Evidence for the Historical Existence of Nebo-Sarsekim

It is rare when anything dating as long ago as the pre-Exilic period can actually be confirmed by hard secular evidence. One example was just announced yesterday by the British Museum. You can read about it in the Times Online article here.

In Jeremiah 39:3, we read of Nebo-Sarsekim, who was a chief officer of Nebuchadrezzar when he laid siege to Jerusalem in 587 B.C.E.

Michael Jursa, an Associate Professor at the University of Vienna (do you know him, Ronan?), was at the British Museum conducting ongoing research into the officials of the Babylonian court, when he discovered a tablet, 2.13 inches wide, originally acquired by the museum in 1920, that actually made reference to this same individual, Nebo-Sarsekim.

The cuneiform inscription dates from 595 B.C.E. and reports that Nebo-Sarsekim, an official of the court, gave a gift of gold to the temple of Esangila in Babylon.

The tablet was unearthed in an excavation conducted in the 1870s at the ancient city of Sippar, where there was a huge sun temple, just over a mile from modern-day Baghdad.

This discovery in and of itself isn’t going to turn a biblical minimalist into a maximalist, but I nevertheless found it very interesting, and so I thought I would bring it to your attention.


  1. Just think what more we would find if a) more people knew cuneiform and could read all the tablets sitting in museum stores, and b) if Iraq wasn’t being systematically looted of its past.

    Michael is a great guy and an excellent scholar.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    I figured you must know him, Ronan. Only two degrees of separation for me! Now if I can only figure out how to connect myself to Kevin Bacon…

  3. 1. Kevin Barney
    2. Ronan
    3. Michael Jursa
    4. Nebo-Sarsekim
    5. Payson, Utah, at the foot of Mt. Nebo, was where Footloose was filmed
    6. Footloose stars Kevin Bacon

    OK, OK, it’s a stretch.

  4. Kevin,

    If you don’t care about the actual acting in a movie together part:

    Kevin Barney => KyleM => Kyle’s Wife => Amy Adams => Kevin Bacon

  5. Ronan! You must reason with the Bushes. Don’t you think if you made this the case they would listen to you and leave Iraq (and its past) alone?

    Bring up cuneiform and people should listen.

  6. My greatest claim to fame (OK, third greatest, behind my marriage and one other): I only missed being in Footloose because of conflicts with my Seminary, Marching Band and work schedules while it was being filmed. It’s quite fun to watch all of my friends who were in it, however.

    Back to the post: I agree that this is exciting but not earth-shattering. If nothing else, it shows the limitations under which we labor in the study of history – and illustrates the caution we should take when making unyielding claims of understanding the past.

  7. I just like knowing people that know cuneiform.

  8. Costanza says:

    Thanks for the report and the link. Interesting stuff.

  9. I think I knew Nebo in high school. Rich guy, but strangely quiet.

  10. I also knew Nebo in high school. Those who understand the geography of #6 will understand that statement. If not, oh well.

  11. Costanza says:

    By the way, I think that “Finding Nebo” would have been a cool title for this post.

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    Oh, Costanza, how right you are! (Slaps forehead for not thinking of it.)

%d bloggers like this: