Will Smith’s Lesson for JerusalemThe reference to Taharqa (Tirhakah) is found in 2 Kings 19:9:
The Continental Divide
By Eric Frey (The Forward)
Hollywood star Will Smith is reportedly planning to make a movie on Taharqa, a black warrior king from Nubia who ruled over Egypt during the 7th-century BCE. The film is likely to focus on issues of black pride, but if Smith and his scriptwriters do their homework well, “The Last Pharaoh” should also be of particular interest to Jewish moviegoers. According to some scholars, Taharqa played a key part in the early history of Judaism — and his story carries a crucial lesson for the future of the State of Israel.
The figure of Taharqa, who was born in what is today Sudan, is linked to a pivotal historical event that is described in the Bible: the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem in 701 BCE. Hezekiah, the king of Judah, had little chance of surviving that onslaught by one of the greatest military powers on earth; only two decades before, the Assyrians had conquered the neighboring kingdom of Israel and deported many of its citizens.
But the Assyrians eventually withdrew from the walls of Jerusalem and Hezekiah’s throne was saved. Judah kept its independence for another 115 years, until it was defeated by the Babylonians, who went on to destroy the first temple in 586 BCE.
The rescue of Jerusalem had enormous consequences for religious thought. Recent archaeological discoveries have convinced most historians that monotheism had not yet fully taken root among Israelites at the time of the siege, and the Torah had very likely yet to be written down.
It was only after the withdrawal of the Assyrians that the embattled survivors became deeply convinced that their God was truly unique and almighty. That new belief then had more than a century to evolve and flourish, and it grew strong enough to allow the exiled Jews to retain their faith during the Babylonian exile and later return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.
Why, though, did the Assyrians withdraw from Jerusalem? The Bible talks about God visiting a plague on the invading army. It also mentions a lack of water in the Judean Hills that bedevilled the besiegers, and archaeologists have since credited King Hezekiah for having the foresight to build a tunnel to Gihon Springs that gave the city a secure water supply.
But in a recent book, journalist turned historian Henry Aubin argues convincingly that it was the approach of the Kushite-Nubian army — headed by young Taharqa, whom the Bible refers to as king of Ethiopia — that made the Assyrians lose heart. Militarily, it makes sense: It’s not the best idea to be caught up besieging a city like Jerusalem when a hostile force approaches from the rear.
 And when the king heard concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, "Behold, he has set out to fight against you," he sent messengers again to Hezeki'ah, saying,The Bible does not refer to a plague. The story, later in the same chapter, is much more dramatic:
 "Thus shall you speak to Hezeki'ah king of Judah: `Do not let your God on whom you rely deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. RSV
 And that night the angel of the LORD went forth, and slew a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.Imagine what CGI could do with that.
Herodotus recounts the same episode, but says that thousands of mice came into the Assyrian camp during the night and ate their quivers, bowstrings, and shield handles, so that their battle gear fell apart when they tried to use it and they were routed. (Sounds like a scene from a Monty Python movie.) Modern scholars have combined the two accounts to infer (i.e., take a wild flying guess) that rats in the camp brought about an outbreak of the plague.
Well, it's a good story, however you tell it. Should be an interesting movie.
I'll leave it to you to decide whether Frey's political advice is useful.