Copyright, John T. Stevenson, 2000

The Sumerian period of dominance came to a close with the advent of a group coming in from the west known as the Amorites, literally "westerners." This was in conjunction with a mass of migrations which were all taking place around 2000 B.C.

As a result of these invasions, Mesopotamia was shattered into a mosaic of tiny competing kingdoms. As a rule, these kingdoms were dominated by either Akkadian or Amorite rulers. The Akkadians were highly civilized. The Amorites started as uncultured but soon assimilated the Sumero-Akkadian culture. It was 250 years before one man managed to bring all of Mesopotamia under one rule.



Hammurabi was an Amorite king who came to the throne of Babylon around 1750 B.C. During his 50-year reign, he managed to carve out a small empire that stretched from the Persian Gulf to the borders of Anatolia. He is most famed for his law code.

Code of Hammurabi


A copy first found at Susa


Found in 1902 by de Morgan


Stela of black diorite, topped by a base relief showing Hammurabi before the sun god. Followed by 51 lines of text which form a prologue for the Code.

The law code itself includes nearly 300 paragraphs of legal provisions which set forth the law of Hammurabi. It was not the first of its kind. It borrowed heavily from the old Sumerian legal system. It included the following areas:

1. A Caste System.

The society of that day was divided into three classes: Patrician, serf and slave. The serf was bound to his land which he could not sell and was under obligation to the state.

The penalties differed depending upon who committed the crime and against whom it was committed. Eye for an eye only took place within the same class distinctions.

2. The Death Penalty.

The death penalty was prescribed for theft, murder, adultery, kidnaping, rape, the receipt of stolen property from a temple or a palace, and for a false accusation of a capital crime.

3. Lex Talionis.

Punishment for infractions attempted to be in accordance with the level of the crime ("an eye for an eye"). If a man built a house badly, and it fell and killed the owner, the builder was to be slain. If the owner's son was killed, then the builder's son was slain.

4. Wages were prescribed by the state for workers and craftsmen.

5. Trial by ordeal.

When the witnesses of a law suit could not agree, then the accused was thrown into the Euphrates River. If he drowned, then he was considered to have been guilty (swimming seems to have been an unknown art).

  1. 6. Marriage.

Hammurabi's empire did not continue overlong after his death. His descendants saw the flare of rebellion as both northern and southern provinces regained their independence.



Mari or Tell Hariri is situated on the Euphrates River about fifteen miles north of the present Syria-Iraq border about midway between Babylon and Haran

André Parrot, the chief archaeologist at Mari, conducted digging seasons from 1933-38 and 1951-56. Further work was done by Jean Margueron in 1979.

Over twenty thousand tablets and a number of inscriptions on objects have been unearthed. The language of the texts is Akkadian. The period of the texts covers from 1800-1750 B.C. and comes to a close when Hammurabi conquered the city. Their subject content crosses a wide range of topics, but most deal with financial and business transactions.

1. Biblical Names.

Mari was an Amorite city and, since Amorite is similar to Hebrew, there are a number of names which are similar to the Hebrew names of personages in the Bible.

These names formed by a verb in the imperfect form are very numerous and very typical of Amorite names found at Mari, but are very rare for Canaanite-Phoenician names.

2. Travel and Commerce.

One tablet at Mari entailed a wagon contract. The contract stated that as a condition of rental the wagon must not be driven to the Mediterranean sea. This serves as an indication that such long-distance travel as Abraham undertook was normative.

3. Covenants and Sacrifices.

Mari Tablets


On the west bank of the Euphrates by Tell Hariri


Excavated by the Louvre Museum under Andre Parrot.


20,000 tablets

The Mari tablets describe the sacrifice of a young donkey as part of the ritual for concluding a treaty. The traditional language of "entering into a covenant" was "to kill a young ass" in the Mari texts.



The Bible makes several references to a people known as the Hittites. These passing references depict them as a group of warriors whose coming would strike fear in their enemies. At the same time, we note the loyalty of Uriah the Hittite to David, even though that loyalty was not returned.

The French Encyclopedia of 1871 contained a total of three sentences on the Hittites:

The Hittites: A Canaanite tribe encountered in Palestine by the Israelites, resident and along side the Amorites in the region of Bethel. They were pressed into service by Solomon. Still later, however, an independent and monarchically governed Hittite tribe existed nearer Syria. (Meyers Neus Konversationislexikon, 1871).

This stood in complete contrast to the Biblical reference in 2 Kings 7:6 which implied that the Hittites were a mighty warrior race comparable to Egypt. As a result, secular scholars attacked and ridiculed the Bible as being a book of myths and fairytales. Then in the late 19th century, a discovery was made which was to rock the archaeological world.

