A critical review of Rolf Furuli’s 2nd volume on chronology:
Assyrian, Babylonian and Egyptian Chronology. Volume II of Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, and Persian Chronology Compared with the Chronology of the Bible (Oslo: Awatu Publishers, 2007)
Part V: Were there unknown Neo-Babylonian kings?
© Carl Olof Jonsson, Göteborg, Sweden, December 2008
[Note: The first edition of Rolf Furuli’s volume 2 was published in the autumn of 2007. Later in that year Part I of my critical review was published on this website. It was demonstrated that Furuli’s attempt (in chapter 6 and Appendix C) to redate the lunar observations recorded in the astronomical diary VAT 4956 was untenable. Evidently due to my criticism, Furuli rewrote parts of his discussion of VAT 4956 and quickly had a second revised edition of his book published in May, 2008. He even reclaimed copies of the first edition he had sent out about that time, telling the recipients that he would send them a copy of the new edition.
An examination of Furuli’s revisions, however, shows them to be just another failed attempt to get rid of the historical reality as attested by VAT 4956. Very few changes were made in the rest of the book. Thus chapter 4 that is discussed in this part of my review is the same in both editions, the only difference being that chapter 4 in the first edition is found on pages 65-87 while it is found two pages later, on pages 67-89, in the second edition. The page references below are to pages in the first edition.]
As stated in Part III of this review, there are only two ways of extending the Neo-Babylonian period to include the 20 extra years required by the Watchtower Society’s chronology and thus also by Rolf Furuli’s so-called “Oslo Chronology”: (1) Either the known Neo-Babylonian kings ruled longer than indicated by Berossus, the Royal Canon (often misnamed “Ptolemy’s Canon”), and the Neo-Babylonian cuneiform documents, or (2) there were other, unknown kings who belonged to the Neo-Babylonian period in addition to those established by these ancient sources. The first option was discussed and refuted in Part III of this review. The second alternative will be examined here.
In chapter 4 of his book (pages 65-87) Furuli presents “twelve possible Neo-Babylonian kings,” some of whom he suggests may have ruled somewhere between the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus. This, he feels, would open up for the possibility that their combined lengths of reign could move the reign of Nebuchadnezzar 20 years backwards in time, as required by his Oslo version of the Watchtower Society’s “Bible chronology”. The names of these “possible [additional] Neo-Babylonian kings” are:
(7) A king before Nabunaid and his son
(4) Nadin-Ninurta (before Neriglissar)
(5) Bel-šum-iškun (father of Neriglissar)
(11) Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nebuchadnezzar
(12) Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabunaid
The kings that Furuli suggests may have ruled as Babylonian kings during the Neo-Babylonian period will be discussed one by one. In order to move the reign of Nebuchadnezzar backwards it is important for the Watchtower Society and its Oslo apologist to have the supposed extra kings ruling after Nebuchadnezzar. It would not be of any help for them to place them as Babylonian kings before the reign of Nebuchadnezzar or before the reign of his father Nabopolassar.
(1) “Sin-šarra-iškun”, (2) “Sin-šumu-lišir”, and (3) “Aššur-etel-ilāni”
The three Assyrian kings Sin-šarra-iškun, Sin-šumu-lišir, and Aššur-etel-ilāni are well-known to authorities on Assyro-Babylonian history. Aššur-etel-ilāni and Sin-šarra-iškun were both sons and successors of Assurbanipal, and Sin-šumu-lišir was a high official at the Assyrian court whom Assurbanipal had appointed as tutor or mentor of Aššur-etel-ilāni, Assurbanipal’s heir and immediate successor to the Assyrian throne. This is information given by cuneiform texts from this period. The strange thing is that Furuli does not mention any of these facts! He does state on page 65 that the three kings are “believed to have ruled in Assyria after Sennacherib” (704-681 BCE). But he does not explain that they actually ruled after the grandson of Sennacherib, i.e., after Assurbanipal (668-627 BCE).
Arguing that these three kings in reality may have ruled in Babylonia after the Neo-Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (604-562 BCE), Furuli first claims that they were not Assyrian but Babylonian kings. On page 66 he states that “the dated tablets show that they were kings in Babylon (not Assyria) for 7 years, 4 years, and 1 year respectively.” On page 65 he says:
“The data regarding these kings show that they reigned at least 7, 1, and 4 years respectively, but the tablets dated in their reigns show that they were Babylonian kings. This is problematic from the point of view of the traditional chronology, because there is no room for these reigns, even if there was some kind of coregency.” (Furuli, p. 65)
By claiming that these kings were Babylonian and not Assyrian kings Furuli creates a problem that does not exist: If they were Babylonian kings, they cannot have ruled in Babylonia at the same time as Nabopolassar, but must have reigned in Babylonia before this king. The problem created by this conclusion is that there is “no room” for their reigns of 7+4+1 years between Kandalanu and Nabopolassar. (Furuli, p. 66) This paves the way for Furuli’s idea that they may have ruled after Nebuchadnezzar:
“On the basis of the problems of finding room for these kings before Nabopolassar, we may ask whether one or more of these kings ruled Babylon during the years where we completely lack historical data, namely, after Nebuchadnezzar and before Nabunaid. In other words, can any of these kings fill a part of the possible gap of twenty years in the Neo-Babylonian Empire?” (Furuli, p. 67)
The statement that we “completely lack historical data” from the period between the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus is false. Chronology belongs to the “historical data” as it is the very “back-bone of history,” and the chronology of this period is completely known. There are also other historical data from this period. A Babylonian Chronicle, BM 25124 (= Chronicle 6 in A. K. Grayson’s Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles, Eisenbrauns 2000 reprint of the 1975 edition) gives information about a campaign by Neriglissar in his third year. Some of Nabonidus’ inscriptions also give information about his predecessors. (Paul-Alain Beaulieu, The Reign of Nabonidus, King of Babylon 556-539 B.C., New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1989, pp. 21, 84-97, 106, 110-111, 123-125) Further, Berossus, who is known to have used sources from the Neo-Babylonian period, gives both chronological and historical information about the four kings who succeeded Nebuchadnezzar: Amel-Marduk, Neriglissar, Labashi-Marduk, and Nabonidus. – See Stanley Mayer Burstein, The Babyloniaca of Berossus (Malibu: Undena Publications, 1978), p. 28.
Were Sin-šarra-iškun, Sin-šumu-lišir, and Aššur-etel-ilāni Babylonian kings, really?
The claim that Aššur-etel-ilāni, Sin-šarra-iškun, and Sin-šumu-lišir were Babylonian kings, not Assyrian, is demonstrably false. Contemporary sources prove that all of them were Assyrian kings, who after the death of Kandalanu in 627 BCE attempted to retain the Assyrian control over Babylonia and crush the revolt of the Chaldean general Nabopolassar. Dr. Grant Frame explains:
“To the best of my knowledge, of these four contenders for control of Babylonia only Nabopolassar ever used the title ‘king of Babylon’ or ‘king of the land of Sumer and Akkad,’ or was called ‘king of Babylon’ in the date formulae of Babylonian economic texts. In these economic texts, Aššur-etil-ilāni, Sin-šumu-lišir, and Sin-šarra-iškun were called either ‘king of Assyria,’ ‘king of (all) lands,’ ‘king of the world,’ or simply ‘king.’ The Babylonian scribes obviously wished to avoid stating that any of these three was a true king of Babylonia.” – G. Frame, Babylonia 689-627 B.C. (Leiden: Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch Instituut, 1992), p. 213.
