Shadrach, Meshach And Abed-Nego In Ancient Babylonian Records

It is written:

Daniel 1:7-To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.

The Bible here tells us about how the “chief of the eunuchs” in Babylon gave Daniel and his three friends new name. The word “eunuch” in the Bible times could often have reference to court officials and/or homosexual in their orientation.

“But that still leaves us with the question, “What is a eunuch?” The Greek word used in Acts is eunouchos, which means literally “guardian or keeper of the couch.”8 The term refers to those who were placed in positions of highest trust in royal palaces and wealthy households. Eunuchs served and guarded the women in these households. Because of their intimate access to the royal courts, eunuchs often rose to senior government positions….Given their intimate access to the women of the household, they had to be men who could be trusted not to have affairs with (or force themselves upon) the women-because to do so would cloud the line of succession to the throne and confuse inheritance rights. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the ideal candidate for the position of eunuch would be someone known for his disinterest in women. Although the ancients did not have the same clear concept of heterosexual and homosexual that we do today, people were put together in the same way then as now. There were men then (as now) who had a reputation for being disinterested in women as objects of sexual attraction. They would make the ideal eunuch. Of course, it was not always possible to find someone like this. In those situations, or in situations where the master wanted to be extra cautious, eunuchs were often castrated, i.e., their testicles were removed so they would be incapable of fathering children. But it would be historically inaccurate to picture eunuchs as a bunch of straight men who were castrated. Ancient literature indicates that various types of eunuchs were recognized. There were “manmade eunuchs,” meaning those who had been castrated. But there are also references to so-called “natural” or “born” eunuchs. This category apparently included males who from childhood seemed incapable of or disinterested in intercourse with women.’ For example, in the Jewish Babylonian Talmud, which was written several hundred years after Christ but is based on an oral tradition that goes back much further, Rabbi Eliezer refers to “eunuchs by nature” and contrasts them with manmade eunuchs. He asserts that natural eunuchs can be “cured,” a statement that would make no sense if he were talking about men who had physical genital defects.10 In the same Talmud, other rabbis discuss how a natural eunuch can be identified. Signs of natural eunuchs are said to include lateness of pubic hair, urine that does not form an arch, absence of a beard, softness of hair, smoothness of skin, a high voice, and a body that does not steam when bathing in winter.” Are you starting to get the picture? The ancient stereotype of “natural” or “born” eunuchs sounds hauntingly like the modern stereotype of gay men as effeminate sissy-boys who need to be “cured” because something is wrong with them. And what was “wrong” with them? It is clear from the ancient literature that eunuchs as a class had a reputation for being attracted sexually to men, rather than women. For example, an ancient Summarian myth about the creation of eunuchs says they “do not satisfy the lap of women.” They were specifically created, the myth says, because they can resist the wiles of women.12 The book of Sirach, found in the Old Testament of the Catholic Bible, says that embracing a girl makes a eunuch groan. (Sirach 30:20) The Roman playwright Juvenal (who lived near the time of Christ) stated, “When a soft eunuch takes to matrimony… it is hard not to write a satire.”3 Lucian, a Greek satirist who lived about one hundred years after Christ, compares a eunuch with a concubine to a deaf man with a flute, a bald man with a comb, and a blind man with a mirror.” In other words, a eunuch has as much need for a woman as a fish has for a bicycle. Instead, eunuchs were commonly associated in ancient culture with sexual interest in men. For example, the Kama Sutra (an ancient Eastern sacred text) has an entire chapter on eunuchs seducing men.15 Quintus Curtius, an historian who wrote about Alexander the Great, reports that Alexander’s palace included “herds of eunuchs, also accustomed to prostitute themselves [like women].”6 Quintus Curtius also reports that Alexander the Great fell deeply in love with a eunuch named Bagoas and they entered into a relationship of mutual love. These examples from ancient literature indicate that, in ancient culture, eunuchs were a suspect category. They were commonly regarded as being sexually interested in men, not women. This does not mean all were gay. But clearly, as a class, they were strongly associated with homosexual desire in the popular mind. To introduce one’s self as a eunuch in ancient times was roughly akin to introducing one’s self today as a hairdresser from San Francisco.” (Jeff Miner & John Tyler Connoley, The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships, 512-537 (Kindle Edition); Indianapolis, Indiana; Jesus Metropolitan Community Church)

What is interesting to notice is the fact that the names of Daniel’s three friends have been found recorded in ancient Babylonian records, which provides further confirmation of the accuracy of the Bible text!

