Supplication of Nebuchadnezzar
Babylonian inscriptions are by no means so replete with interest as the Assyrian. The latter embrace the various expeditions in which the Assyrian monarchs were engaged, and bring us into contact with the names and locality of rivers, cities, and mountain-ranges, with contemporary princes in Judea and elsewhere, and abound in details as to domestic habits, civil usages, and the implements and modes of warfare. But the Babylonian inscriptions refer mainly to the construction of temples, palaces, and other public buildings, and at the same time present especial difficulties in their numerous architectural terms which it is often impossible to translate with any certainty. They are, however, interesting as records of the piety and religious feelings of the sovereigns of Babylon, and as affording numerous topographical notices of that famous city; while the boastful language of the inscription will often remind the reader of Nebuchadnezzar’s words in Dan. iv. 30: “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?” Compare column vii, line 32.
The reign of Nebuchadnezzar extended from B.C. 604 to 561. In B.C. 598 he laid siege to Jerusalem (2 Kings xxiv.) and made Jehoiachin prisoner, and in 588 again captured the city, and carried Zedekiah, who had rebelled against him, captive to Babylon (2 Kings xxv.). Josephus gives an account of his expeditions against Tyre and Egypt, which are also mentioned with many details in Ezek. xxvii.-xxix.
The name Nebuchadnezzar, or more accurately Nebuchadrezzar (Jer. xxi. 2, 7, etc.), is derived from the Jewish Scriptures. But in the inscriptions it reads Nebo-kudurri-ussur, i.e., “may Nebo protect the crown”; a name analogous to that of his father Nebo(Nabu)-habal-ussur. (“Nebo protect the son”) and to that of Belshazzar, i.e., “Bel protect the prince.” The phonetic writing of Nebuchadnezzar is “An-pa-sa-du-sis,” each of which syllables has been identified through the syllabaries. The word “kudurri” is probably the [Hebrew: kether] of Esther vi. 8, and the [Greek: kidaris] of the Greeks. The inscriptions of which a translation follows was found at Babylon by Sir Harford Jones Bridges, and now forms part of the India House Collection. It is engraved on a short column of black basalt, and is divided into ten columns, containing 619 lines.
It may be worth while to remark that in the name given to the prophet Daniel, Belteshazzar, i.e., Balat-su-ussur (“preserve thou his life”), and in Abednego (“servant of Nebo”), we have two of the component parts of the name of Nebuchadnezzar himself.
INSCRIPTION OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR
1 Nebuchadnezzar 2 King of Babylon, 3 glorious Prince, 4 worshipper of Marduk, 5 adorer of the lofty one, 6 glorifier of Nabu, 7 the exalted, the possessor of intelligence, 8 who the processions of their divinities 9 hath increased; 10 a worshipper of their Lordships, 11 firm, not to be destroyed; 12 who for the embellishment 13 of Bit-Saggatu and Bit-Zida 14 appointed days hath set apart, and 15 the shrines of Babylon 16 and of Borsippa 17 hath steadily increased; 18 exalted Chief, Lord of peace, 19 embellisher of Bit-Saggatu and Bit-Zida, 20 the valiant son 21 of Nabopolassar 22 King of Babylon am I.
23 When he, the Lord god my maker made me, 24 the god Merodach, he deposited 25 my germ in my mother’s (womb): 26 then being conceived 27 I was made. 28 Under the inspection of Assur my judge 29 the processions of the god I enlarged, 30 (namely) of Merodach great Lord, the god my maker. 31 His skilful works 32 highly have I glorified; 33 and of Nebo his eldest son 34 exalter of My Royalty 35 the processions (in honor of) his exalted deity 36 I firmly established. 37 With all my heart firmly 38 (in) worship of their deities I uprose 39 in reverence for Nebo their Lord.