In a more recent work Grant Frame gives the following information about each of the three Assyrian kings:
“Assurbanipal was succeeded as ruler of Assyria by his son Aššur-etel-ilāni (or Aššur-etelli-ilāni). No inscription ever calls Aššur-etel-ilāni ‘king of Babylon,’ ‘viceroy of Babylon,’ or ‘king of the land of Sumer and Akkad,’ nor is he included in the various lists of rulers of Babylonia, which put Sin-šumu-lišir or Nabopolassar after Kandalanu. However, a number of royal inscriptions of Aššur-etel-ilāni do come from Babylonia and describe actions in that land and thus these must be included here. Over ten economic texts dated by his regnal years as ‘king of Assyria’ or ‘king of the lands’ come from Nippur and these attest to his accession, first, second, third, and fourth years.” – Grant Frame, Rulers of Babylonia. From the Second Dynasty of Isin to the End of Assyrian Domination (1157-612 BC) (Toronto, Buffalo, London: Univeristy of Toronto Press, 1995), p. 261.
As an example, tablet VAT 13142 calls Aššur-etel-ilāni “king of the world (and) king of Assyria, son of Ashurbanipal, king of the world (and) king of Assyria.” (Frame, 1995, p. 264)
“The last Assyrian king to exercise any control over at least part of Babylonia was Sin-šarra-iškun, a son of Ashurbanipal. Exactly when he became ruler of Assyria and when he held authority in Babylonia is unclear, but his reign over Assyria ended in 612 BC. Only the Uruk King List includes him among the rulers of Babylonia, assigning the year following the reign of Kandalanu and preceding the reign of Nabopolassar (626 BC) to Sin-šumu-lišir and Sin-šarra-iškun jointly (Grayson, RLA 6/1-2  p. 97 obverse 4´-5´). No known inscription gives him the title ‘king of Babylon,’ ‘viceroy of Babylon,’ or ‘king of the land of Sumer and Akkad.’ …
No Babylonian royal inscriptions of Sin-šarra-iškun are attested and his Assyrian inscriptions will be edited elsewhere in the RIM series [The Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia] (as A.0.116). Approximately 60 economic texts were dated by his regnal years in Babylonia. These indicate that he controlled Babylon, Nippur, Sippar, and Uruk; the earliest texts come from his accession year and the latest from his seventh year. None of these economic texts, however, gives him the title ‘king of Babylon’; he is called instead ‘king of Assyria,’ ‘king of the lands,’ and ‘king of the world.” (Frame, 1995, p. 270)
It should be added that, although Nabopolassar’s revolt was successful, it took some years before he had attained control over all cities of Babylonia. A few Babylonian cities remained under Assyrian control for a few years after the accession of Nabopolassar to the Babylonian throne.
“No royal inscriptions of Sin-šumu-lišir are attested from Babylonia. At least seven Babylonian economic texts (including four from Babylon and one from Nippur) are dated by his accession year. In these he is either given no title, or called ‘king of Assyria’ or simply ‘king.’” (Frame, 1995, p. 269)
The legible dates on the tablets dated to Sin-šumu-lišir are only from months III and V of his accession year. The Uruk King List gives the “kingless” year after the death of Kandalanu in 627 BCE (the last tablet before his death is dated in month III, i.e., May/June) to “Sin-šumu-lišir and Sin-šarra-iškun” jointly, undoubtedly because both were fighting for retaining Assyrian control of Babylonia this year (626 BCE). Whether both also were kings in this year is another question. It is known from contemporary cuneiform inscriptions that Aššur-etel-ilāni, not Sin-šarra-iškun, was the immediate successor of Assurbanipal. This information is provided by a cuneiform tablet designated KAV 182 IV. – Joan Oates, “Assyrian Chronology, 631-612 B.C.,” Iraq, Vol. XXVII (1965), p. 135.
Not only the Adad-guppi’ inscription (Nabon. No. 24; see C. O. Jonsson, The Gentile Times Reconsidered, 4th edition [henceforth GTR4], Atlanta: Commentary Press, 2004, pp. 113-116) but also Berossus state that Assurbanipal ruled for 42 years. When his brother Shamash-shum-ukin (Berossus: Samoges), Assyria’s vassal king in Babylonia, died in Assurbanipal’s 21st year (648 BCE), Assurbanipal (Berossus: Sardanapallos) “ruled over the Chaldeans for 21 years.” (Burstein, op. cit., p. 25) This would indicate that Assurbanipal during the last 21 years of his reign ruled both Assyria and Babylonia, in Assyria as Assurbanipal and in Babylonia under the throne name Kandalanu. This is a view shared by a number of modern historians. His last regnal year, then, was 627 BCE and the first regnal year of his son and successor Aššur-etel-ilāni was 626/625 BCE. As the last tablet from his reign is dated to month VIII, day 1, of his 4th year, the accession year of his brother Sin-šarra-iškun should fall in 623 BCE according to this chronology.
Two tablets from the reign of Sin-šarra-iškun and one or perhaps two from the reign of Sin-šumu-lišir are from Babylon. It is to be noted, however, that all of them are dated only in their accession years. This, too, would support the conclusion that Sin-šarra-iškun’s accession year fell in 623 BCE, because the Babylonian Chronicle BM 25127 (= Chronicle 2 in A. K. Grayson, Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles [ABC], New York: J.J. Augustin Publisher, 1975; reprinted by Eisenbrauns in 2000, pp. 87-90) mentions a “rebel king” in the third year of Nabopolassar (623/622 BCE) who ruled for “one hundred days”. For a brief period in that year, therefore, Nabopolassar seems to have lost control over the capital. The “rebel king” may have been Sin-šarra-iškun.
With respect to Sin-šumu-lišir, prosopographical evidence strongly indicates that his brief reign of about three months fell in 626 BCE, before Nabopolassar’s enthronement in Babylon. – Rocío Da-Riva, “Sippar in the Reign of Sîn-šum-lîšir (626 BC),” Altorientalische Forschungen, Band 28, 2001, pp. 53-57.
The three kings discussed above were demonstrably kings of Assyria, not of Babylonia. This cannot be changed by the fact that Assyria continued to retain control over a few Babylonian cities during the first years of the reign of Nabopolassar. There is absolutely no reason for trying to find room for the reigns of these three kings among the Neo-Babylonian rulers, neither before Nabopolassar nor after the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, as Furuli claims. They belonged to the Assyrian kingdom. As that kingdom continued to exist for seventeen years after Nabopolassar’s conquest of Babylon in 626 BCE, there was enough room for their rule as Assyrian kings during the final stage of Assyria’s existence. Furuli’s emphatic claim that “we have three kings who reigned over Babylonia for at least 11 years who cannot be fitted into the traditional chronology of Babylonia” is completely groundless. (Furuli, p. 70) The Assyrian rulers during the final stage of Assyria were contemporary with the Babylonian ruler Nabopolassar.
This is also confirmed by the Babylonian Chronicle BM 21901, which covers the period from the 10th year of Nabopolassar until his 18th year (616/15–608/607 BCE). The chronicle describes the conquest and destruction of Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, in the 14th year of Nabopolassar and states: “At that time Sin-sharra-ishkun, king of Assyria, [died] … .” – Grayson’s ABC (1975, 2000), Chronicle 3: 44, p. 94.
Thus Sin-šarra-iškun was still “king of Assyria” in the 14th year of Nabopolassar! How, then, can it be claimed that he was a Babylonian king and that his reign, therefore, has to be placed before that of Nabopolassar, and, because there is no room for him there, it has to be placed after the reign of Nebuchadnezzar? The whole idea is preposterous and bears witness to an astounding historical ignorance on the part of Rolf Furuli.
