20120208-Daniel Interpreting Nebuchadnezzar Dream.jpg
Daniel Interpreting
Nebuchadnezzar's Dream
Nebuchadnezzar II (ruled 604-561 B.C.) took Babylon from the Assyrians, repelled the Persians, captured Jerusalem, enslaved the Jews, revived Babylon and created a Neo-Babylonian empire. A cuneiform inscription from the Ishtar Gate from Babylon (575 B.C.) in the Pergamon museum in Berlin reads, "Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, the pious prince...the highest priest...the never tiring governor...the wise and humble man, the trustee of Esagika and Ezida [two religious shrines], the first born sun of Nabopolassar, King of Babylon — am — I."

Nebuchadnezzar II should not be confused Nebuchadnezzar I. Nebuchadnezzar I (Akkadian: Nabu-kudurri-usur meaning "Nabu, protect my eldest son" or "Nabu, protect the border") was the king of the Babylonian Empire from about 1125 B.C. to 1103 B.C.

Solomon's Temple was partly destroyed and the Ark of the Covenant was lost when Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem in 586 B.C. In a Babylonian chronicle Nebuchadnezzar boasted theat he “captured the city and...took heavy tributes and brought it back to Babylon.” The Bible has a similar account except that the “tributes” are referred to as “all the treasures of the Temple and the royal palace.” The fate of the Ark is not known. According to one legend it was stolen by the illegitimate son of Solomon and Sheeba and taken to Ethiopia and placed in a church in Aksum, where only a guardian monk has access to it. A modest Second Temple was built in 539 B.C.

Websites and Resources on Mesopotamia: Ancient History Encyclopedia ; Mesopotamia University of Chicago site; British Museum ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia ; Louvre ; Metropolitan Museum of Art ; University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology ; Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago ; Iraq Museum Database ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; ABZU; Oriental Institute Virtual Museum ; Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur ; Ancient Near Eastern Art Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Nebuchadnezzar II in the Bible

Nebuchadnezzar recovering his reason

The reign of Nebuchadnezzar extended from B.C. 604 to 561. In B.C. 598 he laid siege to Jerusalem (2 Kings xxiv.) and made Jehoiachin prisoner, and in 588 again captured the city, and carried Zedekiah, who had rebelled against him, captive to Babylon (2 Kings xxv.). Josephus gives an account of his expeditions against Tyre and Egypt, which are also mentioned with many details in Ezek. xxvii.-xxix.

The name Nebuchadnezzar, or more accurately Nebuchadrezzar (Jer. xxi. 2, 7, etc.), is derived from the Jewish Scriptures. But his inscriptions reads Nebo-kudurri-ussur, i.e., "may Nebo protect the crown"; a name analogous to that of his father Nebo(Nabu)-habal-ussur. ("Nebo protect the son") and to that of Belshazzar, i.e., "Bel protect the prince." The phonetic writing of Nebuchadnezzar is "An-pa-sa-du-sis," each of which syllables has been identified through the syllabaries. The word "kudurri" is probably the (Hebrew - KeTeR) of (Page 251) Esther vi. 8, and the (Greek - kidaris) of the Greeks.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia: “Nabuchodonosor [Nebuchadnezzar] the Chaldean showed himself a capable military ruler, yet as a Babylonian monarch, following the custom of his predecessors, he gloried not in the arts of war, but of peace. His boast was the vast building operations which made Babylon a city (for those days) impregnable, which adorned the capital with palaces, and the famous "procession road", and Gate of Ishtar, and which restored and beautifies a great number of temples in different towns of Babylonia. Of Nabuchodonosor's madness (Daniel, iv, 26-34) no Babylonian record has as yet been found. A number of ingenious suggestions have been made on this subject, one of the best of which Professor Hommel's substitution of Nabu-na'id for Nabu-chodonosor, but the matter had better stand over till we possess more information on the period. Of the prophet Daniel we find no certain mention in contemporary documents; the prophet's Babylonian name, Baltassar (Balatsu-usur), is unfortunately a very common one. We know of at least fourteen persons of that time called Balatu and seven called Balatsu, both of which names may be abbreviations of Baltassar, or "Protect His life". The etymology of Sidrach and Misach is unknown, but Abednego and Arioch (Abdnebo and Eriaku) are well known. Professor J. Oppert found the base of a great statue near a mound called Duair, east of Babylon, and this may have belonged to the golden image erected "in the plain of Dura of the province of Babylon" (Dan. iii, 1).” [Source: J.P. Arendzen, transcribed by Rev. Richard Giroux, Catholic Encyclopedia]

Inscription of Nebuchadnezzar (r. 604-561 B.C.)

The inscriptions of which a translation follows was found at Babylon by Sir Harford Jones Bridges. It is engraved on a short column of black basalt, and is divided into ten columns, containing 619 lines. It may be worth while to remark that in the name given to the prophet Daniel, Belteshazzar, i.e., Balat-su-ussur ("preserve thou his life"), and in Abednego ("servant of Nebo"), we have two of the component parts of the name of Nebuchadnezzar himself. [Source: "Babylonian and Assyrian Literature", Translator: Rev. J. M. Rodwell, M.A. P. F. Collier & Son, New York, 1901]

According to "Babylonian and Assyrian Literature": Babylonian inscriptions are by no means so replete with interest as the Assyrian. The latter embrace the various expeditions in which the Assyrian monarchs were engaged, and bring us into contact with the names and locality of rivers, cities, and mountain-ranges, with contemporary princes in Judea and elsewhere, and abound in details as to domestic habits, civil usages, and the implements and modes of warfare. But the Babylonian inscriptions refer mainly to the construction of temples, palaces, and other public buildings, and at the same time present especial difficulties in their numerous architectural terms which it is often impossible to translate with any certainty. They are, however, interesting as records of the piety and religious feelings of the sovereigns of Babylon, and as affording numerous topographical notices of that famous city; while the boastful language of the inscription will often remind the reader of Nebuchadnezzar's words in Dan. iv. 30: "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?" Compare column vii, line 32.

Column One reads: [1.1] Nebuchadnezzar
[1.2] King of Babylon,
[1.3] glorious Prince,
[1.4] worshipper of Marduk,
[1.5] adorer of the lofty one,
[1.6] glorifier of Nabu,
[1.7] the exalted, the possessor of intelligence,
[1.8] who the processions of their divinities
[1.9] hath increased;
[1.10] a worshipper of their Lordships,
[1.11] firm, not to be destroyed;
[1.12] who for the embellishment
[1.13] of Bit-Saggatu and Bit-Zida
[1.14] appointed days hath set apart, and
[1.15] the shrines of Babylon
[1.16] and of Borsippa
[1.17] hath steadily increased;
[1.18] exalted Chief, Lord of peace,
[1.19] embellisher of Bit-Saggatu and Bit-Zida,
[1.20] the valiant son
[1.21] of Nabopolassar
[1.22] King of Babylon am I.

Inscribed stone of Nebuchadnezzar II

[Source: 1.23] When he, the Lord god my maker made me,
[1.24] the god Merodach, he deposited
[1.25] my germ in my mother's (womb):
[1.26] then being conceived
[1.27] I was made.
[1.28] Under the inspection of Assur my judge
[1.29] the processions of the god I enlarged,
[1.30] (namely) of Merodach great Lord, the god my maker.
[1.31] His skilful works
[1.32] highly have I glorified;
[1.33] and of Nebo his eldest son
[1.34] exalter of My Royalty
[1.35] the processions (in honor of) his exalted deity
[1.36] I firmly established.
[1.37] With all my heart firmly
[1.38] (in) worship of their deities I uprose
[1.39] in reverence for Nebo their Lord.

