Carchemish, and the Major Battle of 606 BCE

by David Padfield and edited by Fred P Miller

Carchemish (now Karkamis) was an important ancient city of the northern Hittite empire, located on the border between Turkey and Syria on the Euphrates River just north of Hamath. It was also the location of one of the decisive battles in world history. It was here that the armies of Babylon and Egypt met in battle (Jer. 46:2; 2 Chr. 35:20-24). The prophet Isaiah lists Carchemish as one of the kingdoms overthrown by Sargon II of Assyria in 717 BC (Isa. 10:7-11). Carchemish is also mentioned in Egyptian and Assyrian texts.

The ruins of Carchemish are located on the West bank of Euphrates River, about 35 miles southeast of Gaziantep, Turkey. The site lies in Turkish territory on the border of Syria. A large Turkish military now stands on the Carchemish acropolis, and access to the site is now heavily restricted and is out of bounds to archaeological exploration.

The site was excavated three different times before World War One by the British Museum, led by David George Hogarth, Reginald C. Thompson, Leonard Woolley, and T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia"). These expeditions uncovered substantial remains of the Assyrian and Neo-Hittite periods, including forts, palaces, temples, market places, and a great wall sculptured with a procession of warriors, with the king and crown prince celebrating a great victory.

The Battle Of Carchemish

The Battle of Carchemish was fought in May/June of 606 BCE between an allied army of Egyptians and Assyrians against the Babylonian army.

When the Assyrian capital of Ninevah was overrun by the Babylonians circa 612 BCE, the Assyrians moved their capital to Harran (now in Turkey). When the Babylonians captured Harran circa 608 BC, the Assyrian capital was moved to Carchemish.

Egypt was allied with the Assyrians, and marched to their aid against the Babylonians. Circa 609 BCE, the Egyptian army of Pharaoh Necho II was delayed at Megiddo (in Israel) by the forces of King Josiah of Judah. Josiah was killed and his army was defeated.

"After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish by the Euphrates; and Josiah went out against him. But he sent messengers to him, saying, 'What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I have not come against you this day, but against the house with which I have war; for God commanded me to make haste. Refrain from meddling with God, who is with me, lest He destroy you.' Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him, but disguised himself so that he might fight with him, and did not heed the words of Necho from the mouth of God. So he came to fight in the Valley of Megiddo. And the archers shot King Josiah; and the king said to his servants, 'Take me away, for I am severely wounded.' His servants therefore took him out of that chariot and put him in the second chariot that he had, and they brought him to Jerusalem. So he died, and was buried in one of the tombs of his fathers. And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah." (2 Chr. 35:20-24).

The Egyptians were further delayed at Riblah, and Necho arrived at Carchemish too late. Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar had surprised the Assyrians and had captured Carchemish. He then turned on the Egyptians and thoroughly defeated them in a bloody battle and the combined Egyptian and Assyrian forces were devastated.

The Babylonian Chronicles, now housed in the British Museum, claim that Nebuchadnezzar

"crossed the river to go against the Egyptian army which lay in Carchemish. The armies fought with each other and the Egyptian army withdrew before him. He accomplished their defeat and beat them to nonexistence. As for the rest of the Egyptian army which had escaped from the defeat so quickly that no weapon had reached them, the Babylonians overtook and defeated them in the district of Hamath so that not a single man escaped to his own country. At that time Nebuchadnezzar conquered the whole of Hatti-land."
But this is probably a hyperbole since Necho lasted 8 or 9 more years until the final overthrow of Egypt.

Before the battle of Carchemish, Egypt had been for more than 1500 years the greatest power in North Africa and was the power in the Middle East, but the battle of Carchemish changed all of that when the Babylonians destroyed the power of Egypt and the independent existence of Assyria. The Battle of Carchemish was the end of the Assyrian Empire, and Egypt was reduced to a second-rate power. Ezekiel prophesied, one year before the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 585 BCE, that the main castes of Egypt would be taken captive by the Babylonians and then restored fourty years later. But Egypt would be the "basest" of nations from that time. This was a result of the Battle of Carchemish. Egupt would lose sovereignty and self rule from circa 580 BCE to 1955 AD. They would be successively ruled over by the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Saracens, Turks and the British until the end of the mandate in 1955 when self rule was restored.

This following prophecy was givin in 586 BCE and was fulfilled beginning in 569 BCE.

Ezekiel 29:12 And I will make the land of Egypt desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate, and her cities among the cities that are laid waste shall be desolate forty years: and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries. 13 Yet thus saith the Lord GOD; At the end of forty years will I gather the Egyptians from the people whither they were scattered: 14 And I will bring again the captivity of Egypt, and will cause them to return into the land of Pathros, into the land of their habitation; and they shall be there a base kingdom. 15 It shall be the basest of the kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations: for I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations.
At the Battle of Carchemish Babylon became master of the Middle East for almost a century and began the fulfillment of Ezekiek's amazing forecast of Egyptian history..