[TIMELINE: 700 – 500 b.c.]
HISTORY OF THE BABYLONIAN EXILE
The Israelites where conquered and exiled to Babylon circa 700 b.c. Beginning with Moses, God told His people that if they continued in disobedience to His commandments, He would punish them, and drive them back into slavery from whence they came [Lev 26, Deut 25, Jer 25.11].
In direct proportion to the number of years of disobedience, God caused the Israelites to go into 70 years of captivity with the Babylonians [2 Kings 17.23, 2 Chron 36.21]. They had been in disobedience for 490 years, not observing the sabbatical year (also known as the year of rest). Their punishment was 1 year for every 7 years they did not observe this commandment (thus 70 years of exile).
The ruins of the ancient Babylonian capitol of the Babylonian kingdom cover between 2000-3000 acres in Iraq, over 50 miles south of Baghdad. Many ziggurats were discovered within the city, and later the palace of king Nebuchadnezzar was discovered.
Babylonian Siege Tower and Arrowheads
During excavations in Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter during the 1970s, a 22-foot tower with walls 12 feet thick was discovered. Archaeologists concluded this tower helped defend Jerusalem against the Babylonian invasion in 586 B.C.
Around the base of the tower, a thick layer of charred wood, ashes and soot bore witness to the raging fire that accompanied the Babylonian destruction. Among the charred rubble, excavators found five arrowheads: four of iron, and one of bronze. The bronze arrowhead was of the Scytho-Iranian type used by the Babylonian army. The iron arrowheads were typical of those used by the Israelites. These five small artifacts gave poignant testimony to the furious clash that preceded the fall of Jerusalem.
Figures involved in Plot to Kill Jeremiah
During an archeological dig in Jerusalem’s ancient City of David, Israeli archaeologists unearthed a seal impression belonging to a minister of the Biblical King Zedekiah, which dates back 2,600 years. The finding helps collaborate the story pertaining to the Biblical minister’s demand to have the prophet Jeremiah killed.
The seal impression (known as a or bulla) with the name Gedalyahu ben Pashur, who served as minister to King Zedekiah (597-586 b.c.) according to the Book of Jeremiah, was found completely intact just meters away from a separate seal impression of another of Zedekia’s ministers, Yehukual ben Shelemyahu, which was unearthed.
Both ministers are mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 38 1-4) along with two other ministers when they came to King Zedekiah demanding the death of the prophet Jeremiah because he was preaching that they should surrender to the Babylonians.
The seal impressions, each measuring 1 cm in diameter, were found among the debris, dating to the destruction of the First Temple period, by an excavation team led by Prof. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Fragments of the Lachish Ostraca (clay writing tablets) record a letter from the Israelites (Judah), requesting the aid of Egyptian military to assist as Babylon lays siege upon the city of Jerusalem. They also mention the entire theme during the cities take over or Israelis contending with a surrender.
Thus shall ye say to the king of Judah, that sent you unto me to inquire of me: Behold, Pharaoh’s army, which is come forth to help you, shall return to Egypt into their own land. And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city; and they shall take it, and burn it with fire. – Jer 37.7-8
This column is a document of the campaign efforts of the king of Assyria during their reign in the middle east. It perfectly correlated with the same Biblical accounts, exclaiming how the Assyrian king trapped the king of Jerusalem, Hezekiah, but did not conquer the city [2 Kings 18-19, 2 Chron 32, Isa 36-37]. The Sennacherib column dates to circa 700 b.c. and was written by direct inspiration of the Assyrian King, detailing exactly what happened in his conquests and seige against Jeruslam.
In my third campaign I marched against Hatti. Luli, king of Sidon, whom the terror-inspiring glamor of my lordship had overwhelmed, fled far overseas and perished…. As to Hezekiah, the Jew, he did not submit to my yoke, I laid siege to his strong cities, walled forts, and countless small villages, and conquered them by means of well-stamped earth-ramps and battering-rams brought near the walls with an attack by foot soldiers, using mines, breeches as well as trenches. I drove out 200,150 people, young and old, male and female, horses, mules, donkeys, camels, big and small cattle beyond counting, and considered them slaves. Himself I made a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage. I surrounded him with earthwork in order to molest those who were his city’s gate. Thus I reduced his country, but I still increased the tribute and the presents to me as overlord which I imposed upon him beyond the former tribute, to be delivered annually. Hezekiah himself, did send me, later, to Nineveh, my lordly city, together with 30 talents of gold, 800 talents of silver, precious stones, antimony, large cuts of red stone, couches inlaid with ivory, nimedu-chairs inlaid with ivory, elephant-hides, ebony-wood, boxwood and all kinds of valuable treasures, his own daughters and concubines. . . – Translation of The Sennacherib Prism
The Bible tells us that because of Hezekiah’s prayers, the city did not fall to Assyria, rather God showed mercy to His people. This account is confirmed in the Sennacherib prism, as the Assyian king speaks about the siege, and how Hezeiah was trapped in Jerusalem, but they never captured it. Afterwards, the Bible tells us that God smote 185,000 Assyrians, and when king Sennacherib went back to Ninevah he was killed by his sons [Isa 37.35].
