Israel had traditionally had many enemies; ironically it is that fact, from a military standpoint, that had enabled them to survive as an independent entity. Now one enemy had the time or resource to conquer Jerusalem. Then in less than a decade God raised up Babylon, a single masterly enemy, to teach the Jews the lesson that God had purposed. Babylon is described biblically as first of four great gentile world kingdoms. The roots of Babylon stretch back to Babel and it exists, at least by name, all the way to the end of the great tribulation. Yet most of the more than 300 biblical references to it relate to the role it played in the three deportations of the people of Judah.

Babylon really started on its path towards supreme power in 625BC[1] when a Chaldean prince Nabopolassar established the 10th Dynasty, often known as the Chaldean or Neo-Babylonian dynasty. Before and during the early part of his reign the closest thing to a 'world' power was Assyria and the great achievement of Nabopolassar, aided by Media[2] was to put an end to Assyrian domination. By 612BC Assyria's chief cities had fallen, the struggle finally ended in 606BC with the fall of Ninevah. The majority of the Assyrian empire fell to Nebopolassar and Babylon was established.

The next decisive step was then unwittingly taken by Pharaoh king of Egypt that had probably seen the northern upheaval as an opportunity to expand, which he did by capturing Carchemish, having advanced through Judah and slaying Josiah. This led to Babylonian retaliation in the form of Nebuchadnezzar, the son of Nabopolassar. The Egyptians were a long way from home and with the benefit of hindsight over extended. They were thoroughly routed[3]. Egypt was now effectively over as a power in the Palestine[4] giving Babylon control of most of the land to the North and East of Judea.

Nebuchadnezzar continued to invade Jerusalem, he succeeded and took captive the royal children and nobles and also acquired some of the wealth of the temple of the Lord. He did however return Jehoiakim to be vassal king of Judah.

Around this time (605BC) news reached Nebuchadnezzar of the death of his father, such events were deeply destabilising in that era and Nebuchadnezzar immediately returned to Babylon with his light troops leaving his generals to finish of and complete the campaigns. Nebuchadnezzar successfully took the throne but his lack of focus encouraged Tyre, Phoenicia and Judah (under Jehoiakim) to revolt.[5]

Still involved with establishing his throne Nebuchadnezzar could not take to the field personally until 598BC. But when he did Judah had to yield almost instantly, Jehoiakim had already been killed and it was left to Jehoiachin to effect the surrender. This time Nebuchadnezzar took more that 10,000[6] of the chief people of the land including Ezekiel.

Nebuchadnezzar still appeared willing to have Jerusalem governed by a Jew and he installed Mattaniah the brother of Jehoiakim on the throne renaming him Zedekiah.

Zedekiah remained loyal to Nebuchadnezzar for nine years, then he joined an alliance, most notably with Egypt and went in to revolt. Nebuchadnezzar again took to the field and attacked Jerusalem. He momentarily had to divert to crush the Egyptians but swiftly returned and laid a siege against Jerusalem. The siege lasted three hundred and ninety days until in 588BC Jerusalem was taken. Zedekiah was captured, his children were slain before him, his eyes were put out and he was taken to Babylon.[7]

Nebuchadnezzar died in 562BC and was succeeded by Evil-merodach. Two years later Evil-merodach was murdered by Neriglissar. Neriglissar was then king for 3 years and was succeeded by his son. His son reigned for 9 months and was then murdered by the nobility who place Nabonadius upon the throne; he reigned until 538BC. His son Belshazzar was co-regent with him from 550BC.[8] Both were reigning at the time of Daniel 5 when the Persians snatched the kingdom from them in one night.

The time of Babylonian supremacy was really a period of about seventy years, the lifespan of one man. They arose very quickly and descended even faster. There are many historic reasons for this; but ultimately Babylon was a tool in the hand of God and once the tool had done its job, it could be put to one side. I wonder how many policy decisions made in governments around the world would be different if our rulers understood that they are there for as long as they serve God's purpose?


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