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

The King of Babylon Captures the Capital of Judah

“He (Nebuchadnezzar) 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 . . . tribute and conveyed it to Babylon.”

Date- 597 BCE

Current Location- British Museum, London, England (BM 21946)

Language and Script- Neo-Babylonian?; cuneiform

 

Babylonian_Chronicle

Babylonian_Chronicle 5

Biblical Verses-

10At that time, the troops of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon marched against Jerusalem, and the city came under siege. 11King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon advanced against the city while his troops were besieging it. 12Thereupon King Jehoiachin of Judah, along with his mother, and his courtiers, commanders, and officers, surrendered to the king of Babylon. The king of Babylon took him captive in the eighth year of his reign. 13He carried off from Jerusalem all the treasures of the House of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace; he stripped off all the golden decorations in the Temple of the Lord—which King Solomon of Israel had made—as the Lord had warned. 14He exiled all of Jerusalem- all the commanders and all the warriors—ten thousand exiles—as well as all the craftsmen and smiths; only the poorest people in the land were left. 15He deported Jehoiachin to Babylon; and the king’s wives and officers and the notables of the land were brought as exiles from Jerusalem to Babylon. 16All the able men, to the number of seven thousand—all of them warriors, trained for battle—and a thousand craftsmen and smiths were brought to Babylon as exiles by the king of Babylon. 17And the king of Babylon appointed Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place, changing his name to Zedekiah. (2 Kings 24-10–17)

General Information-

After the Babylonians toppled the Neo-Assyrian Empire in 612 BCE and established control over Mesopotamia, they quickly followed the westward paths of their predecessors to reestablish control over the empire. Naturally, part of this imperialism included the defeat and annexation of the biblical kingdom of Judah. Much of our knowledge of this period of Babylonian history derives from a series of texts known as the Babylonian Chronicle. Unlike royal inscriptions and annals, which boast of the accomplishments of an individual king, these texts dryly list, year by year, the major political events in Babylonia. This seeming detachment from propaganda leads some scholars to deem them an especially reliable historical source. Chronologically, they cover from at least 745 BCE until the mid-3rd century BCE. Unfortunately, the fragmentary state of the surviving tablets leaves a large number of years missing. Another problem is that it is not clear when these chronicles were composed. They may have been periodically added to throughout most of the king’s reigns of which they tell, or they may have been started at a later point in, leaving the remarks about earlier times as hearsay. The annual events of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II are recounted in the series of texts of Chronicle 5.

Relevance to Ancient Israel- According to the Bible (2 Kings 24–25), the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II conducted multiple campaigns against the kingdom of Judah in the early years of the 6th century BCE, culminating with the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE. Unfortunately, the portion of the Babylonian Chronicle covering the years 594–557 BCE is not extant, so we don’t have a Babylonian account of the destruction of Jerusalem. Some consolation is the extant portion of the Babylonian Chronicle that describes Nebuchadnezzar’s campaign in 597 BCE. According to the biblical account in 2 Kings 24-10–17, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, exiled the Judean king Jehoiakhin and his court, exacted a large tribute, and placed a vassal king on the Judean throne. The parallel account in the Babylonian Chronicle accords well with Bible.

Circumstances of Discovery and Acquisition- This series of texts was designated as the Babylonian Chronicle by modern scholars. Most of the tablets that make up the Babylonian Chronicle are in the British Museum. The first text from this series to be published appeared in 1887; subsequent publications have made the rest of the texts available.

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