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The Rescue of Jerusalem

Rescue of Jerusalem Cover

In the summer of 701 B.C.E., the powerful Assyrian army ravaged the Hebrew kingdom of Judah and threatened to destroy Jerusalem, the last unconquered city of any size. Scholars agree that if the city had fallen and its people deported, Hebrew culture would have perished. Judaism could therefore not have blossomed several centuries later and its kindred religions, Christianity and Islam, could have never existed.

Suddenly, the invaders retreated, leaving the City of David intact. Why? The Bible, which tells the story in the Book of Second Kings, says only that an angel slew many of the foe. The real reason for the Assyrian withdrawal has been one of history’s most enduring mysteries. The Rescue of Jerusalem: The Alliance between Hebrews and Africans in 701 BC argues that Jerusalem was saved by the army sent by Egypt’s 25th Dynasty.

Historians may disagree on how many of ancient Egypt’s 30 dynasties were black. But all historians agree that least one of them was – the 25th. It was this Kushite (or Nubian) dynasty that sent the army to Jerusalem. This Kushite army seldom figures in modern biblical scholarship – the result, the book argues, of modern scholarship’s blind spot to Africa’s accomplishments.

Recipient: The Canadian Jewish Book Award for history

Follow-up to Rescue of Jerusalem

The final third of Jerusalem’s Survival, Sennacherib’s Departure, and the Kushite Role in 701 BCE: An Examination of Henry Aubin’s Rescue of Jerusalem (see home page) published online by The Journal of Hebrew Scriptures, consists of responses I wrote to each of the eight evaluators’ essays. These responses (really essays in themselves) address issues related to the conflict of 701 BCE and break new ground (e.g., on the underrated strength of the Kushite-Egyptian army, and the heroism of the Hebrew civilians and soldiers outside Jerusalem). The pagination given below for these essays corresponds to the book’s online version. Paper edition by Gorgias Press.

  • Aubin Opening Remarks, 199-202.
  • Response to Marta Høyland Lavik: The Kushite Mission’s Historical Context, 203-12.
  • Response to Song-Mi Suzie Park: Some Theological Issues in 2 Kings 18-19, 213-19.
  • Response to Christopher Hays: Hays Poses a Timely Question on Scholarship, 220-32.
  • Response to Jeremy Pope: The Emptiness of the Theory of Hezekiah’s Surrender, 233-48.
  • Response to Aidan Dodson: Assessing the Strength of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty’s Army in 701 BCE, 249-64.
  • Response to Lester Grabbe: Was the Battle of Eltekeh Decisive?, 265-74.
  • Response to Alan B. Lloyd: Why Minimize the Kushite Role in 701 BCE?, 275-82.
  • Response to K. Lawson Younger, Jr.: The Puzzle of Taharqo’s Route to Judah, 283-92.

Opinions (2002-04) of non-biblical scholars on The Rescue of Jerusalem

  • Donald Harman Akenson, professor at Queen’s University and author of Surpassing Wonder: The Invention of the Bible and the Talmuds, in a book review in Toronto’s Globe & Mail, 2002:

“A special circle in Paradise is reserved for writers such as Henry Aubin: those able to deal with really big ideas or occasions,  and to do so convincingly in tight, readable, unpretentious language. The issue here is a terribly big one: (…) why was Jerusalem not trashed by the Assyrians in 701 BC? That was one of those contingent moments in world history on which whole civilizations pivot….

“Aubin argues with real brilliance [that a Nubian-led army repelled the Assyrians]. Yet I doubt his argument will go far: Not that it will be defeated, just ignored. There are few congregations whose rabbis or ministers are apt to be keen on building into their mindset the idea that the Judaeo-Christian tradition was saved from extinction by a bunch of blacks from the Upper Nile.

“Nor is the academy likely to be welcoming. Aubin is no Black Athena headcase. Quite the contrary. But not only is he suggesting that probably an entire century of scholarship — the 20th — was dead wrong on one of the turning points of Western history, he is the wrong sort of person to make the case. He makes his living as a journalist and he writes very well, neither of these being forgivable characteristics to the academy…. This is a fine book, and as a result, one can already smell the oil being boiled to repel this inconvenient intruder.”


