" it is clear that during the
latter years of Nabonidus’s reign, while the latter made his headquarters at
Teima in Arabia, Belshazzar ruled as his viceroy, with all the authority of the
Actually, citations I have seen say
that Nabonidus returned from Teima in 544 BC.
[ Beaulieu 1989:149-205. On Tayma's
importance for trade: C. Edens and G. Bawden, "History of Tayma' and
Hejazi trade during the first millennium B.C.", Journal of the Economic
and Social History of the Orient 32 (1989:48-103)]
And here from the Nabonidus Cylinder from Ur, a building
dedication circa 540 BC.
i.1-4]Nabonidus, king of Babylon,
caretaker of Esagila and Ezida, worshiper of the great gods, I:…
" ...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."
Doesn't sound like a king in
abdication to me. Just a king
pre-occupied with building and restoring temples.
In the Nabonidus chronicle events in his reign are chronicled according
to the year of his reign dating in our terms from ( 556 to 539 BC). In the original language he is referred to as
In the 6th year ( 550/549)
it records that Astyages marched against Cyrus
( roughly, Kurashar Anshanan) and that his army revolted.
In the several years following it
records the presence of Nabu in Teima and the death of his centenarian mother. (She
is Assyrian rather than Chaldean/Akkadian).
Mourning is announced for months with names similar to those in the
The 17th year (539/538 BC) is thick with entries. Nabu is at Borshippa and then confronting Cyrus
and his army at Opis.
The seventeenth year (539/538): ...
N]abu [came] from Borsippa for the procession of Bel. Bel came out.]
8 [... B]el came out. They performed the Akitu
festival as in normal times. In the month [...]
[... the gods] of Marad, Zababa, and the gods of Kish, Ninlil [and the gods
10 [x] šá
kurAkkadîki Hursagkalamma entered Babylon. Until the end of the month Ululu the
gods of Akkad [...]
everywhere were entering Babylon. The gods of Borsippa, Cuthah,
12 and Sippar
did not enter (Babylon). When13 Cyrus did13 battle at Opis on the [bank of]
Tigris against the army of Akkad, the people of Akkad
14 retreated. He carried off the plunder (and)
slaughtered the people. On the fourteenth day Sippar was captured without a
15 Nabonidus fled. On the sixteenth day, Ugbaru,
governor of Gutium, and the army of Cyrus, without battle
entered Babylon. Afterwards, after Nabonidus retreated, he was captured in
Babylon. Until the end of the month, the shield-(bearing troops)
Gutium surrounded the gates of Esagil. (But) interruption (of rites) in Esagil
or the (other) temples
was not, and no date (for a performance) was missed. On the third day of the
month Arahsamna, Cyrus entered Babylon.
19 The harû-vessels were filled before him. There
was peace in the city while Cyrus, (his) greeting to
in its entirety spoke. Gubaru, his district officer, appointed the district
officers in Babylon.
the month Kislimu to the month Addaru, the gods of Akkad which Nabonidus had
brought to Babylon
22 returned to their places. On the night of the
eleventh of the month Arahsamna, Ugbaru died. In the mon[th Addaru]
23 ] the king's wife died. From the
twenty-seventh of the month Addaru to the third of the month Nisannu [there
was] (an official) mourning period in Akkad.
That’s the account of the Nabonidus
Cylinder. Now here is some of the
account of the Cyrus Cylinder.
Cyrus takes Babylon
[15-19] He [Marduk] ordered him to go
to his city Babylon. He set him on the road to Babylon and like a companion and
a friend, he went at his side. His vast army, whose number, like water of the
river, cannot be known, marched at his side fully armed. He made him enter his
city Babylon without fighting or battle; he saved Babylon from hardship. He
delivered Nabonidus, the king who did not revere him, into his hands. All the
people of Babylon, all the land of Sumer and Akkad, princes and governors,
bowed to him and kissed his feet. They rejoiced at his kingship and their faces
shone. Lord by whose aid the dead were revived and who had all been redeemed
from hardship and difficulty, they greeted him with gladness and praised his
[20-22a] I am Cyrus, king of the world, great
king, mighty king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four
quarters, the son of Cambyses, great king, king of Anšan, grandson of Cyrus,
great king, king of Anšan, descendant of Teispes, great king, king of Anšan, of
an eternal line of kingship, whose rule Bêl and Nabu [not Nabonidus, obviously]
love, whose kingship they desire for their hearts' pleasure.
