Ahiqar and Ahi-yaqar

Published October 7, 2019 by amaic



Damien F. Mackey



“… if Ahiqar was not an ethnic Assyrian, he had evidently not only mastered the complicated cuneiform scribal art and absorbed the Assyrian culture in full, but also had gained the trust of his masters and the respect of the other courtiers for his wisdom”.

Takayoshi M. Oshima




Ahikar (or Achior in the Vulgate), the nephew of Tobit of the Israelite tribe of Naphtali, was a man of many parts, having famously served as a high official under Sennacherib – as the “Achior”, commander of the Elamites (not Ammonites), of the Book of Judith – then as second (ummânū) to Esarhaddon himself, who was Nebuchednezzar ‘the Great’. See e.g. my article:


Esarhaddon a tolerable fit for King Nebuchednezzar




and who may also have been the “Bagoas” of the Book of Judith:


An early glimpse of Nebuchednezzar II?




Ahiqar was also known as “Arioch” (Judith 1:6): “Many nations joined forces with King Arphaxad—all the people who lived in the mountains, those who lived along the Tigris, Euphrates, and Hydaspes rivers, as well as those who lived in the plain ruled by King Arioch of Elam. …”.

“Governor”, or “commander”, would probably be more accurate here than “King”, though did not Sennacherib boast (Isaiah 10:8): ‘Are not my commanders all kings?’

As “Arioch”, Ahiqar figures again in the Book of Daniel. See e.g. my article:


Meeting of the wise – Arioch and Daniel





In Takayoshi M. Oshima’s article, “How “Mesopotamian” was Ahiqar the Wise? A Search for Ahiqar in Cuneiform Texts”, we learn that the famous sage, Ahiqar, was also known by this, his original, name, Ahī-yaqar. On p. 144 (section “Ahiqar in Cuneiform Texts from the 7th Century BCE”), we read:



Ahiqar in Cuneiform Texts from the 7th Century BCE According to the Ahiqar narrative, Ahiqar served the Assyrian kings Sennacherib and Esarhaddon as a high-ranking courtier, specifically as cupbearer, seal-holder, scribe, counsellor and treasurer. If this is true and if Ahiqar was not an ethnic Assyrian, he had evidently not only mastered the complicated cuneiform scribal art and absorbed the Assyrian culture in full, but also had gained the trust of his masters and the respect of the other courtiers for his wisdom. In order to verify this account, the obvious thing to do is to seek for an individual called Ahiqar or the like in the cuneiform texts from the time of Sennacherib and Esarhaddon. And indeed we do find references to a man or men bearing the name Ahīyaqar.16 Thus, SAA 6, no. 123, line 1 (dated to 698, in the reign of Sennacherib) refers to an Ahī-yaqar, deputy governor of Arrapha (modern Kirkūk). The text SAA 6, no. 246, refers to a certain Ahī-yaqar who acted as a witness for a slave-sale (reign of Esarhaddon), but unfortunately his title has been lost (rev. 3). Furthermore, in SAA 6, no. 287 (dated to 670, in the reign of Esarhaddon), the name Ahī-yaqar appears as an eponym of the village Kapar-Ahī-yaqar (lit.: the village of Ahī-yaqar) that was located near Sippar (line 12). Finally, a man called Aqru is known from SAA 14, no. 215, rev. 10.17 Aqru is the adjective of the Akkadian waqāru, a cognate of yāqar, but the name could be a hypocoristic form of Ahī-yaqar. According to this text, Aqru was a cupbearer and citizen of Nineveh, just like Ahiqar in the legend. These references indeed prove that one or several persons called Ahī-yaqar existed and held important positions in the 7th century Assyrian administration …. because


And on p. 149 of the same article, we learn of “Ahiqar in the Uruk List of Sages”.


King Sage Designation Ayalu U4- dAn(60) abgal Alalgar U4- dAn(60)-du10.ga abgal Ammeluanna En.me-du10.ga abgal Ammegalanna En.me-galam.ma abgal Enmeušumgalanna En.me-bùlug.gá abgal Dumzi dAn(60)-en.líl.da abgal Enmeduranki Ù.tu-abzu abgal (Flood) Enmerkar Nun.gal-pirìg.gal abgal [Gilgam]eš dSîn(30)-lēqi(TI)-unninni(ÉR) lúummannu [Ibb]i-Sîn Kabtu(IDIM)-il-dMarduk(ŠÚ) lúummannu [Išbi]-Erra Si-dù = dEn-líl-ibni(DU) ummannu [Ab]i-Ešuh Gimil(ŠU)-dGula(ME.ME) and Ta-qišdGula(ME.ME) ummannū [Adad-apla-iddina? ] É-sag-gíl-ki-i-ni-apli(IBILA) ummannu Adad-apla-iddina É-sag-gíl-ki-i-ni-ub-ba ummannu Nebuchadnezzar (I) É-sag-gíl-ki-i-ni-ub-ba-LU43 ummannu Esarhaddon A.ba-dNINNU(5044-da-ri ummannu [šá lú]aḫ-la-«MI»-mu-ú i-qab-bu-ú ma-ḫu-ʾi-qa-a-ri45 [x(x)]x46 mni-qa-qu-ru-šu-ú (Nikarchos?) ….

