Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/224

This page needs to be proofread.




of Jeremias the Prophet, Jehoiakim refused tribute, i. e. rebelled against Babj'lon. At first Nabucho- donosor II began a small guerilla warfare against Jerusalem; then, in 597 b. c, he dispatched a con- siderable army, and after a while began the siege in person. Jechonias, however, son of Jehoiakim, who as a lad of eighteen had succeeded his father, sur- rendered; 7000 men capable of bearing arms and 1000 workers in iron were carried away and made to form a colony on a canal near Nippur (the River Chobar mentioned in Ezechiel, i, 1), and Zedekias was sub- stituted for Jechonias as vassal Iving of Juda.

Some ten years later Nabuchodonosor once more found liimself in Palestine. Hophra, King of Egypt, who had succeeded Necho II in 589 b. c, had by se- cret agents tried to combine all the Syrian States in a conspiracy against Babylon. Edom, Moab, Amnion, Tyre, and Sidon had entered into the coalition, and at last even Juda had joined, and Zedekias, against the advice of Jeremias, broke his oath of allegiance to the Chaldeans. A Babylonian army began to siu-- round Jerusalem in 587 b. c. They were unable to take the city by storm and intended to subdue it by starvation. But Pharao Hophra entered Palestine to help the besieged. The Babylonians raised the siege to drive the Egyptians back; they then returned to Jerusalem and continued the siege in grim ear- nest. On July the 9th, 586 B. c, they poured in through a breach in the wall of Ezekias and took the city by storm. They captured the flying Zedekias and brought him before Nabuchodonosor at Riblah, where his cliildren were slain before him and his eyes blinded. The city was destroyed, and the temple treasures carried to Babylon. A vast number of the population was deported to some districts in Baby- lonia, a miserable remnant only was allowed to remain under a Jewish governor, Godolias. When this gov- ernor was slain by a Jewish faction under Ishmael, a fraction of this remnant, fearing Nabuchodonosor 's ^\Tath, emigrated to Egypt, forcibly taking Jeremias the Prophet vnth tliera.

Babylon's expedition to Juda thus ended in leav- ing it a devastated, depopulated, ruined district. Nabuchodonosor now turned his arms against Tyre. After Egj-pt this city had probably been the main- spring of the coalition against Babylon. The pun- ishment intended for Tyre was the same as that of Jerusalem, but Nabuchodonosor did not succeed as he did with tlie capital of Juda. The position of Tyre was immeasurably superior to that of Jerusalem. The Babylonians had no fleet; therefore, as long as the sea remained open, Tyre was impregnable. The Chaldeans lay before TjTe thirteen years (585-572), but did not succeed in taking it. Ethobaal II, its king, seems to have come to terms with the King of Babylon, fearing, no doubt, the slow but sure de- struction of Tyrian inland trade; at least we have evi- dence, from a contract-tablet dated in TjTe, that Nabuchodonosor at the end of his reign was recog- nized as suzerain of the city. Notwithstanding the little success against Tyre, Nabuchodonosor attacked Egypt in 567. He entered the very heart of the country, ravaged and pillaged as he chose, appar- ently without opposition, and returned laden with booty through tlie SjTian Provinces. But no per- man(?nt Egyptian occupation by Babylon was the result.

Thus Nabuchodonosor the Chaldean showed him- self a capable military ruler, yet as a Babylonian monarch, following the custom of his predecessors, he gloried not in the arts of war, but of peace. His boast was the vast building operations which made Babylon a city (for those days) impregnable, which adorned the capital with palaces, and the famous "proce.ssion road", and Gate of Ishtar, and which restored and beautified a great number of temples in different towns of Babylonia. Of Nabuchodonosor's

madness (Daniel, iv, 26-34) no Babylonian record has; as yet been found. A number of ingenious sugges- tions have been made on this subject, one of the best of which is Professor Hommel's substitution of Nabu- naid for Nabu-chodonosor, but the matter had better stand over till we possess more information on this period. Of the prophet Daniel we find no certain men- tion in contemporary documents; the prophet's Baby- lonian name, Baltassar (Balatsu-usur), is unfortu- nately a very common one. We know of at least fourteen persons of that time called Balatu and seven called Balatsu, both of which names may be abbre- viations of Balta.ssar, or " Protect His life". The ety- mology of Sidrach and Misacli is unkno'mi, but Abed- nego and Arioch (Abdnebo and Eriaku) are well known. Professor J. Oppert found the base of a great statue near a mound called Duair, east of Babylon, and this may have belonged to the golden image erected "in the plain of Dura of the province of Babylon" (Dan., in, 1). In 561 B. c, Nabucho- donosor was succeeded by Evil-Merodach (IV Ivings, XXV, 27), who released Joacliin of Juda and raised him above the other vassal kings at Babylon, but liis mild rule e\'idently displeased the priestly caste, and they accused him of reigning lawlessly and ex- travagantly. After less than three years he was as- sassinated by Neriglissar(Nergal-sar-usur), his brother- in-law, who is possibly the Nergalsharezer present at the taking of Jerusalem (Jer., xxxix, 3-13). Neri- glissar was after four years succeeded by his son Labasi-Marduk, no more than a child, who reigned nine months and was assassinated.

The conspirators elected Nabonidus (Nabu-na'id) to the throne. He was the last King of Babylon (555-539 B. c). He was a royal antiquarian rather tlian a ruling king. From their foundations he re- built the great Shamash temple in Sippar and the Sin temple in Harran, and in his reign the city walls of Babylon "were curiously built with burnt brick and bitumen". But he resided in Tenia, shunned the capital, offended the provincial towns by transport- ing their gods to Shu-anna, and alienated the priest- hood of Babylon by what they would call misdirected piety. To us his antiquarian research after first foundation-stones of the temples he rebuilt is of the greatest importance. He tells us that the foundation- stone of the Shamash temple laid by Naram Sin had not been seen for 3200 years, which, roughly speaking, gives us 3800 b. c, for Sargon of Akkad, Naram Sin's father; upon this date most of oiu- early Babylonian chronology is based. The actual duties of govern- ment seem to have been largely in the hands of the Crown Prince Baltassar (Bel-shar-usur) , who re- sided in Babylon as regent. Meanwhile Cjtus, the petty King of Anshan, had begun his career of con- quest. He overthrew Astyages, King of the Medes, for which victory Nabonaid praised him as the young servant of Merodach; he overthrew Croesus of Lydia and his coalition; he assumed the title of King of the Parsu, and had begun a new Indo-Germanic world power which replaced the decrepit Semitic civiliza- tion. At last Nabonaid, realizing the situation, met the Persians at Opis. Owing to internal strife amongst the Babylonians, many of whom were dissatisfied with Nabonaid, the Persians had an easy ^^ctory, taking the city of Sippar without fighting. Nabonaid fled to Babylon. Cyrus's soldiers, imder the general- ship of Ugbaru (Gobryas), Governor of Gutium, en- tered the capital without striking a blow and cap- tured Nabonaid. This happened in June; in October Cjtus in person entered the city, paid homage at E-sagila to Marduk. A week later the Persians en- tered, at night, that quarter of the city where Baltas- sar occupied a fortified position in apparent security, where the sacred vessels of Jeho\ah's temple were profaned, where the hand appeared on the wall writ- ing Mane, Tekel Phares, and where Daniel was offered