link to Talbot Project home page link to De Montfort University home page link to Glasgow University home page
Project Director: Professor Larry J Schaaf

Back to the letter search >

Result number 3 of 13:   < Back     Back to results list   Next >  

Document number: 786
Date: Oct 1855
Recipient: BURGESS Henry
Author: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Collection: PUBLISHED
Last updated: 16th February 2012

[published in the Journal of Sacred Literature and Biblical Record, n.s. v. 2 no. 4, January 1856, pp. 414-424].

Sir, -

I observe, from several articles in your excellent Journal, that the great importance of the Assyrian antiquarian discoveries is becoming daily more appreciated by biblical scholars. There exists at the same time in the minds of many a very considerable degree of doubt and hesitation with respect to the reality of the alleged discoveries. This scepticism does not apply to the details merely, but extends to the very root and foundation of the whole system. Indeed, some writers have not hesitated to come forward in print and boldly aver their belief that the whole thing is a delusion, and that Colonel Rawlinson and Dr. Hincks have completely deceived, first themselves, and then the world, with regard to a long series of statements of the highest historical and literary importance which they have confidently and repeatedly put forward.

The question is one undoubtedly of the highest importance. Allow me to occupy a few pages with the consideration of it. As my excuse for so doing, I may state that I have devoted a considerably amount of time and attention to the subject, which is certainly a difficult one, but from the singularity and great importance of its results fully repays the labour of enquiry.

The first difficulty which strikes many thinking minds is the following: It is admitted (and a most extraordinary and unexampled fact it is) that both the language of the Assyrian inscriptions, and the characters in which it is written, were altogether unknown some twenty years ago. "How then," it is argued, "were they at all discoverable? There is nothing to begin with. You may suggest an alphabet, and having by means of it reduced the inscriptions into legible words, you may then suggest a meaning for those words, but however clear the meaning which seems to evolve itself from your sentences, it is a fallacious result and nothing more: because you are reasoning in a circle. Your alphabet cannot support your language, because itself wants proof and support, and has no other than the words of that very language which you yourself have invented to suit it."

Such I take it, is a fair statement of the argument. Your correspondent, "Scrutator," puts it well in the following words (page 190 of your last number): -

"To the uninitiated the interpretation of these mysterious legends appears like what is called in algebra an indeterminate problem, or a single equation, containing two unknown quantities, which admits of an indefinite number of solutions. Given the language, it is easy to see how the characters might be discovered, or if the characters be given one might hope at length to master the language; but when we are equally ignorant of the language and its symbols, where shall we find a limit to assumption and conjecture?"

I will now mention another circumstance which has added to the doubt and perplexity already prevailing on the subject. A rival system of interpretation has been proposed by Mr. Forster, which is not merely different from that of Hincks and Rawlinson, but totally and irreconcileably [sic] opposite to it. Where Rawlinson thinks he reads the great names of Darius and Xerxes, Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar, with chronicles of great works and mighty wars, there Forster declares there in nothing whatever of the kind to be found: no such names, and no such events, but that what is really contained in the Assyrian inscriptions are mere trivialities, recording unimportant circumstances which occurred to the architect of these buildings, or to some of his workmen. To give an example of this new system of interpretation. There is a sentence which occurs fifty-eight times in the Behistun inscription. It is invariably translated by Rawlinson "Darius Rex dicit." But your correspondent, "T.M.," whose paper will be found at p. 371 of your last volume, assures us that Mr. Forster's translation runs as follows: -

"A cut-short man engraving many captives fastened by a single rope, by cutting and striking with a mallet."

"Consequently," says T. M., "this sentence describes the engraver himself." Your correspondent further goes on to say, that after some consideration, on the whole he prefers the system of Mr. Forster to that of Hincks and Rawlinson.

The questions then is, which of these rival theories is the true one? or is there any ground for believing either of them?

Few persons have sufficient leisure to study the Cuneiform writings very carefully themselves. The interest however which is attached to the subject is daily increasing, and I believe there are many biblical scholars who desire to know, without going very deeply into the subject themselves (at least not at present), whether there are any primÔ facie reasons for believing in the truth of Colonel Rawlinson's interpretations?