Figure 10: Names and their definition in the Uruk List.


Some of these names may be duplicates, though, because of the need to fold, e.g. Middle and Neo Assyro-Babylonian history.

Thus, Nebuchednezzar I and his ummânū, É-sag-gíl-ki-i-ni-ub-ba, need to be folded (I think) with, respectively, Esarhaddon and his ummânū, a-ḫu-ʾi-qa-a-ri (or A.ba-dNINNU), that is, Ahī-yaqar (Aba-enlil-dari).


John Day, Robert P. Gordon, Hugh Godfrey Maturin Williamson write about the important sage, Ahiqar, in Wisdom in Ancient Israel, pp. 43-44:


The figure of Ahiqar has remained a source of interest to scholars in a variety of fields. The search for the real Ahiqar, the acclaimed wise scribe who served as chief counsellor to Sennacherib and Esarhaddon, was a scholarly preoccupation for many years. …. He had a sort of independent existence since he was known from a series of texts – the earliest being the Aramaic text from Elephantine, followed by the book of Tobit, known from the Apocrypha and the later Syriac, Armenian and Arabic texts of Ahiqar. …. An actual royal counsellor and high court official who had been removed from his position and later returned to it remains unknown.


Mackey’s comment: I have also identified this Ahiqar (var. Achior, Vulgate Book of Tobit) as the “Achior” (and also the “Arioch”) of the Book of Judith; and as the “Arioch” of the Book of Daniel.

Day et al. continue:


…. E. Reiner found the theme of the ‘disgrace and rehabilitation of a minister’ combined with that of the ‘ungrateful nephew’ in the ‘Bilingual Proverbs’, and saw this as a sort of parallel to the Ahiqar story.


Mackey’s comment: For my identification of the ‘ungrateful nephew’, Nadin (var. Nadab), see my article:


“Nadin” (Nadab) of Tobit is the “Holofernes” of Judith




Day et al. continue:


…. She [Reiner] also emphasized that in Mesopotamia the ummânu was not only a learned man or craftsman but was also a high official.


At the time that Reiner noted the existence of this theme in Babylonian wisdom literature, Ahiqar achieved a degree of reality with the discovery in Uruk, in the investigations of winter 1959/60, of a Late Babylonian tablet (W20030,7) dated to the 147th year of the Seleucid era (= 165 BCE).


Mackey’s comment: For my proposed radical revision of this Seleucid era, see my article:


A New Timetable for the Nativity of Jesus Christ


Day et al. continue:


…. This tablet contains a list of antediluvian kings and their sages (apkallû) and postdiluvian kings and their scholars (ummânu). The postdiluvian kings run from Gilgamesh to Esarhaddon. This text informs us (p. 45, lines 19-20) that in the time of King Aššur-aḫ-iddina, one A-ba-dninnu-da-ri (= Aba-enlil-dari), (whom) the Aḫlamu (i.e., Arameans) call Aḫ-‘u-qa-ri (= Aḫuqar), was the ummânu. As was immediately noted, Aḫuqar was the equivalent of Aḥiqar. ….

The names of the ummânē of Sennacherib and Esarhaddon are known to us from a variety of sources, but Ahiqar’s name does not appear in any contemporary source. ….


Mackey’s comment: But what is actually “contemporary” may now need to be seriously reconsidered if there is any weight to my series:


Aligning Neo Babylonia with Book of Daniel. Part One: Shortening the Chaldean Dynasty




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




Day et al. continue:


Indeed, it has been recently claimed that the passage from the Uruk document ‘is clearly fictitious and of no historical value’, for A-ba-dninnu-da-ri was the name of a scholar known from the Middle Babylonian period.


Mackey’s comment: That is exactly what I would expect to find, the sage ummânu existing in both the so-called Middle and the neo Assyro-Babylonian periods, due to a necessary as demanded by revision) folding of the Middle into the later period.

Day et al. continue:


…. Yet, the listing of Ahiqar in a Late Babylonian tablet testifies to the fact that the role of Ahiqar, as known from the Aramaic version found at Elephantine, the book of Tobit, and the later Ahiqar sources, was firmly entrenched in Babylonian tradition.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: