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The First Years of Nebuchadnezzar II (604–595 BCE)

Tisha B’Av (the ninth day of Av) is a sad holiday because tradition says that the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem happened twice on this very same day. Although there are no primary sources that give evidence about the exact day, many sources and archaeological finds give evidence about the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. One of those sources is a chronicle, or history, written by the Babylonians, which you see here.

Unknown Babylonian scribe.
original text written between 550 and 400 BCE; translated into English in 2004
Book

Glassner, Jean-Jacques and Benjamin R. Forster, “The First Years of Nebuchadnezzar II (604–595 BCE),” in Mesopotamian Chronicles (Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004), 231. The original text was written in Babylonian, a Mesopotamian language, between 550 and 400 BCE; it was translated into English in 2004.

Tisha B’Av (the ninth day of Av) is a sad holiday because tradition says that the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem happened twice on this very same day. Although there are no primary sources that give evidence about the exact day, many sources and archaeological finds give evidence about the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. One of those sources is a chronicle, or history, written by the Babylonians, which you see above. The Hebrews did not rule themselves for very long before they were conquered by a series of powerful empires: the Babylonians, Persians, Hellenistic Seleucids, Egyptians, and Romans. After the Judeans revolted, the Babylonians destroyed the Temple and deported many Jewish people to work in Babylon. About 50 years later, the Babylonians were conquered by the Persians under King Cyrus the Great. The Persians allowed the Judeans to return to their land and rebuild the Temple. The Romans destroyed that Second Temple in 70 CE and exiled most of the Jews from Israel/Judea/Palestine. Is the origin of Tisha B’Av connected to the environment, the history of the Hebrews, or interactions with other people?

 

Vocabulary

Akkad: a Mesopotamian kingdom; historians call this kingdom the Neo-Babylonian Empire, because its kings conquered so many other peoples and so much land. The king’s name was Nebuchadnezzar.

mustered: gathered his troops up for war

Hatti: Syria and Palestine

Yehud: Historians believe this refers to Jerusalem, the capital of the Hebrew kingdom of Judah and location of the First Temple

installed: put

tribute: products, crops, and resources paid to a ruler; in this case, King Nebuchadnezzer and his troops looted all the valuable things in the kingdom of Judah 


Customs: There are no ancient customs for Tisha B’av because it was not a holiday in the ancient period, when the Temple existed. When the Second Temple was destroyed, the Jewish religion had to change. Priests were less important, and the people did not offer sacrifices anymore. Instead, communities of Jews prayed together and at home and began to develop new customs. There were new leaders, teachers who were called rabbis. The Jewish communities built smaller temples called synagogues, where they worshipped together using the Torah and the other parts of the Tanakh. In modern times on Tisha B’Av, Jews mourn for the loss of the Temple. They also fast all day.

According to tradition, the First Temple was constructed by King Solomon in the mid-tenth century BCE upon the Temple Mount alongside the royal palace. It was destroyed, along with nearly the whole city of Jerusalem, by the Neo-Babylonians in 586 BCE after they initially took control of the kingdom of Judah in 597 BCE. The events are documented in both Neo-Babylonian chronicles and the Bible (e.g., 2 Kings, 24) as well as confirmed by archaeological evidence. After the destruction of Jerusalem, a large part of the population of Judah was deported to Babylon. After the fall of Babylon in 539 BCE to the Persian king, Cyrus the Great, Cyrus allowed the exiled Judeans to return to Judah and rebuild the Temple.

The seventh year, in the month of Kislev, the king of Akkad mustered his troops, marched on Hatti, and set up his quarters facing the city of Yehud. In the month of Adar, the second day, he took the city and captured the king. He installed there a king of his choice. He collected its massive tribute and went back to Babylon….