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Early Years of Nebuchadnezzar (ABC 5)

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Babylonian cuneiform tablet, mentioning the fall of Jerusalem in 597 BCE. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Marco Prins.
Cuneiform tablet mentioning the capture of Jerusalem in 597 (text; British Museum)
The Chronicle Concerning the Early Years of Nebuchadnezzar II ("Jerusalem Chronicle"; ABC 5) is one of the historiographical texts from ancient Babylonia. It deals with several subjects, but the reference to the capture of Jerusalem in 597 BCE has received most attention. No less important is the description of Nebuchadnezzar's campaigns against the Egyptian king Necho II, who had tried to conquer Syria ('Hatti').

For a very brief introduction to the literary genre of chronicles, go here.

The translation on this webpage was adapted from A.K. Grayson, Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles (1975) and Jean-Jacques Glassner, Mesopotamian Chronicles (Atlanta, 2004).


1. In the twenty-first year [605/604;note 1] the king of Akkad[Nabopolassar] stayed in his own land, Nebuchadnezzar his eldest son, the crown-prince,
2. mustered the Babylonian army and took command of his troops; he marched to Karchemiš which is on the bank of the Euphrates,
3. and crossed the river to go against the Egyptian army which lay in Karchemiš.
4. They fought with each other and the Egyptian army withdrew before him.
5. He accomplished their defeat and beat them to non-existence. As for the rest of the Egyptian army
6. which had escaped from the defeat so quickly that no weapon had reached them, in the district of Hamath
7. the Babylonian troops overtook and defeated them so that not a single man escaped to his own country.
8. At that time Nebuchadnezzar conquered the whole area of Hamath.
9. For twenty-one years Nabopolassar had been king of Babylon,
10. when on 8 Abu[15 August 605] he went to his destiny; in the month of Ululu Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon
11. and on 1 Ululu [7 September] he sat on the royal throne in Babylon.
12. In the accession year Nebuchadnezzar went back again to the Hatti-land and until the month of Šabatu
13. marched unopposed through the Hatti-land;  in the month of Šabatu he took the heavy tribute of the Hatti-territory to Babylon.
14. In the month of Nisannu he took the hands of BÍl and the son of BÍl and celebrated the Akitu festival.
15. In the first year of Nebuchadnezzar [604/603]in the month of Simanu  he mustered his army
16. and went to the Hatti-territory, he marched about unopposed in the Hatti-territory until the month of KislÓmu.
17. All the kings of the Hatti-land came before him and he received their heavy tribute.
18. He marched to the city of Aškelon and captured it in the month of KislÓmu.
19. He captured its king and plundered it and carried off spoil from it.
20. He turned the city into a mound and heaps of ruins and then in the month of Šabatu he marched back to Babylon.
21. In the second year [603/602] in the month of Ajaru  the king of Akkad gathered together a powerful army and marched to the land of Hatti.
22. ...]  he threw down, great siege-towers he [...
23. ...] from the month of Ajaru until the mon[th of ...] he marched about unopposed in the land of Hatti.
About four lines missing
Several lines missing
1'. In the third year [602/601] the king of Akkad left and 
2'. in the month of [...] on the thirteenth day, [the king's brother] NabŻ-šuma-lišir [...]
3'. The king of Akkad mustered his troops and marched to the Hatti-land.
4'. and brought back much spoils from the Hatti-land into Akkad.
5'. In the fourth year [601/600] the king of Akkad mustered his army and marched to the Hatti-land. In the Hatti-land they marched unopposed.
6'. In the month of KislÓmu he took the lead of his army and marched to Egypt. The king of Egypt heard it and mustered his army.
7'. In open battle they smote the breast of each other and inflicted great havoc on each other. The king of Akkad turned back with his troops and returned to Babylon.
8'. In the fifth year [600/599] the king of Akkad stayed in his own land and gathered together his chariots and horses in great numbers.
9'. In the sixth year [599/598] in the month of KislÓmu the king of Akkad mustered his army and marched to the Hatti-land.  From the Hatti-land he sent out his companies,
10'. and scouring the desert they took much plunder from the Arabs, their possessions, animals and gods. In the month of Addaru the king returned to his own land.
11'. In the seventh year [598/597], the month of KislÓmu, the king of Akkad mustered his troops, marched to the Hatti-land,
12'. and besieged the city of Judah and on the second day of the month of Addaru he seized the city and captured the king [Jehoiachin; note 2].
13'. He appointed there a king of his own choice [Zedekiah], received its heavy tribute and sent to Babylon.
14'. In the eight year [597/596], the month of Tebetu the king of Akkad marched to the Hatti-land as far as Karchemiš [...
15'. ...] in the month of Šabatu the king returned to his own land.
16'. In the ninth year [596/595], the month of [...] the king of Akkad and his troops marched along the bank of the Tigris [...]
17'. the king of Elam [...]
18'. the king of Akkad [...]
19'. which is on the bank of the Tigris he pitched his camp. While there was still a distance of one day's march between them,
20'. the king of Elam was afraid and, panic falling on him, he returned to his own land.
21'. In the tenth year [595/594] the king of Akkad was in his own land; from the month of KislÓmu to the month of Tebetu there was rebellion in Akkad.
22'. With arms he slew many of his own army. His own hand captured his enemy.
23'. In the month of [...] he marched to the Hatti-land, where kings and [...]-officials
24. came before him and he received their heavy tribute and then returned to Babylon.
25. In the eleventh year [594/593] in the month of KislÓmu, the king of Akkad mustered his troops and marched to the Hatti-land. 

Note 1:
The story starts during the wars after the sack of Nineveh in 612 and the fall of the Assyrian empire. The Egyptian king Necho II tried to conquer Assyria's western provinces, which is sometimes called Hatti in this chronicle. Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar claimed this part for themselves.

Note 2:
Cf. 2 Kings 24.8-17 (tr. American Bible Society):

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king of Judah, and he ruled only three months from Jerusalem. [...] King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia sent troops to attack Jerusalem soon after Jehoiachin became king. During the attack, Nebuchadnezzar himself arrived at the city. Jehoiachin immediately surrendered, together with his mother and his servants, as well as his army officers and officials. Then Nebuchadnezzar had Jehoiachin arrested. These things took place in the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar's rule in Babylonia.

The Lord had warned that someday the treasures would be taken from the royal palace and from the temple, including the gold objects that Solomon had made for the temple. And that's exactly what Nebuchadnezzar ordered his soldiers to do. He also led away as prisoners the Jerusalem officials, the military leaders, and the skilled workers, ten thousand in all. Only the very poorest people were left in Judah.

Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin to Babylon, along with his mother, his wives, his officials, and the most important leaders of Judah. He also led away 7,000 soldiers, 1,000 skilled workers, and anyone who would be useful in battle. Then Nebuchadnezzar appointed Jehoiachin's uncle Mattaniah king of Judah and changed his name to Zedekiah.

The date in this Biblical story (the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar) is contradicted by this chronicle and the Biblical book of Jeremiah, which both state that it was the seventh year:
Here is a list of the number of the people of Judah that Nebuchadnezzar took to Babylonia as prisoners: in his seventh year as king, he took 3,023 people; in his eighteenth year as king, he took 832 from Jerusalem; in his twenty-third year as king, his officer Nebuzaradan took 745 people. So, Nebuchadnezzar took a total of 4,600 people from Judah to Babylonia.
[Jeremiah 52.28-30
tr. American Bible Society]
The discrepancy has not been explained.
Babylonian Chronicles


Mesopotamian Kings

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Latest revision: 1 April 2006
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