Jesus Christ himself is the ‘stone’ of Daniel 2

Image result for jesus is stone of daniel 2


Damien F. Mackey


 ‘While you were watching, a stone was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth’.

 Daniel 2:34-35

The question of “Who/what is the stone of Daniel 2?”, as asked at, for instance:
is easily answered, because Jesus Christ told us directly to whom it refers.
“Jesus said to them [the chief priests and the Pharisees]” (Matthew 21:42):

‘Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes”’?”


This was an Old Testament reference to Psalm 117:22 (Douay, otherwise Psalm 118:22).

This was a “stone” (a “rock”) that would shatter the successive pagan kingdoms of Daniel 2 that would encounter it.

Jesus continued his statement, still with reference to Daniel 2 (Matthew 21:43): ‘Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed’.


I Peter 2:7-8 explains this further, with reference, again, to the Old Testament (Isaiah 8:14): “He will be a holy place; for both Israel and Judah he will be a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare”.

I Peter 2:9 goes on to tell exactly who were Jesus’s “a people who will produce its fruit” to whom the kingdom will be given: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, to proclaim the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”.


The article referred to above, “Who/what is the stone of Daniel 2?” (not all of which I would agree with or recommend), comes to the same conclusion about:


Who/what is a stone?

“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, ” 1 Peter 2:7

“Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. ” Acts 4:10, 11

Answer: Jesus


Persian History has no adequate Archaeology

Image result for persian rule of babylon


 Damien F. Mackey


“The very existence of a Median empire, with the emphasis on empire, is thus

questionable” (H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, “Was there ever a Median Empire?”, in

  1. Kuhrt, H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, eds., Achaemenid History III. Method and

Theory, Leiden, 1988, p. 212).






Professor Gunnar Heinsohn (University of Bremen) and Emmet Sweeney, historical revisionists, have, in recent times, arrived at some startling conclusions about ancient history – some of these warranting further critical examination, whilst other of their views appear to me to be extreme and well wide of the mark. In order to account for an apparent lack of due stratigraphy for, say, the Mitannians, or the neo-Assyrians, or the Medo-Persians, this pair (not always in perfect agreement) will attempt to merge any one of these with a far earlier kingdom, for instance, the ancient Akkadians to be merged as one with the neo-Assyrians. Lester Mitcham, however, was able to expose Sweeney’s choices for comparisons using firm archaeological data in his article, “Support for Heinsohn’s Chronology is Misplaced” (SIS Chronology and Catastrophism Workshop, No 1, May 1988).

The Akkadians and the neo-Assyrians were found to be two quite distinct peoples, well-separated in time, and speaking and writing quite different languages.

Mitcham demonstrated similarly the archaeological impossibility of Heinsohn’s and Sweeney’s bold efforts to fuse the Old Babylonian Dynasty of Hammurabi with the Persians – King Hammurabi supposedly being the same as Darius the Great.

Once again, different peoples, different geographies, different times.

Heinsohn and Sweeney do, however, have some degree of support for their argument that the Persian Empire, as classically presented, is seriously lacking in due archaeological strata. Heinsohn, in his far-reaching “The Restoration of Ancient History” (, refers to the results of some conferences in the 1980’s pointing to difficulties regarding the extent of the Medo-Persian empires:


In the 1980’s, a series of eight major conferences brought together the world’s finest experts on the history of the Medish and Persian empires. They reached startling results. The empire of Ninos [pre-Alexander period (3)] was not even mentioned. Yet, its Medish successors were extensively dealt with-to no great avail. In 1988, one of the organizers of the eight conferences, stated the simple absence of an empire of the Medes [pre-Alexander period (2)]: “A Median oral tradition as a source for Herodotus III is a hypothesis that solves some problems, but has otherwise little to recommend it … This means that not even in Herodotus’ Median history a real empire is safely attested. In Assyrian and Babylonian records and in the archeological evidence no vestiges of an imperial structure can be found. The very existence of a Median empire, with the emphasis on empire, is thus questionable” (H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, “Was there ever a Median Empire?”, in A. Kuhrt, H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, eds., Achaemenid History III. Method and Theory, Leiden, 1988, p. 212).


Two years later came the really bewildering revelation. Humankind’s first world empire of the Persians [Pre-Alexander Period (1)] did not fare much better than the Medes. Its imperial dimensions had dryly to be labelled “elusive” (H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, “The quest for an elusive empire?”, in H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg, A. Kuhrt, eds., Achaemenid History IV. Centre and Periphery, Leiden l990, p. 264).


Xerxes something of a ‘Ghost’



This series considers what has worked, and what has not, in attempts so far to revise Medo-Persian history, by shortening it, so that it may the better accord with the dearth of archaeological strata.






Professor Gunnar Heinsohn (University of Bremen) had put forward a most controversial ‘solution’ to account for the problems of Medo-Persian archaeology by attempting to identify the Persians with the Old Babylonian Dynasty of Hammurabi – Darius ‘the Great’ being Hammurabi himself.

More recently (2002) Emmet Sweeney, who has been a supporter of Heinsohn, has sought to fuse the Persians with the neo-Assyrians and neo-Babylonians, so that, for instance, Cyrus the Great is to be identified with Tiglath-pileser III; Xerxes with Sennacherib; and Artaxerxes III with Nebuchednezzar II ‘the Great’. In the following passage, in which he claims to be following Heinsohn, Sweeney refers again to the archaeological problem associated with the Persian Empire (“Did Artaxerxes III Despoil the Temple in Jerusalem?”, C and C Review, 2002:2, p. 15):


A fundamental principle of Gunnar Heinsohn’s work is that the so-called Neo-Assyrians must be identical to the Persians. Heinsohn was forced to that conclusion for a very simple reason: Mesopotamia could provide little or no archaeology for two centuries during which it was part of the Achaemenid Empire. Indeed the absence of Persian strata is so complete that some modern scholars, most notably Heleen Sancisi-Weerdenburg of the Netherlands, have come to doubt the very existence of a Persian Empire …. This Persian disappearing act constitutes more or less a ‘dark age’ in the historiography of the ancient Near East.

[End of quote]



Some of the so-called Persian Kings

were semi-legendary, and composite


The mighty king, Xerxes, favoured by various commentators to represent “Ahasuerus”, the Great King of the Book of Esther, is most likely a composite character, a mix of real Assyrian and Medo-Persian kings. Here, for instance, we consider his likenesses to Sennacherib as pointed out by Emmet Sweeney.



The name ‘Xerxes’ is thought by historians to accord extremely well linguistically with “Ahasuerus”, the name of the Great King of the Book of Esther.

There are several kings “Ahasuerus” in the (Catholic) Bible: in Tobit; in Esther; in Ezra; and in Daniel.


As Cyaxares


The one in Tobit is usually considered to refer to the Cyaxares who conquered Nineveh. See e.g. my:


“Ahasuerus” in Book of Tobit


“But before [Tobias] died, he heard of the destruction of Nineveh, which was taken by Nebuchadnezzar and Ahasuerus; and before his death he rejoiced over Nineveh”. (Tobit 14:15)




“Ahasuerus” in Book of Tobit. Part Two: The Name “Ahasuerus”


in which I discuss the name, “Ahasuerus”.

Cyaxares, again, is probably the “Ahasuerus” mentioned as the father of Darius the Mede in Daniel 9:1: “It was the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede, the son of Ahasuerus, who became king of the Babylonians”.


As Cyrus


The “Ahasuerus” in Esther I have identified as Darius the Mede/Cyrus:


“King Ahasuerus” of Book of Esther


and, likewise, the “Ahasuerus” in Ezra:


The names, Xerxes, Ahasuerus, Cyaxares and Cyrus are all fairly compatible.



Comparisons with Sennacherib


Emmet Sweeney has done the work here, providing some striking parallels between the known historical Assyrian king, Sennacherib (C8th BC), and the historically far shakier, ‘Xerxes’.


… In Ramessides, Medes and Persians I outlined detailed reasons for identifying Tiglath-Pileser III with Cyrus, Shalmaneser V with Cambyses, and Sargon II with Darius I. The striking correspondences in the lives of all of these, repeated generation for generation in parallel sequence, made it increasingly unlikely that the identifications could be mistaken. Yet even one striking mismatch could potentially invalidate the whole scheme. I then came to the next “pairing” – Sennacherib with Xerxes. Would these two also show clear-cut and convincing correspondences?

A random search of the internet produces the following for Xerxes and Sennacherib: “Like the Persian Xerxes, he [Sennacherib] was weak and vainglorious, cowardly under reverse, and cruel and boastful in success.” (WebBible Encyclopedia at The writer of these words did not suspect any connection between the two kings, much less that they were the same person. Nevertheless, the similarities between them were so compelling that one apparently brought the other to mind.

The writer’s instincts, I shall argue, did not betray him. The lives and careers of Xerxes and Sennacherib were so similar that were the thesis presented in these pages not proffered, scholars must wonder at the astounding parallels between the two.

One of Xerxes’ first actions as king was an invasion of Egypt, which had thrown off the Persian yoke shortly after Darius’ defeat at the hands of the Greeks. This reconquest of Egypt was said to have taken place in Xerxes’ second year. Similarly, one of the first actions of Sennacherib was a campaign against Egypt and her Palestinian and Syrian allies. This war against Egypt took place in Sennacherib’s third year. The Assyrian inscriptions inform us how Hezekiah of Judah had rebelled and sought the assistance of the kings of Egypt (and) the bowmen, the chariot (-corps) and the cavalry of the king of Ethiopia (Meluhha), an army beyond counting — and they (actually) had come to their assistance. In the plain of Eltekeh (Al-ta-qu-u), their battle lines were drawn up against me and they sharpened their weapons.… I fought with them and inflicted a defeat upon them. In the melee of the battle, I personally captured alive the Egyptian charioteers with the(ir) princes and (also) the charioteers of the king of Ethiopia. (J. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (Princeton, 1950) pp. 287-8).

Hezekiah was besieged, but not captured. Nevertheless, the outcome of this campaign was a complete victory for Sennacherib. Hezekiah sent tribute to the Great King:

Hezekiah himself, whom the terror-inspiring glamour of my lordship had overwhelmed and whose irregular and elite troops which he had brought into Jerusalem, his royal residence, in order to strengthen (it), had deserted him, did send me, later, to Nineveh, my lordly city, together with 30 talents of gold, 800 talents of silver, precious stones, antimony, large cuts of red stone … all kinds of valuable treasures, his (own) daughters, concubines, male and female musicians. In order to deliver the tribute and to do obeisance as a slave he sent his (personal) messenger.

Hezekiah would scarcely have sent this tribute to Sennacherib had his Egyptian allies not been totally defeated, a circumstance which has made many scholars suspect that he actually entered Egypt after his defeat of its army on the plain of Eltekeh. (See eg. A. T. Olmstead, History of Assyria (1923) pp. 308-9). This supposition is supported by the fact that Sennacherib described himself as “King of the Four Quarters,” a term which, as stated above, traditionally implied authority over Magan and Meluhha (Egypt), regarded as the western-most “quarter” or edge of the world. It is also supported by both classical and Hebrew tradition. Thus Herodotus spoke of Sennacherib advancing against Egypt with a mighty army and camping at Pelusium, near the north-eastern frontier (Herodotus, iii, 141), whilst Berossus, who wrote a history of Chaldea, said that Sennacherib had conducted an expedition against “all Asia and Egypt.” (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities X, i,4). Jewish tradition goes further and tells of the conquest of Egypt by the king and of his march towards Ethiopia. “Sennacherib was forced to stop his campaign against Hezekiah for a short time, as he had to move hurriedly against Ethiopia. Having conquered this ‘pearl of all countries’ he returned to Judea.” (L. Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews (Philadelphia, 1920) Vol. VI p. 365). Talmudic sources also relate that after conquering Egypt, Sennacherib carried away from there the throne of Solomon. (Ibid. Vol. IV, p. 160)

Sennacherib’s second campaign against Egypt, not recorded in the Assyrian inscriptions, had, as is well-known, a much less favorable outcome for the Great King.

