Babylonian Chronicles

By Bro. Vince Kluth
Normally it's true that the victor writes the history all will remember, but that doesn't seem to be the case for Babylon.

The “Nebuchadnezzar Chronicle” (ABC05) describes the early years of Nebuchadnezzar II (605-594 BC). Many such were found near Nineveh and are stored at the British Museum.

Normally it’s true that the victor writes the history all will remember, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for Babylon. The world over today knows the account of Babylon sacking Judah in 605, 597 and 586 BC based on the accounts of Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. Babylon’s version of the story wasn’t even known until after 1860 when the Babylonian Chronicles were found, a series of over 40 cuneiform clay tablets. After languishing on some back shelf in the British museum for decades, men began to decipher them, and the first set was published in 1887. Most interesting is the 5th set (out of 16 published thus far) called the Nebuchadnezzar Chronicle, pub-lished in 1956 by Donald Wiseman. It records three main events: The battle of Carchemish, where the king of Babylon defeated Pharaoh Necho of Egypt, in 605 BC; Nebuchadnezzar’s accession to the throne; and his capture and deportation of Jerusalem.

Here is how that clay Babylonian tablet (above) describes Egypt’s defeat and the king of Jerusalem’s capture: In the twenty-first year [604 BC] the king of Akkad [Nabopolassar] stayed in his own land, Nebuchadnezzar his eldest son, the crown-prince, mustered the Babylonian army and took command of his troops; he marched to Karchemiš which is on the bank of the Euphrates, and crossed the river to go against the Egyptian army which lay in Karchemiš. They fought with each other, and the Egyptian army withdrew before him. He accomplished their defeat and beat them to non-existence. As for the rest of the Egyptian army which had escaped from the defeat so quickly that no weapon had reached them, in the district of Hamath the Babylonian troops overtook and defeated them so that not a single man escaped to his own country. … In the seventh year [of Nebuchadnezzar, 597 BC], the month of Kislîmu, the king of Babylon mustered his troops, marched to the Hatti-land [Syria/Palestine], and besieged the city of Judah.  On the second day of the month of Addaru [March 16, 597] he seized the city and captured the king [Jehoaichin]. He appointed there a king of his own choice [Jehoiachin’s uncle Mattaniah, renamed Zedekiah], received its heavy tribute and sent to Babylon.

Next, we compare that with the Bible’s description in 2 Kings 24: “(6) So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers: and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead. (7) And the king of Egypt came not again any more out of his land: for the king of Babylon had taken from the river of Egypt unto the river Euphrates all that pertained to the king of Egypt. … (10) At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. (11) And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it. (12) And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign. (13a) And he carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the LORD … (14a) And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths … (15) And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king's mother, and the king's wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those carried he into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. (16) And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand, all that were strong and apt for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon. (17) And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his father's brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah.”

It's impressive how the accounts line up. Both capture the main points with the Bible providing more detail.  The only apparent disconnect is the number of years Nebuchadnezzar had been in power. According to the Jamieson, Fausset & Brown commentary, “the Hebrews computed the time when Nebuchadnezzar was associated with his father in government”, which the tablet mentions. This discovery delivered a serious blow to sceptics dismissing the Bible’s historical accounts as unreliable and inaccurate. God’s Word is still trustworthy!


Sources: Various sites noted by Wikipedia; plus Bible-history.com, Livius.org.

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