This is one of four clay tablets, all from the middle of the sixth century BCE and housed in the Vorderasiatische Museum, Berlin, which detail the rations given to 'Ya’u-kīnu, king of the land of Yāhudu,' his five sons, and other royal captives. Ya’u-kīnu is usually identified with Jehoiachin, the king of Judah taken into captivity in 597 BCE, when the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem the first time. Parts of Ezekiel and Jeremiah reflect an argument over whether this king-in-exile should still be considered the rightful king of Judah, or if his authority had been ceded to the Babylonian appointee, Zedekiah.
2 Kings 25:27-30 (paralleled by Jeremiah 52:31-34) records Jehoiachin receiving relatively favourable rations from the Babylonian king, as well as the presence of other royal deportees in Babylon. This appears to be corroborated by the cuneiform rations tablets. Interestingly, these tablets use the title 'King' for Jehoiachin.
We must exercise caution in using these tablets to understand daily life in the diaspora: conditions were different for people deported to different places in Babylonia—life in the city of Babylon would have been very different from life on a rural royal agricultural project—and royal captives were treated very differently from others in the diaspora communities. These tablets can help to round out our picture of diaspora life, but only one very small and early part of it. The Al Yahudu tablets from the Nippur region show a very different kind of diaspora life in southern Babylonia.
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