Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Neo-Babylonian Dynasty from Nabopolassar to Belshazzar

The Neo-Babylonian Dynasty from Nabopolassar to Belshazzar
A Summary and Source Guide
Pastor Joseph Abrahamson
March 11, 2019

Most of the extrabiblical evidence available before the discoveries of the cuneiform texts in the 1800s was to be found in the following:  
Herodotus (c 484 – 425 BC)   Histories I.175-216*.html

Xenophon (431 – 354 BC)  Cyropaedia [a work of historical fiction] VII.5.15–16
Josephus (AD 37 – 100)   Antiquities book 10   Contra Apionem book 1:20-21 where he cites Berosus and Megasthenes 
Eusebius (AD 260/265 – 339/340)   Chronicon book 1

In the following survey we will be mainly summarizing the primary sources from the cuneiform texts.

The Assyrian Emperor Ashurbanipal died in 627 BC. In the chaotic year that followed the Babylonian king, Nabopolassar, rebelled and formed an alliance with the Medes, Scythians, Persians, and Cimmerians. In 612 they took Nineveh. Nabopolassar established his seat of government in Babylonia. This began the Neo-Babylonian Dynasty, numbered as the 11th Babylonian Dynasty. The kings were:

     Nabu-apla-usur [Nabopolassar] 626–605 BC
     Nabu-kudurri-usur II [Nebuchadnezzar also transcribed Nebuchadrezzar] 605–562 BC
     Amel-Marduk [Evil Mardok] 562–560 BC

     Neriglissar 560–556 BC
     Labaši-Marduk [Labashi-Marduk] 556 BC

     Nabonidus 556–539 BC
              and his son and co-regent Belshazzar 5??–539 BC


Nabupolassar’s heirs are his son Nebuchadnezzar and his grandson Amel-Marduk. Neriglissar is married to Amel-Marduk’s sister and starts a new line. Nabonidus is not related at all.

Nabopolassar established his rule in 626 BC. Near the end of his reign Pharaoh Necho II started invading the near east in 609 BC. King Josiah of Judah allied with the Babylonians, tried to stop Necho’s advance at the Battle of Megiddo. Josiah died there (2 Kings 23:29-37, 2 Chronicles 35:20–24). The Judeans selected Jehoahaz to succeed Josiah, but when Necho came back through he deposed Jehoahaz, took him captive to Egypt, then placed Jehoiakim on the throne (2 Kings 23:31; 2 Chronicles 36:1–4, Josephus Antiquities 10.5). Nabopolassar’s son, Nebuchadnezzar became an astute military leader, leading the Babylonian army and its allies against Pharaoh Necho II to win the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC (Jeremiah 46:2) while his father stayed at home on the throne. Nabopolassar died shortly after this on the 8th of Abul [approx Aug 15, 605 BC]. His son, Nebuchadnezzar succeeded him.

The Mesopotamian Records:

Chronicle Concerning the Early Years of Nabopolassar [BM 25127 (98-2-16, 181)]

Chronicle Concerning the Fall of Nineveh [ BM 21901 (96-4-9, 6)]

Chronicle Concerning the Late Years of Nabopolassar [BM 22047 (96-4-9, 152)]

Chronicle Concerning the Early Years of Nebuchadnezzar II lines 1-10 ("Jerusalem Chronicle"; ABC 5) at Livius 

Nebuchadnezzar II returned to Babylon and began his reign in the 1st of month of Ululu (mid to late September 605 BC). He began a large rebuilding project along with stabilizing and expanding the Babylonian Empire. He reached and captured Jerusalem in 597 BC, deposing king Jehoiachin, taking him hostage with a great number of select people from Judea. He placed Zedekiah on the throne. After 10 years Zedekiah revolted, Nebuchadnezzar lay siege to Jerusalem for 18 months. The city fell in the summer month of Tammuz (approximately July, Jeremiah 52:6), the temple was destroyed, the Judahites who were still alive were deported to Babylon.

The Chronicle Concerning the Early Years of Nebuchadnezzar II lines 10-14 contain Nebuchadnezzar’s report the first siege of Jerusalem and the deportation of the select people, the deposing of Jehoiachin, and the placement of Zedekiah. But Nebuchadnezzar’s records in this inscription stop before the second siege of Jerusalem.

