NECO (or Necoh ; Wehemibre Neko ii; c. 609–593 b.c.e.), Twenty-fifth Dynasty king of Egypt, who played a major role in the fall of Judah. Marching to aid the Assyrians after the fall of Nineveh in 612, Neco found his passage blocked at Megiddo by King *Josiah (ii Kings 23:29ff.; ii Chron. 35:20–24). The defeat and death of Josiah there allowed Neco to consolidate and control Syria and Palestine as far as the Euphrates. He deposed *Jehoahaz, Josiah's successor, after a three-month reign and exiled him to Egypt (ii Kings 23:31–35 and Jer. 22:10–12), replacing him with *Jehoiakim as an Egyptian puppet. The Babylonian conquerors of Assyria were quick to react. In 605 *Nebuchadnezzar, the son of Nabopolassar, "crossed the river to go against the Egyptian army … He accomplished their defeat and beat them into non-existence" (Babylonia Chronicle, ed. Wiseman, 25, 67–68), and "the king of Egypt did not come again out of his land, for the king of Babylon had taken all that belonged to the king of Egypt from the brook of Egypt to the river Euphrates" (ii Kings 24:7). Judah and the other Egyptian vassals gained a brief respite, for the death of Nabopolassar compelled Nebuchadnezzar to abandon his victorious advance and hasten back to Babylon to secure the throne. The respite was short, and by the end of 604 the Babylonians were in Philistia. An Aramaic letter, found in Egypt, begging the Egyptian pharaoh for aid against the Babylonian invader, probably came from Ashkelon. Jehoiakim, willingly or not, defected to the Babylonians (ii Kings 24:1), but rebelled after Nebuchadnezzar was checked by Neco at the Egyptian frontier in 601. Two years later he died (was perhaps assassinated) and was replaced by his son, *Jehoiachin. Within three months Jerusalem fell, and the royal family was exiled to Babylon (ii Kings 24:10–17). In 593 Neco died, but his son Psammetichus ii continued to incite Zedekiah, the new ruler of Judah, against Babylon. Egypt provided no assistance, however, when Jerusalem finally fell in 587.
P.G. Elgood, The Later Dynasties of Egypt (1951); Bright, Hist, index; A.H. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs (1961); D.J. Wiseman, Chronicles of the Chaldean Kings (1956).
[Alan Richard Schulman]