Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Folding four ‘Middle’ Assyrian kings into first four ‘Neo’ Assyrian kings

Damien F. Mackey
The correct Assyrian succession of kings is, I believe:
This is the very order of so-called ‘Middle’ Assyrian kings that one finds listed in, for instance, Marc Van de Mieroop’s book, A History of the Ancient Near East ca. 3000-323 BC (p. 294):
Adad-nirari I (1305-1274)
Shalmaneser I (1273-44)
Tukulti-Ninurta I (1243-07)
Assur-nadin-apli (1206-03)
Van de Mieroop then, typically (i.e., like all conventional historians), lists those very same names again (except that “Assurnasirpal” replaces “Assur-nadin-apli”) - but now in an order different from above - on the next page (p. 295):
Adad-nirari II (911-891)
Tukulti-Ninurta II (890-84)
Assurnasirpal II (883-59)
Shalmaneser III (858-24)
In the first case (p. 294) the order is perfect, so I think, but the dates are hopelessly high.
I have already argued in various articles for the need for so-called ‘Middle’ Assyro-Babylonia to be folded with the ‘Neo’ period. See e.g. my article:
Bringing New Order to Mesopotamian History and Chronology
In the second case (p. 295), the so-called ‘beginning of the Neo-Assyrian period’, the correct order of kings has been scrambled, but the dates are far more reasonable.
Still, even those later dates are well out (too high), by a century or more.
These four kings need to be dragged, kicking and screaming, even further down the time line, commencing at approximately 755 BC (this still being conventional dating, though, and must still be lowered somewhat).
Let us consider these four kings in revised order:
  • First King: Adad-nirari
He, as Adad-nirari III (811 BC–783 BC), was a contemporary of the Jehu-ide dynasty of Israel, having taken tribute from either Jehoahaz of Israel or his son, Jehoash.
See e.g. Stephanie Page, “A Stela of Adad-Nirari III and Nergal-Ereš from Tell al Rimah”
  • Second King: Shalmaneser
This revision now chronologically demands that Shalmaneser I (and II) be recognised as III -
Shalmaneser III, whom I have previously identified with Tiglath-pileser III/Shalmaneser V:
Shalmaneser III not of the El Amarna [EA] Era
Finding new opponents for Assyrians at Qarqar
And in my university thesis, I had also paired off Tiglath-pileser I and III.
  • Third King: Tukulti-Ninurta
Now if, as I have surmised in articles such as:
Can Tukulti-Ninurta I be king Sennacherib?
Tukulti-ninurta I - conventionally dated (as we read above) to 1243-1207 BC - was the late Assyria king Sennacherib (c. 705 - 681 BC, conventional dating), then ‘Middle’ Assyrian history needs to undergo a massive shrinkage of more than five centuries, and same named Assyrian kings (they all tended to record the same anyway, like Doctor Who Daleks) be identified as one.
  • Fourth King: Assur-nadin-apli
Emmet Sweeney identified Assur-nadin-apli with Ashurnasirpal II, as did I (not sure or not now whether this was done independently of Emmet) on p. 78 of my university thesis.
The names are virtually identical:
Aššūr-nādin-apli, “Ashur is the giver of an heir”.
Aššur-nāṣir-apli, “Ashur is guardian of the heir”.
The comparison becomes apparent here: “Copies of the Assyrian King List record that "Aššūr-nādin or nāṣir-apli … seized the throne (for himself …) …”.
Now Ashurnasirpal (I-II) I have recently identified with Nebuchednezzar ‘the Great’, who, in my revised scheme of things, now follows on directly from Sennacherib. See e.g. my article:
Ashurnasirpal I-II 'King of the World'
Whilst the correct order of the four kings, as determined above, is this:
these four now require to be greatly enlarged (with alter egos included) to this:
Adad-nirari I-III [contemporary of Jehu-ides];
Shalmaneser I-V = Tiglath-pileser I-III;
Tukulti-Ninurta I-II = Sennacherib (my Sargon II);
Assur-nadin-apli = Ashurnasirpal I-II = Esarhaddon = Ashurbanipal = Nebuchednezzar.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Adrammelech and Sharezer murdered king Sennacherib