40 Whereas Merodach, great Lord, 41 the head of My ancient Royalty, 42 hath empowered me over multitudes of men, 43 and (whereas) Nebo bestower of thrones in heaven and earth, 44 for the sustentation of men, 45 a sceptre of righteousness 46 hath caused my hand to hold; 47 now I, that sacred way 48 for the resting-place of their divinities, 49 for a memorial of all their names, 50 as a worshipper of Nebo, Yav and Istar, 51 for Merodach my Lord I strengthened. 52 Its threshold I firmly laid, and 53 my devotion of heart he accepted, and 54 him did I proclaim 55 … Lord of all beings, and 56 as Prince of the lofty house, and 57 thou, (O Nebuchadnezzar) hast proclaimed the name of him 58 who has been beneficent unto thee. 59 His name, (O god,) thou wilt preserve, 60 the path of righteousness thou hast prescribed to him. 61 I, a Prince, and thy worshipper 62 am the work of thy hand; 63 thou hast created me, and 64 the empire over multitudes of men 65 thou hast assigned me, 66 according to thy favor, O Lord, 67 which thou hast accorded 68 to them all. 69 May thy lofty Lordship be exalted! 70 in the worship of thy divinity 71 may it subsist! in my heart 72 may it continue, and my life which to thee is devoted
(Continued on Column II.)
[Footnote 1: Two of the principal temples of Babylon. The former occurs below, Col. ii. 40, where it is followed by the epithet, “Temple of his power.” Dr. Oppert always renders it “la Pyramide et la Tour.”]
[Footnote 2: Literally, “the goings.” Compare Ps. lxviii. 24: “They have seen thy goings, O God,” i.e., processions.]
[Footnote 3: Of this line Mr. Norris (Dict., p. 166) states “that he cannot suggest any rendering.”]
[Footnote 4: It seems as if the hand were addressed.]
[Footnote 5: I.e., “in making me their ruler.”]
1 mayest thou bless!
2 He, the Chief, the honorable, 3 the Prince of the gods, the great Merodach, 4 my gracious Lord, heard 5 and received my prayer; 6 he favored it, and by his exalted power, 7 reverence for his deity 8 placed he in my heart: 9 to bear his tabernacle 10 he hath made my heart firm, 11 with reverence for thy power, 12 for exalted service, 13 greatly and eternally.
14 The foundation of his temple it was 15 which from the upper waters 16 to the lower waters 17 in a remote way, 18 in a spot exposed to winds, 19 in a place whose pavements had been broken, 20 low, dried up, 21 a rugged way, 22 a difficult path, 23 I extended. 24 The disobedient I stirred up, 25 and I collected the poor and 26 gave full directions (for the work) and 27 in numbers I supported them. 28 Wares and ornaments 29 for the women I brought forth, 30 silver, molten gold, precious stones, 31 metal, umritgana and cedar woods, 32 (however their names be written) 33 a splendid abundance, 34 the produce of mountains, 35 sea clay, 36 beautiful things in abundance, 37 riches and sources of joy, 38 for my city Babylon, 39 into his presence have I brought 40 for Bit-Saggatu 41 the temple of his power, 42 ornaments for Dakan 43 Bit-Kua, the shrine 44 of Merodach, Lord of the house of the gods, 45 I have made conspicuous with fine linen 46 and its seats 47 with splendid gold, 48 as for royalty and deity, 49 with lapis lazuli and alabaster blocks 50 I carefully covered them over; 51 a gate of passage, the gate Beautiful, 52 and the gate of Bit-Zida and Bit-Saggatu 53 I caused to be made brilliant as the sun. 54 A fulness of the treasures of countries I accumulated; 55 around the city it was placed as an ornament, 56 when at the festival of Lilmuku at the beginning of the year, 57 on the eighth day (and) eleventh day, 58 the divine Prince, Deity of heaven and earth, the Lord god, 59 they raised within it. 60 (The statue) of the god El, the beauty of the sphere, 61 reverently they bring; 62 treasure have they displayed before it, 63 a monument to lasting days, 64 a monument of my life.
65 They also placed within it
(Continued on Column III.)
[Footnote 1: Mr. Norris conjectures “amber.”]
[Footnote 2: Dagon.]
