Nebuchadnezzar’s megalomania disease in Cuneiform, the Bible and in our own times


Borsippa ruins rises many meters up in the sky over the plain and here Nebuchadnezzar of biblical fame, restored temples of which this cylinder is evidence thereof. The cylinder was found on the tell and in the year 1860 H. C. Rawlinson translated in a paraphrastic way the text.(1) He admitted that he is not literal but just giving sometimes the flow of the idea. The text was translated by a number of scholars including the French translation of M. Oppert (3) published by F. Talbot after his own literal translation of it.(2) A. Sayce utilized the translation of Talbot and changed some of his renderings with his own suggestion. The original copy of the text is in Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia Vol. I, page 51 for some but on my download of this volume, it constantly showed up on page 16ff.(4) And only partial since the site has commercial objectives rather than academic objectives in mind. So it was not viewer friendly.

The text is important since it provides us information on the mental status of Nebuchadnezzar regarding his building operations. It appears that he dictated at times to the scribe so that the scribe do follow protocol in publishing but the “spilled over” emotions of the king, shows up in the foldings of the formal text. It is especially the independent personal pronoun “I” that is of interest in the text.

Dictators of ancient times and rulers of modern times share this common feature: they count the work under their care as their work minus the sweat and tears of the grassroots that made it all happen. In September 2019 Donald Trump for example, spoke at the G7 meeting instead of “My country’s economy is doing great…” rather “My economy is doing great….”(5) It seems not out of place to put Trump in line with the managerial styles of Jung-un Kim, Robert Mugabe, Saddam Hussein, Ghaddafi, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Napoleon, many popes between 538-1798, Justinian and Theodora and one can include all the imperialists before and after Nebuchadnezzar. The “empire syndrome” had its toll on these rulers (6). Their vocabulary, syntax, linguistic expressions indicate this. This text is no exception to such an endeavor.

The formula to open the text of Nebuchadnezzar is very common by dictators of the Ancient Near East:

1.      Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babel,

2.     the established King, firmly united in the heart of Marduk.  

3.     the great high priest, worshipper of Nebo :

4.     glorious Wise who is unto the celebration of almighty gods

5.     uplifted his feelings

6.     the sacred one without blame the restorer of the temple of Saggathu

7.     and the temple of Zida  

8.     the oldest son of Nabopolassar

9.     King of Babylon, I am he.


The visualization of the concepts in the formula and Nebuchadnezzar’s pun to it would be as follows:


King of Babel

                                   The established king

                                   firmly united in the heart                  of Marduk

                                   the great high priest

                                   worshipper                                             of Nebo

                                   glorious Wise

                                   who is unto the celebration               of almighty gods

                                  uplifted his feelings

                                   the sacred one

                                   without blame

                                   the restorer                                             of the temple of Saggathu

                                                                                                     and the temple of Zida

                                  the oldest son                                         of Nabopolassar

                  King of Babylon

I am he

The analysis indicates that Nebuchadnezzar arranged his thoughts in such a way that starting with his name he will go to his title as king and then list a long set of beautiful aspects about himself related to his person, his piety, his guilt, his gods, his works, his passion/feelings, ending with his relation to his father, his title again and with the words: “I am he”. It is here that he is using the independent first person pronoun which gives evidence of megalomania. The great I. The great achiever.

But, what one should notice is that all happened because of sin in his life and a feeling of guilt. He left his blamelessness just before he started to build the temples. The building of the temples was a kind of whitewashing of his darkened brain with the self-adjusted feeling that “after-all, I am not that bad”.

The audience to these acts of building, done by artisans, engineers, technicians, men and women, young and old in large groups, yet “I am he” the restorer. Is it not great, that I have build? He did not have to add the independent personal pronoun at the end of the paragraph. Everyone already knows that his name is introduced and all these listings are what he has done or is or related to be, even his title. But he repeated the title and added “I am he” looking back at this own name, Nebuchadnezzar, the chosen one, the most beloved, the caretaker of gods, the pious one, the builder of magnitude. “I am he” in case you do not know, in case you forgot reading the long list and your memory faded out who it was that is spoken off, “I am he”.

