Biblical Burns
The Art of the Insult According to Scripture

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16th May 2015
- Israelite Scribes
Daniel 1:1

Okay, this one might need some explanation.

I know what you’re thinking: Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful Babylonian king who conquered Israel in 597 BC! How is that an insult?

Well, yes, he was. But his name wasn’t really Nebuchadnezzar.

The name is actually found in two forms in the Old Testament: Nebuchadnezzar and Nebuchadrezzar.

Spot the difference.

While the former is more common, the latter is actually a closer rendering of the king’s real Akkadian name, Nabu-kudurri-uṣur, which means “O Nabu, watch over my heir”[1]. Nabu was the Babylonian god of wisdom.

While I’ll admit that it is only speculation, a few scholars have suggested* that the substitution was more than poor transliteration on the part of the Israelite scribes. You see, with the ‘r’ sound substituted for an ‘n’ sound, the name could’ve sounded more like “O Nabu, watch over the mule.”

* A van Selms, “The Name Nebuchadnezzar” in Travels in the World of the Old Testament (1974, ed MSH van Voss, p 225).

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