The greatest event of Xerxes’ reign was of course his momentous defeat in Greece. The story of his invasion is recorded in detail by the Greek authors, most particularly by Herodotus, and it is clear that Xerxes’ failure to overcome the Hellenes represented the great watershed in Achaemenid history. From that point on the Persian Empire entered a period of prolonged decline.

Strange then that of all the wars waged by Sennacherib, the only opponents who are said to have come near to defeating him were the Ionian Greeks. In one well-known passage Berossus tells of a fierce battle between Sennacherib and the Ionians of Cilicia. (H. R. Hall, The Ancient History of the Near East (London, 1913) p. 487). The Greeks, he says, were routed after a hard-fought hand-to-hand struggle.

The most important event of Xerxes’ latter years was without doubt his defeat of yet another Babylonian rebellion. Although our sources are somewhat vague, it would appear that there were in fact two rebellions in Babylon during the time of Xerxes, the first of which occurred in his second year, and was led by Bel-shimanni, and the second some time later led by Shamash-eriba.

How peculiar then that Sennacherib too should face two major rebellions in Babylon, the first of which came within three years or so of his succession, and was led by Bel-ibni. (C. H. W. Johns, Ancient Babylonia (London, 1913) p. 120). Rebellion number two came some years later and was led by Mushezib-Marduk. This second rebellion, one might guess, was one of the consequences of the Persian defeat in Greece, and there seems little doubt that Mushezib-Marduk of the Assyrian records and monuments is Shamash-eriba of the Persian.

Both Xerxes and Sennacherib were relatively mild in their treatment of the Babylonians after the first rebellion. However, after the second insurrection both kings subjected the city to massive destruction. But the parallels do not end there. Xerxes’ terrible punishment of Babylon was partly in revenge for the Babylonians’ murder of his satrap. (Brian Dicks, The Ancient Persians: How they Lived and Worked (1979) p. 46).

Similarly, Sennacherib’s destruction of Babylon after the second insurrection was largely in vengeance for the Babylonians’ kidnap and murder of his brother Ashur-nadin-shum, whom he had made viceroy of the city. (C. H. W. Johns, op cit. pp. 121-2). Xerxes tore down the walls of Babylon, massacred its citizens, destroyed its temples, and seized the sacred golden statue of Bel. (Brian Dicks, op cit). In the same way, Sennacherib razed the city walls and temples, massacred the people, and carried off the sacred statue of Marduk. (C. H. W. Johns, op cit. p. 122). Bel and Marduk were one and the same; and the name was often written Bel-Marduk. In memory of the awful destruction wrought by Sennacherib, the Babylonian Chronicle and the Ptolemaic Canon define the eight years that followed as “kingless.” The city, it is held, suffered no such catastrophe again until the time of Xerxes, supposedly two centuries later.

Xerxes’ despoliation of Babylon is generally believed to have been accompanied by his suppression of the Babylonian gods, and it is assumed that his famous inscription recording the outlawing of the daevas, or foreign gods, in favor of Ahura Mazda, was part of the general response to the second Babylonian uprising:

And among these countries (in rebellion) there was one where, previously, daevas had been worshipped. Afterward, through Ahura Mazda’s favor, I destroyed this sanctuary of daevas and proclaimed. “Let daevas not be worshipped!” There, where daevas had been worshipped before, I worshipped Ahura Mazda.

How peculiar then that Sennacherib too should be accused of outlawing the Babylonian gods, especially Marduk, in favor of Ashur as part of his response to a second Babylonian rebellion? “A political-theological propaganda campaign was launched to explain to the people that what had taken place [the destruction of Babylon and despoliation of Bel-Marduk’s shrine] was in accord with the wish of most of the gods. A story was written in which Marduk, because of a transgression, was captured and brought before a tribunal. Only a part of the commentary to this botched piece of literature is extant.”


Nevertheless, it is clear that Sennacherib tried to “depose” or even “outlaw” Marduk. Thus we find that, “Even the great poem of the creation of the world, the Enuma elish, was altered: the god Marduk was replaced by the god Ashur.” (Ibid.)


To summarize, then, consider the following:


Made war on Egypt in his third year, and fought a bitter war against the Greeks shortly thereafter. Made war on Egypt in his second year, and fought a bitter war against the Greeks shortly thereafter.
Suppressed two major Babylonian rebellions. The first, in his second year, was led by Bel-Shimanni. The second, years later, was led by Shamash-eriba. Suppressed two major Babylonian rebellions. The first, in his third year, was led by Bel-ibni. The second, years later, was led by Mushezib-Marduk.
The Babylonians were well-treated after the first rebellion, but savagely repressed after the second, when they captured and murdered Sennacherib’s viceroy, his own brother Ashur-nadin-shum. The Babylonians were well-treated after the first rebellion, but savagely repressed after the second, when they captured and murdered Xerxes’ satrap.
After the second rebellion, Sennacherib massacred the inhabitants, razed the city walls and temples, and carried off the golden stature of Marduk. Thereafter the Babylonian gods were suppressed in favour of Ashur, who was made the supreme deity. After the second rebellion, Xerxes massacred the inhabitants, razed the city walls and temples, and carried off the golden stature of Bel-Marduk. Thereafter the Babylonian gods were suppressed in favour of Ahura-Mazda, who was made the supreme deity.


The parallels between Xerxes and Sennacherib are thus among the closest between an Achaemenid and a Neo-Assyrian. Yet even now we are not finished. There is yet one more striking comparison between the two monarchs, a comparison so compelling and so identical in the details that this one alone, even without the others, would be enough to demand an identification.

Xerxes died after a reign of 21 years (compare with Sennacherib’s 22) in dramatic circumstances, murdered in a palace conspiracy apparently involving at least one of his sons. Popular tradition has it that the real murderer of Xerxes was Artabanus, the captain of his guard, and that this man then put the blame on Darius, eldest son of the murdered king. Whatever the truth, it is clear that Artaxerxes, the crown prince, pointed the finger at Darius, who was immediately arrested and executed. (Percy Sykes, A History of Ancient Persia Vol. 1 (London, 1930) pp. 213-4). It is said that Artabanus then plotted to murder Artaxerxes, but that the conspiracy was uncovered by Megabyzus. No sooner had Artabanus been removed than Hystaspes, another elder brother of Artaxerxes, rose in rebellion. The young king then led his forces into Bactria and defeated the rebel in two battles. (Ibid., p. 124)

Of the above information, one feature is most unusual: the eldest son, Darius, who was not the crown prince, was accused of the murder by the crown prince Artaxerxes, who then had him hunted down and killed.

The death of Sennacherib compares very well with that of Xerxes. He too was murdered in a palace conspiracy involving some of his sons. But as with the death of Xerxes, there has always been much rumor and myth, though little solid fact, in evidence. The biblical Book of Kings names Adrammelech and Sharezer, two of Sennacherib’s sons, as the killers (2 Kings 19:37). An inscription of Esarhaddon, the crown prince at the time, clearly puts the blame on his eldest brother, whom he hunted down and killed. Two other brothers are also named in complicity. (A. T. Olmstead, A History of Assyria (1923) p. 338).

In spite of Esarhaddon’s clear statement, there has always been much confusion about the details — so much so that some have even implicated Esarhaddon himself in the deed. In view of such a level of confusion, the detailed discussion of the question by Professor Simo Parpola, in 1980, was sorely needed and long overdue. Employing commendable reasoning, Parpola demonstrated how a little-understood Babylonian text revealed the identity of the culprit, Arad-Ninlil. (R. Harper, Assyrian and Babylonian Letters, Vol. XI (Chicago, 1911) No. 1091). A sentence of the document reads, “Thy son Arad-Ninlil is going to kill thee.” The latter name should properly, according to Parpola, be read as Arda-Mulissi (identical to Adrammelech of 2 Kings). Motivation for the murder, said Parpola, was not difficult to find. After the capture and probable death at the hands of the Elamites of Sennacherib’s eldest son and heir-designate, Ashur-nadin-sumi, the “second-eldest son, Arda-Mulissi, now has every reason to expect to be the next crown prince; however, he is outmaneuvered from this position in favor of Esarhaddon, another son of Sennacherib. This one is younger than Arda-Mulissi but becomes the favourite son of Sennacherib thanks to his mother Naqia … Eventually, Esarhaddon is officially proclaimed crown prince.” (Prof. Simo Parpola, “Death in Mesopotamia” XXVIeme Rencontre Assyriologique International,e ed. Prof. Bendt Alster, (Akademisk Forlag, 1980)).

We need hardly go beyond that for a motive. It is not clear whether Arda-Mulissi personally delivered the death blow; it seems that one of his captains was responsible.

Of this death then we note the same unusual feature. The king was murdered by or on the orders of his eldest son, who was not however the crown prince. The eldest son was then pursued and executed by a younger son, who was the crown prince. The parallels with the death of Xerxes are precise. In both cases also a second brother is named in complicity, as well as various other conspirators. In both cases too the murder was not actually carried out by the prince but by a fellow conspirator; in the case of Xerxes by Artabanus, commander of the guard, and in the case of Sennacherib by a man named Ashur-aha-iddin — a namesake of Esarhaddon. And this calls attention to yet one more parallel. In both the murder of Xerxes and Sennacherib, the crown prince himself has repeatedly been named as a suspect. Thus the Encyclopedia Britannica has Artaxerxes I placed on the throne by Xerxes’ murderer, Artabanus, (Encyclopaedia Britannica Vol. 1 (15th ed.) p. 598) whilst Parpola refers to the common suspicion that Esarhaddon had a part in his father’s death.

Such striking similarities, when placed along with the multitude of other parallels between the two kings’ lives, leave little doubt that we are on the right track. ….

[End of quote]


This works much better than any hopeful connection with the dynasty of King Hammurabi of Babylon.

It is necessary to consider ‘Xerxes’ as a ‘ghost’, a made up king based on (at least in part) a real neo-Assyrian ruler, Sennacherib.


Artaxerxes III ‘Ochus’



“By his own efforts and with the aid of such Greek generals as Mentor and Phocio of Athens, Artaxerxes thus revived the old empire of Darius. The order of the state was restored, its apparatus reorganized, the central power strengthened. Artaxerxes was energetic and restless, crafty and strong-minded. He is called cruel and violent (Diodorus 17.5.3; Plutarch, Artoxerxes 26.1) but also a fair judge (Diodorus 16.49.6)”.




Did Artaxerxes III really ‘revive the old Persian empire’, or was ‘he’, too, like ‘Xerxes’ (Part Two), a composite ‘ghost’ figure recalling real Mesopotamian/Medo-Persian kings?


The point of this series has been to try to account for the worrying lack of archaeological strata for the Medo-Persian kingdom, especially in its relation to the city of Babylon.

Conventionally, the Medo-Persian rule is considered to have endured for some three centuries:



My opinion, though, is that it was nowhere near that lengthy, and that some (if not most) of the Medo-Persian kings are duplicates.

Babylon really comes into calculations at the time of Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian. However, if I am correct in – {following other scholars} – identifying Darius the Mede as Cyrus:


Darius the Mede “Received the Kingdom”


then this would immediately cut out any purely Median archaeology for Babylon.

