Nebuchednezzar I and Sargon II

Published December 2, 2014 by amaic



 Damien F. Mackey


What follows here presupposes my view that Sargon II and Sennacherib ‘were’ one and the same royal person, as explained in (for example) my:

Assyrian King Sargon II, Otherwise Known As Sennacherib

and in:

Sargon II and Sennacherib: More than just an overlap

Now I am going to take a stage further, into the realm of Babylon, my expansion of the mighty Sargon II, by proposing also that Nebuchednezzar I himself, who had a famous battle with the Elamites outside Dêr, is to be recognised as the Babylonian version of Sargon II/ Sennacherib, who indeed fought with the Elamites outside Dêr.

The neo-Assyrian king had succeeded Merodach-baladan as king of Babylon in his 13th year, and had reigned there for about a decade, placing now one governor, now another, over the city. But Merodach-baladan himself had had a lengthy reign in Babylon before finally being overthrown by the Assyrian king. What therefore complicates a reconstruction of so-called ‘post-Kassite Babylonia’ – apart from a serious dearth of material as noted by J. Brinkman, in A Political History of Post-Kassite Babylonia. 1158-722 B.C. (Roma, Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1968), who continuously laments this fact, “fragmentary inscriptions” (p. 88), “veiled in obscurity” (p. 89), “relatively obscure” (p. 90), “quite uncertain” (p. 92), and so on – a dearth due, I think, to the failure to connect it with its C8th BC ‘other face’ – is this tricky Babylonian succession, with, now Sennacherib, now the Chaldean king, Merodach-baladan, ruling there; then Sennacherib ruling again; and now placing a son or other official in charge.

And also having to cope with the constant Elamite interference in the region.

Whilst one can basically follow this complex series of successions in Babylon in the well-documented C8th BC context, it becomes extremely difficult in the fragmentary ‘other half’ C12th BC context.

But let us try to make some inroads.

Art, Architecture and Other Overlaps


Revisionist scholars have argued for an overlap of the art and architecture of both (supposedly) historical periods in question here – but eras that I am suggesting need to be fused into one. The likes of professor Lewis M. Greenberg (“The Lion Gate at Mycenae”, Pensée, IVR III, 1973, p. 28); Peter James (Centuries of Darkness, p. 273); Emmet Sweeney (Ramessides, Medes and Persians, p. 24), and others, have all come to light with art-historical observations of striking likenesses between art works of the 13th-12th centuries BC, on the one hand, and the 9th-8th centuries BC art and architecture, on the other.

I, in my postgraduate university thesis,

A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah

and its Background

quoting P. James, wrote as follows about this art-historical overlap (Volume 1, Ch. 7, p. 181):

I should like to recall that my revision of this actual period of Mesopotamian history may have some degree of art-historical support; for, as already noted in Chapter 3 (p. 81), James claims to have found artistic likenesses between the C13th-12th’s BC and the neo-Assyrian period – though admittedly the data is scarce [Centuries of Darkness, p. 273]: ….

Developments in art are also difficult to trace. Not only is there a dearth of material, but styles on either side of the gulf between the 12th and 10th centuries BC are curiously similar. One scholar noted that the forms and decoration of the intricately carved Assyrian seals of the 12th century are ‘clearly late’, as they ‘point the way to the ornate figures which line the walls of the Neo-Assyrian palace of Assurnasirpal [mid-9th century BC]’. The sculptors employed by this king, in the words of another expert on Assyrian art, ‘worked within a tradition that went back to the thirteenth century BC’. Not surprisingly, then, the dating of the few sculptures which might belong to this grey period has been hotly debated.

[End of quote]


Nebuchednezzar I and his Contemporaries



And so lacking in this virtue [of modesty] was Sargon II, in fact, that historians have had to create a complete Babylonian king, namely, Nebuchednezzar I, to accommodate the Assyrian’s rôle as ‘King of Babylon’.



For the C12th BC period the next substantial ruler of Babylon after Nebuchednezzar I – and not connected to the latter’s dynasty – was one Adad-apla-iddina (c. 1067-1046 BC, conventional dating). Now Adad-apla-iddina, a non-native Babylonian it is said, appears to make a very good alter ego for the Chaldean, Merodach-baladan (i.e. Marduk-apla-iddina). The origins of Merodach-baladan may well have been with the incursion into Babylonia of semi-nomadic groups (Aramaeans, Chaldeans) consequent to the sacking of Babylon by Tiglath-pileser I. I have already identified the latter with Tiglath-pileser III, during the final part of whose reign Merodach-baladan II first appears on the Babylonian scene. See e.g. my:

Tiglath-pileser King of Assyria

Brinkman tells the story of the nomadic incursions into the region (op. cit., p. 92):

At this point [i.e. Tiglath-pileser I’s destruction of Babylon], semi-nomads from the middle Euphrates region interrupted the internal flow of Assyro-Babylonian history. Crop failures and famine in at least two separate years debilitated the inhabitants of the cultivated areas in Assyria and Babylonia; and the Arameans, unable to obtain food through regular channels, spilled into the civilized lands in search of food and plunder. The Assyrians in large numbers retired towards the mountains, and Tiglath-pileser himself seems to have beaten a strategic retreat to a region in the neighbourhood of the later Commagene.

