Sunday, March 16, 2014

Babylonians Capture Jerusalem ~ 597 B.C.E.


In 601 BCE, in the fourth year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon, unsuccessfully attempted to invade Egypt and was repulsed with heavy losses. This failure led to numerous rebellions among the states of the Levant which owed allegiance to Babylon, including Judah, where the king, Jehoiakim, stopped paying tribute to Nebuchadnezzar and took a pro-Egyptian position.

Nebuchadnezzar soon dealt with these rebellions. According to the Babylonian Chronicles he laid siege to Jerusalem, which eventually fell on 2 Adar (March 16) 597 BCE. The Chronicles state:

"In the seventh month (of Nebuchadnezzar-599 BCE) in the month Chislev (Nov/Dec) the king of Babylon assembled his army, and after he had invaded the land of Hatti (Syria/Palestine) he laid siege to the city of Judah. On the second day of the month of Adar (16 March) he conquered the city and took the king (Jeconiah) prisoner. He installed in his place a king (Zedekiah) of his own choice, and after he had received rich tribute, he sent (them) forth to Babylon."

Nebuchadnezzar pillaged both the city and the Temple and deported to Babylon the new king Jeconiah who was either eight or eighteen at the time (Jehoiakim having died in the meantime and his court and other prominent citizens and craftsmen, along with a sizable portion of the Jewish population of Judah, numbering about 10,000. Among them were Ezekiel. The author of the book of Daniel, while actually most likely writing/compiling in the middle of the 2nd century BCE, reports that his experiences (if they are to be understood and interpreted as historical narrative) also occur while in Babylonian exile in this period. A biblical text written in approximately the same time period of the exile reports that "None remained except the poorest people of the land" and that also taken to Babylon were the treasures and furnishings of the Temple, including golden vessels dedicated by King Solomon. (2 Kings 24:13-14)
These events are described in the Nevi'im and Ketuvim, sections of the Tanakh, and the Hebrew Bible, known to non-Jews as the Old Testament. This first deportation is the start of the Jewish Diaspora (or exile). (2 Kings 24:10-16) 

Nebuchadnezzar installed Jeconiah's uncle, Zedekiah as puppet-king of Judah, while Jeconiah was compelled to remain in Babylon, where he was regarded by the Jews in Babylon as the legitimate king of Judah and later would be regarded as the first of the exilarchs.

Chronological note

The Babylonian Chronicles, which were published by Donald Wiseman in 1956 CE, establish that Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem the first time on 2 Adar (16 March) 597 BCE. Before Wiseman's publication, Thiele had determined from the biblical texts that Nebuchadnezzar's initial capture of Jerusalem occurred in the spring of 597 BCE, while other scholars, including Albright, more frequently dated the event to 598 BCE.

Dates in the book of Ezekiel are given according to the year of captivity of Jeconiah (ie. the first fall of Jerusalem).

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