The same chronicle (BM 21901) goes on to tell that after Sin-šarra-iškun’s defeat at the fall of Nineveh (in 612 BCE) he was succeeded by Ashur-uballit, who “ascended the throne in [the Assyrian provincial capital] Harran to rule Assyria.” There he was finally defeated in the 17th year of Nabopolassar (609 BCE), and with that Assyria ceased to exist. From then on Babylonia was in possession of the hegemony in the Near East. – Grayson, ABC (1975, 2000), Chronicle 3: 49-75, pp. 94-96.
In my discussion of the attempts by scholars to reconstruct the final stage of Assyrian history and the reigns of its rulers, I briefly described the solution of the problems presented by Joan Oates in Iraq, Vol. XXVII (1965), pointing out that it had been accepted by some other scholars as “most probably the correct one.” (The Gentile Times Reconsidered, 4th ed. [hereafter GTR4], Atlanta: Commentary Press, 2004, p. 331) In her more recent chapter on “The Fall of Assyria (635-609 B.C.)” in The Cambridge Ancient History (2nd ed., Vol. III:2, Cambridge University Press, 1991, pp. 162-193) Oates once again develops her solution of the problems and also adds some new information in support of it.
The dwindling extent of Assyrian control of Babylonia after the accession of Nabopolassar
Furuli’s description of the extension of the Assyrian control of Babylonia after the accession of Nabopolassar is false. He claims that “Sin-šarra-iškun reigned over a great part of, or the whole of Babylonia during his 7 or more years of reign”, and that “the contract tablets show that he was ruler over all Babylonia during his 7 or more years.” (Furuli, p. 69)
On pages 65 and 66 Furuli states:
“Of the 57 tablets dated to Sin-šarra-iškun, 22 are from Nippur (central Babylonia), 2 from Babylon (in the northeast), 9 from Uruk (in the south), 5 from Sippar (central Babylonia), 1 from Kār Aššur, and 18 are without the name of the city.”
This makes five cities, two of which were not even Babylonian cities. Strangely, Furuli reckons the lack of city names on some tablets as a sixth city, stating on page 67 that “tablets from six Babylonian cities are dated in the reign of Sin-šarra-iškun.”
Of the five cities controlled by Assyria after Nabopolassar’s accession in Babylon in 626, only three were unquestionably Babylonian cities. Kār Aššur, which was situated north-east of Babylonia, had been constructed by Assyria in the eighth century BCE. In his first campaign in 745 BCE the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III is stated to have brought captives from cities in eastern Babylonia and resettled them in Kār Aššur. – A. K. Grayson in The Cambridge Ancient History, 2nd ed., Vol. III:2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 81.
Nippur came under Assurbanipal’s control at the end of 651 BCE during the revolt of his brother Šamaš-šum-ukin. It remained an Assyrian city during the rest of Assurbanipal’s reign as shown by documents from Nippur dated by his name, while tablets from other Babylonian cities were dated by the name of Kandalanu during the same period. Dr. Stefan Zawadzki explains:
“Consequently, regardless of whether we accept the identity of Ashurbanipal and Kandalanu or not, the dates clearly indicate that Nippur was not under Babylonian control but directly under Assyrian administration. This situation prevailed later also: Aššur-etel-ilāni dates on business documents come exclusively from Nippur. Lastly, Nippur remained for the longest (along with Uruk and Kar-Aššur) in the hands of the [next to] last Assyrian king, Sin-šar-iškun. This has led scholars to conjecture that Nippur could have been the site of a powerful Assyrian garnison established there with the aim of wielding control over central Babylonia. Thus, during the period from Ashurbanipal assumption (with an intermission of 660-651) until the end of Assyrian presence in Babylonia, Nippur was considered to be [an] almost integral part of Assyria. Therefore, the fact that documents there were dated under Ashurbanipal’s name cannot stand in the way of identifying him as Kandalanu.” – Stefan Zawadzki, The Fall of Assyria and Median-Babylonian Relations in the Light of the Nabopolassar Chronicle (Poznan: Adam Mickiewicz University Press, 1988), p. 59. (Emphasis by S. Zawadzki; cf. also the discussion by Steven W. Cole, Nippur in Late Assyrian Times, c. 755-612 BC. Vol. IV in the State Archives of Assyria Studies, University of Helsinki, 1996, pp. 78-83.)
Furuli’s claim (p. 69) that Sin-šarra-iškun was ruler over most or all of Babylonia, then, is false. Only a few of the many cities in Babylonia remained under Assyrian control for a brief period after the accession of Nabopolassar. According to the economic tablets, Sin-šarra-iškun’s control over the city of Babylon is limited only to a part of his accession year. His control over Sippar is dated only until the beginning of his 3rd year. His control over Nippur (which, although situated in southern Babylonia, in this period was an Assyrian city as shown above) lasted until his 6th year, while his control over Uruk is dated in his accession year and in his years 6 and 7. After that Nabopolassar had full control over all Babylonia and could start to attack Assyria proper in the north. – J. A. Brinkman and D. A. Kennedy, “Documentary Evidence for the Economic Base of Early Neo-Babylonian Society,” in Journal of Cuneiform Studies, Vol. 35/1-2 (1983), pp. 52-59.
(4) “Nadin-Ninurta (before Neriglissar)”
On pages 77-78 Furuli suggests that a king named “Nadin-Ninurta” may have ruled in the period after Nebuchadnezzar and before Neriglissar. This idea is based upon Furuli’s discussion of the Neo-Babylonian “ledger” NBC 4897 in his Appendix A (pp. 247-257 in the 2007 edition; 251-262 in the 2008 edition). As this ledger has already been discussed in Part IV of my review and the idea that line 26 may refer to some other king than Amēl-Marduk was thoroughly refuted, there is no need to repeat that discussion here. The claim that the signs for the royal name in line 26 of the ledger, transliterated LÚ-dŠÚ, can be read in many different ways and refer to at least 24 different royal names is unfounded and false. See Part IV, section “Does the tablet indicate another king between Nebuchadnezzar and Amēl-Marduk?”
(5) “Belšumiškun, king of Babylon”
On page 80 Furuli mentions another four “possible unknown Neo-Babylonian kings,” the last of which is Belšumiškun, the father of Neriglissar. Furuli refers to one of the Neo-Babylonian royal inscriptions translated by Stephen Langdon, which he quotes as saying:
“I am the son of Bel-šum-iškun, king of Babylon.”
The second volume of Langdon’s work on the Neo-Babylonian royal inscriptions, however, which included the inscriptions from the reign of Neriglissar, was never published in English. The manuscript was translated into German by Rudolf Zehnphund and published under the title Die neubabylonischen Königinschriften (Leipzig 1912). The inscription that is supposed to give Belšumiškun the title “king of Babylon” is listed as “Neriglissar Nr. 1”. The original Akkadian text as transliterated by Langdon reads in Col. I, line 14 (pp. 210, 211):
“mâr I ilu bęl-šum-iškun šar bâbiliki a-na-ku”
This is verbatim translated into German as,
“der Sohn des Belšumiškun, des Königs von Babylon, bin Ich,”
A literal translation of this into English would be “the son of Belšumiškun, the king of Babylon, am I,” rather than “I am the son of Bel-šum-iškun, king of Babylon.”
