The fortifications of King Arphaxad (Jdt 1:1-1:4)

“It was the twelfth year of the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled over the Assyrians in the great city of Nineveh. In those days, King Arphaxad, ruled over the Medes in Ecbatana. He built walls around Ecbatana with hewn stones three cubits thick and six cubits long. He made the walls seventy cubits high and fifty cubits wide. At the gates he built towers one hundred cubits high and sixty cubits wide at the foundations. He made its gates seventy cubits high and forty cubits wide to allow his armies to march out in force and his infantry form their ranks.”

This story has an exact date, the 12th year of the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar. This is a portrayal of a war between Babylonia and Media. King Nebuchadnezzar had actually defeated the Assyrians in Nineveh. Nebuchadnezzar lived from 634-562 BCE. He was a Chaldean, in other words, he ruled Babylonia, 605-562 BCE, from what we call present day Baghdad. It was under his rule that Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 BCE as depicted in 2 Chronicles, chapter 32, and 2 Kings, chapters 24-25. The 12th year of his rule would put this at 593 BCE, a few years before the final destruction of Jerusalem. King Arphaxad was a supposed contemporary Median king during the conquest of the Assyrians. If he was a contemporary of King Nebuchadnezzar, he might be identified with King Cyaxares (625–585 BC) of Media. Anyway these were the two protagonists in this story. Ecbatana was the capital of Media, as we saw in Tobit, chapter 3. This King Arphaxad fortified his city of Ecbatana with stones that were 4 ½ feet thick and 9 feet long that made the walls 105 feet high and 75 feet wide. The towers were 150 feet high and 90 feet wide at their foundation. The gates were very wide, 105 feet high and 60 feet wide, so that his army could get in and out of the gates. Although the name of the book is Judith, she will not make an appearance until chapter 8 of this book.

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