Ancient Near East
Images & Art
Maps & Geography
Mythology & Beliefs
People in History
Timelines & Charts
Archaeology and the Babylonian Captivity
Archaeological Evidence and the Captivity in Babylon
There is solid evidence in historical writings and in archaeology for the events involved in the Babylonian Captivity. Among the many archaeological discoveries that confirm the account written in the Bible, here are a few that stand out.
The Lachish Letters
Important light has been revealed regarding the last days of Judah by the discovery in 1935 of eighteen ostraca (clay tablet with writing in ink) written in an ancient cursive script belonging to the seventh century B.C.
They were discovered at Lachish (Tell ed-Duweir) among the ruins of a small guard room just outside the city gate. Then a few years later three inscribed potsherds were also found at the site, and like the others, they contained names and lists from the period just before the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
Most of the letters were dispatches from a Jewish commander named Hoshaiah who was stationed at an outpost north of Lachish, who apparently was responsible for interpreting the signals from Azekah and Lachish during the time when the:
Jer 34:7 "when the king of Babylon's army fought against Jerusalem and all the cities of Judah that were left, against Lachish and Azekah; for only these fortified cities remained of the cities of Judah."
These final communications which mentioned the political and religious turmoil of the last days of Judah reveal the intensity of this time period and confirm that which was written in the Bible by the prophet Jeremiah.
The Babylonian Chronicles
The Babylonian Chronicles make it possible to assign the fall of Jerusalem to the Second of Adar (March 16) in 597 B.C. with complete accuracy, confirming the Biblical accounts of Babylonian attacks on Jerusalem in 597 and 586 B.C.
The Babylonian Chronicle records:
"In the seventh month (of Nebuchadnezzar-599 BC.) in the month Chislev (Nov/Dec) the king of Babylon assembled his army, and after he had invaded the land of Hatti (Syria/Palestine) he laid seige to the city of Judah. On the second day of the month of Adara ( 16th of March) he conquered the city and took the king (Jehoiachin) prisoner. He installed in his place a king (Zedekiah) of his own choice, and after he had received rich tribute, he sent (them) forth to Babylon."
When comparing this text from ancient Babylon with the record of the Babylonian invasion in the Book of II Kings 24:7-17 they demonstrate very clearly the accuracy of the Biblical text.
The Striding Lion
The Striding Lion
Iraq: Babylon, Processional Avenue north of the Ishtar Gate
Reign of Nebuchadnezzar II, ca. 604-562 B.C.
Molded brick with polychrome glaze
90.3 cm H, 230.5 cm W
Purchased in Berlin, 1931
Oriental Institute, Chicago
This colorful striding lion of glazed brick with its mouth opened in a threatening roar, once decorated a side of the 'Processional Way' in ancient Babylon. The 'Processional Way' led out of the city through a massive gate named for the Mesopotamian goddess of love and war, Ishtar, whose symbol was the lion.
No doubt that any of the Jewish captives that entered Babylon would have seen these lions.
The Ishtar Gate
The Ishtar Gate at Babylon
Reconstruction Glazed Brick
Total Height?47 Feet, Width-32 Feet
7th?6th Centuries BC
Dedicator: Nebuchadnezzar II
Date of Excavation: 1899-1914
Staatliche Museen , Berlin
Dept. of the Near East
"Is this not Babylon that I have built?" ?Daniel 4:30
The Ishtar Gate, one of the eight gates of the inner city of Babylon, was built during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II (604- 562 BC). Only the foundations of the gate were found, going down some 45 feet, with molded, unglazed figures. The gateway has been reconstructed in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin, from the glazed bricks found, so its original height is different in size. Reconstructed height is 47 feet.
It was one of the eight gates of the inner city of Babylon. It was built in about 575 BC, the eighth fortified gate in the city. It is one of the most impressive monuments rediscovered in the ancient Near East. The Ishtar gate was decorated with glazed brick reliefs, in tiers, of dragons and young bulls. The gate itself was a double one, and on its south side was a vast antechamber. Through the gatehouse ran a stone-and brick-paved avenue, the so-called Processional Way, which has been traced over a length of more than half a mile.
King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon dedicated the great Ishtar Gate to the goddess Ishtar. It was the main entrance into Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar II performed elaborate building projects in Babylon around 604-562 BC.