[Footnote 3: “Sassanis.” The root is probably identical with the Hebrew “shesh,” “fine linen”; thus in Ex. xxvi. I: “Thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen.”]
[Footnote 4: These are found still in the ruins of Babylon.]
[Footntoe 5: Compare the Beautiful Gate of the Jewish Temple.]
[Footnote 6: Mr. Norris in his Dictionary professes his inability to master the first words of this line, p. 580. The same remark applies to line 58. The above rendering is suggested to me by Mr. G. Smith.]
1 his altar, an altar of Royalty; 2 an altar of Lordship, 3 (for) the Chief of the gods, the Prince Merodach, 4 whose fashion the former Prince 5 had fashioned in silver, 6 with bright gold accurately weighed out 7 I overlaid. 8 Beautiful things for the temple Bit-Saggatu 9 seen at its very summit, 10 the shrine of Merodach, with statues and marbles 11 I embellished 12 as the stars of heaven. 13 The fanes of Babylon 14 I built, I adorned. 15 Of the house, the foundation of the heaven and earth, 16 I reared the summit 17 with blocks of noble lapis lazuli: 18 to the construction of Bit-Saggatu 19 my heart uplifted me; 20 in abundance I wrought 21 the best of my pine trees 22 which from Lebanon 23 together with tall _Babil-_wood I brought, 24 for the portico of the temple of Merodach: 25 the shrine of his Lordship 26 I made good, and interior walls 27 with pine and tall cedar woods: 28 the portico of the temple of Merodach, 29 with brilliant gold I caused to cover, 30 the lower thresholds, the cedar awnings, 31 with gold and precious stones 32 I embellished: 33 in the erection of Bit-Saggatu 34 I proceeded: I supplicated 35 the King of gods, the Lord of Lords: 36 in Borsippa, the city of his loftiness, 37,38 I raised Bit-Zida: a durable house 39 in the midst thereof I caused to be made. 40 With silver, gold, precious stones, 41 bronze, ummakana and pine woods, 42 those thresholds I completed: 43 the pine wood portico 44 of the shrine of Nebo 45 with gold I caused to cover, 46 the pine wood portico of the gate of the temple of Merodach 47 I caused to overlay with bright silver. 48 The bulls and columns of the gate of the shrine 49 the thresholds, the sigari of _ri-_wood, conduits 50 of Babnaku wood and their statues 51 with cedar wood awnings 52 of lofty building, 53 and silver, I adorned. 54 The avenues of the shrine 55 and the approach to the house, 56 of conspicuous brick 57 sanctuaries in its midst 58 with perforated silver work. 59 Bulls, columns, doorways, 60,61 in marble beautifully I built; 62,63 I erected a shrine and with rows 64 of wreathed work I filled it: 65 the fanes of Borsippa 66 I made and embellished; 67 the temple of the seven spheres 68 … 69 with bricks of noble lapis lazuli 70 I reared its summit: 71 the tabernacle of Nahr-kanul 72 the chariot of his greatness
(Continued on Column IV.)
[Footnote 1: Lacuna.]
1 the tabernacle, the shrine Lilmuku, 2 the festival of Babylon, 3,4 his pageant of dignity 5 within it, I caused to decorate 6 with beryls and stones.
7 A temple for sacrifices, the lofty citadel 8 of Bel and Merodach, god of gods, 9 a threshold of joy and supremacy 10 among angels and spirits, 11 with the stores of Babylon, 12 with cement and brick, 13 like a mountain I erected.
14 A great temple of Ninharissi 15 in the centre of Babylon 16 to the great goddess the mother who created me, 17 in Babylon I made. 18 To Nebo of lofty intelligence 19 who hath bestowed (on me) the sceptre of justice, 20 to preside over all peoples, 21 a temple of rule over men, and a site for this his temple 22,23 in Babylon, of cement and brick 24 the fashion I fashioned.
