The Babylonian Empire
The Beginning of the Neo‐Babylonian (Chaldean) Empire
The Babylonians, more correctly called the Neo‐Babylonians or Chaldeans to distinguish them from an earlier era of Babylonian strength, were intimately involved in the fate of Judah and were the subject of many prophetic oracles in the Hebrew Bible, in particular in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah 40–55 . Clay tablets preserving the chronicles of Neo‐Babylonian kings have provided important information about the period which witnessed the last days of the Assyrian Empire, the rise of Babylonia, the fall of Jerusalem, and the exile of the Jews in Babylon.
After the Assyrians were defeated at Babylon in 626 BCE, Nabopolassar was officially placed on the throne. (The gods of Susa, which the Assyrians had gathered and deposited in Erech, were returned to their own city, confirming the independence of Elam.) In pursuit of his war with the Assyrians, Nabopolassar marched north‐west along the Euphrates; Sukhu and Khindanu yielded to him, and plunder was taken from towns in the Balikhu area. To the east of the Tigris he campaigned in the vicinity of Arrapkha and the Assyrians were pursued to the Lower Zab river. An unsuccessful attack was made on Asshur. It was in 614 that the Medes succeeded in taking Asshur, Nabopolassar arriving after the city had fallen. Then, in 612, the Medes and Babylonians together took Nineveh. Sinsharishkun, a son of Ashurbanipal, who had succeeded his brother Ashuretililani on the throne, perished in the fall of Nineveh.
The Babylonian armies continued to undertake campaigns in the upper Euphrates region, reaching as far as Nisibis. In 610, with the help of the Medes and Scythians, they took Haran. The Egyptians had sought to make common cause with the retreating remnants of Assyria, and they made a combined attempt to recapture Haran in 609, but were unsuccessful. (This was the context of the death of King Josiah of Judah as he sought to prevent pharaoh Neco's advance; see ‘The Kingdom of Judah’ .) Nabopolassar's campaigns led him to the very borders of Urartu. The Egyptians, having failed in their attempt to bolster the remaining Assyrian forces, sought to consolidate control of the territory south of Carchemish, capturing Quramati and Kimukhu. But in 605, the Babylonian crown‐prince Nebuchadrezzar defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish, setting fire to the city (the context of Jeremiah's oracle against the Egyptians in Jer. 46: 1–12 ). Nebuchadrezzar then pressed south along the Mediterranean coastlands (Hatti) as far as the Egyptian border.