Excursus on the Chaldeans

Studies In The Book Of Daniel: A Discussion of the Historical Questions by Robert Dick Wilson


Excursus on the Chaldeans

  All are agreed that the sign gal may mean in Semitic Babylonian rabu, “great, chief.” The sign du denotes the idea of “making,” of “building,” or “constructing,” being used in Assyrian for such words as banu, epešu, šakanu, zakapu, elu, emu, nadu, pataku, and ritu. The compound gal–du might, therefore, be rendered “rab banie in Babylonian, i.e.,” chief of the builders,” or “constructors,” and the plural would be “the chiefs of the constructors.” So far all interpreters would probably agree. It differs from dim–gal = banu–rabu which means “chief builder”; just as bitu rabu, “great house,” differs from rab biti, “major domo,” or “master of the house.”

  The standard passages to determine the use of dim–gal are the Nies inscription of Sargon,1 the Prism inscription of Sennacherib, Col. vi, 40–46, the building inscriptions of Esarhaddon, and the Zikkurat inscription of Nabopolassar, Col. ii, 14–37.  The first reads:

1 See the Yale Oriental Series, Babylonian Texts, i, 62.

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  The king says that “according to the command of the god Mur the dim–gal–la and ummanu knowing the command (or work), with bright bricks he (i.e., Sargon) elevated its turrets (i.e., of the temple of Eanna) and completed its work.”1

  The Prism inscription of Sennacherib reads:

  In a favorite month, on an auspicious day, I caused to be made on this foundation in the wisdom of my heart a palace of pilu–stone and cedar–wood in the style of the land of the Hittites and as the seat of my lordship, by the art of skillful master–builders (tim–kal–li–e), a lofty palace in the style of Assyria which far surpassed the former one in size and ornamentation.

  Esarhaddon mentions them twice. In the first passage, he says “The wise master–builders (dim–gal–li) who form the plan, I assembled and laid the foundation of Esaggil and fixed its cornerstone… I made its measurements according to its earlier plans.”2 In the second passage he speaks of “(the wise architects) who formed the plan.”3

  In Nabopolassar’s Zikkurat inscription we read:

  By the commission of Ea, by the advice of Marduk, by the command of Nebo and Nerba, in the great–heartedness which God my creator created within me, in my great chamber I called a council. My skilled workmen (lit. the wise sons of ummani) I sent out. I took a reed and with a measuring reed I measured the dimensions. The master–

1 Ina shipir ili Mur amel Dim–gal–la u um–me–e (i.e., ummanu [See Brünnow’s Classified List, No. 3912.]) mudie shipri ina libitti ellitim reshushu ullimi ushaklil shipirshu.

2 Col. iv, K. 192, Rev. lines 14–17. See Meissner–Rost, Bauinschriften Asarhaddons, B.A. iii, 246–247.

3 Id., K. 2711, 32.

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builders (ameluti dim–gal–e) fixed the limits and established the boundaries. According to the advice of Shamash, Ramman, and Marduk I made decisions and in my heart I kept them. I treasured in memory the measurements. The great gods by a decision caused me to know the future days.

  Before discussing these passages, we shall give two more, which do not mention the dimgals, but do speak of the wise ummani and the fortunate day and month. These are both from the time Nabunaid. The first reads as follows:

  The pinnacles of the temple [of the sun–god of Sippara] had bowed down and its walls were leaning [?]. I saw it and was much afraid and terrified. In order to lay aright the foundation, to establish the boundaries of his temple, to build a holy place and chambers suitable for his godhead, I prayed daily to him and yearly brought offerings, and sought from him my mandate (purussia aprussu). Shamash, the exalted lord, from of old had called me; Shamash and Ramman had laid upon me the grace of the fulfillment of my righteous mandate, of the accomplishment of my mission, and the establishment of the temple. I trusted entirely to the righteous mandate, which cannot be gainsaid, and grasped the hand of Shamash, my lord, and caused him to dwell in another house. Right and left, before and behind, I searched the holy place and the heart of the chambers. I assembled the elders of the city, the sons of Babylon, the wise mathematicians, the inmates of the house of Mummu [= the dwelling place of Ea, the god of wisdom] the guardian of the decree (piristi) of the great gods, establisher of the royal person [?]. I ordered them to the council and thus I spoke to them: Search for the old foundation; seek for the sanctuary of Shamash, the judge, that I may make an enduring house for Shamash and for Malkatu, my lords. With hearty prayer to Shamash, my lord, with supplications to

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the great gods, all the sons of the wise men (ummanu) laid bare the old foundation… With joy and rejoicing I laid on the old platform, I strengthened its underground supports and raised its pinnacles like a lofty peak.1

  The second reads thus:

  In the tenth year, in the days of my happy reign, in my enduring kingdom, which Shamash loves, Shamash the great lord thought on the seat [of his heart’s desire], he wanted to see the top of the tower of his habitation (?) raised higher than it had been before… He commanded me, Nabunaid, the king, his care–taker, to restore Ebarra to its former place, to make it as in the days of old the seat of his heart’s desire. At the word of Marduk, the great lord, the winds were let loose, the floods came, swept away the débris, uncovered the foundations, and revealed their contour.