[22b-28] When I entered Babylon in a
peaceful manner, I took up my lordly abode in the royal palace amidst rejoicing
and happiness. Marduk, the great lord, established as his fate for me a
magnanimous heart of one who loves Babylon, and I daily attended to his
worship. My vast army marched into Babylon in peace; I did not permit anyone to
frighten the people of Sumer and Akkad. I sought the welfare of the city of
Babylon and all its sacred centers. As for the citizens of Babylon, [...] upon
whom Nabonidus imposed a corvée which was not the gods' wish and not befitting
them, I relieved their wariness and freed them from their service. Marduk, the
great lord, rejoiced over my good deeds. He sent gracious blessing upon me,
Cyrus, the king who worships him, and upon Cambyses, the son who is my
offspring, and upon all my army, and in peace, before him, we moved around in
End of Cyrus extract.
This proclamation bears striking
resemblance to what appears in Ezra and what appears in Isaiah, chapters 45 to
47. While Cyrus takes a multi-cultural
approach with respect to gods, the OT texts assume that he is talking about
their God alone. The description in Isaiah most likely written early in the
days of the siege when confidence in Cyrus was already high. That would be the latest. Or, we could believe that Isaiah wrote it and
it headed off to Babylon along with the rest of extant Hebrew scriptures. That poses obvious problems, and especially
in the case of Daniel summoned to Belshazzar’s feast to tell what the morrow
might bring. Because his prediction had
little connection to the historical record and was delivered to the supposed
son of Nebuchadnezzar – king.
So we have Babylonian, Persian, Greek
and Hebrew accounts of the fall of Babylon in 539 in one column – and then we
have Daniel and Josephus in another.
Josephus in his Jewish Antiquities provide much less independent
research or knowledge to the account in comparison to the Jewish Wars. In the latter he is practically our sole
source, but in the former he mostly paraphrases what is already available in
Hebrew and Greek texts with periodic anecdotes.
In the case of Daniel Josephus surmises that he ended up like Ashpenaz,
the chief eunuch. But he enlightens us
less on mid eastern history than he does in the Jewish Wars. Moreover, considering that Daniel purports
to be an inside view of Babylonian priest castes, it does not carry away an
iota of information about their chief occupations, by no means in the manner
that the Greeks did in developing their Ptolemaic astronomy from Babylonian
So, we have four sources that give us
a different account of Babylon’s fall to an invading army – and they all seem
to have a better provenance and coherence ( save perhaps Isaiah) than the
account given in Daniel. Daniel’s
narrative testimony shifts from language to language, person to person and
drops off in mid chapter. ..
And then, of course, going back to Daniel's internal structure, it contradicts itself with the later chapters (13-14) telling of Daniel's activities in Babylon during the time of Cyrus. Excluded in some Bibles, yes. Yet these tales are much less phantasmagorical than the baseline of 12 chapters. Ditto with the Book of Wisdom by Ben Sirach who enumerates the prophets and never mentions Daniel - because circa 200 BC he never heard of him. And the TaNaKh is straight-forward enough when it includes the book - under Writings.
But it is vigorously defended like
the proponents of the Ptolemaic cosmology with articles adding the equivalents
of new and more complicated epicycles such as Belshazzar was related to
Nebuchadnezzar by way of his mother or that satraps were somehow a notion of
Nebuchadnazzar’s court – and so forth.
If we can accept all these vague
explanations for anachronisms and ignorance presented by the book’s author and
editors, we will somehow be more likely to accept every new and preposterous
interpretation handed down to us by radio preachers and others about what the
text really means. We will be ready to
accept its primacy over any other
element of Christian faith and the prominence it gives to its dogged advocates.