BIBLE AND MESOPOTAMIA
Nebuchadnezzar The first 11 chapters of Genesis are largely set in Mesopotamia. Eden is a Sumerian word meaning “steppe," and was a district in Sumer. The Tower of Babel was in Babylon. The Hanging Gardens may have inspired the story of the Garden of Eden. According to Genesis Abraham and Cain and Abel and numerous other Biblical figures were born in Mesopotamia and the first cities founded after the flood were Babel (Babylon), Erech (Uruk), and Accad (Akkad) there.
Cuneiform tablets found in Ebla mention the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and contain the name of David. They also mention Ab-ra-mu (Abraham), E-sa-um (Esau) and Sa-u-lum (Saul) as well as a knight named Ebrium who ruled around 2300 B.C. and bears an uncanny resemblance to Eber from the Book of Genesis who was the great-great grandson of Noah and the great-great-great-great grandfather of Abraham. Some scholars suggest that Biblical reference are overstated because the divine name Yahweh (Jehovah) is not mentioned once in the tablets.
The Babylonians also had myths also that bore of striking resemblance to the creation of Eve from Adam's rib and the story of Noah's Ark (See Literature). Some have said that "Eden" was a Sumerian word. “Edin” is a Sumerian word, but it refers to steppe land between the two rivers, where animals graze.
Abraham was born under the name Abram in the Sumer city of Ur in Mesopotamia (in present day Iraq). According to Genesis, Abraham was the great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandson of Noah and was married to Sarah.Genesis 11:17-28, reads “Terah Begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran, and Haran begot Lot. And Haran died in the lifetime of Terah his Father in the land of his birth, Ur of Chaldees."
Websites and Resources on Mesopotamia: Ancient History Encyclopedia ancient.eu.com/Mesopotamia ; Mesopotamia University of Chicago site mesopotamia.lib.uchicago.edu; British Museum mesopotamia.co.uk ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Louvre louvre.fr/llv/oeuvres/detail_periode.jsp ; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/toah ; University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology penn.museum/sites/iraq ; Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago uchicago.edu/museum/highlights/meso ; Iraq Museum Database oi.uchicago.edu/OI/IRAQ/dbfiles/Iraqdatabasehome ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; ABZU etana.org/abzubib; Oriental Institute Virtual Museum oi.uchicago.edu/virtualtour ; Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur oi.uchicago.edu/museum-exhibits ; Ancient Near Eastern Art Metropolitan Museum of Art www.metmuseum.org
Archaeology News and Resources: Anthropology.net anthropology.net : serves the online community interested in anthropology and archaeology; archaeologica.org archaeologica.org is good source for archaeological news and information. Archaeology in Europe archeurope.com features educational resources, original material on many archaeological subjects and has information on archaeological events, study tours, field trips and archaeological courses, links to web sites and articles; Archaeology magazine archaeology.org has archaeology news and articles and is a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America; Archaeology News Network archaeologynewsnetwork is a non-profit, online open access, pro- community news website on archaeology; British Archaeology magazine british-archaeology-magazine is an excellent source published by the Council for British Archaeology; Current Archaeology magazine archaeology.co.uk is produced by the UK’s leading archaeology magazine; HeritageDaily heritagedaily.com is an online heritage and archaeology magazine, highlighting the latest news and new discoveries; Livescience livescience.com/ : general science website with plenty of archaeological content and news. Past Horizons: online magazine site covering archaeology and heritage news as well as news on other science fields; The Archaeology Channel archaeologychannel.org explores archaeology and cultural heritage through streaming media; Ancient History Encyclopedia ancient.eu : is put out by a non-profit organization and includes articles on pre-history; Best of History Websites besthistorysites.net is a good source for links to other sites; Essential Humanities essential-humanities.net: provides information on History and Art History, including sections Prehistory
The Amorites were an ancient Semitic-speaking people that dominated the history of Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine from about 2000 to about 1600 B.C. In the oldest cuneiform sources (c. 2400–c. 2000 B.C.), the Amorites were equated with the West, though their true place of origin was most likely Arabia, not Syria. They were troublesome nomads and were believed to be one of the causes of the downfall of the 3rd dynasty of Ur (c. 2112–c. 2004 bc). [Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica ]
According to Encyclopaedia Britannica: “During the 2nd millennium B.C., the Akkadian term Amurru referred not only to an ethnic group but also to a language and to a geographic and political unit in Syria and Palestine. At the beginning of the millennium, a large-scale migration of great tribal federations from Arabia resulted in the occupation of Babylonia proper, the mid-Euphrates region, and Syria-Palestine. They set up a mosaic of small kingdoms and rapidly assimilated the Sumero-Akkadian culture. It is possible that this group was connected with the Amorites mentioned in earlier sources; some scholars, however, prefer to call this second group Eastern Canaanites, or Canaanites.
“Almost all of the local kings in Babylonia (such as Hammurabi of Babylon) belonged to this stock. One capital was at Mari (modern Tall al- arīrī, Syria). Farther west, the political centre was alab (Aleppo); in that area, as well as in Palestine, the newcomers were thoroughly mixed with the Hurrians. The region then called Amurru was northern Palestine, with its centre at Hazor, and the neighbouring Syrian desert. In the dark age between about 1600 and about 1100 bc, the language of the Amorites disappeared from Babylonia and the mid-Euphrates; in Syria and Palestine, however, it became dominant. In Assyrian inscriptions from about 1100 bc, the term Amurru designated part of Syria and all of Phoenicia and Palestine but no longer referred to any specific kingdom, language, or population.”
Morris Jastrow said: “The Amorites have generally been regarded as Semites. Professor Clay, we have seen, would regard Amurru as, in fact, the home of a large branch of the Semites; yet the manner in which the Old Testament contrasts the Canaanites—the old population of Palestine dispossessed by the invading Hebrews— with the Amorites, raises the question whether this contrast does not rest on an ethnic distinction. The Amoritish type as depicted on Egyptian monuments also is distinct from that of the Semitic inhabitants of Palestine and Syria. It is quite within the range of possibility that the Amorites, too, represent another non-Semitic factor further complicating the web of the Sumero-Akkadian culture, though it must also be borne in mind that the Amorites, whatever their original ethnic type may have been, became commingled with Semites, and in later times are not to be distinguished from the Semitic population of Syria. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911]
According to biblearchaeology.org, “From about 2000 to 1760 B.C., “Mari was the capital of the Amorites. Amorites were spread far and wide throughout the ancient Near East, including the hill country of Canaan vanquished by the Israelites (Nm 13:29; Jos 10:6).” The enormous palace covers six acres, with nearly 300 rooms on the ground level and an equal number on a second floor. “It was in use from ca. 2300 BC until its destruction by Hammurabi in 1760 BC. An archive of about 15,000 texts from the final years of the palace provides a detailed insight into the common social, economic and legal practices of that time. Contained in the archive are administrative and legal documents, letters, treaties, and literary and religious texts. [Source: biblearchaeology.org **
“The value of the Mari texts for Biblical studies lies in the fact that Mari is located in the vicinity of the homeland of the Patriarchs, being about 200 mi (320 km) southeast of Haran. It thus shares a common culture with the area where the Patriarchs originated. Some documents detail practices such as adoption and inheritance similar to those found in the Genesis accounts. The tablets speak of the slaughtering of animals when covenants were made, judges similar to the judges of the Old Testament, gods that are also named in the Hebrew Bible, and personal names such as Noah, Abram, Laban and Jacob. A city named Nahur is mentioned, possibly named after Abraham’s grandfather Nahor (Gn 11:22-25), as well as the city of Haran where Abraham lived for a time (Gn 11:31-12:4). Hazor is spoken of often in the Mari texts and there is a reference to Laish (Dan) as well. A unique collection of 30 texts deals with prophetic messages that were delivered to local rulers who relayed them to the king.” **
The Amorites are a people mentioned repeatedly in the Old Testament, along with the Canaanites and Hittites. The term Amorites is used in the Bible to refer to certain highland mountaineers who inhabited the land of Canaan, described in Genesis 10:16 as descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham. They are described as a powerful people of great stature "like the height of the cedars" (Amos 2:9) who had occupied the land east and west of the Jordan. The height and strength mentioned in Amos 2:9 has led some Christian scholars, including Orville J. Nave, who wrote the classic Nave's Topical Bible, to refer to the Amorites as "giants". [Source: Wikipedia +]
The Amorite king, Og, was described as the last "of the remnant of the Rephaim" (Deuteronomy 3:11). The terms Amorite and Canaanite seem to be used more or less interchangeably, Canaan being more general and Amorite a specific component among the Canaanites who inhabited the land. +
The Biblical Amorites seem to have originally occupied the region stretching from the heights west of the Dead Sea (Gen. 14:7) to Hebron (13:8; Deut. 3:8; 4:46–48), embracing "all Gilead and all Bashan" (Deut. 3:10), with the Jordan valley on the east of the river (4:49), the land of the "two kings of the Amorites". Sihon and Og (Deut. 31:4; Joshua 2:10; 9:10). Both Sihon and Og were independent kings. The Amorites seem to have been linked to the Jerusalem region, and the Jebusites may have been a subgroup of them (Ezek. 16:3). The southern slopes of the mountains of Judea are called the "mount of the Amorites" (Deut. 1:7, 19, 20). +
Five kings of the Amorites were first defeated with great slaughter by Joshua (Josh. 10:5). Then, more Amorite kings were defeated at the waters of Merom by Joshua (Josh. 11:8). It is mentioned that in the days of Samuel, there was peace between them and the Israelites (1 Sam. 7:14). The Gibeonites were said to be their descendants, being an offshoot of the Amorites who made a covenant with the Hebrews. When Saul later broke that vow and killed some of the Gibeonites, God sent a famine to Israel. +
On the topic of the Amorites from the Bible, Van Seters wrote: “To summarize we may say that “Amorite” in the Old Testament does not correspond to any political or ethnic entity known from the historical documents of the second millennium B.C. Instead the Old Testament writers probably learned of the term from Assyrian and Babylonian sources of the first millennium and construed it as an archaic term for the pre-Israelite inhabitants of Palestine. Their use of the term is largely ideological and rhetorical and represents the primeval wicked nations whom God displaced in order to give Israel its land.”