To this question then I would reply, in the first place, that the clearness and consistency of the numerous passages, and the long historical narratives translated by Rawlinson, afford in themselves no slight presumption that he cannot be greatly or altogether mistaken as to the meaning of these ancient records. Granting it however to be possible that an intelligent enquirer might be so far swayed by a predetermined idea as to think he was reading a long and consecutive history of the life of Darius, when in fact the incriptions [sic] which he held in his hand contained no mention of that monarch, yet there are monuments of another nature, which allow no play to the imaginative faculty, and which admit of only one interpretation. Colonel Rawlinson states that he has found an Assyrian tablet containing the squares of all the natural numbers from 1 to 60, and he has published a portion of this tablet. (Notes on the early history of Babylonia, p.4.)

This establishes the truth of the system, so far as the explanation of the numerals is concerned, beyond the possibility of doubt.

What interpretation could possibly be given of this table of square numbers on the Forsterian hypothesis? But this evidence relates to the numerals alone, and therefore will not assist us beyond a certain point. If then the explanations of the Assyrian historical records depended upon the single testimony of Colonel Rawlinson, it might be fairly said that, knowing the fallibility of human judgment, they should not be too implicitly relied on. But such is not the fact. For several years, and almost from the first discovery of the Assyrian inscriptions, two rival scholars have been separately engaged in the work of interpretation, and some of the chief discoveries are due to the sagacity of each. And each of them, far from acquiescing indolently in the other's opinions, has always shewn a disposition to criticize and examine them narrowly. The result of their long and careful examination has however been a substantial agreement as to the nature, sense and meaning of the inscriptions, the pronunciation of the words, and the almost complete revivification as it were of a long and totally forgotten language. An individual scholar might perhaps be misled by his fancy in such an enquiry, but it is quite impossible that two intelligent men, enquiring independently, should agree respecting the syllabic value of one or two hundred crabbed and complicated symbols, and a vast number of words and sentences formed out of such syllables, and also as to the true intent and meaning of long historic statements contained in those phrases of a nearly unknown language, if there were no real basis of truth on which they had each separately reared their edifice. It will be observed that the argument depends upon this fact, namely, that Hincks and Rawlinson were independent enquirers, each knowing little or nothing of the results which the other had obtained, which I believe was the case. For instance, while one of these scholars, studying the subject in Ireland, discovered that the name written on a certain marble obelisk, was "Jehu son of Omri," the other made the same discovery at Baghdad. Is it not then primÔ facie most probably that that name really exists on the monument? Would it not be a strange circumstance if both scholars were deceived? I give this merely as one instance, though an important one, of entire agreement between these independent enquirers. But there are many such, too numerous to mention.

Let me now advert to another point. I have myself, for my own satisfaction, pursued to a considerable extent this branch of study, and have had many opportunities of comparing my own translation of words and phrases with those contained in the previously published works of Hincks and Rawlinson, and I have frequently found a satisfactory agreement. But it may be said, the opinions of the disciple are often unconsciously influenced by those of the master, even when he supposes he is thinking independently. I will therefore give an instance which is free from any such objection, and will, I think, convince biblical students and others that there is no kind of illusion or deception in this matter. Your readers are aware that certain trilingual inscriptions of Xerxes and Darius have been found, written in the Persian, Scythian and Assyrian languages, in order that all the inhabitants of that vast empire might understand them. Some years ago, Colonel Rawlinson translated most of these from the Persian language, and published his translation in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. x., part iii. (1847). But at that time the Assyrian language was wholly unknown to him, consequently he left the Assyrian writing untranslated. Some months ago I took up one of these trilingual inscriptions, of moderate length, and without looking at Rawlinson's version, I essayed to translate the Assyrian writing, which I found I could easily accomplish. Not having as yet studied the old Persian, I was of course quite unaware of the meaning of the Persian writing, and could not therefore be in any way influenced or led astray by having it before me. On comparing afterwards my version of the Assyrian with Rawlinson's version of the Persian writing, I found an almost perfect agreement. As a primÔ facie argument, in reply to the doubts and hesitations of certain scholars, I think I may venture to offer the above as satisfactory.

