Further linking Esarhaddon, Ashurbanipal


 Damien F. Mackey


  “… there is a clear parallel between the Inscription of Esarhaddon and a text of Assurbanipal [who] … says that he has brought the peoples that live in the sea and those that inhabit the high mountains under his yoke, and this reference, as we understand it, is very like Esarhaddon’s text, since it is also “a general summary”.”

Arcadio Del Castillo and Julia Montenegro


Why this particularly interests me is due to my identification of Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal as one and the same king, as well as being alter egos of the mighty Nebuchednezzar:


Aligning Neo-Babylonia with Book of Daniel. Part Two: Merging late neo-Assyrians with Chaldeans


Arcadio Del Castillo and Julia Montenegro have made a valiant effort to identify the elusive biblical “Tarshish” in their article:



Revue Biblique, 123, 2016, pp. 239-268



But what struck me when reading through this article is yet another case of, as it seems to me, a ‘historical’ duplication, Ashurbanipal claiming what Esarhaddon claimed.

Writing of the neo-Assyrian sailing efforts, the authors tell as follows (pp. 252-254):


… the only record we have of them sailing the Mediterranean is when Sargon II gained control of Cyprus, which was further secured by his successors, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Assurbanipal, 668-627 BC….


My comment: As Esarhaddon, Ashurbanipal, is just the one king according to my article above, so, too, with:

Assyrian King Sargon II, Otherwise Known As Sennacherib


The authors continue:


Of course, the text of the Assyrian Inscription of Esarhaddon defines the extent of the Assyrian king’s domain, in maritime terms, from one area in the direction of the other, but we believe its extent would have been within maritime limits of the Assyrian Empire itself, in which case Tarshish would very probably have been in the Red Sea or the Indian Ocean. Thus, the text is perfectly consistent with King Solomon’s policy of procuring the products he needed in the regions to the South and East of his kingdom, which in Antiquity formed a vast emporium of all kinds of luxury goods; and since these regions had to be reached by sea, Solomon ordered a fleet to be built in Ezion-geber on the Gulf of Akaba with ships of Tarshish, for which he sought the aid of Hiram I of Tyre, who sent his men, the unrivalled seafarers of Antiquity, because the Israelites had not, until then, had any contact with the sea. It is difficult to imagine the Phoenicians helping Solomon reach places with which he had no contact using routes only known to themselves, such as the Far West; however, helping him reach destinations nearer home by routes that were generally known does seem reasonable. What is conclusive is the fact that in Esarhaddon’s Inscription the reference to the kings of the middle of the sea comes after enumerating his conquests, which are listed as: Sidon … Arza … Bazu … Tilmun … Shubria … Tyre … Egypt and Pathros … and Kush.


And, since Bazu seems to be situated in the northwest of Arabia and Tilmun on the Persian Gulf, very possibly Bahrain … what seems more logical is to assume that it is a delimitation in both seas of the cosmic ocean, this is the Upper Sea and the Lower Sea. So it would be a broad area that extended beyond the Mediterranean; and reference is made to it just before saying that the Assyrian king had established his power over the kings of the four regions of the Earth … which is an obvious parallel with the part of the text studied in reference to his maritime empire.


What can of course be readily accepted, as we have said, is that there is a clear parallel between the Inscription of Esarhaddon and a text of Assurbanipal, which is inscribed on Prism B: after stating that he ruled from the Upper Sea to the Lower Sea and that the kings of the rising sun and the setting sun brought him heavy tribute, Assurbanipal says that he has brought the peoples that live in the sea and those that inhabit the high mountains under his yoke … and this reference, as we understand it, is very like Esarhaddon’s text, since it is also “a general summary”. And in this case, everything appears to indicate that the peoples referred to were to be found in both seas. Esarhaddon’s text defines the maritime dominion of the Assyrian king from one area to another, but of course it must fall within the actual maritime limits of the Assyrian Empire itself, so its boundary cannot be defined in the Far West, since we would soon leave the area under Assyrian rule. Therefore Tarshish would very probably be on the Red Sea or the Indian Ocean ….

[End of quote]


Meeting of the wise – Arioch and Daniel



Damien F. Mackey


Part One:

Refreshing our minds about Ahikar


Tobit tells us that this Ahikar was the son of his brother Anael (Tobit 1:21, 22, CEB).