This is probably also what was written in Langdon’s English manuscript. In W. H. Lane’s book Babylonian Problems (London, 1923), which has an introduction by Professor S. Langdon, a number of the translations of the Neo-Babylonian inscriptions is published in Appendix 2 (pp. 177-195). They are said to be taken from the work, “Building Inscriptions of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, by STEPHEN LANGDON, translated by E. M. LAMOND.” The last of these royal inscriptions is “Neriglissar I” (pp. 194, 195). Line 14 of the text says (p. 194):
“the son of Belšumiškun, King of Babylon, am I.”
It is obvious that this statement may be understood in two ways. Either the phrase “King of Babylon” refers back to Belšumiškun as king or it refers to Neriglissar himself. As no contract tablets have been found that are dated to Belšumiškun as king of Babylon, the statement is most likely a reference to Neriglissar. Do we know anything about Belšumiškun, more than that he was the father of Neriglissar?
It is known that Neriglissar, before he became king, was a well-known businessman, and in several business tablets he is referred to as “Neriglissar, the son of Belšumiškin.” In none of these tablets is Belšumiškun stated to be, or to have been, king of Babylon.
It is important to notice that Neriglissar mentions his father in another building inscription, “Neriglissar Nr. 2,” not as king but as “the wise prince.” The same title is also given him on a damaged clay cylinder kept in St. Louis Library. – S. Langdon, (1912), pp. 214, 215; J. A. Brinkman, Alter Orient und Altes Testament, Vol. 25 (1976), pp. 41-50.
If Belšumiškun really was, or had been, a king, why would he be degraded to the role of a prince, even by his own son?
Actually, the real position of this Belšumiškun is known. The so-called “Court List,” a prism found in the western extension of Nebuchadnezzar’s new palace, mentions eleven district officials of Babylonia. One of them is Belšumiškun, who is there described as the “prince” or governor over “Puqudu,” a district in the north-eastern part of Babylonia. The officials on the “Court List” held their positions during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. – Eckhard Unger, Babylon (1931), p. 291; D. J. Wiseman, Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 62, 73-75.
So why should Neriglissar in one of his royal inscriptions call his father “King of Babylon,” when he had never occupied that position, and is denied that title in all other texts that mention him? If Furuli’s quotation, as translated from German, had been correct, a possible explanation could have been that Neriglissar, who had usurped the Babylonian throne in a coup d’état, attempted to justify his course of action by claiming royal descent. In the inscription where Neriglissar seems to be calling his father “the wise prince” (“Neriglissar Nr. 2”), this title is followed by other epithets: “the hero, the perfect, mighty wall that eclipses the outlook of the country.” If this description really refers to Belšumiškun and not to Neriglissar himself (the text is somewhat ambiguous), it would reflect a tendency to glorify the descent of Neriglissar. But to state in a royal inscription that Belšumiškun had been “King of Babylon” would have been foolish, as everyone in Babylonia would know that the claim was false.
It is true that P.-R. Berger in his work Die neubabylonischen Königsinschriften (1973), in which the inscription “Neriglissar I” is designated ”Ngl Zyl. II, 3,” says the following on page 77 about the title in Col. I, line 14:
”In Zylinder II, 3 schliesslich steht hinter dem Vaternamen der Königstitel b. Nach dem bisher üblichen Inschriftsbrauch wären es Aussagen über den Vater und nicht den Autor. Dafür würde auch die wenigstens graphisch präteritale Verbalform des Relativsatzes sprechen.”
“In Cylinder II, 3, finally, the royal title b. [‘King of Babylon’] stands behind the name of the father. According to the use in inscriptions common so far, this would be statements about the father and not about the author. The graphic preterite verbal form of the relative clause, at least, would also speak in support of this.”
However, it is quite clear that the phrase in Akkadian is ambiguous. This is shown, for example, by J. M. Rodwell, who in an article in the work, Records of the Past, Vol. V (London, 1892), translated the phrase without the second comma sign (cuneiform, of course, did not use comma signs at all), so that the title “king of Babylon” is naturally given to Neriglissar: “son of BEL-SUM-ISKUN, King of Babylon am I”. (Page 139)
Modern experts on cuneiform agree that this translation is just as possible as the other one. One of my correspondents sent a question to Dr. Jonathan Taylor at the British Museum about this matter. In an email dated October 25, 2006, Dr. Taylor answered:
While one might expect the royal title to refer here to the father -- note also that Neriglissar refers to himself as king only a few lines earlier -- it is not impossible that the title refers to Neriglissar. It is not unknown for rulers to conclude a paragraph with an affirmation of their kingship. …
The same correspondent also wrote to Michael Jursa, another well-known Assyriologist and specialist on cuneiform and the Akkadian language. In an email dated October 23, 2006 he explained:
“Dear Mr. ---,
the Akkadian is indeed ambiguous. If one wanted one could take ‘king of B[abylon]’ as referring to the preceding name, i.e. to Neriglissar’s father, rather than to Neriglissar himself. But the other explanation (i.e. the king is Neriglissar) is just as good, and we know of course that it is correct:
the passage means ‘I am N[eriglissar], son of BSHI [Belšumiškun], the king of Babylon’ - or in German where this is clearer because of the case endings – ‘Ich bin N, der Sohn des BSHI, der König von Babylon’. It is more a problem of English language that a literal translation which preserves the word order of the original Akkadian makes BSHI a king, rather than his son. In Akkadian, this is not so. I am surprised that Langdon should have got it wrong – possibly the work of an uninformed translator who misunderstood the English original.
Belšumiškun, then, was never a Neo-Babylonian king. No documents of any kind have been found that are dated to his reign. In the politically neutral economic tablets he is never called a king, and Neriglissar himself calls him “prince”, which was evidently the correct title of Belšumiškun. The claim that Neriglissar once, in one of his boastful building inscriptions, calls him “king of Babylon,” seems clearly to be based on a mistranslation.
Another “unknown king” that Furuli believes may have ruled during the Neo-Babylonian period somewhere after Nebuchadnezzar is named “Nabű-šalim,” or “Nabű-ušallim” as his name is usually spelled. In note 113 on page 78 Furuli refers to a tablet held at The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery designated “1982.A.1749”. This reference is wrong. The correct designation is “1982.A.1772”. A copy, transliteration and translation of the tablet is published in an article by Dr. Michael Jursa, “Neu- und spätbabylonische Texte aus den Sammlungen der Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery,” Iraq, Vol. LIX (1997), pp. 97-174. The tablet on which the name Nabű-ušallim appears is No. 47 of the 63 tablets presented by Michael Jursa in the article.
As Furuli explains, the tablet “is dated to ud.8.kam mu.4.kam idAG-GI, which is translated ‘8 Elulu, year 4, Nabūnaid.’ However, regarding the signs idAG-GI, Jursa comments: ‘An error for idAG-I.” The signs for idAG-I mean “Nabonidus,” while the signs for “idAG-GI” mean “Nabű-ušallim.” Thus it would seem that the tablet is dated to the 4th year of an unknown king named Nabű-ušallim.
What Furuli does not tell his readers, however, is that the name Nabű-ušallim appears at three places on the tablet, in lines 2, 4, and 16, and that it is only in line 16 it is used of the king. Lines 1-4, with the other two occurrences of the name, read (in translation from German):
“Three and a half shekels of silver from the ilku-debt of Nabű-ušallim have Nabű-taklak and Palitu, the wife of Bēl-ušallum, received from Nabű-ušallim.”
Nabű-ušallim was, in fact, a well-known businessman during the Neo-Babylonian period. (He is not to be confused with an earlier businessman by the same name, see Hermann Hunger, “Das Archiv des Nabű- Ušallim,” Baghdader Mitteilungen, Band 5, 1970, pp. 193-304). His name appears regularly in business contracts from the 40th year of Nebuchadnezzar until the 7th year of Nabonidus. – Cornelia Wunsch, Die Urkunden des babylonischen Geschäftsmannes Iddin-Marduk, Vol. I (Groningen: STYX Publications, 1993), pp. 27, 28.