The Ugarites are another people mentioned in The Bible. Ugarit texts refer to deities such as El, Asherah, Baak and Dagan, previously known only from the Bible and a handful of other texts. Ugarit literature is full of epic stories about gods and goddesses. This form of religion was revived by the early Hebrew prophets. An 11-inch-high silver-and-gold statuette of a god, circa 1900 B.C., was unearthed at Ugarit.
According to the Quartz Hill School of Theology: “The prophets of the Old Testament rail against Baal, Asherah and various other gods on nearly every page. The reason for this is simple to understand; the people of Israel worshipped these gods along with, and sometimes instead of, Yahweh, the God of Israel. This Biblical denunciation of these Canaanite gods received a fresh face when the Ugaritic texts were discovered, for at Ugarit these were the very gods that were worshipped. [Source: Quartz Hill School of Theology, Quartz Hill, CA, theology.edu ]
“El was the chief god at Ugarit. Yet El is also the name of God used in many of the Psalms for Yahweh; or at least that has been the presupposition among pious Christians. Yet when one reads these Psalms and the Ugaritic texts one sees that the very attributes for which Yahweh is acclaimed are the same for which El is acclaimed. In fact, these Psalms were most likely originally Ugaritic or Canaanite hymns to El which were simply adopted by Israel, much like the American National Anthem was set to a beer hall tune by Francis Scott Key. El is called the father of men, creator, and creator of the creation. These attributes are also granted Yahweh by the Old Testament. In 1 Kings 22:19-22 we read of Yahweh meeting with his heavenly council. This is the very description of heaven which one finds in the Ugaritic texts. For in those texts the sons of god are the sons of El.
“Other deities worshipped at Ugarit were El Shaddai, El Elyon, and El Berith. All of these names are applied to Yahweh by the writers of the Old Testament. What this means is that the Hebrew theologians adopted the titles of the Canaanite gods and attributed them to Yahweh in an effort to eliminate them. If Yahweh is all of these there is no need for the Canaanite gods to exist! This
“Besides the chief god at Ugarit there were also lesser gods, demons, and goddesses. The most important of these lesser gods were Baal (familiar to all readers of the Bible), Asherah (also familiar to readers of the Bible), Yam (the god of the sea) and Mot (the god of death). What is of great interest here is that Yam is the Hebrew word for sea and Mot is the Hebrew word for death! Is this because the Hebrews also adopted these Canaanite ideas as well? Most likely they did.
“One of the most interesting of these lesser deities, Asherah, plays a very important role in the Old Testament. There she is called the wife of Baal; but she is also known as the consort of Yahweh! That is, among some Yahwists, Ahserah is Yahweh s female counterpart! Inscriptions found at Kuntillet Ajrud (dated between 850 and 750 B.C.) say: I bless you through Yahweh of Samaria, / and through his Asherah! And at El Qom (from the same period) this inscription:“Uriyahu, the king, has written this. Blessed be Uriyahu through Yahweh,/ and his enemies have been conquered’ through Yahweh's Asherah. That Yahwists worshipped Asherah until the 3rd century before Christ is well known from the Elephantine Papyri. Thus, for many in ancient Israel, Yahweh, like Baal, had a consort. Although condemned by the prophets, this aspect of the popular religion of Israel was difficult to overcome and indeed among many was never overcome.
“As had already been mentioned, one of the more important lesser deities at Ugarit was Baal. Baal is described as the rider on the clouds in the Ugarit text KTU 1.3 II 40. Interestingly enough, this description is also used of Yahweh in Psalm 68:5.
“In the Old Testament Baal is named 58 times in the singular and 18 times in the plural. The prophets protested constantly against the love affair the Israelites had with Baal (cf. Hosea 2:19, for example). The reason Israel was so attracted to Baal was that, first of all, some Israelites viewed Yahweh as a God of the desert and so when they arrived in Canaan they thought it only proper to adopt Baal, the god of fertility. As the old saying goes, whose land, his god. For these Israelites Yahweh was useful in the desert but not much help in the land.
“There is one Ugaritic text which seems to indicate that among the inhabitants of Ugarit, Yahweh was viewed as another son of El. KTU 1.1 IV 14 says: “sm . bny . yw . ilt The name of the son of god, Yahweh This text seems to show that Yahweh was known at Ugarit, though not as the Lord but as one of the many sons of El.
“Among the other gods worshipped at Ugarit there are Dagon, Tirosch, Horon, Nahar, Resheph, Kotar Hosis, Shachar (who is the equivalent of Satan), and Shalem. The folks at Ugarit were also plagued by a host of demons and lesser gods. The people at Ugarit saw the desert as the place which was most inhabited by demons (and they were like the Israelites in this belief). KTU 1.102:15-28 is a list of these demons. One of the most famous of the lesser deities at Ugarit was a chap named Dan il. There is little doubt that this figure corresponds to the Biblical Daniel; while predating him by several centuries. This has led many Old Testament scholars to suppose that the Canonical prophet was modeled on him. His story is found in KTU 1.17 - 1.19. Another creature which has ties to the Old Testament is Leviathan. Isaiah 27:1 and KTU 1.5 I 1-2 describe this beast. Also see Ps 74:13-14 and 104:26.
Worship at Ugarit and in Ancient Israel
According to the Quartz Hill School of Theology: “In Ugarit, as in Israel, the cult played a central role in the lives of the people. One of the central Ugaritic myths was the story of Baal s enthronement as king. In the story, Baal is killed by Mot (in the Fall of the year) and he remains dead until the Spring of the year. His victory over death was celebrated as his enthronement over the other gods (cf. KTU 1.2 IV 10) [Source: Quartz Hill School of Theology, Quartz Hill, CA, theology.edu ]
“The Old Testament also celebrates the enthronement of Yahweh (cf. Ps 47:9, 93:1, 96:10, 97:1 and 99:1). As in the Ugaritic myth, the purpose of Yahweh s enthronement is to re-enact creation. That is, Yahweh overcomes death by his recurring creative acts. The major difference between the Ugaritic myth and the Biblical hymns is that Yahweh s kingship is eternal and uninterrupted while Baal s is interrupted every year by his death (in the Fall). Since Baal is the god of fertility the meaning of this myth is quite easy to understand. As he dies, so the vegetation dies; and when he is reborn so is the world. Not so with Yahweh; for since he is always alive he is always powerful (Cf. Ps 29:10).
“Another of the more interesting aspects of Ugaritic religion which has a parallel in Hebrew religion was the practice of weeping for the dead . KTU 1.116 I 2-5, and KTU 1.5 VI 11-22 describe the worshippers weeping over the departed in the hopes that their grief will move the gods to send them back and that they will therefore live again. The Israelites also participated in this activity; though the prophets condemned them for doing so (cf. Is 22:12, Eze 7:16, Mi 1:16, Jer 16:6, and Jer 41:5). Of particular interest in this connection is what Joel 1:8-13 has to say, so I quote it in full:
“Lament like a virgin dressed in sackcloth for the husband of her youth. The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off from the house of the Lord. The priests mourn, the ministers of the Lord. The fields are devastated, the ground mourns; for the grain is destroyed, the wine dries up, the oil fails. Be dismayed, you farmers, wail, you vinedressers, over the wheat and the barley; for the crops of the field are ruined. The vine withers, the fig tree droops. Pomegranate, palm, and apple tree — all the trees of the field are dried up; surely, joy withers away among the people.
“Yet another interesting parallel between Israel and Ugarit is the yearly ritual known as the sending out of the scapegoats ; one for god and one for a demon. The Biblical text which relates this procedure is Leviticus 16:1-34. In this text a goat is sent into the wilderness for Azazel (a demon) and one is sent into the wilderness for Yahweh. This rite is known as a eliminatory rite; that is, a contagion (in this case communal sin) is placed on the head of the goat and it is sent away. In this way it was believed that (magically) the sinful material was removed from the community.
“KTU 1.127 relates the same procedure at Ugarit; with one notable difference — at Ugarit a woman priest was involved in the rite as well. The rituals performed in Ugaritic worship involved a great deal of alcohol and sexual promiscuity. Worship at Ugarit was essentially a drunken orgy in which priests and worshippers indulged in excessive drinking and excessive sexuality. This because the worshippers were attempting to convince Baal to send rain on their crops. Since rain and semen were seen in the ancient world as the same thing (as both produced fruit), it simply makes sense that participants in fertility religion behaved this way. Perhaps this is why in Hebrew religion the priests were forbidden to partake of wine while performing any rituals and also why females were barred from the precincts!! (cf. Hos 4:11-14, Is 28:7-8, and Lev 10:8-11).