Previously I have written about this fascinating character of Bible and legend:


Ahikar’s Importance


Biblical scholars could well benefit from knowing more about AHIKAR (or Ahiqar/Akhikar), the Rabshakeh of Sennacherib, Great King of Assyria (c. 700 BC, conventional dating), and who was retained in power by Esarhaddon (Gk. Sacherdonos) (Tobit 1:22).


This Ahikar … was a vitally important eye-witness to some of the most extraordinary events of Old Testament history.

Ahikar was, at the very least …:


  1. a key link between the Book of Judith and those other books, Kings, Chronicles and Isaiah [KCI] that describe Sennacherib’s rise to prominence and highly successful first major invasion of Israel (historically his 3rd campaign), and then
  2. Sennacherib’s second major invasion of Israel and subsequent disastrous defeat there; and he was
  3. an eyewitness in the east, as Tobit’s own nephew, to neo-Assyrian events as narrated in the Book of Tobit.


May I, then (based on my research into historical revision), sketch Ahikar’s astounding life by knitting together the various threads about him that one may glean from KCI, Tobit, Judith, secular history and legends. I shall be using for him the better known name of Ahikar, even though I find him named in the Book of Judith (and also in the Vulgate version of Tobit) as Achior, presumably, “son of light” (and as Achiacharus in the Septuagint).


Here is Ahikar:


His Israelite Beginnings


Tobit tells us that this Ahikar was the son of his brother Anael (Tobit 1:21, 22, CEB):


Within forty days Sennacherib was killed by two of his sons, who escaped to the mountains of Ararat. His son Esarhaddon became king in his place. He hired Ahikar, my brother Hanael’s son, to be in charge of all the financial accounts of his kingdom and all the king’s treasury records.

Ahikar petitioned the king on my behalf, and I returned to Nineveh. Ahikar had been the chief officer, the keeper of the ring with the royal seal, the auditor of accounts, and the keeper of financial records under Assyria’s King Sennacherib. And Esarhaddon promoted him to be second in charge after himself. Ahikar was my nephew and one of my family.


Ahikar, nephew of Tobit, was therefore the cousin of the latter’s son, Tobias, whom I have identified, in his mature age, as the holy Job. See my article:


Job’s Life and Times




Presumably then Ahikar had, just like Tobit and his son, Tobias, belonged to the tribe of Naphthali (cf. Tobit 1:1); though he was possibly, unlike the Tobiads, amongst the majority of his clan who had gone over to Baal worship.

Ahikar may thus initially have been a scoffer (1:4) and a blasphemer.

Tobit tells us about his tribe’s apostasy (1:4-5):


When I was young, I lived in northern Israel. All the tribes in Israel were supposed to offer sacrifices in Jerusalem. It was the one city that God had chosen from among all the Israelite cities as the place where his Temple was to be built for his holy and eternal home. But my entire tribe of Naphtali rejected the city of Jerusalem and the kings descended from David. Like everyone else in this tribe, my own family used to go to the city of Dan in the mountains of northern Galilee to offer sacrifices to the gold bull-calf which King Jeroboam of Israel had set up there.


This was still the unfortunate situation during the early reign of the great king Hezekiah of Judah (2 Chronicles 30: 1, 10): “And Hezekiah sent letters to all Israel and Judah … to come to Jerusalem … and keep the Passover …. So the posts passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim … but they laughed them to scorn …”.


Whilst Tobit and his family, and Ahikar’s presumably also, were taken into captivity during the reign of “King Shalmaneser” [V] (Tobit 1:2), the northern kingdom of Samaria went later. Samaria, due to her apostasy, was taken captive in 722 BC (conventional dating) by Sargon II of Assyria, whom I have actually equated with Sennacherib:


Assyrian King Sargon II, Otherwise Known As Sennacherib




As Sennacherib’s Cupbearer-in-Chief (Rabshakeh)


Ahikar’s rapid rise to high office in the kingdom of Assyria may have been due in part to the prestige that his uncle had enjoyed there; because Tobit tells us that he himself was, for the duration of the reign of “Shalmaneser … the king’s purveyor”, even entrusted with large sums of money (1:14): “And I [Tobit] went into Media, and left in trust with Gabael, the brother of Gabrias, at Rages a city of Media ten talents of silver”. …. This is apparently something like $1.2 million dollars!




