Saturday, January 16, 2016


Years ago, in my college days, I took a course entitled "Reading Ancient Near Eastern Texts," a seminar that entailed (surprise, surprise) reading ancient Near Eastern texts, one of which was the "Babylonian Chronicles," a set of tablets that record the bloody history of Babylon. 

The text, among other events, describes in some detail the battle of Charchemish, fought in 605 BC between the Babylonian army of Nebuchadnezzar II and that of Pharaoh Necho II of Egypt, a conflict that strategists still study. It is considered one of the greatest battles of all time.

The Chronicle claims that Nebuchadnezzar "crossed the river to go against the Egyptian army which lay in Karchemiš. They fought with each other and the Egyptian army withdrew before him... But the Babylonian troops overtook and annihilated them so that not a single man escaped to his own country."

Those are the facts on the ground.

Jeremiah, however reports another perspective: He writes, "Concerning the army of Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates at Carchemish and which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah" (Jeremiah 46:2).

Jeremiah pictures the Egyptian army preparing for battle (46:3-4), marching proudly out of Egypt, like the Nile in flood, an army swollen by mercenaries from Africa and Greece (46:7,8), only to suffer a crushing defeat. (You'll note that Jeremiah doesn’t even mention King Nebuchadnezzar.)

  Egypt rises like the Nile,
like rivers whose waters surge.
He said, ‘I will rise, I will cover the earth,
I will destroy cities and their inhabitants.’ 

  Advance, O horses,
and rage, O chariots!
Let the warriors go out:
men of Cush and Put who handle the shield,
men of Lud, skilled in handling the bow. 

             That day is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts,
a day of vengeance,
to avenge himself on his foes.
The sword shall devour and be sated
and drink its fill of their blood.
For the Lord GOD of hosts is holding a sacrifice.

Historians and war theorists study Nebuchadnezzar's strategy while Jeremiah locates its brilliance in another source: the "day of the Lord," the day in which God takes the events of this world into his own hands and asserts his authority over kingdoms and kings.

What a relief! God, not ISIS, nor any other evil force in this world, will have the final say. 

David Roper

1 comment:

Dieter Schlaepfer said...

This is also reminiscent of Ezekiel 38-39, only this time the people groups include those in present day Turkey (perhaps joined by the Islamic states bordering the Caspian Sea), Iran, Northern Sudan, and Libya. Iraq, Syria, and Jordan are missing from the list. The people in the modern states of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, perhaps Eritrea, and where ever Tarshish is located (see the Hacksilber Project that locates Phoenician trade with Sardinia) are wary.

"After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them. You will go up, you will come like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your troops, and many peoples with you." -NASB

Imagine that.


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