  Nabunaid, having been commanded to restore the temple, says:

  I raised my hands and prayed to Marduk; O Bel! chief of the gods, prince Marduk, without thee no dwelling is founded, no boundaries are prepared. Without thee, what can anybody do? Lord at thy exalted command may I do what seemeth good to thee. To build the holy place of Shamash, Ramman, and Nergal, —even that temple I sought, and a gracious oracle for the length of my days and the building of the temple they wrote… Sufficient grace for the peace of my days… he fixed in my commission (tertiia)… the workmen (ummanati) of Shamash and Marduk… to build Ebarra, the glorious sanctuary, the lofty chamber, I sent. A wise workman (ummanu mudu) sought in the place where the foundation had appeared, and recognized the insignia (simatim). In a favorable month,

1 KB. iii, ii, 110–112.    2 KB. iii, ii, 90, 91.

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on a lucky day, I began to lay the bricks of Ebarra… according to the insignia upon (the foundation) of Hammurabi the old king. I rebuilt that temple as it had been before.1

  From these passages it is evident that the dimgals made the measurements and designed the ornamentation of the palaces and temples. Arrian tell us that:

the expenses of the restoration of the temple of Bell which Alexander had ordered were to be met by the revenues of the lands and treasures which had been dedicated to that god. These treasures had been placed under the stewardship of the Chaldeans, and had formerly been used for the refitting of the temple and sacrifices which were offered to the god.2

  The Chaldeans, then, of the time of Alexander (whom Arrian in the same chapter carefully distinguished from the Babylonians who had been ordered to clear away the dust from the old foundations), not merely prepared the sacrifices and farmed the revenues, but directed the repairs and restorations of the temple of Bel.

  These skilled workmen, the wise sons of the ummani, these wise dimgals, who fixed the limits and established the boundaries, and by whose art (shipru, “commission”) the size and ornamentation of the temples and palaces were determined; —all acted under the commission (shipru) of Ea, according to the advice of Marduk and the command of Nebo. As Bezaleel and Aholiab did all things according to the pattern (tabnith) of the tabernacle and the pattern of the instruments “which the Lord had showed them in the mount,” so, these

1 KB. iii, 90–92. See also, BA iii, 234–237.

2 Exped. of Alex., vii, 17.

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architects and artists of Nineveh and Babylon are said to have erected their buildings after the commissions, the advice, and orders, of the gods. Just as God filled Bezaleel with wisdom and understanding and knowledge in all kinds of workmanship and gave to everyone who was of heart a heart of wisdom1 to execute the work of the tabernacle; so, the dimgals and ummanus of Sennacherib and Esarhaddon and Nabopolassar and Nabunaid are said to have had wisdom and skill for their work from Ea, the god of wisdom, and Nebo the builder of cities, and Marduk the lord of all. These wise master–builders of the Babylonians, like the Bezaleels and Aholiabs of the Jews, were not building after their own patterns, but according to those that had been revealed to them by the chiefs of the builders, the Moseses, the Galdus, the Chaldeans, also had received from their gods. The earthly temples were copies of the houses in the skies.2 The men who delimited the houses of the gods in the heavens; who fixed the boundaries of the temples, the earthly houses of the gods; who determined (as we shall see below) the horoscopes, the houses of the nativities, of  men; —these were the astrologers, call them in your language by what special name you please. The classical writers and Daniel call them Chaldeans. The Assyrio–Babylonian dimgal and the Babylonian galdu would both be excellent names to denote this class of men, who on the heavenward side studied the will of the gods, the plans of their houses and their destinies for men, in the shies; and on their earthward side, revealed the plans of the temples and the destines of men. The galdus and dimgals were the masters of the builders, the chiefs of the wise workmen, the master–builders, under whose di–

1 Ex. xxxi, 1–11.     2 Delitzsch: HWB, p. 654b.

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rection the ummanus and mashmashus and kali worked as subordinates, —unless, indeed, these last were merely names of sub–classes of the former. The Greeks and Daniel, and the Babylonian contract tablets, would then agree in making frequent mention of the genus galdu; whereas, as yet, we have found on the astrological tables the mention of the species alone. An Aramean writer, when bringing a foreign term into his native language, may well be excused for introducing the general term; for it must be remembered that no one of the specific Babylonian terms for astrologer has as yet been found in any Aramaic dialect, unless the asheph, or ashshaph, of Daniel be classed as one. Neither masmashu, kalu, baru, nor zimmeru, has ever yet been found in Aramaic. The chiefs of the builders, —the heads of the department of astrology, would be the natural ones for Nebuchadnezzar to call to his council, just as Nabopolassar is said above to have sent out his wise workmen from the council of his great chamber. The Babylonian name for the chief of the builders is galdu. The writer of Daniel may rightly have called them in Aramaic Chaldeans; inasmuch as the name galdu in the sense of master–builder is found on the Babylonian tablets as early at least as the 14th year of Shamashumukin, king of Babylon, who reigned from 668 to 648 B.C.

  Finally, that banu, the Babylonian equivalent of the Sumerian du, “to build,” was used in a tropical sense for the construction of other than material objects is evident. For, first, it often means “beget.” In this sense it is used of both gods and men, and this in innumerable cases and in all times and places.

  Again, it is used of oracles and decisions of the gods.