But how to account for the lack of Persian stratigraphy?

Well, we have read in this series that Cyrus the Great was known by various names, apart form Darius, including the names “Ahasuerus” and “Artaxerxes”. The multiple kings Darius and Artaxerxes will thus need to be reconsidered, with the possibility of at least some of these being duplicates of Cyrus.

The legendary Xerxes (a name that we found to be compatible with “Ahasuerus”) is, in part, based upon the powerful neo-Assyrian king, Sennacherib, whom I have also identified as Sargon II:


Assyrian King Sargon II, Otherwise Known As Sennacherib


We are now going to find that Artaxerxes III, considered to be a mighty Persian king, is heavily based upon the neo-Babylonian Great king, Nebuchednezzar II. This Artaxerxes III is thought to have reigned for about two decades during the mid-C4th BC. He is conventionally presented as follows (


ARTAXERXES III, throne name of Ochus (Gk. Ôchos, Babylonian Ú-ma-kuš, son of Artaxerxes II and Stateira), Achaemenid king (r. 359-58 to 338-37 B.C.). About 361 he took part in a campaign against Egypt, then in rebellion under her king Tachos, and obtained that king’s surrender (Georgius Syncellus 1.486.20ff. D.). The fact that the Satraps’ Revolt, which he helped put down, was not quite ended may account for the lack of uniformity regarding the date of Artaxerxes’ accession. That event is dated to year 390 of the Babylonian Nabonassar era (beginning in November, 359 B.C.), but Polyaenus (7.17) states that he concealed his father’s death for 10 months, so that his official reign may only have begun in 358-57. On becoming king, he did away with his brothers, sisters, and other possible rivals (Justin 10.3.1; cf. Curtius Rufus 10.5.23, claiming that 80 brothers were murdered in one day).


Artaxerxes III’s objective was to consolidate royal authority and to terminate the revolts which threatened to break up the empire. He seems to have first made war on the rebel Cadusii in Media Atropatene (Justin 10.3.2); in the hard and successful fighting, Codomannus, the later Darius III, distinguished himself (Diodorus 17.6.1; Justin 10.3.3-4). Then a major campaign (ca. 356-52) was directed against such western satraps as Artabazus and Orontes who had rebelled against his father; these were now commanded to dismiss their Greek mercenaries (scholium to Demosthenes 4.19). The reconquest of Egypt was also to be carried through. Details of the campaign are unclear, but some success was achieved. Orontes was subdued, while Artabazus, banished, sought refuge with Philip of Macedonia (Diodorus 16.22.1-2, 34.1-2; Demosthenes 14.31). With the Satraps’ Revolt ended, Persian rule over Asia Minor and Phoenicia was again consolidated. Artaxerxes had acted resolutely; he obtained by threat of war the compliance of Athens, whose general, Chares, had first supported Artabazus (Diodorus 16.34.1). Actual restoration of order was accomplished by the king’s generals, especially Mentor of Rhodes, while Artaxerxes was preoccupied with Egypt (Ps.-Aristoteles, Oeconomica 2.2.28; Diodorus 16.52.1-8). For the generals’ campaign against Egypt had failed; and before the king’s massive new preparations were completed, a new revolt broke out in Syria, Phoenicia, and Cyprus in 351 which was aided by the Egyptian King Nectanebus. The rebels, led by Tennes of Sidon, were fought with indifferent success (Diodorus 16.40.5-42.9) by Idrieus (satrap of Caria), Mazaeus (of Cilicia), and Belesys (of Syria). Artaxerxes then led a large force from Babylon to Syria and soon restored matters. The rich Phoenician town of Sidon, the revolt’s center, was betrayed by King Tennes, and then destroyed by a fire set by the besieged Sidonians themselves (Diodorus 16.43.1-45.6; Pompeius Trogus, Prologus 10; Orosius 3.7.8; Georgius Syncellus 1.486.16 D.). Other towns of Phoenicia and Palestine then submitted. The expeditions of the generals Bagoas and Orophernes and the deportations of Jews ordered by Artaxerxes (Syncellus 1.486.10ff. D.) may be combined with the events recorded in the Book of Judith.


About 346-45 B.C. the king marched on Egypt. The citadels of Pelusium and Bubastis in the Nile delta were taken and by 343 the reconquest had been achieved, ending 65 years of Egyptian independence. (A seal has been interpreted as depicting this event; see J. Junge, Saka-Studien, Leipzig, 1939, pp. 63-64 n. 4.) One Pherendates was appointed satrap (Diodorus 16.46.4-51.3), while Nectanebus fled south to Nubia to maintain an independent kingdom. The Persians plundered and sacked extensively (Diodorus 16.51.2; Aelian, Varia historia 4.8, 6.8), and Egyptians were reportedly carried off to Persia. Consequently the king was vehemently hated by the Egyptians; they identified him with the ass to which he had sacrificed the Apis Bull (Aclian, 4.8).


Artaxerxes’ relations with the Greeks and Macedonians varied. Although there were occasional clashes (especially during the Satraps’ Revolt), the king sought the friendship of Athens, Sparta, and Macedonia, and he was the object of both fear and esteem (for Athens, see Demosthenes 14.7, 25, 31). In about 351 B.C. the king invited Athens and Sparta to join in a campaign he planned against Egypt; both declined but assured him of their friendship (Diodorus 16.44.1); Thebes and the Argives, however, sent him auxiliary troops (ibid., 44.2, 46.4). The first contact noted between Artaxerxes and Macedonia is a treaty of friendship with Philip II (Arrian, Anabasis 2.14.2); its details are not known. The Persian king seems to have observed it, for an Athenian legation seeking help against Philip returned empty handed (Demosthenes 9.71 ). Eventually, when Philip attacked the town of Perinthus, which dominated the Sea of Marmora, Artaxerxes perceived Philip’s real intention and intervened by sending troops into Thrace (Diodorus 16.75.1; Arrian, Anabasis 2.14.5). Alexander later pointed to this as a motive for his campaign of revenge.


By his own efforts and with the aid of such Greek generals as Mentor and Phocio of Athens, Artaxerxes thus revived the old empire of Darius. The order of the state was restored, its apparatus reorganized, the central power strengthened. Artaxerxes was energetic and restless, crafty and strong-minded. He is called cruel and violent (Diodorus 17.5.3; Plutarch, Artoxerxes 26.1) but also a fair judge (Diodorus 16.49.6). A token of his revival was the renewed building activity at Persepolis. The king erected a palace on the southwest part of the terrace, as is attested by his inscription A3Pa on a stairway (Kent, Old Persian, p. 156; F. H. Weissbach, Die Keilinsehriften der Achämeniden, Leipzig, 1911, pp. 128-29). An Akkadian tablet inscription has been found at Susa (“A3Sa,” ed. V. Scheil in MMAP XXI, 1929, pp. 99-100 no. 30).


Artaxerxes was married to a daughter of his sister (her name is read conjecturally in Valerius Maximus 9.2., ext. 7; see Justi, Namenbuch, p. 341 b) and to a daughter of Oxathres, brother of the later Darius III (Curtius Rufus 3.13.13). The latter, with three of Artaxerxes’ daughters, was captured by Alexander after the battle of Issus. The youngest of these, Parysatis, was later married to Alexander (Arrian, Annbasis 7.4.4). Also captured in the course of events was a granddaughter of Artaxerxes, who had been the wife of Hystaspes (Curtius Rufus 6.2.7-8). Of the king’s sons, only two are known by name. Arses, the youngest, succeeded his father but survived only for about two years. Bisthanes came to meet Alexander in 330 (Arrian, Anabasis 3.19.4). All the others are said to have been murdered by the Egyptian-born chiliarch, Bagoas, after poisoned the king himself in his palace intrigues (Diodorus 17.5.4; cf. Aelian 6.8 and Syncellus 1.486.14f. D.). Bagoas undoubtedly sought to be a kingmaker, but the premature death of Artaxerxes was a serious misfortune for the Persian kingdom. ….


[End of quote]


Emmet Sweeney has again (as with his Sennacherib = Xerxes) discerned some striking parallels between a Mesopotamian king, in this case Nebuchednezzar II, and a supposed Persian king, Artaxerxes III.

Emmet has written (and I do not accept any other of his Mesopotamian-Persian identifications) (


Artaxerxes III and Nebuchadrezzar


In my Ramessides, Medes and Persians (Algora, 2007), I argued in detail that the rulers known to history as the Neo-Assyrians and Neo-Babylonians were in fact Great Kings of the Persians under the guise of Mesopotamians. There I demonstrated how the Neo-Assyrian Tiglath-Pileser III had to be identified with Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid line, and that the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian monarchs who followed could be identified, point by point, with the Achaemenid kings who followed Cyrus. Thus Cambyses, who reigned only six years and campaigned in the direction of Egypt, sounds like Shalmaneser V, who reigned just over seven years and similarly campaigned in the direction of Egypt. Cambyses’ successor, Darius I, was not his son; and with him a new epoch of the Persian monarchy began. In the same way, Shalmaneser V’s successor Sargon II was not his son, and with the latter there began a new age of the Assyrian monarchy. The parallels continue line by line and reign by reign, and may be schematically represented thus:

Neo-Assyrian and Achaemenid Parallels


Was the founder of a new dynasty and not the son of the previous king of Assyria. During his time Assyrian power reached the borders of Egypt. Ruled Babylon and “took the hand of Bel.”



Was the founder of a new dynasty and not the son of the previous king of Persia. During his time Persian power reached the borders of Egypt. Conquered Babylon and “took the hand of Bel.”


Reigned only six years. Campaigned in the direction of Egypt.


Reigned seven and a half years. Conquered Egypt.


Was a usurper and not the son of the preceding king. Described himself as King of the Four Quarters, implying rule from Magan (Egypt) to Dilmun (India). Defeated a major insurrection in Babylon led by Merodach-Baladan (III). Boasted of expelling the Ionians (Jaman) from their island homes.


Was a usurper and not the son of the preceding king. Described himself as King of the Four Quarters, ruling from Egypt to India. Defeated a major insurrection in Babylon led by Nebuchadrezzar (III). Cleared the Ionian islands of their inhabitants.


Reigned 22 years. Defeated two major insurrections in Babylon and destroyed the city after the second. Thereafter suppressed the Babylonian deities in favor of Ashur, who was elevated to the position of supreme god. Was murdered in a palace conspiracy involving at least one of his sons.


Reigned 21 years. Defeated two major insurrections in Babylon and destroyed the city after the second. Thereafter suppressed the Babylonian deities in favor of Ahura Mazda, who was elevated to the position of supreme god. Was murdered in a palace conspiracy involving at least one of his sons.


Was not the eldest son of Sennacherib, but was appointed crown-prince through the influence of his powerful mother Naqia, who dominated her son. Had to suppress a series of rebellions in Egypt and appointed Egyptian potentates with names like Necho and Psamtek. Began rebuilding Babylon.


Was not the eldest son of Xerxes, but was appointed crown-prince through the influence of his powerful mother Amestris, who dominated her son. Had to suppress a series of rebellion in Egypt and appointed Egyptian potentates with names like Necho and Psamtek. Began rebuilding Babylon.


Was not the original crown-prince, but was appointed to rule after the death of his brother Sin-iddin-apla. Faced rebellions in Egypt, where he honored a prince named Wenamon. During his time Assyrian control of Egypt began to weaken.


Was not the original crown-prince, but was appointed to rule after the death of his brother Xerxes II. Faced rebellions in Egypt, where he honored a prince named Wenamon. During his time Persian control of Egypt began to weaken.


Was based in Babylon and associated with that city. Appears to have been a son of Ashurbanipal, but had to fight for control of the Assyrian Empire against another son named Sin-shar-ishkun


Was based in Babylon and associated with that city. Son of a Babylonian mother and a half-Babylonian father. Upon his accession had to battle for control of the Persian Empire against a younger brother named Cyrus.


Appears to have conquered Egypt, after a second attempt, where he brought to an end the reign of Necho II. Destroyed Egypt’s ally Judah. According to the Book of Judith had a servant named Bagoas and a general named Holofernes. Was known for his savage cruelty.


Conquered Egypt after a second attempt, where he brought to an end the reign of Nectanebo II. Brought all the nations of Syria/Palestine under his control. According to Diodorus Siculus had a servant named Bagoas and a general named Holofernes. Was known for his savage cruelty.


Was not the son of Nebuchadrezzar, but from a minor branch of the royal family. Last native Babylonian king.


Was not the son of Artaxerxes III, but from a minor branch of the royal family. Last native Persian king.

In the above table we see some of the most important parallels between the penultimate Neo-Babylonian king Nebuchadrezzar and the penultimate Achaemenid king Artaxerxes III. Yet the similarities between the two kings, like those of the others, are so detailed that they cannot be adequately described in a simple table. In the pages to follow I hope to fill out the picture a little with regard to these two seminally important rulers.

When Artaxerxes II died, in 359 BC, his son Ochus was proclaimed king under the name of Artaxerxes III. To ensure his succession against any attempted rebellion, he let all of his brothers and half-brothers, eighty in number, be killed.

The new Artaxerxes regarded the reconquest of Egypt as one of his chief tasks, a task which he did eventually accomplish, though not until the sixteenth year of his reign. We know that Nectanebo I died only a year before Artaxerxes II, and that he was replaced on the throne by a pharaoh known to the Greeks as Tachos. Well aware of the ruthless nature of the new occupant of the Great King’s throne, Tachos made preparations to defend Egypt — part of which involved the recruitment of the legendary Spartan King Aegesilaus to his cause. Aegesilaus, by this time a very old man, was apparently delighted at the opportunity once again to do battle with the Persians. The Spartan veteran had been promised chief command by Tachos; but when he arrived in Egypt he found that the fleet had been placed in the hands of the Athenian general Chabrias, whilst Tachos himself retained overall supreme command. At this stage the pharaoh was in Syria, part of which had been occupied by him following the death of Artaxerxes II. In the meantime, a plot to place a nephew of his on the throne was being hatched. Aegesilaus threw his weight behind the conspirators, and effectively placed the nephew, known to history as Nectanebo II, on the throne.

When news of these developments reached Tachos in Palestine he fled northwards to the Persian king to ask forgiveness. Another two pretenders arose to challenge Nectanebo II, but these were quickly overcome with the assistance of Aegesilaus’ hoplites.

Nine years later, which was also the ninth year of the reign of Artaxerxes III/Ochus (350 BC), the Egyptians met the armies of the Great King on the borders of Egypt and threw them back towards Mesopotamia. The failure of this first expedition proved to be a major setback for Artaxerxes III, and his plan to reincorporate Egypt into the Empire had to wait another seven years (343 BC) for fruition. Thus Artaxerxes III’s second, and successful expedition against Egypt occurred in his sixteenth year.

We are told that after this reconquest Ochus plundered the country mercilessly, repeating the depredations of Cambyses. There was a general massacre of the population and a violation of the temples and religious centers, even to the extent of slaying the sacred Apis bull and serving it at a feast. All of which is believable enough, considering what we know of his character from other sources. In the words of one commentator, the “chief characteristic” of Ochus was his “savage cruelty.”1 How then does the life and military career of Nebuchadrezzar compare with that of Artaxerxes III?

Early in his reign, in his eighth or possibly ninth year, Nebuchadrezzar campaigned right to the borders of Egypt; it was then that he besieged Jerusalem, removing its King Jehoiachin and replacing him with Zedekiah. It is known that this campaign against Judah was actually but a small incident in a much greater campaign against Egypt and its allies. But if such were the case, then the campaign was at best indecisive — no conquest of Egypt is recorded. Nevertheless, it could not have been a complete disaster for the Babylonians, for Nebuchadrezzar apparently retained control of Judah until Zedekiah’s eighth year — at which point the people of Judah once again threw off the Babylonian yoke.

Thus we see that Nebuchadrezzar, like Artaxerxes III, made a first and apparently largely unsuccessful attack on Egypt in his eighth, or possibly ninth, year. But the parallels do not end there.

As we have noted, the Book of Chronicles records that in the eighth year of Zedekiah, and therefore in the sixteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar, the Babylonian king again moved against Egypt and Judah. Once again, most, if not all, of what we know of this campaign comes from the Jewish records, which were of course concerned primarily with the devastation the war brought to their own homeland. These sources report that on this occasion Nebuchadrezzar utterly destroyed Jerusalem, pulling down the temple and deporting the entire population to Babylon.

This must have been part of the campaign against Egypt and its allies recorded in a much damaged tablet of Nebuchadrezzar. What is still legible has been translated thus:

The kings, the allies of his power and … his general and his hired soldiers … he spoke unto. To his soldiers … who were before … at the way of …

In the 37th year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon … the king of Egypt came up to do battle [?] and … es, the king of Egypt … and … of the city of Putu-Jaman … far away regions which are in the sea … numerous which were in Egypt … arms and horses … he called to … he trusted …2

The reference to the campaign against Egypt in Nebuchadrezzar’s 37th year is apparently puzzling, though it is possible, actually probable, that he was counting from his appointment as King of Babylon, a system he is known to have actually used. Whatever the case, it is certain that Nebuchadrezzar’s second campaign against Judah, and Egypt, occurred sometime between his sixteenth and seventeenth year.

Thus Nebuchadrezzar, like Artaxerxes III, made two assaults upon Egypt. The first, in the eighth or ninth year of both monarchs, was a failure; and the second, in the sixteenth or seventeenth year of both rulers, which was a success.

That Nebuchadrezzar actually conquered Egypt is suggested by a number of very powerful pieces of evidence. First of all, both Ezekiel and Jeremiah prophesied that he would do so; and since most of these “prophecies” were written in retrospect, or at least gained popular currency only after having been proved correct, we may be fairly certain that the prophesied invasion and defeat of Egypt actually took place. The conquest is predicted thus by Ezekiel (29:19-20):

Therefore thus said the Lord God: Behold, I will set Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon in the land of Egypt: and he shall take her multitude, and take the booty thereof for a prey, and rifle the spoils thereof: and it shall be wages for his army. And for the service that he hath done me against it, I have given him the land of Egypt, because he hath labored for me, saith the Lord.

Secondly, the biblical sources say that Nebuchadrezzar was able to remove the Jewish refugees in Egypt to Babylon. He could not of course have done so unless he had entered and subjugated the country.

Thirdly, Josephus tells us that he conquered Egypt. We are informed that four years after the fall of Tyre, Nebuchadrezzar invaded the country and put its King Uaphris to death, installing a creature of his own upon the vacant throne.3 Fourthly, and most importantly, artifacts of Nebuchadrezzar have actually been discovered in Egypt. These are “three cylinders of terra-cotta bearing an inscription of Nebuchadnezzar, an ordinary text referring to his constructions in Babylon … These were said to come from the Isthmus of Suez, and they apparently belong to some place where Nebuchadrezzar had ‘set up his throne’ and ‘spread his royal pavilion.’ As he only passed along the Syrian road, and Daphnae would be the only stopping place on that road in the region of the isthmus, all the inferences point to these having come from Defenneh, and being the memorials of establishment there.”4

In short, the prophecy of Jeremiah that the king of Babylon would spread his royal pavilion at the entrance of the pharaoh’s house in Tahpanheth (Daphnae) was fulfilled. There can be little doubt; Nebuchadrezzar entered and conquered Egypt.

It is of interest to note here that the cylinders were discovered at Daphnae, one of the Hellenic centers of the Delta, a garrison settlement of the pharaoh’s Ionian bodyguard. This corresponds well enough with the contents of Nebuchadrezzar’s tablet, which speaks of the city of Putu-Jaman. Jaman of course was the Babylonian for “Ionian.”

Thus in a number of details the life and career of Nebuchadrezzar provides close parallels with that of Artaxerxes III:

Both kings were rulers of Babylon, who clashed with Egypt.

Artaxerxes III’s first war against Egypt occurred in his eighth year, and ended in failure. Nebuchadrezzar’s first war against Egypt took place in his eighth or ninth year and apparently ended in failure.

The Egyptian enemy of Artaxerxes III was known as Nectanebo II. The Egyptian enemy of Nebuchadrezzar was known as Necho II.

Artaxerxes III’s second campaign against Egypt occurred in his sixteenth year and was successful. Nebuchadrezzar’s second campaign against Egypt occurred in his sixteenth or seventeenth year and resulted in the conquest of the Nile Kingdom.

Artaxerxes III’s Egyptian enemy Nectanebo II used Greek mercenaries against the Great King. Nebuchadrezzar’s Egyptian enemy Necho II used Greek mercenaries against him.

It is fairly evident then that here, once again, we find striking parallels in the lives and careers of two characters supposedly belonging to two different epochs separated by two centuries.



1 G. Rawlinson, Ancient Monarchies Vol. 3 (London, 1879) p. 510.

2 S. Langdon, Building Inscriptions of the Neo-Babylonian Empire (Paris, 1905) p. 182.

3 Josephus, Jewish Antiquities x,9,7.

4 F. Petrie, Tanis Pt II. Nebesheh and Defenneh p. 51.







“Nebuchednezzar” of the Book of Daniel


 Damien F. Mackey



The Book of Daniel is charged with all sorts of historical inaccuracies, a fault more likely of the perceived history rather than of the Book of Daniel itself. Admittedly, some of the things that the author of Daniel attributes to “King Nebuchednezzar” appear to be better suited to Nabonidus, the supposed last king of the Babylonian (Chaldean) empire. Yet there might be a good reason why this is the case. In very many ways, it seems, King Nabonidus reflects the “Nebuchednezzar” of the Book of Daniel.





Reading once again Paul-Alain Beaulieu’s book, The Reign of Nabonidus, King of Babylon, 556-539 B.C. (1989), I noticed various “Nebuchednezzar” characteristics in King Nabonidus.

Not least was the fact that, Nabonidus had, like “Nebuchednezzar”, a son named “Belshazzar”.

There was also a seeming tendency on Nabonidus’s part towards a kind of monotheism – revering Sîn, the El of the Aramaeans – and a seeming rejection of the national god, Marduk. Coupled with this was, not unnaturally, a discomfort with the Babylonian clergy and wise men.

Nabonidus, like king Nebuchednezzar II, had conquered Cilicia. We read about this at: “KUE ku’ ĭ (קְוֵ֕ה). An ancient name for E Cilicia (Rom.: Cilicia Pedias), in SE Asia Minor. …. A document of Nebuchadnezzar II (dated between 595 and 570 b.c.), mentions the land of Hu-m-e, pronounced Khuwe or Khwe. It also occurs in the Istanbul Stele of Nabonidus”.

One also encounters many cases of Nabonidus’s recounting his own dreams.

I found so many similarities beginning to loom that I eventually came to the conclusion that Nabonidus probably was king Nebuchednezzar (or Nebuchedrezzar) II ‘the Great’ – that what we have recorded of Nabonidus simply represents the first phase of the long reign of Nebuchednezzar II.

This revised view will necessitate that I now modify some of my previous articles on this era.

Admittedly, there appear to be some immediate problems with this unexpected new scenario. For one, there is Nabonidus’s own obvious reverence for a past king, “Nebuchednezzar”. However, my revision might be able to account for that:


Nebuchednezzar I as the ‘Babylonian Face’ of Sargon II/Sennacherib


As is apparent from Beaulieu, Nabonidus considered himself to be the successor of the great Assyrian empire – a viewpoint that would have more clout perhaps if he had ruled closer to that period (c. 605 BC) than Nabonidus is conventionally considered to have done (c. 556 BC).

Then there is Nabonidus’s strange disappearance to Teima (Tayma) in Arabia for ten years. During some of this time he was ill. It is due to this situation that scholars think that the Book of Daniel has confused Nebuchednezzar with Nabonidus. Indeed a Dead Sea Scrolls fragment tells of a protracted illness suffered by Nabonidus. We shall read about this in the next section.


The Madness of Nabonidus

Nabonidus (Akkadian Nabû-nāʾid) ….

Although his background is uncertain, his mother may have been a priestess of the moon god Sîn to whom Nabonidus was unusually devoted. He took the throne after the assassination of the boy-king Labashi-Marduk. It is not clear whether Nabonidus played a role in Labashi-Marduk’s death.

As king, Nabonidus was maligned by the priests of the chief Babylonian deity Marduk. It is believed this was caused by Nabonidus overt devotion to Sîn and his lack of attention to the city’s important New Year’s festival. During several years of his kingship, Nabonidus was absent at the Arabian oasis of Tayma. During this period his son Belshazzar reigned in his place. The reasons for his long absence remain a matter of controversy, with theories ranging from illness, to madness, to an interest in religious archaeology.


In his own inscriptions, Nabonidus himself makes no claim to known royal origins … although he refers to his otherwise unknown father, Nabu-balatsu-iqbi, as “wise prince.” His mother was connected to the temple of the moon god Sîn in Harran, but her ancestry, too, is unknown. The fact that Nabonidus makes repeated references to Ashurbanipal, the last great Neo-Assyrian king, has been cited as evidence that he may have been of Assyrian origin. However Nabonidus’ Persian successor, Cyrus the Great, also referred to Ashurbanipal, so this is hardly conclusive evidence.

In most ancient accounts, Nabonidus is depicted as a royal anomaly. He worshiped the moon god Sîn (mythology) beyond all the other gods, and paid special devotion to Sîn’s temple in Harran, where his mother was a priestess. After successful campaigns in Edom and Cilicia (modern Turkey) early in his reign, he left Babylon, residing at the rich desert oasis of Tayma, (Temâ) in Arabia, returning only after many years. In the meantime, his son Belshazzar ruled from Babylon.

Nabonidus is harshly criticized for neglecting the Babylonian chief god, Marduk and failing to observe the New Year festivals in Babylon. The Nabonidus Chronicle complains that for several years: “The king did not come to Babylon for the [New Year’s] ceremonies… the image of the god Bêl (Marduk) did not go out of the Esagila (temple) in procession, the festival of the New Year was omitted.”


Nabonidus’ stay in Tayma


Why Nabonidus stayed in Tayma for so long is a matter of uncertainty. He seems to have become interested in the place during his campaign against Edom. Tayma was an important oasis, from which lucrative Arabian trade routes could be controlled.

However, why Nabonidus stayed for so long—about ten years, from circa 553-543—remains a mystery. One theory is that he was not comfortable in Babylon, which was the center of Marduk worship, where he was expected to perform public rites centering on Marduk‘s cult during the annual New Year’s festival. On the fifth day of the festival, the king was required to submit himself to Marduk in the person of the high priest, who would temporarily strip him of his crown and royal insignia, returning them only after the king prayed for forgiveness and received a hard slap in the face from the priest. Moreover, on the eighth day, the king had to implore all the gods to support and honor Marduk, an act which may have been unacceptable to Nabonidus if he was devoted to Sin as supreme. Some have suggested that Tayma was attractive to Nabonidus as an archaeological site, where he might find sacred inscriptions or prophecies related to his own spiritual quest.


[My comment]: But it may also have been due to his sickness and madness.

This is where newworldencyclopedia introduces that Dead Sea Scrolls document:


Another possibility is that the king had become seriously ill and went to the oasis of Tayma to recover. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, a fragment known as the Prayer of Nabonidus relates that Nabonidus suffered from an ulcer, causing him to retreat from civilization and stay in Tayma until he was healed by a Jewish exorcist after praying to the Hebrew God:

I, Nabonidus, was afflicted with an evil ulcer for seven years, and far from men I was driven, until I prayed to the most high God. And an exorcist pardoned my sins. He was a Jew from among the children of the exile of Judah… During my stay at Tayma, I prayed to the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood, stone and lime, because I thought and considered them gods….

This legend may explain a confusing issue in the Book of Daniel, in which the king in question is called Nebuchadnezzar. However, this Nebuchadnezzar’s son is named Belshazzar, which was in fact the name of Nabonidus’ son, who reigned in his stead while Nabonidus was at Tayma. It may thus be the case that the Book of Daniel confuses Nabonidus with Nebuchadnezzar. However, Daniel describes its king’s disease as a type of madness, rather than an ulcer, saying: “He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird” (Daniel 4:33).


Although Nabonidus’ personal preference for Sîn is clear, scholars are divided regarding the degree of his supposed monotheism. In the Nabonidus cylinder currently displayed at the British Museum, the king refers to the moon god as “Sîn, king of the gods of heaven and the netherworld, without whom no city or country can be founded.” Some claim that it is obvious from his inscriptions that he became almost henotheistic, considering Sîn as the national god of Babylon superior even to Marduk.

Others, however, insist that Nabonidus, while personally devoted to Sîn, respected the other cults in his kingdom, pointing out that he supported construction works to their temples and did not suppress their worship. …. In this theory, his negative image is due mainly to his long absence from Babylon during his stay in Tayma, during which the important, Marduk-centered New Year festival could not take place, a fact which deeply offended the priests of Marduk. These priests, who were highly literate, left records denigrating the king in a fashion similar to the priests of Jerusalem denigrating the Israelite kings who did not properly honor Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible. In fact, there is no sign of the civil unrest during Nabonidus’ reign, not even during his absence, and he was able to return to his throne and assert his authority with no apparent problem.

However, Nabonidus did remove important cultic statues and their attendants from southern Mesopotamia and brought them to Babylon. ….

[End of quote]



“… within the canonical book of Daniel, Daniel 4 is widely agreed to be originally a Nabonidus story”.



Carol A. Newsom has discerned some intriguing parallels between Daniel’s “Nebuchednezzar” and King Nabonidus ((WHY NABONIDUS? EXCAVATING TRADITIONS FROM QUMRAN, THE HEBREW BIBLE, AND NEO-BABYLONIAN SOURCES. Emphasis added):


One of the most fruitful places for examining the transmission of traditions and the production of texts is surely the literature associated with the figure of Daniel. Even before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, scholars explored the differences between the versions of Daniel found in the Masoretic Text of Daniel and the Septuagint, with its additional narratives and poems, as well as the different version of Daniel 4–6 in the Old Greek manuscripts. The Qumran finds showed that there was an even more extensive Danielic literature, with two compositions featuring Daniel making historical and eschatological predictions in a court setting (4Q243–244, 4Q245), and two compositions

using language or motifs similar to those of Daniel 2 and 7 (4Q246, 4Q552–553).1 The longstanding suspicion of scholars that Daniel 4 was originally a narrative about Nabonidus received additional support from the discovery of 4Q242 Prayer of Nabonidus. ….

These texts are evidence both for the complexity of the Danielic tradition and the creativity of its authors, as they appropriated and recycled [sic] useful elements, combining them with usable bits and pieces from other literary and oral traditions in order to produce new compositions. Nowhere are we better positioned to examine this process than with the texts that were originally associated with Nabonidus, for in addition to the Jewish narratives, we also have an extensive neo-Babylonian literature, including both Nabonidus’ own self-presentation in his inscriptions and literary representations of Nabonidus by his enemies. …. Although this material has been intensively studied, recent research on the historical Nabonidus may shed additional light on the composition and development of the Jewish Nabonidus literature. In addition, two questions have not heretofore received sufficient attention. First, to the extent that one can peer through the Jewish Nabonidus texts to the early stages of their composition, what can one say about the motivation for their composition and their possible function as social rhetoric? Second, since important comparative material exists, is it possible to develop a model that suggests how the authors of this literature actually produced new stories from their source material?


The Corpus of Jewish Nabonidus Literature


One of the initial issues to be explored is the extent of Jewish Nabonidus literature. The Prayer of Nabonidus is the one text explicitly identified with him. But within the canonical book of Daniel, Daniel 4 is widely agreed to be originally a Nabonidus story. …. To this one can add Daniel 5, since it is a story about Nabonidus’ son Belshazzar. It has also been suggested that other compositions of the Daniel cycle may have originated as stories about Nabonidus, notably Daniel 3. Although the details of the narrative do not correspond to anything actually done by either Nebuchadnezzar or Nabonidus, the erecting of a strange image and requiring worship of it may well preserve a parodic echo of Nabonidus’ notorious championing of the moon god Sin. …. Indeed, two of his most controversial actions were the installation of a new and non-traditional cult statue of the moon god in Sin’s temple in Harran and his attempt to persuade the priests of Marduk that the Esagil temple in Babylon actually belonged to the moon god, because of the iconography of the lunar crescent found there. …. In addition, Paul-Alain Beaulieu has recently argued that the motif of the fiery furnace in Daniel 3 is actually derived from a literary topos that was part of the Neo-Babylonian school curriculum. Together, these elements strongly suggest that the basic structure of the narrative may go back to the sixth century. ….

The case for Daniel 2 as originally a Nabonidus narrative is weaker but not without plausibility. Of the Neo-Babylonian kings only Nabonidus had an interest in ominous and revelatory dreams or recorded them in his inscriptions. …. Dreams, however, are not uncommon elements in Israelite and early Jewish storytelling, as the notable parallel of Pharaoh’s dream in Genesis 41 demonstrates. Still, it is not the fact of the dream but the role it plays in the narrative of Daniel 2 that is suggestive. The narrative is dated to “the second year” of the king’s reign, and it is thus quite likely that the king’s distress at the ominous dream is intended to suggest anxiety as to the security of his reign. In Daniel, of course, the dream and its interpretation are a Hellenistic era composition [sic], since they contain references to a sequence of kingdoms, ending with that of the Greeks (vv. 36–44). Some scholars have suggested, however, that this particular dream or elements of it are secondary, since its eschatological orientation contrasts quite sharply with the way in which the narratives in Daniel 1–6 in general tend to accommodate to gentile power by representing the kings as recognizing the power of the Judean god. …. While any argument about an earlier version of Daniel 2 must be speculative, it is the case that Nabonidus, a usurper who was not part of the dynastic family, was anxious about the legitimacy of his kingship. In an inscription composed during his first regnal year, Nabonidus himself reports an ominous dream he had concerning the conjunction of the moon (Sin) and the great star (Marduk). A “young man” in the dream tells him that “the conjunction does not involve evil portents.” …. Nabonidus goes on to report that in the dream Marduk “called him by name.” The similarity to Daniel 2, which concerns an ominous royal dream interpreted by a young man in an agreeable fashion, is thus quite intriguing.


[End of quote]


Part Two (i):

A Superstitious and ‘Unjust King’



“Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him. This matter [is] by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the Holy Ones: to the intent that the living may know that The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will, and setteth up over it the basest of men”.


