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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary


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(cahr' cehm ihssh; fort of Chemosh ) (modern Jerablus) was an important city on the great bend of the Euphrates River. It was on the west bank of the river, at an important river crossing point on the international trade route. Carchemish lies mostly on the Turkish side of the modern Turkish-Syrian border.

Carchemish is mentioned about 1800 B.C. as the capital of a kingdom in alliance with the Assyrian king Shamshi-adad I against Yahdun-lim, king of Mari.

After the Mari period, there is a short break in the known history of the city. When sources again become available, Carchemish was first under Hurrian influence, then was included within the Hittite sphere. Carchemish was a vassal and ally of the Hittite King Muwatallis against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II at the important battle of Kadesh in 1286 B.C.

Following the destruction of the New Hittite Kingdom at the hands of the Sea Peoples shortly after 1200 B.C., Carchemish became the most important heir of the Hittite culture. The land of Hatti and the Hittites mentioned in the Bible are probably these successors to the Anatolian Hittites centered on Carchemish. Carchemish again became the head of an independent kingdom and successfully resisted capture by the Assyrian Empire during the whole of its first period of expansion. Only under Sargon II were the Assyrians able to capture and destroy Carchemish in 717 B.C. Sargon helped to rebuild the city, and it became the capital of a western Assyrian province. Assyria's ultimate capture of the city was noteworthy enough that Isaiah used it as a rhetorical example in one of his oracles (Isaiah 10:9 ).

The most important battle at Carchemish, however, was not fought over possession of the city. At the very end of the Assyrian period, when Nebuchadrezzar was incorporating all former Assyrian territory within the new Babylonian Empire, Pharaoh Neco II of Egypt came to Carchemish to try to save the remnants of the Assyrian army. He hoped to preserve a weak Assyria as a buffer between him and a strong and aggressive Babylon. He arrived too late to save the Assyrians, perhaps held up by Josiah's unsuccessful challenge at Megiddo (2 Chronicles 35:20-24 ). Nebuchadrezzar defeated Neco at Carchemish. This victory gave Babylon authority over all of western Asia within the next few years; for this reason it ranks as one of the most decisive battles of all time. Jeremiah and the Chronicler both took note of it; Jeremiah composed a poetic dirge commemorating the Egyptian defeat (Jeremiah 46:2-12 ). The city of Carchemish appears to have declined after the Babylonian period of power, for references to it cease.

Carchemish and its ruins were visited by western travelers repeatedly during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Excavations were carried out on the site from 1878-1881, and again from 1911-1914 and in 1920. A cuneiform inscription found during the excavations confirms the site as Carchemish.

Joseph Coleson

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Carchemish'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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