Chaldaea, Chaldea

CHALDAEA, CHALDEA kăl de’ ə, CHALDAEANS, CHALDEANS kăl de’ ənz כַּשְׂדִּים, H4169; Aram. כַּשְׂדָּי, H10373; Χαλδαί, Χαλδαίοι). Name of a district in S Babylonia and its inhabitants, later applied to a dynasty which controlled all Babylonia.

I. The land. The marshes and deserts bordering the N Pers. Gulf were called the “Sealands” in the 2nd millennium b.c. and here dwelt tribes named in later Babylonian cuneiform as Kaldai. The Heb. name is prob. derived from a less used Assyrian Kašdu. There are no contemporary references to the first settlement of these semi-nomadic Sem. (Aramaean?) tribes in the area, though texts from the Early Dynastic III period (c. 2700 b.c.) attest to the presence of Semites in the region, some of whom may by that time have occupied the area about Ur, called “of the Chaldaeans” (Gen 11:28) to distinguish it from northern cities called Ura’. Operations by these tribes to the W would not be improbable (Job 1:17), but the dating of these allusions cannot as yet be checked by external sources. The area also was named after the tribes that occupied its parts; Bīt-Dakkuri, Bīt-Adini, Bīt-Amukkani, Bīt-Sa’alli, Bīt-Shilani and Bīt-Yakin. With the rise of the Chaldaean dynasty (626 b.c.) the name was used to describe Babylonia and its empire in its entirety (Dan 3:8).

II. History.

a. Assyrian domination. By reason of the comparative inaccessibility of their territory, the tribes in the southern marshes were largely independent, and often a source of trouble to their Assyrian overlords. Ashurnaṩirpal II (883-859 b.c.) was the first to note their activities in his annals. His son Shalmaneser III captured Baqani from the Adini tribe in 851. Adadnirari III, c. 805 b.c., lists the Amukkani and Yakin among the chiefs who submitted to him as vassals. On the death of Nabu-naṩir in 734 the chief of the Amukkani revolted and seized the throne of Babylon from that puppet-king. Tiglath-pileser III immediately sent an army against Ukin-zēr and the rebels and plundered the lands of the Amukkani, Shilani and Sa’alli, while Ukin-zēr himself was engaged in the siege of Sapia. Balasu of Dakkuri and Marduk-apla-iddina of Bīt-Yakin sought to gain an advantage over their rival by coming to terms with the Assyrians on condition that their lands would be spared. Ukin-zēr was deposed and the tribes became increasingly restive. Babylon was controlled by Marduk-apla-iddina, though he himself prob. lived outside the city with his tribesmen.


In 703 Sennacherib intervened with a powerful Assyrian army which contrived to split Marduk-apla-iddina and the southern tribes from their western (Arab) allies and eastern aid (Elam). The chief of Bīt-Yakin was driven across the Persian Gulf to take refuge among a related tribe where he died. Nevertheless resistance to the Assyrians continued under his son Nabu-zēr-napišti-lišir, who was put to death by his Elamite host who wished to regain favor with Nineveh. Esarhaddon wisely adopted a policy of conciliation toward the murdered brother’s family. When, however, the last Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal, raided the S and took Marduk-apla-iddina’s grandson Patia prisoner, the Chaldaeans moved at once to support Shamash-shum-ukin of Babylon in his revolt against his royal brother. On the latter’s defeat in 648, two Chaldaean chiefs were punished and another grandson of Marduk-apla-iddina, Nabu-bēl-šumāti who fled to Elam, committed suicide when his extradition was demanded of the Elamites.


IV. Astrologers. The immense scientific learning of the Chaldaeans (Neo-Babylonians) esp. in mathematical astronomy and its associated astrology, divination and rituals was taught in the Babylonian temple schools (1:4; 4:7). These texts were preserved in Aram. (formerly wrongly designated “Chaldee”) and in the cuneiform script used for copying Sumer. and Akkad. lit. In Daniel (2:2; 4:7; 5:7-11), the term “Chaldaean” was thus equated with “magicians, enchanters and soothsayers.” This was but the beginning of the use of the term for priests and specialists in these arts, as it appears in Herodotus (i. 181, 183) about 450 b.c.

Bibliography H. W. F. Saggs, “The Nimrud Letters, 1952-I: The Ukin-zēr rebellion and related texts,” Iraq XVII (1955), 21-56; D. J. Wiseman, Chronicles of Chaldaean Kings (626-565 B.C.) in the British Museum (1956); G. Roux, Ancient Iraq (1964), 310-324; J. A. Brinkman, “Merodach-Baladan II,” Studies Presented to A. L. Oppenheim (1964), 6-53.