Siege of Jerusalem (587 BC)
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|Siege of Jerusalem|
|Part of the Jewish–Babylonian war (601–586 BC)|
Nebuchadnezzar camps outside Jerusalem. The citizens starve and are reduced to cannibalism. (Petrus Comestor's "Bible Historiale"), 1372
|Kingdom of Judah||Neo-Babylonian Empire|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
|Many slain, 4,200 others taken to captivity||Unknown|
In 589 BC, Nebuchadnezzar II laid siege to Jerusalem, culminating in the destruction of the city and its temple in the summer of 587 according to Albright, or 586 BC according to Thiele. In 2004, Rodger Young published an analysis in which he identified 587 BC for the end of the siege, based on details from the Bible and neo-Babylonian sources for related events. Whereas the Nebuchadnezzar Chronicle provides information about the siege of Jerusalem in 597 BC, the only known records of the siege that culminated in Jerusalem's destruction are found in the Hebrew Bible.
Following the siege of 597 BC, the Neo-Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar installed Zedekiah as vassal king of Judah, at the age of 21. However, Zedekiah revolted against Babylon, and entered into an alliance with Pharaoh Hophra, the king of Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar responded by invading Judah (2 Kings 25:1).
Nebuchadnezzar began a siege of Jerusalem in January 589 BC. The Bible describes the city as enduring horrible deprivation during the siege (2 Kings 25:3; Lamentations 4:4, 5, 9). In the eleventh year of Zedekiah's reign (2 Kings 25:2; Jeremiah 39:2), Nebuchadnezzar broke through Jerusalem's walls, conquering the city. Zedekiah and his followers attempted to escape but were captured on the plains of Jericho and taken to Riblah. There, after seeing his sons killed, Zedekiah was blinded, bound, and taken 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), where he remained a prisoner until his death.
After the fall of Jerusalem, the Babylonian general Nebuzaraddan was sent to complete its destruction. Jerusalem was plundered, and Solomon's Temple was destroyed. Most of the elite were taken into captivity in Babylon. The city was razed to the ground. Only a few people were permitted to remain to tend to the land (Jeremiah 52:16).
The Jew Gedaliah was made governor of the remnant of Judah, the Yehud Province, with a Chaldean guard stationed at Mizpah (2 Kings 25:22–24; Jeremiah 40:6–8). The Bible reports that, on hearing this news, Jews who had fled to Moab, Ammon, Edom, and in other countries returned to Judah (Jeremiah 40:11–12). Gedaliah was assassinated by Ishmael son of Nethaniah two months later, and the population that had remained and those who had returned then fled to Egypt for safety (2 Kings 25:25–26, Jeremiah 43:5–7). In Egypt, they settled in Migdol (it is uncertain where the Bible is referring to here, probably somewhere in the Nile Delta), Tahpanhes, Memphis (called Noph), and Pathros in the vicinity of Thebes (Jeremiah 44:1).
There has been some debate as to when Nebuchadnezzar's second siege of Jerusalem took place. There is no dispute that Jerusalem fell the second time in the summer month of Tammuz (Jeremiah 52:6), but William F. Albright dated the end of Zedekiah's reign and the fall of Jerusalem to 587 BC whereas Edwin R. Thiele offered 586 BC.
Thiele's reckoning is based on the presentation of Zedekiah's reign on an accession basis, which he asserts was occasionally used for the kings of Judah. In that case, the year that Zedekiah came to the throne would be his zeroth year; his first full year would be 597/596 BC, and his eleventh year, the year that Jerusalem fell, would be 587/586 BC. Since Judah's regnal years were counted from Tishri in autumn, that would place the end of his reign and the capture of Jerusalem in the summer of 586 BC.
The Nebuchadnezzar Chronicle (BM 21946), published in 1956, indicates that Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem the first time putting an end to the reign of Jehoaichin, on 2 Adar (16 March) 597 BC, in Nebuchadnezzar's seventh year. Jeremiah 52:28–29 gives the relative periods for the end of the two sieges as Nebuchadnezzar's seventh and eighteenth years, respectively. (The same events are described at 2 Kings 24:12 and 2 Kings 25:8 as occurring in Nebuchadnezzar's eighth and nineteenth years, including his accession year.) Identification of Nebuchadnezzar's eighteenth year for the end of the siege places the event in the summer of 587 BC, which is consistent with all three relevant biblical sources—Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and 2 Kings.
- Edwin Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951; 2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965; 3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983). ISBN 0-8254-3825-X, ISBN 9780825438257.
- Young, Rodger C. (March 2004). "When Did Jerusalem Fall?" (PDF). Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society: 21–38.
The conclusions from the analysis are as follows. (1) Jerusalem fell in the fourth month (Tammuz) of 587 BC. All sources which bear on the question—Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and 2 Kings—are consistent in dating the event in that year.
- Lester L. Grabbe (2001). Did Moses Speak Attic?: Jewish Historiography and Scripture in the Hellenistic Period. A&C Black. p. 216. ISBN 1841271551.
It is so easy to forget that 587 BCE is exclusively a biblical date.
- Young, Rodger C. (March 2004). "When Did Jerusalem Fall?" (PDF). Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society: 29.
The first date is taken from Ezek 24:1, where it is said that the final siege of Jerusalem began in the tenth month of the “ninth year.” ... The tenth month of that year corresponds roughly to January 589 BC.
- Malamat, Abraham (1968). "The Last Kings of Judah and the Fall of Jerusalem: An Historical – Chronological Study". Israel Exploration Journal. 18 (3): 137–56. JSTOR 27925138.
The discrepancy between the length of the siege according to the regnal years of Zedekiah (years 9–11), on the one hand, and its length according to Jehoiachin's exile (years 9–12), on the other, can be cancelled out only by supposing the former to have been reckoned on a Tishri basis, and the latter on a Nisan basis. The difference of one year between the two is accounted for by the fact that the termination of the siege fell in the summer, between Nisan and Tishri, already in the 12th year according to the reckoning in Ezekiel, but still in Zedekiah's 11th year which was to end only in Tishri.
- Leslie McFall, "A Translation Guide to the Chronological Data in Kings and Chronicles," Bibliotheca Sacra 148 (1991) 45.
- D. J. Wiseman, Chronicles of Chaldean Kings in the British Museum (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1956) 73.
- Young, Robb Andrew (2012). Hezekiah in History and Tradition. pp. 18–21.
Simply put, the erroneous date of 586 B.C.E. stems from the biblical dating of the breaking down of the walls of Jerusalem and the exile of its populace "on the seventh day of the fifth month, which was the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar." ... The correct date of 587 B.C.E. for the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem may be further substantiated by examination of the end of the exile of Jehoiachin.