The battle lasted twenty-six years, spanning two generations. It was a “world war,” in that part of the world at least. The Battle of Carchemish included the armies of Egypt, who had allied with the remnants of the army of the former Assyrian Empire against the armies of Babylonia, who were allied with the Medes, Persians, and Scythians, who set the template for the Huns, Mongols and other nomads of the steppe.
This battle is mentioned in Ezekiel 30.
All of the nations in the proximity of Assyria, Egypt, Israel, the city of Carchemish, and even the nomadic Scythian warriors were fighting, as well as the Babylonians, who were in conflict with all the other countries and groups.
The war began in 612 B.C. and ended in 586 B.C. with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish people’s captivity in Babylon.
All three deportations of Jews from Israel occurred during this time span. The first deportation of Israel into Babylon occurred in 605 B.C., the second in 597 B.C., and the third in 586 B.C.
Nineveh was the capital of the powerful ancient Assyrian empire, located in modern-day northern Iraq. Approximately one hundred years earlier, Sennacherib had been the king of Assyria from 704–681 BC. He was famous for his building projects, and so, it was a city worth having. See the blue arrow.
Twenty-six years of war and conquest began when the Assyrian capital of Nineveh was invaded by Babylonian forces and their allies in 612 BC. The Babylonians, which had long been a restive province, led a coalition that sacked Nineveh. The empire was in desperate straits; the Babylonians seemed about to displace it. The Assyrians relocated, moving their capital to Harran.
However, Nineveh was important as a junction for commercial trading routes crossing the Tigris on the great roadway between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, thus uniting the East and the West. Nineveh received wealth from many sources, so that it became one of the greatest of all the region’s ancient cities, and the last capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. (Source)
Hoping to keep Mesopotamia divided, Necho II, the Egyptian pharaoh, set out to aid the hard-pressed Assyrians. He landed a force on the territory of the northern kingdom of Israel. King Josiah had hopes of a reunification of Judah and Israel, making the latter territory part of his own realm under the aegis of Babylonia. Consequently, Josiah challenged the pharaoh to battle.
When the Assyrian capital of Harran was captured by the alliance of the Median and Neo-Babylonians empires in 609 BC, thus ending the Assyrian Empire, remnants of the Assyrian army joined Carchemish, a city under Egyptian rule on the Euphrates River. Egypt, a former vassal of Assyria, was allied with the Assyrian King Ashur-uballit II and marched in 609 BC to his aid against the Babylonians.1.
This battle was fought until about 605 BC, four years of fighting between the armies of Egypt allied with the remnants of the army of the former Assyrian Empire (including Israel) against the armies of Babylonia, allied with the Medes, Persians, and Scythians. This was followed by the first deportation.
The battle at Carchemish itself was one of the most significant battles in the Old Testament. It was begun by Egypt, led by Pharaoh Necho II, King of Egypt. North of the river Euphrates at Carchemish, Pharaoh Necho II was to engage in battle against Nebuchadnezzar, King of Persia. But Pharaoh Necho II and his army were destroyed. How did that happen?The Battle at #Carchemish was one of the most significant battles in the #OldTestament. Are you acquainted with this twenty-six year long battle and the fallout? History is fascinating! #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
Josiah Killed in Battle
The Egyptian army of Pharaoh Necho II had been delayed at Megiddo by the forces of King Josiah of Judah, who attacked from another direction. Josiah’s army was defeated by Pharaoh at the Battle of Megiddo, far south of Carchemish. King Josiah was killed in the battle. If only they had all listened to Ezekiel, the priest and prophet, they would have stayed home.
They did not listen, and Josiah died as a result.
“Necho slew him at Megiddo, when he saw him” (2 Kings 23:29).
19 In the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah this Passover was kept. 20 After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Neco king of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out to meet him. 21 But he sent envoys to him, saying, “What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war. And God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you.” 22 Nevertheless, Josiah did not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to fight with him. He did not listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to fight in the plain of Megiddo. 23 And the archers shot King Josiah. And the king said to his servants, “Take me away, for I am badly wounded.” 24 So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in his second chariot and brought him to Jerusalem. And he died and was buried in the tombs of his fathers. All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. 25 Jeremiah also uttered a lament for Josiah; and all the singing men and singing women have spoken of Josiah in their laments to this day. They made these a rule in Israel; behold, they are written in the Laments. 26 Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, and his good deeds according to what is written in the Law of the Lord, 27 and his acts, first and last, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah” (2 Chronicles 35:19-27 ESV).
