More about Nabonidus and his religion transformation


Nabonidus and his religion was not missed by scholars since the unveiling of cuneiform tablets in early times. Much has been published and one of the latest publications was that of H. Schaudig in 2002 dealing with the same topic.

The topic of the syncretism of Nabonidus was also dealt with by Sayce in 1898 already and Schaudig is basically rehearsing what has been touched upon by both Sayce and S. Smith BHT 1924 already. Schaudig is using more examples and texts of course than what was presented by these two scholars of early times.

What the scholars did not do for over a hundred years on this issue, is to harmonize the data with the book of Daniel. They like to polarize Daniel and Babylonian data or harmonize it adjusting Daniel’s content. But keeping the reality of Daniel and try to find the reality in the cuneiform texts like those of Nabonidus, is not an approach that found favor. Time will not be wasted on the reasons why.

1.      In order to understand Nabonidus’ religious transformation one must first understand his religious formation years. He was born in 614 BCE and was 9 years old when Daniel arrived at the court probably 16 years old.

2.     How old Daniel was with the events in Daniel 2 and the dream of the statue with empires depicted in chronological order of metals down to the feet and the final interception of heaven at the end of time to cover the whole earth with a metaphorical “rock”, is not known.

3.     But say Daniel was 25, Nabonidus would be 18 years old hearing of the role of Daniel in the Palace. Whether he witnessed it as eyewitness or heard it secondary, an inscription presented by S. Smith but not by H. Schaudig in 2002, is relevant here. Nebuchadnezzar was the dreamer king and Daniel the divine interpreter who happened to be correct in his interpretation as opposed to the magicians and fortunetellers who were not correct. This Nabonidus also witnessed directly or indirectly. The dissatisfaction with the theology of Marduk already started with the transformation of the religion of Nebuchadnezzar.

4.     Nebuchadnezzar’s transformation to a better understanding of the God of Daniel becomes clearer in Daniel with Nebuchadnezzar making an image of himself and forcing all to worship it. Nabonidus, now probably a few years older than 18, maybe 23 years old, witnessed again the power of the God of Daniel to save the three Hebrews from the fiery furnace and he heard that a fourth one was with them like the Son of Man shining. This event added to Nabonidus’ formation and an inscription later will be relevant to this event and will be referred to below.

5.     Then in the final years of Nebuchadnezzar with the dream of the tree (Daniel 4) and his seven years of madness interpreted by Daniel probably in 570 BCE when Daniel was 67 and Nabonidus was 44 years old, also had a formation role on Nabonidus religious understanding. Nebuchadnezzar was important to Nabonidus and the text described by S. Smith in 1924 illustrates that and below it will be presented.

6.     Nebuchadnezzar seemed to worship the Hebrew God after this madness period and before he died in 562 BCE. Politico-religiously in Babylon with the Theology of the Marduk priests, this would have had major rifts in the palace. The animosity and backtalking Nabonidus also witnessed and passions were displayed like avoidance, negative gestures, words of dismay and Nabonidus was probably very disillusioned by the popular religion of Babylon at this time. It impacted his mind. By now his subconscious was packed with a reality that the god Marduk is not in control of the World or Universe. Another God/god was. Nabonidus was now 52 years old and Daniel was 59. Daniel’s vivid experience in the Babylonian palace of Nebuchadnezzar did not go unnoticed by Nabonidus. Scholars do not focus on these layers of the onion of the quantity and quality of Nabonidus’ spiritual make-up. It is like analyzing the Christchurch massacre but avoiding his grandmother’s words that he loved to play computer games from the morning till the evening. The role of video-gaming on the terror murderer is overlooked, yet, admittedly it forms an essential ingredient to the total picture.

7.     When Nabonidus came to the throne by revolution as Sayce 1898 indicated, in 556/555 BCE, his mental spiritual content was already suspicious of Marduk Theology, more impressed by Daniel’s Hebrew God, filled with memories of political factionism of the Marduk priests in politico-religio rift with the Hebrew Daniel and his God and theology and the result was not positive but negative for the local city religion. The foundation of Nabonidus was already laid and from now on, any inscription or text will just witness to what has been said before here in mere projections, opinions, theoretically awaiting data to back it up.