1 See KB. iv, 168.

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Thus Nebo is called the banu pirishti, “the creator of decisions”1 and Damkina the banat shimti, “creator of fate”2 and “the wise king the creator of fate.”3

  These decisions which had been created (banu) by the gods were, doubtless, made known in the houses of decision4 where the gods decreed the days of eternity and the fate of one’s life.5 These decisions, also, are said to have been revealed to the baru, or seer, who was the special guardian of the decrees of heaven and earth, to whom the gods opened up (petu) or spoke (tamu) the word of fate (tamit pirishti).6 So, Ninib is the god without whom the decisions (purussu) of heaven and earth cannot be decided;7 as whose mighty priest (ishipu) Ashurnasirpal was called by Ninib himself,8 whose father had been a priest (shangu) of Ashur. The decrees of fate (shimati) by which his fate (shimtu) was righteously decided, had come out of the mouth of the great gods.9

  In view of the above statements about the decisions of the gods which directed the life of men, the question is natural to ask, how did the gods reveal their will? And the answer is, through the inspection of livers and cups, by dreams and visions, and by many other ways; but especially by the phenomena connected with the starry heavens. In the religious belief of the Babylonians, as Delitzsch and Winckler and Jeremias have clearly shown, the vents of the earth were directed by the gods whose seats were in the stars; and the things of

1 Del., HWB, p. 543b.     2 Muss–Arnolt 175a. 3 Sharru nemeki banu tashimti, King: Bab. Magic, No. 413.

4 Bit pirishti or parak shimati or ashar shimati, which Delitzsch calls the earthly copy of the heavenly Upshukinnaku.

5 Nbk. Inscription, xv, Col. ii, 54–64. Langdon, p. 123.     6 See Zimmern, Ritualtafeln, p. 89.

7 Ashurnasirpal, i, 3.    8 Id., 21.    9 Id., 36, 37.

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earth were but the copies of the things in heaven. It was there, above, that was built by them the house of our fate. The movements of the stars, the eclipses of sun and moon, the appearances of clouds, the bursting of storms and thunder —such were some of the ways by which the gods declared their decisions which had been made, or built (banu), in the heavenly counsel–chambers. as the gods had built in heaven, the astrologers built on earth. Nebo, the spokesman and interpreter of the gods of heaven and earth, was the heavenly builder (banu purishti) and his earthly representative (the banu, or gal–du) constructed what he had revealed to them through star and cloud and storm and earthquake, and made it known to men.1 The temple of the god on earth was built after the fashion of his house in heaven, and was oriented and constructed with the intention that the former house as well as the latter might be the means of revealing the will of the god. The chief of all the builders was he who showed men where and how to construct their buildings and their lives, the plans for which were mysteries (pirishtu) opened up (petu) for them to read n the prototypes and figures of heaven.

  But, it will be said, why then do we not find this name, or these signs, employed in the astrological reports expressly and clearly to denote the astrologers?

  No completely satisfactory answer can be given to this question. It can, however, be paralleled by some questions which are equally hard to answer. For

1 “weltenbild und Himmelsbild sind eins. Der Priester der zu den Astralgottheiten flehte, eignete sich eine genaue Kenntniss des gestirnten Himmels an; die Bewegungen der Himmelskörper und ihre Stellungen zu einander musste er erforschen, um den Willen der Gottheiten zu erkennen.” (See Weidner: Handbuch der babyloniscchen Astronimie Einleitung: Leipzig, 1915.)

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example, why is it that the gal–du is not mentioned on any of the building inscriptions? Why is it that he is never mentioned anywhere as concerned even in any building operations or transactions? Why is it that the signs occur so often on the business tablets from Babylon, but in those from Assyria scarcely ever, if at all? Why is the name Kal–du used by the Assyrians to denote the Chaldean people and country and by the Babylonians not at all? Why is the land, or people, or even a single man, never expressly called Chaldean on the monuments of Babylon? On the contract tablets we have a large number of patronymics, such as Accadian, Aramaean, Arabean, Assyrian, Babylonian, Hittite, Persian, and Egyptian.1 Why not Chaldean? In Assyrian, we find Kal–du used for individuals, the country, and the people.2

  Why do the Babylonians use the signs dup–sar to denote the scribe, and the Assyrians almost always a–ba? Why is banu the common word for builder on the contract tablets and in the Code of Hammurabi, but ummanu in the building inscriptions? Why does dim–gal denote builder on the building inscriptions (three or four times in all) and yet never occur on the contract tablets? Why were the astrological reports signed and prepared by the azu, and the us–ku and the mashmashu and the aba and the dupsar and the rab aba and the rab dupsar and the rab ashipi and the mar Borsippi and the mar Urukai and others? And may not all of these have been sub–classes of the gal–du, or Chaldean?

1 Tallquist, NB. xxviii.    

2 For example, Shuzubu amilu Kal–da–ai —Shuzub the Chaldean. See Sennacherib Prism Inscription, Col. iii, 42, v, 8. Mat Kaldi “land of Chaldea” (id., i, 34). Amelu Kal–du sha kirib Uruk “the Chaldeans who were in the midst of Uruk” (id., i, 37).

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  Here is a fine list of questions all calling for an answer and as yet unanswerable. When can answer them we may be able to answer the one about gal–du (= rab banie) and dim (= banu). Until then, let us all be willing to acknowledge that our ignorance as to the sign and meaning of a term, or as to the time when it was first used, proves nothing.

  Finally, in view of the fact that the kindred peoples of Assyria and Babylonia use different signs and names to denote the same thing, why may not the Greeks and Arameans and Hebrews, also, have done the same? If we could prove that neither Assyrian, nor Babylonian, denoted the astrologer by the term Chaldean, how would this prove that others did not? Different nations, different customs. Different languages, different names.

