Wednesday, August 8, 2007

"we just have no idea really" (Zeevremiah 39.12)

Austrian Assyriologist Michael Jursa recently discovered the financial record of a donation made a Babylonian chief official, Nebo-Sarsekim. The find may lend new credibility to the Book of Jeremiah, which cites Nebo-Sarsekim as a participant in the siege of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. The tablet is dated to 595 B.C., which was during the reign of the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar II. Coming to the throne in 604 B.C., he marched to Egypt shortly thereafter, and initiated an epoch of fighting between the two nations. During the ongoing struggle, Jerusalem was captured in 597, and again in 587-6 B.C. It was at this second siege that Nebo-Sarsekim made his appearance.
He ordered Nebo-Sarsekim to look after Jeremiah: "Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee." (Jeremiah 39.12) As the biblical story goes, the victorious Babylonian king departed the city with numerous Jewish captives. Desiring to spare the prophet Jeremiah, he ordered Nebo-Sarsekim to look after him: "Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee." (Jeremiah 39.12). Nebo-Sarsekim obeyed these orders by taking Jeremiah out of the Babylonian court of the prison, and ensuring he was escorted home to Jerusalem to live among his people.
the tablet also exposes the danger of multiple translations. The Greek Septuagint (LXX) and the Hebrew Masoretic text (MT) contain the two main versions of the Book of Jeremiah surviving from antiquity. Scholars agree that the name was translated incorrectly in both of these texts. Vowels and entire syllables were sometimes omitted, transforming the proper Babylonian rendering, "Nabu-sharussu-ukin," into the traditional spelling, "Nebo-Sarsekim," as well as a few variants. Remarkably, Juris showed that the different spellings referred to the same person by using contextual information from the tablet, including the title of occupation and date of transaction. Spelling variations may seem like a minor problem, but they highlight a greater issue, namely the inconsistency between archaeological evidence and biblical text. One notorious discrepancy involves the 701 B.C. Babylonian campaign against Jerusalem. According to the Bible, Sennacherib, the Babylonian king who reigned from 701-681 B.C., was unsuccessful in his attempt to sack the city of Jerusalem. The Old Testament states that an angel came during the night to kill 185,000 soldiers, forcing Sennacherib and his weakened army to retreat (II Kings 18-19). ...more>>

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