Archaeological Affirmations (8/5)

Who is Nebo-Sarsekim?

A fragment of cuneiform - Tiny tablet provides proof for Old TestamentOf all the tours that are given at the British Museum, there are probably very few that include the Arched Room. The Arched Room is little more than a storage room, but it holds over 130,000 Assyrian tablets, some of which are 5,000 years old. Considering the immense number of tablets that the room holds, one is bound to think of finding anything of great significance as a pure ‘needle-in-haystack’ scenario.

However, a very intriguing ‘needle’ was found just a little over a year ago. Dr. Michael Jursa, an Assyriology professor at the University of Vienna, was studying in the Arched Room and came across a cuneiform tablet that was said to have been made in 595 BC. Dr. Jursa deciphered the inscription on the two inch tablet. His translation revealed what one reporter called, “a breakthrough for biblical archaeology – dramatic proof of the accuracy of the Old Testament.”

The tablet inscription, as translated by Dr. Jursa, reads as follows:

(Regarding) 1.5 minas (0.75 kg or 1.65 pounds) of gold, the property of Nabu-sharrussu-ukin, the chief eunuch, which he sent via Arad-Banitu the eunuch to [the temple] Esangila: Arad-Banitu has delivered [it] to Esangila. In the presence of Bel-usat, son of Alpaya, the royal bodyguard, [and of] Nadin, son of Marduk-zer-ibni. Month XI, day 18, year 10 [of] Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.

As it turns out, the tablet is actually a receipt, recording a gift of gold given to the Temple of Esangila. The receipt was made to confirm the delivery of the gold to the giver. Who was the giver? None other than Nabu-sharrussukin! So only one question remains…who was Nabu-sharussukin?

In Jeremiah 39:1-3, the Bible records King Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem in 587 BC. Jeremiah tells us that about a year and a half later, “the city was broken up.” (v. 2) It was then that Nebuchadnezzar’s chief officers came and “sat” in the central gate of the city. Among those was an officer by the name of Nebo-Sarsekim, a derivative of an old Assyrian name, “Nabu-Sharussukin.”

The tiny tablet found by Dr. Jursa confirmed the existence of this chief eunuch to King Nebuchadnezzar, as referenced by the Prophet Jeremiah. This may leave one to wonder, however, what’s the big deal? Either way, Nebo-Sarsekim is pretty insignificant figure in grand scheme of things.

But, that is exactly the point.

The tablet itself is anything but extraordinary. However, as Dr. Jursa said himself, “It’s very exciting and very surprising. Finding something like this tablet, where we see a person mentioned in the Bible making an everyday payment to the temple in Babylon and quoting the exact date, is quite extraordinary.”

The fact is, Nebo-Sarsekim, as official as he may have been, was no king. Yet, despite his insignificance, Jeremiah is careful enough to at least record his name. This attention to detail says a lot about what Jeremiah intended to do in his writing. He was not creating his own story; he was describing a historical event. And, the accuracy with which he recorded these details gives substantial credibility to the book of Jeremiah as well as the rest of the Biblical narrative.

The experts agree. Dr. Irving Finkel, an assistant keeper in the Department of the Middle East at the British Museum, stated:

“This is a fantastic discovery, a world-class find. If Nebo-Sarsekim existed, which other lesser figures in the Old Testament existed? A throwaway detail in the Old Testament turns out to be accurate and true. I think that it means that the whole of the narrative [of Jeremiah] takes on a new kind of power.”

Also, Dr. Geza Vermes, emeritus professor of Jewish studies at Oxford, went on record saying that such a discovery revealed that “the Biblical story is not altogether invented.”

Who is Nebo-Sarsekim? No one of great importance, we would say. Nevertheless, the tiny receipt he left behind stands with the hundreds of thousands of archaeological finds that affirm the reliability of Biblical record, down to the smallest detail.

The information for this post was drawn mainly from the following two articles:

Article by Nigel Reynolds found here
Article by Dalya Alberge found here

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