The Babylonian Captivity with Map

Archaeology and the Babylonian Captivity


Archaeological Evidence and the Captivity in Babylon


striding_lion_thumb.jpgThere 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
Neo-Babylonian Period
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
OIM A7481


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
Language: Akkadian
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?"


Jehoiakin Inscription




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).


Eliakim Seal




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.


Gedaliah Seal


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 Stele




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.


Cyrus Cylinder




"...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.


Also See:

Timeline of Events


Map of the Deportation of Judah



The Babylonian Captivity

Bible History Online

The Story of the Bible

Bible History Online (/)



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