Sennacherib’s description of his official, Bel-ibni, who he said had “grown up in my palace like a young puppy” [as quoted by G. Roux, Iraq, p. 321], may have been equally applicable to Ahikar. The highly talented Ahikar, rising quickly through the ranks, attained to Rabshakeh (thought [by some] to equate to Cup-bearer or Vizier).


Whatever the exact circumstances of Ahikar’s worldly success, the young man seems to have enjoyed a rise to power quite as speedy as that later on experienced by the prophet Daniel in Babylon; the latter trusting wholeheartedly in his God, whereas Ahikar may possibly have, at first, depended upon his own powers. {Though Tobit put in a good word for his nephew when he recalled that “Ahikar gave alms” (14:10), that being his salvation}.


Merodach-baladan, the wily survivor during the first half of Sennacherib’s reign, was the latter’s foe, Arphaxad, of the Book of Judith, defeated by Sennacherib (there called Nebuchadnezzar) – this incident occurring next, as I have argued, after Sennacherib’s successful 3rd campaign, the one involving king Hezekiah of Judah.

Thus we read in Judith 1:1, 5-6:


While King Nebuchadnezzar was ruling over the Assyrians from his capital city of Nineveh, King Arphaxad ruled over the Medes [sic] ….

In the twelfth year of his reign King Nebuchadnezzar went to war against King Arphaxad in the large plain around the city of Rages. Many nations joined forces with King Arphaxad—all the people who lived in the mountains, those who lived along the Tigris, Euphrates, and Hydaspes rivers, as well as those who lived in the plain ruled by King Arioch of Elam. Many nations joined this Chelodite [Chaldean] alliance.


Whilst “King Arioch” mentioned here will be discussed later, I have explained the use of the name ‘Nebuchadnezzar’ for Sennacherib in the Book of Judith in my article:


Book of Judith: confusion of names




Sennacherib’s Third campaign


Biblically, we get our first glimpse of Ahikar in action, I believe, as the very vocal Rabshakeh of KCI, the mouthpiece of Sennacherib himself when the Assyrian army mounted its first major assault upon the kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 18:13): “In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them”.

Now, it would make perfect sense that the king of Assyria would have chosen from amongst his elite officials, to address the Jews, one of Israelite tongue (vv. 17-18):


And the king of Assyria sent the Tartan, the Rabsaris, and the Rabshakeh with a great army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. When they arrived, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is on the highway to the Fuller’s Field. And when they called for the king, there came out to them Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebnah the secretary, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder.


And these are the bold words that Rabshakeh had apparently been ordered to say to the Jews (vv. 19-25):


And the Rabshakeh said to them, “Say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you rest this trust of yours? Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? In whom do you now trust, that you have rebelled against me? Behold, you are trusting now in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him. But if you say to me, “We trust in the Lord our God,” is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, “You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem”? Come now, make a wager with my master the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them. How then can you repulse a single captain among the least of my master’s servants, when you trust in Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? Moreover, is it without the Lord that I have come up against this place to destroy it? The Lord said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it’. ….


King Hezekiah’s officials, however, who did not want the people on the walls to hear these disheartening words, pleaded with Rabshakeh as follows (v. 26): “Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebnah, and Joah, said to the Rabshakeh, ‘Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it. Do not speak to us in the language of Judah within the hearing of the people who are on the wall’.”


Could the fact that the Jewish officials knew that Sennacherib’s officer was conversant with the Aramaïc language indicate that Ahikar, of whom they must have known, was of northern – and perhaps Transjordanian (like Tobit and Tobias) – origin?


