Wise Vizier Ahikar’s Babylonian Identity?
Damien F. Mackey
The story of Ahikar is one of the most phenomenal in the ancient world in that it
has become part of many different literatures and has been preserved in several
different languages: Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, Greek, Slavonic, and Old Turkish.
The most ancient recension is the Aramaic, found amongst the famous 5th-cent.
BC papyri that were discovered … on Elephantine Island in the Nile. The story
worked its way into the Arabian nights and the Koran; it influenced Aesop, the
Church Fathers as well as Greek philosophers, and the OT itself.
In the course of my attempted ‘folding’ of the supposed C12th BC ‘Middle’ Assyro-Babylonian history with that of the C8th BC ‘Neo’ Assyro-Babylonian era in my university thesis:
A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah
and its Background
I believed that I may have found - over and above some very compelling Babylonian-Elamite parallels - a connection between a ‘Middle’ kingdom vizier of great wisdom and a similarly celebrated “Neo’ kingdom sage.
I wrote about this as follows (Volume One, pp. 185-187):
A Legendary Vizier (Ummânu)
Perhaps a further indication of a need for merging the C12th BC king of Babylon, Nebuchednezzar I, with the C8th BC king of Assyria, Sargon II/ Sennacherib, is that one finds during the reign of ‘each’ a vizier of such fame that he was to be remembered for centuries to come. It is now reasonable to assume that this is one and the same vizier.
I refer, in the case of Nebuchednezzar I, to the following celebrated vizier: … “The name Esagil-kini-ubba, ummânu or “royal secretary” during the reign of Nebuchednezzar I, was preserved in Babylonian memory for almost one thousand years – as late as the year 147 of the Seleucid Era (= 165 B.C.) …”.
Even better known is Ahikar (var. Akhiqar), of Sennacherib’s reign, regarding whose immense popularity we read: ….
The story of Ahikar is one of the most phenomenal in the ancient world in that it has become part of many different literatures and has been preserved in several different languages: Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, Greek, Slavonic, and Old Turkish. The most ancient recension is the Aramaic, found amongst the famous 5th-cent. BC papyri that were discovered … on Elephantine Island in the Nile. The story worked its way into the Arabian nights and the Koran; it influenced Aesop, the Church Fathers as well as Greek philosophers, and the OT itself.
According to the first chapter of [the Book of Tobit]: “Ahikar had been chief cupbearer, keeper of the signet, administrator and treasurer under Sennacherib” and he was kept in office after Sennacherib’s death. At some point in time Ahikar seems to have been promoted to Ummânu, or Vizier, second in power in the mighty kingdom of Assyria, “Chancellor of the Exchequer for the kingdom and given the main ordering of affairs” (1:21, 22). Ahikar was Chief Cupbearer, or Rabshakeh … during Sennacherib’s Third Campaign when Jerusalem was besieged (2 Kings 18:17; Isaiah 36:2). His title (Assyrian rab-šakê) means, literally, ‘the great man’. It was a military title, marking its bearer amongst the greatest of all the officers. Tobit tells us that Ahikar (also given in the Vulgate version of [the Book of Tobit] as Achior) was the son of his brother Anael (1:21). Ahikar was therefore Tobit’s nephew, of the tribe of Naphtali, taken into captivity by ‘Shalmaneser’.
This Ahikar/Achior was - as I shall be arguing in VOLUME TWO (cf. pp. 8, 46-47) - the
same as the important Achior of [the Book of Judith].
Kraeling, whilst incorrectly I believe suggesting that: …. “There does not appear to be any demonstrable connection between this Achior [of the Book of Judith] and the Ahikar of the [legendary] Aramaic Story”, confirms however that the name Achior can be the same as Ahikar ….
I had suggested above that Adad-apla-iddina, ruler of Babylon at the time of Tiglathpileser I, may have been the same person as Merodach-baladan I/II. I may now be able to strengthen this link to some degree through the agency of the vizier just discussed. For, according to Brinkman: …. “… Esagil-kini-ubba served as ummânu … under Adad-aplaiddina…”.
[End of quote]
According to Irving L. Finkel (Adad-apla-iddina, Esagil-kīn-apali, and the Series SA.GIG, p. 144): “Esagil-kīni-ubba (Saggil-kīnam-ubbib), probably the author of the Babylonian Theodicy, is shown to have served as ummānu both under Nebuchadnezzar I and Adad-apla-iddina …”. (http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/saao/knpp/downloads/finkel_fs_sachs.pdf). This is interesting because The Babylonian Theodicy has been likened to the biblical Book of Job. For example (Davis Hankins, “A Taste of the Wise Life: Job and Theodicy”: http://www.oxfordbiblicalstudies.com/resource/lessonplan_5.xhtml):
Ancient Near Eastern Parallels
The book of Job has much in common with several important ancient Near Eastern texts associated with "Wisdom literature." While it is not certain that the book of Job depended upon any of these texts in particular, they are all witness to a similar conception of the world. It would be helpful to introduce students to some of these texts, such as The Babylonian Theodicy or The Eloquent Peasant, and compare and contrast them with the book of Job. In particular, note the dialogic form of these texts, as well as their common sources of knowledge and common methods of reasoning. For more information, see the article on the ancient Near Eastern parallels to the book of Job.
[End of quote]
And Job (= Tobias) was Ahikar’s very cousin. See my:
Stellar Life and Career of the holy Prophet Job
It has been suggested by scholars that ummānu styled themselves on the antediluvian sages. According to Samizdat (July, 2015), for instance: https://therealsamizdat.com/2015/07/
The ummânū fashioned themselves—consciously or perhaps unconsciously—into the scribal heirs of the antediluvian sages, themselves closely allied with Ea, the patron deity of the ummânū.
This relationship of scholarly succession gave mythological support for the roles of the ummânū at court and in society as ritual experts, counselors to the king, and authors of important cuneiform works. ….