[End of quote]

Soon the throne of Babylon passed to one of these newcomers [loc. cit.]:

… Adad-apla-iddina, whom later Babylonian tradition linked with one of these semi-nomad groups. During his reign, the Arameans and Sutians living along the Euphrates irrupted into the land, devastating cult centers in Sippar, Nippur, Uruk, Der, and Dur-Kurigalzu and perhaps fomenting trouble in Babylon itself. Relations between the Assyrian and Babylonian kings remained friendly for the most part during this period of changing regimes in the south. Though Assyria may have assisted Adad-apla-iddina in gaining the throne, he paid the northern country back by later interfering in the Assyrian royal succession.

[End of quote]

This account by Brinkman could perhaps also be a plausible explanation of how Merodach-baladan had come to power in Babylon, with the assistance of the Assyrians (hence perhaps the Adad element included in his name). And his having Assyrian support might account, too, for how he managed to survive for so long. Though, all the time he apparently had his own agenda that would eventually bring about his ruin at the hands of his benefactors.

Merodach-baladan appears to have been a classic example of Isaiah’s ‘cunning, crooked serpent that was Babylon’ (27:1).

As for Nebuchednezzar I, he, as we shall see, makes a very good Babylonian version of Sargon II/Sennacherib. The major problem with this last suggestion, though, would be that his father is thought to have been, as Brinkman tells, one Ninurta-nadin-shumi [op. cit., p. 99], whose name does not bear any resemblance at all to that of the father of Sargon II/ Sennacherib. A possible explanation, given the dearth of genealogical material for this same Ninurta-nadin-shumi as attested by Brinkman [op. cit., p. 98], is that Ninurta-nadin-shumi may actually have been the like-named (but with Assyrian theophoric) Ashur-nadin-shumi, son of Sennacherib, whose name actually precedes Sennacherib’s in a second phase of the latter’s as ruler of Babylon, as given in the Xth Babylonian Dynasty list [See C. Boutflower’s The Book of Isaiah. Chapters [1-XXXIX], London, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1930, p. 101].

I have, in a most recent re-assessment of “Holofernes”, the anti-hero of the Book of Judith, identified him with this same Ashur-nadin-shumi (and with “Nadin” of the Book of Tobit):

“Nadin went into everlasting darkness”

Much of king Nebuchednezzar I’s own history is recorded in Sumerian, about which culture the highly adventurous professor G. Heinsohn {whom I would not normally recommend}, in his “The Restoration of Ancient History” (, makes the following intriguing connection with Chaldean:

Though the ancient Greeks freely admitted that their science teachers were Chaldaeans (from Southern Mesopotamia/Babylonia), they never gave any hint that they trailed their inspirers by one-and-a-half millennia. They rather gave the impression that Chaldaean knowledge was obtainable by travelling Greek students. Today, we are taught that there were no Chaldaean teachers to speak of. This supposedly most learned nation of mankind, did not leave us bricks or potsherds, not to mention written treatises. …. Nevertheless, researchers before 1868 – when Jules Oppert created the term Sumerian – had called proto-Chaldaean that today is called Sumerian. Up to the end of the 19th century, art historians labeled as Chaldaean artifacts which today are called Sumerian artifacts. At the turn of the century, major European museums underwent a relabeling procedure from Chaldaean to Sumerian on their exhibition pieces from Southern Mesopotamia.

[End of quote]

Whilst I am far from accepting most of Heinsohn’s radical model of revision, I do find rather interesting what E. Sweeney has written in support of the former’s Sumero-Chaldean link (“Gunnar Heinsohn’s Mesopotamian Historiography”, SIS Chronology and Catastrophism Workshop, No. 2 [UK, 1987], pp. 20-21):

The Chaldaeans, according to Assyrian sources from the first millennium, occupied 900 cities, 88 of which were walled. Many of these were presumably located in Lower Mesopotamia, where the Assyrians regularly located the Kaldu, yet of the 900 cities not a trace, not a single brick, or inscription, has been discovered.

On the other hand, a whole civilisation (Sumerian), unknown to the ancients, but which left an abundance of records and remains, has been discovered in exactly the same area. …. Concomitant with the loss of the Chaldaean cities was the loss of the Chaldaean language. Yet against this painful loss was the great gain of the Sumerian tongue, previously unknown. Archaeology seems basically to lean in the direction of this identification, in that the old ‘Sumerian’ remains of the Ur III dynasty are frequently found directly underneath the remains of the later Babylonian kings.