1. Charles Felix-Marie Texier.

Texier was a French explorer who received permission from the Turkish government to explore the wilds of central Anatolia. He was searching for the ancient city of Taviurn which had been built by the Gauls in the days of the Romans. Hie expedition set out on July 18, 1834.

a. Ruins at Boghazkoy.

In the course of his travels, Texier came to a small village called Boghazkoy, about 90 miles east of Ankara.

When he asked the villagers if there were any ruins in the neighborhood, he was told to look in the hills above the village.

One of the villagers guided him up into the hills. There, he came upon huge blocks of stone which had once formed the foundations of a building. Walking a little further, he came to a massive wall which stretched on for miles.

He finally reached a vantage point from which he could see the entire complex. He realized that he had discovered a huge city as large as Athens at the height of her glory.

b. Conclusions.

Texier returned to France where he published a book on his findings. He described the ancient ruins and the massive size of the stones and concluded that this was the lost city of Tavium.

However, after the book had been written and published, he reviewed his notes and stated that he had been wrong and that the ruins at Boghazkoy could not have been Tavium.

This came as something of an embarrassment to scholars since here was an entire city with carvings and inscriptions that no one knew about. By all rights, the city should not have been there.

2. Archibald Henry Sayce (1845-1933).

In 1879, a British scholar, Oxford professor and Bible student named Sayce examined the ruins in Anatolia. He concluded that these had all been built by the Biblical Hittites which made up a great Hittite Empire.

All of the archaeologists and historians of that day rose up in opposition against Sayce. Sayce and his handful of followers (mostly Bible-believers) were ridiculed. In the face of strong criticism, Sayce and his followers began to look for further evidence of this city belonging to the Hittites. They discovered several facts:

a. Assyrian documents.

They found Assyrian documents which repeatedly spoke of their invasions into the land of "Hatti."

b. Egyptian writings.

Egyptian inscriptions made several references to battles against the "Heta." At Tell el-Amarna a treaty was found between Rameses 2nd of Egypt and Hattusilis 3rd from "Heta."

However, archaeologists and historians continued to dispute Sayce and explain these items away.

3. Hugo Winckler was a specialist in ancient languages, not a professional archaeologist.

a. First expedition.

In 1905, he led an expedition to Boghazkoy. He stayed only three days that then had to leave, due to the early seasonal rains. In those three days, he had found 30 fragments of clay tablets.

b. Second expedition.

Winckler returned to Boghazkoy the next year. Although he was an excellent language expert, he was only an amateur archaeologist. The result was that these excavations were carried out in a very unscientific manner.

Winckler would sit in his tent all day while hired Turkish natives would bring in fragments of inscriptions. Winckler would then either translate it, or if the language was unknown, he would put it to the side for later study.

One day, Winckler's assistant followed an unsuspecting native to see where he was finding these inscription fragments. The native traveled over a winding mountain path, eventually coming to a large clearing. There, he saw the native walk over to a long row of perfectly good tablets, pick out a few, and break them up with his axe. Loading the fragments into his wheelbarrow, he took them back to Winckler.

In spite of these crude methods used in obtaining the inscriptions, much progress was made.

c. Breakthrough.

On the 20th day of the expedition, Winckler was brought a complete tablet written in Akkadian, a language which he could easily read.

The tablet contained a treaty between Rameses 2nd and Hattusilis. It was almost an exact duplicate of the treaty which had been found at Tell el-Amarna in Egypt.

This proved that there had been a Hittite Empire which had been comparable to Egypt in strength. Once again, the truths of the Bible had been substantiated by the findings of archaeology.

4. Hittites in Babylon.

We know today that around 1600 B.C. the Hittite king Mursilis led his army all the way to Babylon and conquered that city. They did not retain their control and soon packed up their loot and returned to their own country.



The Assyrians settled in the northeastern area of Mesopotamia which lies around the banks of the Tigris River. In contrast to southern Mesopotamia which is full of marshy reeds and swamp lands, this is a high plateau, broken up by small river valleys. The summers are blistering hot and the winters of this land are very cold.

Early Assyrian Period

1750-2000 B.C.

Kassites dominate Babylon

Kingdom of Mitanni (Hurrians) in northwest Mesopotamia uses the spoked chariot to become strong, but eventually conquered by Hittites.

Dark Ages

1200-900 B.C.

Introduced by a new wave of migrations; Hittite Kingdom falls, Sea People invade Egypt.

