Nebuchadnezzar, Gilgamesh, And The ‘Babylonian Job’ -- By: Paul Ferguson

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 37:3 (Sep 1994)
Article: Nebuchadnezzar, Gilgamesh, And The ‘Babylonian Job’
Author: Paul Ferguson


Nebuchadnezzar, Gilgamesh,
And The ‘Babylonian Job’

Paul Ferguson*

Nebuchadnezzar stood on his palace roof, which had been made of cedar from the forests of Lebanon. Stacked all around were over fifteen million bricks, each containing his name and royal titles. He was surrounded by six walls and a 262-foot moat.1 Some of the buildings seemed to rival the heavens. The “contented one”2 swelled with pride and cried out, “Is not this Babylon, which I have built?” (Dan 4:30).

He had forgotten that all the bricks were made of mud. He had also forgotten the affirmation made at his accession that all he possessed came from one deity.3 He had not remembered that his father had represented himself on a monument as the “son of nobody,” helpless without his god.4 He had failed to notice two streets below him called “Bow Down, Proud One” and “May the Arrogant Not Flourish.” He did not even recall that one of the names of his palace was “The Place Where Proud Ones Are Compelled to Submit.”5

I. The King’s Madness: Fact Or Folklore?

As soon as the king uttered his boast he lapsed into a strange kind of mental illness that would last until seven periods of time passed (4:25, 32). Those who proceed with the assumption that there are no supernatural elements in the narrative have always been quick to brush aside the possibility of reality in this incident. Louis Hartman confidently states that “enough is known of Nebuchadnezzar’s forty-three year reign so that it is impossible to fit in such a period of insanity.”6

It has apparently escaped the attention of many expositors that there are no definite time markers associated with the king’s illness.7 The only

* Paul Ferguson is professor of Old Testament at Christian Life College in Mount Prospect, IL.

specific period of time mentioned in the entire chapter is the word for “month” in 4:29. Interestingly the literal Aramaic wording for the termination point of the king’s malady is “at the end of the days.” Though it is certainly proper to render these words “at the end of this time,” even seven days...

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