“His mother’s expectations for Nabuna’id, as a reuniter of Sumer and Akkad and restorer of the glorious Olden Days, did not prepare the new king for the turmoil that he soon faced. He might have expected military challenges; he did not anticipate the religious fervor with which his domains were seized.
“No sooner was he on the royal throne in Babylon, under a deal between his mother and Sin, than he realized that Marduk – once removed and since returned to Babylon – had to be appeased and given his due. In a series of true or pretended omen-dreams, Nabuna’id reported obtaining the blessing of Marduk (and Nabu) not only to his kingship, but also to the promised rebuilding of Sin’s temple in Harran.
“To leave no doubt the importance of those dream-messages, the king reported that Marduk specifically inquired of him whether he had seen the “Great Star, the planet of Marduk” – a direct reference to Nibiru – and what other planets were in conjunction with it. When the king reported that they were the “god 30” (the Moon, Sin’s celestial counterpart) and the “god 15” (Ishtar and her counterpart Venus), he was told: “There are no evil portents in the conjunction.”
“But neither the people of Harran nor the people of Babylon were happy with this “co-regnum” of the gods, nor were the followers of Ishtar “and the other gods.” Sin, whose temple in Harran was eventually restored demanded that his great temple in Ur should become again a center of worship. Ishtar complained that her golden cela in Uruk (Erech) must be reconstructed and that she be given again a chariot drawn by seven lions. And, as one reads between the lines of the king’s inscription, he was getting fed up with that tug and pull by multiple gods and their priesthoods.
“In a text titled by scholars Nabuna’id and the Clergy of Babylon (on a tablet now in the British Museum), the priests of Marduk presented a charge sheet, a list of accusations against Nabuna’id; they ran from civil matters (“law and order are not promulgated by him”) through economic neglect (“the farmers are corrupted,” “the trader’s roads are blocked”) and unsuccessful wars (“the nobles are killed in war”) to the most serious charges: religious sacrilege –
He made an image of a god
which nobody had seen before in the land;
He placed it in the temple,
raised it upon a pedestal . . .
With lapis lazuli he adorned it,
crowned it with a tiara . . .
“It was a statue of a strange deity – never seen before, the priests stressed – with “hair reaching down to the pedestal.” It was so unusual or unseemly that not even Enki and Ninmah could have conceived it, so strange that “not even the learned Adapa knows his name.” To make matters worse, two unusual beasts were sculpted as its guardians: one representing the Deluge Demon and the other a Wild Bull. To add insult to sacrilege, the king placed this abomination in the Esagil temple of Marduk and announced that the Akitu (New Year) festival, which was central to the equating of Marduk, with the celestial Nibiru, would no longer be celebrated.
“The priests announced for all to hear that “the protective deity of Nabuna’id became hostile to him,” that “the former favorite of the gods was now fated to misfortune.” And so Nabuna’id announced that he was leaving Babylon “on an expedition to a distant region.” He named his son Bel-sharuzur (“Bel/Marduk protects the king” – the Belshazzar of the Book of Daniel) as regent.
“His destination was Arabia… Some believe that Nabuna’id was seeking the seclusion of the desert to contemplate monotheism… The bulk of the evidence suggests, however, that he was propagating the worship of Sin, the Moon god symbolized by the crescent – a symbol adopted in time by the Arabian worshippers of Allah.
“Whatever the religious beliefs Nabuna’id was captivated by, they were anathema by the priests of Babylon, And so, when the Achaemenid rulers of Persia absorbed the kingdom of Medea and expanded into Mesopotamia, Cyrus the king was welcomed in Babylon not as a conqueror but as a liberator. Wisely, he rushed to the Esagil temple as soon as he entered the city and “held the hands of Marduk by both hands.”
“The year was 539 B.C.; it marked the prophesied end of Babylonian independent existence.
“One of his first acts was to issue a proclamation permitting Jewish exiles to return to Juda and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. The edict, recorded on the Cylinder of Cyrus that is now kept in the British Museum, corroborates the Biblical report, according to which Cyrus “was charged to do so by Yahweh, the God of Heaven.”
“The rebuilding of the Temple, under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, was completed in 516 B.C. – seventy years after its destruction, as had been prophecied by Jeremiah.
“The story of Babylon’s end is told in the Bible in one of its most enigmatic books, the book of Daniel. Introducing Daniel as one of the Judean exiles taken into Babylonian captivity, it relates how he was selected, with three other friends, to serve in the court of Nebuchadnezzar and how (as Joseph in Egypt) he was elevated to high office after solving the king’s omen-dreams about future events.
“The book then moves to events at the time of Belshazzar, when, during a great banquet, a hand floating by itself appeared and wrote on the wall MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN. Not one of the king’s seers and wizards could decipher the inscription. As a last resort, Daniel – now long retired – was called in. And Daniel explained the meaning to the Babylonian king:
God has numbered the days of your kingdom: you have been weighed and found wanting; your kingdom will come to an end, divided between the Medes and the Persians.
“After that Daniel himself began to have omen-dreams and see visions of the future in which the “Ancient of Days” and his archangels played key roles. Baffled by his own dreams and visions, Daniel asked the angels for explanations. In each instance they turned out to be predictions of future events that went beyond the fall of Babylon, even beyond the fulfillment of the seventy-year prophecy of the rebuilding of the Temple. The rise and fall of the Persian Empire was predicted, the coming of the Greeks under Alexander, the split of his domains after his death, and what followed.
“Though many modern scholars – but not Jewish sages of the Fathers of the Christian Church – take those prophecies (only accurate in part) as hindsight, indicating a much later author (or even several authors), the central point of the dreams, visions, and omens experienced by Daniel is a preoccupation with the question: When? When will be the final kingdom, the only one that will survive and last?
“It will be one that only the followers of the God Most High, “The ancient of Days,” will live to see (even the dead among them, who will rise). But over and over again, Daniel kept asking the angels: When?
“In one instance the angel responded that a phase in the future events, a time when an unholy king shall try to “change the times and the laws,” will last “a time, times, and half a time;” only after that will “the kingdoms under heaven be given to the people, the holy ones of the Most High.”
“Another time the revealing angel said:
“Seventy weeks of years have been decreed for your people and your city until the measure of transgression is filled and prophetic vision ratified.”
“One more time a divine emissary was asked by Daniel:
“How long until the end of these awful things?” He got again an enigmatic answer: The fulfillment of all the prophecied things shall come after “a time, times, and half a time.”
“I heard and did not understand,” Daniel wrote, “So I said, my Lord, what will be the outcome of these things?
“Speaking still in codes, the divine being answered,
“From the time the regular offering is abolished and an appalling abomination is set up it will be a thousand and two hundred and ninety years. Happy is the one who waits and reaches one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days.”
“As Daniel stood puzzled, the Angel of God added:
You, Daniel, shall rest and arise
to your destiny at the End of Days . . .
But keep the words secret,
and seal the book until the End of Time.
“At the End of Time, when the nations of Earth shall gather in Jerusalem, they shall all speak “in a clear language,” stated the Prophet Zephaniah (whose very name meant “By Yahweh encoded”) – there will no longer be a need for confounded languages and letters to be read backward and hidden encodings.
“And, as Daniel, we are still asking: When?