Siege of Jerusalem (587 BC)
|Siege of Jerusalem|
|Part of Jewish–Babylonian war (601–586 BC)|
|Kingdom of Judah||Neo-Babylonian Empire|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
|Many slain, 4,200 others taken to captivity||Unknown|
Following the siege of 597 BC, the Neo-Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar installed Zedekiah as tributary king of Judah at the age of twenty-one. However, Zedekiah revolted against Babylon, and entered into an alliance with Pharaoh Hophra, king of Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar responded by invading Judah and began a siege of Jerusalem in December 589 BC. During this siege, the duration of which was either eighteen or thirty months, "every worst woe befell the city, which drank the cup of God's fury to the dregs". In 586 BC, after completion of the eleventh year of Zedekiah's reign, Nebuchadnezzar broke through Jerusalem's walls, conquering the city. Zedekiah and his followers attempted to escape, but were captured on the plains of Jericho and taken to Riblah. There, after seeing his sons killed, Zedekiah was blinded, bound, and taken captive to Babylon, where he remained a prisoner until his death.
After the fall of Jerusalem, the Babylonian general Nebuzaraddan was sent to complete its destruction. Jerusalem was plundered and Solomon's Temple was destroyed. Most of the elite were taken into captivity in Babylon. The city was razed to the ground. Only a small number of people were permitted to remain to tend to the land. Gedaliah was made governor of the remnant of Judah, the Yehud Province, with a Chaldean guard stationed at Mizpah. On hearing this news, the Jews who were in Moab, Ammon, Edom, and in other countries returned to Judah. Gedaliah was assassinated two months later, and the population that had remained and those who had returned then fled to Egypt for safety. In Egypt, they settled in Migdol, Tahpanhes, Noph, and Pathros.
There has been some debate as to when the second siege of Jerusalem took place. Though there is no dispute that Jerusalem fell the second time in the summer month of Tammuz (Jeremiah 52:6), William F. Albright dates the end of Zedekiah's reign (and the fall of Jerusalem) to 587 BC, whereas Edwin R. Thiele offers 586 BC.
Thiele's reckoning is based on the presentation of Zedekiah's reign on an accession basis, which was occasionally used for the kings of Judah. In that case, the year that Zedekiah came to the throne would be his zeroth year; his first full year would be 597/596 BC, and his eleventh year, the year Jerusalem fell, would be 587/586 BC. Since Judah's regnal years were counted from Tishri in autumn, this would place the end of his reign and the capture of Jerusalem in the summer of 586 BC.
However, the Babylonian Chronicles support the enumeration of Zedekiah's reign on a non-accession basis. Zedekiah's first year when he was installed by Nebuchadnezzar was therefore in 598/597 BC according to Judah's Tishri-based calendar. The fall of Jerusalem in his eleventh year would then have been in the summer of 587 BC. The Babylonian Chronicles allow the fairly precise dating of the capture of Jehoiachin and the start of Zedekiah's reign, and also provide the accession year of Nebuchadnezzar's successor Amel-Marduk (Evil Merodach) as 562/561 BC, which was the 37th year of Jehoiachin's captivity according to 2 Kings 25:27. These Babylonian records related to Jehoiachin's reign are consistent with the fall of the city in 587 BC and are inconsistent with a 586 date.
Timeline of events in the final siege
A timeline for the final siege of Jerusalem is shown in the table below. Dates are taken from the 2011 book on biblical chronology by Andrew Steinmann.
|2 Kgs 25:1; Ezek 24:1-2||10 Tebeth =
27 Jan 589 BC
|Beginning of final siege.|
|Jer 34: 8-10||1 Tishri =
29 Sep 588
|Release of Hebrew slaves at beginning of a Sabbatical year.|
|Jer 34:11-22; 37:5-16||Between Tishri 588 &
Nisan 587 = Oct 588 to Apr 587
|Babylonians temporarily lift siege due to approach of Egyptian army. Slaves taken back. Jeremiah arrested as he attempts to go to Anathoth.|
|Jer 34:22; Ezek 30:20-21||7 Nisan =
29 Apr 587
|Egyptians defeated. Siege resumes.|
|2 Kgs 25:2-4; Jer 39:2, 52:7;
Ezek 33:21, 40:1
|9 Tammuz =
29 Jul 587
|Wall breached. Zedekiah captured.|
|2 Kgs 25:8||7 Ab =
25 Aug 587
|Nebuzaradan arrives at Jerusalem (cf. Jonah 3:3) from Riblah in Hamath and begins consultation with commanders in the field regarding the pillaging of the city.|
|2 Kgs 25:9-19; 2 Chr 36:18-19;
|10 Ab =
28 Aug 587
|Nebuzaradan leads forces into Jerusalem (cf. Jonah 3:4) to pillage, destroy, and burn the city and its temple.|
- 2 Kings 25:1
- Malamat, Abraham (1968). "The Last Kings of Judah and the Fall of Jerusalem: An Historical—Chronological Study". Israel Exploration Journal. 18 (3): 137–156.
The discrepancy between the length of the siege according to the regnal years of Zedekiah (years 9-11), on the one hand, and its length according to Jehoiachin's exile (years 9-12), on the other, can be cancelled out only by supposing the former to have been reckoned on a Tishri basis, and the latter on a Nisan basis. The difference of one year between the two is accounted for by the fact that the termination of the siege fell in the summer, between Nisan and Tishri, already in the 12th year according to the reckoning in Ezekiel, but still in Zedekiah's 11th year which was to end only in Tishri.
- 2 Kings 25:3; Lamentations 4:4, 5, 9
- Jeremiah 1:3
- 2 Kings 25:1–7; 2 Chronicles 36:12; Jeremiah 32:4–5; 34:2–3; 39:1–7; 52:4–11
- Jeremiah 52:16
- 2 Kings 25:22–24; Jeremiah 40:6–8
- Jeremiah 40:11–12
- 2 Kings 25:25–26, Jeremiah 43:5–7
- Jeremiah 44:1
- D. J. Wiseman, Chronicles of Chaldean Kings in the British Museum (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1956) 73.
- Edwin Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951; 2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965; 3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983). ISBN 0-8254-3825-X, 9780825438257.
- Leslie McFall, "A Translation Guide to the Chronological Data in Kings and Chronicles," Bibliotheca Sacra 148 (1991) 45.
- Andrew E. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul: A Biblical Chronology (St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 2011), 166-169.
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