Daniel 4:16-17





Young Azariah, in the heart of the Fiery Furnace, was under no illusions about the character of “Nebuchednezzar” (v. 9): ‘Thou hast given us into the hands of lawless enemies, most hateful rebels, and to an unjust king, the most wicked in all the world’.

And this sentiment is supported also by Daniel 4:17, according to which “Nebuchednezzar” was “the basest of men”.

King Nabonidus – the same person as this “Nebuchednezzar”, according to Part One: – often considered to have been an eccentric king with a penchant for archaeology, was apparently, however, not a man of great civilisation and culture. Unlike the towering figure of Ashurbanipal, a C7th BC king of Assyria, who could boast of being able to read ancient scripts (even before the Flood) and who possessed a magnificent library, Nabonidus could not read, though he was inquisitive. So we read in Paul-Alain Beaulieu’s book, The Reign of Nabonidus, King of Babylon, 556-539 B.C. (1989), this later criticism of the king from the Verse Account (p. 215):


He would stand up in the assembly (and) praise him[self]: “I am wise. I am knowledgeable. I have seen hid[den things]. (Although) I do not know the art of writing, I have seen se[cret things]. …”.


Nabonidus was, like “Nebuchednezzar”, an excessively pious man, and highly superstitious. The secret knowledge of which he boasted was what he had acquired through his dreams. Another characteristic that Nabonidus shared with “Nebuchednezzar”. Nabonidus announced (loc. cit.): “The god Ilteri has made me see (dreams), he has made everything kno[wn to me]. I surpass in all (kinds of) wisdom (even the series) uskar-Anum-Enlilla, which Adap[a] composed”.



[A note: Beaulieu gives in a footnote [47.] here, “Oannes Adapa”, “Oannes” being the fish-man thought by some to have been the prophet Jonah himself. I have tentatively identified Jonah with the Rechabite, Jehonadab, the latter part of that name being phonetically close to Adapa. “Prophet Jonah and the Beginnings of a New History. Part Two: Jonah as a Rechabite].



In Beaulieu’s book (pp. 151-152), we read further of King Nabonidus:


“I did not stop going to the diviner and the dream interpreter”.


And of King Nebuchednezzar II – with whom I am also equating Nabonidus – the prophet Ezekiel writes similarly of that king’s omen seeking (21:21): “The king of Babylon now stands at the fork, uncertain whether to attack Jerusalem or Rabbah. He calls his magicians to look for omens. They cast lots by shaking arrows from the quiver. They inspect the livers of animal sacrifices”.

To be fair to Nabonidus, his boastfulness, his illiteracy, and his superstitious tendencies were not peculiar to him alone amongst the ancient kings. He could never have outdone some of the Assyrian kings in their boasting and self-exaltation. And probably most of them could not read. Less common though, perhaps, was his emphasis upon his dreams – a significant factor, too, in the case of Daniel’s “Nebuchednezzar”.


Some Historical Uncertainty Regarding

Nebuchednezzar II, and/or Nabonidus


Now, in the course of my reading and re-reading Beaulieu’s book on King Nabonidus, I have been struck by the uncertainties here and there with determining whether something ought to be attributed to, now Nebuchednezzar II, now Nabonidus. The very same tendency I had encountered in the case of, now Sargon II, now Sennacherib. My resolution of the latter situation had been – as here with Nebuchednezzar II, Nabonidus – to propose a merger, hence:


Assyrian King Sargon II, Otherwise Known As Sennacherib


So the thrust of this present article could likewise be rendered:


‘Babylonian King Nebuchednezzar II, Otherwise Known as Nabonidus’.


Baulieu (pp. 4-5):


Berger and von Soden suggested that another literary composition, originally called by Lambert “Nebuchadnezzar King of Justice” (Lambert 1965), might have been a piece of propaganda commissioned by Nabonidus himself (Berger 1974: 222 n. 51, and von Soden 1983: 63). According to Lambert, who published the text, there are two arguments in favor of Nebuchadnezzar II: the word nagû “region”, which occurs in this text, is attested only in the inscriptions of that king, and a large section of the text, which describes provisions made for the daily use of the gods, recalls a similar passage of the Wadi Brissa inscription of Nebuchadezzar II, with many coincidences of wording. Against Lambert’s argument one should note that the word nagû does occur in the inscription of Adad-Guppi [mother of Nabonidus] …. But the similarities with the Wadi Brissa inscription remain quite conclusively in favor of Nebuchadezzar II. ….  Therefore, as arguments in favor of Nebuchadnezzar II outweigh those in favor of other kings, it would be unwise to use it as a source for the reign of Nabonidus.

[End of quote]


Again, the building efforts of Nabonidus in relation to the wall Imgur-Enlil – but not those of Nebuchednezzar II – are completely overlooked in the Verse Account and the Cyrus Cylinder. (Ibid., pp. 38-39):


… Nabonidus undertook to repair the wall (al-Rawi 1985). Interestingly enough, according to the Verse Account and the Cyrus Cylinder, Cyrus also proceeded to repair the wall Imgur-Enlil shortly after the capture of Babylon, thus completing the fortifications of Nebuchadnezzar II:



[He (Cyrus) took up the earth] basket and completed the wall of Babylon in order to execute [the original plan of] Nebuchadnezzar of his own consent.




I (Cyrus) sought to strengthen the work of the wall Imgur-Enlil, the great wall of Babylon ….


Although these texts do not explicitly state that Nabonidus neglected the fortifications of Babylon, they certainly carry this message indirectly by stressing Cyrus’ eagerness to repair the Imgur-Enlil while ignoring Nabonidus’ own building activities here.


[End of quote]


In articles pertaining to Sargon II, Sennacherib, I have referred to the presumption of Assyriologists in, for instance, inserting the name “Sargon” where it did not originally appear.

Supposition is rife, too, with regard to the following document (“one can presume that Nebuchadnezzar is mentioned” … “Nabonidus is most likely to be identified as this ruler”). Thus Beaulieu writes (p. 41):


…. This fragment of a clay cylinder was found during the French excavations at Kish, in the surroundings of the Palace …. There is no conclusive evidence that it belongs to an inscription of Nabonidus …. However, since line 3 has lugal maḫ-ri lugal tin. tirki, one can presume that Nebuchadnezzar is mentioned as a predecessor of the king who commissioned the inscription. Nabonidus is most likely to be identified as this ruler.


[End of quote]


And, on the same page, there is reference to another “fragmentary clay cylinder”: “It can be assigned to the Neo-Babylonian period on stylistic grounds. It is usually attributed to Nebuchadnezzar II, though arguments in favor of Nabonidus seem more conclusive …”.

Also, regarding the restoration of the palace near the Šamaš-gate, similar confusion (p. 100):


The inscription is usually ascribed to Nebuchadnezzar, but there is no evidence to support this assumption. In fact, it even seems dubious that Nebuchadnezzar ever restored this palace, since it is never mentioned in those inscriptions of his which contain a list of all the building works he undertook in Babylon …. Therefore there is a strong possibility that the inscription belongs to Nabonidus, as believed by Berger (Berger 1973: 381), although he has no conclusive evidence either.

[End of quote]


Beaulieu, when discussing “The Evidence From Monumental Texts” (pp. 104-105), will exhibit further presumption when making this startling comment (my emphasis):


The first part reports on the reign of four previous kings, Sennacherib, Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar, and Neriglissar: although neither Sennacherib, nor Nabopolassar, nor Nebuchadnezzar are mentioned by name … there is no doubt from the context that they are meant.


That appears to be a very big leap in ‘faith’!



Part Two (ii):

Golden-Headed Power




In very many ways, it seems, King Nabonidus does reflect the “Nebuchednezzar” of the Book of Daniel. My explanation of this is, however, not that the author of Daniel confused two Chaldean kings, but, rather, that King Nabonidus was Nebuchednezzar II (who was also Daniel’s “Nebuchednezzar”).




The King’s Imperial Ambitions


Our composite biblico-historical Chaldean king was presented in Part Two (i) of this series: as being a base, unjust and highly superstitious monarch. Even the extremely courteous and respectful prophet Daniel, who was most reluctant to reveal to “Nebuchednezzar” the terrible meaning of his dream (Daniel 4:19):


Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered, “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries!”,


had felt constrained, nonetheless, to deliver to the king this reproach (v. 27): ‘Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue’.

Daniel’s assessment of the king basically reflected that of Daniel’s young compatriot, Azariah: ‘Thou hast given us into the hands of lawless enemies, most hateful rebels, and to an unjust king, the most wicked in all the world’.

I also referred to the fact that historians can tend to conclude that King Nabonidus was an eccentric king with a penchant for archaeology. More than likely, however, his undoubted antiquarian interests would differ from those of the typical modern archaeologist. The proud and superstitious king’s interest in the past may have been due, in large part, to his regarding ancient relics as talismans of power and having propaganda value – just as certain Nazis strove to discover the sacred Spear of Destiny or penetrate to the roots of Aryanism.

Paul-Alain Beaulieu, in his book, The Reign of Nabonidus, King of Babylon, 556-539 B.C. (1989), tells that (p. 5) “… during excavation of the foundations of the Ebabbar [temple at Sippar], an old statue of Sargon of Akkad is found. Nabonidus orders its restoration …”.

Now D. Petrovich has identified Sargon of Akkad with the biblical Nimrod: and there is much of the rise and fall of biblical Babel in the saga of the rise and fall of the proud builder-king “Nebuchednezzar”. On p. 135 Beaulieu informs us that Nabonidus “established an oblation for it [statue of Sargon]” in the Ebabbar, and that this was done, without doubt, “in his second year”. And it was “in the second year of his reign” (Daniel 2:1) that “Nebuchednezzar” dreamed of an “awesome” statue (v. 31): “Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance”.

The highly superstitious king had similarly honoured Daniel after the young Jewish sage had interpreted his first Dream for him (2:46): “Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him”.

Did the discovery of Sargon’s statue that same year prompt the Dream of “Nebuchednezzar”? And, had it set “Nebuchednezzar” wondering if he might be able to emulate the greatness of the legendary Sargon of Akkad? (V. 29): “As Your Majesty was lying there [in bed], your mind turned to things to come, and the Revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen”. This is how Beaulieu interprets the matter of the finding of Sargon’s statue (p. 141):


Another interesting example of Nabonidus’ antiquarian interest is the discovery of the statue of Sargon in Sippar. He may have intended to connect himself with this most prestigious ruler of Mesopotamia’s past …. According to the Royal Chronicle, Nabonidus restored the statue of Sargon because of his “reverence for the gods and (his) respect for kingship”. This statement is crucial, as it provides a unique piece of evidence for assessing the nature of Nabonidus’ antiquarian interest: his restoration of Sargon’s statue was motivated not solely by religious factors, but also by a purely profane interest in the past, particularly in this case where it concerned the first great imperial period in Mesopotamian history. ….

  1. 142: “His antiquarian and historical interest may thus be explained from a political angle”.

[End of quotes]


Beaulieu gets to the heart of the ambitious yearnings of King Nabonidus, I think, when he suggests that Nabonidus “considered his own reign a resurrection of a universal empire on the Assyrian and Akkadian model …”.

His affinity for the Assyrians would perhaps make even more sense if Nabonidus were the same as Nebuchednezzar II, who had come to power (c. 605 BC, conventional dating) only about a decade after the Fall of Nineveh (c. 612 BC, conventional dating) – whereas Nabonidus is thought to have begun to rule significantly later, in 556 BC.

Beaulieu writes of the king’s pro-Assyrianism (p. 143):


Nabonidus … calls the Assyrian kings his “royal ancestors” (inscription 15), and considers the sequence of the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian states to be one of imperial continuity (inscription 1 and stela of Adad-Guppi). When … after his return from Teima [Arabia] … he even went one step further by assuming the titulary of the Assyrian kings in two of his inscriptions (inscriptions 15 and 19) …. His interest in the Sargonic [Akkadian] dynasty, which had always been remembered in literary and historical tradition as the climax of Mesopotamian power, and which undoubtedly inspired the late Sargonid [Neo-Assyrian] kings, can also be explained in the light of his imperial ambitions. In short, Nabonidus considered his own reign a resurrection of a universal empire on the Assyrian and Akkadian model, but centred in Babylon, a project which his predecessors never seemed to have contemplated, or at least one to which they never gave any political expression. ….

[End of quote]


Had not the Jewish sage, Daniel, recently revealed to the king what must have been as music to those egotistical ears: “You are the head of gold”. Thus Daniel informed the king (2:37-38):


‘Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold’.


Hardly surprising, then, in light of this, to find Nabonidus early in his third year praying so ambitiously to the god Šamaš (Beaulieu, pp. 144-145):


(O Šamaš), cause the radiance of your … royal brilliance, to march at my side for plundering the land of my enemy. May I overwhelm the country of my foes. May I slay my opponents. May I take booty from my adversaries. May I bring to my country the possession of all lands. I am indeed a king provider who restores the sacred places and completes the (rebuilding of) sanctuaries forever. At the mention of my prestigious name, may all my adversaries be afraid and quiver, may they bow down at my feet, may they pull my yoke for long days, may they bring into my presence their important tribute in my city Babylon.

[End of quote]


Still on p. 145, Beaulieu likens the ambitions of Nabonidus to those of Nebuchednezzar II:


… in two inscriptions written just before the most important military campaign of his reign [to Arabia], Nabonidus made significant references to his imperial policy. Of course, these two passages are not the only examples of their kind: similar ones can be found in the inscriptions of Nebuchednezzar. ….


Indeed, they can.

All, this occurred in the early days of the ambition and power of “Nebuchednezzar”, before his madness and temporary fall from imperial grace.

  1. 144: “… Nabonidus put forward an aggressive military policy from the very beginning, and he based his legitimacy to a large extent on the need for Babylonia to be ruled by a man experienced in military matters, which is easily perceived by studying inscription 1”.

And p. 147: “… references to these same regions in inscriptions before the campaign of the third year constitute evidence that Nabonidus had been contemplating the consolidation of the Babylonian power in Lebanon and Transjordan and the conquest of Arabia since his accession year”.

Yet it is wondered why the imperialistic-minded Nabonidus appeared to have done so little militarily in the first three years of his reign.

But simply couple Nabonidus with Nebuchednezzar II, and then we get this (prior to year 4):


[Obv.1] In the twenty-first year [605/604] the king of Akkad [Nabopolassar] stayed in his own land, Nebuchadnezzar his eldest son, the crown-prince,

[Obv.2] mustered the Babylonian army and took command of his troops; he marched to Karchemiš which is on the bank of the Euphrates,

[Obv.3] and crossed the river to go against the Egyptian army which lay in Karchemiš.

[Obv.4] They fought with each other and the Egyptian army withdrew before him.

[Obv.5] He accomplished their defeat and beat them to non-existence. As for the rest of the Egyptian army

[Obv.6] which had escaped from the defeat so quickly that no weapon had reached them, in the district of Hamath

[Obv.7] the Babylonian troops overtook and defeated them so that not a single man escaped to his own country.

[Obv.8] At that time Nebuchadnezzar conquered the whole area of Hamath.

[Obv.9] For twenty-one years Nabopolassar had been king of Babylon,

[Obv.10] when on 8 Abunote[15 August 605.] he went to his destiny; in the month of Ululunote[September.] Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon

[Obv.11] and on 1 Ululunote[7 September 605.] he sat on the royal throne in Babylon.

[Obv.12] In the accession year Nebuchadnezzar went back again to the Hatti-land and until the month of Šabatunote[Early 604.]

[Obv.13] marched unopposed through the Hatti-land;  in the month of Šabatu he took the heavy tribute of the Hatti-territory to Babylon.

[Obv.14] In the month of Nisannu{{Spring 604.__ he took the hands of Bêl and the son of Bêl and celebrated the Akitu Festival.

[Obv.15] In the first year of Nebuchadnezzar [604/603] in the month of Simanunote[Late Spring.] he mustered his army

[Obv.16] and went to the Hatti-territory, he marched about unopposed in the Hatti-territory until the month of Kislîmu.note[End 604.]

[Obv.17] All the kings of the Hatti-land came before him and he received their heavy tribute.

[Obv.18] He marched to the city of Aškelon and captured it in the month of Kislîmu.note[End 604.]

[Obv.19] He captured its king and plundered it and carried off spoil from it.

[Obv.20] He turned the city into a mound and heaps of ruins and then in the month of Šabatunote[Early 603.] he marched back to Babylon.

[Obv.21] In the second year [603/602] in the month of Ajarunote[Spring 603.] the king of Akkad gathered together a powerful army and marched to the land of Hatti.

[Obv.22] …]  he threw down, great siege-towers he […

[Obv.23] …] from the month of Ajaru until the mon[th of …] he marched about unopposed in the land of Hatti.

[Obv.24-27] [Four lines missing]

[Rev.] [Several lines missing]

[Rev.1′] In the third year [602/601] the king of Akkad left and

[Rev.2′] in the month of […] on the thirteenth day, [the king’s brother] Nabû-šuma-lišir […]

[Rev.3′] The king of Akkad mustered his troops and marched to the Hatti-land.

[Rev.4′] and brought back much spoils from the Hatti-land into Akkad.


[End of quote]


As we read above: “Nabonidus had been contemplating the consolidation of the Babylonian power in Lebanon and Transjordan and the conquest of Arabia since his accession year”.


Now, also in conformity with the testimony of the Book of Daniel, King Nabonidus is known to have had a notable son called “Belshazzar”, famous for the ‘Writing on the Wall’ incident (Daniel 5). A now-aged Daniel will recall to the mind of this reckless king the almost limitless power and wealth of his father, “Nebuchednezzar”, prior to his bout of madness (vv. 18-20):


‘Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. Because of the high position he gave him, all the nations and peoples of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory’.


But that was not the end of the story, for as we can read earlier in the Book of Daniel, the king, now greatly humbled, would return to even greater fame and might (4:36-37):


‘At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble’.




Part Two (iii):

Dreams, Astrologers, a Statue, Wealth




The early career of the Chaldean king, Nabonidus, may be replete with parallel likenesses to that as written about the “Nebuchednezzar” in Daniel chapters 1-5.





Confounding the Astrologers


Despite his superstitious nature the “Nebuchednezzar” of the Book of Daniel – and indeed his alter egos, Nebuchednezzar II/Nabonidus – did not hesitate at times to dictate terms to his wise men or astrologers (2:5-6):


The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble.  But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.”


And so, in the Verse Account, we read too of Nabonidus’ interference in matters ritualistic in the presence of sycophantic officials:


Yet he continues to mix up the rites, he confuses the hepatoscopic oracles. To the most important ritual observances, he orders an end; as to the sacred representations in Esagila -representations which Eamumma himself had fashioned- he looks at the representations and utters blasphemies.


When he saw the usar-symbol of Esagila, he makes an [insulting?] gesture. He assembled the priestly scholars, he expounded to them as follows: ‘Is not this the sign of ownership indicating for whom the temple was built? If it belongs really to Bêl, it would have been marked with the spade. Therefore the Moon himself has marked already his own temple with the usar-symbol!’


And Zeriya, the šatammu who used to crouch as his secretary in front of him, and Rimut, the bookkeeper who used to have his court position near to him, do confirm the royal dictum, stand by his words, they even bare their heads to pronounce under oath: ‘Now only we understand this situation, after the king has explained about it!’


[End of quote]


Paul-Alain Beaulieu, in his book, The Reign of Nabonidus, King of Babylon, 556-539 B.C. (1989), gives another similar instance pertaining to an eclipse (Col. III 2), likening it also to the action of “Nebuchednezzar” in the Book of Daniel (pp. 128-129):


The scribes brought baskets from Babylon (containing) the tablets of the series enūma Anu Enlil to check (it, but since) he did not hearken to (what it said), he did not understand what it meant.


The passage is difficult, but its general implications are clear. Whether Nabonidus had already made up his mind as to the meaning of the eclipse and therefore refused to check the astrological series, or did check them but disagreed with the scribes on their interpretation, it seems that the consecration of En-nigaldi-Nanna [daughter of Nabonidus] was felt to be uncalled for. This alleged stubbornness of the king is perhaps reflected in the Book of Daniel, in the passage where Nebuchednezzar (i.e. Nabonidus), after having dismissed the plea of the “Chaldeans”, states that the matter is settled for him (Daniel II, 3-5) ….

But this does not imply that Nabonidus was necessarily wrong in his interpretation of the eclipse; on the contrary, all the evidence suggests that he was right. However, he may have “forced” things slightly ….

[End of quote]


No wonder in the Book of Daniel, then, we encounter an erratic king and his shifty servants!

Yet, the superstitious king was forever consulting his sages.

Daniel 2:2-3: “So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, he said to them, ‘I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means’.”

Daniel 4:6-7: “So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me. When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me”.

And likewise his son, Belshazzar (Daniel 5:7): “… summoned the enchanters, astrologers and diviners. Then he said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom”.”

Appropriately, we found that Nabonidus had an influential son named “Belshazzar”. Moreover, that Belshazzar was a contemporary of a new emperor, Cyrus.

The criticism may be raised against my view that King Nabonidus was Nebuchednezzar II ‘the Great’, that, whilst the latter is consistently given as having reigned for 43 years, Nabonidus is said to have reigned for only 17 years. Ronald H. Sack, in Neriglissar – King of Babylon. Alter Orient und Altes. Testament (1994), actually gives various figures for the length of the reign of Nabonidus.


  1. 3. A vase fragment from Uruk gives 5 years.

Other figures given by Sack are the common 17 years, but also 18 years.

  1. 17. Syncellus’s version of the Ptolemaïc Canon gives 34 years.


In other words, there is no overall consistency.

The 34 years comes much closer to what I believe to be the reality: 43 years.


Dreams, Illness, and Restoration


King Nabonidus was, like “Nebuchednezzar”, a king who experienced meaningful dreams. Beaulieu (p. 108): “In the beginning of my everlasting reign they (Marduk and Sîn) caused me to see a dream”. And, as in the Book of Daniel, “a young man” will assist the king with his dream. (P. 112): “Then a young man appeared who calmed the king’s troubled mind by giving him a favourable interpretation of his vision”.

Compare Daniel 2:16: “At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him”.

Regarding the “young man” in the case of King Nabonidus, Beaulieu makes this comment (ibid.):


The status of this young man is not specified, but there is a strong probability that he was a scholar who specialized in astrological lore: his reassuring intervention is reminiscent of the dreams reported in Ludlul bēl nēmeqi, in which two young priests successively appear to the author of the poem to assure him that his misfortunes will end soon (see Lambert 1960: 48-51).

[End of quote]


Nebuchednezzar, supposedly, had also appeared in this particular dream, there doing just what the “Nebuchednezzar” of Daniel had done, not allowing the dream to be repeated, despite the requests of the astrologers (2:5-7). Thus Beaulieu: “Nebuchednezzar did not answer the attendant’s request by merely letting Nabonidus repeat his dream, but by asking him what favourable signs he had seen …”.

