Reign of Josiah & Assyria Attacks Egypt, Babylon, and the Kingdom of Josiah

So you gave Hezekiah an extra 15 years to live.  Yeah, I remember now that only 1You decide when we die. 

Josiah or Yoshiyahu meaning “healed by Yah” or “supported of Yah”, was a king of Judah (641–609 B.C.), according to the Bible, who instituted major reforms.

Josiah is credited by most historians with having established or compiled important Scriptures during the Deuteronomic reform that occurred during his rule.

Josiah became king of Judah at the age of eight, after the assassination of his father, King Amon, and reigned for thirty-one years, from 641/640 to 610/609 B.C.

He is also one of the kings mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.

“Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath.

And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.

And it came to pass in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, that the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, the scribe, to the house of the Lord, saying,

Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may sum the silver which is brought into the house of the Lord, which the keepers of the door have gathered of the people:

And let them deliver it into the hand of the doers of the work, that have the oversight of the house of the Lord: and let them give it to the doers of the work which is in the house of the Lord, to repair the breaches of the house,

Unto carpenters, and builders, and masons, and to buy timber and hewn stone to repair the houseJosiah or Yoshiyahu” (2 Kgs 22:1-6).

And as with other priests in a previous Jerry and God box The Reign of Jehoash, they kept the money.  Hilkiah, the high priest, found and gave the book of the law to Shaphan and he read it before the king.

“Josiah or YoshiyahuAnd it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes.

Necho II was a king of the Twenty-sixth dynasty of Egypt (c. 610 BC – c. 595 B.C.).

Necho undertook a number of construction projects across his kingdom.

In his reign, according to the Greek historian Herodotus (4.42), Necho II sent out an expedition of Phoenicians, which in three years sailed from the Red Sea around Africa to the mouth of the Nile.

His son, Psammetichus II, upon succession may have removed Necho’s name from monuments.

Necho played a significant role in the histories of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, the Neo-Babylonian Empire and the Kingdom of Judah.

Necho II is most likely the pharaoh mentioned in several books of the Bible.

The second campaign’s aim of Necho’s campaigns was Asiatic conquest, to contain the Westward advance of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, and cut off its trade route across the Euphrates.

However, the Egyptians were defeated by the unexpected attack of the Babylonians and were eventually expelled from Syria.

The Egyptologist Donald B. Redford observed that although Necho II was “a man of action from the start, and endowed with an imagination perhaps beyond that of his contemporaries, Necho had the misfortune to foster the impression of being a failure.”

And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king’s, saying,

Go ye, enquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.

So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college;) and they communed with her.

And she said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me,

Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read:

Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched.

But to the king of Judah which sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard;

Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the Lord.

King Manasseh
Manasseh was a king of the Kingdom of Judah.

He was the only son of Hezekiah with Hephzi-bah.

He became king at an age of 12 and reigned for 55 years.

Edwin Thiele has concluded that he commenced his reign as co-regent with his father Hezekiah in 697/696 B.C., with his sole reign beginning in 687/686 B.C. and continuing until his death in 643/642 B.C.

William F. Albright has dated his reign from 687 – 642 B.C.

Manasseh was the first king of Judah who would not have had a direct experience with the Kingdom of Israel, which had been destroyed by the Assyrians in c. 720 B.C. and much of its population deported.

He re-instituted pagan worship and reversed the religious reforms made by his father Hezekiah; for which he is condemned by several religious texts.

Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again” (2 Kgs 22:11-20).

1 “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the Judgment” (Heb 9:27).

Assyria Attacks Egypt, Babylon,
and the Kingdom of Josiah 

The later years of Hezekiah’s reign passed unnoticed by the biblical writers.  Presumably, he caused no further trouble for Assyria.  His son Manasseh succeeded him in 687 B.C. and ruled 55 years.

Like his grandfather Ahaz, Manasseh returned to pagan ways, permitting idolatrous practices and abominations to flourish.  Altars to astral deities appeared in the court of the temple, while the high places dedicated to Baal were rebuilt.  

The practice of human sacrifice returned to Jerusalem (2 Kgs 21:1-17; 2 Chr 33:1-21). The writer of Chronicles noted that Manasseh repented in later years and includes a description of some building activities in Jerusalem, but Manasseh had little practical political recourse other than to play the loyal vassal of Assyria.