The Dedicatory Inscription on the Ishtar Gate reads:
"Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, the faithful prince appointed by the will of Marduk, the highest of princely princes, beloved of Nabu, of prudent counsel, who has learned to embrace wisdom, who fathomed their divine being and reveres their majesty, the untiring governor, who always takes to heart the care of the cult of Esagila and Ezida and is constantly concerned with the well-being of Babylon and Borsippa, the wise, the humble, the caretaker of Esagila and Ezida, the firstborn son of Nabopolassar, the King of Babylon?"
This is one of the clay tablets that reveal the presence of the Judean royal house as prisoners in Babylon. They were excavated from an arched building near the Ishtar Gate of ancient Babylon. The cuneiform texts, which are dated between 595 and 570 B.C., contain lists of rations of barley and oil issued to the captive princes and artisans, including "Yaukin, king of the land of Yahud." This is a direct reference to Jehoiachin, and some of the other tablets also mentioned his 5 sons who accompanied him to Babylon. (Staatliche Museum, Berlin).
This seal bears the inscription "The property of Eliakim, steward of Jehoiakin." It is from Debir (Tell Beit Mirsim) located 13 miles southwest of Hebron. It was excavated by William F. Albright in 1926.
This seal was found at Lachish and bears the inscription "Gedaliah, who is over the house." Gedaliah was the name of the man who the Babylonians had appointed as governor of Judah after the destruction of Jerusalem.
Nabonidus was known to be the king on the throne at the time of the Medo-Persian conquest of Babylon. However, in 1854 archaeologist Sir Henry Rawlinson found an inscription, while excavating at ancient Ur, which stated that Nabonidus associated with him on his throne his eldest son, "Bel-shar-usur", and allowed him the royal title.
"...I am Cyrus. King of the world. When I entered Babylon...I did not allow anyone to terrorize the land...I kept in view the needs of the people and all its sanctuaries to promote their well-being...I put an end to their misfortune. The Great God has delivered all the lands into my hand; the lands that I have made to dwell in a peaceful habitation..."
On the site of Babylon, archaeologists discovered the Cyrus Cylinder, a clay cylinder with inscriptions which record details about the capture of Babylon by the Persian king Cyrus (539 B.C.).
According to the cuneiform on the Cyrus Cylinder, he was favored by Marduk and the other gods who purposed for Nabonidus and Belshazzar to be dethroned and divine help would be given to Cyrus. Cyrus reestablished their religious practices and was a very benevolent and gracious ruler. He was responsible for the return of the Jews to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of their temple.
2 Kings 24:20 "For because of the anger of the LORD this happened in Jerusalem and Judah, that He finally cast them out from His presence"
In the Book of II Kings we read of the deportation of the Jews from their land to the land of Babylon, and then the Book ends 37 years later with the account of Jehoiachin who was blinded and in captivity in Babylon. After 30 years of imprisonment, Evil-merodach ascended the throne of Babylon and at the beginning of his rule he chose to honor the Judean prisoner Jehoiachin. The Jewish king was given appropriate garments and an income and made a member of the court of Babylon, with other deposed kings. This was no doubt a comforting sign to the Jewish captives who were still in the "land of bondage."
In all actuality it was the Lord who had given favor to Jehoiachin, and it was the Lord that had allowed the promised Seed (Messiah) to pass through the loins of Jehoiachin as Matthew states:
11 Josiah begot Jeconiah (Jehoiachin) and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.
12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah (Jehoiachin) begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel.
13 Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor.
14 Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud.
15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob.
16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.
God was faithful to His promises that they would remain in the land of Babylon for seventy years, and the "Son of David" would still come to bring salvation to the world.
Even in bitter captivity there was hope for Godís people, the promises were being fulfilled and the Scriptures continued to be written:
1 By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept When we remembered Zion.
2 We hung our harps Upon the willows in the midst of it.
3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, And those who plundered us requested mirth, Saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"
4 How shall we sing the LORD's song In a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget its skill!
6 If I do not remember you, Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth -- If I do not exalt Jerusalem Above my chief joy.
Places of the Exile
Bible History Online
The Story of the Bible
© Bible History Online (http://www.bible-history.com)
Table of Contents
The Destruction of Jerusalem
The Deportation of Judah
Seventy Years in Babylon
Treatment of the Jews in Babylon
Benefits of the Captivity
Archaeology and Babylon
Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
Timeline of Events
Places of the Exile