Siege of Jerusalem (587 BC)

In 589 BC, Nebuchadnezzar II laid siege to Jerusalem, culminating in the destruction of the city and its temple in the summer of 587 according to Albright, or 586 BC according to Thiele.[1] More recent analysis establishes that the siege ended in 587 BC.[2]

Following the siege of 597 BC, the Neo-Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar installed Zedekiah as vassal king of Judah, at the age of 21. However, Zedekiah revolted against Babylon, and entered into an alliance with Pharaoh Hophra, the king of Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar responded by invading Judah ().

Nebuchadnezzar began a siege of Jerusalem in January 589 BC.[3][4] The Bible describes the city as enduring horrible deprivation during the siege (; , , ). In 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 few people were permitted to remain to tend to the land ().

The Jew Gedaliah was made governor of the remnant of Judah, the Yehud Province, with a Chaldean guard stationed at Mizpah (; ). The Bible reports that, on hearing this news, Jews who had fled to Moab, Ammon, Edom, and in other countries returned to Judah (). Gedaliah was assassinated by Ishmael son of Nethaniah 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 (it is uncertain where the Bible is referring to here, probably somewhere in the Nile Delta), Tahpanhes, Memphis (called Noph), and Pathros in the vicinity of Thebes ().

There has been some debate as to when Nebuchadnezzar's second siege of Jerusalem took place. There is no dispute that Jerusalem fell the second time in the summer month of Tammuz (), but William F. Albright dated the end of Zedekiah's reign and the fall of Jerusalem to 587 BC whereas Edwin R. Thiele offered 586 BC.[1]

Thiele's reckoning is based on the presentation of Zedekiah's reign on an accession basis, which he asserts 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 that Jerusalem fell, would be 587/586 BC. Since Judah's regnal years were counted from Tishri in autumn, that would place the end of his reign and the capture of Jerusalem in the summer of 586 BC.[1][5]

The Nebuchadnezzar Chronicle (BM 21946), published in 1956, indicates that Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem the first time putting an end to the reign of Jehoaichin, on 2 Adar (16 March) 597 BC, in Nebuchadnezzar's seventh year.[6] gives the relative periods for the end of the two sieges as Nebuchadnezzar's seventh and eighteenth years, respectively. (The same events are described at and as occurring in Nebuchadnezzar's eighth and nineteenth years, including his accession year.) Identification of Nebuchadnezzar's eighteenth year for the end of the siege places the event in the summer of 587 BC, which is consistent with all three relevant biblical sources—Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and 2 Kings.[2][7]