There’s a big hole in Nebuchednezzar II’s ‘Egyptian campaign’

 Image result for egyptian chariots


Damien F. Mackey


If Neb-2 had conquered Egypt, it would have been his greatest conquest in the minds of everyone at the time.  Not only would he and his Babylonian successors have left record of it, but other historians of the time and later would have referred to it, as they did to the actual conquest of Egypt by the Persian, Cambyses-2, 37 years after Neb-2’s death”.


Jim Reilly, who has recently attempted an overall revision of the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian dynastic histories (, will initially appear to support a common view (like the above) that there is virtually no historical evidence for a conquest of Egypt by Nebuchednezzar II the Chaldean, despite the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel telling of its devastating and long-lasting effects upon Egypt.


Only one piece of evidence apparently exists for this:  Babylonian Chronicle BM 33041.

“In the 37th year of Nebuchadrezzar, King of Babylon, he went to Mizraim [Egypt] to make war.  Amasis, King of Mizraim, collected [his army] and marched and spread abroad”.


Reilly will introduce the anomalous situation as follows in his Volume 1 – Nebuchadnezzar and the Egyptian Exile:


Chapter 1: Nebuchadnezzar’s Wars


Rise of Nebuchadnezzar


The Egyptian Holocaust


In 564 B.C. a foreign army invaded Egypt, laying waste the country. Tens of thousands died. Thousands more, primarily the skilled and educated elite, priests and artisans alike, were taken captive and deported. A minority escaped into the surrounding desert, among them the ruling pharaoh. Only a small remnant survived.


The physical structures of the country were also decimated. Temples and tombs were destroyed and looted. Cities were burned. From Migdol in the eastern Delta to Syene near Elephantine south of Thebes, 500 miles upriver on the Nile, the country was ravaged.


It was, quite literally, a holocaust.


Twenty years passed as the land languished, raped of its treasure by garrisons left behind by the foreigners. No pharaoh ruled to restore order. Another twenty years saw limited rebuilding and the gradual renewal of religious and political life. Temples were repaired. Training began for a new generation of priests and artisans.


The few traumatized survivors of the exile, now old, had only a vague recollection of the

days when the priests were taken away and the population vanished. They told tales about the _š_, “the devastation”.


The name of the invader, familiar to even the most casual student of ancient history, was Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, at the time the dominant power in the ancient Near East.


Only one problem surfaces in connection with this unprecedented act of genocide and material destruction. Without exception, historians categorically deny it ever happened. ….


Whilst Jim Reilly’s efforts to account for this glaring problem within the context of his somewhat complex revision are commendable – but not in accordance with my own, which involves an identification of Nebuchednezzar II with the great Ashurbanipal:


Book of Daniel – merging Assyrians and Chaldeans


whose massive conquest of Egypt no historian would doubt – what is striking is the stark contrast between the general puzzlement of the historians over this matter (as mentioned above), on the one hand, and, as Reilly proceeds in his article, the fulsome testimonies of the contemporary Hebrew prophets, on the other.


Here is the relevant section from Reilly’s article:


In the traditional history the Egyptian king on whom Zedekiah relied in vain must be the

fourth king of the Sa_te dynasty, Ha’a’ibre Wahibre, known to the Greeks as Apries.

According to this history Necho died in 595 B.C., two years after Zedekiah was installed

as king, and for the balance of Zedekiah’s reign Egypt was ruled by Necho’s son Psamtik

II (595-589 B.C.) and then by Ha’a’ibre Wahibre (589-570 B.C.). Psamtik II and Apries

must have been powerful kings to tempt Zedekiah to withhold tribute from Nebuchadrezzar. Sadly they have left no monuments commemorating their struggles with Babylon. ….

While the Egyptian king was unable to prevent the fall of Jerusalem, he did open Egypt’s borders to receive Judaean refugees. The available safe harbor in Egypt appealed to the remnant that survived in Judah. When Gedaliah, soon after his appointment as governor,

was murdered by Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, a Judaean of royal blood and an officer of the king, fear of reprisal from Babylon made an Egyptian sojourn seem even more inviting. Against the advice of Jeremiah the Jewish remnant fled to Egypt. The majority settled in the fortress city of Tahpanhes (tell Defenneh – modern Daphnae) on the eastern edge of the Egyptian delta. It is in this context that we hear for the first time of an impending Babylonian attack on Egypt.


Invasion of Egypt


According to Jeremiah


The first clear statement of the impending disaster comes from Jeremiah, the reluctant refugee:


In Tahpanhes the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: While the Jews are watching, take some large stones with you and bury them in clay in the brick pavement at the entrance to Pharaoh’s palace in Tahpanhes. Then say to them, This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I will send for my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and I will set his throne over these stones I have buried here; he will spread his royal canopy above them. He will come and attack Egypt, bringing death to those destined for death, captivity to those destined for captivity, and the sword to those destined for the sword. He will set fire to the temples of the gods of Egypt; he will burn their temples and take their gods captive. As a shepherd wraps his garment around him, so will he wrap Egypt around himself and depart from there unscathed. There in the temple of the sun (Heliopolis) in Egypt he will demolish the sacred pillars and will burn down the temples of the gods of Egypt. (Jer. 43: 8-13)


Jeremiah supplies no specific date for the Babylonian invasion. For the refugees in Tahpanhes he provides a single clue: first the death of the pharaoh Apries; then the invasion.