  • Jean Leclant, former secretary-general of the International Association of Egyptologists, former Egyptology chair at the Collège  de France, and Balzan Prize-winning archaeologist in Egypt and Nubia (2003):
“I am greatly impressed by the scope of Aubin’s evidence and the trustworthiness of his thesis. I sincerely hope his important book will receive a vast audience among Egyptologists, Nubiologists and specialists on the Middle East.”


  • Bruce Trigger, former professor of anthropology, McGill University. Author of Early Civilizations: Ancient Egypt in Context, History of Archaeologicals Thought and  History and Settlement in Lower Nubia. When publishers rejected the book on grounds that its author was an uncredentialed non-academic, he wrote the following letter to publishers:

“As someone who has spent much of his professional life studying ancient Egypt and the Sudan, I have read with great interest and admiration Henry Aubin’s The Rescue of Jerusalem. The author addresses a poorly understood, but important, historical episode — King Sennacherib’s abandonment of the siege of Jerusalem in 701 B.C.E., an event which is widely held to have made possible the development of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In his powerful, wide-ranging analysis, Aubin has demonstrated that a key problem that has hindered the analysis of this event is the pervasive racism that led scholars to discount the effectiveness of the Kushite kings who controlled Egypt during the 25th Dynasty. By successfully countering this image, Aubin is able to construct a highly plausible argument that it was the arrival of an Egyptian army that saved Jerusalem at this time. He is also able to account for why this explanation does not survive in the Hebrew accounts that are available to us.

“Aubin successfully achieves his primary goal: he provides the most convincing explanation of what caused the Assyrians to retreat from Jerusalem. In the course of doing this, however, he accomplishes three other goals that in my opinion are of even greater importance. First, he presents the most persuasive panorama I have read of interstate relations from Babylon all the way to Meroe around 700 B.C.E.

“Second, his unbiased view of the Kushite rulers of Egypt during the 25th Dynasty completely revises our understanding of Egyptian society at this period. As someone familiar with the evidence he uses, I reproach myself for not drawing the revolutionary and totally convincing conclusions about these rulers that Aubin has formulated.

“Third, he has unmasked, thoroughly and effectively, the unconscious racism that has mangled the scholarly understanding of Egypt for more than a century.

“Aubin’s insights are of astonishing breadth, originality and importance and deserve to be known to as many readers as possible.”


  • William H. McNeill, former professor of history at the University of Chicago. National Book Award-winning author of The  Rise of the West and Plagues and Peoples. He wrote the following letter to publishers:

To whom it may concern:

Having read Henry Aubin’s MS about what probably happened in 701 BCE, when King Sennacherib’s Assyrian army showed up un-der the walls of Jerusalem, but after threatening to attack suddenly withdrew, I am glad to say that I found his argument about how an Egyptian army commanded by Pharaohs from Nubia compelled Sennacherib’s retreat to be very convincing. So much so indeed that I feel compelled to retract my own previous belief that a lethal epidemic […] was what made the Assyrians withdraw.

I know that Aubin is not a professional scholar, but his explanation of why the Egyptian military role has been overlooked and re-jected by recent scholarship struck me as very plausible indeed. And it is a fact that when professionally learned men arrive at a consensus it often takes an outsider to challenge established views.

This is what Aubin has done and he certainly deserves a hearing. Whoever publishes this book will therefore be doing a service to learning and one of far from trivial importance inasmuch as the sub-sequent history of Judaism, Christianity and Islam all hinged on the interpretation Biblical writers made of how God—not the Egyptians—demonstrated his universal power by saving Jerusalem from the mightiest army of the age. (Letter dated Nov. 19, 2000.)