Mesopotamian Records:

Chronicle Concerning the Early Years of Nebuchadnezzar II lines 1-10 ("Jerusalem Chronicle"; ABC 5) at Livius 
Biblical Texts on Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem and the Deportation of the survivors include:

     The Lead Up to and the First Siege in 597 BC
          2 Kings 24:1-17; 2 Chronicles 36:9-10; 
          Jeremiah 12:14-13:27; 25; 26; 27:1-11; 35; 36; 45-47
     Events in Jerusalem during the 11 years occupation
          2 Kings 24:18-20; 2 Chronicles 36:11-17; 
          Jeremiah 16-24; 27:12-22; 28; 29 (letter to the captives); 
               30-33; 37-39; 49:28-39; 51:59-64; 52:1-11
     Events in the Exile during the 11 years occupation
          Ezekiel; Daniel 1-4
     The Second Siege and Destruction in 586 BC
          2 Kings 25:1-21; 2 Chronicles 36:18-21; Jeremiah 34; 52:12-30
     After the Destruction of Jerusalem in Judea
          2 Kings 25:22-27; Jeremiah 40-44; 51

Nebuchadnezzar II ruled Babylon for another 24 years, leaving his throne to his son in 562 BC. (Josephus Antiquities10.6-10; Contra Apionem 1:20-21 where he cites Berosus and Megasthenes)

Amel-Marduk, the son of Nebuchadnezzar reigned for only two years. During these years he pardoned and released King Jehoiachin of Judah (2 Kings 25:27-30; Jeremiah 52:31-34). Amel-Marduk was the last direct male descendant of Nabopolassar to rule. He was killed by Neriglissar, his sister Kasšaya’s husband. (Josephus Antiquities 10.11:1-2, Contra Apionem 1:20-21 where he cites Berosus and Megasthenes)

Mesopotamian Records:

Uruk King List [IM 65066] 

Neriglissar took the throne in 560 BC, reigning for only four years. His first three years are recorded in his Chronicle. [BM 25124 (98-2-16, 178)] (Josephus Antiquities 10.11:2, Contra Apionem 1:20-21 where he cites Berosus and Megasthenes, Livius website at )

His son Labashi-Marduk succeeded him, apparently while still a child. Labashi-Marduk was removed, possibly assassinated, after just 9 months. (Josephus Contra Apionem 1:20-21 where he cites Berosus and Megasthenes)

Mesopotamian Records:

Uruk King List [IM 65066]

Nabonidus took the throne in 556 BC after his son Belshazzar led a coup d'état against Labashi-Marduk. The Mesopotamian records indicate that Nabonidus lead a religious reform unpopular with the priests, trying to return Babylon to worshipping Sin, Šamaš, and Ištar. Nabonidus took interest in restoring old temples and shrines, copying the inscriptions made in their foundation deposits and creating a record of those buildings. He was frequently away from the capitol, leaving his son Belshazzar in charge in his absence.

[Josephus did his best from his lack of sources in Antiquities 10.11:2-7 and Contra Apionem 1:20-21 ]

It is during this time that the events of Daniel 5:1-30 take place.

In 539 BC Cyrus the Great invaded Babylon. Mesopotamian sources are difficult to harmonize, but it appears that Belshazzar was betrayed by his allies and the Babylonian priesthood. Babylon fell without a fight. Cyrus presented himself as the authentic religious heir to the old faith of Babylon, appeasing the priesthood and tradition. (Cyrus Cylinder Fragment A)

Cyrus the Great comes into quite a few Biblical texts. But that is beyond the scope of this summary.

Mesopotamian Records:

Nabonidus Cylinder (from Sippar)

Nabonidus Cylinder (from Ur)

Chronicle of Nabonidus (ABC 7)

Verse account of Nabonidus 

Cyrus Cylinder

Chronographic document concerning Nabonidus (CM 53)

Other Resources

Cambridge Ancient History 3rd Edition Vol 3 part 2, 1991
Chapter 27 “Babylonia 605-539 BC” by D J Wiseman, pages 229-251

Ancient Mesopotamian Texts in Translation: is a great resource to original Mesopotamian texts in translation.

They have a list of the Mesopotamian Chronicles material available in translation at this link:

The links in their fourth column do not appear to work, but the links to the translations in the right-hand columns work.

For the Neo-Babylonian period the texts are ABC2-7, CM53, and the Cyrus Cylinder.

For information on the provenance and background on the Babylonian Chronicles see Caroline Waerzeggers “The Babylonian Chronicles: Classification and Provenance”, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 71/2 (2012), 285-298

The British Museum Inscriptions for Nabonidus and Belshazzar

The British Museum has 8,221 items from the Neo-Babylonian Dynasty. This includes Nabopolassar (658-605) down to Nabonidus (556-539) and Belshazzar (co reg. ?-539).


There are 4,593 items bearing the name Nabonidus in the British Museum. A list is available at this link:


There are 6 items bearing the name Belshazzar in the British Museum. A list is available at this link:

These items are:

Cylinder 91128 from Ur

Cylinder 91125 from Ur

Tablet 56110 from Sippar

Tablet 82960 from southern Iraq

Tablet 99902 from southern Iraq

Tablet 26740 from Borsippa

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