Ugarit and the Old Testament
According to the Quartz Hill School of Theology: “The ancient Canaanite city-state of Ugarit is of utmost importance for those who study the Old Testament. The literature of the city and the theology contained therein go a very long way in helping us to understand the meaning of various Biblical passages as well as aiding us in deciphering difficult Hebrew words. Ugarit was at its political, religious and economic height around the 12th century B.C. and thus its period of greatness corresponds with the entry of Israel into Canaan. [Source: Quartz Hill School of Theology, Quartz Hill, CA, theology.edu ]
“Why should people interested in the Old Testament want to know about this city and its inhabitants? Simply because when we listen to their voices we hear echoes of the Old Testament itself. Several of the Psalms were simply adapted from Ugaritic sources; the story of the flood has a near mirror image in Ugaritic literature; and the language of the Bible is greatly illuminated by the language of Ugarit. For instance, look at M. Dahood s brilliant commentary on the Psalms in the Anchor Bible series for the necessity of Ugaritic for accurate Biblical exegesis. (N.B., for a more thorough discussion of the language of Ugarit, the student is advised to take the course titled Ugaritic Grammar offered by this institution). In short, when one has well in hand the literature and theology of Ugarit, one is well on the way to being able to comprehend some of the most important ideas contained in the Old Testament. For this reason it is worthwhile that we pursue this topic.
“Since the discovery of the Ugaritic texts, study of the Old Testament has never been the same. We now have a much clearer picture of Canaanite religion than we ever had before. We also understand the Biblical literature itself much better as we are now able to clarify difficult words due to their Ugaritic cognates.”
From Ugarit to the Bible
According to the Quartz Hill School of Theology: “The style of writing discovered at Ugarit is known as alphabetic cuneiform. This is a unique blending of an alphabetic script (like Hebrew) and cuneiform (like Akkadian); thus it is a unique blending of two styles of writing. Most likely it came into being as cuneiform was passing from the scene and alphabetic scripts were making their rise. Ugaritic is thus a bridge from one to the other and very important in itself for the development of both. [Source: Quartz Hill School of Theology, Quartz Hill, CA, theology.edu ]
“One of the most, if perhaps not the most, important aspect of Ugaritic studies is the assistance it gives in correctly translating difficult Hebrew words and passages in the Old Testament. As a language develops the meaning of words changes or their meaning is lost altogether. This is also true of the Biblical text. But after the discovery of the Ugaritic texts we gained new information concerning the meaning of archaic words in the Hebrew text.
“One example of this is found in Proverbs 26:23. In the Hebrew text"silver lips" is divided just as it is here. This has caused commentators quite a bit of confusion over the centuries, for what does "silver lips" mean? The discovery of the Ugaritic texts has helped us to understand that the word was divided incorrectly by the Hebrew scribe (who was as unfamiliar as we are with what the words were supposed to mean). Instead of the two words above, the Ugaritic texts lead us to divide the two words as which means "like silver". This makes eminently more sense in context than the word mistakenly divided by the Hebrew scribe who was unfamiliar with the second word; so he divided into two words which he did know even though it made no sense. Another example occurs in Ps 89:20. Here a word is usually translated "help" but the Ugaritic word gzr means "young man" and if Psalm 89:20 is translated this way it is clearly more meaningful.
“Besides single words being illuminated by the Ugaritic texts, entire ideas or complexes of ideas have parallels in the literature. For example, in Proverbs 9:1-18 wisdom and folly are personified as women. This means that when the Hebrew wisdom teacher instructed his students on these matters, he was drawing on material that was commonly known in the Canaanite environment (for Ugarit was Canaanite). In point of fact, KTU 1,7 VI 2-45 is nearly identical to Proverbs 9:1ff. (The abbreviation KTU stands for Keilalphabetische Texte aus Ugarit , the standard collection of this material. The numbers are what we might call the chapter and verse). KTU 1.114:2-4 says: hklh. sh. lqs. ilm. tlhmn/ ilm w tstn. tstnyn d sb/ trt. d. skr. y .db .yrh [“Eat, o Gods, and drink, / drink wine till you are sated], which is very similar to Proverbs 9:5, “Come, eat of my food and drink wine that I have mixed .
“Ugaritic poetry is very similar to Biblical poetry and is therefore very useful in interpreting difficult poetic texts. In fact, Ugaritic literature (besides lists and the like) is composed completely in poetic metre. Biblical poetry follows Ugaritc poetry in form and function. There is parallelism, qinah metre, bi and tri colas, and all of the poetic tools found in the Bible are found at Ugarit. In short the Ugaritic materials have a great deal to contribute to our understanding of the Biblical materials; especially since they predate any of the Biblical texts.”
The Hittites is the conventional English-language term for an ancient people who spoke an Indo-European language and established a kingdom centered in Hattusa, near the present-day the village of Bogazköy in north-central Turkey, through most of the second millennium B.C.. The Hittite kingdom, which at its height controlled central Anatolia, north-western Syria down to Ugarit, and Mesopotamia down to Babylon, lasted from roughly 1680 B.C. to about 1180 B.C.. After 1180 B.C., the Hittite polity disintegrated into several independent city-states, some of which survived as late as around 700 B.C.. [Source:Crystal Links +/]
According to Crystal Links: “Hittites or more recently, Hethites is also the common English name of a Biblical people who are called Children of Heth. These people are mentioned several times in the Old Testament, from the time of the Patriarchs up to Ezra's return from Babylonian captivity. The archaeologists who discovered the Anatolian Hittites in the 19th century initially believed the two peoples to be the same, but this identification remains disputed.The Hittites were also famous for their skill in building and using chariots. Some consider the Hittites to be the first civilization to have discovered how to work iron, and thus the first to enter the Iron Age.” [Source: Crystal Links +/]
“The Traditional View: Given the casual tone in which the Hittites are mentioned in most of these references, Biblical scholars before the age of archaeology traditionally regarded them as a smaller tribe, living in the hills of Canaan during the era of the Patriarchs. This picture was completely changed by the archaeological finds that placed the center of the Hatti/Hattusas civilization far to the north, in modern-day Turkey. Because of this perceived discrepancy and other reasons, some Biblical scholars reject Sayce's identification of the two people, and believe that the similarity in names is only a coincidence. In order to stress this distinction, E. A. Speiser called the Biblical Hittites Hethites in his translation of the Book of Genesis for the Anchor Bible Series. +/
“The Mainstream View: On the other hand, the view that the Biblical Hittites are related to the Anatolian Hittites remains popular. Apart from the coincidence in names, the latter were a powerful political entity in the region before the collapse of their empire in the 14th-12th centuries B.C., so one would expect them to be mentioned in the Bible, just in the way that the HTY post-Exodus are. A stone lion relief found a Beth Shan, near the Sea of Galilee, dated to about 1700 B.C., has been interpreted as confirming this identification, since lions are often pictured in Hittite art. Moreover, in the account of the conquest of Canaan, the Hittites are said to dwell "in the mountains" and "towards the north" of Canaan - a description that matches the general direction and geography of the Anatolian Hittite empire, if not the distance. +/
“Modern linguistic academics therefore propose, based on much onomastic and archaeological evidence, that Anatolian populations moved south into Canaan as part of the waves of Sea Peoples who were migrating along the Mediterranean coastline at the time in question. Many kings of local city-states are shown to have had Hittite and Luwian names in the Late Bronze - Early Iron transition period. Indeed, even the name of Mount Zion may be Hittite in origin. +/
“Other Views: Some people have conjectured that the Biblical Hittites could actually be Hurrian tribes living in Palestine, and that the Hebrew word for the Hurrians (HRY in consonant-only script) became the name of the Hittites (HTY) due to a scribal error. Others have proposed that the Biblical Hittites were a group of Kurushtameans. These hypotheses are not widely accepted, however. It is also possible that the Biblical HTY refers to two distinct people at different times; e.g. a local tribe before Exodus, and the Anatolian empire after Exodus.
Biblical References to the Hittites
The Hittites are mentioned more than 50 times in the Hebrew Bible under the names "children of Heth" and "native of Heth") as living in or near Canaan since the time of Abraham (estimated to be between 2000 BC and 1500 BC) to the time of Ezra after the return from the Babylonian exile (around 450 BC). Their ancestor Heth is said in Genesis to be a son of Canaan, son of Ham, son of Noah. [Source: Wikipedia, King James Bible, University of Virginia search service]
Biblical References to the Hittites: Genesis 10:1, Genesis 23:2, Genesis 15:18 on Abraham’s covenant (expressed similarly in Nehemiah 9:8) In Genesis 23:2, towards the end of Abraham's life, he was staying in Hebron, on lands belonging to the "children of Heth", and from them he obtained a plot of land with a cave to bury his wife Sarah. One of them (Ephron) is labeled "the Hittite", several times. This deal is mentioned three more times (with almost the same words), upon the deaths of Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph.Decades later, in Genesis 26:34, Abraham's grandson Esau is said to have taken two Hittite wives, and a Hivite one. This claim is repeated, with somewhat different names, in Genesis 36:2. In Genesis 27:46, Rebekah is worried that Jacob will do the same; Genesis 25:8 Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people. 9 And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre; 10 The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.
Esau and Jacob: Genesis 26:34; Genesis 27:46'; Genesis 36:2; Genesis 49:29. Joseph: Genesis 50:13; Joshua 24.32.Exodus and the conquest of Canaan: This period is conjectured to start sometime after 1800 BC and end sometime before 1000 BC. In this period the Hittites are mentioned about a dozen times as part of an almost fixed formula that lists the "seven nations greater and mightier than [the Hebrews]" whose lands will be eventually conquered. Among the five references to the Hittites that cannot be classified as a variant of that formula, two (Numbers 13:29 and Joshua 11:3) declare that the Hittites "dwell in the mountains", together with the Jebusites, Amorites, and Perizzites, whereas the Canaanites live "on the east and on the west", on the coast of Jordan, and the Amalekites live "in the south". In Joshua 1:4 the land of the Hittites is said to extend "from the wilderness and this Lebanon", from "the Euphrates unto the great sea". In Judges 1:18, the traitor from Bethel who led the Hebrews into the city is said to have gone to live among the Hittites where he built a city called Luz. Finally in Judges 3:5 it is said that the Hebrew lived and intermarried with the Hittites as well as with the other five "major nations".