Assyrian military machine introduce cavalry with stunning success.

Neo-Assyrian Empire

900-626 B.C.

Assyria expands her borders to take in all of Mesopotamia. Provides a constant threat to the kingdoms along the Levant.

  • Aram
  • Israel
  • Judah

Fall of Assyria

626-612 B.C.

Assyria entered an era of decline and was set upon by a coalition from Media, Scythia and Babylon.

1. A Literary People.

The Assyrians were writers and story tellers. Our best copies of the Gilgamesh Epic come from the libraries of Assyria.

2. The Assyrian Eponym Lists.

The Assyrians kept detailed historical records, giving a name to each year. It was the custom to name the year after an officer of the state. It could be the king or it could be some other high ranking officer. The man thus honored would be the EPONYM and the year named for him would be the eponym year.

The Assyrians also recorded the advent of celestial phenomenon such as solar eclipses, tallying them with their eponym years. This has been a blessing to archaeologists and historians as it has allowed them to pinpoint exact dates in historical chronology.

3. The Assyrian Military Machine.

The Assyrians were renown for their military prowess. Reared in an invigorating climate and schooled for a thousand years by constant warfare, they made formidable soldiers.

    1. Foot soldiers:
    2. They were equipped with a curved bow from which they shot short arrows. They also carried a sword and an iron-tipped lance which served as a javelin.

    3. Chariots:
    4. While the Assyrians had chariots, they did not use them to the same effect as the Hittites. Chariots were usually reserved for nobility.

    5. Cavalry:
    6. The Assyrians had learned of the value of cavalry from the Scythians - barbarian horsemen to the north. They utilized mounted archers and swordsmen, riding small horses with neither stirrups nor saddles.

    7. Terror tactics:

The idea of terror-tactics was to so demoralize the enemy with fear of the cruelty of the Assyrians that they would submit rather than fight. Unfortunately, it often had the opposite result. Knowing the torture, mutilation and death that they would face if they lost a battle, Assyria's enemies were often ready to fight to the death rather than to submit.

"I built a pillar over against his city gate and I flayed all the chief men... and I covered the pillar with their skins; some I walled up within the pillar, some I impaled upon the pillar on stakes... and I cut off the limbs of the officers... Many captives from among them I burned with fire... From some I cut off their hands and their fingers and from others I cut off their noses, their ears... of many I put out their eyes... their young men and maidens I burned in the fire." - Assurnasipal 11.

4. Notable Kings of Assyria.




Tiglath-Pileser I


Conquered most of Syria, Urartu and Babylon. Took tribute from Sidon and Byblos.

The kings which followed him did not follow in his conquests and the empire went into a period of decline.

Adad-Nirari II


Brought Assyria back as a local power.

Assurnasirpal II


Marched all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.

Shalmaneser III


Fought a coalition at Qarqar which included Ahab of Israel and Ben-hadad of Damascus.

He later lay siege to Damascus but was unable to take the city.

Shamshi-Adad V


(Jonah revival?)

Adad-Nirari III


Assyrian trend toward monotheism (brought about by Jonah?).

Besieged Damascus, but did not take the city.

These attacks on Syria were beneficial to Israel and allowed Jeroboam II to expand his kingdom.

Shalmaneser IV

Ashur-Dan III

Ashur-Nirari V




All three of these kings were brothers; sons of Adad-Nirari III. Under their reign, Assyria gradually gave up all her foreign possessions.

Tiglath-Pileser III


His name was originally "Pul."

He gained the throne via assassination.

Conquered Merodach-baladan of Babylon.

Raided Galilee (2 Kings 15:29).

Bribed by Ahaz of Judah to attack Aram (2 Kings 16:7-10).

Inaugurated regular system of deportation of conquered peoples.

Shalmaneser V


At the beginning of his reign, Hoshea of Israel entered into an alliance with Egypt against Assyria.

Shalmaneser besieged Samaria for three years.

Sargon II


Younger brother of Shalmaneser V. Completed conquest of Samaria and deported 10 tribes into captivity.

Captured Ashdod.

Built capital city of Khorsabad.



Younger brother of Sargon II, took throne when his brother was assassinated.

Besieged Jerusalem, but failed to capture it in the days of Hezekiah (2 Kings 19).

Assassinated (2 Kings 19:37).



Invaded Egypt.

Imprisoned Manasseh, king of Judah.



Scholar-king; collected a library of over 6000 cuneiform texts.

5. The Fall of Assyria.

The Old Testament prophets foretold the fall of Assyria, predicting that their capital city of Nineveh would be so completely destroyed that even her location would be forgotten.

"Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hands is My indignation." (Isaiah 10:5).

And He will stretch out His hand against the north and destroy Assyria, and He will make Nineveh a desolation, parched like the wilderness.

And flocks will lie down in her midst, all beasts which range in herds; both the pelican and the hedgehog will lodge in the tops of her pillars; birds will sing in the window, desolation will be on the threshold; for He has laid bare the cedar work.

This is the exultant city which dwells securely, who says in her heart, "I am, and there is no one besides me." How she has become a desolation, a resting place for beasts! For everyone who passes by her will hiss and wave his hand in contempt. (Zephaniah 2:13-15).

This fall which was promised by the prophets came to pass within a single generation. It began with an alliance of two of Assyria's traditional enemies, Nabopolassar of Babylon and Cyaxeres of the Medes. In 614 B.C. they sealed their alliance by the marriage of their children.

The Assyrians sought aid from the Scythians to the north and the Scythians initially agreed to attack the Medes. But when Cyaxeres offered them a portion of the spoils of Nineveh, the Scythians changed sides and all three groups converged on the Assyrians. The city fell to this coalition in the summer of 612 B.C. Remnants of the Assyrian military retreated westward to Haran and from there to Carchemish.

The Assyrians formed an alliance with Pharaoh Necho of Egypt who agreed to come to their aid at Carchemish. Josiah was ruling in Jerusalem at this time and he was determined to stop help from coming to the beleaguered Assyrians. Going against the advice of Jeremiah, he intercepted Pharaoh Necho at Megiddo, but was defeated and killed in the ensuing battle. Pharaoh Necho continued unimpeded to link up with the Assyrians at Carchemish. The battle which was fought there in 605 B.C. is one of the classic military engagements of history. The winner of this conflict was the young Babylonian prince Nebuchadnezzar.



His name is Akkadian, Nebo-kudurri-ussur, meaning "Nebo has protected my inheritance." Of his early life, we know almost nothing. He was the eldest son of Nabopolassar, and was described as a very tall, very strong man.

We have already mentioned that when Nabopolassar allied himself with the Medians, the alliance was cemented by a marriage between Nebuchadnezzar and the daughter of Cyaxeres.

However, his greatest claim to fame was in the area of the military. He would demonstrate his genius in this area throughout his career.

1. The Battle of Carchemish (605 B.C.).

Nebuchadnezzar met the Assyrian-Egyptian Alliance at Carchemish in 605 B.C. This ancient Hittite city guarded the major ford across the Euphrates River.

In the twenty first year the king of Akkad stayed in his own land. Nebuchadnezzar, his eldest son, the crown-prince, mustered and took command of his troops; he marched to Carchemish which is on the banks of the Euphrates and crossed the river to go against the Egyptian army which lay in Carchemish. (Chronicles Tablet 21946, British Museum).

He seems to have crossed the Euphrates River unopposed, a feat that is surprising because Carchemish guarded the river fords. It is possible that Nebuchadnezzar's advance was unexpected and that his attack came as a surprise to the Egyptians.

2. Nebuchadnezzar in Palestine.

Prince Nebuchadnezzar pursued the Egyptian forces all the way down to Palestine, encountering no serious resistance along the way.

And the king of Egypt did not come out of his land again, for the king of Babylon had taken all that belonged to the king of Egypt from the brook of Egypt to the river Euphrates. (2 Kings 24:7).

As Nebuchadnezzar arrived in Canaan, he called for Jehoiakim, king of Judah, to swear allegiance to him and pay a tribute. Jehoiakim complied and was permitted to retain his throne.

Nebuchadnezzar also took hostages from among the Hebrew nobility at this time. Among these hostages were Daniel and his three friends, Hannaniah, Mishael and Azariah. We know them by their Babylonian names: Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego. His plan in taking these hostages was that they be indoctrinated into Chaldean culture so that they could he future leaders of their people who would be loyal to Chaldean rule.

3. Ascent to the Throne.

It was while he was here that Nebuchadnezzar received news that his father had died in Babylon. Taking only a small cavalry contingent, Nebuchadnezzar took the quickest route back to Babylon, taking a short-cut through the Syrian Desert and arriving at the capital in 23 days.

Arriving in Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar ascended to the throne on the same day and was immediately recognized as king.

4. Campaigns in Syria.

Within a month, Nebuchadnezzar returned to continue his campaigns in Syria, collecting heavy tributes from each of the kingdoms in the area. The Philistine city of Ashkelon held out the longest, but it was eventually captured and reduced to rubble.

5. War with Egypt (601 B.C.).

After several years of fighting, the Syrian frontier was thoroughly subdued, leaving Nebuchadnezzar free to invade Egypt. The two armies clashed on the Egyptian frontier and the outcome of the battle was indecisive with each side inflicting heavy casualties upon the other. As a result, Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon to regroup and strengthen his forces.

6. Judah's Rebellion (597 B.C.).

Jehoiakim of Judah saw this and interpreted it as a defeat for Nebuchadnezzar. He promptly rebelled and allied himself with the Egyptians. Retribution from Babylon was quick in coming.

In the seventh year, the month of kislev, the king of Akkad mustered his troops, marched to Hatti-land, and encamped against the city of Judah and on the second day of the month of Adar he seized the city and captured the king. (Chronicles Tablet 21946, British Museum).

In 597 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar marched west into Syria and down into Judah. He captured Jerusalem, threw Jehoiakim into chains, and placed his 16 year old son Jehoiachin on the throne. Then he marched south to deal with Egypt. While Nebuchadnezzar was in Egypt, the young Jewish King Jehoiachin foolishly rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar returned, took Jerusalem, and took Jehoiachin, his family, servants and princes, threw them into chains, and marched them away to Babylon.

This second deportation was made up of about 10, 000 of the nobles of Judah. Among them was the prophet Ezekiel.

7. Zedekiah in Judah.

Having deposed Jehoiachin, Nebuchadnezzar now placed Zedekiah, uncle to Jehoiachin, upon the throne of Judah.

Zedekiah was constantly vacillating between Egypt and Babylon. In 593 B.C. when Pharaoh Necho died, representatives from the city-states of Edom, Moab, Ammon and Tyre met in Jerusalem, hoping that the new Egyptian ruler would join them in a new rebellion against Babylon.

However, the new pharaoh, Psammetichus II, adopted a policy of non-interference. The plot against Babylon left Zedekiah on the spot and he had to travel to Babylon where he swore allegiance once again to Nebuchadnezzar.

8. Second Revolt in Judah (587 B.C.).

In 588 B.C. Psammetichus II died and Pharaoh Hophra (Apries) came to the throne of Egypt. He immediately persuaded the countries of Palestine to join him in a revolt against Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar assembled his army and invaded Palestine, setting up his headquarters at Riblah on the Orontes River. From there, he launched simultaneous invasions of Judah, Ammon, Edom and Tyre with a small reconaissance patrol to the Egyptian border.

Judah was quickly overrun except for the cities of Jerusalem, Lachish and Eziekah. The siege of Jerusalem was temporarily interrupted when Pharaoh Hophra led the Egyptian army up into Palestine in an attempt to relieve Tyre and Sidon.

Meanwhile, Pharaoh's army had set out from Egypt; and when the Chaldeans who had been besieging Jerusalem heard the report about them, they lifted the siege from Jerusalem. (Jeremiah 37:5).

As Pharaoh Hophra marched up along the Way of the Philistines, the Chaldeans who had been besieging Jerusalem pulled out and hit the Egyptians on their right flank, driving them back into Egypt. Having defeated the Egyptian threat, they returned to Jerusalem.

9. The Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.).

On July 10, 586 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar's forces broke through the northern wall of Jerusalem. It would be another month before the southern wall could be taken.

During this siege, Zedekiah and the remnants of his arruty broke out of Jerusalem and fled east toward Jericho, only to be captured and brought to Riblah where Nehuchadnezzar still maintained his headquarters.

Zedekiah... fled out of the city, through the fortified ditch, and through the desert; and when certain of the deserters had informed the Babylonians of this, at break of day, they made haste to pursue after Zedekiah and overtook him not far from Jericho... When he was come, Nebuchadnezzar began to call him a wicked wretch and a covenant-breaker and one that had forgotten his former words, when he promised to keep the country for himi (Antiquities 10:8:2).

Zedekiah was forced to watch his sons being executed and then his eyes were put out. He was thrown into chains to be dragged back to Babylon where he would die in prison.

By August of 586 B.C. Jerusalem belonged to the Babylonians. The vast majority of survivors were herded together and led across the Syrian Desert in a 22-day death march. One Jewish tradition has it that the 22 divisions of Psalm 119 correspond to these 22 days.

The Southern Kingdom of Judah had ceased to exist. Jerusalem was burned and the walls of the city were torn down. All military, civil and religious leaders were either executed or carried away into captivity. Only the poorest of the peasants of Judah were allowed to remain in the land that was by now completely desolate.

The treasures of the temple were plundered and the temple itself was destroyed. It is interesting that, of the temple vessels and utensils, the Ark of the Covenant is not mentioned, save for a single reference in Jeremiah.

"And it shall be in those days when you are multiplied and increased in the land," declares the Lord, "they shall say no more, 'The ark of the covenant of the Lord.'" And it shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they miss it, nor shall it be made again. (Jeremiah 3:16).

The implication of this passage is that the Ark either had already been or was soon to be taken from the Temple and lost. The Ark was still in the Temple during Josiah's reign (2 Chronicles 35:3), so it must have been removed after Josiah.

10. Gedaliah.

To maintain order over the desolate country, Nebuchadnezzar appointed a Jewish noble named Gedaliah. A seal which has been discovered at Lachish indicates that he had served as the chief minister on Zedekiah's cabinet. His family had evidently been pro-Chaldean and friendly to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 26:24). He was given command of a Babylonian garrison at Mizpah.

Nebuchadnezzar had underestimated the poor of Judah. Once again they rose up, killing Gedaliah and wiping out the Babylonian garrison. In 582 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar made another march to Palestine and another deportation left the land almost unpopulated. Refugees from this incidenb fled to Egypt. Jewish tradition has it that Jeremiah was taken along to Egypt at this time.



The city of Babylon now became the center of the ancient world. Not only was it the center of government, but it was the center of trade and culture as well.

1. Physical Description of the City.

Herodotus, writing 150 years after Nebuchadnezzar, tells us that the city of Babylon was a vast square in design, each side having a length of 14 miles and making a complete circuit of 56 miles. He adds that the walls of the city were 300 feet high and were so wide that three chariots could race along the top side by side.

The Euphrates River ran straight through the center of the city. The banks of the river were lined with brick and large gates crossed the river where it entered and exited from the city.

A large part of the city was given over to farmland. With both a food and water supply, Babylon could withstand a siege indefinitely.

2. The Defenses of the City.

Herodotus states that the outer wall of the city was 300 feet high and 80 feet thick. Surrounding this outer wall was a huge moat which was fed through canals from both the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers.

Around the center of the city was a second double-wall. If an invader managed to pass the outer wall and thcn also passed through the inner wall, he would find himself within a narrow space between the first and second inner wall which could be flooded in times of emergency.

3. The Hanging Gardens.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were considered by the Greeks to be one of the seven wonders of the world. They were 400 feet square and were raised on terraces one above the other to the height of the city wall. Viewed from a distance, they had the appearance of a forest-covered mountain, standing in marked contrast to the level plains of the Mesopotamian Valley.

It is said that Nebuchadnezzar built the Gardens for his wife, Amyhia, the daughter of Cyaxeres, the king of the Medes. The Gardens were to relieve her homesickness for the mountains of her native Media.

In order to maintain the exotic plants of the Gardens under the blazing sun of the Babylonian plains, a powerful pump was built inside the terraced wall which kept a steady flow of water, insuring that the soil was always moist.

4. Temples.

Under Nebuchadnezzar, every temple in Babylon was rebuilt. He lists eight which were built within the city itself.

The greatest of all was the Temple of Bal-Merodach. It stood in a square enclosure with each side measuring 1200 feet and entered by 12 gates. In the middle rose a tower of solid brick, like a pyramid. The sanctuary on the top rose in eight stories and was 300 feet high.



We have already noted that Daniel was one of the young nobles who was taken as a hostage to Babylon. He and his companions rose to positions of some prominence in the empire.

1. Nebuchadnezzar's Dreams.

Daniel had not been in Babylon very long when he was called upon to interpret a prophetic dream that Nebuchadnezzar had. The dream pictured Nebuchadnezzar as a great empire-builder who would lead the way in a number of successive world empires which would culminate in the god of heaven establishing an eternal kingdom. After this time, Daniel was promoted to the position of prefect over all of the wise men of Babylon.

2. The Image of Gold.

Daniel 3 relates an account of how Nebuchadnezzar had a great statue made of himself, standing 90 feet high. He mandated that, at appointed times, this statue be accorded worship.

When Daniel's three friends refused to partake in this idolatry, Nebuchadnezzar ordered their execution. They were thrown into a furnace of fire, but miraculously survived when there appeared with them "one like a son of the gods" (Hebrew of Daniel 3:25).

Archaeology has demonstrated several great images of Nebuchadnezzar. That none remain which are of gold should not surprise us. Such a valuable item would have long since been melted down for its valuable ore.

