Hebrew Voices #14 – The Name Yeshua in Ancient Babylon (Rebroadcast)

In this episode of Hebrew VoicesThe Name Yeshua in Ancient Babylon, Nehemia Gordon heads to Mt. Scopus for a chat with Dr. Uri Gabbay, a professor at The Hebrew University. Their dialog concerns the history, languages and cultures of ancient Mesopotamia and culminates in a newly discovered cuneiform tablet bearing the name of a Judean exile by the name of Yeshua.

Their dialog yields rich insight into the multilingual society that birthed the world’s first written language. Ancient Mesopotamians spoke to their kids in Aramaic and later in Greek, but they sang prayers in Sumerian and their legal affairs were recorded by scribes in Akkadian—which, like English today, served as an international language.

Before parsing the spelling of Yeshua in Akkadian, Gabbay begins with the basics: why the writing system is called cuneiform, why the Tigris and Euphrates valley provided the perfect medium for writing, and why most of the hundreds of thousands of extant cuneiform tablets are not great literary works (think Epic of Gilgamesh) but rather financial transactions or legal documents from ordinary lives.

“Ordinary” lives such as “Yeshua’s”—a Judean man living in Babylon past the time when most exiles had returned, and who shared an inheritance with four brothers in the autumn of 504 BCE. While Mesopotamian scribes had very standard spellings for Akkadian names, the Yeshua tablet provides case-in-point for how they dealt with a foreign theophoric name such as Yeshua’s that contained sounds the Akkadian language had no letters for. Tune in to learn more about the complex connections between languages and some of the interesting things that happen when cultures collide.

I look forward to reading your comments!

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Show Notes:

Dr. Uri Gabbay teaches Sumerian, Akkadian, and the history and cultures of ancient Mesopotamia in the department of Archaeology and the Ancient Near East in the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. His research focuses mainly on the temple cult and liturgy of Babylonian temples in the second and first millennia BCE, as well as on the learned traditions of ancient Mesopotamian scholars.

The image above is of the "Yeshua Tablet" on display as part of the "By the Rivers of Babylon" exhibition at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. The tablet describes the division of inheritance between five brothers who were all Exiles from the Kingdom of Judah living in Babylonia, at a time when many Jews had already returned to the Land of Israel. The document is dated to the 7th of Tishrei, Year 16 of Darius, which corresponds to the Autumn of 504 BCE. The 4th line mentions a Judean Exile named Yeshua, written in Cuneiform as Ya-chu-u-shu-u. A close-up of the name Yeshua is presented below along with a character-by-character transcription.

The name Yeshua written in Akkadian as Ya-chu-u-shu-u on a tablet at the Bible Lands Museum.

A closeup of the name Yeshua written in Cuneiform as Ya-chu-u-shu-u on a tablet at the Bible Lands Museum.

The-Name-Yeshua-in-Ancient-Babylon-Transcription-1000pxDr. Gabbay explains the way the name Yehoshua/ Yeshua is written in Cuneiform on the tablet displayed at the Bible Land Museum:

A "scientific" transliteration is: m.dia-ḫu-ú-šu-ú
The "m" is a determinative for a personal name, i.e., an indication that what follows is a personal name. Then another determinative, indicated here by "d" precedes the divine name which is the first element in the name. The ḫ with the small curved line below it indicates the sound "ch", i.e., the way we pronounce the letter het in modern Hebrew, since Akkadian does not have the sound "h".

The Yeshua Tablet discussed in this episode is published in: Filip Vukosavović, By the Rivers of Babylon, Bible Lands Museum, 2015, page 114

Amazon-By-the-Rivers-of-BabylonBrown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon

Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament

Verses Mentioned:
Isaiah 56:3
Daniel 5:31

27 thoughts on “Hebrew Voices #14 – The Name Yeshua in Ancient Babylon (Rebroadcast)

  1. This is wrong
    first, is not written in hebrew but in old Akkadian

    Second: is not yachu- a
    But yahoshu because in Akkadian doesn’t exist the áyin ע

    The specialist in in Akkadian says that the jewish didn’t understand the Akkadian language but aramaic this is the reason why is found aramaic translations in the Akkadian tablets

  2. Where do I begin!
    Firstly the mimation. Is it a part of speech like a dative or accusative or is it a diminutive plural? So ilu, plural ilui or ili, sometimes not clearly distinct from ilium,ilim.
    Maybe I have my answer but spell it out, please.

  3. At the beginning of your program; PM Netanyahu is speaking in Hebrew. Please tel us what is he saying.

  4. My heart keeps doing somersaults when I hear this info, Thank You. (I downloaded the Podcast and keep hearing it. I get the same reaction from the heart).

  5. So this would explain why people say that Daniel was a eunach.But,he may not have actually been a physical eunach.Which leaves open he is a higher position,he could be a physical eunach or could be like Jeremiah he doesn’t have offspring because he is in captivity.Since YHVH does not make it as an issue to point it out.It’s left open. You can have a personal name or title.I don’t have a problem with it being Jesus/Yeshua. Because,would he be THE SEED,The Prophet. The son.Yah Saves and confirms his promise to mankind.

  6. Fascinating – and you never cease to amaze me with who you bring and what is discussed. The ‘Lamenting’ form of music or prayer being assimilated made me think of Jazz and how it migrated north – and then from the aftermath of two world wars had a huge influence on British rock, Rhythm and Blues and “Blue-eyed Soul”, all which turned around and influenced another generation of American musicians.

  7. So the name of Ha’Mashiach could be Yahushua, seeing the Akkadian had all names containing Elohims name beginning or ending as Yahu.

  8. I am in great awe at this very wonderful interview! Thank you, Nehemia, for exposing Strong ‘s. I will be searching the other titles you mentioned for my personal study of Biblical Hebrew and Akkadian to keep learning. Dr Uri is a fount of knowledge! Babylonology. I would love you to interview him again on the Judean names found on the cunniforms and their beautiful meaning of belonging to the Blessed One: YHVH. I listened to this program 5 times I loved it so much! It is permanent in my phone to hear over and over and over. I can’t thank you enough!

  9. Very interesting. To think people killed each other over they gods, maybe just didn’t understand each other language.

  10. I have to wonder is anyone else here’s that we have not truly been handed down the true interpretation or Scripture’s to date. It seems that too many diverse idea’s has come to us from a secret submission. Doesn’t anyone wonder why we do not hear the Almighty speak today???
    Something very strange is happening here on earth.
    Interested in others feedback too.

    I really want answers because I am definitely interested in getting facts.

    • Yes, I wonder! And know we are told “not to add or take away” but do we really think our adversary cares about rules?! He has definitely had his hand in the translations I believe. There is a certain amount that YH_H would not LET him mess with, but do I believe every word is from him… no (and I ask for forgiveness
      if I’m wrong).

    • He does speak to people still. I kept asking how one might I know the difference between His voice and The still Small voice that could be our own thoughts. One day I heard His voice loud and clear. It was a Warning That came to pass Within minutesYou will know if you hear his voice

  11. I always learn so much from your discussions, and I appreciate you! Can you tell me where this painting above comes from, it’s very interesting, I’ve been studying old art because I think we can learn a lot from them too 🙂 I wonder what the scene is telling us, and it always fascinates me how artists paint baby Yeshua with blonde hair!

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