Searching for Babylonian financial accounts among the ancient records, Michael Jursa, a visiting professor from Vienna, came across the name of a court official of the famed Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. The name is also found as one of the king's officials in the book of Jeremiah, though with a slightly different spelling.
More than 2,500 years old, the tablet—which sat in the museum's collection with its significance unrecognized since 1920—identifies Nabu-sharrussu-ukin as the chief eunuch of Nebuchadnezzar. This equates to "Nebo-Sarsekim" in the Hebrew of Jeremiah 39:3 Jeremiah 39:3And all the princes of the king of Babylon came in, and sat in the middle gate, even Nergalsharezer, Samgarnebo, Sarsechim, Rabsaris, Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, with all the residue of the princes of the king of Babylon.
American King James Version×(New International Version).
Actually, this new information helps with a translation problem in the verse. Most Bible versions do not obviously contain this name. Notice Jeremiah 39:3 Jeremiah 39:3And all the princes of the king of Babylon came in, and sat in the middle gate, even Nergalsharezer, Samgarnebo, Sarsechim, Rabsaris, Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, with all the residue of the princes of the king of Babylon.
American King James Version×in the King James Version: "And all the princes of king of Babylon came in, and sat in the middle gate, even Nergal-sharezer, Samgar-nebo, Sarsekim, Rabsaris, Nergal-sharezer, Rab-mag, with all the residue of the princes of the king of Babylon."
The New King James Version's list of names is essentially the same, although it offers footnotes that Rabsaris and Rabmag are titles. Other translators recognize that two individuals in this list are named Nergal-sharezer—leading them to conclude that the word following each of them is a further identifier so as to distinguish between them.
Notice the New International Version's list of the names: "Nergal-Sharezer of Samgar, Nebo-Sarsekim a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officials of the king of Babylon."
Here, as well as in the New Living Translation, Samgar has been reckoned as a place name associated with the first Nergal-Sharezer rather than as part of a compound name with Nebo, which follows it, as in the King James Version. Thus, in the NIV and NLT, Nebo is taken to be the first part of the name Nebo-Sarsekim. And indeed, we now know that this is the name of one of Nebuchadnezzar's chief officials.
So is the official on the tablet the same as the one mentioned in Jeremiah? It's more than likely that the answer is yes. However, we should consider that just as there were two officials named Nergal-Sharezer in Jeremiah's list (this name perhaps given by the king to two different people), there could conceivably be two chief officials of the king named Nebo-Sarsekim.
Either way, it is significant that Jeremiah uses a name for a chief official of Nebuchadnezzar that was definitely the name of one of his chief officials. The biblical "minimalists" who claim that the book of Jeremiah is a fictitious account written centuries after the Babylonian period are hard-pressed to explain away such accuracy as knowing the names of minor foreign figures.
One difficulty that has long faced the Bible's critics is its lists of seemingly insignificant names inserted here and there. These often are not narrative in function. Some speculate that they were added to make the accounts merely look authentic. Others suggest that people important to stories of later times are surreptitiously inserted into earlier accounts or serve a poetic function.
How do you explain listing someone like Nebo-Sarsekim—a minor figure of a foreign land with a difficult name who is never mentioned again—and this turning out to be correct? Clearly, the author of Jeremiah was familiar with the details of the times in which he wrote and was concerned with accuracy. It is therefore most reasonable to take the book at face value. That is, it was written by Jeremiah at the time of the Babylonian conquest of Judah under Nebuchadnezzar.
This discovery is just the latest of archaeological finds proving the accuracy of the book of Jeremiah. A recent excavation in the area of Jerusalem known as the City of David uncovered a bulla, a hardened clay impression with the imprint of a seal, bearing the name of Jehucal, son of Shelemiah, son of Shevi.
This individual, a court official of Judah serving under King Zedekiah, is mentioned twice in Jeremiah (37:3; 38:1-4). Another bulla found not far from this one mentions Gemariah the son of Shaphan, the royal scribe (36:10). And before these there were two remarkable bullae with the name of Jeremiah's scribe Baruch the son of Neriah.
All of these were real people, as Jeremiah attests. And the book of Jeremiah relates real history—as does the rest of the Bible.
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