Now when Pharaoh, king of Egypt, heard that I, Ahikar, was dead, he was very glad; for he had always stood in awe of my wisdom. And he wrote a letter to Esarhaddon in these words: “Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, greeting! I desire to build a castle between heaven and earth. Send me therefore a wise man to whom I may commit the business. If he accomplishes all that I require and answers all my questions, I will send you by his hands the whole revenue of Egypt for three years. But if you cannot send me such a man, then you must send to me, by my messenger, the whole revenue of Assyria for three years. And if not, I shall come against you and lay your land desolate. And so farewell.”
When the letter was read before Esarhaddon, he called together his princes and counsellors and wise men, and said to them, “Which of you will go to Egypt and answer the questions of Pharaoh?” They said, “Lord and king, in the time of your father it was Ahikar the scribe who answered all hard questions and solved all difficulties; and behold, now you have with you his sister’s son Nadan, who has been instructed in his wisdom and can do all that you require.” So the king turned to Nadan and said, “Will you go to Egypt and answer Pharaoh?” But Nadan said, “It is folly! The gods themselves could not build a castle between heaven and earth; how then should the children of men accomplish such a thing?” When the king heard that, he arose and came down from his throne, and threw himself on the ground lamenting and saying, “Alas, alas, I am undone. I have slain my servant Ahikar at the word of a foolish boy, and there is none like him left! Who can give him back to me?”
Then Nabushemak spoke and said, “O king, live for ever. He that disobeys the commandments of his master is worthy of death. Say therefore the word, and let them hang me on a tree; for Ahikar, whom you bade me slay, is not dead, but living!” The king said, “O Nabushemak, if it be as you say, and if you can show me Ahikar alive, I will give you ten thousand talents of gold and a hundred robes of purple. Say on, therefore.” Nabushemak said, “One thing I ask of my lord: that he will not keep this my trespass in mind, nor store up wrath against me.” And the king sware to him.
Nabushemak went forth immediately and mounted his chariot, and drove swiftly to my house. He uncovered the hiding-place and brought me forth, and took me up into his chariot and led me into the presence of the king. And when the king saw me, he wept; for I was in evil plight. My hair was grown over my shoulders, and my beard reached down to my girdle; my body was foul with dirt, and my nails were as long as eagles’ claws; my eyes were dim from the darkness, and my limbs were stiff so that I could scarcely walk. And the king said, “O Ahikar, it is not I that have brought this misery upon you, but he whom you