Daniel's Mesopotamian Background


I have started studying the book of Daniel.  That has led me to a review of the history of the region.  I like to know the details in order to understand the big picture.  I like to know the big picture to put it all in context.  And in this case, all I wanted to know was when Daniel arrived in Babylon!



We cannot minimize Babylon's importance.  This region is known as the cradle of civilization.  The Tower of Babel was here.  And similar towers have been unearthed by archeologists.  Abraham was a resident of Babylon (Ur) until he was called out by God.  Babylon's earliest greatest ruler was Hamurrabi 1792-1750 BC)who everyone knows from his legal code and alphabet.  Babylon was a great culture whose dialect became the lingua franca.  I'm going to skip a lot of history just to keep things brief!  Around 1300 BC, everything changed and for hundreds of years there was turmoil.  Babylon was no longer on top.  Over time, things changed again and a second dynasty of Babylonians became great.  The second and greatest king in this dynasty was Nebuchadnezzer II also known as Nebuchadnezzer the Great.

  Two of the historical people mentioned at the beginning of Daniel are Kings Nebuchadnezzer of Babylon and Jehoiakim of Judah.  Nebuchadnezzer was considered the Babylonian King who brought peace to Mesopotamia.  Fighting by both the Chaldeans and the Medes subdued the Assyrians (this was when Ninevah was leveled) and an agreement was made to divide the Assyrian holdings between the Medes and the Babylonians or Chaldeans.  (Note: The Chaldeans were a distinct people group from the southern part of Babylon.)

Dynasty XI of Babylon (Neo-Babylonian or Chaldean)

Nebuchadnezzer was known for uniting Mesopotamia and for his building projects.  After he had settled things by fighting.  He settled in Babylon and began building projects such as massive gates, walls, boulevards and, of course the famous hanging gardens.  Here are two photos of the Ishtar gate (a reconstruction in Modern Day Iraq) and a detail.


To capture the beauty of the city, here is a description of the Ishtar gate. 

The famed Ishtar Gate played an important religious role in the life of the city and is fortunately the best preserved.  The surface of the entrance was covered with blue enameled bricks, which served as background for alternating red-and-white dragons (symbolic of Marduk) and bulls (symbolic of Adad).  The gate was approached by means of an impressive processional street, sixty-five feet wide in places and paved with white limestone and red breccia.  Bordering the street were walls that were found still standing as high as forty feet.  They were decorated with lions six feet in length (symbolic of Ishtar) with red or yellow manes on a blue ceramic background.  It was along this street that the king would accompany the statue of Marduk in grand procession each spring during the New Year festival.

This is red breccia (I didn't know what it was either.)  Mined in Egypt.


The source for the quote came from this book:

Jehoiakim of Judah

Background:  After the death of Solomon (around 1500 BC?), civil war broke out and Israel became a divided country.  The northern kingdom was Israel, its capitol was Samaria and the southern Kingdom was Judah, its capitol, Jerusalem.  There continued to be fighting, invasions, and the like. The whole region was in turmoil for hundreds of years starting around 1300 BC. 

Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians in 721 BC.  Descendants of David continued to rule the southern kingdom, Judah.   Judah ended up making an alliance with Egypt.  What this means is that Egypt "owned" Judah and Judah paid tribute for Egypt's protection. 

Jehoiakim (Hebrew name Eliakim) was the eldest son of King Josiah of Judah.  After Josiah died, the people named Jehoahaz (Shallum) King, but he was deposed by Pharaoh Necho II after 3 months and appointed in his place was Jehoiakim who reigned 11 years.  When Babylon defeated Egypt in 605 he was required to pay tribute to Babylon.  However, against the counsel of the Prophet Jeremiah (in 2 Kings 24:1), he revolted against Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzer took him and some of the vessels from the Temple back to Babylon.  It may be that Daniel was taken at this time. 

Jehoiachin, Jehoiakim's son, was eight years old when he began to reign.  His reign was three months and ten days.  He was succeeded by Mattaniah (one of Josiah's sons) whose name was changed to Zedekiah.  Zedekiah ruled 11 years. This would make it about 594 BC.  During this time Zedekiah conspired with Egypt to revolt against Babylon.

Nebuchadnezzer sent troops to besiege Jerusalem in January 587 and it fell in July 586, the following year.  It was an 18-month siege.  He successfully conquered the city, destroyed the Temple and removed some of the nobility to Babylon. 

Scholars indicate that Jewish people were deported from Judah to Babylon in 597, 586, and 582.  This does not rule out other deportations which were not recorded.  It was common practice for the conquering country to leave officials in the conquered city to make sure that tribute was paid and revolts were put down.  There would have been communications and supplies transported between Jerusalem and Babylon on some regular basis.  At these times, people could have been deported also.  I believe, however, that since Daniel was deported during or prior to Jehoiakim's 3rd year of ruling, it was probably early, around 597.

For more information, I recommend this book. 


Other sources include The Bible, any translation.  2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, and of course, Daniel.  I am reading mainly from the New International Version

but also from The Message:



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