First, Chris asks: which version is correct, the NIV or the NRSV and the NJPSV? As I mentioned in my first post, all versions struggle with the Babylonian names, so, it is doubtful that the NRSV is better than the NIV in this case. Chris asks:
would it be appropriate to use the tablet to "correct" translations like the NRSV and NJPSV that read "Samgar-nebo, Sarsekim" rather than "Samgar, Nebo-sarsekim"?Why not, if in this case the NRSV is wrong? In the past I have taken the NRSV against the NIV, but in this case I take the NIV against the NRSV. Even Chris leans “toward the NIV against the NRSV and NJPSV on the translation of the list of officials’ names.”
Second, Chris is puzzled with the presence of two Nergal-sharezers in Jeremiah 39:3. Since these two Nergal-sharezers have different titles, they probably were two different people working for the king of Babylon.
Third, Chris warns us that maybe the Nebo-Sarsekim of the clay tablet may not be the same Nebo-Sarsekim of Jeremiah 39:3. This is a fair assumption because if there were two Nergal-sharezers in Babylon, it is also possible that there was more than one Nebo-Sarsekim.
Many of the other issues raised by Chris have been addressed by Jack R. Lundbom in his commentary, Jeremiah 37-52 (The Anchor Bible; New York: Doubleday, 2004), 84-85.
Below I quote Lundbom’s comments in full. All the emphases are his; the abbreviations from works cited are quoted as they appear in the commentary. Those who want to read the works cited by Lundbom should consult his commentary. Lindbom wrote:
Nergalsharerer the Samgar, Nebusanechim the Rab-saris, Nergalsharezer the Rab-mag. Difficulty in rendering these Babylonian names shows up already in the Versions, which betray uncertainty about components and a general unawareness that names are followed by titles. What we have are three names with titles (Bogaert 1990: 317), the same number–but not all the same persons–as in v 13. If one were to read MT's hyphenated samgar-nebu as a separate name, which is possible (= Akk Sinmagir-Nabu), the names and individuals would then be four: Nergal-sharezer, Samgar-nebu, Sarsechim the Rab-saris, and Nergal-sharezer the Rab-mag (compare RSV, NJV, and NJB). But a contemporary cuneiform text suggests that samgar is a title for Nergal-sharezer (see below), leaving nebu a component of the following name. The samgar-nebu of MT is then incorrect.
Nergalsharezer the Samgar. Nergalsharezer is a Hebraicized form of Akk Nergal-sar-usur (Neriglissar). This individual, or else Nergalsharezer the Rab- mag cited here and in v 13, is likely the one who later seized the throne from Nebuchadrezzar's successor, Amelmarduk, and reigned from 560 to 556 B.C. (Bright 1965: 243; 1981: 352-53). Hebrew samgar (=Akk simmagir [sin-magir]) is the title of a high official, or else a place-name (CAD 15: 272-73; AHw 2: 1045). The consensus now is that samgar belongs with the prior name, which in Akk yields either Nergal-sar-user, the Sin-magir (high official), or Nergal- sar-user from Sin-magir (Bewer 1925-26). An individual so designated has come to light in "The Court of Nebuchadnezzar” document (ANET 308), where also the Nebuzaradan mentioned in vv. 9-14 is listed. Some commentators (Giesebrecht; Rudolph; Bright; Holladay; Jones; McKane) suggest that the two Nergalsharezers are only one person, but that view is to be rejected. These are two individuals with the same name (Kimhi), cited here with different titles in order to distinguish one from the other.
Nebusarsechim the Rab-saris. The now-expanded name of Nebusarsechim has support in LXX's Nabousachar. The component in MT is "Nebu" (as in Nebuchadrezzar), not "Nebo," as appears in Isa 46:l. Both are equivalent to Akk Nabu (= god). The Rab-saris ("chief of the eunuchs") is another title for a high state official.
Nergalsharezer the Rab-mag. The term rab-mag is a Hebraicized form of Akk rab mugi, the title of a high military official (mugu in CAD 10/2:171; Ahw 2:667; KB [3rd ed.]; its meaning, at least here, is not “chief astrologer/sootsayer” (pace BDB, 550; NJB). The term has turned up in an economic memoradum from the Sippar temple records (BM 49656:3), where the Nabopolassar’s accession reference is made to “the accountant of the rab magu” (Wiseman 1956:94).
The Nebo-Sarsekim Tablet was found among financial records unearthed in the ancient city of Sippar. It is not a coincidence that, according to Lundbom, the title of Nergalsharezer the Rab-mag and the name of Nebuzaradan also appear in documents found in the temple at Sippar.
Chris has a point: the Nebo-Sarsekim of the tablet may not be the same Nebo-Sarsekim of Jeremiah 39:3. But one thing is sure: the name Nebo-Sarsekim is not a name invented by some post-exilic theologian writing an invented history of Israel.
Previous posts on this topic::
The Book of Jeremiah and A New Archaeological Discovery
The Nebo-Sarsekim Tablet
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Tags: Archaeology, Babylon, Jeremiah, Nebo-Sarsekim, Michael Jursa