Against the background of Assyrian dominance, Manasseh’s course seemed logical.  Assyrian kings reached the height of their power shortly after 700 B.C.  Sennacherib dealt with perennial Babylonian rebellion by sacking the city in 689 B.C.

The image of Marduk was taken to Assyria, and Sennacherib took the ancient title of “King of Sumer and Akkad.”  His death in 681 B.C. at the hands of one of his own sons produced a momentary shudder in the Assyrian juggernaut, but another son – Esarhaddon – quickly gained control.

Assyrian Supremacy under Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal II

King Esarhaddon

Esarhaddon (681-669 B.C.) healed the breach with Babylon by rebuilding the city.  He gave the Medes military assistance in order to check Elamite advances and as a buffer against the invading Cimmerians (the Gomer of the Bible) and the Scythians (biblical Ashkenaz).

In the west, Esarhaddon quelled revolts in Tyre and Sidon and received tribute from various Syro-Palestinian kings, including Manasseh, who is mentioned in a tribute list.  The Egyptian king Tirhakah (690-664 B.C.) stirred up problems to the south, eventually requiring an Assyrian response.

In 671 B.C. Esarhaddon attacked Tirhakah, took Memphis, and received tribute from the native princes of the Egyptian Delta.  Tirhakah escaped, only to return later to retake Memphis, provoking a second Assyrian campaign.  Esarhaddon died, however, before he reached his objective.

 

 

Ashurbanipal II

In 669 B.C. Ashurbanipal II (669-627 B.C.) succeeded Esarhaddon as king of Assyria, and his brother Shamash-shum-ukin became king of Babylon.  This division of power was according to the will of Esarhaddon, who sought to ensure an orderly succession.

 

 

 

 

 

Victory Over Egypt

Tirhakah

Ashurbanipal completed the conquest of Egypt by marching against Tirhakah in 667 B.C. and defeating him; Memphis again was captured, but Tirhakah escaped.

His successor Tanuatamun retook the Delta, but Ashurbanipal dealt him a crushing blow and pursued his army as far south as Thebes (biblical No-amon), sacking the city in 663 B.C. (Nah. 3:8-10 mentions the sack of Thebes).  Assyrian power had now reached its zenith despite the fact that Ashurbanipal was not particularly adept either as a soldier or statesman.

 

Threats To The Assyrian Empire

Babylon and the cities and tribes of Southern Mesopotamia

South of the Assyrian heartland lies Babylonia.

As the birthplace of Mesopotamia’s common cuneiform culture, the region could boast cultural traditions stretching back for millennia.

But by the 8th century B.C., its political unity as a kingdom under the rule of the king of Babylon had been lost and the ancient cities and tribal federations of Babylonia acted as independent units whose conflicts made the region subject to repeated political upheaval. Neighboring states became increasingly involved in the politics of Babylonia, and foremost among them was Assyria.

In 729 B.C., Tiglath-pileser III (744-727 B.C.) assumed the office of the king of Babylon in an attempt to defend and further Assyrian interests in Babylonia.

The Assyrian Empire was already on the verge of serious trouble during the reign of Ashurbanipal. Restless tribes threatened Assyrian interests in many directions.  Cimmerians and Scythians bore down in areas north and west of the Assyrian heartland, while Medes and Persians entrenched themselves in various parts of the Iranian plateau.

Ashurbanipal fought a lengthy, bloody war against Elam from 655 to 642 B.C., during which the Elamite capital, Susa, was destroyed.

Babylon became a serious problem for Assyria. Ashurbanipal’s brother, Shamash-shum-ukin, revolted with Elamite and Chaldean support in 652 B.C.  A long and cruel Assyrian siege of Babylon ended in 648 B.C. with the suicide of Shamash-shum-ukin as the Babylonian defense failed.

Egypt proved troublesome for Assyria also. Though generally on cooperative terms with Assyria, kings of the 26th Dynasty of Sais expelled Assyrian garrisons with the help of Lydian mercenaries.  During these tumultuous years, Ashurbanipal proved to be ineffective as serious cracks appeared in the Assyrian Empire.

Assyria’s Fall

The death of Ashurbanipal in 627 B.C. marked the beginning of the end for Assyria.  Already weakened by decades of external conflict and increasing social unrest, Assyria suffered a four-year civil war between two sons of Ashurbanipal: Ashur-etil-ilani and Sin-shar-iskin.  

