Babylon expanded from a small provincial town to become the capital city during the reign of Hammurabi in the first half of the 18th century BC.
Hammurabi was a very honored and effective king; he established a system of centralized government and taxation. He was most known for
authoring a code of Babylonian law called the Code of Hammurabi, which was a compilation of the earlier codes, but with major improvements.
This code was discovered by archeologists in 1901, and now resides in the Louvre.
Until the reign of Hammurabi, the city of Nippur had been the major cultural and religious center of southern Mesopotamia. The god Enlil
was supreme. When Hammurabi moved the capital to Babylon, Marduk, the god of southern Mesopotamian, rose to supremacy.
Meanwhile, Ashur, and to some degree Ishtar also, remained the predominant deities of the northern Mesopotamian state of Assyria.
After the death of Hammurabi, there were many civil wars and attacks from other nations, and Hammurabi's empire fell apart,
and Babylon reverted back to a small kingdom. It would not return to power again for almost a thousand years.
The Babylonians became subject to other nations during those years. They were subject to Assyrian rule from c. 911–619 BC.
After the Assyrians were overthrown by a coalition of formed by Nabopolasser, king of Babylon and Cyaxares, king of the Medes,
The Babylonian Empire became the most powerful state in the ancient world.
King Nebuchadnezzar erected several famous buildings in the capital city Babylon. The city itself remained an important cultural center even
after being overthrown by Cyrus the Great in 539 BC,
Kings of Babylon, from the Neo-Babylonian Empire
(Chaldean Era, after the overthrow of Assyria)
I. Nabopolassar 625–605 BC:King of Babylonia and a central figure in the fall of the Assyrian Empire.
The death of Assyrian king Ashurbanipal
around 627 BC resulted in political instability. In 626 BC, a native dynasty arose under Nabopolassar, who proceeded to make Babylon his
capital. By 616 BC, Nabopolassar had assumed command of entire region. He ruled over Babylonia for a period of about twenty years
Nabopolassar formed an alliance with Cyaxares of the Medes to confront the Assyrians and their Egyptian allies. By 615 BC he had seized
the Assyrian city of Nippur. He then led his forces to assist the Medes besieging the capital city of Ashur, but the Babylonian army was too late: the Medes had already
been victorious, and the city had already fallen. 605 BC, Nabopolassar abdicated his throne, and a few month later died of natural causes at about 53
years of age. He was succeeded by his son, Nebudchanezzar II.
II. Nebuchadnezzar II 605–562 BC: King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded Judah in three waves, beginning in c. 605 BC. According to the Bible,
Nebuchadnezzar began his reign in the 4th year of Jehoiakim’s reign. Jehoikim was king of Judah from c. 609-598 BC. Jehoiakim served
Nebachadnezzar for three years, then the final year of his reign was spent in rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar, until he was taken into capitivity
c. 598 BC. Jehoiachin then became king of Judah, but ruled only ten months, c. 598-597 BC. He was followed by Zedekiah, the last king of Judah,
who reigned for eleven years, from c. 597-586 BC.
Zediakiah presided over the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians, the destruction of the temple, and the third and final deportation of
Jews into captivity, and the beginning of the 70 years of captivity the prophet Jeremiah had foretold. Jeremiah had advised Zedekiah and his officers
to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar to save the city and the Temple, and live. In return for his wise advice, he was thrown into a cistern.
The first wave of deportations occurred at this time, with Daniel, and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah taken into captivity by
Nebuchadnezzar. They were given new Babylonian names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, as was the Babylonian custom.
It was Nebuchadnezzar’s practice to take young, strong, healthy and handsome nobles of the nations he conquered and give them positions in his
government. Daniel knew that Jeremiah had prophesied that the Babylonians would invade Judah and overthrow them, taking them captive for a
period of 70 years. (Jer. 25:8-12)
Nebuchadnezzar invaded again in 597 BC, and King Jehoiachin did surrender to Nebuchadnezzar. During this second wave of deportations,
the Babylonians took over 10,000 key people captive, including the royal family and their nobles, government officials, and valuable craftsmen.
