(Map 1:W5). Modern Tell ed‐Duweir, one of the major fortified cities in Israel in the second and first millennia BCE. It has been the focus of several excavations, which have both illuminated and been illuminated by its frequent mention in written and pictorial sources. In biblical traditions, Lachish features prominently in accounts of the conquest (Josh. 10), and as Sennacherib's headquarters for his campaign against Judah in 701 BCE; its capture by the Assyrian king is depicted in detail in reliefs from Nineveh.

Among the most significant discoveries at the site are the Lachish ostraca. In the excavations of J. L. Starcky in the mid 1930s, eighteen inscribed potsherds, apparently military dispatches, were discovered in the ashy debris of a room in the city's gate. They are dated to the final months of the kingdom of Judah. Their servile tone—for example, “who is your servant but a dog” (cf 1 Sam. 24.15; 2 Sam. 9.8; 2 Kings 8.13)—shows that they were sent from an inferior to a superior, presumably the garrison commander. Letter 3 briefly reports on a mission to Egypt and alludes to an unnamed prophet who delivered a letter of warning from a royal official. The most famous, Letter 4, ends in pathos: “We are looking for the signals of Lachish, according to all the indications my lord has given, because we do not see Azekah.” This letter must have been written just after Jeremiah 34.1–5, an oracle of doom and comfort delivered by the prophet to King Zedekiah “when the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and against all the cities of Judah that were left, Lachish and Azekah; for these were the only fortified cities of Judah that remained” (Jer. 34.7). Soon, in 587/586 BCE, Nebuchadrezzar would take Jerusalem and raze the Temple. The Lachish ostraca are valuable to paleographers, since they can be precisely dated, but their chief importance is as mementos of a tragic era in Israelite history.

William H. Propp