25,26 To the Moon-god, the strengthener of my hands 27 a large house of alabaster as his temple 28 in Babylon I made. 29 To the sun, the judge supreme 30 who perfects good in my body, 31 a house for that guide of men, even his house’ 32,33 in Babylon, of cement and brick, 34 skilfully did I make.
35 To the god Yav, establisher of fertility 36 in my land, Bit-Numkan as his temple 37 in Babylon I built.
38 To the goddess Gula, the regulator 39 and benefactress of my life, 40 Bit-Samit, and Bit-haris the lofty, 41,42 as fanes in Babylon, in cement and brick 43 strongly did I build.
44 To the divine Lady of Bit Anna, 45 my gracious mistress, 46 Bit-Kiku in front of her house 47 so as to strengthen the wall of Babylon 48 I skilfully constructed.
49,50 To Ninip the breaker of the sword of my foes 51 a temple in Borsippa I made; 52 and to the Lady Gula 53 the beautifier of my person 54 Bit-Gula, Bit-Tila, Bit-Ziba-Tila, 55 her three temples 56 in Borsippa I erected: 57 to the god Yav who confers 58 the fertilizing rain upon my land, 59,60 his house (also) in Borsippa I strongly built: 61 to the Moon-god who upholds 62 the fulness of my prosperity 63 Bit-ti-Anna as his temple, 64 on the mound near Bit-Ziba 65 I beautifully constructed: 66,67 Imgur-Bel and Nimetti-Belkit 68 the great walls of Babylon, 69 … I built, 70 which Nabopolassar 71 King, King of Babylon, the father who begat me, 72 had commenced but not completed their beauty
(Continued on Column V.)
[Footnote 1: Wife of the sun.]
[Footnote 2: In I Mich. iv. 5. Gula is said to be the wife of the southern sun.]
[Footnote 3: Or, “the favorer of my praises.”]
[Footnote 4: The goddess Anna is identical with the Nana whose image was by her own command restored by Assurbanipal to the temple of Bit-Anna after an absence in Elam of 1,635 years. See Smith’s “Assurb.,” pp. 234, 235.]
[Footnote 5: Lacuna.]
1 Its fosse he dug 2 and of two high embankments 3 in cement and brick 4 he finished the mass: 5,6 an embankment for pathways he made, 7,8 Buttresses of brick beyond the Euphrates 9,10 he constructed, but did not complete: 11,12 the rest from … 13 the best of their lands I accumulated: 14 a place for sacrifice, as ornament, 15,16 as far as Aibur-sabu near Babylon 17 opposite the principal gate 18 with brick and durmina-turda stone 19 as a shrine of the great Lord, the god Merodach 20 I built as a house for processions. 21,22 I his eldest son, the chosen of his heart, 23,24 Imgur-Bel and Nimetti-Bel 25,26 the great walls of Babylon, completed: 27 buttresses for the embankment of its fosse, 28 and two long embankments 29 with cement and brick I built, and 30 with the embankment my father had made 31,32 I joined them; and to the city for protection 33,34 I brought near an embankment of enclosure 35 beyond the river, westward. 36 The wall of Babylon 37,38 I carried round Aibur-sabu 39 in the vicinity of Babylon: 40 for a shrine of the great Lord Merodach 41,42 the whole enclosure I filled (with buildings) 43 with brick made of kamina-turda stone 44 and brick of stone cut out of mountains. 45,46 Aibur-sabu from the High gate, 47,48 as far as Istar-Sakipat I made, 49,50 for a shrine for his divinity I made good, 51 and with what my father had made 52,53 I joined, and built it; 54,55,56 and the access to Istar-Sakipat I made, 57,58 which is Imgur-Bel and Nimetti-Bel, 59 the great gates, the whole temple of the gods, 60,61 in completeness near to Babylon 62 I brought down; 63,64 the materials of those great gates 65 I put together and
(Continued on Column VI.)
[Footnote 1: Lacuna.]
[Footnote 2: An ornamental piece of water near Babylon.]
