An Exile in Babylon

An Exile in Babylon

Let's look at the historicity and accuracy of a long-disputed, even ignored, archaeological source - the Bible

Titus KennedyNov 9, 2022, 2:54 AM

After the fall of Assyria and the rise of the Neo-Babylonian Empire in the late seventh century BD,

Dating the record

Although the oldest currently known copy of the book of Daniel dates to the second century b.c, the book itself and other ancient writers state that it was composed by Daniel in Babylon during the sixth century BC The earliest existing Septuagint manuscript copy of Daniel is dated to ca. 100 b.c, and the 4QDanc scroll from Qumran is commonly dated to ca. 125 BC While these are acknowledged to be copies of earlier manuscripts, how much earlier could the book have been written? Daniel is comfortable in the service of pagan kings, and pagan kings are friendly toward Daniel and his God, but this would be an illogical setting if the book were composed in the late Hellenistic or Maccabean period of the second century BC because of the persecution by Antiochus IV and the harsh opposition to Hellenism by the independent Judeans. 

Additionally, the Hebrew and Aramaic used in the book

An inscribed brick recovered from Babylon records the 

Like other Babylonian kings, Nebuchadnezzar had many temples and statues of the gods built or rebuilt. Nabonidus, who reigned about six years after Nebuchadnezzar died, seemed to prefer the ancient Sumerian moon god, Sin. Temples, statues and inscriptions dedicated to this god were constructed at several cities throughout the empire, causing opposition from the Marduk priesthood due to reversion to a god that had not been prominent for centuries. Nebuchadnezzar, however, probably preferred Nabu the 

The penalty proscribed for anyone who would not bow down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnez- zar had built was death by burning in a furnace (Daniel 3:6). Since Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, given new Babylonian names in an attempt to assimilate these captive Judeans, refused to serve the Babylonian gods and worship the image, they were thrown into the middle of a fiery furnace to be burned alive (Daniel 3:18–23). Interestingly, the practice of execution by burning in a furnace or oven for perceived religious blasphemy is attested in ancient Mesopotamian documents more than 1000 years before the time of Nebuchadnezzar, and it persisted for at least 300 years after. In these texts, the word for the place of burning, translated as “oven” or “kiln,” is the equivalent of the Aramaic word used for the furnace in the book of Daniel. The most relevant of these texts comes from the sixth century BC and approximately the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. The Letter of Samsu-iluna is preserved on a school tablet from the Sippar temple library, and commands that those who have committed blasphemy against the gods be thrown into the kiln to be burned and destroyed by intense flames. The word used indicates a lime kiln, which had an opening at the top in which to place the initial materials for smelting. This appears to be the method used for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, as the story describes them as being carried up to the opening of the furnace by the soldiers and falling into the middle of the furnace (Daniel 3:22, 23). 

Following the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel lived through a tumultuous time in the Babylonian Empire in which four kings ascended to the throne over a period of six years. First, Amel-Marduk, son of Nebuchadnezzar, became king after spending an unknown time in prison. Originally his name was Nabu-shuma-ukin, utilising the name of the god Nabu like his father, but later adopting the god Marduk as his patron. His loyalty to Marduk may have been related to his imprisonment. During his time in jail, he wrote a prayer, which is preserved on a cuneiform tablet. He also released the exiled king of Judah, Jehoiachin, from prison, although Jehoiachin was still confined to Babylon (2 Kings 25:27). According to the Babyloniaca, written by Berossus in the third century BC, Amel-Marduk was murdered by his brother-in-law Neriglissar, who then took the throne. According to the Babylonian Chronicle, in his third year he waged a war of defence in Anatolia against King Appuashu. 

The Bible book of Daniel never mentions Neriglissar by name, although the Istanbul Prism of Nebuchadnezzar calls him an official and Jeremiah refers to him before he was king as one of the leading officers of Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 39:13). After a four-year reign, he was succeeded by his son, Labashi-Marduk, who was only a boy. After 

Many historians in the past criticized the book of Daniel because of the reference to a Babylonian ruler named Belshaz- zar. Because no ancient evidence had been recovered that confirmed his existence until archaeological discoveries brought new information to light, sceptics asserted that the book of Daniel was historically inaccurate and full of alleged errors, referencing the “mythical” Belshazzar. Further, Belshazzar the king inexplicably offered third place in the kingdom as a reward rather than the more obvious second place in the kingdom (Daniel 5:7). This puzzled scholars, since Belshazzar is referred to as “king” in the book of Daniel and yet offers the position of third in the kingdom. However, a clay cylinder has been found at the Temple of Shamash in the city of Sippar with a cuneiform inscription about King Nabonidus of Babylon and his son Belshazzar. This artefact is commonly known as the Cylinder of Nabonidus. The relevant portion reads, 

“. . . as for Belshazzar my firstborn son, my own child, let the fear of your great divinity be in his heart, and may he commit no sin; may he enjoy happiness in life.” 

