A Babylonian prince named Nabû-šuma-ukîn, son of Nebuchadnezzar II, in custody, makes an appeal to the god Marduk. He is thought to be the crown prince and future king, Awil-Marduk. British Museum, BM 40474.
|King of the Neo-Babylonian Empire|
|Reign||c. 562 – 560 BC|
|Died||c. 560 BC|
His name, along with the length of his reign, are recorded in the Canon of Ptolemy, and some scholars point to three separate namesakes mentioned in a list of reigning kings held by the Sumerian civilization existent 2,000 years prior, leaving the timeline of his reign unclear. No surviving cuneiform documents record his life or deeds, suggesting that the men mentioned in both lists may have instead shared a family name, or had a common ancestor with Awil-Marduk. Berossus writes that he was murdered in a plot orchestrated by Nergal-sharezer, his successor and brother-in-law. Berossus also notes that "he governed public affairs after an illegal and impure manner," possibly an allusion to actions that infuriated the priestly class, including reforms made to the policies of Nebuchadnezzar.
One such reform is recorded in the Hebrew Bible, where Evil-Merodach (Hebrew: אֱוִיל מְרֹדַךְ ʾĕwīl marōḏaḵ) is remembered for releasing the Jewish king Jehoiachin from prison after 37 years in captivity.
Later Jewish and Christian texts expand the Biblical account. Josephus and the Avot of Rabbi Natan state that the king believed that Jehoiachin was held by his father without cause, and thus decided to release him upon the latter's death. Josephus assigned eighteen years to his reign, and later in his rebuttal to Apion over the comparison of the antiquity of the Jews to the Greeks, Josephus quotes Berossus assigning a reign of two years. Seder Olam Rabbah assigned twenty-three years to his reign. Leviticus Rabbah 18:2 states that Evil-Merodach was made king while Nebuchadnezzar was still living, and was punished for this act of rebellion by his father, who had him imprisoned. In Esther Rabbah, Evil-Merodach, owing to his father's actions before his death, is heir to a bankrupt treasury.
From the Jewish encyclopedia: Son of Nebuchadnezzar, and third ruler of the New Babylonian empire; reigned from 561 to 560 BC. His name in Babylonian is "Amil-Marduk" or "Avel-Marduk"= "man," or "servant, of Marduk." No personal or historical inscriptions of his reign have been discovered, and there are only two sources of information concerning him—the Hebrew Scriptures and Berosus. According to the Bible (Jer. lii. 31; II Kings xxv. 27 et seq.), he released in the year of his accession, the imprisoned king Jehoiachin, invited him to his table, clothed him with royal raiment, and elevated him above all other captive kings that were in Babylon. Tiele, Cheyne, and Hommel are of the opinion that perhaps Neriglissar, Evil-merodach's brother-in-law, who is praised for his benevolence, was instrumental in the freeing of the Judean king. Grätz, on the other hand, conjectures the influence of the Jewish eunuchs (referring to Jer. xxxix. 7 and Daniel).
Berosus, however, says that Evil-merodach ruled "unjustly and lewdly." Possibly his treatment of the exiled king was held by the priestly, or national, party to have been unlawful; or it may be that the memory of some injury rankled in the mind of the priestly writer, or writers, of his history (Winckler, "Gesch. Babyloniens und Assyriens," p. 314). Evilmerodach was unable to counteract the danger arising from Median immigration. The party opposed to him soon succeeded in dethroning him, and he was assassinated by order of Neriglissar, who succeeded him.
The chronology of the three Babylonian kings is given in the Talmud as follows: Nebuchadnezzar reigned forty-five years, Evil-merodach twenty-three, and Belshazzar was monarch of Babylonia for two years, being killed at the beginning of the third year on the fatal night of the fall of Babylon (Talmud Bavli, Meguila 11b).
The references in the Talmud and the Midrash to Belshazzar all emphasize his tyrannous oppression of his Jewish subjects. Several passages in the Prophets are interpreted as though referring to him and his predecessors. In the passage, "As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him" (Amos 19), the lion represents Nebuchadnezzar, and the bear, equally ferocious if not equally courageous, is Belshazzar (Esther Rabba, Introduction). The three Babylonian kings are often mentioned together as forming a succession of impious and tyrannous monarchs who oppressed Israel and were therefore foredoomed to disgrace and destruction. The verse in Isaiah xiv 22, "And I will rise up against them, saith the Lord of hosts, and cut off from Babylon name and remnant and son and grandchild, saith the Lord," is applied to the trio. "Name" refers to Nebuchadnezzar, "remnant" to Evil-merodach, "son" is Belshazzar, and "grandchild" Vashti (ib.). The command given to Abraham to cut in pieces three heifers as a part of the covenant established between him and his God, is thus elucidated, "And he said unto him, take unto me three heifers" (Genesis xv. 9 [A. V. "a heifer of three years old"]). This symbolizes Babylonia, which gave rise to three kings, Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-merodach, and Belshazzar, whose doom is prefigured by this act of "cutting to pieces" (Genesis Rabba xliv.).
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "BELSHAZZAR". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "EVIL-MERODACH". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.
- "tablet". British Museum.
- "Amel-Marduk [KING OF BABYLON] (RN)". Oracc: The Open Richly Annotated Cuneiform Corpus. The Royal Inscriptions of Babylonia online (RIBo) Project.
- Sack, 1992.
- Me'moires de la mission archeologique de Susiane, by V. Scheil, Paris 1913, vol XIV
- Josephus, Apion 1.20
- Hirsch 1901-1906
- Oded 2007
- 2 Kings 25:27, Jeremiah 52:31
- Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus, Book X, chapter 11, paragraph 2, line 9.
- Against Apion by Flavius Josephus, Book 1, paragraph 20
- Transactions of the Chronological Institute of London, T. Richards 1861, volume II, part 2, page 120-121
- evil-merodach Jewish encyclopedia
- Belshazzar Jewish encyclopedia
- Hirsch, E.G. et al. Evil-Merodach in Singer, Isidore; Adler, Cyrus; (eds.) et al. (1901–1906) The Jewish Encyclopedia. Funk and Wagnalls, New York. LCCN 16-014703
- Oded, B. Evil-Merodach in Skolnik, F., & Berenbaum, M. (2007). Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 6, Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA in association with the Keter Pub. House.
- Sack, R.H. Evil-Merodach in Freedman, et al. (1992). Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 2, New York: Doubleday.
| King of Babylon