Now Ahikar, who as said above is named ‘Achior’ in the Vulgate version of Tobit, I have identified as the important Achior of the Book of Judith in Volume Two of my post-graduate thesis. So it was rather intriguing to discover, in regard to the Rabshakeh’s famous speech, that B. Childs (Isaiah and the Assyrian Crisis) had discerned some similarity between it and the speech of Achior in the Book of Judith. I wrote on this in my thesis (Vol. 2, p. 8):


… Childs – who has subjected the Rabshakeh’s speech to a searching form-critical analysis, also identifying its true Near Eastern genre – has considered it as well in relation to an aspect of the speech of … Achior [to be identified with] this Rabshakeh in Chapter 2, e.g. pp. 46-47) to Holofernes (Judith 5:20f.). ….


A legend had been born, Ahikar the Rabshakeh!

The Israelite captive had proven himself to have been a most loyal servant of Sennacherib’s during the latter’s highly successful 3rd campaign, playing his assigned rôle to perfection.


Sennacherib, upon his return to the east, quickly turned his sights upon the troublesome Merodach-baladan.

And it is at this point in history that the Book of Judith opens.

After the defeat of Merodach-baladan, the aforementioned ‘young puppy’, Bel-ibni, was made sub-king of Babylon in his stead.



The Vizier (Ummânu)


With what I think is a necessary merging of the C12th BC king of Babylon, Nebuchednezzar I, with the potent king of neo-Assyria, Esarhaddon (or Nebuchednezzar ‘the Great’), we encounter during the reign of ‘each’ a vizier of such fame that he was to be remembered for centuries to come.

It is now reasonable to assume that this is one and the same vizier.

I refer, in the case of Nebuchednezzar I, to the following celebrated vizier [the following taken from J. Brinkman’s A Political History of Post-Kassite Babylonia. 1158-722 B.C. Roma (Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1968, pp. 114-115]:


… during these years in Babylonia a notable literary revival took place …. It is likely that this burst of creative activity sprang from the desire to glorify fittingly the spectacular achievements of Nebuchednezzar I and to enshrine his memorable deeds in lasting words. These same deeds were also to provide inspiration for later poets who sang the glories of the era …. The scribes of Nebuchednezzar’s day, reasonably competent in both Akkadian and Sumerian…, produced works of an astonishing vigor, even though these may have lacked the polish of a more sophisticated society. The name Esagil-kini-ubba, ummânu or “royal secretary” during the reign of Nebuchednezzar I, was preserved in Babylonian memory for almost one thousand years – as late as the year 147 of the Seleucid Era (= 165 B.C.)….


To which Brinkman adds the footnote [n. 641]: “Note … that Esagil-kini-ubba served as ummânu also under Adad-apla-iddina and, therefore, his career extended over at least thirty-five years”.


So perhaps we can consider that our wise sage was, for a time, shared by both Assyria and Babylon.


Those seeking the historical Ahikar tend to come up with one Aba-enlil-dari, this description of him taken from:



The story of Ahiqar is set into the court of seventh century Assyrian kings Sennacherib and Esarhaddon. The hero has the Akkadian name Ahī-(w)aqar “My brother is dear”, but it is not clear if the story has any historical foundation. The latest entry in a Seleucid list of Seven Sages says: “In the days of Esarhaddon the sage was Aba-enlil-dari, whom the Aramaeans call Ahu-uqar” which at least indicates that the story of Ahiqar was well known in the Seleucid Babylonia.


Seleucid Babylonia is, of course, much later removed in time from our sources for Ahikar. And, as famous as may have been the scribe Esagil-kini-ubba – whether or not he were also Ahikar – even better known is this Ahikar (at least by that name), a character of both legend and of (as I believe) real history.

Regarding Ahikar’s tremendous popularity even down through the centuries, we read [The Jerome Biblical Commentary, New Jersey (Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968), 28:28]:


The story of Ahikar is one of the most phenomenal in the ancient world in that it has become part of many different literatures and has been preserved in several different languages: Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, Greek, Slavonic, and Old Turkish. The most ancient recension is the Aramaic, found amongst the famous 5th-cent. BC papyri that were discovered at the beginning of the 20th cent. on Elephantine Island in the Nile. The story worked its way into the Arabian nights and the Koran; it influenced Aesop, the Church Fathers as well as Greek philosophers, and the Old Testament itself.


