Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Babylonian Clay Tablet Confirms Existence of Biblical Figure

A tiny clay cuneiform tablet discovered near Baghdad in 1920, but only recently translated, has confirmed the existence of a person mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah. As reported by Israel National News, Dr. Michael Jursa, a Vienna expert on ancient Babylonia, translated the tablet for the first time on a visit to the British Museum. The tablet, a bill of receipt, read:

"[Regarding] 1.5 minas (0.75 kg) of gold, the property of Nabu-sharrussu-ukin, the chief eunuch, which he sent via Arad-Banitu the eunuch to [the temple] Esangila: Arad-Banitu has delivered [it] to Esangila. In the presence of Bel-usat, son of Alpaya, the royal bodyguard, [and of] Nadin, son of Marduk-zer-ibni. Month XI, day 18, year 10 [of] Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon."

Sensing that the name of the chief eunuch mentioned on the tablet sounded familiar, Dr. Jursa turned to the 39th chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, where in verse 3 the prophet recounts the names of Babylonian officials sent by King Nebuchadnezzar to assist in the destruction of Jerusalem. One of them is (Shamgar) Nebo Sarsechim, which Dr. Jursa identified as a slightly different spelling of the name of the official mentioned in the Babylonian tablet.

Irving Finkel, assistant keeper in the British Museum's Middle East Department, was very excited: "This is a fantastic discovery," he told The Telegraph, "a world-class find. If Nevo-Sarsekim existed, [then] which other lesser figures in the Old Testament existed? A throwaway detail in the Old Testament turns out to be accurate and true. I think that it means that the whole of the narrative [of Jeremiah] takes on a new kind of power."

Speaking with The Times, Finkel said, “A mundane commercial transaction takes its place as a primary witness to one of the turning points in Old Testament history. This is a tablet that deserves to be famous.”

Stories on the discovery appeared online in The Telegraph and The Times.

Israel National News notes wryly that Mr. Finkel's reaction indicates "that the discovery has not yet totally shaken the core faith of some who believe that the Bible is not true," as evidenced by Finkel's statement, "which other lesser figures in the Old Testament existed"; as if the proven existence of Nevo-Sarsekim may turn out to be a fluke. Nonetheless, as Jews approach the annual fast of the Ninth of Av, when we mourn for the destruction of the First Temple by Nebuchadnezzar's army, and read the Book of Lamentations, also written by Jeremiah, it is timely that a new archeological discovery testifies to the veracity of Jeremiah's account.


Anonymous golfdad said...

Every imaginative work of fiction, no matter how surreal or even bizarre, contains some items of truth and some information familiar to intended readers. I'll wager that all the fantastic and manipulative stories of con artists contain kernels of truth. Those are what suck in the victim.
That the writers of the books of the bible did not forget to include at least a few elements of reality, to establish a veneer of verisimilitude, is neither surprising nor convincing.

Friday, September 14, 2007 7:36:00 PM  

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