Christian Leadership Center



Biblical Archaeology Index


Class Sixteen


THE IRON AGE II C  (612-586 B.C.)


Part One: “The Fall of Judah to Babylon”


The Neo-Babylonian Empire



The Rise of the Neo-Babylonian Empire

We need to back up and trace the rise of the Neo-Babylonian empire (recall that the Old Babylonian empire was about a thousand years earlier, made famous by Hammurabi).  The Neo-Babylonian empire had a short run, but a powerful one.

The Opposition to Assyria.  There is a sequence of events that is connected with the rise of the Neo-Babylonian empire and the fall of Nineveh:

1.   In 639 B.C. the annals of Asshurbanipal come to an abrupt end--this may be evidence of an outbreak of civil unrest and a series of military setbacks.

2.   During the reign of Asshurbanipal the Median Empire was welded together by Hurakshatra (Ummakishta in Babylonian accounts, Cyaxares in the account of Herodotus). 

The Medes attacked Assyria in 653, Phraortes died in the battle, and Cyaxares succeeded him.  Cyaxares then lost to the Scythians and paid tribute for 28 years.  They frequently raided Assyria, Syria, and even Egypt.  The fact that Scythian hordes could ride freely across the country shows the weakness of the Assyrian power.  Cyaxares had an alliance with Assyria, but became independent at the death of Asshurbanipal.

Assyria then quickly declined after the death of the great king.  The period from 630 (or 626) to 612 is difficult to chart chronologically.  But the time has been amplified by an inscription by the mother of the last Chaldean (Babylonian) king:

“from the 20th year of Asshurbanipal, king of Assyria [when she was born] to the 42nd year of Asshurbanipal, the 3rd  year of Ashur-etillu-ili, his son, the 21st  year of Nabopolassar, the 42nd  year of Nebuchadnezzar, the 2nd  year of Amel-Marduk, the 4th year of Neriglissar, during 95 years . . . .”

Ashur-etillu-ili reigned for 3 years.  He crushed one revolt on the way to the throne, and another just before his reign ended.  Sin-shar-ishkun was crowned in 623, against strong opposition.  His was a seven year reign and possibly a divided reign with his brother (Ashur-etillu-ili).  Berossus says that Nabopolassar was rebelling against him.

Political Allignments.  In the North Urartu was neutralized by her neighbors.  The Cimmerians under Scythian domination were un-aggressive at this time.  However, the situation was about to change for Assyrian power was the only bulwark against these hordes.  Jeremiah described them as “a seething cauldron, and the face thereof is from the north” (1:13).

In the East in Iran Cyaxares re-organized his armies for war.  He ruled over three Medias from Ecbatana, from Lake Urmiah to Teheran, and indirectly over the Persians.

In the West ties were severed with the Phoenician states.  Even Josiah threw off Assyrian control and brought about reforms.  Egypt did not want Median control of the trade routes, however, and so supported Assyria.

In the South there were pro-Assyrian elements entrenched in places like Erech until the fall of Nineveh.  The Neo-Babylonian empire was gaining strength and support, however.

The chaos of the period surely must sound familiar to students of political hisoty in the Middle East, because even to this day the countries are fragmented by tribal affiliations and their loyalties.  Uniting these groups into a kingdom or an empire has always called for a powerful leader from the dominant tribe to subjugate the others.  Democracy has never been workable with such aggressive factions.  

The Neo-Babylonian Empire in Conflict.  The first stage involved the establishment of the empire:

1.   Kandalnu, the governor of Babylon appointed by Asshurbanipal, revolted.

2.  Nabu-apal-usur (Nabopolassar), the governor of the “Sealand Peoples,” rebelled against Assyria.  He was an Aramaean of the Kaldu tribe, a leader of the insurrection.  These Chaldeans (as the Bible spells it), apparently were a priestly tribe of the god Bel.

3.  After a year of guerilla-type warfare, Nabopolassar sat on the throne of Babylon--November 23, 626 B.C.  This was the Eleventh (and last) Dynasty of Babylon, known as the Chaldean Empire, or the Neo-Babylonian Empire.  With this event in 626, the Babylonian Chronicles begin a day-by-day account.


 The second stage is eleven years of war--attacks and counter-attacks:


1.   Nabopolassar took Nippur and liberated Sumer and Akkad.  By 617 he had cleared out of Babylonia the Assyrian garrisons south of the neck (where the rivers come close).

