While Egypt is experiencing the final three plagues in this week’s Torah portion, in the haftorah, we learn about Egypt getting in trouble again centuries later—this time it’s a “plague” of Babylonians.
Jeremiah forsees the Egyption fate: “Stand fast and prepare yourself, for the sword has devoured round about you.” He proceeds to outline how helpless the Egyptians will be to save themselves from the impending destruction Nebuchadnezzar will wreak.
Of the Jewish people, however, Jeremiah relays that (of course) the Jews will be punished and exiled, but ultimately redeemed (notice a trend, anyone?). The prophesy concludes, “Jacob shall return and be quiet and at ease, and there shall be none who disturb his rest.”
Do you ever wonder if any of these prophesies promising punishment and redemption and the smiting of enemies pan out?
To put this battle in historical context, we’re looking at about 609-587 BCE and this was not the first time Judea was caught between world powers Egypt and Babylonia. Jeremiah, the prophet to the leadership of Judah, thought it was prudent to ally with Babylon, as did many other political leaders of the time. And considering the previous relationship with Egypt, this is not surprising.
Tensions were high as the Babylonians conquered peoples and cities—expanding its kingdom at an alarming speed. The Egyptians planned to confront the Babylonians before they reached Egypt. At the time of this particular skirmish, to reach the Babylonian army to engage, the Egyptian army would need to pass through Judea. Necho II, the Egyptian King, evidently sent word that they had no quarrel with the Judeans, and sought only to pass through Judah.
As the Judeans elected to cast their lot with the Babylonians, instead of allowing the Egyptians to pass through Judea, King Josiah intercepted and engaged the Egyptian army, but was overtaken, and Josiah perished in the row, known as the Battle of Miggido in 609 BCE.
The Egyptians went north to ally with the Assyrians, who had moved their capital city no less than three times due to Babylonian sackings. The Egyptian-Assyrian army would indeed finally loose to the Babylonian forces under Nebuchadnezzar II four years later at the decisive battle of Carchemish.
Casey (Kefira) McCarty is a published author living in Ohio. She is the Assistant Director of the Columbus Idea Foundry, a community workshop space, and is an artisan who crafts jewelry, Judaica and fine art available online and in Central Ohio galleries and boutiques. You can find her online shop at www.sinemetudesigns.etsy.com