[Source: 1.40] Whereas Merodach, great Lord,
[1.41] the head of My ancient Royalty,
[1.42] hath empowered me over multitudes of men,
[1.43] and (whereas) Nebo bestower of thrones in heaven and earth,
[1.44] for the sustentation of men,
[1.45] a sceptre of righteousness
[1.46] hath caused my hand to hold;
[1.47] now I, that sacred way
[1.48] for the resting-place of their divinities,
[1.49] for a memorial of all their names,
[1.50] as a worshipper of Nebo, Yav and Istar,
[1.51] for Merodach my Lord I strengthened.
[1.52] Its threshold I firmly laid, and
[1.53] my devotion of heart he accepted, and
[1.54] him did I proclaim
[1.55] . . . Lord of all beings, and
[1.56] as Prince of the lofty house, and
[1.57] thou, (O Nebuchadnezzar) hast proclaimed the name of him
[1.58] who has been beneficent unto thee.
[1.59] His name, (O god,) thou wilt preserve,
[1.60] the path of righteousness thou hast prescribed to him.
[1.61] I, a Prince, and thy worshipper
[1.62] am the work of thy hand;
[1.63] thou hast created me, and
[1.64] the empire over multitudes of men
[1.65] thou hast assigned me,
[1.66] according to thy favor, O Lord,
[1.67] which thou hast accorded
[1.68] to them all.
[1.69] May thy lofty Lordship be exalted!
[1.70] in the worship of thy divinity
[1.71] may it subsist! in my heart
[1.72] may it continue, and my life which to thee is devoted

Neo-Babylonian Conquests Under Nebuchadnezzar II

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia: “Meanwhile Ninive was taken, and Necho, resting satisfied with the conquest of the Syrian provinces, proceeded no further. A few years later, however, he marched a colossal army from Egypt to the Euphrates in hopes of annexing part of Mesopotamia. He was met by the Babylonian army at Carchemish, the ancient Hittite capital, where he wished to cross the Euphrates. Nabopolassar, being prevented by ill health and advancing age, had sent his son Nabuchodonosor [Nebuchadnezzar II], and put him in command. The Egyptians were utterly routed in this great encounter, one of the most important in history (604 B.C.). Nabuchodonosor pursued the enemy to the borders of Egypt, where he received the news of his father's death. He hastened back to Babylon, was received without opposition, and began, in 604 B.C., the forty-two years of his most glorious reign. His first difficulties arose in Juda. Against the solemn warning of Jeremias the Prophet, Jehoiakim refused tribute, i.e. rebelled against Babylon. At first Nabuchodonosor II began a small guerilla warfare against Jerusalem; then, in 507 B.C., he dispatched a considerable army, and after a while began the siege in person. Jechonias, however, son of Jehoiakim, who as a lad of eighteen had succeeded his father, surrendered; 7000 men capable of bearing arms and 1000 workers in iron were carried away and made to form a colony on a canal near Nippur (the River Chobar mentioned in Ezechiel, i, 1), and Zedekias was substituted for Jechonias as vassal King of Juda.[Source: J.P. Arendzen, transcribed by Rev. Richard Giroux, Catholic Encyclopedia |=|]

“Some ten years later Nabuchodonosor once more found himself in Palestine. Hophra, King of Egypt, who had succeeded Necho II in 589 B.C., had by secret agents tried to combine all the Syrian States in a conspiracy against Babylon. Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon had entered into the coalition, and at last even Juda had joined, and Zedekias against the advice of Jeremias, broke his oath of allegiance to the Chaldeans. A Babylonian army began to surround Jerusalem in 587 B.C.. They wee unable to take the city by storm and intended to subdue it by starvation. But Pharao Hophra entered Palestine to help the besieged. The Babylonians raised the siege to drive the Egyptians back; they then returned to Jerusalem and continued the siege in grim earnest. On July the 9th, 586 B.C., they poured in through a breach in the wall of Ezekias and took the city by storm. They captured the flying Zedekias and brought him before Nabuchodonosor at Riblah, where his children were slain before him and his eyes blinded. The city was destroyed, and the temple treasures carried to Babylon. A vast number of the population was deported to some districts in Babylonia, a miserable remnant only was allowed to remain under a Jewish governor Godolias. When this governor was slain by a Jewish faction under Ishmael, a fraction of this remnant, fearing Nabuchodonosor's wrath, emigrated to Egypt, forcibly taking Jeremias the Prophet with them. |=|