As an appendix to the foregoing remarks, I beg leave to offer a few observations on the great inscription of Nebuchadnezzar which is preserved at the India House. I consists of ten columns, averaging about sixty or seventy lines each, written very clearly, and in excellent preservation. The characters are of the complicated and ornamental form which was used by the Babylonians. This inscription was sent to England in the year 1801, and engraved in 1807, but its contents remained a mystery until very recently. It appears from the literary intelligence contained in your last Number (p. 227), that last July, Colonel Rawlinson presented a literal English version of this interesting monument to the Royal Asiatic Society, which will be published in their Transactions.

I have not seen Rawlinson's translation, but having myself, last summer, translated several passages of the inscription, and found them to be very interesting, I beg leave to subjoin them here for the sake of comparison, as I am desirous that the correctness of this system of interpretation should be tested in every possible way, feeling sure that it rests on a basis of truth. I will give my translation of only a small portion of the inscription. Let it be compared with Rawlinson's translation when the latter is published. I shall be found, no doubt, to have erred in many things, and shall stand corrected; but if only one half of the lines I have translated shall closely correspond in meaning to Rawlinson' version, how can any candid enquirer doubt that the system reposes on true principles of interpretation? But first I must state, that though I have not seen his version, I had the pleasure of hearing a lecture delivered by Colonel Rawlinson at the Royal Institution, in May last, upon the subject of his Assyrian discoveries, in the course of which he gave a general outline of the meaning of this great inscription, viz., that it contained an account of various great public works executed by Nebuchadnezzar at Babylon. One point then mentioned by Colonel Rawlinson struck me as particularly interesting, viz., the splendid confirmation which the inscription supplies of the truthfulness of the old historian Berosus, who has recorded in his history the vain boast of Nebuchadnezzar, "that he had built the temple of Babylon in fifteen days." Colonel Rawlinson assured us that his vainglorious boast is actually contained in this inscription which has come down to our own times in such a fortunate state of preservation. Such a coincidence deserves to be regarded as something wonderful.

Wishing to satisfy my own curiosity, and convince myself, if I could do so, of the truth of this discovery, I examined my copy of the great inscription, and had no difficulty in finding the passage to which Colonel Rawlinson referred. It stands at the bottom of the eighth column, and its sense is assuredly very clear and satisfactory, as I will endeavour to shew. Before, however, quoting the original words of the inscription, I will first refer to some previous passages which contain the same words, and will therefore help to determine their meaning. At the end of the seventh column we find these four lines:

wesharsitu I constructed it?

in kupri u agurri in bitumen and brick (and)

wezakkir-su I finished it?

khursanish completely.

From this passage it is evident that we sharsitu must be a verb with a meaning of "building" or "constructing." Next I must refer to the following passage, which will be found at the end of the fourth column. The king relates how he adorned and finished: -

"the temple of - and the temple of -,

"the two great shrines of Babylon,

"which Nabopollassar, king of Babylon, my father,

"erected, but did not complete."

The original words must be quoted:

ibusu he constructed,

u la weshaklilu but did not complete; (or), did not cover in

sibir-sun their roofs.

To come now to the important passage which confirms the truth of the statement of Berosus, it stands as follows (end of column 8):

wesharsitu risi-su I erected its walls;

wezakkir khursanish I finished it completely

ina 15 tamu in 15 days

sibir-su weshaklilu its roof I covered in.

With the exception of risi and tamu, all these words have occurred before in the passages I previously adduced. The Assyrian numeral which corresponds to our fifteen is given with the greatest distinctness, and as to the important word tamu (days), it is very frequent in the Assyrian inscriptions, but is usually written tami.

From an examination of this passage I naturally proceeded to study the remaining parts of the inscription, and found that many portions of it were easily intelligible, and contained much curious matter, of which however Colonel Rawlinson will doubtless soon give us a full explanation.

To begin with the beginning of the inscription, the first column commences with the two following lines:-

1. Nabukudrussur Nebuchadnezzar,

2. sar Babel king of Babylon.

It is to that great monarch therefore that this inscription relates. The next lines imply, I think, that he was a devoted worshipper of the gods Marduk and Nebo (written Nabiuv), and adored or honoured iluti-sun (their divinities). The inscription then refers to the building of the two great temples, which appear to have been among the greatest ornaments of Babylon. The first of these I cannot read, and therefore I will denote it as "temple X." But the other reads, "temple of Zida or Seyda," that is, in my opinion, the planet Jupiter, or Good Fortune. (See Gesesius's Lexicon.)