1 their foundations opposite to the waters 2,3 in cement and brick I founded, 4 and of strong stone of zamat-hati, 5 bulls and images, 6 the building of its interior 7 skilfully I constructed: 8,9,10 tall cedars for their porticos I arranged, 11 ikki wood, cedar wood, 12 with coverings of copper, 13 on domes and arches: 14,15 work in bronze I overlaid substantially on its gates, 16,17 bulls of strong bronze and molten images 18 for their thresholds, strongly. 19 Those large gates 20 for the admiration of multitudes of men 21 with wreathed work I filled: 22 the abode of Imzu-Bel 23 the invincible castle of Babylon, 24 which no previous King had effected, 25 4,000 cubits complete, 26 the walls of Babylon 27 whose banner is invincible, 28 as a high fortress by the ford of the rising sun, 29 I carried round Babylon. 30 Its fosse I dug and its mass 31 with cement and brick 32,33 I reared up and a tall tower at its side 34 like a mountain I built. 35,36 The great gates whose walls I constructed 37 with ikki and pine woods and coverings of copper 38 I overlaid them, 39 to keep off enemies from the front 40 of the wall of unconquered Babylon. 41,42 Great waters like the might of the sea 43 I brought near in abundance 44 and their passing by 45 was like the passing by of the great billows 46 of the Western ocean: 47,48 passages through them were none, 49,50 but heaps of earth I heaped up, 51 and embankments of brickwork 52 I caused to be constructed. 53,54 The fortresses I skilfully strengthened 55 and the city of Babylon 56 I fitted to be a treasure-city. 57 The handsome pile 58,59 the fort of Borsippa I made anew: 60,61 its fosse I dug out and in cement and brick 62 I reared up its mass 63 Nebuchadnezzar
(Continued on Column VII.)
1 King of Babylon 2 whom Merodach, the Sun, the great Lord, 3 for the holy places of his city 4 Babylon hath called, am I: 5 and Bit-Saggatu and Bit-Zida 6 like the radiance of the Sun I restored: 7 the fanes of the great gods 8 I completely brightened. 9 At former dates from the days of old 10 to the days … 11 of Nabopolassar King of Babylon 12 the exalted father who begat me, 13 many a Prince who preceded me 14,15 whose names El had proclaimed for royalty 16 for the city, my city, the festivals of these gods 17 in the perfected places 18 a princely temple, a large temple did they make 19 and erected it as their dwelling-places. 20,21 Their spoils in the midst they accumulated, 22 they heaped up, and their treasures 23 for the festival Lilmuku 24 of the good Lord, Merodach god of gods 25 they transferred into the midst of Babylon; 26,27 when at length Merodach who made me for royalty 28 and the god Nero his mighty son, 29 committed his people to me 30 as precious lives. 31 Highly have I exalted their cities; 32 (but) above Babylon and Borsippa 33 I have not added a city 34 in the realm of Babylonia 35 as a city of my lofty foundation.
36 A great temple, a house of admiration for men, 37,38 a vast construction, a lofty pile, 39,40 a palace of My Royalty for the land of Babylon, 41 in the midst of the city of Babylon 42,43 from Imgur Bel to Libit-higal 44 the ford of the Sun-rise, 45 from the bank of the Euphrates 46 as far as Aibur-sabu 47 which Nabopolassar 48 King of Babylon the father who begat me 49,50 made in brick and raised up in its midst, 51 but whose foundation was damaged 52 by waters and floods 53,54 at Bit-Imli near Babylon, 55,56 and the gates of that palace were thrown down, 57,58 of this the structure with brickwork I repaired 59 with its foundation and boundary wall, 60 and a depth of waters I collected: 61,62 then opposite the waters I laid its foundation 63 and with cement and brick
(Continued on Column VIII.)
[Footnote 1: Lacuna.]
