NABONIDUS nă’ bə nī’ dəs (Lat. form of Gr. Ναβουνάιδος, also Herodotus [i. 74], Ααβυνητος; Akkad. Nabū-Na’id [“the god Nabū is to be revered”]). The last king of Chaldaean Babylonia, 556-539 b.c.
An eighty-four line Babylonian Chronicle (BM 35382), three steles from Harran and a libelous VS account of his reign by Cyrus are direct historical sources. These may be supplemented by numerous contemporary business and economic documents and by the later accounts of Gr. historians, Herodotus and Berossus (preserved in Jos. Apion I. 20-21 and Euseb. Prep. Evang. ix. 41). Thedescribes the fall of Babylon on which Jos. Antiq. X. xi. 2 relied.
Nabonidus was the only son of Nabu-balatṩu-iqbi, a “wise prince and governor,” at Harran and of Adda-guppi’, an influential votary of the gods Sin, Ningal, Nusgu and Sardarunna, who died in 547 b.c., aged 104, and was given a state funeral and public mourning. Both were prob. of royal blood, and Nabonidus may well have been related to Nebuchadrezzar through marriage so that his son and co-regent Bēl-shar-uṩur (Belshazzar) could claim to be a descendant of that illustrious monarch (so
If identical with the person of the same name in a contract of the eighth year of Nebuchadrezzar, he was then a chief official of a Babylonian city and could thus have been the Labynetus who acted as the Babylonian intermediary, with Syennesis of Cilicia, between Alyattes of Lydia and Astyages the Mede in 585 b.c. (see Nebuchadrezzar). Nebuchadrezzar was succeeded by a period of family strife in which his son Evil-Merodach (two years) and son-in-law Neriglissar (for four years) were followed by another son Labashi-Marduk who was recognized as king only for two months, May-June 556 b.c., in part of Babylonia, Nabonidus being supported by other cities to be accepted as sole ruler by the end of June. Two years later he entrusted the rule of Babylon to his son Belshazzar whom he had made coregent (BM 91125). He himself moved to Harran where restoration work on the temple of the moon-god Sin, Ehulhul, was begun after its ruin by the Medes as indicated to him in a dream. From there he moved S to attack Adummu (Edom) and the sheikh of Teima’ in NW Arabia, who was killed. Here Nabonidus settled with his Babylonian and Syro-Palestinian troops and gained control of an area S to Dedan and Yathrib (Medina). Various theories have been put forward to explain the ten years he spent in this area. It has been considered an act of madness (
It has been customary to see in Nabonidus a reformer who aimed to replace Marduk and make the worship of the moon-god Sin paramount in Babylonia. On this view he was thwarted by a priestly party in the country which forced him into exile in Arabia where he was able to indulge in such worship unhindered. Against this, his inscrs. show that while interested in Sin shrines for family reasons he showed the customary piety in restoring the temples of other deities including that of Marduk at Babylon and Shamash at Sippar. Due regard is paid also to other deities in his building inscrs. His activity in the work of restoration has led him to be designated a “royal archeologist” but his interest in the past, exemplified by the copies of earlier texts found in the course of restoration work, esp. at Ur, only follows ancient Babylonian tradition. The v. account of Cyrus certainly aims to vilify Nabonidus, accusing him of injustice, lack of regard for property, and the failure to observe the correct rites of the New Year Festival. This may well be a later attempt to justify the Pers. conqueror in the eyes of the vanquished. Evaluation of the two points of view must await the discovery of further texts.
The prayer of Nabonidus.
An Aram. text Qumran dated to the second half of the 1st cent. b.c. relates a prayer of this king when he had been smitten by a severe skin disease for seven years while in Teima’. After confession of his sin a Jew tells the king to worship the God Most High. This has been compared with the account of the madness of Nebuchadnezzar (
S. Smith, Babylonian Historical Texts Relating to the Capture and Downfall of Babylon (1924), 27-123; R. P. Dougherty, Nabonidus and Belshazzar (1929); J. Lewy, “The late Assyro-Babylonian Cult of the Moon and Its Culmination at the Time of Nabonidus,” HUCA XIX (1946), 405-489; A. L. Oppenheim, “Nabonidus,” ANET (1950), 308-314; J. T. Milik, “Prière de Nabonide et autres écrits d’un cycle de Daniel,” RB 62 (1956), 407ff.; C. J. Gadd, “The Harran inscriptions of Nabonidus,” Anatolian Studies VIII (1958), 35-92.