“But for the moment, we may satisfy ourselves with the observation that, contrary to all the accusations of the critics, these men were flesh and blood historical characters living in 6th-century BC Babylon, and not a figment of the imagination of some 2nd-century BC Maccabaean forger of the Book of Daniel. The name Shadrach was spelt Shuduraku in Babylonian, and Meshach was merely the Babylonian/ Assyrian name Meshaku. 1 So, they were known names in Babylon after all, and not just made up out of someone’s head. But it goes a little further than that. Shadrach seems, indeed, to have baulked at using his given name even in his official capacities. We know this because he had his original Hebrew name, Hananiah, recorded in one monumental inscription at least. Normally, that would have been an extraordinarily foolhardy thing to do. If Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, went to the trouble of conferring a name upon you, then you stayed named. His defiance and the royal forbearance shown to his defiance, is a strong indication therefore that something outstanding had happened to give Hananaiah some kind of special consideration in the king’s eyes. What can that event have been? And what does archaeology say about it? We shall see. We shall begin by looking at a most remarkable document known as the Istanbul Prism (IM 7834). The Istanbul Prism is a five-sided clay cylinder containing five columns of text. The first two sides of the prism contain all sorts of theological statements concerning Nebuchadnezzar, his temple-building projects and how pleased the gods of Babylon were with him. This was by way of a precursor to his prayer to Marduk (3rd column), pleading that the chief of his gods would strengthen and consolidate his hold over the empire. It implies very much that Nebuchadnezzar’s grip on power had been challenged and weakened recently, and we shall see what had happened shortly. But the remaining two columns contain lists of various ranks of royal officials and dignitaries that had been gathered for the occasion. The first list is of special interest to us, for it comprises the names of Babylon’s top court officials, the mashennim. Daniel 3: 2 supplies us with a similar list of officials who were present at an event that has since become known as the Convocation at Dura. The occasion is the setting up of an image on the Plain of Dura, an area outside Babylon, probably of the chief god Marduk, and Nebuchadnezzar’s insistence that all his subjects, and especially these officials, bow to the image as a show of loyalty to both god and king: “Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.” (Daniel 3: 2) The inscription on the Istanbul Prism parallels this with a list of its own: 1) Court Officials (meshannim); 2) The rabuti of Akkad; 3) Town Officials; 4) District Officials; and 5) Western Vassal Kings. It is the first of these that interests us, because it names the following amongst the leading Court Officials–the meshannim-those closest to the king. Twelfth in the list is Mushallim-Marduk, one of the overseers of the slave girls; fifteenth is, Ardi-Nabu, who was secretary (sipiru) to Amel-Marduk, the son of Nebuchadnezzar and Crown Prince; and eighteenth is Hanunu, chief of the royal merchants (rab tamkari). All of these were positions of the greatest trust, and it is interesting to note that Mushallim is the Babylonian form of the Hebrew name Mishael (but see Postscript below); Ardi-Nabu means Servant of Nebo, and is the original Babylonian form of the Hebrew Abed-Nebo, which holds the same meaning, but which in this case was corrupted-as we have seen-by Daniel to the meaningless Abednego, (we shall see more of Ardi-Nabu very shortly). And lastly is Hanunu, chief of the royal merchants, which is a direct transposition into Babylonian of Shadrach’s Hebrew name, Hananiah. 2 It is an extraordinary authentification of the Book of Daniel and its faithfulness to the historical record. Yet the public have never got to hear of it. Amazing. 3 The name Ardi-Nabu, or Abednego, is found in other inscriptions as well. He appears particularly in a series of tablets from the Temple Archive at Erech. The archive was a repository of legal documents, leases, contracts, and so on, and they are detailed enough to allow us to build up a picture of the household that Abednego was able to raise during the years of the Captivity. The first tablet that interests us is no. 35 of the Archive, this concerning the four-year lease of a house. The house was owned by a lady named Amata, and was known as the rukbu or beamed house, evidently a predominately wooden structure as opposed to mud-brick. The house was leased to Ki-Nabu who was the slave of Ardi-Nabu (Abednego), for a daily rental of 12 meals and the yearly sum of half a shekel of silver. But of greater interest are the witnesses to the deed. Among them is Ibni-Innina, the son of Balatsu, who was in turn the son of Ardi-Nabu. So on this one cuneiform tablet, we have the names of Abednego himself, a son of his, a grandson, and a slave. 4 The slave would have come with the office which Abednego held, and was doubtless treated well if this lease is anything to go by. Tablet 228 of the Archive records a payment of 1 shekel of silver to Balatsu, the son of Abednego–1 siqlu a-na Balat-su apil Ardi-Nabu–‘and the soldiers who were with him.’ The tablet is dated 25th Marchesvan (the regnal year is lost) at some point in the reign of Nabu-kudduri-usur sar Babili–Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. 5 Our knowledge is expanded yet further by Tablet 408 in the series, where a payment of 5 shekels is made to Nana-ah-iddin, another son of Ardi-Nabu, for organising a gang of labourers who carried tidu (a kind of fertiliser) to the sakillu trees (unknown) which lined a newly dug canal in Babylon. This tablet is dated 2nd day of Tammuz, in the 10th year of Nabonidus (546 BC). It adds, of course, another son to Ardi-Nabu. 6 Including the Istanbul Prism, Abednego (or Ardi-Nabu), or Azariah to give him his Hebrew name, is thus known to appear in no less than four inscriptions. If that doesn’t vouch for his historicity, then I suppose nothing can. He held high office under three of Babylon’s kings, Nebuchadnezzar, Amel-Marduk his son, and Nabonidus his son-in-law, father and co-regent of the now famous Belshazzar. In all, and including the appearance of Daniel, Hananiah and Mishael in the Babylonian records, that is an awful lot to say for four men whom most modernists would have us believe are fictitious. These inscriptions should have been trumpeted from the housetops from day one of their discovery. They are of immense importance. Yet the world, and particularly the world of Bible-believers, has heard nothing of them. But that is not all, not by a long chalk.” (Bill Cooper, The Authenticity Of The Book Of Daniel, 426-489 (Kindle Edition))

Archaeology continually confirms the Bible.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

Leave a Reply

Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: