In 1 Kings 20.1-43 we read about the battle of Samaria. This will involve Sukkot because it was the second largest military base in Israel. In this battle we learn the spiritual battle principle of completing a directive from God, to not stop until what he has told you to do is complete, don’t quit. Saul made this mistake with the Amalekites and it produced a Haman (America made this mistake in Vietnam and Desert Storm).
Sukkot is translated as “temporary shelters” in verses 12 and 16 in the NASB, but this is not a tent (ohel) but a place. Sukkot is important to know because it will play a role in the Tribulation period. David fled there from Absalom, believers fled there in 70 AD and in 135 AD from the Romans. Yeshua crossed there to go into Trans-Jordan. John the Baptist immersed in this valley and in Isa 16 it is referred to as “the wilderness.” This is one of the area’s Israel will flee to from the false messiah (Rev 12.14). So, we are going to take a minute and look at a battle there because it is a place believers need to know about.
There is an important road linking Syria with Samaria that goes right through Sukkot and that is why Ben-hadad camped there. Ahab used it in his counter-attack. It runs from Syria and crosses the Jordan at a city called Adam. It winds up at the Wadi Fariah. The wadi comes out at Samaria. From Sukkot Ben-hadad drinks, relaxes and sends out messengers for Israel to surrender. He is still some distance from Samaria, but you had to go through a narrow valley. Ben-hadad left the valley of Sukkot at dawn, but Israel went out the day before, advanced on Samaria through the Wadi Fariah and Ahab catches them in the hills, and Ben-hadad can’t use his chariots.
Spiritually, we must never get caught “in the valley.” Beh-hadad does not succeed in the first war, so now he comes back from the north to draw Israel into the Jezreel Valley for a chariot battle. Israel’s strategy was to hit them before they got to the valley. Syria had been saying that the Lord is the God of the mountains, but not the valleys, so that is why they wanted to fight Israel there. Israel defeats them in the valley and the Lord wants Ben-hadad and his army destroyed, but Ahab let Ben-hadad go. As a result, Ahab is told that it will cost him his life because he did not kill Ben-hadad as the Lord had instructed him.
Spiritually, when in a battle, do exactly what the Lord has told you to do. The Wadi Fariah was the scene of a bloody battle between the Turks and the British in World War I. The Turks cannot maneuver in the twisting, turning descent that Ben-hadad tried. The British bombed them from planes as they were pinned down in the narrow gorge. Soldiers panicked as the head vehicles were blocked. Movement ceased and the soldiers began running for the hills. 90 guns, 50 trucks and 1000’s of other vehicles were found the next day. The survivors were scattered for miles and two armies were annihilated. The British captured the bridge at Adam and prevented their escape into the Jordan and the valley of Sukkot. In 1948, the Syrian army suffered the most decisive setback of the war near there also.
Let’s get back to fortified cities in Iron Age II in attack and defense.
Warfare has changed and now we have mega-armies and weapons with massive support systems. The Assyrians had a huge army, engineers, wage long sieges (Isa 20 and could attack in more than one place at a time. Against Israel, they went to the Shephelah Valley and attacked multiple cities at once. This valley had to be taken in order to come up to Jerusalem.
There were also vast improvements in fortifications and offensive weapons. Asshur-Nasurpal was the first to bring battering rams into the Assyrian army. They were long objects and hard to move over long distances. They had wicker shields and the defense against them was to burn them.
The ram changes around the time of Sargon II. The operational head of the battering ram was shaped like an axe, hitting between the rocks in the wall. They then tried to “pry” the rocks loose. Once they get a breach, it doesn’t take long. The Romans used a ram with a rams head on it at Masada which “pulverized” the wall.
If you were on a battering ram crew, you were in the hottest part of the battle. Everything will get thrown at you. You didn’t want to get close to the wall unless there was a breach. This is called “pulling down of strongholds.” Men close to walls were called “sappers” (Judges 9.53; 2 Sam 11 14-25) and their tools included spears, long levers, pikes and swords with special shields. The men who do this are usually in trouble and were expendable. David wanted Uriah killed, so Joab put him close to the wall and he died.
The sappers usually started at the gates, the weakest part of the wall. Spiritually, what are your gates? They are the five senses, and don’t be surprised if one of them is under attack at any given time because the enemy is trying to gain control or destroy your “city.”
To reduce the dangers to a battering ram, the Romans brought in seaweed to stop fires. Archery units would accompany them and towers were built to protect the rams. The terrain around the city wall was a problem.
A glacis (a slope), usually plastered over for slickness, was used in defense, and sometimes multiple ones were used. So, to counter this, ramps were built to push up the ram if there was no road. Slaves or auxiliary troops were used to build these ramps. Sennacharib did not use wicker in his rams, but leather, on four wheels and the ram could be extended. The Assyrian tactic with battering rams was that they grouped them at a certain point in the wall, usually the gate. Then 4-6 rams came up and they went to work. By doing this, there was constant pressure, even if you burn one ram, you had others to contend with.
The Assyrians had a hard time at Lachish in the Shephelah Valley because the Judeans built a counter ramp on the inside. The gate was the main focus of the battering ram and the sapper because there was a road already in place and it was the weakest point in the wall. To stop the ram you tried to burn or wrap a chain around it and pull it to break the ram.
To defend a gate, roads were made a certain to make it hard to get close to the wall, and they had at least two towers. Multiple gates were used with 90 degree turns so it was a small fort in and of itself. Sappers could wear a coat of mail, but it was heavy and they couldn’t move to get out of the way if something big was thrown down at them.
Spiritually, you can find ways to protect yourself, but you cannot let those defenses “weigh” you down and be a hindrance to your mobility. Eventually, scaled armor was dropped and a wicker shield used. In armies today, men who disarm mines are called sappers. Sappers “undermined” towers that could fall and breach walls as well. Defenses were concerned about men scaling the wall, but it was not a main focus. Ladders were used and to defend against this, higher walls were used.
Spiritually, to defend against someone trying to “scale our walls”, we go back to the Scriptures, gain knowledge, understanding and insight, and then go back and learn more, keeping our attitude right. That is how you build “higher walls.” Tunnels were also used, along with rams, scalers, sappers and gate units. Tunnels meant you were in a long siege. These were usually done in the area of archery units. Watching for “tunnels” to undermine you is a constant watch, and spiritually, this should be watched for in our lives.
Let’s say you may have a “tunneler” at work who constantly undermines you before others. The way you come against an under-miner is to find their “tunnel” and cave it in on top of them, which means you will need to confront them face to face, the last thing an under-miner wants. They like to work in dark places, so exposing their tunnel to the “light of day” is what you do.
In Part 18, we are going to begin by talking about the psychological warfare of the Assyrians against Jerusalem in Isa 36 and 37, and then learn how to apply it, and combat against a psychological war in our own lives. These two chapters in Isaiah are the best examples of psychological warfare in the Scriptures.