• Watch and Pray

Understanding Bible History Pt 3: The Babylonian Exile

"Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north...and I will send Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon...against this land and against its inhabitants...and this whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years." (Jeremiah 25:9-11).


In my previous post, I outlined the events relating to the captivity and fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel under the Assyrian Empire in 722 B.C. About a hundred years before the fall of the Assyrian Empire, God declared through Isaiah the prophet “I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks.” (Isaiah 10:12).

Those prophecies of destruction were fulfilled in 632 B.C.E. That is when Nineveh fell to the combined forces of the Babylonians and the Medes, bringing the Assyrian Empire to a shameful end. A Babylonian chronicle of that event states that the conquerors “carried off the vast booty of the city and the temple” and turned Nineveh “into a ruin heap.” God’s prophet Nahum foretold that Nineveh would be plundered, its gates would be opened to its enemies, and its guards would flee. (Nahum 2:8, 9; 3:7, 13, 17, 19). The prophet Zephaniah also wrote God “will stretch out His hand against the north, Destroy Assyria, And make Nineveh a desolation, As dry as the wilderness..”(Zephaniah 2:13).


Assyria then ceased to exist as an independent state, never to rise again when it was overthrown by the Babylonians. Today the desolate waste that was once Nineveh is marked by mounds of ruins on the east bank of the Tigris River, opposite the city of Mosul, in Iraq. The Southern Kingdom of Judah survived for another 134 years until the next major exile this time involving the Southern Kingdom of Judah when it became a tributary state of Babylon, meaning that Judah and its government/kings kept their political position and independence by paying tribute. Until Judah rebelled. The final stage of the Babylonian exile culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple (Jer 52:28-30) in 586 B.C.


Like the Assyrian Exile of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the captivity of the Southern Kingdom of Judah took in four stages. What we have to understand is that both of these exiles were actioned by the Lord because of their rebellion and as such were told to accept the consequences of God’s judgements declared by Him through his prophets. But at each exile the people rebelled and fought the Assyrians and the Babylonians leaders even though the prophets Jeremiah (Jer.20-210) and Habakkuk (Hab, 1:5-11) warned Judah to expect and submit to the Babylonian rule as a part of God’s judgements.


First group of captives


The captivity happened in three stages. The first wave of captivity, consisting of the middle class, craftsmen, and the remainder of the upper class, took place during the reign of King Jehoiakim (named Eliakim at birth, 2 Chronicles 36:4) one of the last kings of Judah before the 70-year Babylonian Captivity.


Jehoiakim was a son of good King Josiah (Jeremiah 26:1) of Judah. His mother’s name was Zebidah (2 Kings 23:36). Jehoiakim’s father, King Josiah, had returned Judah to the Lord by tearing down idol shrines and restoring obedience to God’s Law (2 Kings 23:19–25). The name of Josiah means “the Lord supports” and his name was announced by a prophet long before the time of his birth (1 Kings 13:1-2). After Josiah’s death, his son Jehoahaz was chosen as king by the people and Judah again fell into idolatry. Jehoahaz also called Shallum (Jer. 22:11), was Josiah’s third son (1 Chr. 3:15). Jehoahaz only reigned three months before he was taken into captivity by the king of Egypt, who replaced Jehoahaz with his brother Eliakim, the second son of Josiah (2 Kings 23:26; 2 Chronicles 36:5).


The Egyptian king renamed the 25-year-old Eliakim “Jehoiakim” (II Kings 23:34; II Chron. 36:4). Jehoiakim ruled for the first three years reign as a vassal of the Egyptians, which controlled Syria and Palestine and clashed with the Babylonian forces and paid heavy tribute. To raise the money he "taxed the land and exacted the silver and gold from the people of the land according to their assessments (II Kings 23:33, 35) After the Egyptians were defeated by the Babylonians at the battle of Carchemish in 605 BC, Nebuchadnezzar II besieged Jerusalem, and Jehoiakim surrendered to Babylon for three years and changed allegiances to avoid the destruction of Jerusalem. He paid tribute from the treasury in Jerusalem, some temple artifacts, and handed over some of the royal family and nobility as hostages. Nebuchadnezzar took away many in the ruling class. It was during the eleven–year reign of Jehoiakim that the first deportation took place when Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah was taken captive in 605 BC (Daniel 1:1-4).


