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All posts for the day October 5th, 2018

Ashurbanipal and Nebuchednezzar II

Published October 5, 2018 by amaic
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Part One:

Questions in need of new answers

 

 

by

 Damien F. Mackey

 

Is Ashurbanipal mentioned in the Bible?

No, according to The Jerome Biblical Commentary (11:9):

“[Ashurbanipal] is not mentioned in the Bible …”.

 

 

Introduction

 

Is Ashurbanipal mentioned in the Bible?

 

How to accommodate, chronologically, king Manasseh of Judah’s reign of 55 years?

 

Were there two pharaohs Necho (Neco), or only one?

 

How to account for the surprising gaps in the history of Nebuchednezzar II ‘the Great’?

 

 

Questions such as these will be given new and quite different-from-the-conventional-viewpoint answers in this series.

For example:

 

 

Ashurbanipal is well and truly mentioned in various books of the Scriptures.

 

King Manasseh of Judah will be found to have been contemporaneous with the Chaldean era.

 

There was only one Pharaoh Necho, as we shall find, thereby continuing our radical revision of the Egyptian dynasties.

 

Nebuchednezzar II ‘the Great’ can be filled out only when matched to his chief alter ego (even over and above my identification of him with the significant Nabonidus).

 

 

Comparing Ashurbanipal and

Nebuchednezzar II (= Nabonidus)

 

 

The great Assyrian ruler, Ashurbanipal, who so significantly influenced king Nabonidus,

has certain features that also may remind one of Daniel’s “Nebuchednezzar”.

 

 

Introduction.

 

I wrote the above in my recent:

 

Ashurbanipal and Nabonidus

 

https://www.academia.edu/33397389/Ashurbanipal_and_Nabonidus?auto=download&campaign=upload_email

 

which article included mention of the fact that king Ashurbanipal had – just as is narrated of “Nebuchednezzar” (or “Nebuchadnezzar”), king of Babylon, in the Book of Daniel – in Ashurbanipal’s own words, “a burning fiery furnace”.

And Ashurbanipal also had a lions’ den.

These fascinating historical facts have led me, in light of the Book of Daniel, to consider if Ashurbanipal could be the same as king Nebuchednezzar II ‘the Great’, whom I have already identified as king Nabonidus, and as Daniel’s “Nebuchednezzar”.

 

Ashurbanipal viewed

in a new perspective

 

This will not be the first time that I have sought to re-cast Ashurbanipal as Nebuchednezzar II.

My first attempt some years ago had eventually to be abandoned because I had not then managed successfully to align this significantly revised Neo Assyro-Babylonian (Chaldean) scenario in relation to the late Kings of Judah.

Obviously, such a revision of Assyro-Babylonia, involving an Ockham’s Razor-like shaving off of (in conventional terms) approximately seven decades – Ashurbanipal (d. c. 672 BC) to Nebuchednezzar II (began to reign in c. 605 BC) – must have a dramatic impact upon the currently arranged sequence of contemporary Judaean kings.

My first effort involved a hopeful identification of the great reforming king, Hezekiah of Judah, with the similarly great reforming king, Josiah of Judah, both of whom had wicked offspring. When that failed, I completely dropped the idea that Ashurbanipal – seemingly a typical Sargonid Assyrian king – could be the same as Nebuchednezzar II, Chaldean ruler of Babylon.

Now, in this series, I want to test a new Mesopotamian and Judah combination.

 

 

“The representations in the Book of Daniel of Nebuchadnezzar’s greatness are doubtless correct; and there is reason for believing that he was the great builder and glorifier of his capital. He was succeeded by his son Evil-merodach”.

 

Jewish Encyclopedia

 

 

 

Answering the questions posed

 

“Nebuchadnezzar”, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia’s E. Hirsch, I. Price, W. Bacher and Louis Ginzberg (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11407-nebuchadnezzar) was the “son of Nabopolassar; became king of Babylon in 604 B.C. as Assyria was on the decline; died 561. His name, either in this spelling or in the more correct form, Nebuchadrezzar (from the original, “Nabu-kudurri-uṣur” = “Nebo, defend my boundary”), is found more than ninety times in the Old Testament”.

This immediately answers one of the questions that I posed right at the beginning of this series:

 

Is Ashurbanipal mentioned in the Bible?

 

presuming that, of course, my theory turns out to be correct about identifying Ashurbanipal as Nebuchednezzar II, whose “name [is] found more than ninety times in the Old Testament”. Nevertheless, I took the liberty of anticipating the answer to this, when I added:

 

Ashurbanipal is well and truly mentioned in various books of the Scriptures.

 

Furthermore, my proposed identification of these two great entities, Ashurbanipal and Nebuchednezzar, as one, ought to be able to accommodate another of my four questions:

 

How to account for the surprising gaps in the history of Nebuchednezzar II ‘the Great’?