2.   In 616 he marched up the Euphrates to the district of Harran, to Arrapkha and Assur.  He established bases in this area.

3.   In 615 he attempted a bold attack on Assur and almost met with disaster.  The Assyrian-Egyptian forces attacked and repelled him, but then withdrew when they suspected an imminent Median attack.  The Medes did attack Assyria, and took Arrapkha.  The treaty that Assyria had with Egypt shows how desperate they were.  But in this case the Egyptian help came too late.

4.   In 614 Cyaxares of Media marched against Nineveh, which was too strong for him, but he took Assur and Tarbisu and inflicted great destruction.  Nabopolassar met him after the battle and they established a friendship and a peace.  A marriage sealed this union in which the Babylonian prince Nebuchadnezzar would marry Amytis.  Now, with the province of Arrapkha taken from them, the Assyrians were doomed.

5.  In 613 the Medes were inactive, allowing Assyria to mount a counter attack.  The Assyrians tried to negotiate with the Scythians to attack the Medes, but Cyaxares won them over.  Instead they attacked down the Euphrates through the Suhu tribes.

The End of Assyrian Power--the Destruction of Nineveh.  After a year of unsuccessful Assyrian attacks along the Euphrates, there was a counter strike.  In 612 Nabopolassar joined Cyaxares and the Ummanmanda (Scythians formed a part of them) in an attack on Nineveh.  After a 2 or 3 month siege (July, August at least) they  destroyed the famous city.  Sinsharishkun was killed in the flames.  The city was sacked and looted; the people were enslaved.

The prophecy of the fall of Nineveh is found in Nahum 1:8.  Apparently the armies flooded the Tigris which swept away part of the defenses of the city.  Other cities fell quickly.  Thus, the three major cities of Assyria as well as the three major centers were now destroyed.  Assur was the religious center, Nimrud was the military headquarters, and Nineveh was the administrative center.


The Neo-Babylonian Empire in Full Strength

Here we focus on Nebuchadnezzar28 primarily.  The name, according to Babylonian texts, should be Nabu-kudurri-usur, which means “[the god] Nabu protect the border.”29  It would be hard to over-emphasize this man’s ability as a statesman and military commander since he is one of the most notable figures in ancient history.  A survey of Babylon at this time is a survey of his life:

Military Activities.  Nebuchadnezzar  found it harder to keep and maintain the west than it was to take it.  Every year he had to return to protect his interests there.  This was of course by political and economic necessity, but always with divine sanction through divination: “The king of Babylon stands at the parting of the way . . . to use divination, he shakes the arrows, he consults the teraphim, he looks in the liver” (Exek. 21:21).  Priests would sacrifice animals and analyze their livers (the largest and therefore most important organs), even making clay models of them.  They could divine by various observations of omens in the livers.

1.   In 609 Nebuchadnezzar fought the coalition at Megiddo in which Josiah of Judah was killed.

2.   In 605 he fought the Battle of Carchemish, and then went down and fought with Judah and Egypt, deporting the first wave of captives.

3.   In 604 he destroyed the rebellion in Ashkelon.

4.   In 601 he fought Egypt to a draw in a great battle.

5.   In 599 he “scoured the desert” against the Arabs at Qedar.

6.  In 598/7 Jehoiakim refused to pay tribute, and so on March 16, 597, Jerusalem was captured.  Jehoiakim died in the battle; and Zedekiah was placed on the throne.

7.   Zedekiah also revolted, counting on Hophra of Egypt who came and took Gaza (Jer 44:30).  After an initial success, Hophra (Aphries) retreated.  Babylon then besieged Jerusalem for 18 months and starved them out.  The city was destroyed, people deported, and Zedekiah was taken away blinded (2 Kings 25:7).  In June, 587, the people were carried away,30 and the anti-Babylonians were killed.  A pro-Babylonian governor Gedaliah was put in power.  A seal of this man, as well as a seal of Eliakim have turned up in the archaeological finds.

There are some very interesting archaeological discoveries that are connected with the invasion of Judah and the eventual fall of Jerusalem:

The Lachish Letters.  The life and times of Jeremiah in Jerusalem have been illustrated by the discovery of about 18 ostraca found at Lachish in the lowlands west of Jerusalem.  They are written in Hebrew in the old Hebrew script.  Three additional potsherds were later discovered, bringing the total to 21.  These ostraca are composed of letters and name lists, and come from the period just preceding the fall of Jerusalem, days before.  Nearly all of them date from  589 up to the eve of the fall of Jerusalem. 