Second group of captives (the siege and fall of Jerusalem)


However, Jehoiakim rebelled and in 598 BC King Nebuchadnezzar II invaded Judah and again laid siege to Jerusalem, which lasted three months. Jehoiakim died before the siege ended. The Book of Chronicles recorded that "Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon ... bound him in fetters, to carry him to Babylon." Jeremiah prophesied that he died without proper funeral, describing the people of Judah "shall not lament for him, saying, 'Alas, master!' or 'Alas, his glory!' He shall be buried with the burial of a donkey, dragged and cast out beyond the gates of Jerusalem" (Jeremiah 22:18–19) "and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat of the day and the frost of the night" (Jeremiah 36:30)


During the siege Jehoiakim died and Jehoiachin his son succeeded to the throne (24:5-6). Despite the large tribute demanded of him by Pharaoh (2 Kings 23:35) he had a new palace built for himself using forced labour (Jer. 22:13-14). As no help was forthcoming from Egypt (2 Kings 24:7) the city surrendered on 16th March 597. The ten thousand captives included the prophet Ezekiel, the new King Jehoiachin, his mother and his captains, officials and craftsmen were deported to Babylon, together with the rest of the larger golden items from the Temple (24:12-16; Jer. 22:24-27). Nebuchadnezzar made Jehoiachin's uncle Mattaniah (renamed Zedekiah) the new vassal (2 Kings 24:17).


Third group of captives


Zedekiah was the twentieth and last king of Judah before the destruction of the kingdom by King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. Zedekiah had been installed as king of Judah by King Nebuchadnezzar II, after a siege of Jerusalem in 597 BC, to succeed his nephew, Jehoiachin. This is in agreement with a Babylonian chronicle, which states, "The seventh year: In the month Kislev the king of Akkad mustered his army and marched to Hattu. He encamped against the city of Judah and on the second day of the month Adar he captured the city (and) seized (its) king. A king of his own choice he appointed in the city and taking the vast tribute he brought it into Babylon." (Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles, 102)


The kingdom was at that time tributary to Nebuchadnezzar II. Despite the strong opposition of Jeremiah, Baruch ben Neriah and his other family and advisors, as well as the example of Jehoiakim, he revolted against Babylon, and entered into an alliance with Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar responded by invading Judah (2 Kings 25:1). Nebuchadnezzar began a siege of Jerusalem in December 589 BC. During this siege, which lasted about thirty months, "every worst woe befell the city, which drank the cup of God's fury to the dregs" (2 Kings 25:3; Lamentations 4:4, 5, 9).


At the end of Zedekiah's eleven-year reign, Nebuchadnezzar succeeded in capturing Jerusalem. Zedekiah and his followers attempted to escape, making their way out of the city, but were captured on the plains of Jericho, and were taken to Riblah (Jeremiah 52).

After seeing his sons put to death, his own eyes were put out, and, being loaded with chains, he was carried captive to Babylon (2 Kings 25:1–7; 2 Chronicles 36:12; Jeremiah 32:4–5; 34:2–3; 39:1–7; 52:4–11; Ezekiel 12:13), where he remained a prisoner until he died.

After the fall of Jerusalem, Nebuzaradan (2 Kings 25) was sent to destroy it. The city was plundered and razed to the ground. Solomon's Temple was destroyed. “Nebuzaradan also took Seraiah the High Priest, Zephaniah the second Priest, and three doorkeepers” and executed them. Although Seraiah was executed (v21), his son Jehozadak was deported (1 Chronicles 6:15). Through Jehozadak’s line would come Ezra, the priest and great reformer, who one day would return to Jerusalem and take Seraiah’s work (Ezra 7.1). Only a small number of vinedressers and husbandmen were permitted to remain in the land (Jeremiah 52:16).


Finally, when the city of Jerusalem fell in 586 B.C. the final captives were led away to the banks of the River Chebar in Babylon (2 Kings 24:1-18; 2 Chron. 36:11-21; Jer. 52:1-11; Ezek. 1:1-2; Daniel 1:1-7). A large part of the population of Jerusalem was put to the sword and everything of value plundered. The bronze articles from the Temple were cut up and removed and the building together with the palace and the important houses were set on fire. In order to ensure that the city would never rebel against him again Nebuzaradan, the commander of the Imperial Guard, ordered that the walls be demolished. All who survived in the city were carried off into exile in Babylon, with the exception of the very poor of the land (2 Kings 25:8-21; Jer. 39:8-10; 52:12-23; cf. 9:11; 26:18). The book of Lamentations paints a sad picture of Jerusalem at this time. The starving population exchanged whatever riches they had left for food (Lam. 1:11), its leadership and priesthood were gone (1:19) and the Temple burnt (2:6-12; 4:3-10). The Babylonians soldiers oppressed the survivors and forced them to work for their food (5:11-18).


