Saturday, February 3, 2018

How Did Mulek Escape Jerusalem? – Part I

During all of Lehi’s lifetime, the Kingdom of Judah was a client state of the Assyrian Empire. Before that time, Assyria, which was named after is original capital, the ancient city of Aššur, was under the control of the Median Empire, and after Assyria’s Empire period, it was under the Achaemenid, Macedonian, and Seleucid Empires. But during Lehi’s time and at its peak, Assyria made up a substantial part of the greater Mesopotamian "cradle of civilization."
The Eastern Mediterranean and Mesopotamia in the Middle East around 600 BC. The major forces at the time were the Assyrians and Babylonians in the north and Egypt in the south, with Judaea (Israel) caught in the middle

This included Sumer, the Akkadian Empire, and Babylonia. Assyria was at the height of technological, scientific and cultural achievements for its time. At the peak of the Assyrian Empire, it stretched from Cyprus and the East Mediterranean to Iran, and from what is now Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus, to the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt and eastern Libya.
    In the last decades of the century, about ten years before Lehi was told to leave Jerusalem by the Lord, Assyria was overthrown by Babylon, which had been a powerful influence in Mesopotamia for countless ages, but had fallen under Assyrian control for nearly three centuries. When the ruthless warrior and brilliant strategist, Nebuchadnezzar II, ascended the throne, Babylon was in the final stages of a combined military action that eventually saw the defeat of Assyria and began Nebuchadnezzar’s 43-year reign that placed Babylon, after defeating their earlier allies, once again through force and destruction, became the ruler of much of the civilized world.
    At this time, Judah was paying a heavy tribute and controlled by Egypt, but when the Egyptians were defeated by the Babylonians at Carchemish in 605 B.C. king Jehoiakim changed allegiances, paying tribute to Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. However, when Nebuchadnezzar unsuccessfully attempted to invade Egypt and was repulsed with heavy losses, most of the Babylon-controlled states of the Levant, including Judah, rebelled and Jehoiakim stopped paying tribute to Babylon.
    In 599 B.C., an angered Nebuchadnezzar squashed the rebellion in the Levant and attacked Jerusalem. During the siege, king Jehoiakim died in 598 and was succeeded by his son, Jeconiah. Three months later, on March 16, 597, Jerusalem fell, and the conquering Nebuchadnezzar appointed 21-year-old Zedekiah (Tzidkiyahu), Jehoiakim[‘s brother, to be the new king of a reduced Judah kingdom, and made it a tributary of Babylon.
Lehi's Route out of Jerusalem "into the wilderness" was the same route that Mulek and his party later took "into the wilderness"

During the first year of Zedekiah, the Lord told Lehi to flee Jerusalem for the Jews sought to take away his life (1 Nephi 1:4; 2:1-2). During the next ten years, the Jews in Jerusalem were split between those favoring Babylon and those favoring Egypt, and eventually Zedekiah, ignoring the warnings of Jeremiah, Baruch ben Neriah and his other family and advisors, as well as those of the pro-Babylonian party, broke his oath of loyalty to the king of Babylon, revolted against Nebuchadnezzar and entered into an alliance with Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt.
    Infuriated, Nebuchadnezzar returned, defeated the Egyptians, and again besieged Jerusalem, pledging to wipe out the city and its ruling family, which resulted in the complete overthrow of Judah in 587 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city wall and the Temple, together with the houses of the most important citizens. Zedekiah and his fighting men managed to slip out of the city during the night and made their way cautiously through the Dung Gate in order to reach the Arabah and the safety of the Jordan Valley.
This was the planned route that Zedekiah attempted to take "into the wilderness" toward Arabah when he was discovered by the Babylonian army and forced into the Plains of Jericho where he was captured 