‘This will be the sign to you that I will punish you in this place,’ declares the Lord, ‘so that you will know that my threats of harm against you will surely stand.’ This is what the Lord says: ‘I am going to hand Pharaoh Hophra (Wahibre in the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible) king of Egypt over to his enemies who seek his life, just as I handed Zedekiah king of Judah over to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the enemy who was seeking his life.’ (Jer. 44: 29-30)


As mentioned earlier, Wahemibre Necao (610-595 B.C.) was succeeded briefly by Psamtik (II) (595-589 B.C.) and then by Ha’a’ibre Wahibre (589-570 B.C.). This Wahibre, called Apries by the Greek historians, the fourth king of the Sa_te dynasty and the object of Zedekiah’s misplaced trust, must be the Pharaoh Hophra alluded to by Jeremiah. This, of course, if the traditional Egyptian chronology is accurate. The invasion must therefore postdate the end of Wahibre’s reign in 570 B.C. Since a fifth king, Ahmose-sa-Neith (Amasis), succeeded Wahibre and ruled Egypt for 44 years, the invasion must have occurred early in his reign.


The 586 B.C. Babylonian invasion of Judah was the prototype for what was about to happen in Egypt. Jeremiah warns the Jewish refugees: “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel says: ‘You saw the great disaster I brought on Jerusalem and on all the towns of Judah. Today they lie deserted and in ruins…. Why bring such great disaster on yourselves?’ ” (Jer. 44:2,7) He predicts for the Jews in Egypt the same threefold curse – “sword, famine, and plague” – that earlier decimated their homeland. (Jer. 44: 12; cf. Ezek. 5:12) Very few of the Jewish refugees would escape death. (Jer. 44: 27) Memphis, the Egyptian capital, is likened to Jerusalem. “Pack your belongings for exile you who live in Egypt, for Memphis will be laid waste and lie in ruins without inhabitant” (Jer. 46: 19) The largely mercenary army defending Egypt would flee the onslaught:


Announce this in Egypt, and proclaim it in Migdol; proclaim it also in Memphis and Tahpanhes: Take your positions and get ready, for the sword devours those around you. Why will your warriors be laid low? They cannot stand, for the Lord will push them down. They will stumble repeatedly; they will fall over each other. They will say, Get up, let us go back to our own people and our native lands, away from the sword of the oppressor. (Jer. 46: 14-16)


The anticipated destruction would be immense; the depopulation of the country almost total. From the Nile Delta five hundred miles upriver to Thebes the Babylonian army would plunder and destroy. But in Egypt, as in Judah earlier, a remnant of the poorest of

the land would survive. Others would flee to neighbouring countries and return later.


The Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “I am about to bring punishment on Amon god of Thebes, on Pharaoh, on Egypt and her gods and her kings, and on those who rely on Pharaoh. I will hand them over to those who seek their lives, to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and his officers. Later, however, Egypt will be inhabited as in times past,” declares the Lord. (Jer. 46:25-26)


In the case of Judah, Jeremiah had predicted a seventy-year exile. (Jer. 25:12; 29:10)

He leaves the length of the Egyptian exile unspecified. “Later” is all he will say. For more specific information on the invasion, and the nature and duration of the exile, we depend on Ezekiel.


According to Ezekiel


Ezekiel is more graphic as well as more specific in his description of the anticipated invasion. He is also less concerned with the Jewish refugees than was Jeremiah. His words are directed toward the native Egyptian population:


With a great throng of people (i.e. the Babylonian army) I will cast my net over you, and they will haul you up in my net. I will throw you on the land and hurl you on the open field. I will let all the birds of the air settle on you and all the beasts of the earth gorge themselves on you. I will spread your flesh on the mountains and fill the valleys with your remains. I will drench the land with your flowing blood all the way to the mountains, and the ravines will be filled with your flesh. (Ezek. 32: 3-6)


There is no ambiguity concerning the pervasiveness of the destruction. No part of Egypt would escape. The slaughter would proceed from Migdol in the northeastern corner of the Delta in the north of Egypt, to Syene, modern Assuan, in the south. There is no mistaking the language of the prophet. In the aftermath of the invasion the whole of Egypt would lie deserted and in ruins. “Egypt will become a desolate wasteland.” “I will make the land of Egypt a ruin and a desolate waste from Migdol to Aswan, as far as the border of Cush.” (Ezek. 29: 9-10) Included in the carnage were the neighbours and commercial allies of Egypt. This was no mere border skirmish as many critics claim. ….


A sword will come against Egypt, and anguish will come upon Cush. When the slain fall in Egypt, her wealth will be carried away and her foundations torn down. Cush and Put, Lydia and all Arabia, Libya and the people of the covenant land will fall by the sword along with Egypt. This is what the Lord says: The allies of Egypt will fall and her proud strength will fail. From Migdol to Aswan (Syene) they will fall by the sword within her, declares the Sovereign Lord. They will be desolate among desolate lands, and their cities will lie among ruined cities. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I set fire to Egypt and all her helpers are crushed. (Ezek. 30: 4-8)


Ezekiel adds to Jeremiah’s list of conquered cities. We can clearly follow the path of destruction through representative towns of the Egyptian Delta southward to Thebes.


This is what the sovereign Lord says: I will put an end to the hordes of Egypt by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. He and his army – the most ruthless of nations – will be brought in to destroy the land. They will draw their swords against Egypt and fill the land with the slain. I will destroy the idols and put an end to the images in Memphis. I will lay waste Upper Egypt, set fire to Zoan (Tanis) and inflict punishment on Thebes. I will pour out my wrath on Pelusium, the stronghold of Egypt, and cut off the hordes of Thebes. I will set fire to Egypt; Pelusium will writhe in agony. Thebes will be taken by storm; Memphis will be in constant distress. The young men of Heliopolis and Bubastis will fall by the sword and the cities themselves will go into captivity Dark will be the day at Tahpanhes when I break the yoke of Egypt There her proud strength will come to an end She will be covered with clouds and her villages will go into captivity (Ezek. 30: 10-11; 13)


And what fate befell pharaoh? Ezekiel’s language is figurative and vague on that account, but he appears to say that the pharaoh escaped both death and capture. His throne was lost but his life was spared, at least for the time being.

