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Josiah's Death On The Battlefield Of Megiddo (609)

After the fall of Nineveh the two conquerors shared the empire between them: Cyaxares took Assyria itself and its dependencies in the upper valley of the Tigris, as well as the regions, still in a very barbarous state, situated to the north and the east; Nebupolassar, who had proclaimed himself king of Babylon twelve years previously, became the overlord of the lower plain of Elam, the Mesopotamian regions of the banks of the Euphrates, Syria and the land of Canaan.

 At Haran, as has been mentioned, was the last remnant of the Assyrian forces.

This is the historical context in which the Judaean catastrophe occurred, with the death of Josiah on the battlefield of Megiddo.

Ever since ancient times Canaan had been the cockpit between Egypt and the powers of the north (whether they were Hittite, Assyrians or Babylonians). By definition the Egyptians regarded as a national enemy any sovereign to the north of the source of the Yarden (Jordan) who appeared to have intentions of seizing, annexing or laying under tribute the territory which we now call Palestine.

For this reason it is surprising to find Neco II, the son of Psammetichus, concerned about the misfortunes of the Assyrians and going to the aid of their king. Of course, a very weak or powerless Assyria suited Neco admirably, but as a clever diplomat it did not fit in his plans at all for his hereditary rival to be replaced on the Mesopotamian chessboard by the neo- Babylonian empire. Its sovereign, Nebupolassar, made no secret of his plans for hegemony. This is the explanation of the unexpected aid that Neco wanted to give to his hereditary enemy.

To reach the Euphrates Neco had to cross the land of Canaan from one end to the other.

Josiah at age thirty-nine was mortally wounded

It was against the traditional policy of Yahudah to allow a foreign army to cross its territory. Neco's request, framed in courteous terms, was refused, and Josiah crossed the mountains of Samaria and made his way at the head of his weak forces to the gap of Megiddo, a strategic point on the plain of Jezreel where many decisive battles had been fought in past ages. It was madness for this petty king to think of opposing the powerful Egyptian army. The Judaeans were cut in pieces. During the battle Josiah was mortally wounded; he was then only thirty-nine (609).

The king's body was taken back to Yerusalem. All Yahudah and Yerusalem mourned for Josiah. The ritual lamentations were chanted. The people of YAHWEH might well observe a period of national mourning: twenty-three years exactly after the death of Josiah the reformer, not one stone remained upon another in the city of David.



Pharaoh Nechao (Neco in the Scripture), concerned at the increasing power of the neo-Babylonian empire, decides to go to the help of the king of Assyria on the Euphrates. For this purpose Neco must cross Canaan from end to end. Josiah, who has no wish to come under the yoke of Egypt, attempts to halt Neco at Megiddo.

Josiah is killed during the battle (609). Neco reaches the Euphrates near Carchemish (this encounter should not be confused with the battle of Carchemish in 605 where Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptians who had returned to the region). Neco was repulsed by Nebupolassar, the hereditary prince of Babylon. Temporary retreat of the Egyptians.


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