View Full Version : Life of the Jews In Babylon and Persia

Taylor Harbin
04-06-2017, 03:40 PM
I'm brainstorming a short story about the life of Judah's last king, Jehoiachin. According to the Bible, he was deposed and deported into exile with about ten thousand other Hebrews circa 598 BC. The end of 2 Kings says that after thirty years, Amel-Marduk released him from "captivity" circa 562 BC, after the death of Nebuchadnezzar II. The archeological evidence I've been able to find suggests the Jews had their own quarter in the city, so where was the ex-king? To me, it'd make sense to keep him away from the others, both to prevent rebellion and to be used as a trophy by the Babylonian conqueror. 2 Kings says that Amel-Marduk "spoke kindly" to him and let him eat in his presence, which suggests maybe his life wasn't too good until then? Was he allowed to call himself by his Jewish name? I've seen him listed as Coniah in other places. Not sure what to make of it.

I'm also having trouble finding information on Babylonian things (dress, food, and so on) and how they compared to the incoming Persian rule under Cyrus the Great in 539 BC (which means Jehoiachin would be 77 years old, assuming he lived that long).

Any source recommendations would be greatly appreciated!

04-06-2017, 08:01 PM
A Historical Atlas of the Jewish People from the time of the Patriarchs to the Present, edited by Eli Barnavi, ISBN 1 85733 245 8
I've looked in the index and Babylon and Persia both have entries, as does Jehoiachin. I haven't read the bits they refer to. It is a large book, lavishly illustrated and with maps and diagrams.

04-06-2017, 09:10 PM
I've heard that Jehoiachin/Jeconiah is sometimes called Koniah/Coniah because taking off the "Je-" from his name symbolizes how he cut himself off from Jehova, a la the Curse of Jeremiah.

It would make sense if Jeconiah were given a Babylonian name; remember that Daniel's Babylonian name was Belteshazzar, and that his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah are better known by their Babylonian names of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego while being trained for service in the Babylonian court. So it would make sense that Jeconiah would have been given a Babylonian name as well, but perhaps only after trading prison for the royal court. Speculating from a purely personal viewpoint, it would also make sense that he may have earned himself a Babylonian nickname from the jailers, who might have tripped over his "foreign" real name, and wouldn't have been too worried about good manners.

Remember that Jehoiakim-pater had been a vassal-king for three years, before he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. He died. Jehoiachin-fils (aka Jeconiah/Coniah/Koniah) was eighteen and assumed the throne, reigned for three months before being taken captive, and Nebuchadnezzar puts his paternal uncle, Mattaniah/Zedekiah on the throne as puppet-king. Zedekiah ruled for nine years, was beseiged for two years, then was captured and blinded himself. Then Gedeliah was made governor. He's all, "Let's cooperate, m'kay?" and got killed for it. During all this time, Jeconiah has been a prisoner in captivity for 37 years, before being "lifted up out of prison" and being "spoken kindly" to and being given a throne that was above the thrones of the other captive kings.

So, yeah. I'd say he was pretty miserable. He's been deposed, imprisoned, and all that for nearly 40 years, so I'm sure there was a lot of bitterness and humiliation going around. Tradition has it (http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Jeconiah) that he was in solitary confinement at first, but the Sanhedrin, fearing the loss of the Davidic line, gained favor with Nebuchadnezzar's queen to get him the favor of having Jeconiah's queen share his imprisonment, and thus he had several sons. But even though he was only king for three months, he still managed to be most famous for Jeremiah's curse against him. On the other hand, there's also a lot of time for self-reflection, humility, and penitence during this period, and hopefully Jeconiah came out of prison a better man than he was going in.

Have you checked "The History of the Ancient World (https://books.google.com/books?id=HmShg3dnLSMC&pg=PA458&lpg=PA458&dq=Amel-Marduk+%22spoke+kindly&source=bl&ots=h30MQ05oY1&sig=o1carve34j80DM2_wvxOGKGUJ1w&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjCuNzwlpDTAhVKrVQKHcR8AuUQ6AEIJTAD#v=on epage&q=Amel-Marduk%20%22spoke%20kindly&f=false)"? It lists a few sources from much later traditions that talk about extra-Biblical bits and pieces. Jerachmeel, the 12th c. Jewish historian, talks about some severe conflict between Nebuchadnezzar and Amel-Marduk, where N. jails A.M. for treachery, and A.M. only gets out upon N's death, whereupon he removes N's body from its grave, cuts it in 300 pieces, and throws them to 300 vultures. It also mentions a bit in Berossus, who says A.M. only ruled for four years, but during that time, he was a very capricious ruler and ignored the law, bringing a good case of assassination upon himself. His son, Labashi-Marduk, gets put on the throne, but even though he's still a child, he's an apple that didn't fall far from the tree, so he gets *himself* assassinated in nine months. Megasthenes also talks about this episode. The throne fell to Nabonidas, an army officer who had no royal blood. It then talks about Nabonidas getting mixed up with Croesus, etc, etc, etc. (And I love the story about Croesus, when he himself is taken into captivity by the Persians, tells Cyrus about Solon.)

Anyhow. tl;dr: if you're going to take Jeconiah all the way to the reign of Cyrus, it's good to be aware that the Babylonian throne was very unstable for a good chunk of Jeconiah's post-prison life. And also, it's very likely that the guy coming out of prison is a much changed person than the guy going into it, so depending on the sort of story that you're writing, the most interesting part of it might actually be the time when he's away from the public eye.

Taylor Harbin
04-06-2017, 09:23 PM
Lone Star, thanks for the great reply! Indeed, the story will be told in fragments but yes Jeconiah would have a lot of stuff to reflect upon, including watching other kings rise and fall. I imagine he would have been tormented by his own demise and trying to reconcile it with God's prophecies of a messiah. I think it'll be good once I get a good enough historical basis to make it feel real.

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A Historical Atlas of the Jewish People from the time of the Patriarchs to the Present, edited by Eli Barnavi, ISBN 1 85733 245 8
I've looked in the index and Babylon and Persia both have entries, as does Jehoiachin. I haven't read the bits they refer to. It is a large book, lavishly illustrated and with maps and diagrams.

I'll look it up. Thanks!