  Besides, it is to be noted in its bearing upon the Babylonian origin of the Aramaic of Daniel that the other names employed to denote the wise men whom Nebuchadnezzar called up before him are not as a whole found in any Aramaic dialect except that of Daniel, and some of them nowhere else but Daniel. The word Chaldean used in Hebrew first in the accounts of Joseph and Moses to denote the Egyptian soothsayer, is generally supposed to be an Egyptian word. It means possibly “sacred scribe,” or “chief of the enchanters,” or “spellbinder.” If this be the true meaning, it corresponds very closely to the Babylonian duspar, “tablet–writer,” or “scribe,” or to the Babylonian baru, “seer.” Chartom is not found in Syriac; nor is it in common use in any Aramaic dialect, being used merely in versions and commentaries, or in references to the original Hebrew and Aramaic passages which contain it.

  The second class mentioned in Daniel 2:10, the ash

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shaph, is never found in any Aramaic dialect, except Syria, and there but seldom.

  The fourth class of Daniel 2:27, the gazerin, is not called by this name in any other Aramaic dialect. In meaning, it would correspond to the Babylonian mushim shimti, “decider of fate.”

  The other class mentioned frequently in Daniel, that of the wise men (hakkimmin), may be taken as a general term, or it may correspond to the mudu, or imgu, of the Babylonians both words of frequent occurrence on the Assyrio–Babylonian monuments.

  In the Hebrew portion of Daniel, kasdim, chartom, and ’ashshaf are used to denote classes of wise men; and in addition, the term mekashshefim is found in Daniel 2:2, where Nebuchadnezzar is said to have called the last named, among others, to make known and to interpret his dream. The root of this last word and several of its derivatives are found frequently in Assyrio–Babylonian as technical terms for witchcraft, one of its derivatives meaning “poison” or “philter.” In Syriac, the only Aramaic dialect where the root is employed, it is used in a good sense, of prayer and supplication. It will be noted that Daniel is not said to have anything to do with the mekashshefim, a wizard being expressly forbidden by the law of Deut. 18:10, and especially by the law of Ex. 22:17.

  That a word having a purely physical signification should pass on to a second sense having a moral or religious meaning, is supported by the analogy of all languages. Such English words as deacon, minister, and baptize, illustrate this change of signification. The Semitic languages, also, are rich in this kind of words with transferred or developed meanings. We need not go outside the words relating to astrology and magic

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to find them. For example, beth, “house,” becomes the division of the zodiac where a certain god is supposed to dwell; as, the house of Jupiter, etc. This use is found in Arabic,1 and in Syriac.2

  So the Babylonian epeshu, “to bewitch,” is probably connected with epeshu, “to do”; then, “to be wise.” So the Arabic sana’a and bana, “to make”; then, “to educate.” So, also, the Babylonian ummanu, “workmen”; then, a kind of priest. According to Behrens,3 ummanu is a synonym of mashmashu, a kind of priest.4

  This connection between “work” and sorcery may be seen perhaps also in harrash, which in Hebrew means “workman” and in Aramaic “sorcerer.”

  From the word for “builder” the Aramaic and New Hebrew derive the sense “builder of doctrine” (Gelehrter).

  Another point in favor of the gal–du’s being closely allied to the scribes and priest, is to be found in the fact that so often in its occurrence on the contract tablets after the name of a witness it is met with in the immediate vicinity of the name and title of shangu, “priest,” and dupsar, “scribe.”5

  The banu, or builder, is seldom found in this position, but the gal–du, or chief of the builders, frequently.

  Further, there is evidence on the contract tablets

1 See Otto Loth in Fleisher’s Festschrift, for 1875.

2 See Bardisan on The Laws of the Nations, in the Spicilegium Syriacum.

3 Ass.–Bab. Briefe Kult. Inhalts, p. 10.

4 He cites in favor of this view as follows: Apliay am. ummanu sha Ishtar sha Arbail (Harper: Assyrian Letters, v, 533, 2 ff.), “Apliya the umman of Ishtar of Arbail”; and (id., v, 447, R 11) annulti IX sha itti ummani izzazum dullu sha bit am. marsi ippashuni, “These nine are those who assist the umman to perform the rites for the house of the sick”; and ( id., ii, 167, R 16) “1 Qa meal 1 Qa Wine for the ummanu.”

5 E.g. Cambyses, viii, 11, 12, xvi, 16; Darius, lxxxii, 14, ccccl, 15.

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that the galdus stood to the shangus (i.e., priests) in a blood relationship differing from that in which the shangus stood to the banus or ordinary builders.1

  Now, Zimmern holds that the Babylonian priests formed a close corporation which transplanted itself from father to son. He bases this view (1) on a statement of Diodorus Siculus (ii, 29) that the knowledge of the Chaldeans was transmitted from father to son; (2) on the fact that the seers and other priests are frequently called “sons of seers,” etc.; and (3) upon the continuity of the priesthood and of its most holy traditions. The passage from Diodorus reads as follows: “Among the Chaldeans, philosophy is handed down in families (ek genous), a son receiving from his father, and being freed from all other public services.”