Son of man (God speaking to Ezekiel), set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt and prophesy against him and against all Egypt. Speak to him and say:


‘This is what the Lord God says: I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, you great monster lying among your streams You say, “The Nile is mine, I made it for myself.” But I will put hooks in your jaws and make the fish of your streams stick to your scales. I will pull you out from among your streams, with all the fish sticking to your scales. I will leave you in the desert, you and all the fish of your streams. You will fall on the open field and not be gathered or picked up. I will give you as food to the beasts of the earth and birds of the air. (Ezek 29:2-5)


“I will pull you out” from among your streams is better translated “I will drive you out (lit. cause you to leave)” from among your streams. Pharaoh would be driven from the Nile delta into the desert, possibly into the western oasis or southward into Ethiopia.

There in exile he would die.


The Forty Year Exile


How long did the devastation last? Jeremiah says only that Egypt would recover.

Ezekiel sets specific limits.


I will make the land of Egypt a ruin and a desolate waste from Midgol to Aswan, as far as the border of Cush. No foot of man or animal will pass through it; no one will live there for forty years. I will make the land of Egypt desolate among devastated lands, and her cities will lie desolate forty years among ruined cities. And I will disperse the Egyptians among the nations and scatter them through the countries. (Ezek. 29: 10-12)


The desolation that followed the invasion of Egypt was of long duration – a forty-year hiatus in the normal political life of the nation. There was for Egypt as there was for Judah, an exile, which left the land bleak and barren. For Judah the exile ended by degrees with a succession of returns of exiled Jews under Cyrus and his Persian successors. ….


Deuteronomy 28 influenced Esarhaddon’s Vassal Treaty

Image result for esarhaddon king of babylon



 Damien F. Mackey


“… the Assyrian text inverts the common sequence of heaven and earth to ground and sky. The Hebrew scribe changed the sequence to heaven and earth, but kept the comparison of sky with bronze and ground with iron”.

H. U. Steymans




The following comparisons between the Hebrew texts and the Mesopotamian ones are taken from H. U. Steymans ‘Deuteronomy 28 and Tell Tayinat’, Verbum et Ecclesia 34(2), Art. #870, 13 pages:


Regarding the conventional BC dates that Steymans employs, these would now be greatly affected by my recent radical revision of late neo-Assyrian history, as outlined in:


Book of Daniel – merging Assyrians and Chaldeans

Moreover, by no means can I accept Steymans’ suggestion of very late authorship of the Deuteronomic texts, “… these Hebrew verses came to existence between 672 BC and 622 BC, the year in which a Torah scroll was found in the temple of Jerusalem, causing Josiah to swear a loyalty oath in the presence of Yhwh”.


My own suggestion would be that the laws of the ancient Book of Deuteronomy became accessible to king Esarhaddon through the influence of his wise ummanu, or Vizier, the biblical Ahikar (or Achior), who is, in turn, a possible candidate for


Book of Jonah’s ‘King of Nineveh’



Steymans writes:




The discovery of Esarhaddon’s Succession Treaty (EST) at Tell Tayinat confirms the Assyrian application of this text on western vassals and suggests that the oath tablet was given to Manasseh of Judah in 672 BC, the year in which the king of Assyria had all his empire and vassals swear an oath or treaty promising to adhere to the regulations set for his succession, and that this cuneiform tablet was set up for formal display somewhere inside the temple of Jerusalem. The finding of the Tell Tayinat tablet and its elaborate curses of §§ 53–55 that invoke deities from Palestine, back up the claim of the 1995 doctoral thesis of the author of this article that the impressive similarities between Deuteronomy 28:20–44 and curses from § 56 of the EST are due to direct borrowing from the EST. This implies that these Hebrew verses came to existence between 672 BC and 622 BC, the year in which a Torah scroll was found in the temple of Jerusalem, causing Josiah to swear a loyalty oath in the presence of Yhwh. This article aimed to highlight the similarities between EST § 56 and Deuteronomy 28 as regards syntax and vocabulary, interpret the previously unknown curses that astoundingly invoke deities from Palestine, and conclude with a hypothesis of the composition of the book of Deuteronomy.


Deuteronomy 28:20–44 and Esarhaddon’s Succession Treaties § 56

This section highlights the parallels between Deuteronomy 28:20–44 and EST § 56, the curse of the great gods. Although lists comparing curse motifs in extra biblical texts with Deuteronomy 28 present a lot of motif parallels, a careful look at such lists shows that the paralleling of motifs destroys the sequence of elements in one text in order to fit it to the sequence of the other (eds. Kitchen and Lawrence 2012:244,

Dt 1–32 being number 83 in their counting of ANE treaties). In Deuteronomy 28:20–44 and EST § 56, however, the sequence of motifs is identical. In only two cases does a topic appear at a slightly different position, and in both these cases one can explain the difference as a deliberate scribal arrangement.

Apart from the identical sequence of topics in both curses, there is an astounding parallel regarding the syntax. Curses invoking Yhwh or the gods as subjects causing calamity, alternate with curses in which natural forces are the subjects, or sentences that just describe the result of the preceding curse. In Deuteronomy 28:20–44 and EST § 56, these alternations occur at parallel positions.