The prophet Ezekiel was taken into captivity in the second wave of deportations, in 597 BC. All of this was merely a foretaste of what would
happen when Nebuchadnezzar returned in 588 BC and lay siege to Jerusalem for over 2 years, when the famine was so desperate in Jerusalem
that Jews were actually cooking and eating their own children. (Lam. 4:9-10) The nation of Judah fell to the Babylonians in 586 BC;
the capital city of Jerusalem was burned to rubble and the Temple was destroyed, and the third and final wave of deportations took place.
Nebuchadnezzar died after reigning for 43 years; his son, Evil-Merodach, succeeded him.
III. Evil-Merodach (or Amel-Marduk) 561–560 BC: The son of Nebuchadnezzar II, Evil-Merodach’s reign was evil and
licentious. Neriglissar, his sister’s husband, assassinated him after two years, seizing the throne for himself. (Marduk was the name of the sun god; worship of the sun god
the prevailing religion of Babylon.)
IV. Neriglissar 559–556 BC: Neriglissar occupied the throne for four years. After his death, his son, Labashi-Marduk,
although only a child, succeeded to the throne. However, the nobles of the kingdom conspired against him, and murdered him only nine months after
V. Labashi-Marduk 556 BC: Was of the royal lineage, the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar II (child of his daughter and
her husband Neriglissar). Labashi-Marduk succeeded his father when still only a boy, and reigned for nine-months. Possibly because of his tender
age, he was deemed unfit to rule, and was beaten to death in a conspiracy by the nobles of the kingdom, who then appointed one of their own, a
man named Nabonidus, to the throne.
VI. Nabonidus 556–539 BC: One of those involved in the conspiracy to murder his predecessor, Nabonidus was
appointed to the throne by his co-conspirators, but was not of the royal lineage of Nebuchadnezzar II. Nabonidus' background is not clear. He never
claimed to have noble origins, in fact, in his own writings he says that he is of unimportant origins. His mother lived to old age, and was a priestess
in the temple of the moon god, Sin, whom Nabonidus also worshipped, although worship of the sun god Marduk was the prevailing religion.
Nabonidus is considered by historians to be the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. After reigning for only a few years, he left his position in
Babylon, going to the oasis of Tayma to devote himself to the worship of the moon god, Sin. He appointed his son Belshazzar as his co-regent to
protect and defend the kingdom in his absence. In 540 BC, in response to attacks by the Persians, led by Cyrus the Great, Nabonidus returned
from Tayma to defend his kingdom. Belshazzar remained in Babylon to hold the capital, but instead held a drunken feast while his father marched
his troops north to meet Cyrus. On October 10, 539 BC, Nabonidus surrendered to Cyrus. Two days later, the armies of Cyrus the Great overthrew
the city of Babylon.
VII. Belshazzar 542 (?) - 539 BC: According to the Bible, Belshazzar was the reigning king at the time of the fall of
Babylon, the last king of the Babylonian Empire. Daniel names him as the son of Nebuchadnezzar in Dan. 5: 22. (This does not necessarily mean
that he is a direct descendant, however. Biblical scholars are themselves divided over his lineage, some calling him the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar,
and others saying he and Nabonidus were one and the same. The Jewish historian Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews, says that Belshazzar was
another name for Nabonidus.) Most historians do not record him as ever being the king, however, naming Nabonidus as the last king of the
Whatever confusion may exist about his name and kingship, the Greek historian, Herodotus, confirms that the drunken
feast hosted by Belshazzar, (in the third year of his reign, according to Daniel ch. 5), occurred on October 12 of 539 BC, and that Babylon fell
that night to the Medo-Persian armies of
Cyrus the Great. Belshazzar’s daughter, Vashti, a great-granddaughter of King Nebuchadnezzar, later married
Ahasuerus (Xerxes), son of Darius the Great.