POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

A Tale of Two Kings

The book of Daniel begins with a tale of two Kings.; one of Judah one of Babylon.  I thought it might be some fun background information to learn a little bit about the geopolitical situation of that time. 

The king of Judah at this time is a man named Jehoakim.  He is an interesting guy and was not well liked by anyone.  His people didn't like him, God didn't seem to like him and I am guessing even his mother found him hard to love. 

First of all, he was placed in power after the death of his father, a beloved ruler named Josiah who attempted to steer his people back towards the ways of their God.  After Josaiah's death, Jehoakim was placed on the throne by the Egpyptian king Neco.  He was a puppet of Epyptian power and he did not listen to the word of God.  He oppressed his own people and ripped them off so he could live in opulence. Jeremiah, a man who was called by God to tell the truth to this King, predicted that Nebuchadnezzar would conquer him (Jeremiah 25) and the surrounding territories. Jehoakim was such a good guy that Jeremiah said the following of him at his death

18 Therefore thus says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: "They shall not lament for him, saying, ‘Ah, my brother!' or ‘Ah, sister!' They shall not lament for him, saying, ‘Ah, lord!' or ‘Ah, his majesty!' 19 With the burial of a donkey he shall be buried, dragged and dumped beyond the gates of Jerusalem."
Jeremiah 22:18, 19

As the old King James translation puts it, this king received the burial of an ass. You can guess what kind of guy he was. You must be a real donkey if God has his prophet promise you the burial of a donkey.1

His nemesis in the first chapter of Daniel is the infamous Nebuchadnezzer who was the son of Nabopolassar the founder of the Chaldean dynasty which ruled Babylon.  He rose to power shortly after his military defeat of the Egyptian/Assyrian alliance at the battle of Carchemish in 605 BC.  During this military campaign he also made his presence known in Judah.  At this time his father dies and he returns to Babylon to be crowned King.  Jehoakim was made a subject of Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar brought several of the nobility back to his capital city to be trained in his service.  Daniel and his posse were deported to Babylon at this time.  From the biblical accounts in Jeremiah, 2 Chronicles and Daniel  as well as the ancient Babylonian Chronicle we can reconstruct the following time line for the Babylonian-Judean relationship in the 6th century.2

  • 605-Daniel and his friends are deported and Jehoakim becomes subservient to Babylon
  • 601-Jehoakim switches allegiance back towards Egypt after a temporary military defeat of the Babylonians
  • 597-Jehoakim killed buried without honor-his son Jehoiachin succeeds him and is conquered and exiled to Babylon along with a group of others including the prophet Ezekiel
  • 587/86-Babylonian fully and finally crushes Jerusalem devastating the city and its Temple

The tensions between Jerusalem and Babylon lasted roughly 18 years and ended in the complete humiliation of God's people.   One scholar gives this horrific description:

"In 587 BCE, the Babylonians began an 18-month-long siege of Jerusalem which ended with the city's almost complete destruction in the summer of 586 BCE.  Zedekiah's sons were killed before his eyes, then he was blinded and taken to Babylon. Thousands of Judah's citizens were deported to Babylonia where they joined their countrymen, beginning the famous 'Babylonian Exile.'" 3

One final note should be made. Many scholars have seen a discrepancy between the accounts of Daniel and the accounts of the book of Jeremiah regarding the dating of Nebuchadnezzar's first year of reigning in Babylon.  Daniel clearly articulates that Neb's first year was in the "third year of the reign of Jehoaikim" (Daniel 1:1) while Jeremiah tells up it was during his "fourth year."  Several reconciliations have been offered to understand the apparent discrepancy, the most compelling first put forth by Assyriologist D.J. Wiseman.4 There were several ways of dating the assension of a King in the ancient near east.  First, in Judah they would count the first year of the King as the first year.  Simple enough and it seems Jeremiah used this reckoning.  Second, the Babylonians counted the first year as an ascension year making the first year of a King's reign the one following ascension.  Tremper Longman reproduces a helpful chart from G.F. Hasel that illustrates this well:5

Chronicle of Kings in Jeremiah and Daniel

Ascension Year Method

Ascension Year

1st year

2nd year

3rd year

Daniel 1:1

Non-Ascension Year Method

1st year

2nd year

3rd year

4th year

Jeremiah 25:1, 9; 46:2


1. See article Jehoakim Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1988; 2002), 2:976.

2. For more background information see Joyce G. Baldwin, Daniel (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1978) 19-21 and 77-79. 

3. William H. Stiebing, Jr. Ancient Near Eastern History and Culture (Longman, 2008)281.

4. For a discussion of dating methods see  Goldingay, John. Daniel. Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1989, 14

5.  See Longman, Tremper. Daniel : The Niv Application Commentary from Biblical Text ... To Contemporary Life. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1999, 44.