 

especially given my further identification of this Nebuchednezzar with Nabonidus.  

Holes in the record regarding Nebuchednezzar’s activities in Egypt, fully attested in the Bible, can be adequately filled up by the extensive accounts of campaigns there by Ashurbanipal. 

 

 

We continue to read from Ginzberg et al: “Nebuchadnezzar’s first notable act was the overthrow of the Egyptian army under Necho at the Euphrates in the fourth year of Jehoiakim (Jer. xlvi. 2)”.

Whilst this pharaoh is conventionally classified as Necho (Neco) II, it is most interesting – but no longer surprising in light of my revision – that Ashurbanipal’s Egyptian contemporary was also a pharaoh Necho, conventionally numbered I. And he, too, was initially hostile to the Mesopotamian king, leading a revolt against him (http://history-world.org/ashurbanipal.htm):

 

The princes, led by Necho, Sharruludari, and Paqruru, were discovered to be intriguing with Taharqa; their cities were severely punished, and the two chief culprits sent to Nineveh for punishment. Ashurbanipal determined to try a new policy similar to that employed for Babylon; he pardoned Necho and returned him as a kind of vassal ruler of Assyrian Egypt, sustained by Assyrian troops.

 

This brings us close to answering a third question that I had posed at the beginning:

 

Were there two pharaohs Necho (Neco), or only one?

 

The answer to which I had also anticipated:

 

There was only one Pharaoh Necho, as we shall find,

thereby continuing our radical revision of the Egyptian dynasties.

 

But that is not all with pharaonic ‘duplicates’.

Common to, now Ashurbanipal, now Nebuchednezzar, was a Psammetichus, I, in the first case, and II, in the second. ‘Each’ was a son, respectively, of the pharaohs Necho I, II.

And so we read (http://www.ancient.eu/Ashurbanipal/):

 

Ashurbanipal then made Psammetichus full Pharaoh of Egypt, equipped him with Assyrian garrisons stationed at strategic points, and then again returned to Assyria in 665 BCE. Between 665 and 657 BCE he put down a rebellion in Tyre, fought the Elamites, led his army through Anatolia to re-conquer the people of Tabal, and subdued the kingdom of Urartu which had again risen to threaten Assyrian interests. While he was engaged in these campaigns, Egypt was slowly slipping from his grasp.

…. Psammetichus was not content to rule as an Assyrian puppet and so began to assert his independence by making deals with various Egyptian governors and courting the favor of Gyges, the king of Lydia in Anatolia. In 653 BCE, with the help of the Lydians, Psammetichus drove the Assyrian troops out of Egypt and established his new capital at the city of Sais. Although news of this revolt was brought to Ashurbanipal’s attention, there is no record that he returned to Egypt to do anything about it. Elam, Assyria’s old enemy, was causing problems closer to home and Ashurbanipal considered that a priority.

Whilst, in the case of Nebuchednezzar and his Psammetichus, so-called II, relations are generally portrayed as having been peaceful, Dan’el Kahn (University of Haifa) gives this rather different assessment of it in his article, “The Foreign Policy of Psammetichus II in the Levant”: https://www.academia.edu/235567/The_Foreign_Policy_of_Psammetichus_II_in_the_Levant

 

According to Kitchen, Psammetichus’ policy in the Levant was as follows: “Necho II and Psammetichus II prudently declined any further direct confrontations with Babylon… Following his Nubian victory, Psammetichus II was content to show the flag in Philistia and by his Byblos visitation maintain ordinary Egyptian relations in Phoenicia… By contrast, Apries (589-570 B.C.) foolishly abandoned restraint…”.

 

Hornung states the following: “The king (i.e. Psammetichus II) maintained peace with the great power of Babylon and evidently avoided interfering in the affairs of Palestine. Immediately after taking the throne, however, his young son Apries (589-570 B.C.E.),… supported the Judean king, Zedekiah, and the Phoenician cities in their break with Nebuchadnezzar.”

 

The above generally peaceful evaluations of Psammetichus II’s relations with Babylonia and its vassals, Judah and the Phoenician states, or rather the deliberate avoidance of military contact with the Babylonians, is commonly held by most Egyptologists and scholars of the Ancient Near East.

Some just do not mention any policy of Psammetichus towards the Levant, while others claim that Egypt instigated Jerusalem to rebel against Babylonia, which was part of an anti-Babylonian coalition already in 594, or that Psammetichus’ Expedition to Byblos and the Phoenician coast (in592-591 B.C.) impressed the kingdoms in the Levant and raised the hopes of liberation from the Babylonian enslavement.

First, let us survey the evidence for the Babylonian policy towards the Levant preceding the days of Psammetichus II and during his reign in Egypt.