This document demonstrates that Belshazzar was the firstborn son of the Babylonian king Nabonidus, and therefore part of the ruling line during the lifetime of Daniel. Another cuneiform document, called the Nabonidus Chronicle, explains how the first-born son of Nabonidus was installed as ruler in the absence of his father. 

A smaller cuneiform tablet concerning the dedication of a temple to Eanna in Uruk from 539 BC by Nabonidus king of Babylon and provides further historical context for the events. This tablet dates to the last year of the Babylonian empire, ca. 539 BC, just before Cyrus of Persia invaded and captured Babylon, demonstrating that Nabonidus was away from Babylon at this time. Additionally, the fifth century BC Greek historian Xenophon in Cyropaedia wrote that the son of a Babylonian king, also called a king, was ruling in Babylon when the Persians conquered the city. As a composite, these documents reveal that Belshazzar was made acting king in Babylon while his father Nabonidus, the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, was away from the capital. Since Nabonidus was still alive and the primary king, he was first in the kingdom, Belshazzar, his son, heir and co-regent, was second in the kingdom, and therefore Daniel could only have been offered third place in the kingdom as a reward for interpreting the message. 

The Bible book of Daniel also describes the capture of the capital city of Babylon by the Persians in ca. 539 BC and the subsequent rule of the Persians. The narrative in the book of Daniel indicates that the Persians conquered Babylon and relates how Belshazzar was slain, but records nothing about a battle and mentions a Darius the Mede present at the conquest of the city rather than Cyrus the Great (Daniel 5:28–31). Who was this Darius the Mede, and why was he mentioned instead of Cyrus the Great? 

The Nabonidus Chronicle makes it clear that Cyrus was not leading the army at the capture of Babylon, but that a general Ugbaru from Media led the Persian army to Babylon. This general apparently died soon after the successful capture of the city. Various cuneiform docu- ments then attest to a Gubaru, possibly also from Media, who ruled as the Persian governor of Babylon from ca. 539–525 BC Darius the Mede may have been the governor of Babylon known as Gubaru from cuneiform documents. Cyrus II, the Great, ruled the Achaemenid Persian Empire ca. 559–529 BC He combined and expanded the Median and Persian empires into what became the largest empire on earth during ancient times. A major obstacle to the rise of this new Persian Empire was the dominant Neo- Babylonian Empire. According to documents of the period, Cyrus and his armies dealt with this obstacle through military conquest. The Nabonidus Chronicle records the capture of Babylon in 539 BC by the Persians without any mention of a battle, and relates that Cyrus was not present at the initial takeover of the city. 

. . . the army of Cyrus entered Babylon without battle. Afterwards, Nabonidus was arrested in Babylon when he returned there . . . [later] Cyrus entered Babylon, green twigs were spread in front of him. 

The Cyrus Cylinder affirms the capture of Babylon without a battle: 

Marduk, the great lord, a protector of his people, beheld with pleasure his [Cyrus’] good deeds and his upright mind, ordered him to march against his city Babylon. . . . Without any battle, he made him enter his town Babylon, sparing Babylon any calamity. 


More Articles

AI Chatbot, Your Limitless Friend

Discover the future with ChatGPT, an AI Chatbot that revolutionizes daily tasks with personalized assistance and natural conversations. Imagine an all-knowing, tireless helper available in a chat box on your computer or phone, understanding you as if you were talking to another person.

Motivational quotes from the Bible

Explore motivational quotes from the Bible, each a powerful antidote to the paralysis that so often infects our spirit. Draw motivation from the scripture.

Goodness of God

Nov 7, 2023

Goodness of God

Consider, if you will, the goodness of God, and draw from it hope unto salvation. The goodness of God is the very essence of His nature as revealed in the Bible.

What was the Mission of Jesus?

The Bible reveals 'What was the Mission of Jesus'? When we gaze upon Jesus, we see the face of God—a perfect reflection of His righteousness, His justice, and His love...