In view of this, Furuli’s claim that Nabű-ušallim may have been a king “for at least 4 years” – which, of course, he must place in the period between Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus – is refuted by the business documents, which present him only as a businessman during all these years and even longer.
So what about idAG-GI instead of idAG-I in line 16 on the tablet? As Furuli points out, the close similarity between the two names appears only in the transliterated forms, not in the Akkadian (the cuneiform signs for Nabű-ušallim and Nabű-nā’id):
‘We should remember that although gi and i have some resemblance in English, that is not the case in Akkadian. In the name of the king, gi and i are not letters or syllables but logograms. Thus they represent two different words.’ (Furuli, p. 80)
This is true of the latter part of the names. But the first part of the names, ‘Nabű-’, is identical in cuneiform. It is not so strange, therefore, that the scribe, on beginning to write the signs for ‘Nabű-nā’id’ in line 16, inadvertently happened to repeat the name he had just written twice earlier in the text, ‘Nabű-ušallim.’ This kind of error, called dittography, is a common one. Obviously, the king intended was Nabonidus, as also Jursa rightly points out in his note on page 128 of his article.
(7) “A king before Nabunaid and his son”
On pages 76, 77 of his book Furuli believes he has found another “unnamed king” who may have ruled between Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus. He feels he has found this new king on a tablet at the British Museum known as “The Dynastic Prophecy.” Its museum number is 40623. The tablet is translated and discussed by A. K. Grayson on pages 24-37 of his work Babylonian Historical-Literary Texts (Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1975. On page 24 Grayson describes the contents and state of the tablet as follows:
“It is a description, in prophetic terms, of the rise and fall of dynasties or empires, including the fall of Assyria and rise of Babylonia, the fall of Babylonia and rise of Persia, the fall of Persia and the rise of the Hellenistic monarchies. Although as in other prophecies no names of kings are given, there are enough circumstantial details to identify the periods described. …
“The main tablet appears to have had an introductory section (i 1-6) of which only a few traces are preserved. After a horizontal line the first ‘prophecy’ appears (i 7-25). Although only the ends of lines are preserved, it is clear that this section contained a description of the fall of Assyria and the rise of the Chaldaean dynasty.”
This section ends with a horizontal line, which Furuli claims (page 77) marks the end of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II. There is no evidence of this. As Grayson points out (page 24), the various details given “suit admirably for the reign of Nabopolassar.”
The first three lines of the next section in column ii are damaged and illegible, but lines 4-10, quoted by Furuli, give the following information (the words within brackets are suggested restorations by Grayson, but the horizontal line after line 10 is on the tablet):
4. will go up from [… …]
5. will overthrow [… …]
6. For three years [he will exercise sovereignty]
7. Borders and … [… …]
8. For his people he will [… …]
9. After his (death) his son will [ascend] the throne ([ … ])
10. (But) he will not [be master of the land].
Grayson argues (pp. 24, 25) that, “Since the following section (ii 11-16) is clearly about Nabonidus, this paragraph must concern some period after the reign of Nabopolassar and before Nabonidus.” As he goes on to note, the preserved information in lines 6-10 seems to refer to Neriglissar and his son and successor Labashi-Marduk. That Nebuchadnezzar and his son Amel-Marduk (Evil-Merodach) are left out is understandable, as the “prophecies” focus on the rise and fall of dynasties and empires and therefore do not deal with all reigns. With respect to the “three years” in line 6, Grayson adds in footnote 3 on page 25: “Perhaps one should restore ‘(and) eight months’ in the break.” In that case line 6 would originally have read: “For three years [and 8 months he will exercise sovereignty].”
Furuli’s comment on this is that, “We see that Grayson adds words and translates in accordance with the traditional chronology.” (Furuli, p. 76) He is wrong. In the traditional chronology (as for example in the “Royal Canon”) Neriglissar is given a reign of 4 years. What Furuli does not tell his readers is that Grayson uses the chronology presented on another cuneiform tablet, the Uruk King List, which gives Neriglissar a reign of “’3’ years 8 months” and Labashi-Marduk “(…) 3 months”. (Grayson, p. 25, including n. 2; cf. GTR4, pp. 105-108) The preserved portions of the Uruk King List start with Kandalanu (647-626 BCE) and end with Seleucus II (246-225 BCE). The preserved portions of the Dynastic Prophecy start with the gradual overthrow of Assyria by Nabopolassar after the death of Kandalanu and end somewhere in third century BCE. Grayson’s use of the chronology of the Uruk King List, then, is quite natural, as both tablets cover roughly the same period and seem to have been composed during the same century.
The statement in the Uruk King List that Neriglissar ruled for 3 years and 8 months does not conflict with the traditional chronology. The Royal Canon (often misnamed “Ptolemy’s Canon”), gives whole years only, while the Uruk King List at this place gives more detailed information. As J. van Dijk observes, “the list is more precise than the Canon and confirms throughout the results of the research.” – J. van Dijk in Archiv für Orientforschung, Vol. 20 (1963), p. 217.
Furuli disagrees with this, stating that “we have tablets dated in the reign of Neriglissar from month I of his accession year until month I, and possibly month II, of his year 4. Thus Neriglissar reigned at least for 48 months and not just for 3 years and 8 months (44 months).” (Furuli, p. 77)
This claim has already been discussed and refuted in Part III of the present review of Furuli’s book. Fresh collations of the “anomalous” dates on the tablets used by Furuli for dating the reign of Neriglissar show that they are either too damaged to be legible, have been misread by modern scholars, or seem to be just scribal errors. The actual reign of Neriglissar seems clearly to have started in month V of his accession year and ended in month I of his 4th regnal year – a period of 3 years and 8 months, exactly as is stated on the Uruk King List.
Furuli uses the only preserved words – “for three years” – on the otherwise illegible line 6 to argue that they refer to another, “unnamed king” than Neriglissar who ruled for no more than 3 years. He says in his last paragraph on page 77:
“If the scribe gives correct information regarding the three years of reign of the king mentioned in line 6, this must have been a king who is not mentioned by Ptolemy, and who is not found in the traditional list of kings of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. This king also had a son who may have ruled as king as well. So, the Dynastic prophecy may have given us two extra Neo-Babylonian kings. … In any case, a king that ruled for three years is unknown by Ptolemy and those who accept his chronology.”
Furuli should have added that such a king was also unknown by the astronomical compilers of the Royal Canon from whom Ptolemy inherited “his” Canon, by Berossus in the early 3rd century BC, by the compiler of the Uruk King List in the same century, by the accountant who in the 1st year of Neriglissar wrote the “ledger” NBC 4897 (see Part IV of my review), by Adad-Guppi’, the mother of Nabonidus, and by the scribes who wrote the tens of thousands of contract tablets dated to the Neo-Babylonian period.
And, of course, the astronomical documents, in particular the five known astronomical tablets that records observations dated to the reign of Nebuchadnezzar – the diary VAT 4956, the lunar eclipse tablets LBAT 1419, LBAT 1420, and LBAT 1421, and the planetary tablet SBTU IV 171 – inexorably block every attempt to move the 43-year reign of Nebuchadnezzar backwards in time in order to create room for more kings and twenty more years between Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus.
Furuli’s use of just three words (“for three years”) from an otherwise illegible sentence on a damaged line on the obverse of a very damaged tablet reveals how desperate and futile the search for the “unknown kings” is that he needs for giving his “Oslo Chronology” at least a semblance of credibility.
