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Tablet linked to obscure O.T. figure found

LONDON (BP)–It’s doubtful that many Christians remember the name “Nebo-Sarsekim” from reading the Old Testament, but thanks to an archaeological discovery at the British Museum, they may in the future.

British Museum officials announced recently the discovery of a two-inch-wide, 2,500-year-old cuneiform tablet that contains details of a financial transaction by a “Nabu-sharrussu-ukin,” who is called in the tablet the “chief eunuch” of Babylon King Nebuchadnezzar.

That’s the same person mentioned in Jeremiah 39:3 — although spelled differently in different translations — as the chief officer of Nebuchadnezzar who was in Jerusalem when the Babylonians overtook the city around 587 B.C.

Conservative biblical scholars say it’s another affirmation that the Bible is true — even in the smallest of details, such as names.

Babylonian names notoriously are difficult to translate. The Holman Christian Standard and the New King James Version call him “Sarsechim.” The New International Version calls him “Nebo-Sarsekim”

The small tablet is one of more than 100,000 inscribed tablets housed at the British Museum, The Times newspaper reported July 11, and was acquired in 1920. It was unearthed about a mile from modern-day Baghdad, Iraq, the newspaper said. But because of the painstaking effort to translate them and often to piece them together, it wasn’t seen as having a biblical connection until recently. Michael Jursa, a professor from the University of Vienna, made the connection.

“This is a fantastic discovery, a world-class find,” the British Museum’s Irving Finkel said, according to The London Telegraph. “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.”

The New International Version of the Bible translates Jeremiah 39:3 thusly:

“Then all the officials of the king of Babylon came and took seats in the Middle Gate: Nergal-Sharezer of Samgar, Nebo-Sarsekim a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officials of the king of Babylon.”

That verse immediately follows a verse describing the Babylonians breaking through Jerusalem’s walls. Various translations also call Nebo-Sarsekim a “Rabsaris,” which can be translated “chief official” or “chief eunuch.”

The tablet actually dates to 595 B.C., several years prior to the siege of Jerusalem. It would have been made by pressing an object into clay. The tablet reads, according to the Telegraph: “(Regarding) 1.5 minas (0.75 kg) 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.”

Said Jursa, the scholar who discovered the tablet, “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.”
Compiled by Michael Foust.

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