“Babylon's expedition to Juda thus ended in leaving it a devastated, depopulated, ruined district. Nabuchodonosor now turned his arms against Tyre. After Egypt this city had probably been the mainspring of the coalition against Babylon. The punishment intended for Tyre was the same as that of Jerusalem, but Nabuchodonosor did not succeed as he did with the capital of Juda. The position of Tyre was immeasurably superior to that of Jerusalem. The Babylonians had no fleet; therefore, as long as the sea remained open, Tyre was impregnable. The Chaldeans lay before Tyre thirteen years (585-572), but did not succeed in taking it. Ethobaal II, its king, seems to have come to terms with the King of Babylon, fearing, no doubt, the slow but sure destruction of Tyrian inland trade; at least we have evidence, from a contract-tablet dated in Tyre, that Nabuchodonosor at the end of his reign was recognized as suzerain of the city. Notwithstanding the little success against Tyre, Nabuchodonosor attacked Egypt in 567. He entered the very heart of the country, ravaged and pillaged as he chose, apparently without opposition, and returned laden with booty through the Syrian Provinces. But no permanent Egyptian occupation by Babylon was the result. |=|

Neo-Baylonians Defeat the Assyrians and Egyptians

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “Not all of the old Assyrian empire bowed to Babylon. A young Assyrian prince was made king and an invitation was sent to Pharaoh Necho of Egypt to join in stopping the growth of the new Babylonian empire. As Necho moved northward to join his allies, Josiah, perhaps in an attempt to protect Judah from both Assyrian and Egyptian control, attempted to stop him and was killed in the battle of Megiddo. Necho proceeded into Syria and Josiah's son Shallum, or Jehoahaz (possibly his throne name), took the throne, supported by the free men of Judah. Within three months he was deposed by Necho and taken as a hostage to Egypt. His brother Eliakim was appointed king and his name changed to Jehoiakim. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, ]

“The Babylonian army, led by Nabopolassar's son Nebuchadrezzar (the Nebuchadnezzar of the Bible), defeated the Assyrians and Egyptians at Carchemish in 605. Fleeing Egyptians were pursued to their own borders and only saved from invasion by the death of Nabopolassar which necessitated Nebuchadrezzar's return to Babylon. He was crowned king in April, 604.

“In Judah, Jehoiakim, having promised allegiance to Babylon, retained the crown. He was an unpopular ruler and Jeremiah makes reference to his extravagance in building a new summer palace at Bethhaccerem (Ramat Rahel), a hill site a few miles south of Jerusalem.7 Jeremiah also refers to the brutal and tyrannical role that Jehoiakim played, thus suggesting that he was anything but esteemed.

“The Egyptian-Babylonian power struggle had not been completely settled and in 601 the two nations met again. Apparently the battle was a stalemate, and Nebuchadrezzar returned to Babylon to strengthen his forces. Possibly the failure of Nebuchadrezzar to win a decisive victory encouraged Jehoiakim to make a fatal error and rebel against Babylon. At the time, Nebuchadrezzar was engaged in a frontier struggle and it was not until late in 598 that Babylonian armies moved on Jerusalem. During that same month Jehoiakim died, passing his problems to his 18-year-old son Jehoiachin.

