Amēl-Marduk (562-560 BC)

Contrary to the very long and stable reign of Nebuchadnezzar II [/ribo/babylon7/rulers/nebuchadnezzarii/index.html], the reign of his son and successor Amēl-Marduk (Akk. "Man of Marduk"; Biblical Evil-Merodach) was very short (562-560 BC). Nevertheless, his memory lived on for more than 2,500 years in Judeo-Christian tradition. A passage in the Old Testament (2 Kings 25: 27-30 []; cf. also Jeremiah 52: 31-34 []) states that this ruler of Babylon released Jehoiachin [], one of the last kings of Judah, from prison thirty-seven years after he had been deported from his capital Jerusalem, and that he elevated the former Judean king to an important position at the royal court at Babylon.

A possible explanation for the king of Babylon's favorable treatment of Jehoiachin can be inferred from a medieval source (Chronicles of Jerahmeel []). That text records that Nebuchadnezzar II [/ribo/babylon7/rulers/nebuchadnezzarii/index.html] had imprisoned his son together with Jehoiachin and, thus, the king's son and the deported king of Judah may have become friends while in jail. Some elements of that story are also attested in the rabbinical midrashic work Vayikra Rabbah (XVIII 2 []; cf. the translation by J. Israelstam in Freedman/Simon 1961, p. 229) from the 5th or 7th century AD, which states that Amēl-Marduk had been incarcerated by his father because some Babylonian officials had declared him king while his father was away from Babylon.

Despite the differences in these two late witnesses and the fact that their stories may not be entirely trustworthy, the accounts in Chronicles of Jerahmeel [] and Vayikra Rabbah (XVIII 2) [ &layout=lines&sidebarLang=all] may have had some historical basis. Evidence for this may be derived from a recently published Late Babylonian clay tablet (BM 40474) containing a plea by a certain Nabû-šuma-ukīn, son of Nebuchadnezzar, to Babylon's tutelary deity Marduk, to be freed from prison and to punish those who wronged him. The text's publisher Irving Finkel (1999) suggests that the otherwise unknown lamenter is none other than Amēl-Marduk and that this son of the famous Nebuchadnezzar II [/ribo/babylon7/rulers/nebuchadnezzarii/index.html] changed his name from Nabû-šuma-ukīn to Amēl-Marduk as an expression of gratitude to Marduk upon his release. An episode in a fragmentarily preserved historical-literary composition (BM 34113) also lends credibility to later traditions about Amēl-Marduk's imprisonment; that text narrates how some courtiers accused him before his father Nebuchadnezzar (II) [/ribo/babylon7/rulers/nebuchadnezzarii/index.html] of having neglected Babylon's temples, as well as his family. Thus, cuneiform sources appear to confirm information known from much later sources concerning Amēl-Marduk falling victim to a conspiracy against him during the reign of his father.

No extant source, however, records how he regained Nebuchadnezzar's [/ribo/babylon7/rulers/nebuchadnezzarii/index.html] trust and became his father's designated heir. Given the fact that his reign lasted a mere two years, obviously not everyone in the court at Babylon agreed with his father's decision. His fate was sealed when his own power-hungry brother-in-law, the husband of his sister (perhaps Kaššaya), Neriglissar [/ribo/babylon7/rulers/neriglissar/index.html], murdered him and seized the throne for himself.

For further information on the inscriptions of Amēl-Marduk, click here or the "Inscriptions" link to the left.

Browse Amēl-Marduk Online Corpus [/ribo/babylon7/pager/]

Selected Bibliography

Finkel, I., 'The Lament of Nabû-šuma-ukîn,' in: J. Renger (ed.), Babylon: Focus mesopotamischer Geschichte, Wiege früher Gelehrsamkeit, Mythos in der Moderne: 2. Internationales Colloquium der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft, 24.-26. März 1998 in Berlin (Colloquien der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft 2), Saarbrücken: Saarbrücker Druckerei und Verlag, 1999, pp. 323-342. [Go back to body text]

Freedman, H., and M. Simon (eds.), Midrash Rabbah: Translated into English with Notes, Glossary and Indices: Leviticus: Chapters I-XIX translated by Rev. J. Israelstam, B.A; Chapters XX-XXXVII translated by Judah J. Slotki, M.A., London: Soncino Press, 1961 (third impression). [Go back to body text]

Sack, R.H., Amēl-Marduk, 562-560 B.C.: A Study Based on Cuneiform, Old Testament, Greek, Latin and Rabbinical Sources, Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker, 1972.

Sack, R.H., An Economic, Historical Study of the Reign of Amēl-Marduk, King of Babylon 562-560 B.C., Ann Arbor: University Microfilms Int., 1982.

Alexa Bartelmus

Alexa Bartelmus, 'Amēl-Marduk (562-560 BC)', RIBo, Babylon 7: The Inscriptions of the Neo-Babylonian Dynasty, The RIBo Project, a sub-project of MOCCI, 2022 []

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