The Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem more than 2,500 years ago was one of the key moments in biblical history, representing God’s judgment but also his grace and mercy.
Now, archaeologists digging in modern-day Jerusalem say they have uncovered “clear” archaeological evidence affirming the account as described in 2 Kings 25.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte uncovered Babylonian-style arrowheads and layers of ash alongside lamps, potsherds and gold and silver jewelry they believe is either a tassel or earring.
The discovery is “clear evidence of the Babylonian conquest of the city” dating to 587/586 BC, according to a UNC Charlotte press release. Significantly, the pottery and lamps were found side-by-side with evidence of the Babylonian siege “represented by burnt wood and ashes,” the press release said.
The items were unearthed at the geographical location the siege would have occurred.
“For archaeologists, an ashen layer can mean a number of different things,” said UNC Charlotte professor of history Shimon Gibson. “It could be ashy deposits removed from ovens; or it could be localized burning of garbage. However, in this case, the combination of an ashy layer full of artifacts, mixed with arrowheads, and a very special ornament indicates some kind of devastation and destruction. Nobody abandons golden jewelry and nobody has arrowheads in their domestic refuse.”
The arrowheads were common and “known to be used by the Babylonian warriors,” he said.
“Together,” Gibson added, “this evidence points to the historical conquest of the city by Babylon because the only major destruction we have in Jerusalem for this period is the conquest of 587/586.”
The Babylonian conquest took place some four centuries after the reigns of King David and King Solomon and during a period when the people of Judah rejected God and worshipped false gods. The Babylonians burned the temple and took the people of Judah into captivity in Babylon, where they remained for 70 years.
The book of Lamentations records the prophet Jeremiah weeping over the destruction of Jerusalem but looking forward to a time when God would lift his hand of discipline: “The Lord will not cast off forever. … but though he cause grief, yet he will have compassion” (Lamentations 3:31-32). Jeremiah also rejoiced that God did not completely destroy the people of Judah. God was merciful (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Nebuchadnezzar was the Babylonian king during the conquest of Jerusalem.