Moses: Deuteronomy 20:17; Deuteronomy 7:1; Numbers 13:29. Joshua: Exodus 3:8; Exodus 13:5; Exodus 23:23; Exodus 33:2; Exodus 34:11; Joshua 1:4; Joshua 11:3;. Joshua 12:8; Joshua 24:11; Joshua 3:10; Joshua 9:1 Judges: Judges 1:18; Judges 3:1;
Kingdoms period: In this period the Hittites are mentioned as the ethnic label of two soldiers under king David (around 1000 BC), Ahimelech and Uriah; the latter is murdered by David for the sake of his wife Bathsheba. In Solomon's reign (around 950 BC), the Hittites are listed as people whom the Hebrews had not been able "utterly to destroy" in their conquest of Canaan and who paid tribute to Israel. In the time of the prophet Elisha (around 850 BC) there is a passage in 2Kings 7:6 where the Syrians flee in the night after hearing a terrible noise of horses and chariots, believing that Israel had hired "the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians".
Saul: 1 Samuel 26:5. David: 2 Samuel 23:8; 1 Chronicles 11:10; 2 Samuel 11:3; 2 Samuel 12:9; 1 Kings 15:5; Solomon: 1 Kings 9:20; 2 Chronicles 8:7; 1 Kings 10:28; 2 Chronicles 1:16; 1 Kings 11:1; Elisha: 2 Kings 7:6. Babylonian exile and return: Ezekiel 16:1; Ezekiel 16:1. Ezra: 1 Esdras 8:3 (Apocrypha); Ezra 9:1
Moabite Stone - The Mesha Stele - 930 B.C.
The Moabites were one of the peoples named repeatedly in the Old Testament along with the Hittities and Amorites for which there is archaeological evidence of their existence. The Moabite Stone — or Mesha Stele — dated to 930 B.C. reads: “I am Mesha, son of Kemoshmelek, the king of Moab, the Dibonite. My father was king over Moab for thirty years, and I became king after my father. And I made this high place for Kemosh in Qarhar . . . because of the deliverance of Mesha, and because he has saved me from all the kings and because he caused me to see [my desire] upon all who hated me. Omri, king of Israel — he oppressed Moab many days, because Chemosh was angry with his land. And his son succeeded him, and he also said I will oppress Moab. In my day he spoke according to this word, but I saw my desire upon him and upon his house, and Israel utterly perished forever. [Source: George A Barton,”Archaeology and the Bible”, Seventh Edition, p. 460-461]
“Now Omri had possessed all the land of Medeba and dwelt in it his days and half the days of his son, forty years, but Chemosh restored it in my day. And I built Baal-meon and I made in it the reservoir and I built Kiryathaim. And the men of Gad had dwelt in the land of Ataroth from ofold and the king of Israel had built for himself Ataroth. And I foutht against the city and took it, and I slew all the people of the city, a sight pleasing to Chemosh and to Moab. And I brought back from there the altar-hearth of Duda and I dragged it before Chemosh in Kiryoth. And I caused to dwell in it the men of Sharon and the men of Meharoth .
“And Chemosh said to me: "Go take Nebo against Israel"; and I went by night and fought against it from break of dawn till noon, and I took it and slew all, seven thousand men, boys , and women, and girls, for I had devoted it to Ashtar-Chemosh. And I took from there the altar-hearths of Yahweh, and I dragged them before Chemosh. And the king of Israel built Jabaz and dwelt in it while he fought with me and Chemosh drove him out from before me. And I took from Moab two hundred men, all its chiefs, and I led them against Jahaz and took it to add unto Dibon. And I built Qarhar , the wall of the forests and the wall of the hill; and I built its gates and I built its towers, and I built the kings house, and I made the sluices for the reservoir of water in the midst of the city.
“And there was no cistern in the midst of the city, in Qarhar ; and I said to all the people: "Make you each a cistern in his house;" and I cut the cuttings for Qarhar with the help of the prisoners of Israel. I built Aroer and I made the highway by the Arnon. And I built Beth-bamoth, for it had been destroyed. And I built Bezer, for it was in ruins....(Chi) of Dibon wer fifty, for all Dibon was obedient. And I ruled. And I ruled a hundred....in the cities which I had added to the land. And I built [Mede]ba dnd Beth-diblathan. And [as for] Beth-baal-meon, there I placed sheep-raisers....sheep of the land... And [as for] Horonaim there dwelt in it....and.....Chemosh said unto me: "Go down, fight against Horonaim," and I went down and....Chemosh in my day, and from there.....and I.......”
Biblical References to the Babylonians
Babylonia, one of the great Mesopotamian empires, and the Neo-Babylonians, are features prominently in the Old Testament. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:“(1) The first passage referring to Babylonia is Gen., x, 8-10: "Chus begat Nemrod, and the beginning of his kingdom was Babylon and Arach and Achad and Chalanne in the land of Sennaar." The great historical value of these genealogies in Genesis has been acknowledged by scholars of all schools; these genealogies are, however, not of persons, but of tribes, which is obvious from such a bold metaphor as: "Chanaan begat Sidon, his first born" (v, 15). But in many instances the names are those of actual persons whose personal names became designations of the tribes, just as in known instances of Scottish and Irish clans or Arab tribes. Chus begat Nemrod. Chus was not a Semite, according to the Biblical account, and it is remarkable that recent discoveries all seem to point to the fact that the original civilization of Babylonia was non-Semitic and the Semitic element only gradually displaced the aborigines and adopted their culture. It must be noted, also, that in v. 22 Assur is described as a son of Sem, though in v. 11 Assur comes out of the land of Sennaar. [Source: J.P. Arendzen, transcribed by Rev. Richard Giroux, Catholic Encyclopedia |=|]
“This exactly represents the fact that Assyria was purely Semitic where Babylonia was not. Some see in Chus a designation of the city of Kish, mentioned above amongst the cities of early Babylonia, and certainly one of its most ancient towns. Nemrod, on this supposition, would be none else than Nin-marad, or Lord of Marad, which was a daughter-city of Kish. Gilgamesh, whom mythology transformed into a Babylonian Hercules, whose fortunes are described in the Gilgamesh-epos, would then be the person designated by the Biblical Nemrod. Others again see in Nemrod an intentional corruption of Amarudu, the Akkadian for Marduk, whom the Babylonians worshiped as the great God, and who, perhaps, was the deified ancestor of their city. This corruption would be parallel to Nisroch (IV Kings, xix, 37) for Assuraku, and Nibhaz (IV Kings, xvii, 31) for Abahazu, or Abed Nego for Abdnebo. The description of "stout hunter" or hero-entrapper would fit in well with the role ascribed to the god Marduk, who entrapped the monster Tiamtu in his net. Both Biblical instances, IV Kings, xvii, 31, and xix, 37, however, are very doubtful, and Nisroch has recently found a more probable explanation. |=|
“(2) "The beginning of his kingdom was Babylon and Arach and Achad and Calanne". These cities of Northern Babylonia are probably enumerated inversely to the order of their antiquity; so that Nippur (Calanne) is the most ancient, and Babylon the most modern. Recent excavations have shown that Nippur dates far back beyond the Sargonid age (3800 B.C.) and Nippur is mentioned on the fifth tablet of the Babylonian Creation-story. |=|
“(4) Next to be mentioned is the account of the battle of the four kings against five near the Dead Sea (Gen., xiv). Sennaar mentioned in v. 1 is the Sumer of the Babylonian inscriptions, and Amraphel is identified by most scholars with the great Hammurabi, the sixth King of Babylon. The initial gutteral of the king's name being a soft one, and the Babylonians being given to dropping their H's, the name actually occurs in cuneiform inscriptions as Ammurapi. The absence of the final l arises from the fact that the sign pi was misread bil or perhaps ilu, the sign of deification, or complement of the name, being omitted. There is no philological difficulty in this identification, but the chronological difficulty (viz., of Hammurabi being vassal of Chedorlaomer) has led others to identify Amraphel with Hammurabi's father Sin-muballit, whose name is ideographically written Amar-Pal. Arioch, King of Pontus (Pontus is St. Jerome's unfortunate guess to identify Ellazar) is none else but Rim-Sin, King of Larsa (Ellazar of A. V.), whose name was Eri-Aku, and who was defeated and dethroned by the King of Babylon, whether Hammurabi or Sin-muballit; and if the former, then this occurred in the thirty-first year of his reign, the year of the land of Emutbalu, Eri-Aku bearing the title of King of Larsa and Father of Emutbalu. The name Chedorlahomer has apparently, though not quite certainly, been found on two tablets together with the names Eriaku and Tudhula, which latter king is evidently "Thadal, king of the Nations". The Hebrew word goyim, "nations", is a clerical error for Gutium or Guti, a neighbouring state which plays an important role throughout Babylonian history. Of Kudur-lahgumal, King of the Land of Elam, it is said that he "descended on", and "exercised sovereignty in Babylon the city of Kar-Duniash". We have documentary evidence that Eriaku's father Kudurmabug, King of Elam, and after him Hammurabi of Babylon, claimed authority over Palestine the land of Martu. This Biblical passage, therefore, which was once described as bristling with impossibilities, has so far only received confirmation from Babylonian documents. |=|
“(5) According to Gen., xi, 28 and 31, Abraham was a Babylonian from the city of Ur. It is remarkable that the name Abu ramu (Honored Father) occurs in the eponym lists for 677 B.C., and Abe ramu, a similar name, on a contract-tablet in the reign of Apil-Sin, thus showing that Abram was a Babylonian name in use long before and after the date of the Patriarch. His father removed from Ur to Harran, from the old centre of the Moon-cult to the new. Talmudic tradition makes Terah an idolater, and his religion may have had to do with his emigration. No excavations have as yet taken place at Harran, and Abraham's ancestry remains obscure. Aberamu of Apil-Sin's reign had a son Sha-Amurri, which fact shows the early intercourse between Babylonia and the Amorite land, or Palestine. In Chanaan Abraham remained within the sphere of Babylonian language and influence, or perhaps even authority. Several centuries later, when Palestine was no longer part of the Babylonian Empire, Abd-Hiba, the King of Jerusalem, in his intercourse with his over-lord of Egypt, wrote neither his own language nor that of Pharao, but Babylonian, the universal language of the day. Even when passing into Egypt, Abraham remained under Semitic rule, for the Hyksos reigned there. |=|
“(6) Considering that the progenitor of the Hebrew race was a Babylonian, and that Babylonian culture remained paramount in Western Asia for more than 1000 years, the most astounding feature of the Hebrew Scriptures is the almost complete absence of Babylonian religious ideas, the more so as Babylonian religion, though Oriental polytheism, possessed a refinement, a nobility of thought, and a piety, which are often admirable.