Whilst Ahikar’s wisdom and fame has spread far and wide, the original Ahikar, whom I am trying to uncover in this article, has been elusive for some. Thus J. Greenfield has written (http://ebooks.cambridge.org/chapter.jsf?bid=CBO9780511520662&cid=CBO9780511520662A012):


The figure of Ahiqar has remained a source of interest to scholars in a variety of fields. The search for the real Ahiqar, the acclaimed wise scribe who served as chief counsellor to Sennacherib and Esarhaddon, was a scholarly preoccupation for many years. He had a sort of independent existence since he was known from a series of texts – the earliest being the Aramaic text from Elephantine, followed by the book of Tobit, known from the Apocrypha, and the later Syriac, Armenian and Arabic texts of Ahiqar. An actual royal counsellor and high court official who had been removed from his position and later returned to it remains unknown. E. Reiner found the theme of the ‘disgrace and rehabilitation of a minister’ combined with that of the ‘ungrateful nephew’ in the ‘Bilingual Proverbs’, and saw this as a sort of parallel to the Ahiqar story. She also emphasized that in Mesopotamia the ummânu was not only a learned man or craftsman but was also a high official. At the time that Reiner noted the existence of this theme in Babylonian wisdom literature, Ahiqar achieved a degree of reality with the discovery in Uruk, in the excavations of winter 1959/60, of a Late Babylonian tablet (W20030,7) dated to the 147th year of the Seleucid era (= 165 BCE). This tablet contains a list of antediluvian kings and their sages (apkallû) and postdiluvian kings and their scholars (ummânu). The postdiluvian kings run from Gilgamesh to Esarhaddon.


As a Ruling ‘King’ (or Governor)


The Elamite Connection


Chapter 1 of the Book of Tobit appears to be a general summary of Tobit’s experiences during the reigns of a succession of Assyrian kings: Shalmaneser, Sennacherib and Esarhaddon.

I, in my thesis and subsequent writings, may have misread some of the chronology of the life of Tobit, whose blindness, as recorded in Chapter 2, I had presumed to have occurred after the murder of Sennacherib.

I now think that it occurred well before that.

Ahikar will assist Tobit in his miserable state (“Ahikar gave alms”, 14:10), for two years, before his appointment as ruler of Elam. Here is Tobit’s account of it (2:10-11):


For four years I could see nothing. My relatives were deeply concerned about my condition, and Ahikar supported me for two years before he went to the land of Elam. After Ahikar left, my wife Anna had to go to work, so she took up weaving, like many other women.


Another thing that probably needs to be re-considered now, in light of my revised view of the chronology of Tobit, concerns the previously mentioned “King Arioch” as referred to in Judith 1:6: “Many nations joined forces with King Arphaxad … as well as those who lived in the plain ruled by King Arioch of Elam”. Arioch in Elam I had (rightly I think) identified in my thesis, again, as Achior (Ahikar) who went to Elam. But, due to my then mis-reading of Tobit, I had had to consider the mention of Arioch in Judith 1:6 as a post-Sennacherib gloss, added later as a geographical pointer, thinking that our hero had gone to Elam only after Sennacherib’s death. And so I wrote in my thesis (Vol. II, pp. 46-47):


I disagree with Charles [The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament] that: “The name Arioch is borrowed from Gen. xiv. i, in accordance with the author’s love of archaism”. This piece of information, I am going to argue here, is actually a later gloss to the original text. And I hope to give a specific identification to this king, since, according to Leahy [‘Judith’]: “The identity of Arioch (Vg Erioch) has not been established …”.


What I am going to propose is that Arioch was not actually one of those who had rallied to the cause of Arphaxad in Year 12 of Nebuchadnezzar, as a superficial reading of [Book of Judith] might suggest, but that this was a later addition to the text for the purpose of making more precise for the reader the geographical region from whence came Arphaxad’s allies, specifically the Elamite troops.

In other words, this was the very same region as that which Arioch had ruled; though at a later time, as I am going to explain.


Commentators express puzzlement about him. Who was this Arioch?

And if he were such an unknown, then what was the value of this gloss for the early readers?


Arioch was, I believe, the very Achior who figures so prominently in the story of Judith.

He was also the legendary Ahikar, a most famous character as we have already read.

Therefore he was entirely familiar to the Jews, who would have known that he had eventually governed the Assyrian province of Elam.

