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Caught Between the Great Powers

This paper will show how Judah aligned itself with Egypt, who was in a bipolar struggle for power with Babylon and how it eventually led to their destruction. Small nations caught between two larger powers struggling for supremacy find it impossible to remain in a state of neutrality. They must choose a side to align with and hope they make the right choice in order to survive the struggle.

Judah?s downfall began in 609 B.C. when Pharaoh Necho II led his army through Judah on his way to assist the Assyrians in battle against the Babylonians. Necho sent word all he intended to do was pass through Judah. King Josiah (640-609 B.C.) ruler of Judah decided to attack Necho?s army on the plain of Megiddo. The Egyptians defeated Josiah?s troops and King Josiah was killed as a result of the battle. Josiah?s son Jehoahaz became King upon his father?s death, he did not remain in power long and was replaced by Jehoiakim a pro-Egyptian leader. Jehoiakim was a loyal ally to the Egyptians and formed an alliance between Judah and Egypt in 609 B.C. Judah failed to realize the shift in power four years later when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon defeated the Egyptian army in the Battle of Carchemish. Judah surrender to the Babylonians in 603 B.C., after seeing the total destruction of Ashkelon a year earlier. In 601 B.C. Judah revolted against Babylonian rule after seeing the Egyptian army defeat the Babylonian army. King Nebuchadnezzar retaliated against Judah in the winter of 586 B.C. Judah surrenders in order to save Jerusalem from destruction and to avoid the status of a conquered army. Nebuchadnezzar deported 10,000 inhabitants to Babylon, and levied heavy tribute on the people. In 594 B.C. King Zedekiah of Judah attempted to form a league against Babylon, made up of the small states that form modern Jordan, Israel and coastal Lebanon. The states were so small and weak they posed no threat to Nebuchadnezzar. In 589/8 B.C. Judah was once again left to fight the mighty Babylonians alone. Judah held out against the Babylonians for a year and a half. The fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. signaled the end of Judah.

Judah took a gamble and sided with Egypt in a time of trouble. Judah failed to recognize that Egypt was no longer the dominant power, and did not try to align itself with Babylon. Judah?s destruction; shows how small nations caught between two supreme powers fighting for control can be destroyed because they fail to recognize the shifts in power, and cling to a false hope they made the right choice.

Malamat, Abraham ?Caught Between The Great Powers: Judah Picks a Side and Loses.? Biblical Archeology Review July/August 1999: 34-41.

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