1,2 I skilfully surrounded it; 3,4 tall cedars for its porticos I fitted; 5,6 ikki and cedar woods with layers of copper, 7 on domes and arches 8,9 and with bronze work, I strongly overlaid its gates 10 with silver, gold, precious stones, 11,12 whatsoever they call them, in heaps; 13 I valiantly collected spoils; 14 as an adornment of the house were they arranged, 15 and were collected within it; 16,17 trophies, abundance, royal treasures, 18 I accumulated and gathered together. 19 As to the moving of My Royalty 20 to any other city, 21 there has not arisen a desire: 22 among any other people 23 no royal palace have I built: 24 the merchandise and treasures of my kingdom 25,26,27 I did not deposit within the provinces of Babylon: 28 a pile for my residence 29,30 to grace My Royalty was not found: 31 Therefore with reverence for Merodach my Lord, 32,33 the exterior and interior in Babylon 34 as his treasure city 35,36 and for the elevation of the abode of My Royalty 37 his shrine I neglected not: 38 its weak parts which were not completed, 39 its compartments that were not remembered, 40 as a securely compacted edifice 41,42 I dedicated and set up as a preparation for war 43,44 by Imgur Bel, the fortress of invincible Babylon, 45 400 cubits in its completeness, 46 a wall of Nimitti-Bel 47 an outwork of Babylon 48,49 for defence. Two lofty embankments, 50 in cement and brick, 51 a fortress like a mountain I made, 52 and in their sub-structure 53 I built a brickwork; 54 then on its summit a large edifice 55 for the residence of My Royalty 56,57 with cement and brick I skilfully built 58 and brought it down by the side of the temple: 59 and in the exact middle, on the second day 60 its foundation in a solid depth 61,62 I made good and its summit I carried round; 63 and on the 15th day its beauty
(Continued on Column IX.)
1 I skilfully completed 2 and exalted as an abode of Royalty. 3,4 Tall pines, the produce of lofty mountains, 5 thick asuhu wood 6,7 and surman wood in choice pillars 8 for its covered porticos I arranged. 9 ikki and musritkanna woods 10 cedar and surman woods 11 brought forth, and in heaps, 12 with a surface of silver and gold 13 and with coverings of copper, 14,15 on domes and arches, and with works of metal 16 its gates I strongly overlaid 17 and completely with zamat-stone 18 I finished off its top. 19,20 A strong wall in cement and brick 21 like a mountain I carried round 22,23 a wall, a brick fortress, a great fortress 24 with long blocks of stone 25,26 gatherings from great lands I made 27,28 and like hills I upraised its head. 29,30 That house for admiration I caused to build 31 and for a banner to hosts of men: 32 with carved work I fitted it; 33 the strong power of reverence for 34 the presence of Royalty 35 environs its walls; 36,37 the least thing not upright enters it not, 38 that evil may not make head. 39 The walls of the fortress of Babylon 40,41 its defence in war I raised 42 and the circuit of the city of Babylon. 43,44 I have strengthened skilfully. 45 To Merodach my Lord 46 my hand I lifted: 47 O Merodach the Lord, Chief of the gods, 48,49 a surpassing Prince thou hast made me, 50 and empire over multitudes of men, 51,52 hast intrusted to me as precious lives; 53 thy power have I extended on high, 54,55 over Babylon thy city, before all mankind. 56 No city of the land have I exalted 57,58 as was exalted the reverence of thy deity: 59 I caused it to rest: and may thy power 60,61 bring its treasures abundantly to my land. 62 I, whether as King and embellisher, 63 am the rejoicer of thy heart 64 or whether as High Priest appointed, 65 embellishing all thy fortresses,
(Continued on Column X.)
1,2 For thy glory, O exalted Merodach 3 a house have I made. 4 May its greatness advance! 5 May its fulness increase! 6,7 in its midst abundance may it acquire! 8 May its memorials be augmented! 9 May it receive within itself 10 the abundant tribute 11,12 of the Kings of nations and of all peoples! 13,14 From the West to the East by the rising sun 15 may I have no foemen! 16 May they not be multiplied 17,18 within, in the midst thereof, forever, 19 Over the dark races may he rule!
[Footnote 1: Compare Dan. i. 2, “He brought the vessels into the treasure-house of his god.”]