Neither provided adequate leadership, although the latter secured the throne in 623 B.C. and ruled until 612 B.C.  The domestic turmoil invited disaster since powerful enemies of Assyria waited in the wings.

The Rival Powers and Assyria’s Final Days

In 626 B.C. Nabopolassar, the last in a long line of Chaldean troublemakers for Assyria, seized the throne of Babylon.  From northwest Iran, the Medes began to attack Assyrian territories, first led by Phraortes I (664-610 B.C.) and then more vigorous under Cyaxares (623-584 B.C.).

Psammeticus I (664-610 B.C.) of Egypt came to the aid of Assyria, apparently more fearful of a strong Medo-Chaldean alliance controlling Mesopotamia and threatening the Levant than of the status quo with Assyria.  

Psammeticus also was undoubtedly reasserting traditional Egyptian claims on Syria and Palestine, seeking to control the vital trade routes of that region.

The end for Assyria came rapidly during the final two decades of the 7th century.  Nabopolassar attacked Assyria from the south, while Cyaxares slashed at the Assyrian heartland from the east.  

Psammetichus III 526 to 525 B.C.
Psamtik III (also spelled Psammetichus or Psammeticus) was the last Pharaoh of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty of Egypt from 526 B.C. to 525 B.C.

Most of what is known about his reign and life was documented by the Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th century B.C.

Herodotus states that Psamtik had ruled Egypt for only six months before he was confronted by a Persian invasion of his country led by King Cambyses II of Persia.

Psammetichus was subsequently defeated at Pelusium, and fled to Memphis where he was captured.

The deposed pharaoh was carried off to Susa in chains, and later executed.

Babylonian king Nabopolassar ruled over the rising empire from about 626 to 605 B.C.

The Babylonian Chronicle for the years 615-609 B.C. tells of the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C.

The wounded Assyrian Empire would collapse seven years later at the battle of Carchemish.

In 614 B.C. Ashur, the ancient Assyrian capital and namesake of the great god of Assyria, fell to Median forces commanded by Cyaxares.  Shortly thereafter, Cyaxares and Nabopolassar joined against Assyria in a formal alliance sealed by marriage.  Nineveh fell in 612 B.C. to the coalition.  Sin-shar-iskin perished, and the capital of Assyria was destroyed.

The prophet Nahum exulted in the destruction wreaked upon once-powerful Nineveh (Nah 1:15-3:19). The remnants of the Assyrian army, led by a surviving member of the Assyrian royalty, Ashur-uballit II, fled to Haran in northwest Mesopotamia.

Bolstered by Egyptian support, Ashur-uballit fought a rear guard action against Nabopolassar, but Haran fell in 610 B.C.  A year later the Assyrians, now vigorously supported by the new Egyptian pharaoh Neco II (610-594 B.C.), attempted to gain back Haran, but the attempt was unsuccessful. For all practical purposes, Assyria ceased to exist.  

The only question remaining was whether Neco II could retain any control of Syria-Palestine in the face of the Chaldean (Babylonian) advance.

The Palace of Darius at Susa, capital of the Persian Empire

Egyptian Ambitions

Egypt retained control of the International Coastal Highway and had substantial garrisons at Riblah in central Syria and Carchemish on the west bank of the Euphrates River.  In addition, the Egyptians controlled the cities of the Philistine Plain (Jer. 47:1) and other key sites on the International Coastal Highway, likely including Megiddo, near where Josiah died fighting Neco in 609 B.C. (2 Kgs 23:28-30).

The final showdown between Egypt and Babylonia occurred in 605 B.C. at Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabopolassar, led the Chaldean troops that day in a great struggle, graphically recalled by an oracle in Jeremiah (Jer 46).  Of Egypt, the prophet says: 

The swift cannot flee away,

nor the warrior escape;

in the north by the river Euphrates

they have stumbled and fallen. . .

That day is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts,

a day of vengeance,

to avenge himself on his foes.

The sword shall devour and be sated,

and drink its fill of their blood.

For the Lord GOD of hosts holds a sacrifice

in the north country by the river Euphrates.

(Jer 46:6, 10).

Though fiercely contested, the battle of Carchemish was won by Nebuchadnezzar.  In that same year, 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar took the throne of Babylon upon the death of his father – an event that, as much as any other, marked the beginning of a new empire: the Neo-Babylonian Empire.  In the process, the fate of Palestine had been sealed.