By July 21, 2008 0 Comments Read More →

By the Rivers of Babylon, Rina Abrams, COJS.

By_the_Waters_of_Babylon_(1882-1883)Although the Judeans were able to stave off the Assyrian conquest of their kingdom in 701 B.C.E., the Babylonians presented a new challenge to the autonomy of Judea, the remaining Jewish kingdom. In 586 B.C.E., the Babylonians, under Nebuchadnezzar, captured Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and deported thousands of Jews to Babylon. The Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem and deportation of Jews to Babylon, while horrible in its impact, led ultimately to a stronger and more cohesive Judaism and Jewish identity. The conquest was recorded in both Babylonian records and in the Bible (2 Chronicles 36-4-20).

By the seventh century B.C.E., Assyrian supremacy over the Near East began to wane. In 612 B.C.E., the Babylonian king, Nabopolassar, overthrew Assyrian domination and laid claim to its lands, including Judea. Nebuchadnezzar II, the son of Nabopolassar, ascended the throne in 605 B.C.E., and Judea was subjugated as a vassal state. When in ca. 598 B.C.E., King Jehoiachin of Judea refused to pay tribute, Nebuchadnezzar responded with military force. He captured Jerusalem in 597 and banished Jehoiachin to Babylon with 10,000 other Judeans, among whom was the prophet Ezekiel.

After Jehoiachin’s exile, Nebuchadnezzar replaced him with Zedekiah, whom he considered more cooperative with Babylonian policies imposed in the region. Nebuchadezzar’s own chronicle of the battle for Jerusalem from ca. 597 B.C.E. provides a historical record of the siege of Jerusalem. In it, he details how he “encamped against the city of Judah [Jerusalem] and on the second day of Adar, he seized the city and seized the king. He appointed a king of his own pleasure over it [the city]. He took a significant tribute and conveyed it to Babylon.”

When a new Jewish king several years later rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonians ransacked Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, and deported the majority of the remaining population to Babylon in 586 B.C.E.

Unlike the Assyrian deportation of Israelites from the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E. that resulted in the lost ten tribes through assimilation into Assyrian culture, the deported Judeans formed their own community in Babylon and retained their religion and practices. The exile marked a resurgence in Jewish practice. It is likely that the Torah, the Jewish Bible, took its final shape during this period and became the central text of the Jewish faith. Lamentations and many Psalms, including Psalm 137, “By the Rivers of Babylon,” were written during this period of expulsion.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Chronicle – ca. 597 BCE

Inscription Details Capture of Jerusalem and Temple’s Destruction

By the late 7th century, Babylonia and Egypt were caught up in a power struggle. In 601 B.C.E. Nebuchadnezzar’s armies attacked Egypt, an event that led to the revolt of Jehoiakim, king of Judea, against Babylon. The Judean king and his ministers were pro-Egyptian, and against the warnings of the prophet Jeremiah, they aligned themselves with Pharaoh Necho of Egypt. In 597 B.C.E., however, Babylonian armies marched into Judea and besieged Jerusalem. Jehoiakim died and his son Jehoiachin became king. Nebuchadnezzar’s Chronicles record this siege.

Soon thereafter, Babylonian forces entered Jerusalem and the young Jehoiachin was exiled to Babylon with 10,000 subjects. A Babylonian ration list suggests King Jehoiachin and his family were treated well while in captivity. The Babylonians anointed Jehoiachin’s uncle Zedekiah, as king. Subsequently, King Zedakiah began to withhold the requisite payments of tribute to the Babylonians, and Nebuchadnezzar sent his forces once more into Jerusalem in 587 B.C.E. This time Jerusalem was captured, the Temple was destroyed and large portions of the population were deported to Babylon.

See also-

The Babylonian Chronicle (Chronicle 5)- Nebuchadnezzar Besieges Jerusalem, 597 BCE

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