Making his way through the line of surrounding forts, he hurried off to the east toward the Valley. However, on the plains of Jericho, a Babylonian army detachment caught up with Zedekiah and took him captive after he had been completely forsaken by his officers and men. Along with his sons, Zedekiah was taken to Nebuchadnezzar who executed the sons and numerous princes in front of Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:7), who was then blinded and taken to Babylon with many others (Jeremiah 52:10–11). Thereafter, Judah became a Babylonian province, called Yehud, putting an end to the independent Kingdom of Judah
    At some point in this final period of the Babylonian siege, Mulek, the sixth son of Zedekiah, was spirited out of Jerusalem, evidently by those who were assigned to watch over him in the Palace. Based on Amaleki's account in Omni, it would appear that Mulek and his party left Jerusalem at the time king Zedekiah was captured trying to escape (Omni 1:15). But how, exactly, these retainers were able to get the young prince out of Jerusalem remains speculative; however, since Zedekiah was trying to reach the Arabah in his escape, which was the pathway to the southeast and away from the Babylonian sphere of control, it is likely Mulek was part of this escape that became separated from the main body when Zedekiah took off with his fighting men toward the plains of Jericho where he was eventually abandoned by his guards and captured.
    Eilat Mazar, a third-generation Israeli archaeologist, and granddaughter of pioneering Israeli archaeologist Benjamin Mazar, along with the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, thinks she found the remains of David’s Palace at the top of the city in the oldest spot of the City of David, which might provide us an answer. In a structure considered to be the largest ever found in Israel from the ancient Israelite period, early in 2008, Mazar's team found the entrance of what turned out to be an extensive tunnel running under the Stepped Stone Structure. 
    Mazar believes that the tunnel was likely first created before the time of King David to convey water, and then incorporated into the construction of his palace complex around 1000 B.C. She says there is "high probability" that it is the water tunnel called tsinor in the biblical story of King David's conquest of Jerusalem (II Samuel 5:6-8; I Chronicles 11:4-6).
    According to Mazar, centuries later the tunnel may have served as an escape route during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. The Bible, in II Kings 25:4, describes King Zedekiah's escape through such a tunnel during the siege. The tunnel, with walls composed of unworked stone and bedrock, is wide enough to allow passage of one person crawling through at a time. Within the tunnel, Mazar's team uncovered intact oil lamps characteristic of the siege period.
    Whether this is the way Mulek escaped from Jerusalem is unknown, but once out, his party had only four ways they could have reached the Land of Promise. They are:
The Four Possible movements from the Middle East to the Western Hemisphere

1. Sailing out of the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic Ocean to land on the east coast of the Land of Promise.
2 Sailing from the Arabian Peninsula eastward around India and through the Indonesia and then across the Pacific Ocean to land on the west coast of the Land of Promise.
3. Sailing from the Arabian Peninsula southward past Madagascar, around the horn of Africa and up the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean to land on the east coast of the Land of Promise.  
4. Sailing from the Arabian Peninsula to the southeast across the Indian Ocean in the same direction that the Lehi Colony took along the Southern Ocean, picking up the Prevailing Westerlies in the West Wind Drift and eastward across the southern Pacific Ocean to the west coast of South America to land on the west coast of the Land of Promise.
    Before discussing these four options, the political controls of the Levant and the entire Middle East should be clearly understood.
The Babylonian Empire from about 607 B.C. to around 539 B.C. Red Arrows: The area of military movement and control, including battles in Egypt, Assyria, and Akkadia, and the Siege of Jerusalem; White Arrow: The Babylonian control of the entire Eastern Mediterranean coast from Turkey to Egypt; Green Arrow: The only escape route out of Jerusalem not controlled by Babylonian military garrisons or outposts

In 600 B.C., Babylonia was the single greatest power in the Middle East, with Babylon the largest city in the world, exceeding a population of some 200,000, and covering 2,200 acres. Typical of powerful city states at the time, they were both aggressive and unforgiving. When Judah rebelled the first time, Nebuchadnezar attacked the city, defeated the Israelites and sacked the Temple. He placed a puppet king on the throne and demanded tribute, taking numerous captives back to Babylon, including the captured king. But when Judah rebelled the second time, Nebuchadnezzar swore to destroy the entire Royal Family and lineage, ordered his troops to capture the king and his family, put Zedekiah in chains (an unusual treatment of a captive king at the time), killed five of his sons in front of him, put out Zedekiah’s eyes, and took him back to Babylon in chains and imprisoned him. He then burned the city, destroyed the temple, and left Jerusalem and all of Judah in ruins, with only a small amount of destitute people left in the area.
    To believe that Mulek, the baby or very young sixth son of Zedekiah would have been allowed to survive, escape, or find passage on some Mediterranean ship at a time when the Babylonian army controlled all of the Eastern Mediterranean, including all the sea ports is simply unrealistic and contrary to the attitude and performance of the Babylonians at the time. After all, Nebuchadnezzar had just concluded a 13-year siege and capture of the Phoenician city of Tyre, in which Babylonia destroyed Palae-Tyrus—the mainland city, or Old Tyre—and it remained in ruins and unoccupied at the time of Alexander the Great more than 250 years later, though the island city was spared such ruin after it fell (Archibald Henry Sayce, Early Israel and the Surrounding Nations, Service & Paton, London, 1899, p 240 [reprinted 2012]).
    Which obviously leads us to how did Mulek get to the Land of Promise (Mosiah 25:2, Helaman 8:21 and Omni 1:15).
(See the next post, “How Did Mulek Escape Jerusalem? – Part II,” for more on how Mulek and his party reached the Land of Promise)

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