You wouldn’t expect an old receipt to have major significance for Biblical studies. And yet just such a receipt came to light while Dr. Michael Jursa was studying some of the archived cuneiform tablets in the Babylonian collection of the British Museum. Jursa, an Austrian Assyriologist from the University of Vienna, was deciphering the small clay tablet when he came across the name of a secondary character mentioned in the Bible.
The document is an ordinary receipt that records a payment made to the temple in Babylon by “chief eunuch” Nabu-sharrussu-ukin. Dr. Jursa has demonstrated that this is the same Babylonian official from the Book of Jeremiah, where his name is translated as Nebo-Sarsekim.
Jeremiah 39 gives an account of the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar and his army in 587 B.C.E. Nebo-Sarsekim is one of only a few named officials who were present with the king in the city gate when Jerusalem fell (Jeremiah 39:3). Here, too, he is described as chief eunuch. The capture and destruction of Jerusalem occurred amidst Nebuchadnezzar’s larger campaign against the Egyptians, which began in 601 B.C.E.
The discovery of a non-Biblical reference to a figure (other than a king) named in the Bible is extremely rare. This cuneiform tablet is a primary witness that confirms the accuracy of the Biblical account at an important point in history.
As Dr. Jursa put it, “Reading Babylonian tablets is often laborious, but also very satisfying: There is so much new information yet to be discovered.” Added the British Museum’s Irving Finkel: “Cuneiform tablets might