BAR 39:06, Nov/Dec 2013
The Bible in the News: The Royal Treatment
What do Sargon II, Nebuchadnezzar II and Cyrus the Great have in common? They all ruled ancient kingdoms (Assyria, Babylonia and Persia, respectively), appear in the Hebrew Bible, and—for our purposes—figure in popular culture as reflected in newspapers throughout the world.
Alas, none of them receives the “royal treatment” they were used to in their day. But, all and all, given the fact that they died more than 2,500 years ago, they’re not doing so badly.
Since Sargon, king of Assyria, is the oldest, we’ll look at his press references first. Well-enough known to be the namesake of some early chess-playing software (see, for instance, a Washington Post story dated December 7, 1978), Sargon II also merited mention by the British chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks (in a column in the London Times) as a successful ruler who “conquered many nations with strange tongues and incompatible speech and caused them all to accept a single voice.” And what other ancient monarch could be pictured as someone “who leapt from rock to rock like an ibex, then sat down on a rock and had a cold drink” (London’s Daily Telegraph)?