(Heb. Nergal', נֵרגִל [in pause נֵרגָל; Sept. Ε᾿ργέλ v.r. Νηργέλ; Vulg. Nergel), one of the chief Assyrian and Babylonian deities (2Ki 17:30), seems to have corresponded closely to the classical Mars. He was of Babylonian origin, and various derivations of the name have been suggested. Furst traces it to נרג, to break in pieces, with ל added; Gesenius identifies it with the Sabian Nerig, the I being appended as the mark of a diminutive, which was a sign of endearment; Von Bohlen compares the Sanscrit Nrigal, man-destroyer, spoken of a fierce warrior, and corresponding to Merodach; and Rawlinson says the name "is evidently compounded of the two Hamitic rootsair, a man, and gula, great; so that he is the great man, or the great hero" (Ancient Monarchies, 1:171; 2:256). "His monumental titles are — 'the storm-ruler,' 'the king of battle,' 'the champion of the gods,' 'the male principle' (or 'the strong begetter'), 'the tutelar god of Babylonia,' and 'the god of the chase.' Of this last he is the god pre-eminently; another deity, Nin, disputing with him the presidency over war and battles. It is conjectured that he may represent the deified Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord from whom the kings both of Babylon and Nineveh were likely to claim descent. SEE NIMROD. The city peculiarly dedicated to his worship is found in the inscriptions to be Cutha or Tiggaba, which is in Arabian tradition the special city of Nimrod. The only express mention of Nergal contained in sacred Scripture is in the above passage, where 'the men of Cutha,' placed in the cities of Samaria by a king of Assyria (Esar-haddon?), are said to have 'made Nergal their god' when transplanted to their new country — a fact in close accordance with the frequent notices in the inscriptions, which mark him as the tutelar god of that city. Nergal's name occurs as the initial element in Neryal-shar-ezar (Jer 39:3,13); and is also found, under a contracted form, in the name of a comparatively late king-the Abennerigus of Josephus (Ant. 20:2, 1). Nergal appears to have been worshipped under the symbol of the 'Man-Lion.' The Shemitic name for the god of Cutha was Aria, a word which signifies 'lion' both in Hebrew and Syriac. Nir, the first element of the god's name, is capable of the same signification. Perhaps the habits of the lion as a hunter of beasts were known, and he was thus regarded as the most fitting symbol of the god who presided over the chase. It is in connection with their hunting excursions that the Assyrian kings make most frequent mention of this deity. As early as B.C. 1150, Tiglath-pileser I speaks of him as furnishing the arrows with which he slaughtered the wild animals. Assuur-dani-pal(Sardanapalus), the, son and successor of Esar-haddon, never fails to invoke his aid, and ascribes all his hunting achievements to his influence. Pul sacrificed to him in Cutha, and Sennacherib built him a temple in the city of Tarbisa. near Nineveh; but in general he was not much worshipped either by the earlier or the later kings (see the Essay of Sir H. Rawlinson in Rawlinson's Herodotus, 1:631-634)." The rabbinical commentators believe that this idol was in the form of a cock, since the somewhat similar word, תִּרנגוֹל, tarnegol, in the Talmud, means a cock (Selden, Dii Syr. 2:8, page 317 sq.; Schwarz, Palest. page 80). In curious coincidence with this tradition Layard gives two figures of a cock on Babylonian remains, showing its ancient worship by that people (Nineveh and Bablon n. 158). Norberg, Gesenius, and other inquirers into the astrolatry of the Assyrians and Chaldaeans, conclude that Nergal is the same as the Sabian name for the planet Mars. Both among the Sabians and Arabians it means ill-luck, misfortune; and it was by no means peculiar to the mythology of the West to make it the symbol of bloodshed and war. The Sabian Mars was typified as a man holding in one hand a drawn sword, and in the other a human head just cut off; his garments were also red, no doubt from the hue which the body of the planet presents to the eye. Among the southern Arabs his temple was painted red; and they offered to him garments stained with blood, and a warrior (probably a prisoner), who was cast into a pool. It is related of the caliph Hakim that in the last night of his life, as he saw the planet Mars rise, he murmured, " Dost thou ascend, thou accursed shedder of blood? then is my hour come ;" and at that moment the assassins sprang upon him from their hiding place (Mohammed Abu-Taleb; ap. Norberg, Onomast. page 105; Bar- Hebrceus, p. 220). See Gesenius, Thesaur. p. 913, and Comment. zu Jesa, 2:344; Nork, Bibl. Mythol. 1:60 sq.; Lanci, Paral. alla illust. del. Sac. Script. 1:284; Wichmallshausen, Diss. de Nergal. Cuth. Idolo (Viteb. 1707).

Bible concordance for NERGAL.

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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