  Examples under (2) are found on the Ritual Tablets i, 1, 7, 38, et al. Under (3), Professor Zimmern shows2 that the baru had to be of priestly blood and education and that this was true of all the priests. Thus in the Ritual Tablets No. 24, we read:

  The cunning wise man who guards the secret of the great gods causes his son whom he loves to swear on the tablet and before Shamash and Hadad, causes him to learn “When the sons of the seers” [that is, the tablets beginning with this phrase]. The abkal of the oil, of long genealogy, a scion of Enme–dur–an–ki, king of Sippar, establisher of the holy cup [and] elevator of the cedar [staff] a creature of Nin–har–sag–ga of priestly blood, of noble decent, perfect in

1 For example, Gimillu–Gula the priest (shangu) is called the son of Shumukin the galdu (Nebuch., 335, 13); so, also, in Cambyses, 72, 14, 15, and 284, a priest (shangu) is called a grandson of a galdu.

2 Ritualtafeln, pp. 87–91.

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stature and in growth, shall approach before Shamash and Hadad in the place of vision and decision.

  If then, Zimmern and Diodorus Siculus are right in stating that the Babylonian priests held their office by family inheritance (and we know certainly that the Hebrew and Egyptian priests did thus inherit their official rights), it is obvious that since shangus could be and were sons, or grandsons, of galdus, both must have been of the priestly race. It is well to call special attention to the fact that Diodorus calls these priests the Chaldeans. If, as we have argued above, galdu is the same as “Chaldean,” the galdu might well be the general term; that is, all the shangus would be galdus, but galdus would not all be shangus, —just as all the Jewish priest were Levites, but the Levites were not all priests.

  Further, we find no example of anyone who was called both a banu, and a gal–du. Nor among the hundreds of names mentioned in Tallquist’s Book of Names (Namenbuch) is anyone at one time called a galdu and at another time a banu.2

  Whether the baru, the ashipu, the zimmeru, and others performing priestly functions were also galdus, or in what relation any of these stood to either the shangus, or the galdu, the records give us no information.3 No man whose name is given in the Tallquist tablets, is called either baru, ashipu, zimmeru, or mashmashu; while shangu and galdu each occur hundreds of times. If the sign rid in the inscriptions from the reign of

1 See also Dhorme, Textes Réligieux Assyro–babyloniens, p. 142.

2 Of course this is merely negative evidence. A shangu however, might be the son of a banu, as in the inscription of Evil–Merodach published by Evetts (Bab. Texte, vii, B. No. 19).

3 But see Addendum to Excursus, p. 365.

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Sin–shar–ishkun, king of Assyria, published by Evetts in his Babylon. Texte, p. 90, be read nappahu, then a priest in Assyria might be a son of a smith. But if we read the sign ummanu, it may mean an ummanu priest.1

  As to the relation in which the dupsar, or scribe, stood to the galdu, we are not prepared to make any positive statements. It is clear that a galdu might have a son who was a scribe.2

  Lastly, if the galdus were priests we can account reasonably for such texts as that found in Peek’s collection, number 4, which Pinches translates: “The fruit due, again applied for, in the district of Sippar, from the Chaldeans.”3 These galdus can scarcely have been a community of architects, but may well have been a fellowship of priests; since, as Dr. Peiser says in his Sketch of Babylonian Society,4 certain portions of the land were given over into the possession of the temples, so that the support of the temples and priests to be derived from the income of the land might not be interfered with. The view of Dr. Peiser derived  from the monuments is supported by the testimony of Arrian in his Expedition of Alexander,5 where he says that

  The Chaldeans did not wish Alexander to come to Babylon lest he should take away from them the income derived

1 For this use of ummanu see Behren’s Ass. Bab. Brief, p. 10, and Frank’s Studien zur Babylonischen Religion, p. 17.

2 For example, Peiser’s Babylonian Contracts (Bab. Verträge) Nos. 5, 7, 16, 28, 45, 50, 51, 55, 61, 64, 70, 80, 83, 100, 101, 110, 114, 115, and 140. But a scribe might be descended also from a herdman (Peiser, Verträge iii, 22); from a smith (id. 8); from a ba’iru (a fisher, constable, or press–gang officer, id., 17, 22, 23, 65); or from a physician (a–zu, id., 76); or even from an Egyptian (id., 94).

3 Gal–du–mes pl. Cf. VASD. vi, 20, 22.    4 Skizze der Bab. Gesellschaft, p. 16.     5 Bk. 7, ch. 17.

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from the possessions of the temple of Bel (to which much land and much gold had been dedicated by the Assyrian kings), that he might with it reconstruct the Temple of Bel which had been destroyed by Xerxes.

  As we indicated above, we shall now proceed to discuss more fully the question as to what these constructors built. The obvious answer would be, houses, of course. But what kind of houses? Or, what were the duties of the “chief of the builders” in their relation to houses? It will, perhaps, not be known to all my readers that among astrologers the word “house” was used to denote the parts of the heavens. There was the house of Mars, and the house of Jupiter, and the house of the Sun, etc. An astrologer who constructed horoscopes may very well have been called a builder, or the chief of the builders. Unfortunately, the astrological and magical texts so far published in Assyrio–Babylonian give us no horoscopes in the narrower sense of nativities; but the Arabic, Syriac, and the Aramaic of Onkelos, all use the phrase “house of nativity, or birth” to denote a child’s horoscope.1 A better word than “builder” for the one who constructed this house cannot be suggested. Unfortunately, again, the Assyrio–Babylonian texts so far published give us no certain word for astrologer. Baru, “seer,” may have included the duties of astrologer or star–gazer but his functions were certainly much wider, as Zimmern has clearly shown.2 The dupsar, or scribe, was specifically the writer of a tablet, though he may, of course, have been an astrologer also. The signs A–BA, which in Assyrian denote the scribe, might denote the astrol–

1 See Gen 40:20, in Syriac and Aramaic.    2 Ritualtafeln, pp. 82–91.

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oger, also; but no one is sure as yet how to read these signs in Assyrian, nor what they mean exactly. Galdu, because of its meaning as well as because of its being the phonetic equivalent of Chaldaios, may well have been the name for astrologer among the Babylonians. That the word should be spelled in its Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek forms, in the same way as kaldu, the name of the nation, does not prove an identity of origin. The English word “host” has three distinct meanings, one derived from the Latin hostia, “sacrifice,” one from the Latin hostis, “enemy,” and one from the Latin hospes, “entertainer.” Many words in all languages are homonymous and homophonous, without being homogenous, or homologous.

  Moreover, the duties of astrologers were not confined to making horoscopes of nativities. It is clear from the monuments that someone was called upon to orient and lay out the temples and palaces, perhaps all houses, before they were constructed. The plans of the temples, at least, may well have been drawn up by someone connected with the worship of the god in whose honor the temple was to be built. As each god had his particular ceremonies and a distinctive temple for his proper worship, we can readily perceive how the records speak of a galdu of the god Shamash1 and of a galdu of the god Marduk.2

As the streets, walls, embankments, and public buildings needed to be oriented and constructed, we can understand how, also, there could be a galdu of the city of Babylon.1

  Moreover, since buildings could be commenced only on a lucky day and in a lucky month, it may well have

1 Strassmaier: Insc. of Nabunaid, 351, 1, VASD. vi, 22, 2.    2 Strass.: Insc. of Darius, 457, 12.    3 Id. 348, 19.

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been the duty of the chief of the builders to determine when the day had arrived on which it would be fortunate to begin operations. Again and again the kings reiterate that a building was begun on a lucky day. Who better than the astrologer could determine this? And since building could not be commenced without his permission, he might for this reason, also, be called galdu —chief of the builders.

  Again, Schrank says that the mashmashu and kalu seem to have taken part in the festive initiation of new buildings, canals, etc. Thus Sennacherib sends a mashmashu and a kalu to open a canal and1 a kalu takes part in the rebuilding of temples.2

  Further, it is frequently said that ceremonies took place at the initiation of repairs, or laying of the foundation, or at the commencement of the removal of the débris from the ruins of an old temple, or at the dedication of a new, or renewed, building. For example, at the laying of the foundation of the temple of Sin in Harran, Nabunaid says that he did it with incantations and with the commission of the god Libittu, the lord of foundations and bricks, on the fortunate day and in the favorable month which Shamash and Ramman had made known to him in a vision; and that he poured out on its walls palm–wine, wine, oil, and honey.3

  Again, further on in the same inscription Nabunaid says he laid the bricks of the temple of the Sun at Sippar upon the foundation of Naram–Sim which Shamash made known to him in a vision (biri), with joy and rejoicing, in a favorable month on a fortunate day,

1 Meissner and Rost, Die Bauinschriften Sanheribs 27.    2 See Bab. Sühnriten, pp. 12, 13.    3 KB. iii, ii, 100.

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anointing with oil the written name of Naram–Sin and offering sacrifices.1 Further on, he speaks of having sanctified it and made it fit to be a temple of his godhead.2

  It will be noticed, also, that no step is taken by any king, at least in regard to building, without some intimation of the will of the gods.3

  Some of the names by which the mediums or interpreters of these communications from the gods were called are baru, “seer,”;4 mahhu, “priest”;5 shabru, “interpreter” (?);6 ashipu, “enchanter”;7 kalu or mashmashu.8

  No building operations seem to have been commenced without a sign from the gods through one of these methods of communication. These priests and seers, and others of like import, could cause or prevent any building enterprises. They were the real masters of the building trade unions, the “bosses of the jobs.” They could declare a strike or assumption of operations. Taking them all together, no better term could

1 Id., 104.    2 Id., 108.

3 This intimation comes by a word or command (amatu, KB. iii, ii, 78, 98, 126; kibit, KB. iii, i, 252, 254, 256, and very often everywhere; zikru, KB. iii, ii, 264; temu, iii, ii, 124), by a dream or vision (shuttu, iii, ii, 98; igiltu, iii, i, 252; biru, iii, ii, 101, 104; shiru, iii, ii, 84), or by a decision or judgment (parussu, KB. iii, ii, 110; shimatu, iii, ii, 70, 72; dinu, KB. ii, 236; or teru, iii, ii, 110, 118. Reports of Mag. and Astrol., 186 R. 9, 187, R. 3), or by a commission or sign however given (shibir ashiputim, Langdon, p. i, 146, 148. Compare shipir ish–ship–pu–ti, “the commission of the ish–ship priest,” Ashurbanipal, Rassam Cyl., iv, 86; shipir Ish–tar or Ishtarate, “the commission of Ishtar” or “of the Ishtar priestesses,” KB. ii, 252; shipir mahhie, “the commission of the mahhu priests,” id.; idatu, “signs,” KB. ii, 252, and Del., HWB., 304).

