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Nebuchadnezzar: an example of being kind to your scribes or suffering the consequences.

In the Sumerian dictionary put out by the University of Pennsylvania, there is an entry for the Middle Babylonian word “Nebuchadnezzar”.  Unfortunately, while they offer a meaning of “1”, either the number one or first, supreme, etc., they do not seem to explain how his name was written as D. Ak-ku-dur2-ri-uri3 and those words could possibly add up to simply a “1”.  It’s almost like something out of a Douglas Adams hitch-hiker comedy-sci-fi where the character tells us that the answer to the Universe is “4”.

I know that it looks as if they were hiding something with their definition, since it in no way is representative of the theme that is displayed in that group of characters, but perhaps it was simply a case of one lazy scholar providing the suggested answer, and the rest going along with him or her without looking into it much further.

Here is that actual entry in their dictionary, which we will disassemble, below:

Nebuchadnezzar – Middle Babylonian – written as. d AK-ku-dur2-ri-URI3, – meaning =  “1”
(The ku-dur2 portion can also be understood as ku ku or ku durun, but they don’t actually tell us that.)

Nebuchadnezzar 1, the namesake for the Nebuchadnezzar 2 of Biblical mention, ruled during the Middle Babylonian period – a time in Babylonian history that followed the collapse of the Kassite dynasty c. 1150 BC and preceded the conquest of Babylonia by the Neo-Assyrian Empire in 729 BC. On account of political turmoil and the textual record falling silent, relatively little is known of events in Babylonia during this time.  Christian authors like to refer to this as the Chaldean period, but that is an error of translation which I will cover in detail in another report.

Since these Middle Babylonian kings were mainly of Assyrian ancestry, they probably did not read and write the cuneiform language very well, and they cared very little about culture, literature, the arts or scribes in general, most of whom were Amorites (direct relatives of the tribes of Abraham).  War and conquest were their main objectives, and they did that very well.  So that would explain the “dark period” described above.

Here is the word-by-word breakdown of the spelling of Nebuchadnezzar:

d = dingir = god, goddess, deity
ak  =  Middle Babylonian, Neo-Babylonian “to do; to make; to act, perform; to proceed;”
ku =  Middle Babylonian,  Neo-Babylonian  “to place, lay (down), lay (eggs); to spread, discharge”
ku as dur2 Middle Babylonian, Neo-Babylonian “buttocks, rump; defile, cleft; root; bottom”
ku ku as durun Middle & Neo-Babylonian  “to sit,  to sit (down); to dwell; (to be) inactive; to seat”
KU = Old Babylonian  “to herd; herdsman”
ri = Old Babylonian ” to set in place, to impose;  to walk along; to lead away”
RI = “to cry out, to wail, complain”
ri as dirig =  Middle Babylonian “(to be) very great, supreme, excellent; (to be) powerful,  (to be) big, huge; (to be) abundant; on, over, above; ”
uri3 as urin  Old Babylonian  “(to be) pure”
uri3 Middle Babylonian,  Neo-Babylonian  “to guard; to watch over”

By selecting some of the meanings for ak-ku-ku-ri-uri3 we could have:

The god who acts as a herdsman to lead them away, to walk along with (his people);  the Supreme Protector.

And that’s probably what they told young Nebuchadnezzar when they gave him the name during his childhood naming ceremonies.  That is if they hoped to survive the celebration.

But it can equally be defined as the following:

The god who proceeds to sit on his buttocks; pure in wailing and complaining.

And my bet is that this is what they called him behind his back, or rear as it were.

Of course some will simply call this a coincidence – but it seems to me that they were taking too great a chance to assign him a name that could be taken the wrong way – and so it seems more plausible that they awarded this double-meaning name on purpose.

So please, be kind to your wait-staff, your barber, and your scribe – or else.