The final deportation was recorded by Jeremiah, it included 745 people which was actioned by Nebuzaradan (Jeremiah 52:30) in retaliation for the murder of Gedaliah and the soldiers of the Babylonian garrison at Mizpah (2 Kings 25:22-25).


King Jehoiachin, who was part of the second deportation and was prisoned in Babylon was released by King Nebuchadnezzar’s successor, Amel-Marduk (Evil-Merodach), who reigned from (561-560 BC). Tablets from the reign of Nabonidus, the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, reigning from 556–539 BC, record the daily rations of Jehoiachin who is called “Yaukin, king of the land of Yahud (Judah). Amel-Marduk’s kindness toward Jehoiachin brings the books of Kings to an end on a ray of hope. Exile was neither the end of Israel nor the Davidic line.


Prophets of the Babylonian Period were:


Obadiah "obadi yah" (servant of Yaweh) - The book of Obadiah records a prophetic “vision” given by the Lord to Obadiah. The only thing known about this prophet is his name. The book was probably written in the first half of the Babylonian exile, after 586 B.C. (when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem) and before 553 (when Babylon attacked Edom).


Jeremiah "yeremi yauw" (Yaweh will lift up) began his prophetic career in 627/626 (about 650 years before the birth of Jesus), in the 13th year of King Josiah's reign and followed by Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. He was a contemporary of his relative the prophetess Hulda and Zephaniah.


Ezekiel "yehetzk'el" (God will strengthen) - The first dated message in Ezekiel is from the summer of 593 B.C., four years after Nebuchadnezzar deported the first group of exiles to Babylon. The latest dated oracle is 22 years later, in April 571 B.C. If Ezekiel was 30 years old when his ministry began (1:1), the final vision of the book came when he was about 50.


Zephaniah "tzephani yah" (Yaweh is my treasure) - Zephaniah’s prophetic revelations and stern warnings occurred during Josiah’s reign (Zephaniah 1:1. Josiah led Judah to religious and social reform, but Zephaniah declared that these spiritual changes would not last. The people of Judah would return to wickedness and rebellion against God. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was already in captivity, and Babylon was gaining in power and prestige. God had determined that the Babylonians would be His instrument to punish the nation of Judah. Zephaniah and his contemporaries, Jeremiah and Habakkuk, were some of the prophets God used to pronounce this warning message.


Habakkuk "haba kuk" (embrace) - Habakkuk is unusual as a prophetic book. It never addresses the people of Judah directly. Rather it is a dialogue between the prophet and God. The prophet Habakkuk was probably a contemporary of Zephaniah and Jeremiah, and possibly even of Ezekiel and Daniel. He probably prophesied no later than the end of Josiah’s reign (640–609 B.C.).


Daniel "Dani El" (My Judge is God) – Though many try to discredit or dispute authorship or date, because of the accuracy of his prophecies, Daniel wrote this book in the sixth century B.C. It records the events of Daniel’s life and the visions that he saw from the time of his exile in 605 B.C. (1:1) until 536 B.C., the third year of King Cyrus (10:1). As a young man, aged between 14-17 years old, he was deported during the first phase of the Babylonian exile, along with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The young men were put through an intense “re-education”, during which time they were taught the language, literature, and culture of the Babylonians before entering the king’s service. The book of Daniel is made up of two halves, each of which has its own literary style. The first half (chs. 1–6) contains stories from the lives of Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They show how God’s people should live in a world that is not their home (compare Jer. 29:5–7; Heb. 13:14). The second half of the book (Daniel 7–12) contains apocalyptic visions. Daniel served under four different kings. When Nebuchadnezzar died, his son Belshazzar became King. He was followed by kings Darius and Cyrus. Daniel also remained in Babylon through the first year of the reign of King Cyrus (Daniel 1:21).


Daniel accuracy is phenomenal in that it gives a meticulous timeline of when Israel’s Messiah would appear (Daniel 9:24–27). The book of Daniel makes it clear that the true God is the supreme ruler over heaven and earth (Daniel 4:17) and through extraordinary visions of beasts and angels Daniel predicted in detail key world empires and their events. These included the fall of Babylon, the rise of Medo-Persia, the rise of the Grecian Empire including Alexander the Great and his four generals, the rise of the Roman Empire (even the division of the Western and Eastern powers) and the rise and destruction of the final empire of the Anti-Christ, as the Revived Roman Empire of Ten Kings (Daniel 7:4, Rev 17:12). He also predicted Antiochus IV who took the title Epiphanes, meaning illustrious. The Jews derisively called him Epimanes, meaning madman (Daniel 11:21) and the Anti-Christ (Daniel 9:25-27, Daniel 11:36-39, Rev 13 & 17).


