Nebu (Nabu) is one of the more important minor deities of the Babylonian–Assyrian pantheon. The god Nebo (Akkadian Nabû, "the called") appears in the Code of hammurabi in the early 2nd millennium b.c. as son of the national god marduk and tutelary deity of the city Borsippa (to the south of the city of babylon) and of its temple Ezida. In later documents he is characterized as the divine scribe, writer, and bearer of the "tablets of destiny" that enshrine the decrees of the gods. In accordance with this role, he was considered patron of the scribal art and of human learning.
The cult of Nebo originated and remained strong in babylonia, where it played an important part in the annual New Year Festival at Babylon; during this time, his statue was borne from Borsippa to Babylon, where it was honored together with that of Marduk. It is to this festival that the satirical words of Is 46.1 refer: "bel [i.e., Marduk] bows down, Nebo stoops, their idols are upon beasts and cattle." Though the worship of Nebo was adopted in assyria, the intermittent anti–Babylonian feeling there prevented his attaining the prominence he enjoyed in Babylonia.
The name of the god is found in the Old Testament as a theophoric element in several Babylonian proper names of the period preceding and during the Exile: Nebuchednezzar (Nebo, protect the son, Jer 21.2 and passim ), Nabu zaradan (Nebo gave offspring, Jer 39.9 and passim ), Nabu–sezban (Nebo, save me! Jer 39.13), and— in a form altered by the piety of Biblical scribes— Abdenago (Servant of Nebo, Dn 1.7 and passim ).
See Also: mesopotamia, ancient, 3.
Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963), from a. van den born, Bijels Woordenboek (1619). f. nÖtscher, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Frieburg 1957–65); suppl., Das Zweite Vatikanische Konzil: Dokumente und Kommentare, ed. h. s. brechter et al., pt. 1 (1966) 7: 755–756. a. deimel, Pantheon Babylonicum (Rome 1914), s.v. Nabû. k. l. tallqvist, Akkadische Götterepitheta (Helsingfors 1938) s.v. Nabû. j. b. prichard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton 1955) 331–334.
[r. i. caplice]