Nebuchadnezzar Against Arphaxad.* 1It was the twelfth year* of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled over the Assyrians in the great city of Nineveh. At that time Arphaxad was ruling over the Medes in Ecbatana.a 2* Around Ecbatana he built a wall of hewn stones, three cubits thick and six cubits long. He made the walls seventy cubits high and fifty cubits wide. 3At its gates he raised towers one hundred cubits high with foundations sixty cubits wide. 4He made its gates seventy cubits high and forty cubits wide to allow passage of his mighty forces, with his infantry in formation. 5At that time King Nebuchadnezzar waged war against King Arphaxad in the vast plain that borders Ragau.* 6Rallying to him were all who lived in the hill country, all who lived along the Euphrates, the Tigris, and the Hydaspes, as well as Arioch, king of the Elamites, in the plains. Thus many nations joined the ranks of the Chelodites.* b
7Then Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Assyrians, contacted all the inhabitants of Persia* and all who lived in the west, the inhabitants of Cilicia and Damascus, Lebanon and Antilebanon, and all who lived along the seacoast, 8the peoples of Carmel, Gilead, Upper Galilee, and the vast plain of Esdraelon, 9and all in Samaria and its cities, and west of the Jordan as far as Jerusalem, Bethany, Chelous, Kadesh,c and the river of Egypt; Tahpanhes,d Raamses, all the land of Goshen, 10Tanis, Memphise and beyond, and all the inhabitants of Egypt as far as the borders of Ethiopia.
11But all the inhabitants of the whole land* made light of the summons of Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Assyrians, and would not join him in the war. They were not afraid of him, since he was only a single opponent. So they sent back his envoys empty-handed and disgraced.f 12Then Nebuchadnezzar fell into a violent rage against all the land, and swore by his throne and his kingdom that he would take revenge on all the territories of Cilicia, Damascus, and Syria, and would destroy with his sword all the inhabitants of Moab, Ammon, the whole of Judea, and all those living in Egypt as far as the coasts of the two seas.*
Defeat of Arphaxad. 13In the seventeenth year* he mustered his forces against King Arphaxad and was victorious in his campaign. He routed the whole force of Arphaxad, his entire cavalry, and all his chariots, 14and took possession of his cities. He pressed on to Ecbatana, took its towers, sacked its marketplaces, and turned its glory into shame. 15He captured Arphaxad in the mountains of Ragau, ran him through with spears, and utterly destroyed him once and for all. 16Then he returned to Nineveh with all his consolidated forces, a very great multitude of warriors; and there he and his forces relaxed and feasted for one hundred and twenty days.g
* [1:1–3:10] This section consists of an introduction to Nebuchadnezzar (1:1–16), his commissioning of Holofernes (2:1–13), and a description of the campaigns Holofernes leads against the disobedient vassal nations of the west (2:14–3:10).
* [1:1–16] Introduction to Nebuchadnezzar and his campaign against Arphaxad. Nebuchadnezzar (605/4–562 B.C.), the most famous Neo-Babylonian king, destroyed Jerusalem in 587 B.C., the eighteenth year of his reign (see Jer 32:1). His depiction here as an Assyrian is an invention of the author, as is the description of Arphaxad, an otherwise unknown king of the Medes, in Ecbatana.
* [1:1] Twelfth year: in the twelfth year of Nebuchadnezzar (593 B.C.) Zedekiah, king of Judah, refused to join a revolt against him (see Jer 27:3; 28:1). Nineveh: capital of Assyria, destroyed in 612 B.C.
* [1:2–4] Since a cubit was the distance from the elbow to the fingertip (approximately eighteen inches), these dimensions are prodigious. The massive wall around Ecbatana is described as 105 feet high and 75 feet thick, with each stone measuring four and a half feet thick and nine feet long. The tower gates are 150 feet high and 60 feet wide. Such unlikely massive structures have never been found at Ecbatana, which lies beneath the modern city of Hamadan, located in the Zagros mountains of northwest Iran. Ecbatana is mentioned in vv. 1, 2, 14 as Arphaxad’s headquarters. Tradition claims Esther and Mordecai are buried there.
* [1:5] Ragau, the place where Arphaxad is slain (v. 15), one of the oldest settlements in Iran, is located on a plain one hundred miles northeast of Ecbatana. In the Book of Tobit it is the home of Gabael (Tb 1:14; 4:1, 20; 5:6; 6:13; 9:2, 5).
* [1:6] Chelodites: Greek Cheleoud, probably a corruption of “Chaldeans,” i.e., the Neo-Babylonians.
* [1:7] Mention of Persia suggests a postexilic setting for the book, since this area would have been designated Media before the middle of the fifth century B.C.
* [1:11] References to “the whole land,” “all the land” are used ten times in the first two chapters (vv. 11, 12; 2:1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 19). This signifies all the nations west of Persia as far as Egypt that were subject to Nebuchadnezzar, i.e., the whole earth or world (esp. 2:9). These and similar formulations throughout the book build the case that the “God of heaven” (5:8; 6:19; 11:17) is the true “Master of heaven and earth” (9:12).
* [1:12] The two seas: probably the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, though possibly the Red Sea and Mediterranean.
* [1:13] Seventeenth year: 588 B.C. Without help from the vassal nations, Nebuchadnezzar defeats Arphaxad.