These two temples then, Beth X. and Beth-Seyda were erected by the king at Babylon. At line 16, we find Babel u Barzipa. Here we have mentioned together the two great capitals of Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom, Babylon and Borsippa, which, though very near together, yet appear (like Paris and Versailles) to have been rivals in splendour.

The king then calls himself

19. Zanin Beth X. u Beth Seyda the builder of those temples; (or), their careful guardian.

20. bal asharidu the eldest (or beloved) son

21. sha Nabupalussur of Nebopolassar,

22. sar Babel anaku king of Babylon, I am.

After some intermediate verses we find

30. sha Marduk Bel reb Il bani-ya of Marduk the great Lord, the god my creator (or, the star which ruled over my birth).

For Marduk was the planet Mars. Line 34, the god Nebo is said to be

34. naram sarruti-ya supporter? of my kingdom.

WE read soon afterwards

37. in Zida sib-ya Kinu in Zida and in Kinu, my place (or, which I built?)

38. aramu bulukhti iluti-sun I exalted the sacred rites of their divinities.

I cannot explain the grammatical construction of line 37, nor why Beth (temple) is twice omitted. But it will be seen by reference to column 3, line 38, that the temples of Zida and Kinu are there mentioned together. If the former is the planet Jupiter, I think it likely that the latter is the planet Saturn, Chiun, mentioned in Amos, chap. v., 26.

In line 43, Nebo is called * * * * of heaven and earth, perhaps, ruler of heaven and earth. In line 61, we find the king uttering a prayer to his guardian deity, Marduk, but I cannot make out exactly where this prayer begins.

61. anaku rubu mazira-ka I, the chief of they worshippers

63. atta taban annima thou hast created me;

64. sarruti kishat nisi the kingdom -

65. tadipanni thou hast given me?

In the meaning of line 63 I have followed Dr. Hincks (see the last Number of this Journal, p. 144). But verse 65 is a mere conjectural translation of my own. The prayer continues

69. belluta-ka shriti thy exalted greatness.

70. bulukhti iluti-ka the sacred rites of thy divinity.

71. supsha in sib-ya I set up? in my dwelling-place.

We will now proceed to the second column. The king is no longer praying to Marduk, but speaks of him in the third person (see line 3) as "Marduk, chief of the gods." The word used here for "chief" or "eldest" is sikh or sheikh, which resembles the Arabic sheikh, the chief or elder of a city, but I suppose this is accidental.

The last quoted lines now again recur, but in the third person thus: -

6. belluta-tzu shriti his exalted greatness.

7. bulukhti iluti-su the sacred rites of his divinity.

8. weshashkin in sib-ya I set up in my dwelling-place.

Further on we find

15. ishtu tiamti eliti from the upper tiamti.

16. adi tiamti shapliti unto the lower tiamti.

Referring to the extent of the buildings and constructions. I rather think that tiamti signifies the right bank of the river, but am not confident about it. In line 30, we read of gold, silver, and precious stones. Then follows a description of the adornments of the great temple at Babylon which I have called "Temple X," which is called in line 41, "the great sanctuary of his divinity." I therefore presume it was the principal temple of the city.

At line 43 follows an account of the adornment of another temple, which may be called "Temple Y," which is called "the papakha of the great chief of the gods, the God Marduk." I propose to translate papakha "the shrine," although doubtfully.

It is then said: "Its walls (?) were covered with gold brilliant as the sun (?). The word for "gold," khurassu, is very remarkable. Both Hincks and Rawlinson (if I mistake not) have pronounced it to be the origin of the Greek Χρυσος. The description then continues, line 49, -

49. With lapis lazuli and marble

50. The walls (?) of the temple I covered.

The word "I covered" is in the original weshalbish.

The king then states (line 51) that he made three gates, splendid as the sun, the last of the three belonged jointly, as it seems, to the two temples before mentioned, viz., the Temple X and the Temple of Seyda. If so, they must have been situated near together.