There is still another syntactical parallel between the Assyrian and the Hebrew text. The curses invoking the divinity are optative sentences. In Assyrian, precative verbal forms mark the optative. In Hebrew, yiqtol-x formations mark the optative. Although most English translations render Deuteronomy 28:20–44 as indicative, the Hebrew text alternates between invocations of Yhwh that concede to him the option of punishing in optative yiqtol-x, and sections in the indicative dealing with the consequences of Yhwh’s punishments or the harmful effect of natural forces. The following translation will indicate an optative sentence by using ‘may’. A similar comparison has previously been published (Steymans 1995). The comparison presented here has been amended to highlight vocabulary and syntactical features common to both texts.

There is not much need for the diachronic separation in Deuteronomy 28:20–44. Three verses show elements of later elaboration.


Deuteronomy 28:20c

Deuteronomy 28: 20c: ‘[because of your evildoing] in forsaking Me’.

This ending of the first curse reads in Hebrew: mippenê rōac macalelê-kā ’ašer cazabtā-nî. The three words at the beginning do not appear elsewhere in Deuteronomy, however, they appear in Jeremiah three times (Jr 4:4; 21:12; 44:22). Since the curse section following in Deuteronomy 28:45–62 has a lot of links to Jeremiah, it is safe to suggest that the scribe who added the curses after verse 45 also added mippenê rōac macalelê-kā in order to point to the prophetic language (cf. Is 1:16; Hs 9:15) right at the beginning and prepare for the following links with Jeremiah. Nowhere else does the relative clause ašer cazabtā-nî follow ac macalelê-kā in the Hebrew Bible. There is ašer cazābû-nî in Jeremiah 1:16 and ka’ašer cazabtem ’ôtî in Jeremiah 5:19. The relative clause in Jeremiah expressing that the people leave (forsake) Yhwh differs from the one in Deuteronomy 28:20. In addition, it does not occur in context with mippenê rōac macalelê-kā in Jeremiah. In Deuteronomy, the verb c.z.b is linked to the Levites in Deuteronomy 12:19 and 14:27.

Deuteronomy 29:25 quotes the statements of people passing by giving the reason for the disaster that befell Israel: ‘Because they forsook the covenant of Yhwh, the God of their fathers’ (cal ’ašer cāzebû ’et berît Yhwh ’ælōhê ’abōtām). Deuteronomy 31 quotes the words of God, predicting that his people:

… will begin to prostitue themselves to the foreign gods in their midst, the gods of the land into which they are going; they will forsake me [wa-cazāba-nî], and break my covenant, which I have made with them. (Dt 31:16)

It is important to notice that Deuteronomy 28:20 is the first occurrence in Deuteronomy where the verb c.z.b means ‘leaving or forsaking Yhwh’, and that this meaning is taken up in Deuteronomy 29 and 31. Further use of the verb c.z.b speaks about Yhwh leaving or abandoning his people (Dt 31:6, 8, 16, 17; 32:26). Hence, c.z.b only means leaving Yhwh as a form of disobedience in Deuteronomy 28:20, the first verse of the curse section, and then in two quotations, namely in the words of other people (Dt 29:25) and of Yhwh (Dt 31:16). Prophetic language uses the verb in a similar sense, however, never in the context of ac macalelê-kā.

The verb ezābu, the Assyrian equivalent of Hebrew c.z.b, occurs in line 479 of § 56 with food and water as subjects. The only other occurrence of the verb in the EST is in line 172 of § 14, a stipulation closely linked to the whole treaty’s ‘first commandment’ in § 4 through the word repetition of a.šà ‘field’ (l. 49, l. 165), naāru ‘protect’ (l. 50, l. 168), uru ‘city’ (l. 49, l. 166), gammurtu ‘totality’ (l. 53, l. 169), libbu ‘heart’ (l. 51, 53, l. 169). The treaty’s addressees must protect Assurbanipal in country (field) and town (city), and advise him in total truth of their heart according to § 4. Then § 14, demanding them to protect Assurbanibal, repeats this order in case of a rebellion. The stipulation ends: ‘You shall Assurbanibal […] let escape [leave]’ [the dangerous situation tušezabā-ni-ni, ezābu-causative Š-stem].

Without claiming to be able to prove it, the verb c.z.b in verse 20c may have been inspired by the EST. The verb is rare in Deuteronomy and the EST, but it is existent in § 56 and the important stipulation of § 14 – and in Deuteronomy 28, it may be the relict of the conditional clause that opened the curse section in the Judean loyalty oath. The Judean scribe reversed the main offence against the overlord, using the same verb. As regards Assurbanibal, the main offence is not to let him leave (= rescue him from) any dangerous situation. As regards Yhwh, the main offence is to leave (= forsake) him in disobedience. Thus, the curse section of the Judean loyalty oath might have begun with something like: ‘If you leave [forsake] him [kî tacazbennû; cf. Dt 14:27], Yhwh may send on you curse’, picking up the conjunction of most conditional laws in Deuteronomy. When DtrL, a pre-exilic scribe (Braulik 2011; Lohfink 1997, 2000), added the blessing of Deuteronomy 28 to his account of a covenant in Moab and the conquest of the land – starting with the bārûk-formulas (Dt 28:3–5) together with the corresponding ’ārûr-formulas (Dt 28:16–19) and the alternative introductions of blessing and curse in Deuteronomy 28:1f. and 15 – the conditional clause kî tacazbennû was transferred to the end of verse 20 and the verb changed into perfect cazabtô (cf. Dt 13:11; 22:2, i.e. the taw moved from the front of the verbal form to its end and the nun energicum was deleted). A later scribe inserted the allusion to Jeremiah mippenê rōac macalelê-kā and replaced by ašer. The first person pronoun present in the Masoretic text today may be a technical mistake made by one scribe during the transmission process confusing waw with nun, letters that look similar in the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet as they do in the Hebrew ‘square script’, because he knew Deuteronomy by heart and was influenced by the first person pronouns in Deuteronomy 29:15 and 31:16. One Septuagint manuscript has the third person pronoun, and Old Latin has ‘because you have forsaken the Lord’.


