NEBUCHADNEZZAR – PART II
In our previous lecture we looked at an inscription Nebuchadnezzar left in Lebanon. Can you still remember the name of the place? Can you remember what happened to my heart when I looked at the cuneiform script?
As you will recall, Flavius Josephus were the only sources that mentioned the existence of this mighty king. Over the span of many years I have checked the authenticity of the Bible. And guess what?
The spade of the archaeologist confirms the truth of the Bible. May I recommend this Book as the most inspiring and truth-filled literature ever written?
SOURCES OF INFORMATION
Guess how many administrative and contract tablets dated according to the days, months and years of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign have been excavated? 500
Also there are about 30 building and honorific inscriptions mostly on stone cylinders and bricks. The most important one is called the East India House Inscription
How many lines do you think are on the black basalt stele which was discovered at Nimrud in Iraq?
The 621 lines of script describe his fortification of Babylon and restoring the old palace and the building of a new one.
While looking at it my heart was strangely warmed
Daniel 4:29,30 At the end of the twelve months he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. 30 The king spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?”
This stone block with finely carved cuneiform was found in the ruins of Babylon before 1801, when it was presented to the representative of the East India Company in Baghdad, hence its modern name. It records Nebuchadnezzar’s wish to glorify Marduk through his many building works in the capital and the nearby city of Borsippa
But including the the 720 line Wadi Brisa inscription in Syria (ANET, p. 307) records his conquest of Lebanon and transport of its cedars to Babylon. D. J. Wiseman has recently published tablets of the year-by-year Babylonian Chronicle dealing with the first 12 years of his reign. Other sources include the OT books of II Kings, II Chronicles, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, and fragments of later historians cited by Josephus and Eusebius.
Nebuchadnezzar II was unquestionably the greatest of the rulers of the short-lived Neo-Babylonian Empire (626–539 B.C.), over which he reigned for 43 years (605–562). His father was Nabopolassar who, defying the armies of weakened Assyria, was enthroned as king of Babylon on November 23, 626. Upon the destruction of Nineveh in 612 by a Medo-Babylonian alliance, Assyria moved her capital westward to Harran which, in 610, was occupied by Nabopolassar without a struggle. We hear no more of Assyria after 609.
The immediate result of Assyria’s fall was a brief assertion of Egyptian hegemony over Judah. Pharaoh Necho II (609–593 B.C.) deposed and enthroned Judahite monarchs at will until the defeat of the Egyptian forces at Carchemish. The credit for the Babylonian victory goes to Nebuchadnezzar, the crown prince, who had been sent by Nabopolassar to lead the Babylonian army.
Recently published tablets of the Bablonian Chronicle enable us to date the battle of Carchemish rather precisely (May–June, 605). Both Jeremiah (Jer 46:2–12) and Jos (Ant .x.6) recognized something of its significance, marking as it did the removal of Egypt from any further important role in Palestinian affairs, as well as the rise to power of Nebuchadnezzar. On August 16, 605, Nabopolassar died, and Nebuchadnezzar halted his pursuit of the retreating Egyptians to return home to assume the Babylonian throne. His coronation took place on September 7, after he returned to his army in the W and resumed his advance into Syria.
By 603 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar was master of the whole of Syro-Palestine. Jehoiakim had transferred his fealty, if only temporarily, to Nebuchadnezzar (II Kgs 24:1). Ashkelon in Philistia was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar before his return to Babylonia in February, 603.
Saqqara Papyrus Number 86984 (Cairo Museum), an Aram letter appealing to the Pharaoh for assistance, was apparently written from Ashkelon just before its destruction.
In 601, Nebuchadnezzar once again marched toward Egypt and engaged the forces of Necho in a pitched battle near the Egyptian border. Both sides suffered heavy losses, and the encounter ended in a stalemate. At this point Jehoiakim, evidently convinced that his chance had come, rebelled against Babylonia and withheld tribute (II Kgs 24:1). But though caught off balance for the moment. Nebuchadnezzar had no intention of permitting Judah to secede from his empire. For the time being he harassed the tiny kingdom with marauding bands of troops, assembled from his own armies as well as from mercenary contingents (24:2)
Nebuchadnezzar returned with the main Babylonian army against Judah (II Kgs 24:10–11) in December, 598. The laconic scribe of the Babylonian Chronicle, reporting the events of 597, states simply that Nebuchadnezzar “encamped against the city of Judah [i.e., Jerusalem] and on the second day of the month Adar [i.e., March 16] he seized the city and captured the king [i.e., Jehoiachin]. He appointed there a king that pleased him [i.e., Zedekiah]. “Jehoiakim had mysteriously died in the same month in which the Babylonian army had set out against Judah. In view of the fact that his son Jehoiachin (II Kgs 24:6) ruled for three months and ten days (II Chr 36:9); the “three months” of II Kgs 24:8 is intended only as an approximation) before the capture of Jerusalem, the exact date of Jehoiakim’s death was December 7, 598. Jehoiachin’s stated age in II Chr 36:9—eight years old—seems to be a copyist’s error for the 18 years old of II Kgs 24:8.
Nebuchadnezzar, following the example of his Mesopotamian predecessors since the time of Tiglath-pileser III (q.v.), deported the king (Jehoiachin) and his retinue, as well as all the other Jerusalemites who might be expected to foment rebellion (II Kgs 24:12–6; II Chr 36:10; Jer 22:24–30; 52:28). Though Nebuchadnezzar had demanded to take to Babylon some hostages including Daniel and his three friends and part of the vessels of Solomon’s temple immediately following the battle of Carchemish (Dan 1:1–7; cf. also II Chr 36:5–7), the deportation of 597 B.C. constituted the first major phase of what has been traditionally referred to as the Babylonian Captivity (cf. Mt 1:11).
As before, though on a much grander scale. Nebuchadnezzar plundered Solomon’s temple and carried off an enormous booty. He installed Jehoiachin’s uncle, Mattaniah, on the Judahite throne (II Kgs 24:17; in II Chr 36:10 “brother” is better rendered “kinsman”), renaming him Zedekiah to demonstrate his own suzerainty.
Zedekiah would doubtless have proved a docile vassal of Nebuchadnezzar had not several factors beyond his control disturbed the political situation. A considerable number of Judahites, both in Jerusalem and in Babylonia, still considered Jehoiachin the legitimate claimant to their throne. Ezekiel, e.g., betrayed his true feelings by reckoning dates from “king Jehoiachin’s captivity” (Ezk 1:2; etc.)