At line 57 a date occurs, viz., "day the eighth, and day the eleventh." I apprehend this related to the celebration of some festival at the temples on those days.

Column the third opens with a curious symbol, apparently a crown. The king says: "The royal crown, the divine crown of the chief of the gods, the god Marduk, which the former king had made in silver, I covered with namri of gold." These may be plates of gold, or perhaps spots or spangles. The latter version is less probable in itself, but is suggested by the analogy of the Heebrew Namr (pardus maculatus). The phrase for "I covered it," weshalbish-zu (line 7), it will be observed, is the same as before. He then says, as I think (line 9), that he gilt (khurassu rusha) the sacred vessels (hunuti) of the Temple of X.

At line 16, precious slabs (agurri illiti) of lapis lazuli are brought for the decoration fo this same temple.

He then passes on the Temple of Y, and speaks of rishati of some precious wood. "Sha ishtu mate Labanan gushur? illiti upla," (which from the land of Lebanon and its precious forests I brought) ana zululu (to be the beams?) of the temple of Y, the shrine ( papakha) of his supreme divinity" (line 25).

This high epithet, applied to the Temple of Y, agrees perfectly with what went before (col. II., line 43.<)> Indeed the consistency with which all the parts of this long inscription cohere together and support each other is most satisfactory.

Observe in passing the epithet "precious" (illiti) applied to the forests of Lebanon. "Upla" is a very common word, it always signifies "I brought home." The zululu are then adorned and covered with golden namri and the precious nisik stone. He then speaks of the city of Borsippa (line 36), and says -

38. Beth-Zida Beth-Kinu the Temple of Jupiter (?) and the Temple of Saturn (?)

39. in kirbi-su weshopish in the midst of it I erected.

and "with silver, gold, and nisik stone

43. weshaklil sibit-su I covered its ceiling.

Then follows: the beams (zululu) of the shrine (papakhat) of Nebo, with gold I covered (weshalbish), "but the zululu of the Temple of Y, I covered (weshalbish), with namri of silver.

In Porter's travels there is a copy in the cursive character of this part of the inscription. This copy substitutes for weshalbish (line 45) the word wekhallilu, which is therefore of the same meaning. The fact is, that khalil is the Hebrew ללכ perfecit, coronavit, whence wekhallilu, "I covered." But the causative conjugation inserts sha, and the word then becomes weshaklil, "I caused to be covered," vide supra, line 43. Similarly lebesh is the Hebrew word שׂבל (to clothe) but in the causative conjugation it takes the syllable sha and becomes weshalbish, "I caused to be clothed." Similarly epish "to build," "to erect," has the causative form weshopish, "I caused to be erected" (see line 39), and sib "to dwell" has the causative weshasib, "I caused to dwell," that is, "I located inhabitants in a certain place;" a verb of very frequent occurrence. May other instances of rich adornment of the temples are then specified, and at line 65 we read, if I am not mistaken, that the king erected at Borsippa the Temple of the Seven Planets, adorned with slabs of precious lapis lazuli (line 69).

In column IV. we have a most full and important account of the temples erected by Nebuchadnezzar at Babylon and Borsippa. The list commences in Line 7 with a temple dedicated to "the chief of the gods, the god Marduk." Line 14 we have "the Temple of Makh? and the Temple of ... unto the god Makh? who ruled over my birth. In Babylon I made."

The name of this god is doubtful, but whatever it was, the temple had the same name.

Line 18, "Unto the god Nebo protector? of the kingdom, the temple of ... his temple in Babylon, in bitumen and brick (eptik pitik-su) I constructed its building."

Then at line 25, "Unto the god Bel-tzu, the mudammik of my idati, the temple of marble, his temple in Babylon I made." The next clause, line 29, is of a very similar construction. "Unto the god... who is the ... of my ... the temple of ... his temple in Babylon, of bitumen and brick (shakish ebus) skilfully I made." Then comes, at line 35, "Unto the god Yem, the mushashkin of the kanik in my mada, the Temple of Namakan? his temple in Babylon I built" (abnu).

The sculptor purposely varied almost every time the phrase for "I built," as well as the adverb "skilfully," "richly," "nobly," &c., &c., with which it is generally accompanied. It will be observed that almost all these Babylonian adverbs end with the syllable ish.