This, Heinsohn’s explanation, appears to have solved the age-old Sumerian problem.

[End of quote]

The Elamite/Shutrukids

In 1985, Lester Mitcham had attempted to identify the point of fold in the Assyrian King List [AKL], necessary for accommodating the downward revision of ancient history. (“A New Interpretation of the Assyrian King List”, Proc. 3rd Seminar of C and AH, pp. 51-56). He looked to bridge a gap of 170 years by bringing the formerly C12th BC Assyrian king, Ninurta-apil-Ekur, to within closer range of his known C14th BC ancestor, Eriba-Adad I. In the same publication, Dean Hickman had argued even more radically for a lowering, by virtually a millennium, of formerly C19th BC king Shamsi-Adad I, now to be recognised as the biblical king, Hadadezer, a Syrian foe of king David of Israel. (“The Dating of Hammurabi”, pp. 13-28). And I myself have accepted this adjustment in:

Hammurabi the Great King of Babylon was King Solomon

Prior to all that, Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky had of course urged for a folding of the C14th BC Kassite king {and el-Amarna correspondent}, Burnaburiash II, with the C9th BC Assyrian king, Shalmaneser III, who had conquered Babylon. (Ages in Chaos, Vol. I, 1952).

And there have been other attempts as well to bring order to Mesopotamian history and chronology; for example, Phillip Clapham’s attempt to identify the C13th Assyrian king, Tukulti-Ninurta I, with the C8th BC king, Sennacherib. (“Hittites and Phrygians”, C and AH, Vol. IV, pt. 2, July, 1982, p. 111). Clapham soon realised that, despite some initially promising similarities, these two kings could not realistically be merged. (ibid., Addenda, p. 113). Whilst all of these attempts have some merit, other efforts were doomed right from the start because they infringed against established archaeological sequences. Thus Mitcham, again, exposed Sweeney’s defence of Professor Heinsohn’s radical revision, because of its blatant disregard, in part, for archaeological fact. (“Support for Heinsohn’s Chronology is Misplaced”, C and CW, 1988, 1, pp. 7-12).

Here I want briefly to propose what I think can be a most compelling fold; one that

(a) does not infringe against archaeology, and that

(b) harmonises approximately with previous art-historical observations of likenesses between 13th-12th centuries BC and 9th-8th centuries BC art and architecture. And it also has the advantage – unlike Mitcham’s and Clapham’s efforts – of

(c) folding kings with the same name.

I begin by connecting Merodach-baladan I and II (also equated by Heinsohn – as noted by Mitcham, op. cit.), each of 12-13 years of reign, about whose kudurrus Brinkman remarked (op. cit., p. 87, footnote 456):

Four kudurrus …, taken together with evidence of his building activity in Borsippa … show Merodach-baladan I still master in his own domain. The bricks recording the building of the temple of Eanna in Uruk …, assigned to Merodach-baladan I by the British Museum’s A Guide to the Babylonian and Assyrian Antiquities … cannot now be readily located in the Museum for consultation; it is highly probable, however, that these bricks belong to Merodach-baladan II (see Studies Oppenheim, p. 42 …).

[End of quote]

My proposal here involves a C12th to C8th BC fold.

But, more strikingly, I draw attention to the succession of Shutrukid rulers of Elam of the era of Merodach-baladan I who can be equated, as a full succession, with those of the era of Merodach-baladan II.


C12th BC C8th BC
Shutruk-Nahhunte Shutur-Nakhkhunte
Kudur-Nahhunte Kutir-Nakhkhunte
Hulteludish (or Hultelutush-Insushinak) Hallushu’ (or Halutush-Inshushinak).

This is already too striking, I think, to be accidental.

And it, coupled with the Merodach-baladan pairing, may offer far more obvious promise than have previous efforts of revision.

There is also lurking within close range a powerful king Tiglath-pileser, variously I and III.

Apart from the approximate synchronisms with the Elamite Shutrukids, as tabulated above, we find too that Nebuchednezzar I’s reign length of 22 years conforms rather well to the standard estimate of Sennacherib’s total period of rule of approximately 21-24 years. This new scenario also puts a completely new slant on Sargon II/Sennacherib’s presumed ‘modesty’ in not taking the title of ‘King of Babylon’ as had Tiglath-pileser III, preferring to use the older shakkanaku (‘viceroy’). That modesty was not however an Assyrian characteristic we have already seen abundantly. And so lacking in this virtue was Sargon II, in fact, that historians have had to create a complete Babylonian king, namely, Nebuchednezzar I, to accommodate the Assyrian’s rôle as ‘King of Babylon’.

Nebuchednezzar, like Sennacherib, had successful and unsuccessful campaigns against Elam, on one occasion striking deep into the Elamite heartland (Cf. Brinkman, op. cit., p. 106 and G. Roux, Iraq, pp. 321-322).

‘Their’ restoration work in Babylonia may perhaps be compared. We know that Nebuchednezzar, in Babylon, constructed a shrine for the god Adad (an Assyrian god, note), “another of his divine patrons in war”; and he restored a statue of the god Marduk to his temple. In Nippur, he restored the famous Ekur temple; and, at Ur, he gave to a temple ‘precious gold’ and ‘two bowls of red gold’ (Brinkman, op. cit., p. 113). Sargon II simply records, without specific details (D. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, Vol. 2, NY, #182): “I undertook the (re)habilitation of Sippar, Nippur, Babylon and Borsippa, … and remitted the taskwork of Dêr, Ur, Uruk, Eridu, Larsa …”.

The Vizier (Ummânu)

One indication that I may be on the right track in attempting to merge the C12th BC king of Babylon, Nebuchednezzar I, with the C8th BC king of Assyria, Sennacherib (= Sargon II), is that one finds during the reign of ‘each’ a vizier of such fame that he was to be remembered for centuries to come. It is now reasonable to assume that this is one and the same vizier. I refer, in the case of Nebuchednezzar I, to the following celebrated vizier (Brinkman, op. cit., pp. 114-115):

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

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

Even better known is Ahikar (var. Akhiqar), a character both of legend and of real history. Regarding his popularity, we read (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, NJ, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968, 28:28):

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

[End of quote]

There are various fabulous legends about Ahikar and his association with Sennacherib. For instance, the latter supposedly commissioned Ahikar to build a castle in the sky. More realistically though, according to his uncle, Tobit: “Ahikar had been chief cupbearer, keeper of the signet, administrator and treasurer under Sennacherib” and was kept in office after Sennacherib’s death. At some point in time Ahikar seems to have been promoted to Vizier (Ummânu), second in power in the mighty kingdom of Assyria, “Chancellor of the Exchequer for the kingdom and given the main ordering of affairs” (Tobit 1:21, 22).

Ahikar was Chief Cupbearer, or Rabshakeh, during Sennacherib’s Third Campaign when Jerusalem was besieged (2 Kings 18:17; Isaiah 36:2). His title (Assyrian rab-šakê) means, literally, ‘the great man’. It was a military title, marking its bearer amongst the greatest of all the officers.

Tobit tells us that Ahikar (also given in the Vulgate of Tobit as Achior, “son of light”) was the son of his brother Anael (Tobit 1:21). Ahikar was therefore Tobit’s nephew of the tribe of Naphtali, taken into captivity by the Assyrian king, “Shalmaneser”, father of Sennacherib.

He is the Achior of the Book of Judith. For more on this, see my series:

Ahikar Part One: As a Young Officer for Assyria


Ahikar Part Two: As a Convert to Yahwism

The New Catholic Encyclopedia, whilst incorrectly suggesting that: “There does not appear to be any demonstrable connection between this Achior [of Judith] and the Ahikar of the [legendary] Aramaic Story”, confirms however that the name Achior can be the same as Ahikar (“Ahikar”, NCE, Vol. VIII, p. 222):

A certain Achior is mentioned in four passages of the Book of Tobit. He is presented as chief administrator and royal adviser (“keeper of the seal”) under Esarhaddon and is claimed as Tobit’s nephew (1:21-22) and friend (2:10).

…. In view of these striking similarities there can be little doubt that this Achior is to be identified with Ahikar of the Aramaic Story. Moreover, the spelling of the name in the Greek text [Axi{‹}karoû] eliminates any difficulty on that score.

[End of quote]

In The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, article “Ahikar”, Abingdon Press, N.Y., p. 69, E. Kraelin notes the name similarity, but is likewise reluctant to identify the two.

The name Achior – and hence the very person under discussion – may also have belonged to the governor of Babylon during the reign of Merodach-baladan (whom I have identified as Adad-apla-iddina and whom, as we saw, was served by the famous vizier, Esagil-kini-ubba). This governor was called Bel-akhi-erba in which compound the name Achior, or Akhior, can easily be discerned (Bel-AKHI-ERba = AKHIOR), especially with the removal of the pagan theophoric, Bel. A relief on the Merodach-baladan Stone depicts the latter making a grant of land to this Bel-akhi-erba, governor of Babylon.

All added up, this Nebuchednezzar I, the Assyrian conqueror of Babylon, makes a compelling ‘Nebuchadnezzar the Assyrian’ of the Book of Judith, showing the latter drama to be correct in its most controversial detail: an Assyrian king with a Babylonian name. And his vizier squares very well with Achior.

Chaldea, a cunning, ‘crooked serpent’ diplomatically, has also been a tortuous riddle for historians to try to unravel.


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