers a good analysis of what scholarship has to offer in relation to the Hezekiah story. You have to read his whole post, but I’m excerpting a couple of paragraphs to whet your appetite:
. . . It is quite possible, though difficult to prove, that the origin of a number of elements in Egyptian culture lies to its south, in Nubia. . . . What distinguished the Nubians from native Egyptians was their sincere and non-ironic commitment to everything Egypt stood for. They were indeed, as Homer averred, the justest of men and beloved of the gods. The Egyptians themselves tended to take their faith with less than full seriousness.
[Keeping in mind the critiques of Hobbins] Information from the book The Rescue of Jerusalem: The Alliance Between Hebrews and Africans in 701 B.C., Henry T. Aubin (April 1, 2003). [Here are a few excerpts from this information page on Aubin’s book. Click here ]
The Kushite kingdom, which was known in its later phases by the name of Meroe, existed at least 1,100 years. That is longer than the span of such other better-known states as ancient Assyria, Israel, Greece, Rome or the Hittite empire. Even more astonishing is Kush’s political and social stability during those centuries.
. . . Why did the Kushites accept the appeal to send forces abroad for the mission of confronting the Assyrians? . . .
. . . .Contrary to the popular understanding, sub-Saharan soldiers were no strangers to that part of the world. Records indicate their involvement in Khor for at least 1,500 years prior to Sennacherib’s invasion. (Khor – ancient Egyptian name for the region of the Fertile Crescent, the territory encompassing the ancient kingdoms of Judah and Israel, Philistine land, Phoenician lands, Syria, Dead Sea occupied by the minor kingdom of Ammon, Moab and Edom).
. . . Kushite trade missions would have journeyed as far as Assyria. The Kushites bred an unusually large horse in the dry highlands of the Dongola Reach . . .
. . . Egypt under the Kushite pharaohs enjoyed extraordinary political and commercial influence in Judah and elsewhere in Khor. . .
. . . A variety of ancient texts Assyrian, Judahite and Greek show that in this period Kushite Egypt also possessed a reputation for exceptional military prowess, which is consistent with having forced Assyria’s departure. And finally, in addition to the implicit message of Second Kings’ broken-reed passage, the Hebrew Bible in several places accords Kush great honor. No other nation receives such special treatment, and no explanation presents itself other than the Kushite Dynasty’s help to Judah against Assyria.
Here I return to Hobbins:
There is only one way of evaluating a theory like that of Aubin: full immersion in the relevant primary and secondary literature, egyptological, assyriological, and biblical. Shortcuts, truth be told, do not exist. It helps immensely to read the texts in the languages they were written in (Egyptian, Akkadian, and Hebrew).
[Oh well ;-)]