Monday, June 23, 2014

Ancient History of Babylon (Baghdad) and Jews

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                   

Cyrus the Great of Persia holding court with the Jews 538 BCE

Abraham was born in Ur (today's Iraq) in the 2nd millennium BCE.  He had migrated Canaan where he later fought against Amraphel, king of Shinar. (Shanhar).  Shinar  was another name for Babylon, which is just a short distance away from today's Baghdad, Iraq.  It was found either in N Mesopotamia or in the plain of Babylon.  Nimrod was one of the rulers.

Babylon, known also as land of Shinar or of the Chaldees attacked Judah in 597 BCE and again in 586 BCE, taking 10,000 captives from the best of the population.
            Found on onyx stone was engraving of Nebuchadnezzar II

First the Assyrians had attacked and taken 10 tribes of Israel in 721 BCE.  Then Nebuchadnezzar II (604-561 BCE), king of Babylon,  inherited the Assyrian Empire.  He attacked the land of Judah which was the southern part of Israel in 597 BCE and again in 586 BCE.  and exiled many Jews to Babylon.  There they found the previously exiled Jews from the conquest of 124 years before.   Exiles from Judah were banished to Shinar after the destruction of the 1st Temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE.  It was finally rebuilt in 538 to 515 BCE.  The last king of Judah was Zedekiah (597-586 BCE).

Zedekiah's name originally was Mattaniah, son of King  Josiah (637-608 BCE) ,  but took Zedekiah when he was appointed king by Nebuchadnezzar to succeed the exiled Jehoiachin (598-597 BCE).  He became king at age 21 and had to swear allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar.  After being king for 9 years, he sided with Egypt against Nebuchadnezzaar. and because of that the Babylonians invaded and captured Jerusalem.  He was brought to trial.  His sons were killed before him.  His eyes were put out.  He was put in prison in Babylon until he died there.

King Cyrus II (king of Persia-today's Iran)  allowed the Jews to return to Judah in 538 BCE but many stayed in Babylon.
Only 42,000 returned.   It is thought that Cyrus was king Ahashueros of the Queen Esther story.  There were towns in Babylon made up entirely of a Jewish population.  They kept in touch with the Jews in Judah and even supplied some of their leaders such as Hillel.  Cyrus died in 529 BCE.  He had overrun the Babylonian Empire which included Israel and Judah.  He had a more enlightened policy towards his subjects even told the Jews to rebuild their Temple.  The Jewish exiles regarded Cyrus as a Divine agent.  "The stability of the Jewish community in Babylon was that the area was held by the Persian Sassanian dynasty from the 3rd century CE on. The Sassanians managed to keep out of their kingdom first the Romans and then the Byzantines. In this way the Jews of Babylon were protected from harm that the Byzantine Christians inflicted elsewhere."

Then came the day of the Roman occupation.  The Babylonian Jews rose against the emperor Trajan, and the revolt was suppressed by his commander, Lucius Quietus in 116 CE.  The Jews of Babylon were now under Persian and Parthian rule.  This is when the Babylonian Talmud was written.  In this 3rd century CE, it became the main center of rabbinic studies.  Persecutions in the 5th century led to a Jewish revolt under Mar Zutra II who held out for 7 years but finally was captured and killed.  This is when writing  the Talmud was finished.  The position for Jews was difficult until the Arab conquest in the 7th century.

How times have changed.  We see that Persia-today's Iran, wants to obliterate Israel and has atomic energy planning to use it against Israel.  Going from a pluralistic and idolatrous society, and becoming monotheistic like the Jews has created hatred within their leaders.  There's no sign of a King Cyrus at all here anymore.

Resource:  The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia



    Ancient Babylonian rulers and kings not all listed but very interesting standpoints with pictures.

  2. Thanks, manwithdesire. Since last year I've written more on Babylonia, even finished several today and I use lots of pictures in those, too. Here's one.