Lachish Letter IV.   For example, in letter IV we have corroboration of Jeremiah’s references.  Jeremiah refers to Lachish and Azekah as two of the king’s fortified cities that were holding out (Jer. 34:7).  But Lachish Letter IV says, “We are watching for the signal fires [see Jer. 6:1] at Lachish, according to all the signals you are giving us, because we cannot see the signals of Azekah.”  Here we see that signal fires were the main means of communicating between cities.  The letter may suggest that Azekah had fallen, and that the Babylonians were now on their doorstep.

Lachish Letter III is one of the most important of all the letters.  It was written from one Hoshiah, who was at some outpost, to Joash, who was the commander at Lachish (see Jer. 37:5).  It refers to the appeal to Egypt for assistance, and it refers to “the prophet.”

Lachish Letter VI is reminiscent of Jeremiah 38:4, where the prophet is accused before the king of discouraging the people--“weakening the hands of” the people.  The letter criticizes a leader for doing the same to the people and the army. 

8.   Tyre was besieged for 13 years.  This is mentioned by Menander (342-292).  Ezekiel records that Tyre gloated over the fall of Jerusalem and so they too fell in 571 (Ez. 26-29). 

So ten years before the end of his reign, the west was solidly in Nebuchadnezzar’s hands.  Trade was profitable for Babylon through the trade routes to the west, such as lumber from Mount Lebanon.

9.   Nebuchadnezzar acted as a referee between Cyaxares the Mede and Alyales of Lydia at the “Battle of the Eclipse.”  He negotiated the truce but acted in precaution by occupying Cilicia and fortifying the towns.

10.   He also fortified Babylon with a chain of fortresses to the north and to the south.

11.   He stayed friendly with the Medes, but his main problem was with the Egyptians.  They tried to end the Babylonian control of the trade routes.  Probably they instigated the murder of the Babylonian governor (2 Kings 25:22-26).  Nebuchadnezzar tried to attack Egypt (Ezek. 29:19-21) but there are no details.  Jeremiah 49:28 and Herodotus refer to his success with the Arab tribes.

Building Activities: “Is not this the Great Babylon that I have built” (Dan. 4:30).  The picture given in Scripture is amply illustrated by archaeology.


1.   The Walls of the City

The walls were eleven miles long; they were 65 feet wide, and 85 feet high.  The outer 25 feet was composed of baked brick, the inner surface of crude unbaked bricks and 23 feet thick, with an intervening space for rubble.

The towers were massive; they were spaced about 65 feet apart to reinforce the wall. On top of the walls was a roadway for chariots, an aerial highway for rapid troop movement.

There was a moat before the wall.  The city side of the moat was lined with a ten foot layer of brick to prevent seepage from weakening the walls.  Where the Euphrates divided the city a secondary inner wall gave protection against attack.  Bridges connected the two parts of the city (69 feet long and 28 feet wide).


2.   The Gates of the City

To the north were two gates, one was to the famous Ishtar, the goddess of fertility and battle; the other to Sin, the moon god.

To the east there were two gates as well: one to Marduk, the patron deity of the city, and one to Ninurta, the god of hunting and warfare.

To the south were three: Urash, the patron god of the city of Dilbat; and Enlil, the god of wind and sky; and Shamash, the sun god.

To the west there was a gate to Adad, the storm god.

N.B.  The Ishtar Gate was amazingly preserved.  The actual form of the gate was determined by its portrayal on a gold plaque found in the ruins.  Sections still stood to a height of 40 feet.  Within the passageway the workers found an inscription on a limestone block set within the walls which gave the name of the gate as the “Gate of Ishtar (Nana).”  (See Everyday Life in Bible Times, p. 279).

3.   The Processional Way.   This way was a detailed pavement road.   Over a foundation of bitumen or asphalt,  Nebuchadnezzar had placed slabs of imported limestone cut in 3 and a half foot squares.  Along the beveled age of each slab was an inscription stating that the road was in honor to Marduk.   The width of the Way was 65 feet in places.  It was bordered with sidewalks of red breccia.  High walls on each side were faced with blue enameled brick and decorated with rows of white lions with yellow manes, and yellow lions with red manes, each over 6 feet long.

