Finding Nisan 6 During the Rule of EssarHaddon

by Murrell G. Selden
   (Started Dec. 27, 2002)  

     Introduction
    The purpose of this study is to examine the period 732 B.C. through 716 B.C., to see if the vernval equinox fell on Nisan 6 in any of those years.  It is the belief of this writer that the finding of this date might bring intelligence and order to data about various lunar and solar events (reported in the literature about EssarHaddon of the Late Neo-Assyrian Empire).   EssarHaddon was the son of Sennacherib.  Near the mid-point of his rule, he defeated invading Elamites, and he invaded and conquered Elam. Near the end of his reign, he invaded Egypt and conquered it, though there was tough resistance from Pharaoh Taharqa (who fled to Nubia).  However, Taharqa returned and captured Memphis.  EssarHaddon returned to Egypt, but he fell sick and died at Harran.  EssarHaddon lived during the period of King Hezekiah of Judah, and he lived when King Mannaseh of Judah lived (but not when Mannaseh was king).  EssarHaddon became king when his father was killed, in the 14th year of King Hezekiah of Israel.  But, he ruled only 12 years, so Hezekiah was still King.  This writer believes that King EssarHaddon then ruled from 730 B.C. through 718 B.C.                                                                                                                                 
           
         Report of Nisan 6 As the Vernal Equinox
     Using the computer program, EQUINOX.COM (which I wrote to find Nisan 1, Nisan 14, and the equinox for any ancient year, I made the following table to see in which years (732-716 B.C.) might have had  Nisan 6 as the equinox.  The difference between Nisan 6 and the equinox Julian Day Numbers should then be 5 (Nisan 1+5=Nisan 6).  There is a tiny error of less than 1 day for EQUINOX.COM, so I am accepting Difference=4+ as acceptable in the chart (lines made bold).  
      Why did I examine Nisan 6 and the equinox?  Item #14 was found on a clay tablet found in the palace of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh.  It follows:

 It was part of "Twenty-eight translated excerpts containing astronomical data from official letters of ancient Assyria."

Item #14:

    On the 6th of Nisan day and night balanced: (there were) twelve hours of daylight (and) twelve hours of darkness. May Nabu and Marduk bless the king our lord. - American Oriental Series, Volume 6, State Letters of Assyria; Harper 1428 (K. 15), pg. 210.



Year in B.C.
Julian Day Number  for Nisan 1
Julian Day  Number  for Equinox
Difference
732
1,454,154.88
1,454,147.32
7.56
731
1,454,509.25
1,454,512.56
3.31
730
1,454,863.62
1,454,877.81
14.19 *
729
1,455,247.52
1,455,243.05
4.47
728
1,455,601.88
1,455,608.29
6.41
727
1,455,985.78
1,455,973.53
12.28
726
1,456,340.15
1,456,338.77
1.38
725
1,456,694.5
1,456,704.02
9.52
724
1,457,078.41
1,457,069.26
9.15
723
1,457,432.78
1,457,434.5
1.72
722
1,457,787.15
1,457,799.74
12.59
721
1,458,171.04
1,458,164.98
6.06
720
1,458,525.41
1,458,530.23
4.82
719
1,458,909.31
1,458,895.47
13.84 *
718
1,459,263.68
1,459,260.71
2.97
717
1,459,618.04
1,459,625.95
7.91
716
1,460,001.94
1,459,991.19
10.75

    Note:  The definition of Nisan 1 means the day  in which the beginning of the month is closest to the  equinox.  For example, if a month has a beginning (just visible crescent moon) 10 days before the equinox, it is definitely Nisan 1.  But, as a month has approx. 29.5 days, half of that is 14.75 days.  So,  two years have the difference marked with an asterisk, because it may have been very difficult to determine visually.  Nisan 1 was determined by visually ascertaining that the first visible crescent  moon was less than 14.75 days from the equinox.  There could be problems, when either Nisan 1 was cloudy (just visible crescent moon not seen),  or when the day of the equinox was cloudy (ascertaining the day and night were exactly equal).  These problems caused the eclipse watchers to need improved instruments, so they could interpolate and get accurate results.  The table above indicates that it may have been very difficult for the sun/moon watchers to determine Nisan 1 in 730 and 719 B.C. E.  This type of  error results in the following month becoming Nisan instead (an error of 1 month).  If the error was made in 730 B.C., then Nisan 1 then becomes  1,454,863.62+29.5=1,454,893.10 (a lunar month later).  That could change the next year too, for there are at least 12 lunar months (12x29.5 +1,454,893.10 = 1.455,247.10), and that would be correct. But, if they had chosen Nisan 1=1,454,863.62 (which was correct for 730 B.C.), then 12 months later would have been 12x29.5+1,454.863.62=1,455,217.60.  Without adding the extra calendar month, they would have found Nisan 1 as 1 month too early.  Later, they would have discovered the error, but would they tell the King?  So, if they were looking for Nisan 1 at Julian Day Number 1,455,217.60, what would they have seen?  They would have seen the solar eclipse of 3/3 in 729 B.C.  So, then, they would have seen  the moon and sun merge for a total solar eclipse, all on the day they were expecting Nisan 1.   I submit that this is perhaps what did happen, for the solar eclipse of 3/3/729 B.C. was the only one which could have applied to EssarHaddon. Later, they would have found the equinox came too late.  But, if you had already advised him as an astrologer/astronomer, would you have made  known your error?  I think not!

    In conclusion, this study of the period 732 through 716 B.C. (around the implicated rulership of King Hezekiah) shows that the solar eclipse of 3/3/729 B.C. could have been the one per items #26 & #27 of the"Twenty-eight translated excerpts containing astronomical data from official letters of ancient Assyria."  The Julian Day Numbers found for the period could be used to produce lunar calendars for the period.  And, there is confirmation that Nisan 6 did happen on the equinox during the period (especially the period likely for EssarHaddon).