4 See Zimmern, Ritualtafeln, 86–91.    5 KB. ii, 252.    6 KB. ii, 250.

7 KB. 192; Frank, Studien zur bab. Religion, p. 23.    8 Schrank, Bab. Sühnriten, 12.


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be suggested by which to name them than galdu, rab banie, “the chiefs of the builders.”1

  Again, banu is used in series of synonymous expressions to denote the men who were connected with the oracles of the gods, with astrology, with building and with wise men in general. In so far as any of these wise men had to do with the construction of the houses of the gods;2 or with the horoscope, or house of one’s nativity; or with the building of temples; or with the building of “fates,” or even of thoughts, —they might each be called a banu, or builder. Their chiefs might well have been called gal–du = rab banie, “chiefs of the builders.” Inasmuch as this kind of building was their highest function, we can easily understand how

1 A syllabary published on the Cuneiform Texts from Bab. Tablets, etc., in the British Museum, part xviii, plate 13, supports this view just stated. In the syllabary we find banu given as a synonym of baru, “seer”; baru as a synonym of a–su, “physician,” and mu–de–e ter–te, “knower of oracles,” “Orakelkündiger” (Zimmern, R. T., 87); and these immediately followed by dup–sar–ru, “scribe,” en–ku, “wise man,” and mu–du–u, “learned, kenner.” The Sumerian a–zu, as is well known, denotes in Assyrian, asu, “physician, ” dupsar, “scribe,” and baru, “seer” (Zimmern, R. T., 86); but gi–hal = banu piristi (the gi denoting piristu = shimtu, Br. 2402, 2410), a phrase used to describe Nebo, “the builder of fate.” Compare what Ashurbanipal says in the Rassam Cylinder (x, 70,71): “On my bed at night my dreams are favorable and on that of the morning my thoughts are created”; where banu is permansive, as damka is in the preceding clause (Vd. Del., Gr., sec. 89B). So A–ZU = asu, or baru. With the sign for god before them, the signs ni–zu = Nebo. Again, me–zu = baru or mude terti (Br. 10384, 10385).

  Lastly, the signs nun–me–tag = enku, eppishu, hassu, mudu, bel terte, abkallum, and mar ummani, and these all are probably synonyms of baru (Zimmern, Ritualtafeln, 86).

2 This house of the gods is the same as the bait of Al Kindi (edited by Otto Loth for the Festschrift of Prof. Dr. H. L. Fleisher), and the bet of Bardesan’s Book of the Laws of the Countries (published by Cureton in the Spicilegium Syriacum), the oikos or doma of Manetho’s Apotelesmatica, and Maximus’ Anecdota Astrologica, and the “house” of our own astrologers.

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the foreign Greeks and Hebrews and Arameans may have adopted the phrase used to denote the highest officials of the cult, or profession, as a general term including all the sub–classes under it. We can understand, also, why the Babylonian contract tablets name so many galdus and almost entirely fail to mention the other classes named above, except the scribes, or dupsarri. The shangu (“priest”), dupsar, and the galdu, the three titles met with so often on the tablets, will thus represent the learned classes, who transacted the business of the community both sacred and profane. And where visions and dreams are concerned, as is the case in Daniel, the galdu would be the man for the work.

  Before closing the discussion of the meaning of the word Chaldean, it may be well to call attention to two remarkable facts to be gleaned from the astrological and contract tablets. The first is that the signs gal and du, which are found so often on the contract tablets of Babylonia, are scarcely, if ever, found on any documents from Assyria.1 Babylonia was the country of the galdu according to the cuneiform documents; and

1 The signs A.BA. of the Assyrian tablets are commonly employed where the Babylonian use dupsar, “scribe.” See tablets in KB. iv, pp. 100, 108, 110  bis, 112, 114 bis, 116 bis, et al. The rab a–ba of Nos. 74, 109, 266, of Thompson’s Reports of the Magians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon would be chief of the scribes, the same as the rab dup–sar, of Nos. 81, 259.

  The A.ZU of No. 58 may also be read as dup–sar, “scribe” (see Brünnow, 11377 and 11379). The rab asu of No. 59 might then be “the chief of the scribes.” The only names left in Thompson’s tablets that might come under the class of the Chaldean priests are the mashmashu on Nos. 24, 83, 183, 243, and kalu on 134 (kal–li–e on No. 256. Cf. rab kal–li–e, K. 316, KB. iv, 114) and possibly the hal of 18, 186, and 187, all of which, as we have seen above, may have been subdivisions of the gal–dus.

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it was the region of the Chaldean priests according to Daniel, Herodotus, Ctesias, Berosus, Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, and Arrian.

  The other fact is the noteworthy agreement of Strabo and the Assyrian astrological reports with regard to the localities where the different classes of astrologers resided. Strabo says (Bk. XVI, 1) that there were many kinds of Chaldean astrologers, such as Orchenoi, Borsippenoi, and many others. Now, many of Thompson’s Astrological Reports are by men who are called sons of Borsippa or sons of Uruk (i.e., Orchenoi); and an ummanu of Borsippa is mentioned in Thompson’s Late Babylonian Letters, i, obv. 6. The reports and letters were written in the 7th century B.C. During all this time the astrologers of Borsippa and Uruk held their place of preëminence as astrologers; and Strabo calls them both Chaldeans.