Nabonidus would, like “Nebuchednezzar”, experience a terrifying dream whilst lying down. Concerning the latter, we read (Daniel 4:4-8):


 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous.  I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me.  So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me.  When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me. Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. (He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.)


And we read in Beaulieu, citing Col. III, these words of King Nabonidus (pp. 151-152):


I l[ay do]wn [and in a] frightening night dream, with? the order […..]. Fulfilled was the year, the appointed time arrived, of [……].


In each case, the dream has a [Divine?] decree, or “the order”, with a firmly fixed time. Daniel 4:23-24:


“Your Majesty saw a holy one, a messenger, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live with the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.’

 “This is the interpretation, Your Majesty, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king …”.


The king went away, but then, after the ordeal, returned to Babylon.

Beaulieu, p. 152: “From Teima I [proceeded? to] Babylon, [my] lord[ly] city [… …]”.

Daniel 4:36: “At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom”.

And the king was afforded a great welcome, with wealth and prosperity coming his way, for all of which he praised the deity.

Beaulieu, p. 152:


They saw and [… … … …]. They took? presents? of well-being?, to [… … … …]. The neighboring kings came up to me and kissed my feet, while the distant ones heard and revered his (Sîn’s) great godhead. The gods and goddesses who had fled to remote places … surrounded me and spoke good (things) on my behalf. And by the verdict of the diviner, my good sign was established. In abundance, plenty, and prosperity, I led my people from remote uplands and I took the road to my country in peace.


Similarly, Daniel 4:36-37:


My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.


May it not be going to far to suggest that these are accounts of the very same one incident!

In support of this may be the view that the king’s Teima sojourn had also coincided with his phase of insanity.

Beaulieu here makes another reference to the Book of Daniel (p. 153):


These ten years [in Teima] were evidently not Babylonian years, since they were counted from Tašrītu and not from Nisanu. By using the religious calendar of Ḫarran, Nabonidus showed his neglect of the Babylonian New Year’s festival, one of the main charges brought against him in the Verse Account.

Another text containing allusions to the Teima period is the “Prayer of Nabonidus” from Qumran, which ascribes a length of seven years to the king’s stay in Arabia (Milik 1956). Since this document comes from a later and foreign tradition, which is otherwise known to have undergone further distortion [sic] in the Book of Daniel, it would be unwise to credit the chronological information it gives with any accuracy: the number seven was most probably used in this case as a round figure, a meaning it often has in the Bible and in the later Jewish tradition.

[End of quote]


Beaulieu tells of another case of a dream and the king’s illness, appropriately around his third year of reign (pp. 113-114):


In another dream he beheld the goddess Gula and prayed to her until she finally looked at him, thus indicating mercy. This visit to Gula’s shrine suggests that Nabonidus may have suffered from health problems at that time ….it is further borne out by a passage of the Chronicle for his third regnal year, which seems to suggest that he suffered some ailment during his military campaign to Lebanon …. (…. [The king became] ill but recuperated).

[End of quote]


Intriguingly, Beaulieu refers to this incident of illness in a context that of time that involves the number “seven” (Cf. Daniel 4:23: “… until seven times pass by for him”). P. 168: “Then Nabonidus falls ill but recovers, and, in the month Kislīmu … after an overall stay of seven months in that region, the army moves southwards to Amurru … and encamps against Edom in southern Transjordan”.

Appropriately (p. 174): “… Jewish exiles may even have figured prominently among the people brought by Nabonidus to Arabia …”.


Another Statue


Beaulieu makes a further reference to the Book of Daniel when discussing a relief possibly depicting King Nabonidus carved on the “Teima stone”, a stela found on the site in 1880 (pp. 176-177):


Another feature of the stela is a relief carved on its edge depicting in the upper register a standing bearded figure holding a long rod and wearing a tiara. The identity of the figure is uncertain, but it has been suggested that it represents the deified Nabonidus, who would have been the god Ṣalm himself, since it is almost identical with the reliefs depicting the king on inscriptions 13 and 14 …. However, if the god Ṣalm … was Nabonidus, then the name of this deity should definitely be connected with Akkadian ṣalmu “statue”, the name under which statues of deified rulers were worshipped in Assyria and Babylonia (Hallo 1988: 63). If this is true, it is not unlikely that Nabonidus would have been influenced by the discovery of the statue of Sargon during the excavation of the Ebabbar … for which he instituted divine offerings. Perhaps his desire to link himself with great rulers of the past induced him to accept a similar form of worship of himself in his Arabian capital. The tradition preserved in the Book of Daniel (chapter 3) of Nebuchednezzar (i.e. Nabonidus) making a statue (ṣalmā’) and forcing his subjects to worship it may ultimately go back to this deed of Nabonidus.


[End of quote]


I suggest that Beaulieu would not be far wrong in this last remark of his.


Abundant Wealth


The king’s illness (temporary insanity) may have been a reason for his departure to Teima in Arabia. Whilst, according to the Book of Daniel, “Nebuchednezzar” was “driven” out (4:32): “You will be driven away from people …”, Nabonidus attributes his departure to Teima to the impiety of the Babylonians, to “the people’s disregard of Sîn’s power (Col. I, 14-27)” (Beaulieu, p. 60).

The two may well be related.

But also, as Beaulieu discusses on pp. 180-183, for instance, wealthy Arabia was strategically most important to those dreaming of empire.


  1. 181:

Nabonidus’ conquest of Arabia does not stand out as a particularly strange move: such projects were characteristic of the imperialistic policy of all major empires that gained control of the Syro-Palestinian area in the first millennium B.C. Its singularity lies rather in its having been successful, unlike other attempts.

Logically the same motives lay behind all the attempts at controlling northern Arabia, and Nabonidus should a priori be no exception to the rule. All classical authors agree on the immense wealth of the region (Briant 1982: 142-45), which was based mostly on the control of the trade routes traversing it and linking the Syro-Palestinian area to South Arabia ….

  1. 183: “The monumental inscriptions written prior to the third year make frequent allusions to the wealth coming from the western regions of the empire, and there is little doubt that northern Arabia was considered a natural extension of these regions ….


[End of quotes]


No wonder, then, that Daniel could thus extol this king (2:37-38):


“Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold”.


(4:22): “You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth”.



Part Two (iv): ‘God of gods’




Though it would be much over-stating things to claim that King Nabonidus became a monotheist, there is a definite progression in that direction in the course of his reign.





“Monotheistic Tendency” of Nebuchednezzar II


  1. Boutflower has advanced a strong argument in his book, In and Around the Book of Daniel: for evidence of a trend towards a Marduk (Merodach) monotheism in various inscriptions of Nebuchednezzar II:


According, then, to this authority, No. 15 is the latest of the

inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar, and the Merodach tendency

noticed by Langdon is of necessity a monotheistic tendency, for

Merodach, who, as we have seen, is always foremost of the gods,

appears in some passages of this inscription to stand alone. Now

it is just in these monotheistic passages, these ” inserted prayers ”

and ” changes of text,” that we seem to see the work of the real

Nebuchadnezzar. Thus, immediately after the introductory

passage, which describes the position occupied by the king with

reference to Merodach and Nebo, there follows a hymn to those

divinities, col. i. 23 to ii. 39, extracted from inscriptions 19 and

  1. But in the middle of this hymn we meet with a prayer

addressed to Merodach alone : col. i. 51 to ii. 11, and this prayer,

be it noted, is an entirely original addition, not found in any previous

inscription. Jastrow remarks with reference to it, “The con-

ception of Merodach rises to a height of spiritual aspiration,

which comes to us as a surprise in a religion that remained steeped

in polytheism, and that was associated with practices and rites

of a much lower order of thought.” 2 This remarkable prayer

runs thus


“To Merodach my lord I prayed,

I addressed my supplication.

He had regard to the utterance of my heart,

I spake unto him:

‘Everlasting prince,

Lord of all that is,

for the king whom thou lovest,

whose name thou proclaimest,

who is pleasing to thee :

direct him aright,

lead him in the right path !

I am a prince obedient unto thee,

the creature of thy hands,

thou hast created me,

and hast appointed me to the lordship of multitudes of people.

According to thy mercy, Lord, which thou bestowest upon

all of them,

cause them to love thy exalted lordship :

cause the fear of thy godhead to abide in my heart !

Grant what to thee is pleasing,

for thou makest my life’.” ….


And a similar exaltation of the god, Sîn, in the case of King Nabonidus, is a central feature of Paul-Alain Beaulieu’s book, The Reign of Nabonidus, King of Babylon, 556-539 B.C. (1989).

Beaulieu has interpreted Nabonidus’s exaltation of the moon god, Sîn, as “an outright usurpation of Marduk’s prerogatives”.


Sîn is the ilu/ilani sa ilani, “the god(s) of the gods.”



Whilst I, by no means, would presume to make the suggestion that, now Nebuchednezzar II, now Nabonidus, ever became a pure monotheist, the religious reform implemented during this period of Chaldean dominance is certainly most idiosyncratic and confronting.


According to one source (


Theological Revisions


Yet these considerations must not lead us to treat Nabonidus as a ruler in his dotage, devoid of vision or political skill. A study of the documents associated with his reign suggests exactly the opposite. The most original aspect of his reign is his attempt to introduce a religious reform centered on the worship of Sin of Haran, thereby challenging the superiority of Marduk, god of Babylon, whose supremacy over all other gods had been a theological verity in Babylon at least since Nebuchadnezzar I, half a millennium earlier. Although we do not doubt that Nabonidus knowingly launched this religious reform, we remain in the dark about the catalyst for his own beliefs as well as the political motivation that set him on his reforming path. Nevertheless, a pamphlet written against Nabonidus after his downfall and dubbed by modern scholars the “Verse Account of Nabonidus” charges the king with worshiping an incarnation of the moon-god called Ilteri. This is a precious piece of information, for behind the cuneiform spelling “Ilteri” is concealed the name of the West Semitic moon-god Sachar, worshiped in Syria, among Aramaeans who settled in Babylonia, and among the nomadic tribes of northern Arabia. Ilteri occurs frequently in West Semitic name formations, and there is reason to believe that Sin of Haran and Sachar were equated well before Nabonidus. What may have bothered the priests of Marduk in Babylon is not that their new king had gone beyond retaining his attachment to the god of his native city, Haran, but that he was aggressively declaring that god’s superiority over Marduk.


This observation, however, should not obscure the Mesopotamian component in Nabonidus’s religion. His devotion embraced more generally the Mesopotamian triad composed of Sin, Shamash, and Ishtar, which had enjoyed widespread popularity under the last Assyrian rulers. Nabonidus may well have espoused a tradition, not uniformly represented in Mesopotamia, that made Shamash and Ishtar the children of Sin. It is telling that of the building projects and the associated commemorative inscriptions that the king sponsored, only one is unrelated to the triad Sin-Shamash-Ishtar: restoration work on the temple of Lugal-Marada, the patron god of Marad, a city in northern Babylonia. Whenever Nabonidus lavished his patronage on the sanctuaries of specific deities, they involved Sin and his consort Ningal, Shamash and his vizier Bunene, and martial avatars of Ishtar (Ishtar of Agade, Anunitum). It is significant that the Eanna temple of Uruk, the major sanctuary of Ishtar in Babylonia, did not benefit from royal patronage, since Ishtar of Uruk was identified locally as the daughter (sometimes the consort) of the sky-god Anu.


[End of quote]


Whatever be the case, one finds from a perusal of Beaulieu’s book that King Nabonidus will address Sîn in words that the “Nebuchednezzar” of Daniel will use to address the God of Israel.