(8) “Mar-šarri-uşur” and (9) “Ayadara”
Among his “possible unknown Neo-Babylonian kings” Furuli mentions two names that were found inscribed on objects discovered during William Frederic Badč’s excavations between 1926 and 1935 at Tell en Nasbeh about 8 miles northwest of Jerusalem in Israel. The site was (and still is) identified as ancient Mizpah, the city where the Babylonians appointed Gedaliah as vassal ruler of Judah after their destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BCE.
The dates of the two inscriptions are difficult to determine. W. F. Albright, George Cameron, and A. Sachs suggested dates that varied between the 11th and the 5th centuries BCE. (Chester C. McCown, Tell en-Nasdbeh I: Archaeological and Historical Results. Berkeley and New Haven: ASOR, 1947, pp. 150-152, 167-169) More recently some scholars have suggested that they may have been found in what is now designated “Stratum 2,” which is dated to the period following the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BCE. – Jeffrey Z. Zorn, “Mizpah: Newly Discovered Stratum Reveals Judah’s Other Capital,” in Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR), Vol. 23:5, 1997, pp. 28-38, 66; also André Lemaire, “Nabonidus in Arabia and Judah in the Neo-Babylonian Period,” in O. Lipschits and J. Blenkinsopp (eds.), Judah and the Judeans in the Neo-Babylonian Period (Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2003), pp. 292, 293.
The name of the first individual was found on a potsherd. What remains of the inscription, which had been engraved before firing and probably is written in Hebrew, has usually been read as “[?B]N MRŠRZR[KN]” and is translated “[?s]on of Mār-šarri-zēra-[ukīn].” (C. C. McCown, op. cit., pp. 167-169) Recently, however, Professor André Lamaire has argued that the name could be read “[?]N MRŠRŞR[?, [?]?”, which he translates “Mar-šarri-uşur[?”. – André Lemaire, op. cit., pp. 292, 293.
If the first two letters were “BN” (ben, “son”), the name of the son (the owner of the pot) is not preserved. If the name of his father is correctly restored as Mar-šarri-uşur, his title and position is not known. Furuli’s suggestion, that he was a king who reigned in Babylon, is just an unfounded guess. Quoting a name without a title on a potsherd found in Judah and suggesting that it refers to a king who may have been reigning in Babylon during the Neo-Babylonian period is, of course, pure guesswork and a game that no scholar who wants to be taken seriously would run the risk of becoming involved in. The name, written in Hebrew characters, is either Assyrian or Babylonian, and if the inscription found at Mizpah dates from the 6th century BCE, he (or his son) may perhaps have been one of the Babylonian officials known to have been stationed there after the destruction of Jerusalem. (J. Zorn, op. cit., pp. 38, 66)
The name of the second individual was found on a fragment of a slender bronze circlet with an incised cuneiform inscription that originally consisted of 30-35 characters, of which only 11 are preserved. The inscription was not discovered until 1942 in Berkeley, when some supposedly unimportant metal fragments were cleaned in a hot bath with caustic soda and zinc. Jeffrey Zorn states:
“Since only a small part of the inscription survives, its translation is problematic. It may have read ‘… Ayadara, king of the world, for (the preservation of) his life and …’ This is clearly a dedicatory inscription of sorts, but the words indicating what is being dedicated, and to whom, have been lost. Even the identification of Ayadara is unknown; no one with his name bearing the title ‘king of the world’ is known from any period. What is remarkable is that such a dedicatory inscription should turn up on a small tell in ancient Judah.” – Zorn, op. cit., p. 66.
A photo of the inscription, held at the Badč Museum of Biblical Archaeology in Berkeley, California, may be seen here: http://www.arts.cornell.edu/jrz3/circlet.htm.
Referring to the two inscriptions, Furuli believes he has found two more “unknown kings” here who may have been ruling during the Neo-Babylonian period. He says:
“Babylonian kings by the names Mar-šarri-uşur and Ayadara are unknown in the period covered by Ptolemy’s canon, but the discovery of these names suggests that two kings with these names reigned in Babylon.” (Furuli, p. 80)
The discovery of the two names suggests nothing of the kind.
To find out if the name “Ayadara” really is totally unknown to scholars, a correspondent of mine wrote to several Assyriologists and asked them if they knew anything about this king. One of them, Dr. Stephanie Dalley at the Oriental Institute in Oxford, England, who turned out to be working on texts from the Sealand dynasties, answered in an email dated 10 October 2007:
“The king is Aya-dara, abbreviation for Aya-dara-galam-ma, of the First Sealand dynasty [dated to the mid-second millennium BCE]. I am editing a very large archive of that king plus a few texts of his predecessor. The abbreviated form of the name is known from King-list A.”
The form of the name in King-list A as translated by A. K. Grayson is “A-a-dŕra.” – See p. 91 in D. O. Edzard (ed.), Reallexikon der Assyriologie und vorderasiatischen Archäologie, Band 6 (1980).
In a more recent letter to this author Stephanie Dalley explains:
“Although it was certainly unexpected to find that king’s name and titles at Mizpah, I have no doubts about the identification. An abbreviated form of his name, though with a different spelling, is already known from one of the king-lists, and the title ‘king of the world’ is substantiated from one of Aya-dara-galama’s year-names. The incorrect re-interpretation of readings given by Horowitz and Ishida contains a basic grammatical error, among other difficulties. All the sign values on the circlet have parallels in mid-second millennium texts.” – Letter Dalley–Jonsson, received December 4, 2008.
Dalley states in her letter that more details “are forthcoming from my edition of texts from the First Sealand Dynasty, which is now with the publisher, CDL Press.” Clearly, Ayadara cannot be placed in the Neo-Babylonian period.
One of the “unknown Neo-Babylonian kings” Furuli has referred to several times in the past first appeared in 1878 in a lengthy article by an early Assyriologist named W. St. Chad Boscawen. He placed the name, “Marduk-šar-uşur,” together with another mysterious name, “La-khab-ba-si-kudur,” in a separate “Addenda” because he was uncertain about their places in his chronological table. But another, contemporary scholar, Dr. Julius Oppert, soon discovered that the second name was simply a misreading for Labashi-Marduk, the son and successor of Neriglissar. – W. St. Chad Boscawen, “Babylonian Dated Tablets, and the Canon of Ptolemy,” Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology (TSBA), Vol. VI (London, 1878), pp. 262, 263 (including footnote 1).
The “Marduk- šar-uşur” tablet is dated to day 23, month 9 (Kislev), year 3. However, it was soon discovered, this time by Boscawen himself, that the name was a misreading for Nergal-šar-uşur (Neriglissar). This information, too, was published in the very same volume. Excusing himself, Boscawen explained:
“When we have some 2,000 tablets to go through, and to read names, which, as everyone who has studied Assyrian knows, is the most difficult part, because it is not easy always to recognize the same name, as it may be written four or five different ways, you may judge it is an arduous task. I have copied two apparently different names; but afterwards found them to be variants of the same name.” – TSBA, Vol. VI (1878), pp. 78, and 108-111)
That “Marduk- šar-uşur” was a misreading for Nergal-shar-usur was also somewhat later confirmed by two other early Assyriologists, T. G. Pinches and J. N. Strassmaier.
Despite this, Furuli continued to insist that “Marduk- šar-uşur” is a possible reading of the name, and that he may have been an unknown king who reigned during the Neo-Babylonian period!
