The prayer of Nabonidus (Daniel 8)

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Illustration: The prayer of Nabonidus

Nabonidus was the father of king Belshazzar of Babylon, with whom he ruled as coregent for at least several years. A Qumran scroll dating between 75 and 50 B.C., commonly called The Prayer of Nabonidus, or 4QprNab, is an Apocryphal account of a healing of Nabonidus that is probably based on Daniel 4. This text tells us that king Nabonidus was inflicted with a physical ailment for seven years, until a Jewish exorcist pardoned his sins. This Jewish man then encouraged Nabonidus to document the event and to give praise to God, who pardoned him. In the final section of the scroll Nabonidus declared that his prior supplications to the gods of the world concerning his ailment had gone unanswered.

The scroll suggests that Nabonidus journeyed to Tema, Arabia, and remained there for a number of years. This detail is accurate. In fact, it was during his stay in Tema that Belshazzar reigned in Babylon. Therefore, 8:1 refers to Belshazzar as king, for the Babylonians saw him as their ruling authority. Apart from that, however, there is little reason to regard The Prayer of Nabonidus as historical. It appears that the story is based on the Biblical account of the healing of Nebuchadnezzar. Other Apocryphal books, such as Bel and the Dragon, are also popular legends that grew out of the canonical book of Daniel. As such, The Prayer of Nabonidus can neither confirm nor refute the historical reliability of the story of Daniel 4.


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