Babylon, Creation, Garden of Eden and the Great Flood
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:“The Babylonian account of creation, though often compared with the Biblical one, differs from it on main and essential points for it contains no direct statement of the Creation of the world: Tiamtu and Apsu, the watery waste and the abyss wedded together, beget the universe; Marduk, the conqueror of chaos, shapes and orders all things; but this is the mythological garb of evolution as opposed to creation. It does not make the Deity the first and only cause of the existence of all things; the gods themselves are but the outcome of pre-existent, apparently eternal, forces; they are not cause, but effect. It makes the present world the outcome of a great war; it is the story of Resistance and Struggle, which is the exact opposite of the Biblical account. It does not arrange the things created into groups or classes, which is one of the main features of the story in Genesis. The work of creation is not divided into a number of days — the principal literary characteristic of the Biblical account.[Source: J.P. Arendzen, transcribed by Rev. Richard Giroux, Catholic Encyclopedia |=|]
“The Babylonian mythology possesses something analogous to the biblical Garden of Eden. But though they apparently possessed the word Edina, not only as meaning "the Plain", but as a geographical name, their garden of delight is placed in Eridu, where "a dark vine grew; it was made a glorious place, planted beside the abyss. In the glorious house, which is like a forest, its shadow extends; no man enters its midst. In its interior is the Sun-god Tammuz. Between the mouths of the rivers, which are on both sides." This passage bears a striking analogy to Gen., ii, 8-17. The Babylonians, however, seem to have possessed no account of the Fall. It seems likely that the name of Ea, or Ya, or Aa, the oldest god of the Babylonian Pantheon, is connected with the name Jahve, Jahu, or Ja, of the Old Testament. Professor Delitzsch recently claimed to have found the name Jahve-ilu on a Babylonian tablet, but the reading has been strongly disputed by other scholars. |=|
“The greatest similarity between Hebrew and Babylonian records is in their accounts of the Flood. Pir-napistum, the Babylonian Noe, commanded by Ea, builds a ship and transfers hither his family, the beasts of the field, and the sons of the artificers, and he shuts the door. Six days and nights the wind blew, the flood overwhelmed the land. The seventh day the storm ceased; quieted, the sea shrank back; all mankind had turned to corruption. The ship stopped at the land of Nisir. Pir-napistum sends out first a dove, which returns; then a swallow, and it returns, then a raven, and it does not return. He leaves the ship, pours out a libation, makes an offering on the peak of the mountain. "The gods smelled a savour, the gods smelled a sweet savour, the gods gathered like flies over the sacrificer." No one reading the Babylonian account of the Flood can deny its intimate connection with the narrative in Genesis, yet the former is so intimately bound up with Babylonian mythology, that the inspired character of the Hebrew account is the better appreciated by the contrast.” |=|
Babylonian Story of the Expulsion from a Garden
Some say aspects of the “Babylonian Story of the Expulsion from a Garden” bear a striking resemblance to the Adam and Eve and Garden of Eden story. Others say it sounds more like the expulsion of a slave than the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden.
The “Babylonian Story of the Expulsion from a Garden” goes:
Like vegetable food .....
a. To do that in rebellion he has....
b.... he did not obey him.
My heart is full, is full of....
Fear, lo lamentation is given
Unto me thou dost call;
And I at thy call
In my weakness was fleeing.
And I in my person.....
Thy humanity, they body has not been taken away.....
For humanity the words of understanding are not....
End thy weeping!
From my midst go forth to the steppe!
a. To me forever, having taken the clothing — establishing-tree
b. as an outcast thou shalt not return!
a. The death-emancipating reed the enlightened children who are wretched
b. Shall not take
Thou shalt never take.
In no way heareafter shalt thou attain release.
To my ox for threshing, as an outcast thou shalt not return!
To my field for irrigating as an outcast thou shalt not return!
To my field for tilling as an outcast thou shalt not return
To my work to do it as an outcast thou shalt not return!
Go; perform the work; raise the food to eat!
I! I will never receive thee!
a. Men like thee will perform the work; their mothers and their fathers
b. shall eat of heaven's food.
Since the hand of the son of the menial has divided their food, their eyes are opened.
As for themselves each has taken 10 measures of barley;
The children who are servants of their fathers have each taken 10 measures of barley for himself:
For each of their fathers barley has been threshed;
Barley, oil, wool, sheep have been brought unto them.
O humanity, be abundant!
[Source: George A. Barton, “Archaeology and the Bible”,” 7th Edition revised, (Philadelphia: American Sunday School, 1937), pg. 307-308, piney.com]
Babylonians and the Tower of Babel
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:““(3) The next Biblical passage which requires mention is that dealing with the Tower of Babel (Gen., xi, 1-9). This narrative, though couched in the terms of Oriental folklore, yet expresses not merely a moral lesson, but refers to some historical fact in the dim past. There was perhaps in the ancient world no spot on all the earth where such a variety of tongues and dialects was heard as in Babylonia, where Akkadians, Sumerians, and Amorites, Elamites, Kassites, Sutites, Qutites, and perhaps Hittites met and left their mark on the language; where Assyrian or Semitic Babylonian itself only very gradually displaced the older non-Semitic tongue, and where for many centuries the people were at least bilingual. It was the spot where Turanian, Semitic, and Indo-Germanic met. Yet there remained in the national consciousness the memory that the first settlers in the Babylonian plain spoke one language. "They removed from the East", as the Bible says and all recent research suggests. When we read, "The earth was of one tongue", we need not take this word in its widest sense, for the same word is often translated "the land".[Source: J.P. Arendzen, transcribed by Rev. Richard Giroux, Catholic Encyclopedia |=|]
“Philology may or may not prove the unity of all human speech, and man's descent from a single set of parents seems to postulate original unity of language; but in any case the Bible does not here seem to refer to this, and the Bible account itself suggests that a vast variety of tongues existed previous to the foundations of Babylon. We need but refer to Gen., x, 5, 21, 31: "In their kindreds and tongues and countries and nations"; and Gen., x, 10, where Babylon is represented as almost coeval with Arach, Achad, and Calanne, and posterior to Gomer, Magog, Elam, Arphaxad, so that the original division of languages cannot first have taken place at Babel. What historical fact lies behind the account of the building of the Tower of Babel is difficult to ascertain. Of course any real attempt to reach heaven by a tower is out of the question. The mountains of Elam were too close by, to tell them that a few yards more or less were of no importance to get in touch with the sky. But the wish to have a rallying-point in the plain is only too natural. It is a striking fact that most Babylonian cities possessed a ziggurrat (a stage, or temple-tower), and these bore very significant Sumerian names, as, for instance, at Nippur, Dur-anki, "Link of heaven and earth" — "the summit of which reaches unto heaven, and the foundation of which is laid in the bright deep"; or, at Babylon, Esagila, "House of the High Head", the more ancient designation of which was Etemenanki, "House of the Foundation of Heaven and Earth"; or Ezida, at Borsippa, by its more ancient designation Euriminianki, or "House of the Seven Spheres of Heaven and Earth". |=|
“The remains of Ezida, at present Birs Nimrud, are traditionally pointed out as the Tower of Babel; whether rightly, is impossible to say; Esagila, in Babylon itself, has as good, if not a better, claim. We have no record of the building of the city and tower being interrupted by any such catastrophe as a confusion of languages; but that such an interruption because of diversity of speech of the townspeople took place, is not impossible. In any case it can only have been an interruption, though perhaps of many centuries, for Babylon increased and prospered for many centuries after the period referred to in Genesis. The history of the city of Babylon before the Amorite dynasty is an absolute blank, and we have no facts to fill up the fifteen centuries of its existence previous to that date. The etymology given for the name Babel in Gen., xi, 9, is not the historic meaning of the word, which, as given above is Kadungir, Bab-Ilu, or "God's Gate". The derivation in Genesis rests upon the similarity of sound with a word formed from the root balal, "to stammer", or "be confused". |=|
Tower of Babel Confusion of Tongues and the Nam-shub of Enki
The nam-shub of Enki is from a Sumerian cuneiform tablet. It records speaking in tongues as God's punishment to separate spiritual people from those attempting to climb their own "Tower of Babel" to force God to give them a direct revelation. [Source: piney.com]
The nam-shub of Enki reads:
“Once upon a time, there was no snake, there was no scorpion,
There was no hyena, there was no lion,
There was no wild dog, no wolf,
There was no fear, no terror,
Man had no rival.
In those days, the land Shubur-Hamazi,
Harmony-tongued Sumer, the great land of the me of princeship,
Uri, the land having all that is appropriate,
The land Martu, resting in security,
The whole universe, the people well cared for,
To Enlil in one tongue gave speech.