In the book of Revelation, the book of Daniel is now unsealed, and revealed by Jesus to John the Apostle the details of Daniel’s vision of the last empire. Daniel and Revelation reveals God’s true plans for the future. The unquestionable accuracy of historical events that Daniel predicted is why many try to refute the book but God says “9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:” Isaiah 46:9-10.


Archaeological Evidence


Nebuchadnezzar: An Archaeological Biography - Nebuchadnezzar is mentioned close to 90 times in Scripture and figures prominently in the books of 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Jeremiah and Daniel. In Jeremiah 4:7 he is called the “destroyer of nations,” an apt description, as history records that he extended his empire through conquest such that it stretched from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea. His early life is captured in Chronicle 5 (also known as the Jerusalem Chronicle). Catalogued by the British Museum, "this historical chronicle describes Nebuchadnezzar's first campaign against Jerusalem in 597 BC. The tablet covers the period of 12 years from the 21st year of Nabopolassar (605 BC, which was also Nebuchadnezzar's accession year), through to the 11th year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign." The Jerusalem Chronicle confirms numerous details from the Biblical account, as recorded in 2 Kings 24: the siege of Jerusalem, the deposition of King Jehoiachin, the appointment of King Zedekiah, and the heavy tribute (ie. the treasures from the Temple and palace) that Nebuchadnezzar took.


Three Babylonian Inscriptions About the Exile - The Babylonian Chronicles tells the story of Jehoiachin, the King of Judah (2 Kings 24). This Babylonian Chronicle also records Nebuchadnezzar’s defeat of Jerusalem. The Jehoiachin Ration Tablet contains a record of the oil ration for King Jehoiachin and his sons while they were prisoners in Babylon (2 Kings 25:27-30). The Nabonidus Cylinder confirms the existence of Belshazzar, the oldest son of Nabonidus, King of Babylon (Dan 5:1, 5:30-31). These inscriptions confirm that Beshazzar was an actual historical figure and that he was the reigning monarch in Babylon the night it fell. Furthermore, they help to explain Belshazzar’s comment in Daniel 5:7 that the person who could read the writing on the wall would be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom. As co-regent in his father’s absence, that’s all he could offer.


Tiny tablet provides proof for Old Testament - Michael Jursa, a visiting professor from Vienna…made what has been called the most important find in Biblical archaeology for 100 years. The clay document is dated to the 10th year of Nebuchadnezzar II (595 BC) and names the official, Nebo-Sarsekim. According to chapter 39 of the Book of Jeremiah, he was present at the siege of Jerusalem in 587 BC with Nebuchadnezzar himself.


Biblical Archaeology and Ancient Babylon - Babylon was the most illustrious of all ancient cities and its wealth was immense. After Nebuchadnezzar had defeated Egypt at the Battle of Carchemish, Babylon became a world empire. Their period of glory came to an abrupt end when Cyrus the Persian allied with the Medes and came and conquered the city by rerouting the river and marching under the walls.


FOOTSTEPS: Three Things in Babylon Daniel Likely Saw - In a Bible and Spade article, Dr. Gerhard Hasel, points out that there are no fewer than eight manuscripts of Daniel among the Dead Sea Scrolls, including one dating to the 2nd Century BC. The early date of this manuscript and the fact that Daniel was already accepted as canonical by the Qumran community suggest a date that is much earlier than the second century BC. Digging For Truth-Episode Four: Daniel-Prophet or Pretender?


What Happened To Tyre? - Tyre is well-known to Bible students particularly (although not exclusively) from the prophecy of Ezekiel who was inspired to foresee details of Tyre’s downfall that would have seemed wildly improbable to his contemporaries yet in the course of time proved accurate to the smallest detail…….Although the historical record of both the Babylonian siege of Tyre and the subsequent invasion of Egypt is limited, archeological evidence does support the Bible record. A broken cuneiform tablet first published in 1926 by German archeologist Eckhard Unger refers to provisions of food for “the king and his soldiers for their march against Tyre“. Other cuneiform tablets show that at some point Tyre was in the hands of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. Finally, a cuneiform tablet at the British Museum shows that Nebuchadnezzar did indeed successfully engage the Egyptian forces.


Jeremiah, Prophet of the Bible, Brought Back to Life - The clay bullae (seal impressions), discovered by archaeologist Eilat Mazar during her excavations of the City of David, Jerusalem, bear the names of two royal ministers mentioned in the Bible’s story of Jeremiah, prophet of the Old Testament. Signed, Sealed and Delivered: An Archaeological Exposition of Jeremiah 32:1-15

Recent Posts

See All