The use of a firey furnace has an Assyrian counterpart in the days of Ashurbanipal, whose brother, Shamash-shumukin, was put to death in such a furnace.

3. Nebuchadnezzar's Madness.

Daniel 4 relates an account of Nebuchadnezzar being striken with madness for a period of time lasting "seven times" (the Chaldean word iddan).

The fact that no ancient inscription testifies to such an incident in the life of Nebuchadnezzar has given critics of the Bible some ammunition. However, several important factors need to be considered.

    1. The scarcity of reliable information.

The official records that we have from Nebuchadnezzar's career have some noteable gaps and could easily accomodate such a period, whether it was seven months or seven years. Even if those records were extant, it is doubtful whether they would have included this dark episode in Nebuchadnezzar's reign.

b. The Nabonidus prayer.

Found among the Dead Sea Scrolls was an Ararnaic document known as the "Prayer of Nabonidus." It reads as follows:

The words of the prayer made by Nabonidus, king of Assyria and Babylon, the great king, when he was smitten with a malignant disease, by the decree of the Most High God in the town of Tima. I was smitten with a malignant disease for a period of seven years, and became unlike men. But when I had confessed my sins and faults, God sent me a magician. He was a Jew from among those exiled in Babylon. He gave his explanation, and wrote an order that honor and great glory should be given to the Name of the Most High God. And thus he wrote: While you were smitten with a malignant disease in the town of Teima by decree of the Most High God, you prayed for seven years to gods of silver and gold, or bronze, iron, wood, stone and clay..." (Translated by J. T. Milik, Ten Years of Discovery in the Wilderness of Judea, Pages 36-37).

The fact that Nabonidus is substituted for Nebuchadnezzar should not surprise us when we consider that Herodotus used the same name for both of these men. Indeed, it is likely that Nabonidus adopted the additional name of Nebuchadnezzar in order to further legitimize his right to the throne. This would have added to future confusion between these two rulers.



The Babylonian Empire reached its zenith under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. Only 23 years after his death, Babylon would fall to Cyrus the Great and the Babylonian Empire would cease to exist.






Greatest king of Neo-Babylonian Empire.

Dealings with Israel and with Daniel.

Amel-Marduk (Evil-Merodach)


Son of Nebuchadnezzar




Brother of Amel-Marduk. Murdered his brother to take the throne



Son of Nergal-shar-usur only reigned a few months.

Nabunaid (Nabonidus)


One of the conspirators who overthrew Labashi-Marduk.

1. Amel-Marduk (562-560 B.C.).

Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 B.C. leaving three sons and a. daughter. Amel-Marduk took the throne at the death of his father. He is described by Josephus as a tyrranical ruler who had no respect for the laws of his people. On the other hand, he released Jehoiachin, the dethroned king of Judah, from prison and elevated him to a respected position within Babylon (Jeremiah 52:31-34).

After a short reign of only two years, he was assassinated by his brother-in-law, Neriglissar, who now took the throne.

2. Neriglissar (560-556 B.C.).

Neriglissar had been a commander in Nebuchadnezzar s army (He is referred to as Nergil-sharezer in Jeremiah 39:3, 13). He led the armies of Babylon in a raid of Cilicia on the southeastern edge of Anatolia, culminating in the invasion of Pitusu, a island just off the Mediterranean Coast.

However, the Empire was suffering from a rising economic inflation, made worse by the heavy taxation required for the great building projects.

3. Larbashi-Marduk (556 B.C.).

Larbashi-Marduk was very young when he came to the throne. He reigned for only nine months before he was murdered. This time, a successor who was satisfactory to the priests of Babylon was chosen to serve as the king.


NABONIDUS (556-539 B.C.)

Nabonidus was the only son of Nabu-balatu-iqbi, governor of Haran. His mother was a priestess of the moon god, Sin. The fact that he was married to one of Nebuchadnezzar's daughters made him politically acceptable. He was nearly 70 years old when he came to the throne.

1. Archaeological Interests.

Nabonidus seems to have spent most of his time excavating the ruins of ancient temples and then rebuilding them. He was so completely taken up with this quest that he neglected the rulership of his kingdom.

Many years later, almost all of the desert communities which Nabonidus mentions in his inscriptions are found to contain small colonies of Jews. (James Newsome, By the Waters of Babylon; 1979; Page 109).

We do not know the significance of this Jewish presence in the colonies which Nabonidus frequented. It is interesting that he fell out of favor with the pagan priests of Babylon during this time.

2. Co-Regency with Belshazzar.

The book of Daniel describes the last king of Babylon prior to the coming of the Persians as being Belshazzar. For many years critics of the Bible pointed to this as being an error in the Scriptures. But today we know differently.