Then the lord defiant, the prince defiant, the king defiant,
Enki, the lord of abundance, whose commands are trustworthy,
The lord of wisdom, who scans the land,
The leader of the gods,
The lord of Eridu, endowed with wisdom,
Changed the speech in their mouths, put contention into it,
Into the speech of man that had been one.”
Similarly Genesis 11:1-9 (the Tower of Babel story) reads:
1.And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
2.And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
3.And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.
4.And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
5.And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
6.And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
7.Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
8.So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
9.Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.
Isaiah on Judah and the Assyrians
Assyria, another great Mesopotamia Empire, are also featured prominently in the Old Testament. Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “Isaiah's oracles are so intricately related to happenings of his era, that the history of the period must be understood. The following outline is drawn from accounts in II Kings, supplemented by information from Chronicles and Assyrian king records. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org ]
“Because there was no outside power strong enough or interested enough to provide any real threat, Israel and Judah prospered in the eighth century. King Adad-nirari III of Assyria in 805 took tribute from Damascus, but Israel, a few miles to the south of the Aramaean capital, was unaffected. A succession of weak rulers reduced the Assyrian threat. Jeroboam II (786-746) expanded his kingdom into the Transjordan area and worked in economic harmony with Phoenician cities. Prosperity and social inequalities graphically pictured by Amos brought hardship and suffering for the underprivileged. Parallel economic growth took place in Judah in Uzziah's time (783-742). Edom was recaptured; trade with Arabia developed through the Red Sea; two cities of Philistia, Gath and Ashdod, became vassals (II Chron. 26:6 f.), and despite the absence of a prophetic record comparable to the book of Amos, conditions condemned by Isaiah when he begins his prophetic work at the King's death suggest that the situation in Judah and Israel was the same.
“746. Jeroboam II died and a period of decline in Israel began. Lack of stability in Israelite leadership, resulting in the assassination of four kings within twenty years, produced a national policy that fluctuated between pro-Egyptian and pro-Assyrian alliances. A sense of aimlessness or lack of direction, clearly reflected in Hosea, made Israel an easy target when Assyrian forces began to move westward and southward.
“745. Tiglath Pileser III (called "Pul" in II Kings 15:19 after "Pulu," the name under which he controlled Babylon) became ruler of Assyria and began an expansionist program. Up to this time, Assyria had periodically raided northern Syria for bounty and to maintain open channels for exploitation of minerals, timber and trade. Assyria's new program included conquest and rule. In addition to subduing Mesopotamian neighbors in the immediate vicinity of Assyria, Tiglath Pileser began subjugation of the west, starting in 743. A coalition of small nations, led by Azriau of Iuda, undoubtedly Uzziah (Azariah) of Judah, opposed him. The Assyrian account, taken from slabs found at Calah, has many lacunae, but it is clear that Tiglath Pileser subdued his opposition. The records list tribute received from frightened rulers of smaller kingdoms, including Rezin of Damascus and Menahem of Samaria.9
“742. Uzziah died and Jotham became king. Because of his father's long illness, Jotham had administrative experience as regent of Judah and was able to give Judah governmental stability that is in complete contrast with the situation in Israel. Uzziah's military program was continued and the Chronicler reports a Judaean victory over Ammonites who paid tribute for three years.
Assyria Attacks on Judah
The revived Assyrian empire, conquered Israel's northern empire in 722 B.C. After the prophet Hosea predicted that "The calf of Samaria shall be broken into pieces; for they have sown the wind, and the shall reap the whirlwind," the Assyrian king Tiglath-pilese III sacked Damascus and invaded northern Israel. In 722 B.C. northern Israel was conquered by Tiglath-pilese III's successor Shalmanseser V. Sargon recorded: "The city of Samaria I besieged. I took. I carried away 27,290 of the people that dwelt therein."
2 Kings Chap. 15-17 describes the destruction of Israel at the hands of the Assyrians led by Tigleth-Pileser, who is also called "Pul." This invasion occured in 722 BC and would have been at the time traditionally associated with the prophet Isiah.According to the International Bible Society: “From Chapter 15: In the thirty-ninth year of Azariah king of Judah, Menahem son of Gadi became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria ten years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD. During his entire reign he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit. Then Pul king of Assyria invaded the land, and Menahem gave him a thousand talents of silver to gain his support and strengthen his own hold on the kingdom. Menahem exacted this money from Israel. Every wealthy man had to contribute fifty shekels  of silver to be given to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria withdrew and stayed in the land no longer. As for the other events of Menahem's reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? Menahem rested with his fathers. And Pekahiah his son succeeded him as king. [Source: New International Version by International Bible Society, The Christian Classics Ethereal Library, ThenAgain ||||]
“From Chapter 16: Then Rezin king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem and besieged Ahaz, but they could not overpower him. At that time, Rezin king of Aram recovered Elath for Aram by driving out the men of Judah. Edomites then moved into Elath and have lived there to this day. Ahaz sent messengers to say to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, "I am your servant and vassal. Come up and save me out of the hand of the king of Aram and of the king of Israel, who are attacking me." And Ahaz took the silver and gold found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace and sent it as a gift to the king of Assyria. The king of Assyria complied by attacking Damascus and capturing it. He deported its inhabitants to Kir and put Rezin to death. ||||
“Then King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria. He saw an altar in Damascus and sent to Uriah the priest a sketch of the altar, with detailed plans for its construction. So Uriah the priest built an altar in accordance with all the plans that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus and finished it before King Ahaz returned. When the king came back from Damascus and saw the altar, he approached it and presented offerings on it. He offered up his burnt offering and grain offering, poured out his drink offering, and sprinkled the blood of his fellowship offerings on the altar. The bronze altar that stood before the LORD he brought from the front of the temple — from between the new altar and the temple of the LORD — and put it on the north side of the new altar. King Ahaz then gave these orders to Uriah the priest: "On the large new altar, offer the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering, the king's burnt offering and his grain offering, and the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. Sprinkle on the altar all the blood of the burnt offerings and sacrifices. But I will use the bronze altar for seeking guidance." And Uriah the priest did just as King Ahaz had ordered. |||||
“King Ahaz took away the side panels and removed the basins from the movable stands. He removed the Sea from the bronze bulls that supported it and set it on a stone base. He took away the Sabbath canopy that had been built at the temple and removed the royal entryway outside the temple of the LORD, in deference to the king of Assyria. As for the other events of the reign of Ahaz, and what he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? Ahaz rested with his fathers and was buried with them in the City of David. And Hezekiah his son succeeded him as king. In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea son of Elah became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned nine years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, but not like the kings of Israel who preceded him. ||||
“Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up to attack Hoshea, who had been Shalmaneser's vassal and had paid him tribute. But the king of Assyria discovered that Hoshea was a traitor, for he had sent envoys to So  king of Egypt, and he no longer paid tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year. Therefore Shalmaneser seized him and put him in prison. The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria and laid siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes. The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites. They took over Samaria and lived in its towns.” ||||
Isaiah on the Assyrian Conquest of Judah
First Isaiah, Isaiah 1, explores the calamity that occurred in Judah at the time of the Assyrian conquest Isaiah lived at the time of the Assyrian conquest of Judah. In these selections he tries to explain this calamity. [Source: New International Version by International Bible Society, Thenagain.info]
Chapter 1: The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah: “Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: "I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand."
Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness — only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil. Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers. The Daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a field of melons, like a city under siege. Unless the LORD Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah. Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah!
"The multitude of your sacrifices — what are they to me?" says the LORD. "I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations — I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword." For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. See how the faithful city has become a harlot! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her — but now murderers! Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water. Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow's case does not come before them.
Chapter 3: Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling; their words and deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence. The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves. Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds. Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done. Youths oppress my people, women rule over them. O my people, your guides lead you astray; they turn you from the path.
The LORD takes his place in court; he rises to judge the people. The LORD enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: "It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?" declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.
The LORD says, "The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, tripping along with mincing steps, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the LORD will make their scalps bald."
In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and ankle chains and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, the signet rings and nose rings, the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls. Instead of fragrance there will be a stench; instead of a sash, a rope; instead of well-dressed hair, baldness; instead of fine clothing, sackcloth; instead of beauty, branding. Your men will fall by the sword, your warriors in battle. The gates of Zion will lament and mourn; destitute, she will sit on the ground.
Judith: Feminine Courage During Assyrian Conquest
Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “A stirring story of feminine intrigue and courage, written during the Maccabean struggle, recorded the deliverance of a besieged city through the beauty and wiles of Judith. The writing must be classified as fiction with an imaginary setting in the time of Assyrian world conquest. If the author knew precise historical details, he chose to ignore them, for he names the Babylonian monarch Nebuchadrezzar as king over the Assyrians at Nineveh, though the city had been destroyed seven years before Nebuchadrezzar was crowned (2:1 ff.; 4:2 ff.). There is no evidence that Nebuchadrezzar ever warred against the Medes or captured Ecbatana (1:7, 14). What is more surprising is that the author implies that the Jews were returning from captivity at the very time they were experiencing further deportations. The names of the Assyrian commander Holofernes and his general Bagoas may indicate that the writer had in mind a campaign against Phoenicia and the Jews waged in 353 in the time of Artaxerxes III Ochus (358-338), for the Persian commander's name was Holofernes and his general was Bagoas, a eunuch. But the exaggerations in the story can only be fictional. Holofernes moved a massive army 300 miles in three days (2:21)! Numbers are also exaggerated (cf. 1:4, 16; 2:5, 15; 7:2, 17). The town of Bethulia, which must have been close to Shechem (or perhaps was Shechem), has never been located. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org ]
“The literary style is somewhat heavy at times because of the insertion of long instructional speeches or prayers, a characteristic of Hellenistic writing. Nevertheless, there are excellent sequences and the reader is led through scenes of potential danger to the tense moment of the murder of Holofernes and Judith's escape in the fashion of a good spy story. As an ideal heroine Judith is beautiful and courageous, and as an example to Jewish women she is a model of pious and meticulous observance of the Law. Other characterizations are equally good.