Deuteronomy 28:21a

Deuteronomy 28:21aI: ‘until he has put an end to you [on the soil, 21aR you are entering to possess]’.

The phrase cal hā-’adāmâ ’ašer ’attâ bā’ šāmmâ le-rišt-āh appears similarly in Deuteronomy 12:1, 21:1, 30:18, 31:13 and 32:47. However, it appears absolutely identically in Deuteronomy 28:63. Verse 63 starts with a small poem later inserted in the curse section (Steymans 1995). The scribe who added the poem also added the phrase in verse 21 in order to bracket his addition in Deuteronomy 28:63–65 with the section Deuteronomy 28:20–44. Since a previous scribe already added to verse 20, the first verse of the oldest part of the curse section, this later scribe added to the second verse of this section, namely verse 21.


Deuteronomy 28:36b

Deuteronomy 28:36b: ‘There you will worship other gods, gods of wood and stone. [37a] You will become a horror, a proverb and a byword among all the peoples, [aR] where the Lord will drive you’.

Verses 36b and 37 assess worshipping of other gods as punishment, and not as sin. The same idea is present in Deuteronomy 4:28, 28:64 and 29:17. Thus, this passage may be an addition by the same scribe who added his poem in Deuteronomy 28:63–65.

Italics mark the common vocabulary and syntactical parallels in Deuteronomy 28 and the EST. The Assyrian and Hebrew language only sometimes use common Semitic roots in exactly the same meaning. Identical or semantically corresponding Semitic roots are put in parentheses. Every sentence starts a new line. The Bible text indicates main and subordinate clauses according to Richter (1991): ‘I’ meaning infinitive and ‘R’ meaning relative clause. The Assyrian text follows Parpola and Watanabe (1988).

Since both texts are rather long, they are divided into sections for convenience. The texts are arranged in tables (Tables 2–9) with three columns. Two columns parallel Deuteronomy 28: 20–44 with EST § 56, model for the sequential arrangement of topics. The third column gives the text of other inserted curse paragraphs, because the scribe composing Deuteronomy 28:20–44 considered their topic fitting to the topic indicated by § 56.

Both curse sequences begin with the divinity as subject of the clause and the keyword curse taken from the Semitic root ’.r.r. (Table 2). The predicate of line 474 maḫāṣu [to strike] may have been the inspiration for the series of curses using the predicate n.k.h-Hiphil [to strike] in Deuteronomy 28:22, 27, 28 and 35 (Table 4, 7f.).

TABLE 2: Divine curse using the semitic root ’.r.r.

The divinities are the subject of the syntax of the curse. The ending of life is the common topic, in Hebrew it is expressed with an infinitive of k.l.h, and in Akkadian with the Mesopotamian vegetable metaphor of ‘rooting out’ (Table 3).

TABLE 3: The deity brings existance to a termination.
TABLE 4: Natural forces chase the cursed humans.

Pestilence is the concluding illness in EST, line 480 of the following section of § 56 (Table 5). This section is marked in line 479 by a shift of the subject from divinity to natural entities. The Hebrew scribe transferred the topic of pestilence to verse 21, as the beginning of a series of illnesses unfolded in verse 22 (Table 4). Thus, he makes pestilence a heading, whereas it was a conclusion in the Assyrian text. The Hebrew scribe did not adopt the Mesopotamian concern for the ghost of the dead in accordance to the general reluctance of the Hebrew Bible in dealing with the afterlife.

TABLE 5: Lack of food due to the impossibility of agriculture.

The Judean scribe took up the verb ‘to strike’ from the first curse of § 56 together with the divine subject. Then he followed the shift from divine subject to natural entity by making the diseases the actors of the chasing, as are shade and daylight in § 56 (Table 4).

The headwords ‘food’ and ‘water’, as well as ‘want’, ‘famine’ and ‘hunger’ in § 56 provide the topic for this section. The Assyrian curse of § 56 starts with entities (food and water) as subject of the sentence. The Judean scribe follows this by making sky and ground the subjects of the Hebrew sentences. He elaborates on the topic by inserting a curse from § 63. His attention was called to this curse whilst reading the EST through the co-occurrence of ‘ground’ and ‘sky’ together with ‘the great gods […] who are mentioned by name in this tablet’, which is similar to the beginning of § 56. The word kaqquru [ground, earth] is written in syllables in § 63, indicating the Assyrian pronunciation of the logogram ki.tim in § 56 (Parpola and Watanabe 1988:92, sub kaqquru). Hence, when read aloud there is a link (Table 5).

Only one exemplar from Calhu has a dividing line between lines 529 and 530, thus counting a § 63 and a § 64, as do the modern editions. All other manuscripts from Calhu, as well as the tablet from Tell Tayinat, present lines 526–533 (= § 63 + 64) as one single paragraph (Lauinger 2012:120). It is one single curse and the Judean scribe was right in taking it up completely. However, he changed the sequence of the similes. The EST lists the metals in a sequence of decreasing hardness – from iron to lead – in the following § 65. By doing so, the Assyrian text inverts the common sequence of heaven and earth to ground and sky. The Hebrew scribe changed the sequence to heaven and earth, but kept the comparison of sky with bronze and ground with iron. Both curses change their subjects. EST § 63 starts with the gods who turn the ground into iron. The subjects of the next sentence are natural entities, namely rain, dew and burning coals. Mixing both Assyrian syntactical structures, the one with divine subject in lines 526–529 and those with natural elements as subject in line 530 (§ 63) and lines 479 and 480 (§ 56), the Hebrew text starts with sky and ground as subjects, following the vocabulary of lines 526–529 and the syntax of lines 479 and 480. Then Yhwh is the subject causing harmful rain, following the syntax of lines 526–529, where the gods are the subject. Military defeat is the topic of § 65, a curse using the simile of lead in order to denote military weakness. The sons and daughters taken by the hand by their fleeing parents link this paragraph to the young women and young men of § 56, whose bodies are mutilated in the squares of Assur before the eyes of their parents, relatives and neighbours.