8.     The first text to be considered is that discussed by S. Smith in 1912. It was a dream that Nabonidus had probably around 556/555 BCE. It is not long after the reign of Nebuchadnezzar since Nebuchadnezzar is in the dream.

In the Stela of Nabonidus 8 at Column VI, Stephen Langdon discussed in 1924 a text that gives us all the hints that he may have borrowed his story from Daniel. Nabonidus explained that he prayed to his god. He saw a great star or meteor striking the moon and he was very worried in his heart (Col. VI lines 3-5). A meteor is a very big rock. In the dream of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2, Daniel explained to the king Nebuchadnezzar, the father of Nabonidus, that a great rock came and hit the image that he saw in the dream and it became bigger to fill the earth. The god Bel step up on his side (belu id-lu ina idi-ia Col. VI line 6). He spoke to him and said that striking has no evil meaning (i-u-ti mim-ma i-dati lum-mi ul i-ba-aš-ši Col. VI lines 9-11). In Daniel there was no evil meaning as well since it was the symbol of the kingdom of God that grew over the whole earth. Nabonidus was in a dream and he could see Nebuchadnezzar, his predecessor, standing in a wagon with a lord that is called a priest (bel ameluursiggu Col. VI line 15). The priest or ursiggu was in conversation with Nebuchadnezzar. He said to Nebuchadnezzar: “Speak with Nabonidus and ask him to tell you the dream that he had and the explanation thereof.” (Col. VI lines 17-23). In Daniel the dreamer was King Nebuchadnezzar but now Nabonidus wants to compete with Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar by having a dream himself with an explanation. Nebuchadnezzar then said: “What a good thing is it that you saw, tell me?” (mi-na-a dum-i ša a-a-tu-lu i-ba-a ia-a-ši Col. VI lines 27-29). Nabonidus then spoke to Nebuchadnezzar and said: “In my dream I saw the great star and the moon and Jupiter/ Marduk coming together (i-na šutti-ia kakkabu rabu ilusin u ilumarduk Col. VI lines 32-33) in the midst of heaven (ina i-rib ša-ma-me šu-lu-tu Col. VI line 33). It was “in clean glistering” (da-am-i-iš ap-pa-liš-šu-nu-ti Col. VI line 34-35). Nebuchadnezzar then called his name, since Nabonidus was given another name.


The content of the text is very interesting. Since Nabonidus ruled after 557 BCE and Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel’s interpretation of the his dreams preceded Nabonidus by more than three to four decades, it means that Nabonidus is aware of Daniel’s work and that genre played a vivid role in his perception when he became king. It was as if he also had to have a dream with an interpretation matching Nebuchadnezzar’s experience. There was a close religious associate with Nebuchadnezzar in the wagon in Nabonidus’ dream. Nebuchadnezzar shows himself interested in dreams and their interpretations just like we are told years before this text in the Book of Daniel. The role of Jewish scribes close to Nabonidus should not be ruled out. By the time of this writing of the stela of Nabonidus, Jewish scribes were in Babylon and surroundings more than 50 years. They were thus everywhere in society. Much of Nabonidus’ daily information would have come from such scribes.



1.     Col. Vl. .... is 2. . .[su-]-nu-ti-ma 3u-sal-li-su-nu-ti 4 a-na

2.    ti-hu-ti kakkabi rabu 5u ilusin a-ta-me ina libbi-ia 6belu id-lu

3.    ina idi-ia 7 iz-ziz-ma i-ta-ma-a 8 a-na ia-a-ti 9um-ma ti-hu-ti

4.    mim-ma "10i-da-ti lum-mi 11ul i-ba-as-§i 12i-na sutti-im-ma as13fia-

5.    ti I ilunabu-kudurru-uur 14Šarru pa-ni mah-ra-a 15u bel ameluursiggu

6.    16ina isunarkabti u-zu-uz-zu 17 ameluursiggu 18a-na Iilunabukudurru-

7.    uur 19i-ta-me um-ma 20itti I ilunabu-na'id 21du-bu-ubma

8.   sutti 22si-i sa it-tu-lu 231u-sa-an-ni-ka ka-a-su 24Iilunabukudurru-

9.    uur 25 is-me-e-su-ma 26i-ta-me it-ti-ia 27um-ma mi-na-a

10. dum-ki 28sa ta-at-tu-lu ki-ba-a 29ia-a-si a-pul-sü-ma 30 ak-bi-is

11. um-ma a31i-na sutti-ia 32kakkabu rabu ilusin u ilumarduk 33ina sa-ma-me su-lu-tu 34da-am-ki-is 35ap-pa-lis-su-nu-ti 36 ina