“The author did not write solely for entertainment, but as in other Jewish fiction, to instruct. As the ideal Jewess (the name "Judith" means "Jewess"), Judith demonstrated one of the ways in which loyal and religious women could aid the cause of freedom. She was a Maccabean counterpart of Jael (Judg. 4-5), using deception, intrigue, human weakness and in Judith's case, a touch of sensual enticement, to bring about the murder of an enemy general. She demonstrated the importance of active resistance to the enemy by the Hasidim.
“The story has two parts. The first (chs. 1-7) describes the war of the Assyrians against the Jews, leading up to the siege of Bethulia. The second (chs. 8-16) tells of the deliverance by Judith. Once again Nebuchadrezzar is the model for the power-hungry Seleucid oppressor, and once again the Jews are the target. Standing in the way of Assyrian conquest is the legendary city of Bethulia, and against this tiny community the tremendous armed might of Assyria is mustered. Rather than using his armies to crush the city, Holofernes is persuaded to bring the people to their knees by cutting off the water supply.
“In the second portion, Judith, a wealthy and beautiful widow, succeeds in penetrating the Assyrian camp. Using beauty and wisdom as her initial weapons, she manages to get Holofernes drunk, then murders him and returns with his head to Bethulia. The comment of the stunned Bagoas can only have been designed to provoke a chuckle (14:18). The Jewish victory and the dutiful performance of rites of thanksgiving and purification could only have produced a sigh of satisfaction among the Hasidim.
“The theology of the book combines universalism (9:5 f., 12; 13:18) and particularism (4:12; 6:21; 10:1; 12:8; 13:7). The stress on piety tends to make obedience to the law the test of piety (cf. II:12 ff.) and would suggest that the writer was a member of the Hasidim. He believes that God's help comes when man obeys the Law. There is no concern over the use of deceit or sensuousness in entrapping the enemy, nor is there any condemnation of Judith's murder of Holofernes. These were days of open warfare, and in dealing with the enemy, ethical considerations could be safely ignored. For this writer, loyalty and piety were equated. Judith has canonical status in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, but not in Jewish and Protestant versions.”
Assyrian Rule Over Judah
Sennacherib (705 to 681 B.C.), the Assyrian ruler of Nineveh, launched an unsuccessful siege of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. The siege was cut short, according to the Bible, by intervention by angels. An inscription on a statue found in the doorway of Sennacherib's throne room recounts a story of bribery from the Bible, the first known independent written account corresponding to a story in the Bible. According to Assyrian empire records, Israel was a powerful kingdom that posed a threat to Assyrian control of the region. One inscription described an army by Ahab, the husband of biblical Jezebel, as possessing 2,000 chariots, a formidable number at that time. When Israel was conquered by the Assyrians, Israelite chariot units were incorporated into the Assyrian army. An ancient image from the wall panels of Sennacherib's palace at Nineveh (early seventh century B.C.). shows Assyrian soldiers flaying captives. Nahum's bitter attitude toward the Assyrians may have been engendered in part by the knowledge of the cruel treatment given to prisoners and conquered peoples by Assyrian warriors.
Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “When Hezekiah died (687), his son Manasseh, still a young boy, was enthroned. The folly of adhering to a policy of antagonism toward Assyria was apparent, and Manasseh pledged loyalty to his overlords. Shortly afterward (680), Sennacherib was murdered by his sons and one of them, Esarhaddon, formerly governor of Babylon, became king of the Assyrian Empire. To prevent challenge from his brothers or the army, Esarhaddon, through good military tactics and favorable omens, was soon in complete control of the empire. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org ]
“In 675 Tarqu, an Ethiopian pharaoh (cf. II Kings 19:9-Tirakah), joined the king of Tyre in an anti-Assyrian alliance. By 671 Esarhaddon had invaded Egypt, routed Tarqu's forces and laid claim to the title "King of Upper and Lower Egypt"-a title more high sounding than factual. When Esarhaddon had left, Tarqu, with numerous local princes, laid claim to Lower Egypt. Once again Esarhaddon marched on Egypt but died en route (669).
“Esarhaddon had planned carefully the future of his kingdom, and, in accordance with an agreement, two sons came to power, Shamash-shum-ukin as crown prince of Babylon and Ashurbanipal as ruler of Assyria. Migrating Scythians and Cimmerians on the northern border of the empire, powerful Median tribes to the east, and restless Chaldeans in the lower Euphrates region kept the two kings busy protecting their inheritance. Meanwhile, Tarqu went unpunished for insurrection. Ashurbanipal finally marched on Egypt, recruiting on the way from vassal kingdoms, including Judah. Egypt once again became part of the Assyrian Empire.
“New problems were to trouble the empire. The Elamite kingdom on the eastern side of the lower Euphrates was being weakened by an invasion of Iranian peoples, later known as Persians. Shamash-shum-ukin of Babylon allied with Chaldeans and Elamites against Ashurbanipal. In Egypt a new rebellion led by Psammetichus, a former Assyrian favorite who had replaced Tarqu, weakened Assyrian power. Attacks by Arab tribes aided the Babylonian cause. Ashurbanipal attacked Babylon. Shamash-shum-ukin committed suicide during the siege and Ashurbanipal placed a puppet ruler in charge. Arabs and Elamites were overcome and the leaders were viciously punished.
“Throughout this troubled time, Manasseh of Judah remained loyal to Ashurbanipal. If the note in II Chronicles 33:11 ff. is accurate, Manasseh was taken as a prisoner to Babylon and humiliated, perhaps for some minor security infraction, but there is no mention of this event and no record of any trouble with Manasseh in Assyrian records.3 The only references are to payment of tribute4 and cooperation in warfare.5 According to Assyrian custom, subject nations were bound by an agreement and an oath sworn before the great gods of Assyria; violation of the contract incurred divine wrath and punishment.6 Subject nations also worshipped Assyrian deities, and Ashurbanipal erected altars to Ashur in conquered areas. In Judah, with full cooperation from Manasseh, Assyrian worship flourished, together with cultic rites (including child sacrifice) that had not been operative since before Hezekiah's reform. No prophetic utterances and very little other reference to the worship of Yahweh have come from Manasseh's long reign. It is possible that pro-Assyrianism and anti-Yahwism went hand-in-hand. The report of Manasseh's return to Yahweh in II Chron. 33:15 ff. seems incongruous and stands in sharp contrast to the Deuteronomist's accusation that Manasseh's evils caused Yahweh to punish his people by exile (II Kings 21:10 ff.).
“Manasseh died in 640 and was succeeded by Amon, his son, who continued his father's policy of cooperation with Assyria during the two years of his reign. Amon's murder by servants brought eight-year old Josiah to kingship. It is not recorded who influenced Josiah's early life, but the king became an enthusiastic supporter of Yahwism. Ashurbanipal's annals do not go beyond 639 and hence there are no Assyrian records concerning relationships with Josiah. Information about Assyrian affairs from commercial records and state documents indicate that the disintegration of the empire had begun.
“When Ashurbanipal died in 626, the Chaldean Nabopolassar seized the throne of Babylon and formed alliances with Median tribes. In the same year a movement of peoples out of the north, including Cimmerians and Scythians, pressed southward to threaten Assyrian holdings in Syria and Palestine. Herodotus (I, 103-106) says that the Scythians swept through Palestine, but there is no archaeological evidence of such a movement, so far.”
Ludlul Bêl Nimeqi, a Sumerian Job
The Sumerian story of “Ludlul Bêl Nimeqi” (1700 B.C.) is notable for its parallels with the Biblical story of Job. George A. Barton wrote in “Archaeology and the Bible”: Tabu-utul-Bêl was an official of Nippur, perhaps one of the antediluvian kings. The Sumerian form of his name is Laluralim and is glossed as Zugagib or "Scorpion." Zugagib is one of the early kings of Sumer, who is said to have ruled 840 years. This story has striking similarities to the Book of Job. [Source: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia]
The first part of Ludlul Bêl Nimeqi reads:
1. I advanced in life, I attained to the allotted span
Wherever I turned there was evil, evil — -
Oppression is increased, uprightness I see not.
I cried unto god, but he showed not his face.
- I prayed to my goddess, but she raised not her head.
The seer by his oracle did not discern the future
Nor did the enchanter with a libation illuminate my case
I consulted the necromancer, but he opened not my understanding.
The conjurer with his charms did not remove my ban.
How deeds are reversed in the world!
I look behind, oppression encloses me
Like one who the sacrifice to god did not bring
And at meal-time did not invoke the goddess
Did not bow down his face, his offering was not seen;
(Like one) in whose mouth prayers and supplications were locked
(For whom) god's day had ceased, a feast day become rare,
(One who) has thrown down his fire-pan, gone away from their images
God's fear and veneration has not taught his people
Who invoked not his god when he ate god's food;
(Who) abandoned his goddess, and brought not what is prescribed
(Who) oppresses the weak, forgets his god
Who takes in vain the mighty name of his god, he says, I am like him.
But I myself thought of prayers and supplications — -
Prayer was my wisdom, sacrifice, my dignity;
The day of honoring the gods was the joy of my heart
The day of following the goddess was my acquisition of wealth
The prayer of the king, that was my delight,
And his music, for my pleasure was its sound.
I gave directions to my land to revere the names of god,
To honor the name of the goddess I taught my people.