“One day, while [Sennacherib] was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch,
his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword and escaped
to the land of Ararat. Then his son Esar-haddon became king in his place”.
2 Kings 19:37
Tobit 1:21 collaborates this, but without naming the two regicidal sons:
“… two of Sennacherib's sons assassinated him and then escaped to the mountains of Ararat. Another son, Esarhaddon, became emperor and put Ahikar, my brother Anael's son, in charge of all the financial affairs of the empire”.
Tobit 1:21
As far as I (Damien Mackey) am aware, “Sharezer” has not yet been positively identified.
Emil G. Kraeling thinks that: “Sharezer was probably not a son” (“The Death of Sennacherib”, Jstor 53, No. 4, December, 1933, cf. note 32).
Thanks to professor Simo Parpola, “Adrammelech” has been identified as one of Sennacherib’s known sons: http://www.gatewaystobabylon.com/introduction/murderersennacherib.htm   
The news of the murder of Sennacherib, King of Assyria, on 20 Tebet, 681, was received with mixed feelings but certainly with strong emotion alI over the ancient Near East. In Israel and Babylonia, it was hailed as godsent punishment for the "godless" deeds of a hated despot; in Assyria, the reaction must have been overwhelmingly horror and resentment. Not surprisingly, then, the event is relatively well reported or referred to in contemporary and later sources, both cuneiform and non-cuneiform, and has been the subject of considerable scholar]y debate as well. In spite of all this attention, however, the most central thing about the whole affair has remained an open question: the identity of the murderer.

While alI our sources agree that he was one of the king's own sons, his name js not known from any cunciform text, and the names offered by the Bible and Berossus, alI of them evidently textually corrupt, have not been satisfactorily explained and are accordingly looked at with understandable suspicion. A theory favored in the early days of Assyriology, according to which these names should be viewed as corruptions of Ardior Arad-Ninlil. a son of Scnnacherib known from a contemporary legal document, has gradually had to give way to an entirely different interpretatjon, according to which the murderer (or at least the mastermind behind the murder) was none but Sennacherib's heir-designate and successor to throne himself, Esarhaddon, who would have been forced to engineer the assassination in order to avoid being replaced by one of his brothers. The weakness of this theory is that it is in disagreement not only with Esarhaddon's own account of the course of events, which puts the blame on his brothers, but also with the traditions of the Bible and Berossus; it also involves a lot of reading between the lines. For these reasons, it has not been universally accepted either, and the case is largely viewed as unsolved for lack of clear-cut, conclusive evidence.
In this paper I hope to show that the available evidence is not at alI so elusive as is commonly thought, and actually suffices for determining the identity of the assassin with reasonable certainty. There is a Neo-Babylonian letter, published decades ago, which explicitly states the name of the murderer, and this name is not only known to have been borne by a son of Sennacherib but it also virtuaIIy agrees with the name forms found in the Bible and at Berossus. The text in question, R. Harper, Assyrian and Babylonian Letters (=ABL) XI no.1091 (Chicago 1911), has escaped attention because it was completely misunderstood and mistranslated by its editor, Leroy Waterman; the name has remained unidentified because its actual pronunciation has been obscured by its misleading logographic speIIing. In what foIIows, I shaII analyse both the letter and the name in detail and finaIIy integrate tile new evidence with the previously known facts in a brief reassessment of the murder and its prehistory.
The beginning of ABL 1091 is lost. The first three extant lines are fragmentary, but sufficiently much of them remains to suggest that they referred to certain "Babylonian brothers'. of the writer (or writers).lu From line 4' on the text can be foIIowed better. The persons just mentioned gain knowledge of a "treaty of rebeIIion", and subsequently one of them requests an audience with the king. The expression for this is "to say the king's word" which, as shown by J. N. Postgate years ago.l It implies that the person in question applied to the king as the supreme judge and should consequently have been sent directly to the Palace.