The buildings along the way beginning at the gate include: Nebuchadnezzar’s palace, the temple of Ishtar, at the juncture of the road from Marduk’s gate was the entrance to the great ziggurat and temple of Marduk on the western side.

4.   Nebuchadnezzar's Palace.  This is where Daniel stood!31  The walls were 136 feet thick, made of baked brick.   Each brick in the outer 23 and one-half foot shell bore the name of Nebuchadnezzar.

He called the palace “The Marvel of Mankind,” “The Center of the Land,” “The Shining Residence” and the “Dwelling of Majesty.”

The precincts had a succession of 5 courts placed one behind the other, each surrounded by a complex of larger or smaller buildings separated from each other by narrow streets and alleys.

The third courtyard was 190 feet by 185 feet (the largest and most impressive).  On the northern side were offices and behind them a residencial section.  On the south side was a huge room, 170 feet by 56 feet, with three entrances.  On the external facade, against a background of dark blue glazed bricks, were tall columns of yellow-glazed bricks topped with bright blue Ionic capitals.  There was definitely a Greek motif! This was identified as the throne room.  The roof was constructed of cedar.  The windowless walls were whitewashed.  A recessed niche opposite the central of the three doorways may have been for the throne.  The doorways had thresholds of bronze and traces were found of a cedar door covered with bronze.  The cedar came from Lebanon according to inscriptions found in the palace area.

Perhaps the hanging gardens were located in this palace area.

5.   The Temple of Ishtar.  Behind the eastern walls flanking the Processional Way was this temple.  On the street outside the southern entrance was an altar, perhaps to enable a worshiper to make special offerings prior to entering the holy precincts.

6.   The Ziggurat.  The ziggurat E-temen-an-ki, “The House of the Foundation of Heaven and Earth,” was here.  It, or one like it on this spot,  may have originated in the third millennium B.C.  Little was left for the archaeologists to work with, however.  It was constructed of mud bricks set in layers of reed matting and bitumen and faced with baked brick.  The base was 380 feet square--only the first stage remained with remnants of the stairways that had been built at right angles to the southern face.  On the basis of descriptive tablets discovered, the tower is believed to have stood 300 feet high and had seven stages:

a.   The first stage was white.

b.   The second stage (260 feet square) was black.

c.   The third stage (200 feet) was blue.

d.   The fourth stage (170 feet) was yellow.

e.   The fifth stage (140 feet) was silver.

f.    The sixth stage was (unknown).

g.   The seventh stage (90 feet by 70 feet) was gold.

The ziggurat stood within a trapezoidal shaped enclosure of which the smallest side was 1382 feet and the longest was 1490 feet.  This area was surrounded by a double wall of mud bricks with chambers built in the space between the walls. It had 12 gates.

7. Esagila.  This was the shrine to Marduk, the most important temple in Babylon.

8.  Ema was the temple dedicated to Ninmah, goddess of the underworld, found in the Kasr mound to the east of the Ishtar Gate.

9.  The Temple of Ninurta was at the juncture of the Processional Way and the road from the Ninurta gate.

10.  Temple Z is west of the Ninurta Shrine.



Part Two: “By the Rivers of Babylon”

The Captivity of Zion


The Bible provides abundant details concerning the exile in Babylon.  Besides the brief notices in Kings and Chronicles, we have the material in the prophetic works of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Daniel, the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, as well as a number of psalms that tell of the plight of the “Jews.”32

As mentioned above, there were three deportations mentioned in the Bible.  The first deportation was in 605 B.C. (Dan. 1:1-4).  Critical scholars generally reject anything in Daniel as unhistorical, but the more it is studied the more reliable it is seen to be.  Daniel and his friends were taken in “the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim.”  Berossus, a historian of the third century B.C., attests to a campaign by Babylon in this year.  He tells how Nabopolassar sent his young son, Nebuchadnezzar, to put down a revolt in the west.  It was on this campaign that Nebuchadnezzar heard of his father’s death and hurried back to reclaim the throne.  He left the captives in the care of his officers.  The last two tablets of Nabopolassar are dated May and August 605, while the first two of Nebuchadnezzar are from August and September the same year.  There is no valid reason to reject the witness of Daniel.

The second deportation was in 598/7 B.C. (2 Kings 24:14-16).  This is when Jehoiachin and Ezekiel were taken into captivity.  Also taken were craftsmen, princes, warriors and “ten thousand captives.”  At the same time Nebuchadnezzar stripped the temple of its remaining treasures (some had been taken earlier), took other booty, and placed Jehoiachin’s uncle Mattaniah on the throne, changing his name to Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:13).

The third deportation was in 587/6 (2 Kings 25:8,9).  Zedekiah revolted in his 9th  year and that brought the utter destruction of the city and the temple.  Everything of value was carried off.  The chief priests were put to death, and Zedekiah was blinded and carried in fetters to Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar put Gedaliah, a prime minister (“who was over the house”) in charge of the remaining ruins.

The destruction was complete.  No remains of the Solomonic temple or the palaces of Davidic kings have been found.  Digs at the military outposts have furnished only bits of information.

In captivity the Jews found a land that was far richer economically than Israel.  They also enjoyed many privileges; there was nothing to hinder them from rising to high office in the land, or to positions of prominence and wealth.  Those who lived by the River Chebar near Nippur enjoyed sharing in the benefits of the large commercial center.   

Some scholars question whether the Jews were ever captives in exile--which is a strange question to raise since the Jews were in Babylon down to 1000 A.D.  But some 300 cuneiform tablets were found in a vaulted building near the Ishtar gate in Babylon that confirms their presence (for those who don’t trust the Bible).  These tablets date from 595 and 570 B.C., and contains lists of rations of food paid to captives who resided in or near Babylon.  Among those listed are people from Egypt, Philistia, Phoenicia, Asia Minor, Persia, and Judah.  The Jews that are listed have names that are characteristic of biblical names of that period.  It is in these tablets that we have the mention of King Jehoiachin of Judah.  Apparently he was permitted to move around the city freely at first, but then was put into prison, the prison from which he was liberated in the 37th  year of the exile and given preferential treatment. The books of Kings end with this note of the elevation of the King of Judah to eat at the Babylonian king’s table--it signifies that the Davidic covenant was not extinct, for there was a future hope.


The Decline of the Neo-Babylonian Empire


Internal Disorder


1.  Awel-Marduk (562-560)

This king succeeded Nebuchadnezzar and reigned for 2 years before being killed in a revolution.  All that is known about him is that he lifted up the head of Jehoiachin, the Judean king named in the Babylonian literature, and treated him well:

“For Ya'u-kina, king of the land of Yahuda, for five sons of the king of the land of Yahudu, (and) for eight Yahudaeans, each one half sila (of corn).”

Awel-Marduk is mentioned in 2 Kings 25:27 and Jeremiah 52:31.  The name may be spelled “Evil-merodach”; the word awilum in Babylonian means “man” (as in a full citizen).


2.  Nergal-shar-usur (Neriglissar of Jer. 29:3)

He succeeded to the throne as a commoner who had married the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar.  He was active in building as well as in his campaign into Cilicia.  His reign, however, lasted only a short time--he died in 556.  His son, Labashi-Marduk, was killed.


3.  Nabonidus (556-539)

He was raised to the throne by the Babylonians in June, 556.  He was old when he came to power, having served Nebuchadnezzar as a diplomat in the Median/Lydian controversy.  He was a high official of royal descent.

He was the son of Nabu-balatsu-iqbi, a wise prince and governor, and a votaress of the god Sin in Harran (she died at 104 in 547).  Both were of royal blood.

He was in his sixties when enthroned, having served the two previous kings.

He sought a unifying principle in the religious force to unite the kingdom.  Marduk was not acceptable to all for there was no place for that deity among the Aramaean tribes or the Arabs.  In his response to new ideas and the inadequacies of the old, he favored the god Sin, and made it his life-long ambition to rebuilt Harran.  Actually, the Medes, Jews, and Aramaeans brought discontent to Babylonian religion, and while Nabonidus did not move toward monotheism, he attempted to attain one unifying religious force.  Nebuchadnezzar had already tried to rearrange the religion since the buildings had been rearranged (suggesting a change in ritual).

He joined Cyrus in an attack on Harran to fulfill his dream to rebuild Ehulhul.


4.  Cyrus II, the Great King, the Achaemenian,

          King of Parsumash and Anshan.

The fall of Babylon was ultimately assured by the rise of Cyrus to supremacy in the ancient Near East.  It was just a matter of time.


Historical Background

The Persians were Indo-European speaking people who entered Iran from the North.  In the 7th century they were two kingdoms ruled by the descendants of Teispes, son of Achaemenes (Hahamanish).  Persia (Parsumash) was under the control of Ariaramnes (the eldest son) and was stronger.

In the west (on the border of Elam) was the country of Anshan, one of the princedoms of Elam.  It was ruled by a king called Cyrus I.  Cambyses, the son of Cyrus I, ruled from 600-559.  He reversed the sway of power in favor of Anshan.  Cambyses married the daughter of Astyages (Median overlord) and thereby gained favor;  his son ruled from the isolated land in the city of Pasargadae.


The Rise of Persia

In 553, the third year of Nabonidus, Cyrus II and Nabonidus were plotting against the Medes.  Greek sources mention that Cyrus’ insurrection against the Medes was almost crushed, but Nabonidus was able to restore it.

Astyages (the grandfather) summoned Cyrus to Ecbatana, but he refused to obey.  War broke out, and Cyrus won, capturing Astyages.  In one day Cyrus became the master of Media-Persia.

Cyrus led a series of military campaigns for ten years.  One of the first was against Lydia.  Cyrus embarked on a campaign against the fabulously rich Croesus who ruled the Greeks.  In an unexpected winter campaign, he marched (again unexpected) along the Taurus mountains and crossed through the steppe of Jazirah.  He took Cilicia (and thereby broke the tie with Babylon) and defeated Croessus at Pteryum in 547.  He then took the capital city of Sardes.  The Greek isles fell to him one by one, until all Asia Minor submitted to his authority.

In 547 he embarked on a preliminary campaign against Babylon.

In the east he took Parthia, Aria, the kingdoms of Eastern Iran, Sogdia and Bactria in Turkestan and Afghanistan, and part of India.

Cyrus now ruled an empire from the Aegean Sea to the Pamirs, 3,000 miles.  Babylon had no hope of survival.


5.  The Fall of Babylon

The Activities of Nabonidus

In response to the economical problems of Babylon, perhaps the broken alliance with Cyrus, and the loss of Cilicia, Nabonidus went to Arabia trying to secure the trade route from Arabia (Egypt through Yemen).

a.   He went to Syria to raise troops.

b.   He was then in Arabia and besieged Adumu, 280 miles east of                           Aqaba.

c.   In his 7th -11th  years he was in Teima (a western oasis).  We know that the New Year festival was not celebrated in Babylon because he was not there.

d.  He wandered or marched to Medina (250 miles) and named six oases.  A millennium later (in the time of Mohammed) five of the names are places occupied by Jews.  It suggests that the king had a contingent of Jews.

e.   A surprise raid by Elam brought the king back in 547 to direct the defence of the city.

There is some evidence that while in Arabia he was struck with an illness.  A fragment of a document in Aramaic mentions he had a skin disease by the ordinance of the God-Most High for seven years.  He confessed his sins and some Jew told him to honor the God Most High (see Saggs, p. 154; RB 63 [1956], p. 408).

While in Arabia, Nabonidus left his son Belshazzar (bel-shar-usur) on the throne of Babylon.  He was a capable soldier but a poor politician.  He was challenged by the Pro-Persian policy.

N.B.  This king was one who was thought by the critics to be fiction.  But according to Babylonian records, Belshazzar was a co-regent with his father, when the father was away.  The records tell that he entrusted actual kingship to his son, for each year he was in Arabia in the city of Teima.  Daniel 5:1, 7:1, and 8:1 are therefore not wrong at all.


The Activities of Cyrus

Cyrus won the people of Babylon over to himself long before he marched into the city.  He offered goodwill and mercy, and he promised not to disturb religion, the economy, or administration.  He was in truth a real liberator.  In Babylon people had  heard of his treatment of the Greeks; they would lose little under such a king (see Isa. 45:1,4). 

Cyrus attacked Babylon in 539 B.C.

a.   Nabonidus returned and deployed Belshazzar along the Tigres River.  Daniel notes that prior to the defeat, Belshazzar was in a feast.

b.    Gubaru (Gobryas) the governor of Gutium, went to the enemy and served Cyrus.

c.    In autumn, according to the Nabonidus Chronicle, Nabonidus fled and the Persian army under Gubaru entered the city.  Not a sword was unsheathed in the taking of the city.