  • Timothy Kendall, a leading archaeologist at Kushite sites since the 1980s and former vice-president of the International Society of Nubian Studies:

“Absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in the Nubian pharaohs, in biblical history, or in Assyrian imperialism… Well researched, brilliantly reasoned, and a mine of new information for the ancient historian — as well as the historian of modern racism.”


What other reviewers say…


  • “An eminently plausible interpretation of one of history’s great turning points.” Kirkus Reviews
  • “A fascinating story… Gripping… Aubin argues quite persuasively that [the Assyrians] withdrew because of the news of an approaching Egyptian army,  primarily made of Kushites.” Jerusalem Report magazine
  • “Extremely well researched… The primary focus of the work, that the Kushites saved Jerusalem from the Assyrians, is presented in an interesting and often thought-provoking manner. It is easy to see how the hypothesis developed and it makes sense.” Journal of Military History
  • “Gripping and sometimes downright thrilling… It is really exciting to see a brilliant journalist turn the tables and teach academics a thing or two.” National Post (Toronto)
  • “Aubin has written that rare thing, a scholarly book that is thrillingly clear in its exposition of facts, ideas and personalities. It’s such a joy to read you can easily imagine its central historical events made into an epic film. Aubin sheds fresh and persuasive light on matters ranging from the development of monotheism,  to the forgotten civilizations of ancient Africa, (…) to the racism that blighted 19th-century scholarship and which continues to influence scholars today,  even though most aren’t racist themselves… It’s an original piece of scholarship on Aubin’s part, and it has the resounding ring of truth.” The Sun Sentinel (Florida)
  • “Aubin is able to turn an obscure topic into both a thrilling war drama and a thoughtful theological study.” Canadian Jewish News
  • “Wait a minute: An alliance between Hebrews and Africans? Isn’t it received wisdom that blacks and Jews have been adversaries for eons? Isn’t that the incessant message delivered by the likes of Louis Farrakhan and other voices of black militancy? It’s precisely this shibboleth that Mr. Aubin is determined to shatter. In fact, he mantains, the alliance was not confined to military support; it was ideological as well.” Toronto Star
  • “Stunning… Its main points will undoubtedly catch the attention of scholars of the African diaspora. Their efforts will help rehabilitate the image and role of sub-Saharan Africa in world history.” Journal of Blacks in Higher Education
  • “Aubin does a good job of showing the fatuities and flimsy reasoning of the so-called higher criticism of the Bible. He shows that many of the modern authorities who are considered ‘men of science’ were racially and religiously prejudiced against the Kushites.” Jerusalem Post
  • “I like this book. It’s a page-turner… Aubin writes vigorously, becoming particularly eloquent when arguing against the scholarly consensus.” The Armchair Classicist
  • “Aubin’s book is an important addition to information available to the public about African civilization… The Rescue of Jerusalem is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the political and cultural attitudes of ancient Africans.” African Unification Front
  • “A serious and well-argued study whose thesis deserves careful consideration. Recommended for all university libraries.” American Library Association
  • “Aubin, a journalist, offers a book that will have wide appeal for professionals interested in the ancient Near East and readers for whom biblical events of historical significance are of enduring interest.” Publishers Weekly
  • “This work is a wonderful exercise in historiography.” Library Journal
  • “[Aubin’s] argument is often intricate but it’s never less than convincing and eminently readable… Aubin’s book is a gem.” Books in Canada



Writing in the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures, a biblical scholar defends Western scholarship of the late 19th and 20th centuries against my charge (in The Rescue of Jerusalem) that racism influenced its dismissive view of Kushite accomplishments — a view that some non-racist scholars today have unwittingly inherited.

What is the truth? Make up your own mind.

Here are the texts:

– The Journal‘s article by Prof. Paul S. Evans, of McMaster Divinity College

– My (restrained) riposte (updated in July 2020)

– A short article by Prof. A.O. Bellis, of Howard University, which Evans also attacks for supporting my position




The book was originally published by Soho Press, New York (2002), and by Doubleday Canada, Toronto (2002). Penguin Random House acquired North American rights in 2021.