Nabonidus had a son named Belshazzar. In 554 B.C. this son was made co-regent of Babylon and left in control of the city while Nabopolassar left for a nine-year archaeology expedition. This is why Belshazzar can offer Daniel the position of "the third ruler in the kingdom" (Daniel 5:16).

Belshazzar proved to be a very poor ruler and Babylon s economic problems became steadily worse. Nabonidus returned to Babylon in 545 B.C. where he continued his temple reconstructions (to the delight of the priests at Babylon).

3. The Rise of Cyrus.

Meanwhile, a young man by the name of Cyrus had succeeded in welding the two kingdoms of Media and Persia together into a united alliance under his rule. From this base he had moved out and captured the Kingdom of Lydia in Central Anatolia.

After this, many of the smaller kingdoms which made up the Babylonian Empire began to defect and give their loyalty to Cyrus. It was only a matter of time before Cyrus marched on the city of Babylon.

With Cyrus preparing his forces for an attack on Babylon, Nabonidus decided that it might be a good time to go on another archaeological expedition, this time to Borsiiypa, about 30 miles to the south of Babylon. Nabonidus left his son, Belshazzar, in charge of Babylon.



Belshazzar was the son of Nabonidus and the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar through his mother. Historical accounts describe him as a proud, cruel man.

On a hunting trip, one of Belshazzar's nobles was the first to bag his limit. This made the king so mad that he drew his sword and killed the nobleman on the spot. This set a precedent which caused manly hunters throughout the Babylonian Empire to pretend poor marksmanship.

On another occasion, Belshazzar hosted a party similar to the orgy described in Daniel 5. During the party, a young man named Gadates was admired by one of the king s concubines. For this offense, the man was taken out and castrated.

In 539 B.C. one of the general of Cyrus named Gobryas led an army against the city of Babylon. Belshazzar was confident in the ability of the fortifications of the city to stand up to any attack and the city was stocked with enough supplies to last a 10-year siege.

1. Belshazzar's Party.

With an army completely surrounding his city, Belshazzar decided to throw a party. Only this time, he had the vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple brought in.

Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God which was in Jerusalem; and the king and his nobles, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. (Daniel 5:3).

As these Temple vessels were brought in, Belshazzar and his friends drank to their gods of Babylon. In effect, they were committing blasphemy against the God of Israel. Because of this, God stepped into the picture.

2. The Handwriting on the Wall.

In the midst of the festivities, a hand appeared and wrote four words on the wall. The mood of the party was instantly changed and Belshazzar commanded that all of the astrologers and priests be brought in to interpret these words.

When the priests and astrologers were unable to help, Belshazzar's mother, Queen Nitocris, came to the Regent and advised him to seek out the Jewish prince Daniel who had interpreted the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar.

When Daniel was brought in, he told Belshazzar that the writing was a prophecy that God had judged Belshazzar because of his pride and would give his kingdom to the Medes and Persianis.

3. The Fall of Babylon.

The Cyrus Cylinder gives and abreviated account of the fall of Babylon to Cyrus and that it was accomplished without siege or fighting.

Marduk, the Great Lord, a protector of his people, beheld with pleasure his [Cyrus] good deeds and his upright heart and ordered him to march against his city Babylon. He made him set out on the road to Babylon going at his side like a real friend. His widespread troops - their number, like that of the waters of a river, could not be established - strolled along, their weapons parked away. Without any battle, he made him enter his city Babylon, sparing Babylon any calamity.

Xenophon relates an account of how Gobryas, one of Cyrus' lieutenants, succeeded in damming up the Euphrates River. His army marched down the dry riverbed and into the city where they were able to capture the city gates and open them, admitting the entire Median-Persian Army.

And when Gadates and his men saw the gates open they dashed in pursuit of the others as they fled back into the palace, and dealing blows right and left they came into the presence of the king; and they found him already risen with his dagger in his hand. And Gadates and Gobryas and their followers overpowered him; and those about the king perished also, one where he had sought some shelter, another while running away, another while actually trying to defend himself with whatever he could. (Xeniophon's Cvropaedia, written about 370 B.C.).

Belshazzar was killed in his palace only a few hours after Daniel had prophesied his end.

And when day dawned and those in possession of the citadels discovered that the city was taken and the king slain, they surrendered the citadels, too. (Xenophon).

Nabonidus was arrested within several days and kept in exile for the remainder of his life. The Babylonian Empire had passed from the scene, never to appear again.

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