EST § 56 does not describe military defeat, however, the scene of line 481f. presupposes deportation because the mutilation of bodies takes place in the city of Assur. This might be the finale of a triumphal procession in which captives of rebellious countries were carried through the streets of Assur. Thus, the topic of military defeat only alluded to in § 56 and the topic of corpses being food for animals then expressed in § 56, probably has lead the eye of the Judean scribe to § 41: the curse invoking Ninurta, which clearly speaks of defeat. He conflated § 41 and § 56 in order to create verse 25f. He began his curse by invoking Yhwh instead of Ninurta and expressing defeat. He kept the Semitic root ’.k.l present as verbal form in the Š-stem in § 41 (feed) in form of the noun expressing the effect of the curse in verse 26a (food). In addition, he changed the subject. The addressees of the curse are the subject of verse 26, as are the addressees’ young women and men in § 56. The Hebrew curse continues to have the corpses being the subject of verse 26, whereas the Assyrian one of § 56 has the earth as subject. Both curses share the topic of refused burial. Both curses have an international flavour by becoming a horror to foreign kingdoms, as well as a spectacle in the capital of the multi-ethnic Assyrian empire. The combination of birds and beasts in verse 26 conflates the birds (eagle and vulture) of § 41 and the beasts (dog and pig) of § 56 (Table 6).

TABLE 6: The results of military defeat using the semitic root ’.k.l.

It has long been noticed that Deuteronomy 28:27–29 parallel the Sin and Shamash curses of Assyrian treaties. However, being aware of the topic indicated by § 56 line 485, one realises that the Judean scribe rearranged the complete sequence of Anu-Venus curses, that is §§ 38A–42, in order to elaborate on the topics he found in § 56. The headwords ‘sighing’ and ‘sleeplessness’ link § 56 with the Anu-curse in § 38A, and the skin disease rendered ‘leprosy’ links the Sin-curse § 39 with the skin disease translated ‘scurvy’ in Deuteronomy 28:27. Loss of eyesight (blindness), as well as darkness, link Deuteronomy 28:29 with § 56 and the Shamash-curse in § 40 (Table 7).

TABLE 7: The curse motifs of Anu, Sin, and Šamaš.

The subjects change. Verse 27 starts with the divinity as subject, as do §§ 38A–40. Verse 29 shifts to the addressees as subject, as do the Sin-curse (roam in the desert) and the Shamash-curse (walk about). Both the biblical and the Assyrian curses focus on the desperate way the people move (grope about).

Having elaborated on the topic of military defeat by using imagery of § 41 to create Deuteronomy 28:25, the Judean scribe now elaborates on § 42. This curse invokes Venus, a manifestation of Ishtar, and offers the headwords ‘eyes’ taken up in verses 32 and 34, ‘lying’ as a metaphor for sexual intercourse and rape taken up in verse 30, ‘sons’ taken up in verse 32, and ‘enemy’ taken up in verse 31. The loss of possession to spoiling soldiers is the common topic. The metaphor of an irresistible flood in § 56 also denotes military defeat. The Biblical text is enriched by futility curses that add the topics house and vineyard, as well as curses that focus on cattle. It is not before Deuteronomy 28:31e and 32a that the Assyrian headwords are taken up again. The Venus curse focuses on the impossibility of transferring property as a heritage to the next generation. There is no deportation from the land. However, the enemy is in the land and takes all goods. The biblical curse goes one step further in making the sons themselves a chattel to be taken by the spoiling army. Their parents remain in their land, consumed by the yearning for their children (Table 8).

TABLE 8: The motif of plundering enemies followed by baleful wishes.

The return to illness in Deuteronomy 28:34 and 35 is inspired by the term ‘ill’ in § 56. The Tell Fekhariye inscription reveals that the rendering of curses that are mere invocations in Assyrian as futility curses in a West-Semitic text is not uncommon (Steymans 1995:156–161, 181–185).

There is no curse in EST that deals with deportation. Deportation, however, is the topic of § 25, an admonition that the oath-takers must enounce. Thus, Judeans who were bound by the EST had to say this to their children. Any Judean scribe must have been aware of this admonition. The headword ‘son’ links it to the topic of several curses of the EST. The most striking correspondence between Deuteronomy 28:36 and EST § 25 is the combination of setting a king over oneself and deportation (Table 9).

TABLE 9: Deportation and appointment of a king.

After the topic ‘lack of food’ in verse 26 in correspondence to line 479, the fact that the topic reappears with the root ’.k.l ‘to eat’ in verse 39 and line 490 is a further indication of the common structure of both curse sections. Another identical root connects both texts, namely c.l.h [to come up, rise]. In § 56, the root occurs in line 489 with the metaphor of a flood that symbolises enemies. In Deuteronomy 28, the root occurs three times in verse 43, turning the stranger (a person to be cared for according to the biblical law) into an enemy. The Judean scribe elaborated on the topics given in § 56 by creating futility curses. He kept the sequence of food, drink, and then ointment. However, he discarded clothing and repeated deportation of sons and daughters instead. The last line of § 56 lists three types of spirits that haunt the dwelling places. The Assyrian verb ḫīaru means ‘to choose, to select’, and exists also in the noun ḫā’iru/ḫāmiru/ḫāwiru [spouse]. The verb can mean ‘to marry’. The spirits are not evil per se – they may even have protective power (Wiggermann 1992:69, 96, 218f., 221). The point being made in both the Assyrian and the biblical curse is that entities that are not harmful in general and must be protected (as the stranger in the Bible) or may be protecting forces (as the spirits in ANE belief) turn out to be harmful and threaten the intimate space where one dwells (‘in your midst, your houses’) (Table 10). ….


