Sheshach

SHESHACH (shē’shăk, Heb. shēshakh). In the opinion of many, a cryptogram from “Babel” formed by reversing the letters of the alphabet. When the prophet first used this device (Jer.25.26), it was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar, and it would have been folly openly to predict the doom of Babylon. When he later used it (Jer.51.41), Israel was in captivity, Jerusalem had long been in ruins, and the use of the word with its explanation as Babylon could do no harm.


SHESHACH she’ shăk (שֵׁשַׁ֖כְ). The KJV rendering is prob. a cryptic name for Babylon (Jer 25:26; 51:41). In both passages the word is lacking in the LXX. Some scholars hold that it was not a part of the original text of Jeremiah, but is an addition by later editors.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The general explanation is that this is "a cypherform of `Babel’ (Babylon)" which is the word given as equivalent to "Sheshach" by the Targum (Jer 25:26; 51:41; the Septuagint omits in both passages). By the device known as Atbas ’atbas, i.e. disguising a name by substituting the last letter of the alphabet for the first, the letter next to the last for the second, etc., sh-sh-k is substituted for babhel. This theory has not failed of opposition. Delitzsch holds that "Sheshach" represents Sis-ku-KI of an old Babylonian regal register, which may have stood for a part of the city of Babylon. (For a refutation of this interpretation see Schrader, KAT2, 415; COT, II, 108 f.) Lauth, too, takes "Sheshach" to be a Hebraization of Siska, a Babylonian district. Winckler and Sayce read Uru-azagga. Finally, Cheyne and a number of critics hold that the word has crept into the text, being "a conceit of later editors."

See further JEREMIAH, 6.

Horace J. Wolf