13. sumi-ia il-sa-an-ni-me


Translation by myself adjusting S. Smith

Col. VI

3. I prayed to them. 4. Because

of the conjunction of the great star 5. and of Sin, I pondered in my heart 6. The lord, the hero

at my side 7. Speaking to me 8. In the following (way) 9. The word is not 10.the giving of a sign

11. not bad. 12. In that dream 13. stood Nebuchadnezzar 14. the king who before me 15. and the chief

Chamberlain 16. stood in a chariot 17. The Chief Chamberlain 18. to Nebuchadnezzar 19. thus spoke: 20. “With Nabonidus 21. speak you, that 22. dream that he saw 23. he should tell

you”. 24.Nebuchadnezzar 25. listened to him 26. speaking to me 27. the favorable word 28.

which you have seen 29. I for my part 30. I spoke: “31. In my dream 32. the Great Star, Sin and Marduk 33. in the midst of heaven raised up, 34. a favorable 35. position 36. In my name they

cried to me.

German Translation of the same text:

Col. VI ........ zu ihnen betete ich. 4Wegen der Konjunktion

des großen Sternes 5mit dem Monde war ich

bedenklich in meinem Herzen. 6Da trat der Held Bel an

meine Seite 7und sprach 8zu mir 9also: “Die Konjunktion

ist keineswegs etwas 10von böser 11Vorbedeutung”. 12In diesem

Traumgesicht 13 standen Nekukadnezar, 14 mein königlicher Vorgänger,

15und der Herr, der ursiggu, 16auf dem Wagen. 17Der

ursiggu 18sprach zu Nebukadnezar 19also: 20,,Mit Nabonid 21besprich

dich! Diesen 22Traum, den er gesehen hat, 23er soll

ihn dir mitteilen, dir!" 24 Nebukadnezar 25 hörte es und 26redete

mit mir 27also: ‹Was für Günstiges ist das, 28was du sahest?

Sage es 29 mir!" Da erwiderte ich 30und sprach also: 31 ,In

meinem Traum 32sah ich sie, den großen Stern, den Mond und

Jupiter, 33mitten am Himmel emporsteigend 34in reinem

Glanze". 36Mit meinem Namen redete er mich an ..


9. In the year 554 BCE, just before he left Babylon, Nabonidus on the 13th of Elul of the 2nd year on the 26th of September saw an Omen.[2] He explained the moon eclipse in the following way utilizing the Enūma Anu El/il:

- DIŠ ina iti.kin (an.gi6 en.nun u4.zal.le gar-un) 30 nin.dingir.ra uru4-eš[3] “In Elul on the 13th in the month of the work of the goddesses the fruit-god [moon] was growing dark and was entering in his eclipse”. This is S. Smith’s translation in 1912. Beaulieu and Reiner has it in Schaudig 2002 as “Wenn (Sin) im Monat Elül (eine Finstern's ID der Morgenwache setzt) Sin verlangt nach einer Hohenpriesterin” which I translate as “When (Sin/Moongod) in the month of Elul (a darkening of the morning placed) Sin desired a high-priestess”.

This was Nabonidus’ interpretation and he said that he feared the god’s request and was anxious about it.[4] For this Woman Ordination act he went to Shamash and Adad and they replied positive. Then he asked a second time and they gave him a more favorable answer. He then asked whether his daughter can be this Highpriestess and they answered “No”. He asked again and they said negative. When he asked the third time they answered him favorably, he said. “The word of Sin, the great lord who created me, the command of Shamash and Adad, the lords of the oracle I praised, and my own daughter I raised to the priestess’ position”.

It was a total surprise for the temple and Nabonidus knew of an old ritual regarding the ordination of a female priestess but the others did not know. So he said that “Since there had been a ritual for the priestess from days of old, and its form was not known, I pondered daily”.

Scholars said that Nabonidus was actually a priest who was made king so that he was knowledgeable of religious matters.