Some later editor/translator presumably, apparently failing to realise that the person named in this gloss was the very same as the Achior who figures so prominently throughout the main story of [Judith], has confused matters by calling him by the different name of Arioch. He should have written: “Achior ruled the Elymeans”.

From there it is an easy matter to make this comparison:


“Achior … Elymeans” [Judith]; “Ahikar (var. Achior) … Elymaïs” [Tobit].


Suffice it to say here that this ubiquitous personage, Ahikar/Achior, would have been the eyewitness extraordinaire to the detailed plans and preparations regarding the eastern war between the Assyrians and the Chaldean coalition as described in Judith 1.






Part Two:

Merging Judith’s ‘Arioch’ with Daniel’s ‘Arioch’



Some later editor/translator … apparently failing to realise that the person [“Arioch”] named in this gloss [Judith 1:6] was the very same as the Achior who figures so prominently throughout the main story of [Judith], has confused matters by calling him by the different name of Arioch. He should have written: “Achior ruled the Elymeans”.



With my revised shunting of the neo-Assyrian era into the neo-Babylonian one, and with an important official, “Arioch”, emerging early in the Book of Daniel, early in the reign of “Nebuchednezzar”, then the possibility arises that he is the same as the “Arioch” of Judith 1:6.

In Part One I multi-identified the famous Ahikar (var. Achior), nephew of Tobit, a Naphtalian Israelite, with Sennacherib’s Rabshakeh; with the Achior of the Book of Judith; and with a few other suggestions thrown in.

Finally, my identification of Ahikar (Achior) also with the governor (for Assyria) of the land of Elam, named as “Arioch” in Judith 1:6, enabled me to write this very neat equation:   


“Achior … Elymeans” [Judith]; “Ahikar (var. Achior) … Elymaïs” [Tobit].



Arioch in Daniel


Arioch is met in Daniel 2, in the highly dramatic context of king Nebuchednezzar’s Dream, in which Arioch is a high official serving the king. The erratic king has firmly determined to get rid of all of his wise men (2:13): “So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death”.

And the king has entrusted the task to this Arioch, variously entitled “marshal”; “provost-marshal”; “captain of the king’s guard”; “chief of the king’s executioners” (2:14): When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact”.


This is the customary way that the wise and prudent Daniel will operate.


Daniel 2 continues (v. 15): “[Daniel] asked the king’s officer [Arioch], ‘Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?’ Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel”.

Our young Daniel does not lack a certain degree of “chutzpah”, firstly boldly approaching the king’s high official (the fact that Arioch does not arrest Daniel on the spot may be testimony to both the young man’s presence and also Arioch’s favouring the Jews since the Judith incident), and then (even though he was now aware of the dire decree) marching off to confront the terrible king (v. 16): “At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him”.


Later, Daniel, having had revealed to him the details and interpretation of the king’s Dream, will re-acquaint himself with Arioch (v. 24):

“Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, ‘Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him’.”

Naturally, Arioch was quick to respond – no doubt to appease the enraged king, but perhaps also for the sake of Daniel and the wise men (v. 25): “Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, ‘I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means’.”


Part Three:

Ahikar and Daniel Comparisons



“There are also some curious linguistic parallels between Ahikar and Daniel”




Books and articles abound comparing Ahikar and Daniel.


For instance, there is George A. Barton’s “The Story of Aḥiḳar and the Book of Daniel” (The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 16, No. 4, 1900, pp 242-247):


Aḥiḳar, a vizier of Sennacherib, was possessed of wealth, wisdom, popularity, and ….


Lastly the description of Aḥiḳar with his nails grown like eagles’ talons and his hair matted like a wild beast … not only reminds one strongly of the of the description of the hair and nails of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4.30), but appears, as Harris has shown … in a more original form [sic] than in the book of Daniel. He further points out that the fact that in Aḥiḳar’s description of the wise men “Chaldeans” had not yet become a technical term for a sage, as it has in Daniel, is a further argument for the priority of Aḥiḳar.

All these points the acute critic of Aḥiḳar has admirably taken; but one wonders why he did not go on a step farther; for when we come to the more fundamental parallels between plots and methods of treatment, the story of Aḥiḳar becomes even more vitally interesting to the student of Daniel than before.

The first of these points to be noted is that Daniel was a wise man, like Aḥiḳar, excelling all others in wisdom, and, like him, vizier to his sovereign, whoever that sovereign might be. Granting the priority of Aḥiḳar, is there not a sign of dependence here?

The story of Aḥiḳar’s fall from the pinnacle of power, his unjust incarceration in a pit … his deliverance, and the imprisonment of his accuser in the same pit, is exactly the same as Daniel’s fall from like power, his imprisonment in the lions’ den, his deliverance, and the casting of his accusers to the lions ….

[End of quote]


Vol. 16, No. 4 (Jul., 1900), pp. 242-247 (6 pages)


  1. C. Conybeare et al. provide more such comparisons in “The Story of Ahikar”:



We turn now to a book which appears to belong to the same time and to the same region as Ahikar, in search of more exact coincidences.

We refer to the book of Daniel.


First of all there are a good many expressions describing Assyrian life, which appear also in Daniel and may be a part of the stock-in-trade of an Eastern story-teller in ancient times. I mean such expressions as, ‘0 king, live for ever! 5 ‘I clad him in byssus and purple \ and a gold collar did I bind around his neck/ (Armenian, p. 25, cf. Dan. v. 16.)

More exact likeness of speech will be found in the following sentence from the Arabic version, in which Ahikar is warned by the ‘ magicians, astrologers and sooth-sayers ‘ that he will have no child. Something of the same kind occurs in the Arabic text, when the king of Egypt sends his threatening letter to the king of Assyria, and the latter gathers together his ‘ nobles, philosophers, and wise men, and astrologers/

The Slavonic drops all this and says, ‘It was revealed to me by God, no child will be born of thee/ ‘ He caused all the wise men to be gathered together/ In the Armenian it is, ‘there was a voice from the gods 5 ; ‘ he sent and mustered the satraps/ The language, however, in the Arabic recalls certain expressions in Daniel : e.g.


Dan. ii. 2. c The king sent to call the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans/


So in Dan. ii. 27 : in Dan. v. 7, ( astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers/ &c.


It will be seen that the expressions in Daniel are closely parallel to those in the Arabic Ahikar.


Again, when the king of Assyria is in perplexity as to what he shall answer to the king of Egypt, he demands advice from Nadan who has succeeded to his uncle’s place in the kingdom.

Nadan ridicules the demands of the Pharaoh. ‘Build a castle in the air ! The gods themselves cannot do this, let alone men!’

We naturally compare the reply of the consulted Chaldeans in Daniel ii. 11, ‘There is no one who can answer the matter before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh/


When Ahikar is brought out of his hiding-place and presented to the king, we are told that his hair had grown very long and reached his shoulders, while his beard had grown to his breast.

‘My nails/ he says, ‘were like the claws of eagles and my body had become withered and shapeless/


We compare the account of Nebuchadnezzar, after he had been driven from amongst men (see iv. 30); 1 until his hairs were grown like eagles’ [feathers] and his nails like birds’ [claws].’


The parallelism between these passages is tolerably certain; and the text in Ahikar is better [sic] than that of Daniel. The growth of the nails must be expressed in terms of eagles’ talons, and not of the claws of little birds: and the hair ought to be compared with wild beasts, as is the case in some of the Ahikar versions.


There are also some curious linguistic parallels between Ahikar and Daniel ….


It seems, then, to be highly probable that one of the writers in question was acquainted with the other; for it is out of the question to refer all these coincidences to a later perturbation in the text of Ahikar from the influence of the Bible. Some, at least, of them must be primitive coincidences. But in referring such coincidences to the first form of Ahikar, we have lighted upon a pretty problem. For one of the formulae in question, that namely which describes the collective wisdom of the Babylonians, is held by modern critics to be one of the proofs of late date in the book of Daniel:


Accordingly Sayce says 1 , ‘Besides the proper names [in Daniel] there is another note of late date. “The Chaldeans” are coupled with the “magicians/ 7 the “astrologers” and the “sorcerers/* just as they are in Horace or other classical writers of a similar age. The Hebrew and Aramaic equivalent of the Greek or Latin “Chaldeans” is Kasdim (Kasdayin), a name the origin of which is still uncertain.