The Lamentations of Jeremiah, also called The Lamentations Of Jeremias, Old Testament book belonging to the third section of the biblical canon, known as the Ketuvim, or Writings. In the Hebrew Bible, Lamentations stands with Ruth, the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and Esther and with them makes up the Megillot, five scrolls that are read on various festivals of the Jewish religious year. (source) The book of Lamentations expresses the humiliation, suffering, and despair of Jerusalem and her people following the destruction of the city by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.The book of Lamentations expresses the humiliation, suffering, and despair of Jerusalem and her people following the destruction of the city by the Babylonians in 587 B.C. #bgbg2 #Lament Click To Tweet
The passage reads: “And Jeremiah lamented for Josiah: and all the singing men and the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day, and made them an ordinance in Israel: and, behold, they are written in the lamentations” (2 Chronicles 35:25).
The first time I studied this, about twenty years ago, I wept, lamenting right along with them. I had been rooting for Josiah, a strong believer, to return safely to Israel, so he could continue his reforms. I was stunned when I read that he died in battle. There was so many more of his reforms needed in Israel.
Ezekiel’s ministry was conducted in Jerusalem and in Babylon during the first three decades of the 6th century BC. For Ezekiel and his people, these years were bitter ones because the remnant of the Israelite domain, the little state of Judah, was eliminated by the rising Babylonian empire under Nebuchadrezzar (reigned 605–562 BC). Jerusalem surrendered in 597 BC. Israelite resistance was nevertheless renewed, and in 587–586 B.C. the city was destroyed after a lengthy siege. In both debacles, and indeed again in 582 B.C., large numbers from the best elements of the surviving population were forcibly deported to Babylonia.
Soon thereafter Assyria was completely eliminated, the Egyptians retreated, and Josiah’s son, Jehoiakim, whom Necho had placed on the throne of Judah as a vassal, had to submit to Babylonia, the new Mesopotamian empire.
The Nebuchadnezzar Chronicle, now housed in the British Museum, claims that Nebuchadnezzar, to put an end to the Carchemish battle that had spanned decades, “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, decisively. 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. At that time, Nebuchadnezzar conquered the whole area of Hamath.” Egypt was totally defeated. The Egyptians and the Assyrians together crossed the Euphrates and laid siege to Harran, which they failed to retake. They then retreated to northwestern Assyria in what is now northeastern Syria.
A Lament, Ezekiel 30 (click to read the lament).
In the time of the Battle of Carchemish, in 605 B.C., when the Babylonians decisively defeated the Egyptians and the remnant of the Assyrians, Jeremiah delivered an oracle against Egypt. Realizing that this battle made a great difference in the world situation, Jeremiah soon dictated to his scribe, Baruch, a scroll containing all of the messages he had delivered to this time.
The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the nations. He prophesied about the great battle at Carchemish where the Babylonians, the Egyptians, and Israel met in combat. The scroll was read by Baruch in the Temple.
Subsequently it was read before King Jehoiakim, Josiah’s son, who cut it into pieces and burned it.
When Jehoiakim then withheld tribute from the Babylonians (about 601 B.C.), Jeremiah began to warn the Judaeans that they would be destroyed at the hands of those who had previously been their friends. When the king persisted in resisting payment to Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon moved south from Carchemish with his army to besiege Jerusalem.
“1 This is the word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the nations:
“2 which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah:
“3 “Prepare buckler and shield,
and advance for battle!
“4 Harness the horses;
mount, O horsemen!
Take your stations with your helmets,
polish your spears,
put on your armor!
“5 Why have I seen it?
They are dismayed
and have turned backward.
Their warriors are beaten down
and have fled in haste;
they look not back—
terror on every side!
declares the Lord.
“6 “The swift cannot flee away,
nor the warrior escape;
in the north by the river Euphrates
they have stumbled and fallen.
“7 “Who is this, rising like the Nile,
like rivers whose waters surge?
8 Egypt rises like the Nile,
like rivers whose waters surge.
He said, ‘I will rise, I will cover the earth,
I will destroy cities and their inhabitants.’