This Biblical account correlates historically as historians have found that, at this time, there was a unexplained discontinuance of Assyria’s conquering invasions, as described by Prof. Rawlinson of Oxford:
Sennacherib during his later years made no expedition further westward than Cilicia; nor were the Assyrian designs against Southern Syria and Egypt resumed till toward the close of the reign of Esarhaddon. – Professor George Rawlinson
The prisms record abruptly ends before he was able to siege the city of Jerusalem even though the Assyrian King had already sieged many other cities of Judah. This record is perfectly consistent with Isaiah 37, because it would seem that Hezekiah was humbles by the time Sennacherib came to his front door. Therefore Hezekiah humbled himself and asked God for help. God says Assyria will not siege Jerusalem, and instead Assyria’s army was killed and Sennacherib was assassinated.
In The Chronicle on the Reigns from Nabu-Nasir to Samas-suma-ukin (ABC 1) is one of the historiographical texts about ancient Assyria and Babylonia, it reads:
“On the twentieth day of the month Tebetu, Sennacherib, King of Assyria, was killed by his son in a rebellion.” – Line 35 reads, Chronicles of Nabu-Nau to Samas-Sum-Ukin
Nebo-Sarsekim Cuneiform Tablet
The Nebo-Sarsekim Tablet was unearthed from the ancient city of Sippar, where a huge sun temple, just over a mile from modern-day Baghdad, is located. It was part of a large temple archive excavated for the British Museum in the 1870s.
The tablet was dated to 595 b.c., the ninth year of Nebuchadnezzar II’s reign. The Book of Jeremiah relates that after Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem in 587 B.C., he committed the prophet Jeremiah to Nebo-Sarsekim’s care.
For some time, this tablet remained one of the undeciphered cuneiform tablets in the British Museum. While analyzing the records from the Babylonian city of Sippar, one scholar made a startling discovery with the Biblical implications. One of the tablets noted a one-and-a-half pound gold donation to a temple made by an official, or “chief eunuch,” Nebo-Sarsekim. This confirmed the existence of the Biblical character mentioned in he book of Jeremiah, and their position.
Excavations in Nebuchadnezzar’s palace yielded finds of multiple clay tablets.
In the bible when Jewish King Zedekian rebelled, Nebucad sent Nebuzaradan with instructions to take the city, burn it, tear down its defenses, deporting captives, and round up the Judean officials. He was also told to be kind to Jeremiah (2 Ki 25:8-21, Jer 39.8-9, 52:15-27, Jer 39.11-14,40.1)
Listing in the clay tablets was the name of Nebuzaradan, found with the title “chancellor” dating to 570 b.c., thus would have been his promotion after his military career.
This find provides evidence for another Biblical character, and their position.
[TIMELINE: circa 550 – 350 b.c.]
Brief History of Medo-Persian Rule
The Persian empire came to rule after the Babylonian empire. In the first years of their rule, they returned the people of Israel from exile to their homeland.
King Cyrus was one of the first primary rulers during the reign of the Medo-Persian empire. He was known as a great conquering king and a great leader. It was by his decree that the Israelites where allowed to return to their homeland.
The Cyrus Cylinder
A 9 inch long cylinder found at ancient Babylon dating to 539 B.C. tells of king Cyrus or Persia (Iran today) and his decree to let the captives of Babylon go free. Cyrus sent the Jews back to their homeland just as Isaiah prophesied, and was decreed by Cyrus.
City of Susa
The city of Susa is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about 250 km (150 miles) east of the Tigris River in modern Iran. The city of Susa was one of 3 royal cities during the reign of Xerxes. This was the stage for Esther (as in the Biblical book of Esther) in which she married king Ahasuerus (Xerxes) and saved the Jew. Later Artaxerxes sent Nehemiah and Ezra to rebuild Jerusalem.
Susa was the capital of a ancient kingdom know as Elam. A kingdom built and ruled by Dravidian people who ruled it from 2000 – 1000 b.c. The Elamite kingdom was destroyed by the attacks from Babylonians. Elamite influence spread throughout the southern regions of Iran by their cuneiform writing system, and rock inscriptions. After that Cyrus the Great, founded his empire and gained control over Susa. Susa was declared as one of the three capitals of the empire covering the southern regions.
2.) Complete translations of the records of Sennacherib – in Daniel D. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, vol. 2, and in James Pritchard’s Ancient Near Eastern Texts (1950).