Last year we saw this tablet at the Melbourne Museum's terrific exhibition showcasing the wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia. If you are cleverer than I am, and can read it, you will know that the tablet is part of a narrative of the main events of the years 605-595 BC, and tells of Nebuchadnezzar's first capture of Jerusalem in 597 BC, the deportation of Jehoiachin and his family, and the beginning of the Babylonian exile. 2 Chron 36:9,10 and 2 Kings 24:15-17
I felt quite emotional when I saw the tablet and recognised it as actual archaeological evidence for this major Biblical event. Christians, of course, believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God, and that God himself maintains the integrity and accuracy of his word through the work of the Holy Spirit. As such, we believe that its historical accounts are flawlessly accurate, and so it should not be surprising to find archaeological evidence confirming the events recorded in his Word, but it was pretty cool all the same.
Despite this inerrancy, it is really difficult to chronologically calibrate early Biblical history. Some Christians use genealogies, others generations of forty years. Still others look at the reigns of kings. Some believe in continuous lists; others allow overlap or omissions. Attempts, therefore, to date Moses and the Exodus, the birth of Abraham, Noah's Flood and the actual date of Creation have proved controversial. As a consequence, in my family, we choose not to attempt to date these events when compiling Books af Centuries and timelines. It is just too easy to make a mistake.
All such controversy over the dates of the Babylonian exile disappears, however, when you have evidence like that contained on this little stone tablet. The exile happened in 597 BC. It did. It has been substantiated by archaeological evidence, and importantly, that evidence fits with the evidence contained in Scripture. It is easy to add it to timelines with confidence (and so we did!)
We also made a decision to introduce the Bible as history during this time period into our school history, given that the history was so much easier to reconcile with Biblical events. The credibility of Scripture is certainly a multifaceted issue, and dating the early Bible is really difficult, but the events of the exile are easier to substantiate than earlier periods.
And so this is what we did...
The events of the exile occur between Chapters XXXIII and XXXIV of H. A Guerber's The Story of the Greeks, which is read in AO6, and this year of Ancient History was the perfect chance to integrate Biblical History with our basic history spine. During this term we read Bible as a history source, integrating the passages of Scripture where they fitted in our readings. As an introduction, we read the Bible texts of the exile during Week 16 of AO6. (You can find a summary of our readings at the end if you want them.)
Daniel 1 tells of the taking of Daniel and other members of Judah's elite into captivity in 605 BC. 2 Chronicles 36 describes the taking of Jehoiakim in 597 BC. Three months and ten days later the events narrated in the tablet occur, as told in 2 Chronicles 36 and 2 Kings 24. Finally, after a siege lasting about one and a half years, Jerusalem was conquered and destroyed in 596 BC. We read in 2 Kings 25 that most of the people were taken to Babylon, along with the articles from the temple. Only the poorest people remained.
He (Nebuchadnezzar) carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his successors until the kingdom of Persia came to power. The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.The decrees of Cyrus the Great allowing the people of Judah to return home, occurred in the first year of his reign. He was later defeated and killed by Sythians, and Sythia was taken over by Darius, The Great King. We learn about The Great King in detail in Chapter XL of The Story of the Greeks. This is the Darius mentioned in Chapter 6 of Ezra (but not the Darius the Mede of Daniel, which is why we don't read Daniel 9, because it confuses small people.), and so this is a great time to read this fascinating historical book. There are 10 Chapters of Ezra. We read two per day during Week 17 in Term II.
In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:
“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up, and may the Lord their God be with them.’”
2 Chron 36:20-23 NIV
Darius is killed, and succeeded by his Son, Xerxes. We read about that in Chapter XLVII. Xerxes, otherwise known as Ahasuerus, is the husband of Hadassah...otherwise known as Esther. We read about her in Week 18.
Xerxes, in turn, is succeeded by his son, Artaxerxes, whom we are introduced to at the end of Chapter LV. It is Artaxerxes who commissions Ezra to take charge of the ecclesiastical and civil affairs of the Jewish nation, and we read that decree in Ezra 7:13-28. Later, in Artaxerxes' 20th year, Nehemiah, his cupbearer, hears from his brother that Jerusalem remains without walls and returns to restore them. We read the first of 13 Chapters of Nehemiah during Week 19.
The history of God’s people in the Old Testament closes at the end of the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. God’s people have returned to their homeland. The temple has been rebuilt, and worship has been restored. It would be 400 more years before our Saviour would come into the world, and the New Testament would begin. And we read about that in AO6 Term III!
We found our integration of history in Term II fascinating, and we learned a great deal. Below, in summary, are the Bible passages we read. It is my hope that some of you might find them useful too.
Week 16: The Exile: 605-597 BCDay 1: Daniel Chapter 1
Day 2: 2 Kings 24
Day 3: 2 Chronicles36
Day 4: Jeremiah 25: 1-14
Day 5: Jeremiah 29: 1-23
Week 17: Return from Exile with Zerubbabel : 536 BCDay 1: Ezra 1,2 (Search for interesting info in the list of names.)
Day 2: Ezra 3,4
Day 3: Ezra 5,6
Day 4: Ezra 7,8
Day 5: Ezra 9,10
Week 18: Those who remain in Persia 497 B.C to 466 BCDay 1: Esther 1,2
Day 2: Esther 3,4
Day 3: Esther 5,6
Day 4: Esther 7,8
Day 5: Esther 9,10
Week 19: Nehemiah returns with additional exiles 444 BCDay 1: Nehemiah 1,2
Day 2:Nehemiah 3,4
Day 3:Nehemiah 5,6:1-14
Day 4:Nehemiah 6:15-8:18
Day 5:Nehemiah 9,10
Week 20Day 1: Nehemiah 11,12
Day 2: Nehemiah 13