9 Advance, O horses,
and rage, O chariots!
Let the warriors go out:
men of Cush and Put who handle the shield,
men of Lud, skilled in handling the bow.
10 That day is the day of the Lord God of hosts,
a day of vengeance,
to avenge himself on his foes.
The sword shall devour and be sated
and drink its fill of their blood.
For the Lord God of hosts holds a sacrifice
in the north country by the river Euphrates.
11 Go up to Gilead, and take balm,
O virgin daughter of Egypt!
In vain you have used many medicines;
there is no healing for you.
12 The nations have heard of your shame,
and the earth is full of your cry;
for warrior has stumbled against warrior;
they have both fallen together.” (Jeremiah 46:1-12)
The reign of Jehoiakim was an active and difficult period in Jeremiah’s life. That king was very different from his father, the reforming Josiah, whom Jeremiah commended for his justice and righteousness. Jeremiah denounced Jehoiakim harshly for his selfishness, materialism, and practice of social injustice.
King Jehoiakim died before the siege began and was succeeded by his son, Jehoiachin, who surrendered the capital to the Babylonians on March 16, 597 B.C., and was taken to Babylonia along with many of his subjects.
The Babylonians placed on the throne of Judah a king favourable to them, Zedekiah (597–586 B.C.), who was more inclined to follow Jeremiah’s counsel than Jehoiakim had been, but who was weak and vacillating, one whose court was torn by conflict between pro-Babylonian and pro-Egyptian parties.
“The city surrendered to the Babylonians on the fifteenth or sixteenth of March 597 B.C. by which time Jehoiachin was king. Significant deportations followed. Although 1-2 Kings does not mention this, the prophet Ezekiel was among the exiles; his prophetic ministry began a few years later in Babylon.“1.
The Babylonians wanted the believing king, who listened to the prophet Jeremiah, rather than the rebellious king, who didn’t. However, after paying Babylonia their tribute for nearly 10 years, Zedekiah foolishly made an alliance with Egypt, as if the Babylonians hadn’t left spies to keep an eye on him. Of course, they had. A second time Nebuchadrezzar sent an army to Jerusalem, which he captured in August 586 B.C. (source).
Jeremiah went into hiding and dictated another scroll, with additions.
“After paying Babylonia tribute for nearly 10 years, the king Zedekiah made an alliance with Egypt. A second time Nebuchadnezzar sent an army to Jerusalem, which he captured in August 586 B.C..”2.
“And in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem and laid siege to it. And they built siegeworks all around it. So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.
On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. . . Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia ransacked the Temple and removed the Temple treasures in 604 B.C. and in 597 B.C., and then he totally destroyed the building in 587/586 B.C.”3.
“This first capture of Jerusalem occurred in 597 B.C., the seventh year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonians Chronicle tells of the king’s army laying siege to Jerusalem, capturing it, and appointing his own king over it. He then took tribute from Judah.”4.
Every year religious Jews in Jerusalem and across the world pray and fast in remembrance of the destruction of the Jewish Temple to God in Jerusalem, first by the Babylonians in 587/586 B.C., resulting in the exile of the inhabitants of the city to Babylon.
What of the people? On March 16, 597 B.C., the Babylonian captivity had begun.
Consider. You had barely come through the famine and fighting of the lean times during the siege.
At the height of the time of starvation, your youngest child was eaten by your neighbors. That had robbed you of your sanity. You had lost your mind, shrieking, screaming, and tearing at your face with your broken nails. Your husband bound you within his strong arms, keeping you from running mad through the city as you wailed for days on end. Tears ran silently down his cheeks.
You were then enslaved by the foreign army, enormous men wearing armor of metal, chaining your ankles to those around you, mostly your family, a long line. Tucked into your garment, you carried with you the random bones of your little one, all that you could find in the dirt of your neighbors’ dooryard.
Your captivity formally ended in 538 B.C., 60 years later, when the Persian conqueror of Babylonia, Cyrus the Great, gave the Jews permission to return to Palestine.
When you were finally able to return, you were aged. Your adult children had been scattered, some into slavery, some into pagan temple service, some you knew not where. The Babylonians, apparently, could do anything, erasing your family and eradicating the evidence, until the Persians routed them.
When you returned, Jerusalem was still in the hands of the Persians.
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