But its application in the earlier books of the Bible is well known.

It denoted the Semitic Babylonians…. After the fall of the Baby-lonian empire the word Chaldean gradually assumed a new meaning . . .it became the equivalent of ” sorcerer ” and magician.. . . In the eyes of the Assyriologist the use of the word Kasdim in the book of Daniel would alone be sufficient to indicate the date of the work with unerring certainty.’


Now it is certainly an interesting fact that in the story of Ahikar the perplexing Chaldeans are absent from the enumeration.

This confirms us in a suspicion that Ahikar has not been borrow-ing from Daniel, either in the first form of the legend or in later versions. For if he had been copying into his text a passage from Daniel to heighten the narrative, why should he omit the Chaldeans? The author had not, certainly, been reading Prof.

Sayce’s proof that they were an anachronism. The hypothesis is, therefore, invited that in Ahikar we have a prior document to Daniel: but we will not press the argument unduly, because we are not quite certain as to the text of the primitive Ahikar … .




Ashurbanipal as Nebuchednezzar, “Cosmic Tree”


Ashurbanipal, Manasseh, Necho I-II, Nebuchednezzar


Part Two (ii):

Ashurbanipal as Nebuchednezzar,

“Cosmic Tree”



Damien F. Mackey


“The emperor is addressed as the one who stretches out and provides shelter for his vassals – similar to Nebuchadnezzar in Dan 4 …”.

 H. Henze


Certain passages in M. H. Henze’s book, The Madness of King Nebuchadnezzar: The Ancient Near Eastern Origins and Early History of Interpretation of Daniel 4 (BRILL, 1999), do no harm whatsoever to my identification, in this series (see also: https://www.academia.edu/33428527/Ashurbanipal_Manasseh_Necho_I-II_Nebuchednezzar._Part_Two_i_Ashurbanipal_as_Nebuchednezzar )

of Ashurbanipal as Nebuchednezzar.

And so we read of the emperor as like a sheltering, cosmic tree (pp. 80-81):


In addition to these more general commonalties in the portraits of the sacred tree throughout the ancient world, there are a number of peculiar details in the description of the cosmic tree in Dan 4 that stand without parallel in the Hebrew Bible, and which therefore demand further attention. One such detail is the literary context of the tree vision. As already observed, the entire story of Nebuchadnezzar’s madness is cast, at least in the Aramaic version, in the form of an encyclical epistle sent by the king “to all peoples, nations, and tongues” (Dan 3:31). We find the same image of the monarch as a giant tree in the prescript of an Assyrian epistle. It is part of the introductory blessing formulae in a letter sent to the Neo-Assyrian king Ashurbanipal by a certain Adad-šum-usur, a prominent diviner (barû) and royal advisor (ummānu) already during the time Ashurbanipal’s father Esarhaddon ….


My comment: According to my neo-Assyrian revision, Esarhaddon was not the father of Ashurbanipal, but was Ashurbanipal, hence was Nebuchednezzar.

See e.g. my article:


Esarhaddon a tolerable fit for King Nebuchednezzar



That would mean that Adad-šum-usur above would not need to be so stretched chronologically as to have to have embraced two reigns (Esarhaddon plus Ashurbanipal). Now, the biblical Ahikar (Achior) was Esarhaddon’s ummānu. And W. van Soden has suggested that Adad-šum-usur might have been the model for Ahikar (see Wisdom in Ancient Israel, p. 43, n. 3).


Returning to M. H. Henze and Adad-šum-usur


… who exercised considerable influence in the court. …. The line in question reads as follows,

zīmīka (MÚŠ-ka) lišmuḫu lirappišu ṣulūlī


(may the gods grant progeny to the king, my lord) may your

countenance flourish (and) make shelter wide ….

The letter, which probably stems from the beginning of Ashurbanipal’s reign around the year 666 BCE [sic], opens with a sequence of blessings. Line 14, the line quoted above, concludes this introductory section of the epistle. The emperor is addressed as the one who stretches out and provides shelter for his vassals – similar to Nebuchadnezzar in Dan 4 who, in the form of a cosmic tree, has grown large in order to host all the nations of the world (Dan 4:8–9.19). ….