  If, therefore, anyone object to deriving “Chaldean” from gal–du, chief of the builders,” he may still hold that the name as used for priests was derived from the name as used for a people. For the name Kaldu, or Chaldean, for the people and country and individuals of Chaldea, is found from the time of Shalmanezer III, 850 B.C. to the time of Arrian and Quintus Curtius. During any part of this time, therefore, if we derive the name Chaldean as applied to the Chaldean priests from the name of the Chaldean people, these priests may have been found in Babylon exercising the functions of astrologers and have been called Chaldeans after the ruling people, just as other astrologers were found in Borsippa and Uruk, and named after the cities where they dwelt and performed their duties. That is, if the astrologers of Borsippa could be called Borsippenes, the astrologers of Chaldea may have been rightly

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called Chaldeans; the one from the city, the other from the country, or nation, to which they respectively belonged. The sub–classes are mentioned by Strabo as well as the general term; Daniel mentions the general term alone.1

  In conclusion, let it be remembered that the astrological reports thus far published, which give the names of the writers, are almost al Assyrian; and that the astrological reports of Strassmaier, Epping, and Kugler do not give the native names for the astronomers who drew them up, nor even the signs used to denote those names. Bu even if they did give many signs, or names, to denote astrologers, it would not prove that Daniel was wrong in using Chaldean to denote them. For first, Daniel was writing in Aramaic and not in Babylonian; and secondly, the subscriptions of the writers of the Astrological Reports with half a dozen or more groups of signs and at least a dozen different ways of describing them, to denote the writers of the reports should warn us not to be too certain that gal–du may not also have been properly used to denote them.

  In concluding this long discussion of the origin, meaning, and use of the word Chaldean to denote a priestly class, let us sum up by saying that we think we have shown that it is not certain that the word does not occur upon the Babylonian monuments inasmuch as it probably is the same as the word gal–du which is frequently found on them; that, secondly, if Chaldean be not the Aramaic and Hebrew form of gal–du, it may have been the same in origin, though different in meaning, as

1 The use by the Arameans of the patronymic Kaldu or Kasdu to denote a priestly class or function may be compared with medizein in Greek to denote Greeks who favored the Medes and with “to jew down” in English.

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the Assyrian Kal–du, which was employed to denote the tribe living south of Babylon whose kings ruled over Babylon in the time of Daniel, inasmuch as priestly functions were often delegated to a tribe, or class, as has been the case among the Jews, the Egyptians, the Medes, and the people of Lystra; and thirdly, that even if the word were absent from the Babylonian monuments as a designation of the astrologers that such a class with such a name did not exist, any more that the absence of the name as a designation of the tribe, or people, of the Chaldeans proves that such a people did not exist.


  Since writing the above the most important evidence to show that the banu and gal–du were included in the sodality of the priests and seers has appeared in the Yale cylinder of Nabunaid.1 At the dedication of his daughter, Bel–shalti–Nannar, to Sin and Nikkal for the service of divination (ina shibir ashipitim) in the temple of Egipar, he says that he endowed the temple richly with fields, gardens, servants, herds, and flocks; and that “in order that the priesthood of Egishshirgal and the houses of the gods might not incur sin, he remitted the taxes, established the income, and purified and sanctified to Sin and Nikkal the chief priest,2 the inspector of property,3 the seer, the

1 Published in the Yale Oriental Series, Babylonian Texts, vol. i, pp. 66–75. New Haven, 1915.

2 See Frank, Studien zur babylonischen Religion, p. 5. For ramku in the sense of priesthood and kinishtum in the sense of sodality, see the same, p. 60. For the latter, compare also kenishta d’beth Y’huda in the haggada to Psalm 38:12. (see Lewy’s Chaldäisches Wörterbuch, i, 373.)

3 See Brünnow’s Classified List, 7820 and 10695.

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engisu, the imprecator, the gal–du, the banu, the dullahha, the overseer of the gallum, the custodian, the lagaru, the maker of supplications, the singers who rejoice the hearts of the gods, —the solidarity of those whose names are named.”1

  From this passage it is manifest that the gal–du and banu are said to be in sodality, or assembly, of the ramku–priests. Their names are placed after those of the enu–ishibi, the baru, and the ariru, and before those of the lagaru, and the zammeru. They are said, also, to have been named with names, that is, to have been dedicated to the service of the gods with the giving of a new name, just as in the same inscription the daughter of Nabunaid received a new name at her dedication.2

1 24 Ash–shum: 25 ra–am–ku–ut E–gish–shir–gal u batati ilani

25 e–nu i–shib–bi shabru sibti am . baru am EN–GI–SU

27 am . a–ri–ru am . gal–du am . banu am . DUL–LAH–HA itu gal–lum

28 am . ti–ir–bit am . la–ga–ru sha–ki–in tak–ri–ib–ti

29 am . zammare mu–had–du–u lib–bi ilani

30 am . ki–ni–ish–tum sha na–bu–u shu–ma–an–shu–un

31 i–li–ik–shu–nu ap–tu–ur–ma shu–bar–ra–shu–nu ash–ku–un

32 ub–bi–ib–shu–nu–ti–ma

33 a–na ili Sin u ili Nin–gal bele–e–a u–zak–ki–shu–nu–ti

2 On column i, lines 24–25, Nabunaid says: I dedicate my daughter to the entu–office. I called her name Bel–shalti–Nannar.

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Up Chapter 18

Studies In The Book Of Daniel: A Discussion Of The Historical Questions by Robert Dick Wilson. New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, The Knickerbocker Press, 1917.

E-Text transcribed from the 1917 edition.