This, however, is not what happens in the present case. Two Assyrian officials appear and question the man. Having found whom his appeal concerns, they cover his face and take him away. This, in itself. is perhaps not significant, for ordinary people were not permitted to look at the king face to face. But what foIIows is startling. The man is not taken to the king but to Arad-Ninlil, the very person he wanted to talk about, and (his face stiII covered) is ordered to speak out. Clearly under the i]lusion that he is speaking to the king, he subsequently dec]ares: "Your son AradNinlil is going to kiII you. " Things now take a drastic course.
The face of the man is uncovered: he is interrogated by Arad-Ninlil: and after that he is put to death along with his comrades mentioned in the beginning of the letter. The remaining seven lines are too fragmentary to be properly understood.
To bring home the significance of this letter, let me put together some basic facts. The first is that it was clearly the "treaty of rebellion" mentioned at the beginning of the text that induced the unfortunate man to appeal to the king; second, that his information concerned Arad-Ninlil; and third, that because of this information, he and alI his comrades knowing about the "treaty of rebellion " instantly got killed. Accordingly, we may conclude that the assertion "Your son Arad-Ninlil will kill you" was something Arad-Ninlil did not want to become publicly known; and since this statement was meant for the ears of the king, it is evident (1) that the person Arad-Ninlil intended to kill was the king himself and (2) that Arad-Ninlil himself was the king's own son. It follows that AradNinlil was involved in a conspiracy aiming at the murder of the king, and quite obviously was the leading figure in it.
Nowhere in the letter is the name Arad-Ninlil preserved completely; the last sign LÍL is broken away or damaged in alI instances. But no other Sargonid prince with a name beginning with the sign ARAD is known, so the restoration of the final element can be regarded as certain. Since Arad-Ninlil is only attested as a son of Sennacherib, the king referred to in the text can only be Sennacherib.
On the other hand. it is clear that the letter itself cannot have been addressed to Sennacherib. Had the writer wanted to warn the king of a threatening assassination, he would have expressed himself differently. Hence, one must conclude that the letter was written after the murder had already taken place, and therefore probably was addressed to Esarhaddon. As this king must. from the beginning, have been reasonably well informed about his father's murder, it would be absurd to assume that the purpose of the writer was simply to inform the king about the identity of the murderer. His aim was certainly different. If we consider the text more closely. it is easy to see that the writer took the leading role of Arad-Ninlil in the conspiracy as generally known: but what he is trying to make clear is that the two officials mentioned in the letter were responsible for the death of the informer and therefore by implication also involved in the conspiracy.Both men. Nabu-sum-iskun and Sillâ. are w.ell known as officials of Sennacherib who continued in their offices through the early years of Esarhaddon: the Kuyunjik letter archiye contains many denunciations against the latter. The present letter clearly is in the same category. and by using as an argument against Sillâ his role in silencing the informer, it actually implies that the prediction "your son Arad-Ninlil will kill you" had become a fact meanwhile.
Thus, the letter just discussed powerfully supports the position of the scholars who have seen in Arad-Ninlil the likeliest candidate for the murderer of Sennacherib. and in fact makes it a matter of yirtual certainty. We may hence pass on to a serious reconsideration of the problem of how to satisfactorily relate the name Arad-Ninlil to the names of the murderer (Adrammelech/Adramelos/Ardumuzan) given in the Bible and the BerossuS excerpts.
Actually, there is hardly any problem here at all. We are now in a position to show that the traditional reading of the (logographically spelled) Assyrian name, on which the earlier comparisons were based (and which has also been used here for convenience) is incorrect and should be abolished. In particular, the theophoric element at the end of the name (d-NIN.LÍL) has to be read [Mulissu] or [Mullêsu], not *Ninlil. This reading, first tentatively suggested by E. Reiner twelve years ago and since then increasingly well documented, represents the Neo-Assyrian form of the Akkadian name of the goddess Ninlil, attested as Mulliltum in an Old-Babylonian god list. It appears to have been very wide-spread in the first millennium, and is actually attested in syllabic spellings of the very name under consideration. On the other hand, the reading of the first element (ARAD) can be determined as [ arda] or [ ardi] on the basis of occasional syllabic spellings in contemporary and earlier Assyrian texts. And once the reading Arda-Mulissi has been established, the names of the murderer found in the non-cuneiform sources become relatively easy to explain. The Biblical Adrammelech differs from the Assyrian name only in two respects: the metathesis or r and d, and the replacement of shin at the end of the name by kaph.
The former point is negligible since r and d were virtually homographic and therefore easy to confuse in early Hebrew and Aramaic script;26 the second can be explained as a scribal error. It is not difficult to imagine a scribe correcting a seemingly nonsensical "meles" to "melek", a frequent final element in North-West Semitic personal names. The Berossian name forms show an even better match. The form Adramelos found in the Abydenos excerpt is virtually identical with Arda-Mulissi save for the already discussed metathesis of r and d (which may have been influenced by the familiarity of Eusebius with the Biblical form). The name Ardumuzan agrees with Arda-Mulissi up to its last syllable which can only be due to textual corruption. It is important to note that in this name, the metathesis of r and d does not take place.
In sum, it can be stated that all three names can be relatively easily traced back to Arda-Mulissi; and "then one comes to think about it. it would be very hard if not impossible to find another Assyrian name "which could provide as satisfactory an explanation for them as this one does. The identification of Arad-Ninliu Arda-Mulissi as the murderer of Sennacherib can thus be considered doubly assured. But "what were his motives, and how did he end up doing what he did? My reconstruction of the course of events is as follows:

In 694, Sennacherib eldest son and heir-designate Assur-nãdin-sumi is captured by Babylonians and carried off to Elam; he is no more heard of. 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 favorite son of Sennacherib thanks to his mother Naqia, who is not the mother of ArdaMulissi. Eventually, Esarhaddon is officially proclaimed crown prince, and all Assyria is made to swear allegiance to him. However, ArdaMulissi enjoys considerable popularity among certain circles who would like to see him as their future king rather than sickly Esarhaddon. As years pass, the opposition to Esarhaddon grows, while at the same time Arda-Mulissi and his brother(s) gain in popularity. This political development leads to a turn of events, but not to the one hoped for by ArdaMulissi and his supporters. Foreseeing trouble, Sennacherib sends Esarhaddon away from the capital to the western provinces; yet he does not revise the order of succession. In this situation, Arda-Mulissi and his borther(s) soon find themselves in a stalemate. On the one hand, they are at their political zenith while their rival brother has to languish in exile; on the other hand, the latter remains the crown prince, and there is nothing his brothers can do about it since the position of Sennacherib remains unchanged and Esarhaddon himself is out of reach in the provinces. Supposing he were able to score military victories, his popularity would undoubtedly rise while that of his brothers might easily start to sink. The only way for them to make good of the situation, it seems, is to act swiftly and take over the kingship by force. A "treaty of rebellion" is concluded; and probably not much later, Sennacherib is stabbed to death by Arda-Mulissi or, perhaps, crushed alive under a winged bull colossus guarding the temple where he had been praying at the time of the murder. This reconstruction closely follows Esarhaddon's own account of the events. and similar interpretations have been presented earlier by others.


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Meeting of the wise – Arioch and Daniel

 The Rabshakeh and his men outside the wall of Jerusalem




Damien F. Mackey




Part One:

Refreshing our minds about Ahikar



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


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


Ahikar’s Importance


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


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

Ahikar was, at the very least …:


1.      a key link between the Book of Judith and those other books, Kings, Chronicles and Isaiah [KCI] that describe Sennacherib’s rise to prominence and highly successful first major invasion of Israel (historically his 3rd campaign), and then

2.      Sennacherib’s second major invasion of Israel and subsequent disastrous defeat there; and he was

3.      an eyewitness in the east, as Tobit’s own nephew, to neo-Assyrian events as narrated in the Book of Tobit.


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


Here is Ahikar:


His Israelite Beginnings


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


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

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


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




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

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

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


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


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


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




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


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



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


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


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

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


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

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


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


Book of Judith: confusion of names



Sennacherib’s Third campaign


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


A legend had been born, Ahikar the Rabshakeh!

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


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

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

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



The Vizier (Ummânu)


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


As a Ruling ‘King’ (or Governor)


The Elamite Connection


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

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

I now think that it occurred well before that.

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


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


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


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


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

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


Commentators express puzzlement about him. Who was this Arioch?

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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






Part Two:

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



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



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

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

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


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



Arioch in Daniel


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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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


Part Three:

Ahikar and Daniel Comparisons



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




Books and articles abound comparing Ahikar and Daniel.


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


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


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

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

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

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

[End of quote]


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


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


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

We refer to the book of Daniel.


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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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