 

1.Babylonia and the Levant

 

The Extent and Success of the Babylonian Campaigns to the Levant 

 

Due to a lack of historical-military writing-tradition in the Neo-Babylonian Empire, Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 B.C.) was described by scholars until 1956 as a king who had devoted his main energy to the building and restoration of his country. This evaluation of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign dramatically changed in 1956, when the Babylonian Chronicle, which covers the first eleven years of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, was published. From that moment on he appears as a great warrior and in studies about his reign special attention is devoted to his military achievements.

In the preserved accounts in the Babylonian Chronicle of the years that correspond to those preceding the reign of Psammetichus II and to his reign (598-594 B.C.) several campaigns to the Levant were mentioned. In 598 (year 7) Jerusalem was captured and its king deported. In 597 (year 8) he went to Hattu (the area west of the Euphrates, which included in the 7th century B.C. in the North the Neo-Hittite states in Anatolia and Philistia in the South). In 596 (year 9) Nebuchadnezzar advanced along the Tigris toward an encounter with the Elamite army. The king of Elam took fright and he went home. In 595 (year 10) Nebuchadnezzar stayed home most of the year. In the months of Kislev and Tebeth (15.12.595-12.2.594) there was ‘a rebellion in Babylonia,’ which was quelled. Thereafter he marched to Hattu, received vast booty and returned to Babylonia. In 594 (year 11), the last year preserved in the chronicle, Nebuchadnezzar and his army marched to Hattu in Kislev (4.12.594-2.1.593).

Thus, Nebuchadnezzar campaigned victoriously during five years. Four victories in Hattu and in the fifth year Elam retreated without a fight.

This evaluation of Nebuchadnezzar as a great warrior influenced also the views of scholars in Egyptian history of the 26th Dynasty, when describing Psammetichus II’s policy in relation to that of Nebuchadnezzar’s achievements in the Levant.

When taking a closer look at the Babylonian sources, Eph’al opted for a different picture.

Nebuchadnezzar was defeated in Egypt in year 4 (601 B.C.), and stayed at home in year 5 (600) ‘refitting his numerous horses and chariotry.’

…. the only Babylonian military campaign reaching the Southern Levant since the Babylonian setback in the winter of 601-600 B.C. was the campaign against Jerusalem in 598/7 B.C., which surrendered without a fight. It is possible, however, that in the campaign of 598/7 Nebuchadnezzar did achieve military victory and destroyed Gaza and Eqron, the remaining kingdoms of Philistia, and that Egypt lost its holding in the Southern Levant (II Kings, 24:7).

…. Even if one does not want to accept the revisionist view forwarded by Eph’al, there is no evidence for a Babylonian campaign to the southern Levant between 597 B.C. and 588 B.C. Furthermore, the events in Nebuchadnezzar’s regnal years 10 and 11 (595, 594 B.C.) were serious enough to create unrest in Babylon and in Judah (see below). Nebuchadnezzar had to stabilize the Babylonian heartland, and for several years could not quell rebellions at the remote ends of his Empire. Thus, Psammetichus II did not have to fear the Babylonian army for it was not in the vicinity; neither did he have to confront them or steer up unrest against them in his early years.

Psammetichus definitely did not avoid contact with the Babylonian army deliberately, for it was not there. Psammetichus could slip into the Babylonian power-vacuum almost without confrontation.

…. Psammetichus campaigned against Kush in his third regnal year (593 B.C.).

The Egyptian army destroyed Kerma (Pnoubs), and reached Napata and may have burnt the Kushite king in his palace. Psammetichus II’s army was composed of Egyptian and foreign (Carian, Ionian, Dorian, and Phoenician) troops. According to the letter of (Pseudo) Aristeas to Philokrates (ca. 2/1 c. B.C.) … Judean soldiers were sent to the aid of Psammetichus to fight with his armies against the king of the Kushites. If it was Zedekiah who sent his troops to aid Psammetichus II against Kush in 593, a shift in Judah’s alliance towards Egypt must have occurred prior to the “anti-Babylonian conference” in Judah. In this case, Egypt must have acted in the Levant before 593. A Judean king would not have sent his forces to aid the enemy of his Babylonian overlord, without being convinced that the adventure is worth the risk, or without having another choice.

[End of quote]

The answer, in part, to the other question of the four that I had posed:

 

How to accommodate, chronologically, king Manasseh of Judah’s reign of 55 years?

 

seemingly an insurmountable problem considering the length of his reign, must now also take into account that Esarhaddon had overcome king Manasseh of Judah (https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/esarhaddon):

 

After Sidon’s fall twelve kings along the Mediterranean seacoast submitted to the Assyrians and were forced to supply wood and stone for the king’s palace in Nineveh. Among these was “Manasi king of Yaudi,” the Manasseh of the Bible. Manasseh had little choice. The Assyrian Empire had now reached its greatest power; and it appears that most of the Judean citizenry preferred peaceful submission, even with the Assyrian pagan influences now imposed on them, to constant abortive rebellion. Manasseh’s summons to appear before an Assyrian king, mentioned in 2Chr.33.11-2Chr.33.13, probably took place in the reign of Esarhaddon’s successor, Ashurbanipal.

[End of quote]

 

Yet, we know the names of the kings of Judah at the time of Nebuchednezzar, and none of these was “Manasseh”. The Jewish Encyclopedia tells of these various kings:

 

It is entirely reasonable to suppose that at the same time [Nebuchednezzar] descended upon Palestine and made Jehoiakim his subject (II Kings xxiv. 1). This campaign took place in 605.

The next year Nebuchadnezzar became king of Babylon; and he ruled for forty-three years, or until 561. Jehoiakim served him for three years, and then rebelled. He doubtless incited the neighboring tribes (ib. verse 2) to persecute Judah and bring its king to respect his oath. In 598 Nebuchadnezzar himself came westward, took Jehoiakim (II Chron. xxxvi. 6) and probably slew him, casting out his dead body unburied (Jer. xxii. 19, xxxvi. 30), and carried captive to Babylon 3,023 Jews (Jer. lii. 28). He placed Jehoiachin, the dead king’s son, on the throne. Three months were sufficient to prove Jehoiachin’s character (Ezek. xix. 5-9). He was taken with 10,000 of the best of the people of Jerusalem and carried to Babylon. His uncle Mattaniah, whose name was changed to Zedekiah, was put on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar in 597.

Egypt was continually intriguing with southwestern Asia, and was now courting the friendship of Zedekiah. This became so noticeable that Judah’s king made a journey to Babylon in the fourth year of his reign (Jer. li. 59), probably to assure Nebuchadnezzar of his loyalty to him. But by the ninth year of his reign Zedekiah became so friendly with the Egyptians that he made a league with them and thereupon rebelled against the King of Babylon. With due despatch Nebuchadnezzar and his army left for the Westland. He placed his base of action at Riblah in the north, and went southward and laid siege to Jerusalem. By some message the Egyptians learned of the siege and hastily marched to the relief of the beleaguered ally. The Babylonians raised the siege (Jer. xxxvii. 3-5) long enough to repulse the Egyptian arms, and came back and settled about Jerusalem. At the end of eighteen months (586) the wall yielded. Zedekiah and his retinue fled by night, but were overtaken in the plains of the Jordan. The king and his sons were brought before Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah; the sons were slain, and the king’s eyes bored out; and he was carried in chains to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar caused Jerusalem to be destroyed, and the sacred vessels of the Temple to be carried to Babylon. He placed Gedaliah in authority over the Jews who remained in the land. In the twenty-third year of his reign Nebuchadnezzar’s captain of the guard carried away 745 Jews, who had been gathered from those scattered through the land. Nebuchadnezzar entered Egypt also (Jer. xlvi. 13-26; Ezek. xxix. 2-20), according to his own inscriptions about 567, and dealt a severe blow to its supremacy and power.

The representations in the Book of Daniel of Nebuchadnezzar’s greatness are doubtless correct; and there is reason for believing that he was the great builder and glorifier of his capital. He was succeeded by his son Evil-merodach.

[End of quote]

 

Despite all of this, there is some biblical indication that the wicked Manasseh’s reign was not all that far distant from the Babylonian Captivity. According to Jeremiah 15:4: “I will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what Manasseh son of Hezekiah king of Judah did in Jerusalem”.

By then, in the Babylonian (Chaldean) era, king Manasseh of Judah ought to have been, as conventionally estimated (c. 697- 643 BC), something of a distant memory.

The solution to the problem is, I think, to overlap Manasseh’s long reign with those Judaean kings of the Babylonian era (mentioned above) in a way similar to how the reign of king Jehoiachin (Coniah) is still being considered even beyond the death of Nebuchednezzar II (Jeremiah 52:31): “In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of King Jehoiachin of Judah, Evil-merodach ascended to the Babylonian throne”.

This Evil-merodach is the same king as the briefly reigning and ill-fated “King Belshazzar” of Daniel 5, the son of Nebuchednezzar himself.

 

Evil-merodach is also the Belshazzar who was the son of King Nabonidus (= Nebuchednezzar).

 

Since writing all of this, I have come to the conclusion – formerly quite unexpected – that Esarhaddon, the supposed father of Ashurbanipal, also has to be Nebuchednezzar II:

 

Esarhaddon a tolerable fit for King Nebuchednezzar

https://www.academia.edu/37519086/Esarhaddon_a_tolerable_fit_for_King_Nebuchednezzar

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