This World have Not Change as much in Five Thousand Years

The Richest Man in Babylon

In 1926, George Samuel Clason, a Missourian published the first series of pamphlets on thrift and financial success using the parables set in ancient Babylon. It became popular during the Great Depression to millions of people and the most famous was the “The Richest Man in Babylon”.

I was fascinated by the second parable about Dabasir, the wealthy camel trader in Babylon because the story was based from the five clay tablets excavated in the ancient ruins of Babylon in 1934 by Professor Franklin Cardwell of British Scientific Expedition, Hillah, Mesopotamia.  

Cardwell’s colleague Alfred Shrewsbury from Department of Archeology, Nottingham University spent countless hours translating the inscription expecting a story of romance and adventure but came up with a problem of an average person to pay off his debts. Shrewbury wrote to Cardwell, “One realizes that condition upon this old world have not change as much in five thousand years as one might expect.”  Shrewbury and his wife pleasantly thought to try out to prove whether the debt repayment solution will work or not.

Fast forward to 2016, the parable of Dabasir is so true to many people today.

When Dabasir was young, he learned the trade of making saddles from his father at their family business. He earned a little just enough to support his wife in a modest way. He craved for good thing but could not afford them.  Soon he found out that the shopkeepers would trust him to pay later even though he could not pay at the time.

Being young and without experience Dabasir did not know that he who spends more than he earns is sowing the winds of needless self-indulgence from which he is sure to reap the whirlwinds of trouble and humiliation.  He was an impulsive shopper of fine clothes and jewelry, and brought luxuries for his good wife and their home, beyond their means.

In time Dabasir discovered that he could not use his earnings to live and pay for his debts. Creditors began to pursue him, and his life became miserable. He also borrowed from friends but could not repay them either.

Dabasir left Babylon to another city, and his wife returned to her family.  He lived a restless and unsuccessful life in the new city.  He got involved with bad people who robs caravans with gold, silk, and valuable merchandise.  They were caught and sold as slaves.  Dabasir was purchased for two pieces of silver by a fierce Syrian desert chief.  

Sira, the wife of the desert chief needs a camel tender when she travels to her sick mother.  Dabasir told the chief that he can make camel kneel, load them, lead them on long trips, and can repair their trappings as needed. He was turned over to Sira and on that day he led her camel to a long journey.

Dabasir thanked Sira for taking him, and told his story of being an irresponsible freeman and the misfortune that turned him into a slave. Sira asked if he has the desire to pay his debt in Babylon. He replied, “Yes, I have the desire, but I see no way.”

Sira challenged Dabasir to flee to the desert with two camels, some food, and a water jug.  He was determined to get his freedom despite difficulties in his journey.  In his agony, he asked himself, “Have I the soul of a slave or a freeman?” Clearly he realized that if he is a slave he would give up, lie down and die in the desert.

“Die in desert, not I!”, exclaimed Dabasir.  He is a freeman with a new vision to:

- Go back to Babylon and repay the people who trusted him as fast as he could.
- Make a home for his wife and become a good citizen that his parents would be proud.

He pushed forward with great resolve until he reached Babylon.

 “Where the determination is, the way can be found” was Dabasir’s motto. He visited every man whom he was indebted, and begged his indulgence until he can repay them all.  Some condemned him, and others helped.  Mathon, a gold lender sent him to a camel trader who was commissioned by the king to purchase many herds of camel. 

Dabasir knowledge about camel was put in to good use. Gradually he was able to repay every copper and every pieces of silver. And, at last he could hold up his head and felt that he was an honorable man among men.


The original clay tablet one from the ruins outlined the advice of Mathon that will lead any honorable man out of debt into means and self-respect: 

  • The first plan is to provide for future prosperity. Therefore, one-tenth of all earnings shall be set aside for your own keep.  For Mathon’s wisdom is “That man who keepeth in his purse both gold and silver that he need not spend is good to his family and loyal to his king.”
  • The second plan is to take care of a faithful wife who put self-respect into the heart of a man and add strength and determination to his purpose. Therefore, seven-tenths of the earnings shall be used to provide a home, clothes, food with bit extra to spend, that life is not lacking in pleasure and enjoyment.  It is of utmost importance not to spend more than seven-tenths.

The clay tablet two wrote…

  • The third plan does provide that out of the earnings the debts shall be paid. Therefore, each pay period two-tenths of all earnings shall be divided honorably and fairly among those creditors. Thus in due time all indebtedness will surely be paid.

    The tablet continues to list all the creditors.  The discipline is to make sure to pay within the two-tenths of the earnings and do not borrow again.   If one creditor is paid, use the additional money to pay off the other creditors.  

    Debt Pay Off  Methods Today


    Debt Snowball - involves paying off your smallest balances first which aims to start with small wins and build momentum over time.

    Debt Avalanche - involves paying off your balances with the highest interest rates first while paying the minimum balance on the rest of your loans. Experts believed that this is the fastest way to get out of debt.


Tablets three, four and five narrated the hopes and dreams, and the hardwork and perseverance of Dabasir to become rich among men.


On November of 1936, two years after Shrewbury and his wife tried the ancient plan, he wrote again to Cardwell that IT WORKS.

Challenge 1: Share this ancient plan to all your friends because it is a great wisdom of a freeman. :-)

Challenge 2:  Apply the ancient plan to set you free from the slavery of debt.  And when it works in one year, two years, or three years, come back here and share your success.  All the best to you. 

The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason, 1955

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