In a previous post, I claimed that a competent Assyriologist might have guessed what good Babylonian name lay beneath MT Samgar-Nebo Sar-Sekim Rab-Saris in Jer 39:3, without the benefit of an external attestation of an individual with a name and title that fits the bill, such as is now available to us thanks to the discovery of a tablet in the British Museum by Michael Jursa.
I was right. David Vanderhooft came to the right conclusion in his 1996 Harvard University dissertation published in 1999. He wrote:
If we take samgar as the correct title of Nergalśarʿeṣer, then v. 3 would continue with נבו שׂר־סכם. This could reflect an Akkadian name such as Nabû-šarrūssu-ukīn, and the final “n” could have been corrupted or perhaps reanalyzed as the Hebrew masculine plural termination “īm” once שׂרwas understood as a noun (“leader”) in construct with the final element. A certain Nabû-šarrūssu-ukīn held the office of rēš šarri under Amel-Marduk in 561 B.C.E., although it is impossible to prove that this is the same individual as the one named in Jeremiah.
To be sure, other aspects of Vanderhooft’s treatment of Jeremiah 39:3 and 13 are open to question. He regards Jeremiah 39:3 and 13 as in need of radical emendation. He tentatively reconstructs a single list of officials, composed of the following individuals:
(1) Nabuzaradan the chief cook,
(2) Nergalśarʿeṣer the smgr,
(3) Nabuśarsekim the rab sārîs,
(4) Nabušazban the rab māg.
A number of scholars before Vanderhooft made similar, or sometimes very different proposals, the common denominator of which is a revision of root and branch of both 39:3 and 13 according to a harmonistic scheme.
But it seems wiser not to rearrange, suppress, or insert individuals and titles in Jeremiah 39:3 on the basis of 39:13, or vice-versa. If less drastic explanations of the data in hand are conceivable, they are surely to be preferred.
39:3 and 13 deserve a closer look. 39:3 attests to three individuals:
(1) Nergal-šarri-uṣur (potentate) of Sinmagir,
(2) Nabû-šarrussu-ukin rab-ša-rēši (=Hebrew rab-sārîs, a loanword)
(3) Nergal-šarri-uṣur rab-mugi
39:13 also attests to three individuals. The last alone, including the title, is a repeat from 39:3:
(4) Nabû-zēr-iddina rab-nuh̬atimmu (=Hebrew rab-ṭabah̬im, a loan translation)
(5) Nabû-shēzibanni rab-ša-rēši
Nergal-šarri-uṣur rab-mugi = (3)
Three of the five titled individuals are attested in neo-Babylonian sources:
(A) Nabû-zēr-iddina rab-nuh̬atimmu (the Istanbul prism fragment)
(B) Nergal-šarri-uṣur potentate of Sinmagir (the Istanbul prism fragment)
(C) Nabû-šarrussu-ukin rab-(ša)-rēši (the British museum tablet)
According to Vanderhooft, “It is unlikely that two officials bearing the name Nergalśarʿeṣer, but with different titles, were present at Jerusalem’s fall.” With all due respect, I disagree. In the the Istanbul prism fragment, officials with the same name but different titles are recorded:
Nabû-zēr-ibni chief of the kaṣiru
Bel-šum-iškun of Puqudu
Bel-šum-iškun, qēpu of the town N[ . . .]
It is not necessary to assume that one individual held two portfolios in these cases. It is simpler to assume that two officials serving the same administration went by the same name.
The fact that Nabû-zēr-iddina is not mentioned in Jeremiah 39:3 is best explained by the supposition that he was not present at the time of the events therein recounted, although he is reported to have been present at an earlier stage of operations, and at a later stage. To judge from the Istanbul prism fragment where he is listed first, he was top dog in Nabû-kudurri-uṣur’s administration. Chances are, he moved around a bit. For example, he may have gone to Riblah, Nabû-kudurri-uṣur’s base of operations, for consultations, and failed to return in time to preside over the breaching of Jerusalem’s walls. Later, Nabû-zēr-iddina would have returned, appointed Gedaliah over the Judean towns (per 40:5), and released Jeremiah rather than deport him to Babylon with the others who were being deported (per 40:1).
The fact that Nabû-šarrussu-ukin is rab-ša-rēši in 39:3, whereas another individual, Nabû-shēzibanni, is rab-ša-rēši in 39:13, a month or so later, may also have a banal explanation. Officials do not stay in their positions forever. In the interval of time between the events recounted in 39:3 and those recounted in 39:13 and following, Nabû-šarrussu-ukin may have been given the position of rēš šarri, and Nabû-shēzibanni may have taken his place as rab-(ša)-rēši. In 561 B.C.E. (25 years later), as Vanderhooft notes, under Amel-Marduk a Nabû-šarrussu-ukin rēš šarri is attested. Or Nabû-shēzibanni may have replaced Nabû-šarrussu-ukin as rab-(ša)-rēši in the meantime for some other reason.
In favor of the reconstruction offered above is the fact that it works with the set of textual data we have rather than the set we wished we had. Rearrangement, suppression, or insertion of individuals and titles in 39:3 on the basis of 39:13, or vice-versa, is avoided.
On the other hand, the problems inherent in the narrative contained in MT Jeremiah 39:1-14 and 40:1 have hardly been broached. In an upcoming post, I will focus on them.
 David Stephen Vanderhooft, The Neo-Babylonian Empire and Babylon in the Latter Prophets (HSS 59; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1999).
 Idem, 151.
 S. I. Feigin, “The Babylonian Officials in Jeremiah 39:3, 13,” JBL 45 (1926) 149-55; Mordechai Cogan and Hayim Tadmor, II Kings: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 11; Garden City: Doubleday, 1988) 319; William L. Holladay, Jeremiah 2: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah Chapters 26-52 (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989) 268-69; 291-93. In his conjectural suppressions and revisions, Holladay often follows Wilhelm Rudolph, Jeremia (HAT 12; Tübingen: Mohr, 1968) and John Bright, Jeremiah: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 21: Garden City: Doubleday, 1965).
 Idem, 151.
 For a fine discussion of the Istanbul prism fragment, see idem, 92-98. For a recent translation, see Amélie Kuhrt, The Ancient Near East. c. 3000-330 bc (Routledge History of the Ancient World; London: Routledge, 1995) 2:605-607.
 Idem, 151.