Cyrus had come swiftly, having thrust across the Kurdistan and Luristan, controlling the region east of the Tigres.  He forced a crossing of the Tigres at Opis and marched on Sippar which surrendered.  Herodotus says they surrendered easily when Cyrus breached the Euphrates, led the mainstream into a depression leaving the river fordable.  He marched through the river bed.


d.   Belshazzar is said to have been killed at the Battle of Opis.

The most significant reason for the defeat of Babylon by Cyrus was the presence of a fifth column in the empire.  Nabonidus had questioned the authority of Marduk, and this created discontent.  Nabonidus, following the lavish building of Nebuchadnezzar, had thrust the economic situation out of control.  Propaganda from the “PPP” acclaimed Cyrus the Great as the King from Marduk, and wrote a venomous composition about Nabonidus at his fall:

. . . he did not cause justice to proceed from him

. . . he killed the weak with a weapon

. . . (in respect to the merchant) he blocked the road (at the proper time of the New Year's festival) he advised that their be no rejoicing.

. . . a shedu demon altered him

. . . he made the non sanctuary

. . . he set an heretical statue upon a base

. . . he called its name the “god Sin”

. . . the form of Sin was the eclipse

He used to confound the rites, and upset the ordinances,

He would utter a word against the divinely ordained order.

Cyrus placed his son over Babylon, and entered him in the akitu festival, giving Persia the blessing of Marduk.


The Economic Problems

The control of the clergy.  The clergy cared for most of the country’s social and economic life.  The archives at E-Anna, the great sanctuary at Uruk, show that the temple owned large estates and let them out to tenants.

They were overseen by an administrator (shatammu) and his overseer (gipu).

The temple employed a class of free men (mar banuti) who were engaged in service for room and board for life.  There were also the consecrated ones, who were not professionals (like the free men), but stood somewhere between the free men and the slaves.  They were fed and kept by the clergy.

Temple importance rose during the 11th and 10th centuries where there was no powerful kingdom, and during the dark age of the Aramaean invasions the temples offered a unifying defense and refuge for the Mesopotamian farmers.  The king of Assyria relied on them for economical stability, even borrowing from them.

But Nabonidus attempted to bring the temples under close scrutiny, and appointed the “Royal Officer, Lord of the Appointment” and the “Royal Officer over the King's Coffer.”  This, more than the heresy, led to the alienation of the priests.

Lavish spending.  The heavy expense of lavish living drained the economy, and the loss of the western trade routes brought nothing new in.  The building of Babylon the great, and the maintaining of the huge and powerful army, brought about a heavy inflation.

Adoption of the silver standard.  The adoption of the silver standard (with small pieces of silver weighed out rather than coins) made the accounting easy and facilitated transactions, but it also encouraged credit.  Usury mortgages and enslaved debtors were commonly found.  Private banking boomed (the Egibi family), producing families richer than the state or the temple.

Economic depression brought an end to the Neo-Babylonian empire, the temples kept the city alive for another 600 years.  Today it is a whistle stop on the train route to Baghdad.  But Sadam Hussein is beginning to rebuild Babylon.




     28 You will see variant spellings of his name because the cuneiform signs are at times ambiguous: Nebuchadnezzar, or Nebuchadrezzar, for example.

     29 In the Bible nabi’ is a prophet; in Babylon the god Nabu is the spokesman for the god Marduk.

     30There were three deportations: 605 B.C., in which Daniel and other princes were carried off, in 598/7 when Jehoiachin and others including Ezekiel were taken, and then 587/6 when everything was destroyed.

     31Modern critical scholars either deny there ever was a Daniel, associate him with some mythological (and perverted) figure Dan'el from Ugarit, or place him in the second century B.C.  While this is not the place to deal with these theories, suffice it to say that such conclusions are based more on theological bias than evidence.  Daniel fits the period where the Book of Daniel has him.

     32Note that in the exile the word "Jew" is first used.  The captives came from Judah, and so that was the name given to them.  In Hebrew yehudah, or yehud, means either Judah, or the person from Judah, the Jew.  The actual translation of the Hebrew words means "may he be praised" (it is a pual jussive/imperfect form).  It was abbreviated to Yehud--Jew.