Ashurbanipal and Nabonidus

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Damien F. Mackey


Historian Paul-Alain Beaulieu (The Reign of Nabonidus, King of Babylon 556-539BC) has identified ‘the idea of imperial continuity with Assyria, centred on the figure of Ashurbanipal’ as one of ‘the main characteristics of Nabonidus’ personality’ (p. 2).




Not surprising that we are going to find many Book of Daniel-like elements in the biography of the eccentric neo-Babylonian king, Nabonidus, if I am correct in identifying him with both Nebuchednezzar II ‘the Great’ and:


“Nebuchednezzar” of the Book of Daniel


The likenesses between Nabonidus and the biblical king have amazed some biblically-minded writers who adhere to the conventional view that Nebuchednezzar II and Nabonidus were quite separate neo-Babylonian kings. Consider, for instance, the following extraordinary parallels rightly discerned by John A. Tvedtnes, but without his realising that this really is Daniel’s king (


Nebuchadnezzar or Nabonidus?


Mistaken Identities in the Book of Daniel


A classic example of textual errors caused by “careless transcribers” or “ignorant translators” is contained in the book of Daniel. The events chronicled in the present-day book would have originally been recorded in Hebrew, the early language of the Jews. However, the book of Daniel found in the Hebrew Bible is a combination of Hebrew and Aramaic, the language of the Jews after they returned from Babylon. From Daniel 2:4 through 7:8, the text is in Aramaic. [Dan. 2:4–7:8] It is in this middle section that we find discrepancies between the biblical text and other ancient records. These discrepancies involve the identity of Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king who first subdued and then destroyed Jerusalem.


During his forty-year reign, Nebuchadnezzar ruled much of the Near East and rebuilt the great city of Babylon, replete with its hundreds of temples and its world-renowned hanging gardens. Some thirty years before his death in 561 B.C., he subdued Jerusalem (598 B.C.), taking its king, Jehoiakim, captive to Babylon and replacing him with Jehoiachin. When Jehoiachin proved disloyal, he was also deposed and replaced by his uncle, Zedekiah. When Zedekiah, too, revolted against his overlord, Nebuchadnezzar attacked the city.


In 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, taking the remainder of its people—along with many others from throughout the kingdom of Judah into captivity. (See 2 Kgs. 24–25.) One of the early Jewish captives, Daniel, won favor with the king and became known as a wise and trusted counselor.


Chapters two, three, and four of Daniel purport to contain accounts about Nebuchadnezzar. But only the first and best-known of these—the account of his dream about the great statue destroyed by a stone cut out of a mountainside—is actually about him. The stories in chapters three and four, as well as a reference in chapter five, are actually about another king named Nabonidus, not Nebuchadnezzar. [Dan. 2; Dan. 3; Dan. 4; Dan. 5]


Chapter three recounts that the king “made an image of gold … : he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.” (Dan. 3:1.) When this new idol was set up, a decree went forth that when music sounded, people were to prostrate themselves before the statue.


Chapter four tells of another dream of the king, this time about a great tree that was hewn down by order of God. [Dan. 4] Again Daniel was called upon for an interpretation. The tree, said the prophet, represented the sinful king, who would become mad, living for seven years “with the beasts of the field” and eating grass “as oxen.” (Dan. 4:23–26.) This prophecy was fulfilled when the king “was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.” (Dan. 4:33.) Ultimately, the king was healed, returned to his throne, and praised God.


In chapter five, the scene changes abruptly. Here we find that “Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.” (Dan. 5:1.) In verse two, he is identified as the son of Nebuchadnezzar, the king who had destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. At the feast, a finger appears, writing an ominous message on the plaster of the wall. Daniel, summoned to interpret the writing, informs the assembly that the Medes and Persians will take the kingdom.


It is this reference in chapter five that highlights the misidentification problem in the book of Daniel. Belshazzar was actually the son of Nabonidus, not of Nebuchadnezzar. And Belshazzar was never king [sic], but only crown prince.


Other ancient records establish that Belshazzar was actually Nabonidus’ son and that Belshazzar was never king—only crown prince. From the “Verse Account of Nabonidus,” preserved on a clay tablet and found at Babylon, we read a contemporary account of Nabonidus that sounds very much like the “Nebuchadnezzar” of Daniel 3–5 [Dan. 3–5]:


“His/protective deity became hostile to him,/and he, the former favorite of the gods/is now/seized by misfortunes: … against the will of the gods he performed an unholy action, … he thought out something worthless:/He had made the image of a deity/which nobody had/ever/seen in/this/country./ He introduced it into the temple/he placed/it/upon a pedestal; … he called it by the name of Nanna, … it is adorned with a … of lapis/lazuli, crowned with a tiara. …” (Pritchard, p. 313.)


The one difference between this story and the one from Daniel 3 is that the Babylonian text says the idol was made of brick, covered with gypsum and bitumin to make the facing brilliant, while the Daniel account says it was made of gold. But the ninety-foot-high statue could hardly have been made of pure gold. Continuing from the Babylonian text:


“After he had obtained what he desired, a work of utter deceit, had built/this/abomination, a work of unholiness—when the third year was about to begin he entrusted the ‘Camp’ to his oldest/son/, the firstborn, the troops everywhere in the country he ordered under his/command/. He let/everything/ go, entrusted the kingship to him and, himself, he started out for a long journey, the/military/forces of Akkad marching with him; he turned towards Tema /deep/in the west. … When he arrived there, he killed in battle the prince of Tema … and he, himself, took his residence in/Te/ma, the forces of Akkad /were also stationed/there.” (Pritchard, p. 313.)


