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  • Writer's pictureEric Cline


Updated: Jul 5, 2023

—A Timeline from the Babylonian to the Seleucid Empire

A more descriptive title would read: From the Babylonian kings Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:13) and Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:1) to the Persian king Cyrus the Great (2 Chronicles 36:22) and Alexander the Great to the Seleucid Empire.

Babylonia and Assyria were empires in ancient Mesopotamia, a region that is now part of Iraq. The Babylonian empires were centered in the city of Babylon, in southeastern Mesopotamia. The Assyrian empire was centered in Ashur, in northern Mesopotamia.

In October 539 BCE, after the Battle of Opis, Cyrus the Great entered Babylon and became the provincial governor of what then became the Persian Empire.[1] In less than a century, the Persians conquered the Medes, Lydians, Neo-Babylonians, and eventually, the Egyptians. It was the largest empire the world had ever seen at its time, spanning a total of 5.5 million square kilometers (2.1 million square miles) from the Balkans and Egypt in the west to Central Asia and the Indus Valley in the east. At its height in 500 BCE, the population of the Persian Empire was around 50 million.

A year after Cyrus took charge, in 538 BCE, Cyrus permitted the Jews to return to Israel. According to Jeremiah 29:10, the exile lasted 70 years, between the time when Solomon’s temple was destroyed in 586 to about 516 the year when the rebuilt Temple was dedicated in Jerusalem.[2]

The leaders of the Persian empire were Cyrus the Great (r. 550-530 BC), Cambyses II (r. 530-522 BC), Darius I The Great (r. 522-486 BC), Xerxes I (r. 485-465 BC), Darius II (r. 424-404 BC), Artaxerxes II (r. 404-358 BC) Artaxerxes II is mentioned in Ezra and Nehemiah,[3] and Darius III (r. 336-330 BC)

After Darius III, Alexander the Great (Alexander III of Macedon) defeated the Persian armies in 334 BC. Upon Alexander's death in 323 BC, his empire was divided among his generals, resulting in several smaller states. Alexander's conquests spread Greek culture, also known as Hellenism, across his empire. The largest of these, which held sway over the Iranian plateau, was the Seleucid Empire.[4] The Seleucid Empire was a Greek state in West Asia that existed during the Hellenistic period from 312 BC to 63 BC. The Seleucid Empire was conquered by the Romans in 64 BCE. We enter the New Testament era under Roman rule.

[1] The Battle of Opis was the last major military engagement between the Achaemenid Persian Empire and the Neo-Babylonian Empire, which took place in September 539 BC, during the Persian invasion of Mesopotamia. [2] The Second Temple (Hebrew: בֵּית־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ‎ הַשֵּׁנִי‎, Bēṯ hamMīqdāš hašŠēnī, transl. 'Second House of the Sanctum'), later known as Herod's Temple, was the reconstructed Temple in Jerusalem between c. 516 BCE and 70 CE. [3] Ezra 4:7, 8, 11, 23, 6:14, 7:1, 7, 11, 12, 21, 8:1; Nehemiah 2:1, 5:14, and 13:6. [4] Ruled by Alexander's general Seleucus I Nicator.

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