The god Yem was one of their chief deities, he probably corresponded to the Jupiter Tonans of the Romans.

At line 38 we have, "Unto the goddess Gula the ekirat and gamilat (observe the female ending) of my nabishti, the Temple of Sabel and the Temple of Kharrish-Zula, those two temples which are in Babylon, in bitumen and brick (ashmish abnu) skilfully I built."

The Temple of Sabel I am disposed to render "the Temple of Cybele," of "the Temple of the Sibyl." I have long ago advocated in another work the connexion of the two latter mythological names, and this great goddess Gula was probably identical with Cybele. I do not recollect, however, to have found any mention of such a goddess as " Gula" in any author of antiquity. The idea has occurred to me therefore, that it may have been pronounced " Shula," identical with one of the names of the Sibyl, for if I mistake not, Mr. Cureton has shewn that the old Syriac MSS. in the British Museum instead of Sibulla use the contracted form Sula or Shula. Moreover the Babylonian Sibyl was famous, we may therefore not unreasonably expect to find the name in some shape or other on the Babylonian monuments.

The king next dedicates (line 44) a temple to another god at Babylon, and then (line 49) a temple at Borsippa. Then follows (line 52) the following important dedication: "Unto the goddess Gula, the Queen of my ... the Temple of Gula, the Temple of Tila, and the Temple of Ziba-tila, those three great shrines which are in Borsippa, I erected."

This goddess must evidently have been one of the greatest objects of the national worship, since she had three temples in the single city of Borsippa, besides her two great temples in Babylon (see col. iv., 1. 40). She was the same as the moon, and the great Babylonian goddess Nanaia. See Rawlinson's Notes on the early history of Babylonia (p. 24), who says that it may be proved "by a host of examples," that all these three goddesses are the same.

Line 57 continues, "Unto the god Yem mushashnin of the ... in my land, his temple in Brosippa skilfully I made (ashmish abnu).

Then at line 61, "Unto the god Bel-tzu, the nashtap of my damikhti, the Temple of Tianna, his temple in the vicinity of the Temple of Seyda, splendidly I built (namrish ebus).

In the next lines (66, &c.) which conclude column iv. and commence column v., I have doubtfully rendered the divine name as Belus or Bel.

66. "Imgur-bel and Nimitti-Bel

the two great shrines of Babylon

which Nabopolassar king of Babylon

my father, my progenitor,

erected but did not cover their roofs...

he had dug the canal (khiritzu yekhru

with two walls in bitumen and brick

he had constructed its mound" (kibir-su.

It will be observed that in these last lines I have availed myself of the translation suggested by Dr. Hincks in the last number of this Journal.

In line 8 there is mention made of the river Euphrates, but it is expressly said (line 10) that the works his father had begun there ( la weshaklilu) "he did not complete." These great works therefore were left for his son Nebuchadnezzar to accomplish, and I venture, though with much diffidence, to offer the following translation of line 21.

21. "Then I, his eldest son, standing in his place

Imgur-Bel and Nimitti-Bel

The two high places of Babylon

I completed them" (weshaklilu).

Very elaborate architectural descriptions appear to fill the rest of this column, in which the two high places of Imgur-Bel and Nimitti-Bel are again mentioned.

In column vi. the king completes the canal and mound which we were before told had been left unfinished by his father ( vide line 30), and he executes a similar work at Borsippa (line 58, 60).

This column ends with the name of Nebuchadnezzar, which is the commencement of a very interesting passage, of which I will venture upon the following translation.

"Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon, who made the great god Marduk to be the guardian god of his city Babylon, anaku, "I am he." The Temple of X and the Temple of Seyda I made as bright as the rays (?) of the sun. The shrines of the supreme deity daily ( tamish) I adored - panama... valtu tamu valluti (in the former times) aki... pali (the years) of Nabopolassar my exalted father (abi ali-ya) king of Babylon, that great king (sar madut) who is gone (alik) to the abode (sha ilu) of the Gods." Or in other words, "The spirit of the great king my father has ascended to the realms of glory, but I have continued to worship the gods with zeal, as he did in his days."