Fall of Nineveh

Fall of Nineveh

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “For three years Ashurbanipal's successor held the Assyrian throne and at his death Sin-shar-ishkin became king. In the summer of 612, Nabopolassar, a Chaldean leader, aided by Medes and northern nomads, attacked, looted and destroyed Nineveh, an event that marked the crumbling of the last vestiges of power in Assyria and established the foundations for the Neo-Babylonian Empire. There is some evidence that the defeat of Nineveh was the occasion of rejoicing in Judah, although the Assyrians established a new capital at Harran. Within a few years Harran was conquered by the Medes. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, ]

“The reaction of at least one individual to the fall of Nineveh is preserved in a poem echoing sheer mocking joy in the defeat of Assyria. The book of the prophet Nahum falls into two parts: Chapter 1 contains an incomplete poem in an alphabetic acrostic form,1 and Chapters 2 and 3 are concerned with Nineveh. Attempts have been made to read out of this short poem something of the writer's status and personality, but there is really no way of learning much about the man for, in his jubilant mood, he treats only one theme-Nineveh. His words form a triumphant shout of praise to Yahweh that the enemy has fallen. His native village of Elkosh (1:1) has not been located.2 The prophet may have been a Judaean who reacted with intense pleasure at the news of Nineveh's defeat or he may have been a descendant of the exiles of Israel living in a village near enough to Nineveh to enable him to witness the siege, thus accounting for the graphic descriptions in his poem. He may have been a cult prophet in Jerusalem.

“The two chapters dealing with the siege (chs. 2-3) appear to have been written near the time of the battle. The reference to the sack of Thebes (3:8) guarantees a date after 663, the date of Ashurbanipal's successful attack. The context of the poem suggests a date close to 612. The opening chapter is a separate work which employs theophanic imagery (1:3b-5) and depicts Yahweh as an avenger (1:2-3, 9-11), a wrathful deity (1:6), a refuge for his people (1:7-8), and a deliverer (1:12-13). While it cannot be determined for certain, it seems that someone other than Nahum wrote this chapter. The liturgical or hymnic quality of this section has led to the suggestion that the first chapter was combined with the last two to form a liturgy for use in the New Year festival in the autumn of 612 after the fall of Nineveh.

“The last chapters employ forceful, descriptive terminology to create a compact, vivid word picture of the confusion and horror during the Babylonian attack. In Nahum's thought, God acts against an enemy who has earned punishment and wrath. The closing, mocking verses, indicate that the battle was over and the quietness of death and desolation had descended upon the city and its leaders. All who suffered the cruelty of Assyrian tyranny clap their hands in rejoicing (3:18-19).

“It has also been proposed that the book was developed to propagandize, to encourage a strong stand against Assyria and to extend hopes for the restoration of the nation of Judah.4 It seems better and simpler to recognize the book of Nahum as consisting of genuine oracles by the prophet concerning the fall of Nineveh, to which an introductory poem was added to adapt the total work to liturgical usage.

Judah and Nebuchadnezzar

Nebuchadnezzar before the fiery furnace

Judah the southern kingdom survived until 597 B.C. when Jerusalem was raided by the Babylonians and 586 B.C. and conquered by under Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 B.C. ). 2 Kings Chap. 23-25 describes the conquest of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. It is written by an anonymous historian but has traditionally been associated with the time of the prophet Jeremiah. This text is similar to that found in 2nd Chonicles According to the International Bible Society: From Chapter 23: Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. His mother's name was Zebidah daughter of Pedaiah; she was from Rumah. And he did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as his fathers had done. From Chapter 24 During Jehoiakim's reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the land, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. But then he changed his mind and rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. The LORD sent Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him. He sent them to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the LORD proclaimed by his servants the prophets. Surely these things happened to Judah according to the LORD's command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD was not willing to forgive. As for the other events of Jehoiakim's reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? Jehoiakim rested with his fathers. And Jehoiachin his son succeeded him as king. [Source: New International Version by International Bible Society, The Christian Classics Ethereal Library, ThenAgain ||||]

“The king of Egypt did not march out from his own country again, because the king of Babylon had taken all his territory, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Euphrates River. Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. His mother's name was Nehushta daughter of Elnathan; she was from Jerusalem. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father had done. ||||