As Boscawen did not mention the BM (British Museum) number of the tablet, it has been difficult to locate. Not until Ronald H. Sack published it as No. 83 (BM 30599) in his book on Neriglissar could it be identified – by Furuli himself! The date on BM 30599 is the same as that given by Boscawen, “month Kislev, 23rd day, in the third year.” In his “Addenda” Boscawen noted that “the contracting parties are Idina-Marduk son of Basa, son of Nursin; and among the witnesses, Dayan-Marduk son of Musezib.” (TSBA VI, p. 78) The same individuals also appear on BM 30599 (the latter not as a witness, actually, but as an ancestor of the scribe). It is clearly the same tablet. Sack, however, reads the royal name on the tablet, not as Marduk-šar-uşur but as Nergal-šarra-usur (transliterated dU+GUR-LUGAL-SHESH). – Ronald H. Sack, Neriglissar—King of Babylon (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1994), pp. 224, 225.
To check if it really is possible for a modern Assyriologist to misread the name of Nergal-shar-usur (Neriglissar) as “Marduk-šar-uşur”, I sent an email message to C. B. F. Walker at the British Museum back in 2003 and asked him to take a look at the original tablet (BM 30599). In his answer, he explains:
“I have just taken BM 30599 out to check it, and I do not see how anyone could read the name as anything other than dU+GUR-LUGAL-SHESH. A reading Marduk-shar-usur would seem to be completely excluded. Our records show that the tablet was baked (and cleaned?) in 1961, but it had been published by T G Pinches in the 5th volume of Rawlinson’s Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia, plate 67 no. 4 in a copy which clearly shows dU+GUR. It was also published by Strassmaier in 1885 (Die babylonischen Inschriften im Museum zu Liverpool: Brill, Leiden, 1885) no. 123, again clearly with dU+GUR. So the reading cannot be put down to our cleansing the tablet in 1961, if we did.” (Walker to Jonsson, October 15, 2003)
How, then, could Boscawen misread the name? Another Assyriologist, Dr. Cornelia Wunsch, who also collated the original tablet, pointed out in an email to one of my correspondents that “the tablet is in good condition” and that there is “no doubt about Nergal, as published in 5R 64,4 by Pinches. More than 100 years ago he already corrected the misreading by Boscawen.” She goes on to explain that “Boscawen was not a great scholar. He relied heavily on the notes that G. Smith had taken when he first saw the tablets in Baghdad.”
But Furuli still seems unwilling to give up the idea that an unknown Neo-Babylonian king named Marduk-šar-uşur might have existed. He argues on page 80:
“Sack read the name as Nergal-šar-uşur, and if this is the same tablet as the one read by Boscawen, I can confirm that Sack’s reading is correct, because I have collated this tablet myself at the British Museum. If both scholars read the same tablet, a Neo-Babylonian king with the name Marduk-šar-uşur never existed. However, the broken tablet BM 56709, the signs of which are Neo-Babylonian, refers to year 1 of a king whose name begins with Marduk-. So we cannot exclude that Boscawen read a tablet different from the one read by Sack, and that a king with Marduk in his name reigned in the Neo-Babylonian Empire.”
This tablet is listed in the Catalogue of the Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum (CBT), Vol. 6 (London: The Trustees of the British Museum, 1986, p. 215). In an unpublished list of “Corrections and additions to CBT 6-8” (my copy is dated March 18, 1996), which Christopher Walker kept at the British Museum, Walker gives the following comments on the text:
“56709 Marduk-[…] 12/–/1 Dated at Borsippa. CT 55, 92 (not CT 56, 356).
The tablet is probably early Neo-Babylonian.”
Note the words “probably” and “early Neo-Babylonian.” This is a suggestion. Furthermore, scholars often use the term “Neo-Babylonian” to describe a more extended period than 625-539 BCE. The Assyrian Dictionary, for example, starts the period at about 1150 BCE and ends it in the 4th century BCE. (Cf. GTR4, Chapter 3, n. 1) Maybe this is how Walker uses the term here. The names of about a dozen Babylonian kings between ca. 1150 and 625 BCE begin with Marduk-, including Marduk-apla-iddina II (the Biblical Merodach-Baladan, Isa. 39:1, who ruled in Babylon twice, 721-710 and 703 BCE), and Marduk-zakir-shumi II (703). Thus, as the royal name is only partially legible and we do not know exactly to which period the tablet belongs, it is useless for chronological purposes. Placing the king in the Neo-Babylonian period somewhere after the reign of Nebuchadnezzar is based on nothing else but wishful thinking.
(11) “Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nebuchadnezzar”
Contemporary sources mention seven of Nebuchadnezzar’s children, but none of these bore the same name as their father. (D. J. Wiseman, Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon, Oxford University Press, 1985, pp. 9-12) Furuli’s reference to a son of Nebuchadnezzar of the same name is based on a much later source, a rabbinic work known as “The Chronicles of Jerachmeel,” written by Eleazar ben Ašer in the twelfth century CE. (English translation by M. Gaster, The Chronicles of Jerahmeel, London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1899) The chronicle relates that Amel-Marduk had become victim to a slander campaign which caused his father Nebuchadnezzar to sentence him to prison and make a younger son, named Nebuchadnezzar, king:
“… Nebuchadnezzar the Great did not keep his faith with him, for Evil-Merodach was really his eldest son; but he made Nebuchadnezzar the Younger king, because he had humbled the wicked. They slandered him to his father, who placed him (Evil-Merodach) in prison together with Jehoiachin, where they remained together until the death of Nebuchadnezzar, his brother, after whom he reigned.” – M. Gaster, pp. 206-207; quoted by Irving L. Finkel, “The Lament of Nabű-šuma-ukîn,” in J. Renger (ed.), Babylon: Focus mesopotamischer Geschichte, Wiege früer Gelehrsamkeit, Mythos in der Moderne (Berlin: SDV, 1999), p. 335.
Furuli uses this very late and seemingly legendary story to argue that this “Nebuchadnezzar the Younger” may have ruled one year as the immediate successor of Nebuchadnezzar the Great before Amel-Marduk came to power. (Furuli, p. 79) This is indicated, he says, by the conclusion (argued earlier in his chapter 3, p. 58) that Jehoiachin was released from prison 44 years, not 43, after Nebuchadnezzar had begun to reign. This idea has already been refuted in Part III, section (3) of this review, to which the reader is referred.
There may be some truth, however, to the story of Amel-Marduk’s imprisonment. This has been argued by Irving L. Finkel, who in his article quoted above publishes a Late Babylonian tablet (BM 40475) in which an individual named “Nabű-šuma-ukîn, son of Nebuchadnezzar” laments his grievous situation as a prisoner because of the evil trick played on him by his enemy. Based on another tablet, BM 34113, Finkel suggests that Nabű-šuma-ukîn was the personal name of Amel-Marduk before he was appointed Crown Prince and adopted Amel-Marduk as his throne name.
This is an interesting suggestion, but if it could be shown to be correct there is no room for a rule of a brother of his after the death of Nebuchadnezzar II. Finkel explains why:
“If this suggestion is indeed correct, a terminus ante quem for the date of Amel-Marduk’s release and the adoption of the throne name is the month of Ellul, year 39 of Nebuchadnezzar, i.e. 566 BC. This information is shown by the contract VAS 3 25: 12-13, where reference is made to Nabű-nūrē’a-lūmur, the eunuch (´ša reši`) of Amel-Marduk, the Crown Prince (mār šarri).” – I. L. Finkel, op. cit., p. 338.