Daniel 4 has much the same data to give us from his perspective. Daniel interpreted a dream to Nebuchadnezzar and at the end of 12 months after the interpretation Nebuchadnezzar acted strange according to Daniel 4:28ff. He developed a megalomania complex mentally.

“Is this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?”

הֲלָ֥א דָא־הִ֖יא בָּבֶ֣ל רַבְּתָ֑א דִּֽי־אֲנָ֚ה בֱנַיְתָהּ֙ לְבֵ֣ית מַלְכ֔וּ בִּתְקָ֥ף חִסְנִ֖י וְלִיקַ֥ר הַדְרִֽי:

The independent personal pronoun “I” is used also in his verbatim words quoted or cited by Daniel in this verse. The same neo-Babylonian independent personal pronoun a-na-ku is used here as דִּֽי־אֲנָ֚ה. What does this mean for us? Daniel wrote at the time Nebuchadnezzar lived and it was not a later Hellenistic writer who tried to imitate an early important figure called Daniel. Secondly, the disease analyzed by Daniel is clear, the king went overboard. His mental capacities became mixed with his weaknesses. It is apparently the same that a biographer from Zimbabwe said in England to the BBC about Robert Mugabe who died on the 9th of September 2019. The rulers become strange and say strange things and the followers are at loss for words and actions.

Moses wrote in Midian in 1460 BCE the book of Job and he understood this. He lived in the palace of Egypt between 1518-1490 BCE and he fled in that year after killing an Egyptian overseer in manslaughter during a sudden rage by accident using too much violence than is necessary to make the point. Thus, Moses wrote that Job, who lived in the days of Abraham in 2180 BCE, knew about ruler’s diseases mentally. Job said in Job 12:20 “He removes away the speech of the trusty, and takes away the understanding of the aged.” (24) “He [God] takes away the heart of the chief of people on earth and causes them to wander in a wilderness of no way”.

So one is back at rulers of our times and their strange behavior, whether it is the rulers of Newzealand, Australia, USA, England, Germany, France, China, Russia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, South Korea, Japan, North Korea and others, all share the same phenomenon these days: something was taken away and the people are running back and forth to seek understanding.


(1)    H. C. Rawlinson, “The Great Temple of Borsippa,” Journal of Royal Asiatic Society, 1858 but read in 1855, starting the text at page 27-32. It can be downloaded online. Downloaded on the 8th of September 2019 from

(2)   F. Talbot, “The Birs-Nimrud Inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar,” Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia, Vol. I, 36ff.

(3)   M. Oppert French Translation of Birs-Nimrud Inscription of Nebuchadnezzar, see F. Talbot, “The Birs-Nimrud Inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar,” Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia, Vol. I, 51ff.

(4)   H. C. Rawlinson, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. XVII., Vol. XVIII 1860, see page 16ff. for the copyist text published.

(5)   Republican Graham compared Trump with Cyrus on the 22nd of April 2018 and that caught on to Trump’s mind so that at the G7 in 2019 he looked to the sky to signal that he is a chosen one. Media was outraged that he has the Messiah disease. (For Graham see ? story ?). The interesting aspect is that Daniel 11:45 indicate that the one who is fighting the east and north in verse 44 is also the one who moved the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in verse 45 but then it says “and he shall come to his end and no one for him”. Ever since 2003, this phrase puzzled me since I could not imagine that Pentagon will come to its end. Of course it will with the Second Coming of Christ but the role of the USA until the Second Coming is in the heart of Revelation 13’s description of the second beast that is identified by historicists with the role of the USA in conjunction with Catholicism as the First Beast earlier in the same chapter. So if my interpretation as historicist stands, then Trump was given by the Almighty a role for this time and he was seen by Daniel in vision way back in Babylonian times.  

(6)   It is not outrageous to compare Trump with neo-facism. His style of management is radical, transformational, opportunistic and pragmatistic. He does have kindness and compassion but these qualities are sometimes serving one of the four reasons of his style.