NECO, NECHO, NECHOH (nē'kō, Heb. par‘ōh nekhōh or nechoh). Ruler of Egypt (609-595 b.c.), son of Psamtik I, famous in Greek history. Neco began his rule at a propitious time: the Assyrian Empire was falling, and the Neo-Babylonian Empire was emerging. He thus was able to gain and retain control over Syria until his humiliating defeat at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar at the battle of Carchemish. Of particular interest to the reader of the Bible is Josiah’s defeat by Neco at the battle of Megiddo (2Kgs.23.29; 2Chr.35.20ff.). When Josiah died, Jehoahaz was made king, but Neco dethroned him and set up in his stead Jehoahaz’s brother Jehoiakim (2Kgs.23.29-2Kgs.23.34; 2Chr.35.20-2Chr.36.4). In 605 he was badly defeated by Nebuchadnezzar at the battle of Carchemish and lost all of his Asiatic possessions (2Kgs.24.7).
Victories in Asia.
Defeats by the Babylonians.
In 605 Nabopolassar of Babylon sent his son Nebuchadnezzar against Neco’s garrison at Carchemish on the Euphrates in N Syria. The Babylonians defeated the Egyptians not only at Carchemish (Jer 46:2), but also at Hamath and drove them out of Syria. The battle of Carchemish was the occasion for Jeremiah’s poetic oracle about the Egyp. defeat there (46:3-12). Jehoiakim had to transfer his vassalage and his tribute from Neco to Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:1). An Aram. letter, prob. from Ashkelon, appeals to Neco for help against the Babylonians, but Neco was unable to stem the Babylonian advance in Pal.
Jeremiah warned of judgments to come on Egypt and on Pharaoh Neco (2 Kings 23:29; Jer 46:2), whom he called “Much-noise-but-he-lets-the-chance-slip by” (46:17, JB). In 601 Nebuchadnezzar advanced against Egypt itself, but Neco withstood the Babylonians at Egypt’s border in a bloody battle. This battle and the temporary withdrawal of the Babylonian army may have encouraged Jehoiakim to revolt against Babylonia (2 Kings 24:1). Neco, however, did not dare to venture on any more military expeditions in Asia (24:7).
Herodotus records some peaceful efforts of Neco, including an incompleted canal from the Nile to the Red Sea (II. 158) and sending a fleet manned by Phoenicians around Africa (IV. 42).
J. Bright, “A New Letter in Aramaic, Written to Pharaoh of Egypt,” BA, XII (1949), 46-52; D. J. Wiseman, Chronicles of Chaldean Kings (1956); D. N. Freedman, “The Babylonian Chronicle,” BA, XIX (1956), 50-60; J. Yoyotte, “Nechao,” Dictionnaire de la Bible, Supplement, VI (1960), cols. 363-393; A. H. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs (1961).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)