The Chaldeans (Daniel 9)

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Illustration: Assyrian warriors

The Chaldeans were a seminomadic ethnic group first mentioned in ancient sources from the ninth century B.C., as a people from  the land of Kaldu. Living in the southern frontier of Babylon, they were organized into tribal “houses”, each of which was headed by a tribal leader. As these tribes assimilated into the predominant culture and subsequently inherited the empire of Babylonia, the terms “Chaldean” and “Babylonian” became synonymous (Isaiah 47:1, Daniel 9:1).

The first notable Chaldean recorded in Scripture was Merodach-Baladan, king of Babylon, who sent envoys to Hezekiah of Judah for the purpose of forming an anti-Assyrian coalition (2 Kings 20:12-19, Isaiah 39:1). Merodach-Baladan united the Chaldean tribes and, with Elamite assistance, managed to overthrow Assyrian dominance in the region and to rule for a decade before being driven out (ca. 722-710 B.C.). By 626 B.C., as Assyrian power declined, Chaldean power in Babylon experienced a resurgence during the reign of Nabopolassar and his son Nebuchadnezzar. This last dynasty of Babylon is thus known as the Chaldean, or Noe-Babylon empire.

The reign of the Chaldeans brought the greatest flowering and fame of the Babylonian empire. Nebuchadnezzar, under whose rule the kingdom of Judah was conquered and exiled (Jeremiah 52), in addition to his military achievements is credited with the grandest rebuilding of Babylon’s cultural and religious life. The city came to be regarded as one of the wonders of the ancient world and was, in the prophet’s words, “Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians’ pride” (Isaiah 13:19).

Because Babylon was famed as a city of learning, the term “Chaldean” came to stand for priests, astrologers and the educated class (Daniel 2:10, 4:7, 5:7). This Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian period marked the beginning of accurate historical, economic and astronomical record keeping, as well as the rise of the Aramaic as the lingua franca (common, commercial language) of the Near East (2:4). Ultimately the Neo-Babylonian empire fell to Cyrus of Persia, and the glory of Mesopotamia faded into history.


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