Aš-šum i-na pa-ra-a dingirmeš la šá-la-i ú-sal-lu-ú dingir / mim-mu-ú ip-pu-šu

iš-te-né-'u-ú ar-ka-at-su i-i-a .[5]


“(The king who) in order not to interfere in the cultprocess of the gods and requesting the great gods whatever he does or plan, proving the background ” (my translation).

Nabonidus controlled every step of his own in carrying out his plans. When he was going to do the unexpected he had to prove from history or old literature that he had a backing to do what he suggests should be done. He succeeded in doing so but was criticized for that.

The principles of Daniel is clear here:

A problem arose. People do not know what to do. Daniel appeared. He asked God. God gave him the answer. He relay the answer to the king. He gave advice as to what should be done. He goes back in history to prove his point and finally Daniel had success with his explanation and interpretation and the king was following what he suggested.

This same template Nabonidus, 7 years younger than Daniel also followed when he became king. A problem arose. People do not know what to do. Nabonidus asked the gods. The gods gave him an omen [he always claimed]. He relay the answer to the other gods. He got the answer and then went back in history to find a pretext that allowed him to do just that which is surprising out of protocol for everyone else. Nabonidus tried to be a second Daniel. The same modus operandi is noticeable in Nabonidus inscriptions than we find in Daniel 1, 2. 3, 4, 7, and 8. These chapters are relevant for Nabonidus life.


10. The cancellation of the New Year’s festival had a pretext for Nabonidus that goes back according to S. Smith 1924: 22 to the events described in BM 86379 presented pp. 23-26 Babylonian and English. The rebellion of Babylon in the days of Sennacherib was circa 703 BCE and between 689/688 BCE at his Second Campaign against Jerusalem when many of Sennacherib’s soldiers died as described in the Kings and Isaiah, for 8 years Sennacherib refused the New Year Festival in Babylon and he had Bel in the city of Ashur. Sennacherib was confused in his religion as well. Esarhaddon was very religious and for 12 years he continued the precedent created by his father not to have the New Year Festival celebrated and Bel in the city of Ashur (BM 86379 lines 1-2). Thus for 20 years there was no festival. Then after the death of Esarharddon in 669 BCE, Shamash-shum-ukin became ruler in 668 BCE as the son of Esarhaddon. Bel came out of Ashur and the New Year Festival was celebrated again (BM 86379 lines 5-8. Nabu and the gods of Borsippa came to Babylon. But between 652-648 BCE for five years, his 16th to 20th years wars broke out and this did not happen (“Nabu did not come from Borsippa to meet Bel” BM 86379 Obverse line 18). Ashurbanipal died in 631 BCE and in 626 BCE Nabopolassar became ruler in Babylon with uncertainty reigning (BM 86379 Reverse lines 4-5 and due to wars between 620-617 BCE, “Nabu did not come, Bel did not march out” Reverse lines 6-7). In 614 BCE Nabonidus was born.



H. Schaudig, 2002. Nabonid, der "Gelehrte auf dem Königsthron" in Alter Orient und Altes Testament: Veröffentlichungen zur Kultur und Geschichte des Alten Orients und des Alten Testaments. Vol. 281. Ex Mesopotamia et Syria Lux. Festschrift für M. Dietrich zu seinem 65. Geburtstag. Editors Oswald Loretz, Kai A. Metzler und H. Schaudig. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag. Pp. 619-645.

S. Smith. BHT 1912.


[1] Stephen Langdon, Die Neubabylonischen Königsinschriften translated by R. Zehnpfund in Vorderasiatische Bibliothek (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, 1912), Nabonidus 8, Col. VI lines 3-36. 279. The Stela of Nabonidus or Nabonidus 8 was found by workers in the ruins of Mudjellibeh at Hilleh. It is apparently in the Instanbul Museum and known as “Nabonidus Constantinopel”. It was first presented by Scheil in Recueil de Travaux Vol. XVIII with three photos. Messerschmidt then presented the text from a copy of Hamdi-Beys the director of the Museum. See also MVAG 1896, I. In 1906 Messerschmidt did a new collation (Langdon 1912: 54).

[2] H. Lewy in ArOr 17/11, 1949, 50f Anm. 105.

[3] Virolleaud, ACh Sȋn xxrv 52; vgl. Sȋn XXV 72.

[4] So S. Smith 1912: 55.

[5] Berger NKI 102.