Inscription of Nebuchadnezzar's prayer to God, picture by Francis Chin, 2001

Supplication of Nebuchadnezzar

“I am Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, the exalted prince, the favourite of the god Marduk, the beloved of the god Nabu, the arbiter, the possessor of wisdom, who reverences their Lordship, the untiring governor who is continually anxious for the maintenance of the shrines of Babylon and Borsippa, the wise, the pious, the chief son of Nabopolassar, King of Babylon.

“To Marduk my Lord I make supplication: O eternal prince, Lord of all beings, guide in the straight path the king whom you love and whose name you have proclaimed as is pleasing to you. I am the prince, your favourite, the creature of your hand. You have created me, entrusted me with dominion over all people. According to your favour, O Lord, which you bestow on all people, cause me to love your exalted Lordship. Create in my heart the worship of your divinity and grant whatever is pleasing to you, because you have fashioned my life.

“By your command, merciful Marduk, may the temple which I have built, endure for all time and may I be satisfied with its splendour. In its midst may I attain old age, may I be sated with offspring. Therein may I receive the heavy tribute of all mankind. From the horizon of heaven to the zenith, may I have no enemies. May my descendants live therein forever, and rule over the people.”

Excerpts from a translation by RF Harper (1901) of the inscription found in the ruins of Babylon.

I took the picture of the tablet in the British Museum in 2001. As a kid, with too many Sunday School lessons of Daniel in the lions’ den and other tales stuffed into my unquestioning head, I used to imagine Nebuchadnezzar II to be a barbaric warrior king whom the Hebrew god punished because of his pride. Modern scholarship has since proved that the biblical accounts of Nebuchadnezzar are a mix of hearsay and religious propaganda.

As evident in the inscription, Nebuchadnezzar was as pious in his own light as any ancient ruler. He too worshipped God (Marduk), the same chap that the Hebrews and Christians call Yahweh. In Singapore, we southern Chinese migrants call him Tua Pek Kong.

In the days of Nebuchadnezzar (630-562BC), Babylon was the greatest, most beautiful city in the world, ruling over almost the entire Middle East. The king built the Ishtar Gate and of course the Hanging Gardens for his homesick wife Amyitis to remind her of her homeland, Medis in Persia.

Below: The facade of Nebuchadnezzar’s throne room
Nebuchadnezzar's throne room facade