“At that time the officers of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon advanced on Jerusalem and laid siege to it, and Nebuchadnezzar himself came up to the city while his officers were besieging it. Jehoiachin king of Judah, his mother, his attendants, his nobles and his officials all surrendered to him. In the eighth year of the reign of the king of Babylon, he took Jehoiachin prisoner. As the LORD had declared, Nebuchadnezzar removed all the treasures from the temple of the LORD and from the royal palace, and took away all the gold articles that Solomon king of Israel had made for the temple of the LORD. He carried into exile all Jerusalem: all the officers and fighting men, and all the craftsmen and artisans — a total of ten thousand. Only the poorest people of the land were left. Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin captive to Babylon. He also took from Jerusalem to Babylon the king's mother, his wives, his officials and the leading men of the land. The king of Babylon also deported to Babylon the entire force of seven thousand fighting men, strong and fit for war, and a thousand craftsmen and artisans. He made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin's uncle, king in his place and changed his name to Zedekiah. ||||

“Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. His mother's name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah; she was from Libnah. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as Jehoiakim had done. It was because of the LORD's anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end he thrust them from his presence. Now Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. ||||

Nebuchadnezzar Attacks Jerusalem

20120208-Nebuchadnezzarcamp outside Jerusalem.jpg
Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem
The siege of Jerusalem began on December 18, 598 and the city was taken on March 16, 597. The temple was looted and Jehoiachin and leading citizens and artisans were taken as prisoners to Babylon. Jehoiachin's uncle Mattaniah, whose name was changed to Zedekiah, was appointed king over a nation once again suffering from the ravages of war. Nebuchadrezzar had not only attacked Jerusalem, but Jehoiakim's new summer palace and the cities of Debit and Lachish all bear archaeological witness to Babylonian demolition. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968,]

According to the International Bible Society: From Chapter 25 of 2 Kings: “So in the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month,Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. He encamped outside the city and built siege works all round it. The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. By the ninth day of the [fourth] month the famine in the city had become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat. Then the city wall was broken through, and the whole army fled at night through the gate between the two walls near the king's garden, though the Babylonians were surrounding the city. They fled toward the Arabah, but the Babylonian army pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho. All his soldiers were separated from him and scattered, and he was captured. He was taken to the king of Babylon at Riblah, where sentence was pronounced on him. They killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes. Then they put out his eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. [Source: New International Version by International Bible Society, The Christian Classics Ethereal Library, ThenAgain ||||] “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, to be over the people he had left behind in Judah. When all the army officers and their men heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah as governor, they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah — Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, Jaazaniah the son of the Maacathite, and their men. Gedaliah took an oath to reassure them and their men. "Do not be afraid of the Babylonian officials," he said. "Settle down in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will go well with you." In the seventh month, however, Ishmael son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, who was of royal blood, came with ten men and assassinated Gedaliah and also the men of Judah and the Babylonians who were with him at Mizpah. At this, all the people from the least to the greatest, together with the army officers, fled to Egypt for fear of the Babylonians. ||||

“On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, an official of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He set fire to the temple of the LORD, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. The whole Babylonian army, under the commander of the imperial guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had gone over to the king of Babylon. But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields... Of those still in the city, he took the officer in charge of the fighting men and five royal advisers. He also took the secretary who was chief officer in charge of conscripting the people of the land and sixty of his men who were found in the city. Nebuzaradan the commander took them all and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. There at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king had them executed. So Judah went into captivity, away from her land. ||||

“In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Evil-Merodach [2] became king of Babylon, he released Jehoiachin from prison on the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month. He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king's table. Day by day the king gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived. ||||

Babylonian Destruction of the Jewish Temple

Judah the southern kingdom survived until 597 B.C. when Jerusalem was raided by the Babylonians and in 586 B.C.when it was conquered by under Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 B.C. ).

Solomon's Temple was partly destroyed and the Ark of the Covenant, which had once housed the Ten Commandments, was lost when Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem in 586 B.C. The Temple of Jerusalem — the "House of God" built by King Solomon — was as the centrepiece of Jewish faith. It stood on Jerusalem's Mount Zion for almost 400 years. According to Jewish tradition, the Ark of the Covenant was hidden by the prophet Jeremiah. It has never been discovered. [Source: Huffington Post, February 3, 2015]

Taking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar

In a Babylonian chronicle Nebuchadnezzar boasted that he “captured the city and...took heavy tributes and brought it back to Babylon.” The Bible has a similar account except that the “tributes” are referred to as “all the treasures of the Temple and the royal palace.” The fate of the Ark is not known. According to one legend it was stolen by the illegitimate son of Solomon and Sheba and taken to Ethiopia and placed in a church in Aksum, where only a guardian monk has access to it. A modest Second Temple was built in 539 B.C.

From Chapter 5 of 2 Kings: “Nebuchadnezzar “set fire to the temple of the LORD, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down....The Babylonians broke up the bronze pillars, the movable stands and the bronze Sea that were at the temple of the LORD and they carried the bronze to Babylon. They also took away the pots, shovels, wick trimmers, dishes and all the bronze articles used in the temple service. The commander of the imperial guard took away the censers and sprinkling bowls — all that were made of pure gold or silver. The bronze from the two pillars, the Sea and the movable stands, which Solomon had made for the temple of the LORD, was more than could be weighed. Each pillar was twenty-seven feet high. The bronze capital on top of one pillar was four and a half feet high and was decorated with a network and pomegranates of bronze all around. The other pillar, with its network, was similar. The commander of the guard took as prisoners Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the priest next in rank and the three doorkeepers. [Source: New International Version by International Bible Society, The Christian Classics Ethereal Library, ThenAgain ||||]

In the Torah, the book of Lamentations describes the horrors endured by Jerusalem’s residents. It is also remembered in verses in the psalms: “O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance: they have defiled your holy Temple, they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble.”

Most of the events in the Bible after Solomon are believed to be based on historical fact. There is firm historical or archaeological evidence for: 1) the conquest of Israel by the Assyrians in the 8th century B.C.; 2) the conquest of Jerusalem by Babylon's Nebuchadnezzar around 600 B.C.; 3) the exile of Jews to Babylon and the destruction of Solomon's temple in 587 B.C. Excavations in Iraq have turned up a list of rations given by Nebuchadnezzar to "Yaukin, king of Judah," which is believed to be a reference to the exiled Israelite king Jehoiachin whose release is recorded in 2 Kings 25.

Impact of the Babylonian Conquest on the Jews

During the centuries that followed the conquests by the Babylonians, the Jewish state fell under the auspices of various empires such as Persia, Hellenistic Greece and Rome. It was a bit like an ethnic state like Turkmenistan or Armenia in the Soviet Union, or a colony like pre-World War II India or Algeria.

Despite many warnings, according to the Bible, the Jews did not fulfill their end of the bargain in regards to the Covenant and were punished by their exile into Bablyonia. Through penitence their kingdom was to be restored. This never really took place and gave birth to ideas about a messiah.

When Jewish followers asked their priests why God had not kept his promise with David and their state disappeared so quickly, the priests told the followers that they had sinned and broke their agreement with God. They were told that once they had repented and been forgiven for their sin, God would sent a new leader, a messiah. The understanding was that this messiah would be a David-like military leader who would defeat the Jews’ enemies and oppressors in great battles.

Jews in Babylon

After Nebuchandnezzar captured Jerusalem in 586 B.C. many Jews were sent to Babylonia, which was ruled by the Chaldean Empire.

According to the Bible the Babylonian King Belshazzar hosted a feast with 1,000 courtiers and their wives during the captivity of the Jews. Golden and silver vessels taken from the Temple in Jerusalem were used to drink wine and make toasts. On some of the vessels appeared the words, “God hath humbled thy kingdom, and finished it. Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” All these prophesies came true.

The Jews were kept captive and enslaved by the Babylonians from 586 B.C. to 537 B.C. But rather than dying out or being assimilated the Jews kept their identity and religion alive through reverence of the Torah. The first synagogue are believed to have been built during the Babylonian Exile when Jews were unable to reach the Jerusalem Temple.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia , National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, especially Merle Severy, National Geographic, May 1991 and Marion Steinmann, Smithsonian, December 1988, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, BBC, Encyclopædia Britannica, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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