Jehovah and Job, Part 2 of 4 & The Sippar Cylinder of Nabonideus

It’s amazing how people, still today, worship foolish idols and false gods, like Buddha and Allah.

Jehovah and Job
Part 2 of 4

Cuneiform cylinder: inscription of Nabonidus describing work on Ebabbar, the temple of the sun-god Shamash, at Sippar.
The Nabonidus Cylinder from Sippar is a long text in which Nabonidus describes how he repaired three temples: the sanctuary of the moon god Sin in Harran, the sanctuary of the warrior goddess Anunitu in Sippar, and the temple of Šamaš in Sippar.

The Nabonidus Cylinders from Ur contain the foundation text of a ziggurat called E-lugal-galga-sisa, which belonged to the temple of Sin in Ur.

Nabonidus describes how he repaired the structure. It is probably the king’s last building inscription and may be dated to ca. 540 B.C.

The text is interesting because it offers a full syncretism of Sin, Marduk, and Nabu.

Nabonidus cylinders from Ur are also noteworthy because they mention a son named Belshezzar, who is mentioned in the Book of Daniel.

The Cylinders State:
“As for me, Nabonidus, king of Babylon, save me from sinning against your great godhead and grant me as a present a lifelong of days, and as for Belshazzar, the eldest son -my offspring- instill reverence for your great godhead in his heart and may he not commit any cultic mistake, may he be sated with a life of plenitude.”

Excavation
In 1854, J.G. Taylor found four cuneiform cylinders in the foundation of a ziggurat at Ur.

These were deposited by Nabonidus; all four apparently have an identical inscription.

In 1881, Assyriologist Hormuzd Rassam made an important find at Sippar in Babylonia (now called Abu Habba), where he discovered the temple of the sun.

There he also found a clay cylinder of Nabonidus.

This cylinder, excavated in the royal palace, is now in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

A copy is in the British Museum in London. The text was written after Nabonidus’ return from Arabia in his thirteenth regnal year, but before war broke out with the Persian king Cyrus the Great, who is mentioned as an instrument of the gods.

The Nabonidus Cylinder from Sippar contains echoes from earlier foundation texts, and develops the same themes as later ones, like the better-known Cyrus Cylinder: a lengthy titulary, a story about an angry god who has abandoned his shrine, who is reconciled with his people, orders a king to restore the temple, and a king who piously increases the daily offerings. Prayers are also included.

“Canst thou number the months that they fulfil? or knowest thou the time when they bring forth?

They bow themselves, they bring forth their young ones, they cast out their sorrows.

Their young ones are in good liking, they grow up with corn; they go forth, and return not unto them.

Who hath sent out the wild ass free? or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?

Whose house I have made the wilderness, and the barren land his dwellings.

Nabonidus Chronicle
The Nabonidus Chronicle is an ancient Babylonian text, part of a larger series of Babylonian Chronicles inscribed in cuneiform script on clay tablets.

It deals primarily with the reign of Nabonidus, the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, covers the conquest of Babylon by the Persian king Cyrus the Great, and ends with the start of the reign of Cyrus’s son Cambyses, spanning a period from 556 B.C. to some time after 539 B.C.

It provides a rare contemporary account of Cyrus’s rise to power and is the main source of information on this period;

Amélie Kuhrt describes it as “the most reliable and sober [ancient] account of the fall of Babylon.”

Analysis

The Nabonidus Chronicle appears to have been composed by the (Babylonian) priests of Marduk, the chief god of Babylon. It has been characterised as “a piece of propaganda at Cyrus’s service” and as possibly “the result of the propaganda of the priesthood of Marduk to vilify Nabonidus”.

Julye Bidmead attributes the priests’ hostility to Nabonidus’s unsuccessful attempts to introduce the worship of the moon god Sîn.

In particular, the chronicle repeatedly asserts that the Akitu festival could not be held because of Nabonidus’s absence.

This is dubious, as others could have participated in the celebration in Nabonidus’s place.

The chronicle is seen as part of a series of pro-Persian documents, including the Cyrus cylinder and Verse Account of Nabonidus, that attack Nabonidus for alleged religious infidelity and contrast his actions with those of Cyrus and Cambyses.

He scorneth the multitude of the city, neither regardeth he the crying of the driver.

The range of the mountains is his pasture, and he searcheth after every green thing.

Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?

Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee?

Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? or wilt thou leave thy labour to him?” (Job 39:1-11).

strength is great – In the Old Testament, the wild ox (now virtually extinct aurochs) often symbolizes strength (see e.g., Num 23:22; 24:8; Deut 33:17; Ps 29:6).  Next to the elephant and rhinoceros, the wild ox was the largest and most powerful land animal of the Old Testament world.

“Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?

Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich?

Which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust,

And forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them.

She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not her’s: her labour is in vain without fear;

Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding.

What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider(Job 39:12-18).

vv 13-18 is unique in the discourses because in it the Lord asks Job no questions.  Could it be because the ostrich is so amusing?  The oddity of the ostrich highlights God’s wisdom – what human would ever think of creating such a strange bird, even if man could create?

“Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?

Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible.

He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men.

He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword.

The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield.

He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet.

He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.

Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings toward the south?

Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?

She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place.

From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off.

Her young ones also suck up blood: and where the slain are, there is she”(Job 39:19-30).

The Sippar Cylinder of Nabonideus

The conclusion to Chronicles describes the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the Judahites under the Babylonian King Nebuchadnez­zar in 586 B.C.

Nabonidus
Nabonidus was the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, reigning from 556–539 BC. He seized power in a coup, toppling King Labashi-Marduk. He also angered the priests and commoners of Babylon by neglecting the city’s chief god, Marduk, and elevating the moon god, Sin, to the highest status. In fact, Nabonidus left the capital for ten years to build and restore temples – mostly to Sin – leaving his son, Belshazzar, in charge. While leading excavations for the restoration effort, he initiated the world’s first archaeological work.

Meanwhile, the Persian Achaemenid Empire to the east, led by Cyrus the Great, had been gaining strength. King Cyrus had become popular among the residents of Babylon by posing as the one who would restore Marduk to his rightful place in the city.

As the Persians advanced to Babylon, Nabonidus returned. He was captured by the Persians in 539 BC and Babylon was occupied, thus ending the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Cyrus was welcomed into the city, where he performed the rites of Marduk. Nabonidus’ fate is uncertain, though it is believed he was exiled to Iran and allowed to occupy a government post.

Cylinders of Nabonidus
The Cylinders of Nabonidus refers to cuneiform inscriptions of king Nabonidus of Babylonia (556-539 BC). These inscriptions were made on clay cylinders. They include the Nabonidus Cylinder from Sippar, and the Nabonidus Cylinders from Ur, four in number.

The Nabonidus Cylinder from Sippar is a long text in which Nabonidus describes how he repaired three temples: the sanctuary of the moon god Sin in Harran, the sanctuary of the warrior goddess Anunitu in Sippar, and the temple of Šamaš in Sippar.

The Nabonidus Cylinders from Ur contain the foundation text of a ziggurat called E-lugal-galga-sisa, which belonged to the temple of Sin in Ur. Nabonidus describes how he repaired the structure. It is probably the king’s last building inscription and may be dated to ca. 540 BC. The text is interesting because it offers a full syncretism of Sin, Marduk, and Nabu.

Nabonidus cylinders from Ur are also noteworthy because they mention a son named Belshazzar, who is mentioned in the Book of Daniel. The cylinders state:

“As for me, Nabonidus, king of Babylon, save me from sinning against your great godhead and grant me as a present a life long of days, and as for Belshazzar, the eldest son -my offspring- instill reverence for your great godhead in his heart and may he not commit any cultic mistake, may he be sated with a life of plenitude.”

The exiles served Nebuchad­nezzar and his successors “until the kingdom of Persia came to power” (2 Chr 36:20), at which time

Cyrus conquered Babylon and subsequently declared that the Jewish exiles could return to their native land and rebuild their temple (vv 22-23).

An inscription discovered in the Ebabbar temple in Sippar (a Babylonian city) briefly mentions the rise of the Persian Empire and its king, Cyrus. It consists of several copies on clay cylinders, celebrating the rebuilding of three temples by Nabonidus (556-539 B.C.), the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

In the account Nabonidus receives a dream from the gods Sin and Marduk, requesting that he rebuild Sin’s temple in the city of Harran.

When Nabonidus protests that Harran is still under the control of the pow­erful Medes and therefore beyond his reach, the deities assure him that the Median Em­pire will fall to a subordinate king named Cyrus.

Cyrus proceeds to defeat the great Median army and take captive the Median king. Thus Nabonidus is able to complete his rebuilding project through divine interven­tion, with his gods using Cyrus to remove the Median obstacle.

Although the Sippar Cylinder recounts nothing beyond the rebuilding of the three temples during the latter part of Nabonidus’s reign, other historical records complete the picture.

The Babylonian Chronicle states that Cyrus’s army took control of Babylon itself in 539 B.C., thereby ending the reign of Nabonidus and the ascendancy of the Neo- Babylonian Empire.

Later Persian sources attribute the fall of Nabonidus to his neglect of the supreme Babylonian deity, Marduk, in favor of the foreign god Sin.