Proceeding to column 8, line 43, there seems to have been in Imgur-Bel, the great shrine of Babylon, a statue or chapel of the god of war (il takhazi, see line 42, or perhaps we should pronounce takhaziel).

The passage is obscure to me. It is a series of negations. I think the king says it has been left unfinished: -

"zuzu su la enu zuzu ejus non fuit... la wenish corona ejus non fuit...

palaga su la eskier palaga ejus non fuit...

He then adds: "kumuratsish astakhima," which may mean "bene vel splendide perfeci."

In column ix., line 12, we have "kaspa khurassu," that is, silver and gold, written at full length. They are usually expressed by symbols. Further on, line 43, we have "Wedannin (I consecrated?) the city of Babylon, khursanish (completely) unto the god Marduk my lord;" and then after a line, 46, which I do not understand, follows, at line 47, a prayer to Marduk.

"O Marduk, great chief of the gods, rubu mustarkha (great creator?) atta taban annima - thou didst create me, sarruti - the kingdom, tadipanni - thou gavest me?" The prayer then continues: "O Marduk I have exalted thy star, and it shines brightly over thy city Babylon (kima napshati eli ir-ka Babel), aramu bulukhti iluti-ka - (I have exalted the sacred rites of thy divinity) ashitiniku billut-ka (I have adored (?) thy godhead) Zanin kala makhazi-ka - (I am the guardian of all thy temples) or it may be their builder, but I think zanin usually signifies a shield."

This is evidently a solemn dedication of the city of Babylon to its protecting deity, and when fuller understood will probably be found to be expressed in lofty and glowing language.

This remarkable monument abounds with notices of the architecture of the temples and other great public works in Babylon and Borsippa, and will enable us to form some idea of the splendor of those ancient cities.

H. F. Talbot.

Lacock Abbey, October, 1855.

P. S. I forgot to mention at the commencement of this essay, that there is another class of evidence which cannot fail to interest biblical scholars. The Assyrian language is allied to the Hebrew, although not very closely, and whenever the meaning of an Assyrian word can be guessed from the context with something like certainty, it is always worth while to look in the Hebrew lexicon, and see if that word occurs in the same sense in Hebrew. If it does so it is very satisfactory, as it must be obvious that mere chance could not often produce such a coincidence. I will give an instance or two to illustrate my meaning.

In plate 151 of Botta's great work, Sargina king of Assyria makes war on Merodach Baladan king of Chaldea, and assigns for a reason the wickedness of that monarch "who had reigned over Babylon twelve years with impiety [literally, "without heaven"], and had burned and ...the images of the gods."

In this passage after "he burned" followed yeshbur or ishbur, a word unknown to me, but the context led me to the meaning. What could the impious monarch have done to the sacred images besides burning them? Most likely he broke them also. I assigned therefore to yeshbur the provisional interpretation of "he broke." Then since the initial vowel is the sign of the third person singular, the root of the word will be sheber or רבשׁ, fregit.

I will observe in passing that the historical fact here mentioned, possesses considerable interest in itself. Was then Merodach Baladan an iconoclast? Had he seen the inanity of the gods of the Gentiles, and was that the reason why he sent so courteous an embassy to Hezekiah, whom he probably knew to be like himself, no worshipper of idols?

I will give another example, from an inscription for Xerxes, which is written on the rock of Van. A copy will be found in Vol. xviii. of the Journal Asiatique (see plate ii., No. xi.) The monarch says: "My father Darius built his house nobly in the name of Oromasdes. He gave command to erect a tablet (ana epish sis), but never wrote anything on it (u la eli val esthur). Afterwards I gave a command (upki anaku bilemi altakan) to inscribe the tablet (ana shadari sis). Most part of this has been translated by Rawlinson, p. lxxix. But in transcribing the Assyrian writing, he omits altogether the word sis or shish, which corresponds to "tablet." This omission shews that he had no confidence apparently that sis could be the true pronunciation of the Assyrian word; and therefore he preferred to give no transcription of it. Nevertheless, on referring to Gesenius's Lexicon, we shall find at once [hebrew] sis, marmor candidum, which must be the very word; for what material can be more proper for a "tablet" than white marble?

Many other instances might be given, but these may suffice for the present.

Result number 3 of 13:   < Back     Back to results list   Next >