If Amel-Marduk had been released from prison and been appointed Crown Prince no later than in the 39th year of Nebuchadnezzar, he must have been the immediate successor at the death of his father in his 43rd regnal year. This is confirmed by a number of cuneiform sources, including the ledger NBC 4897. (See GTR4, pp. 129-133; also http://goto.glocalnet.net/kf3/review4.htm.)
(12) “Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabunaid”
The last of the twelve “unknown kings” that Furuli feels may have ruled during the Neo-Babylonian period is based on the fact that two of the usurpers that Darius I had to defeat during his rise to power after the death of Cambyses in 522 BCE claimed to be a son of Nabonidus named Nebuchadnezzar. The brief reigns of the two usurpers are described in the Bisitun Inscription of Darius I. A number of contract tablets dated to the accession year and the 1st year of Nebuchadnezzar have been identified as belonging, not to Nebuchadnezzar II but to the two usurpers (Nebuchadnezzar III and IV), which confirmed that these two usurpers really existed. So far 66 tablets have been identified as belonging to the two usurpers. – See my article in the British interdisciplinary journal Chronology & Catastrophism Review of 2006, pages 26-28, including note 8 on page 37.
Furuli mentions these two “Nebuchadnezzars” from the early Persian period and suggests that a second Neo-Babylonian king by the name of Nebuchadnezzar might also lie hidden among the about 2,400 tablets (published up to the end of the last century) dated to Nebuchadnezzar II. He asks:
“Could there have been two Nebuchadnezzars in the Neo-Babylonian empire instead of just one? Who can exclude this possibility?” (Furuli, p. 84)
In support of this idea he quotes David B. Weisberg, who in 1980 expressed doubts about some of the criteria used to distinguish between Nebuchadnezzar II and the two usurpers in 522/521 BCE. One of these criteria is the titles used of the kings. Nebuchadnezzar II is usually titled “king of Babylon,” while the title of the Persian kings usually includes the phrase “king of the countries.” When the latter title is used in tablets dated to Nebuchadnezzar, therefore, the king is supposed to be one of the two usurpers. However, as pointed out by Weisberg, there is one tablet in the Yale Babylonian Collection (YBC 3437) dated to year 18 (I/30/18) of Nebuchadnezzar II with the title “king of the countries.” This criterion, he says, “should now be modified.” – David B. Weisberg, Texts from the Time of Nebuchadnezzar. Yale Oriental Series - Babylonian Texts, Vol. XVII [YOS 17] (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1980), pp. xxi, xxii.
With respect to the criterion based on prosopography, however, Weisberg admitted that it seems to be valid and cogent. His doubts primarily concerned whether there really were two usurpers who claimed to be “Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabonidus,” or just one. – Weisberg, op. cit., pp. xxii-xxiv.
David B. Weisberg’s work (YOS 17) was reviewed two years later by the French Assyriologist Francis Joannčs in the Revue d’assyriologie et d’archéologie orientale (RA), vol. LXXVI, no. 1, 1982, on pages 84-92. Of the texts published by Weisberg, 38 are listed as dated to the accession year and the first year of Nebuchadnezzar. Of these, Weisberg assigns 13 to Nebuchadnezzar II, one to Nebuchadnezzar III, and 17 to Nebuchadnezzar IV. Joannčs, however, finds another two texts assigned by Weisberg to Nebuchadnezzar II that he on prosopographic grounds should have assigned to Nebuchadnezzar III and Nebuchadnezzar IV. Joannčs writes:
“The third part (pp. XIX-XXVI) concerns the distinction to make for the first regnal years (years 0 and 1) between Nebuchadnezzar II on the one hand, and the two usurpers Nebuchadnezzar III and Nebuchadnezzar IV on the other hand. The doubt concerns 38 texts from YOS 17, for which the author applies himself to make a choice, presented in a synthetic way on pages XXIV and XXV. I admit that I do not quite understand, in this context, the reasons for the long discussion devoted to Mušęzib-Bęl, son of Zęr-Bâbili, descendant of Ilűta-ibni (pp. XXII-XXIII). The variant Ilűta-ibni/Attabâni is evidently interesting, but the data provided in TCL XII and Tum 2/3 cannot leave any doubt about the dating to make in the case of text 8.
“It would have been more fruitful to look into the case of Šamaš-mukîn-apli, son of Madânu-ahhę-iddin, descendant of Šigűa, referred to in nos. 126 and 302, whom D. Weisberg attributes to years 0 and 1 of Nebuchadnezzar II. But Šamaš-mukîn-apli, the šâpiru of the prebendal brewers in Eanna, is attested from the 2nd year of Cyrus to the 22nd of Darius I. Likewise, in no. 126, the carpenter Guzanu (l. 23) is referred to elsewhere in the 5th year of Cambyses. Thus no. 126 is to be dated to Nebuchadnezzar III, and D. Weisberg’s argument that the defeat of this king would forbid a contemporary attestation (here the 27, 28, 29-IX) is invalid. …
“In a corresponding way no. 302 is dated to Nebuchadnezzar IV. It is important to emphasize that in such cases the title ‘king of Babylon’ or ‘king of Babylon and of the countries’ does not constitute a decisive criterion. It is the prosopography that remains the most useful one, when this is possible.
“He does not enter into our intention to go back in detail to this problem, but we would like to emphasize one point: Right up to now the view expressed by A. Poebel permits a reconstruction that is completely coherent, and the elements brought up by YOS 17 certainly do not question them.” – F. Joannčs, op. cit., pp. 84, 85; (translated from the French). Arno Poebel’s reconstruction is found in his article, ’The Duration of the Reign of Smerdis, the Magian, and the Reigns of Nebuchadnezzar III and Nebuchadnezzar IV,’ published in AJSL, Vol. 56:2 (Apr. 1939), pp. 121-145.
A detailed discussion of the chronology of the three usurpers Bardiya, Nebuchadnezzar III, and Nebuchadnezzar IV was presented in a lengthy article by Stefan Zawadzki published in 1994. (Zawadzki, ’Bardiya, Darius and Babylonian Usurpers in the Light of the Bisitun Inscription and Babylonian Sources,’ Archaeologische Mitteilungen aus Iran [AMI], Band 27, 1994, pp. 127-145, with important details added in NABU 1995-54, 55, and 56) Zawadzki’s discussion is based on a detailed prosopographic research that conclusively establishes the existence and precise chronology of the three usurpers. For the two Nebuchadnezzars (III and IV) the prosopographic information presented on pages 135 and 136 of the article is particularly enlightening. Strangely, Furuli, who questions even the very existence of these two kings, seems to be totally unaware of Zawadzki’s important study. At least he never refers to it.
Furuli’s theory that there may also have been a second Nebuchadnezzar who ruled during the Neo-Babylonian period, on the other hand, is completely groundless. He is not able to present any criteria whatsoever by which such a theory could be tested.
In the discussion above it has been demonstrated that none of Furuli’s twelve “unknown kings” can be inserted anywhere in the Neo-Babylonian period. Three of them were Assyrian kings, not Babylonian, and one belonged to the First Sealand dynasty. One royal name turned out to be an old misreading, three “kings” were not kings at all, and four others did not even exist!
And, of course, there is no room for the insertion of any “unknown kings” or any “extra regnal years” into the Neo-Babylonian period. Tens of thousands of dated tablets that fix the length of each reign throughout the whole period, as well as several dozens of records of astronomical observations dated to these reigns that turn them into an absolute chronology make any attempt to lengthen or shorten this period impossible. All attempts to revise the chronology of the Neo-Babylonian period have failed and have forced the proponents of such revisions to either give them up or to claim that all the ancient documents that contradict their theories must have been falsified by later writers and copyists. When reality is in conflict with the theory, reality has to be rejected!