The rest of the text becomes fragmentary, but we can discern that Nabonidus ordered the slaughter of many people in the northern Arabian town of Tema and that he enslaved large numbers of them. Column four on the tablet is in especially bad shape, but we can discern the words “The king is mad.”


This brings us to the account of “Nebuchadnezzar’s” madness in Daniel 4. The Babylonian accounts do not mention that Nebuchadnezzar became mad. But it is well known that Nabonidus did. Records kept by the Babylonian priests confirm Nabonidus’s temporary madness in the wilderness of Tema. The records show that Nabonidus “stayed in Tema” at least from the seventh through eleventh years of his reign, leaving “the crown prince, the officials and the army” in Babylonia. During this time, the New Year festival, over which only the king could preside, was omitted.



The Dead Sea scrolls found at Qumran in 1948 confirm that Nabonidus, not Nebuchadnezzar, was the mad king. A fragmentary document titled “The Prayer of Nabonidus” tells of a king NBNY (Hebrew uses no vowels) who, while at Tema, was diseased by the God of Israel. A Jewish adviser (no doubt Daniel) counsels him to honor God, reminding him, “Thou has been smitten with this noisesome fever … for seven years because thou hast been praying to gods of silver and stone, which gods are but stock and stone, mere clay.” (Theodore H. Gaster, The Dead Sea Scriptures, 3d ed., Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press/ Doubleday, 1976, p. 537.)


The fact that the gods of silver and gold were actually made of stock and stone might indicate gold or silver plating, which could identify the brick idol of Nabonidus with the gold idol mentioned in the book of Daniel.



How could such apparent errors have crept into the sacred record? ….


[End of quote]



My answer: Conventional neo-Babylonian history, and not the Book of Daniel, is at fault.


The great Assyrian ruler, Ashurbanipal, who so significantly influenced king Nabonidus, has certain features that also may remind one of Daniel’s “Nebuchednezzar” – so much so, in fact, that I had initially wondered about exploring an identification of the two.

I had then written:


Nabonidus is somewhat like an Assyrian king. He adopts Assyrian titulature and boasts of having the Assyrian kings as his “royal ancestors”. There is nothing particularly strange about his supposed long stay in Teima in Arabia. This was a typical campaign region adopted by the neo-Assyrian kings. There is nothing particularly remarkable about his desire to restore the Ehulhul temple of Sin in Harran. Ashurbanipal did that.

Nabonidus is said to have had two major goals, to restore that Sin temple and to establish the empire of Babylon along the lines of the neo-Assyrians. Once again, Ashurbanipal is particularly mentioned as being his inspiration.

Nabonidus was not singular in not taking the hand of Bel in Babylon for many years, due to what he calls the impiety of the Babylonians. Ashurbanipal (and now you will notice that he keeps turning up) could not shake the hand of Bel after his brother Shamash-shum-ukin had revolted against him, barring Babylon, Borsippa, etc. to him. He tells us this explicitly.

Nabonidus is not singular either in not expecting to become king. Ashurbanipal had felt the same.

…. They share many Babylonian building works and restorations, too.

…. Ashurbanipal of 41-43 years of reign (figures vary) … Nebuchednezzar II the Great of an established 43 years of reign.


The great Nebuchednezzar has left only 4 known depictions of himself, we are told. Ridiculous! ….

The last 35 years of Nebuchednezzar are hardly known, they say. ….

It is doubted whether Nebuchednezzar conquered Egypt as according to the Bible. … Ashurbanipal … certainly did conquer Egypt.

The many queries about whether an inscription belongs to Nebuchednezzar or Nabonidus now dissolves.

It was Nabonidus, not Nebuchednezzar, they say, who built the famous palace in Babylon.

Nabonidus’s well known madness (perhaps the Teima phase) is Nebuchednezzar’s madness.

Nabonidus calls Sin “the God of gods” (ilani sa ilani), the exact phrase used by Nebuchednezzar in Daniel 2:47 of Daniel’s God (“the God of gods”).

Looking for a fiery furnace? Well, Ashurbanipal has one. His brother dies in it.

“Saulmagina my rebellious brother, who made war with me, they threw into a burning fiery furnace, and destroyed his life” (Caiger, p. 176).


Oh, yes, and Belshazzar, they say, was Nabonidus’s son, not Nebuchednezzar’s son. Contrary to the Bible.

And Belshazzar was not a king, they also say.

Well he wasn’t a king while Nabonidus = Nebuchednezzar …. reigned.

But he was later. I’ll believe Daniel 5 (Writing on the Wall).


Ashurbanipal also apparently had a lions’ den.

For, according to Jonathan Grey, The Forbidden Secret (p. 102):


“…. The biblical book of Daniel also records that the Hebrew captive Daniel was tossed into a den lions. (Daniel chapter 6)

That such ‘lion’s [sic] den’ punishment was in keeping with the times is now proven by the discovery of that same inscription of Ashurbanipal that we just mentioned. It continues thus:


The rest of the people who had rebelled they threw alive among bulls and lions, as Sennacherib my grandfather used to do. Lo, again following his footsteps, those men I threw into the midst of them.


On one occasion, as the famed excavator Marcel Dieulafoy was digging amid the ruins of Babylon, he fell into a pit that appeared like an like an ancient well. After being rescued by his companions, he proceeded with the work of identification. How astonished was he to find that the pit had been used as a cage for wild animals! And upon the curb was this inscription:


The Place of Execution, where men who angered the king died torn by wild animals”.