This clay tablet from Babylon (southern Iraq) records the major events that took place during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II, King of Babylon. Each year has its own entry, separated from the others by a horizontal line. What survives is the period from 605 BC, when he led the army in his father’s place, through to the 11th year of his own reign, 594 BC. It is part of the Babylonian Chronicle series that ran from 747 BC to at least 280 BC.
This chapter records a period of history that saw important historical events. The once mighty empire of Assyria (northern Iraq) had just fallen. Babylon (southern Iraq) was fighting the Egyptians for control of Syria—and winning. Having destroyed the Egyptian army in northern Syria, Nebuchadnezzar pushed south at least as far as southern Israel. In his fourth year, 601 BC, he seems to have marched on Egypt itself. That campaign resulted in heavy losses on both sides. The next year Babylon’s army stayed at home to recover. This level of directness in the official record is amazing.
Nebuchadnezzar is famous for his conquest of Judah and deportation of the Judeans to Babylon. Unfortunately this tablet breaks off before the crucial events of 587 BC. But it does record the earlier stages. Judah had stopped paying tribute to Babylon. In 598 BC the Babylonian army besieged Jerusalem. It fell on 15/16th March 597 BC. King Jehoiachin of Judah was carried off to Babylon, along with heavy tribute. Tablets excavated at Babylon record rations issued to Jehoiachin and his sons, along with other “guests” of the king.