Reverence for the king I greatly exalted
And respect for the palace I taught the people — -
For I knew that with god these things are in favor.
What is innocent of itself, to god is evil!
What in one's heart is contemptible, to one's god is good!
Who can understand the thoughts of the gods in heaven?
The counsel of god is full of destruction; who can understand?
Where may human beings learn the ways of God?
He who lives at evening is dead in the morning;
Quickly he is troubled; all at once he is oppressed;
At one moment he sings and plays;
In the twinkling of an eye he howls like a funeral-mourner.
Like sunshine and clouds their thoughts change;
They are hungry and like a corpse;
They are filled and rival their god!
In prosperity they speak of climbing to Heaven
Trouble overtakes them and they speak of going down to Sheol. [At this point the tablet is broken. The narrative is resumed on the reverse of the tablet.]
46 Into my prison my house is turned.
Into the bonds of my flesh are my hands thrown;
Into the fetters of myself my feet have stumbled....
With a whip he has beaten me; there is no protection;
With a staff he has transfixed me; the stench was terrible!
All day long the pursuer pursues me,
In the night watches he lets me breathe not a moment
Through torture my joints are torn asunder;
My limbs are destroyed, loathing covers me;
On my couch I welter like an ox
I am covered, like a sheep, with my excrement.
My sickness baffled the conjurers
And the seer left dark my omens.
The diviner has not improved the condition of my sickness-
The duration of my illness the seer could not state;
The god helped me not, my hand he took not;
The goddess pitied me not, she came not to my side
The coffin yawned; they [the heirs] took my possessions;
While I was not yet dead, the death wail was ready.
My whole land cried out: "How is he destroyed!"
My enemy heard; his face gladdened
They brought as good news the glad tidings, his heart rejoiced.
But I knew the time of all my family
When among the protecting spirits their divinity is exalted....
Let thy hand grasp the javelin
Tabu-utul-Bel, who lives at Nippur,
52. Has sent me to consult thee
Has laid his............upon me.
In life........has cast, he has found. [He says]:
"[I lay down] and a dream I beheld;
This is the dream which I saw by night:
53 . [He who made woman] and created man
Marduk, has ordained that he be encompassed with sickness ."....
He said: "How long will he be in such great affliction and distress?
What is it that he saw in his vision of the night?"
"In the dream Ur-Bau appeared
A mighty hero wearing his crown 55. A conjurer, too, clad in strength,
Marduk indeed sent me;
Unto Shubshi-meshri-Nergal he brought abundance;
In his pure hands he brought abundance.
By my guardian-spirit he stopped ,"
He sent a storm wind to the horizon;
To the breast of the earth it bore a blast
Into the depth of his ocean the disembodied spirit vanished ;
Unnumbered spirits he sent back to the under-world.
The...........of the hag-demons he sent straight to the mountain.
The sea-flood he spread with ice;
The roots of the disease he tore out like a plant.
The horrible slumber that settled on my rest
Like smoke filled the sky..........
With the woe he had brought, unrepulsed and bitter, he filled the earth like a storm.
The unrelieved headache which had overwhelmed the heavens
He took away and sent down on me the evening dew.
My eyelids, which he had veiled with the veil of night
He blew upon with a rushing wind and made clear their sight.
My ears, which were stopped, were deaf as a deaf man's
He removed their deafness and restored their hearing.
My nose, whose nostril had been stopped from my mother's womb — -
He eased its defonnity so that I could breathe.
My lips, which were closed he had taken their strength — -
He removed their trembling and loosed their bond.
My mouth which was closed so that I could not be understood — -
He cleansed it like a dish, he healed its disease.
My eyes, which had been attacked so that they rolled together — -
He loosed their bond and their balls were set right.
The tongue, which had stiffened so that it could not be raised
He relieved its thickness, so its words could be understood.
The gullet which was compressed, stopped as with a plug — -
He healed its contraction, it worked like a flute.
My spittle which was stopped so that it was not secreted — -
He removed its fetter, he opened its lock. [Source: George A. Barton, “Archaeology and the Bible”,” 3rd Ed., (Philadelphia: American Sunday School, 1920), pp. 392-395]
Mesopotamians and Hebrews
Morris Jastrow said: “The mention of the Hebrew prophets and psalmists suggests a final question to which a brief answer may be presented in a general survey of some of the more striking elements of the religion of Babylonia and Assyria. To what extent do those elements stand related to the religion of the Hebrews? What are the influences, if any, of Babylonian and Assyrian beliefs and practices on those developed in Palestine during the centuries of Hebrew supremacy? [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 ]
“A vigorous school of thought has recently arisen in Germany, which maintains that the civilisation of the Euphrates Valley has coloured the beliefs and practices of all antiquity—including those which we have been accustomed to regard as distinctively Hebraic contributions to the world’s intellectual and spiritual life. There is a tendency to trace a majority of the Hebrew traditions to Babylonian-Assyrian sources, to see in the myths of Genesis, in the legends of the patriarchs, and even in the accounts of historical personages in the Old Testament, the reflections of an astral-mythology and an astral-theology which were developed in the priestly schools of the Euphrates Valley.
“The thesis suggested by a more critical examination of the abundant material now at hand is that resemblances in myths and traditions are frequently as deceptive as resemblances in the words of different languages. Unless we have a tolerably complete chain of evidence of a direct borrowing and can also show that it proceeded according to certain principles, there is, at least, an equal probability for the existence of a common source, from which traditions may have spread in various directions—a supposition that has the advantage, moreover, of accounting satisfactorily for the differences among the traditions, as well as for their similarities.
“That there is a stock of tradition common to both Hebrews and Babylonian-Assyrians is evident. The resemblances, for instance, between the Biblical tales of Creation and of the Flood, on the one hand, and the Babylonian-Assyrian myths, on the other, are too close to be accidental; and likewise in the beliefs and practices of the ancient Hebrews there are many analogies to those of Babylonia and Assyria. Some of these we have had occasion to point out, and they can best be accounted for through the assumption of a common starting-point, while in other cases, to be sure, the analogies clearly point to a direct borrowing by the Hebrews. However, the contrasts between the two lines of religious development, as betrayed by the forms assumed by these traditions, beliefs, and practices, are no less striking. Even in the Biblical stories of the Creation and of the Flood, the significant feature is the minimising of the mythical element, whereas in those of Babylonia and Assyria myth is always in the foreground.
“Instead of a conflict between primeval chaos and the gods, representative of law and order, we have in Genesis the spirit of Elohim breathing upon the waters. Instead of a sun-god of the spring triumphing over the storms of winter, we have the conception of a mysterious Power behind and above creation, bringing the world and all the phenomena of nature into being by the majesty of his word. The divine fiat, “Let there be light,” lifts the ancient myth out of the sphere in which it arose to the dignity of a sublime paeon in praise of a supermundane Creator. The language is still anthropomorphic, but the thought rises to the spiritual heights attained by the best of the Hebrew prophets, and evoked the praise of even the Latin critic, Longinus. “No less striking in the form assumed by the Biblical traditions is the ethical strain that diffuses through them, as salt is diffused through the waters of the sea. In this respect, likewise, they present a noteworthy contrast to the myths and legends of Babylonia and Assyria. Ut-Napishtim is saved from the general destruction merely because he is a favourite of Ea. Noah is singled out because of his superior merits. The Babylonian deluge remains on the level of the original foundation of myth—it is simply another aspect of the change of seasons from the dry summer to the stormy and rainy winter; in the Biblical story the setting is the same, but the tone is entirely changed by the fact that the storm which overwhelms mankind is sent as a punishment for sin and widespread corruption. In the same way, into the stories of the patriarchs—a mixture of legend and myth—an ethical spirit has been transfused that appears at its strongest in the prophets and in the best of the psalms.
“In the same way also, the entire history of the nation is told from the standpoint of that ethical monotheism which represents the sublimest attainment of Hebrew aspiration. The ancient and later codes, combining the legal and religious practices of various periods, are welded into a fictitious unity by the conception that behind the laws stands a divine Lawgiver, governing the universe by self-imposed standards of justice, harmoniously blended with divine mercy and sympathy for the weakness of human nature. The kernel and true meaning of the monotheistic conception of the universe, as unfolded by the prophets, is lost by any endeavour to place the conception on a level with the monotheistic strain that is vaguely but unquestionably present in the speculations of the Babylonian-Assyrian priests. Monotheism, in itself, is not specifically religious, but rather the outcome of philosophic thought—not necessarily even of a high order of thought, for even among people standing on a comparatively inferior level, we find faint suggestions of such a view of the government of the universe. Monotheism becomes religious only through the infusion of the ethical spirit. For the first time, in this combination, it makes its appearance in Hebrew history during the centuries which produced an Amos, a Hosea, a Micah, an Isaiah, and a Jeremiah—whose teachings may be summed up in the assertion that the government of the universe is an expression of the sovereignty of ethics. The question whether the assertion be true or not is irrelevant, but as it stands, it presents the line of demarcation that separates the later form assumed by the religion of the Hebrews, from other and earlier forms.
“The exalted level attained by the prophets was not always maintained even by the Jews, for Tal-mudic Judaism, which begins to assume definite shape in the century before the appearance of the great successor of the old prophets, represents a reaction, reinstating and perpetuating many religious customs and rites that are merely survivals of cruder conceptions—for the most part, in fact, old Semitic practices that are not even specifically Hebraic or Jewish. Christianity, too, vitiated the pure atmosphere in which Jesus moved, by degrading extravagances which entered it from various quarters, but, none the less, the new factor introduced into the religious history of mankind by the Hebrew prophets, was never entirely lost to sight; and it is not difficult to trace in some of the religious movements of our own days the continued influence of that factor.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia sourcebooks.fordham.edu , National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, especially Merle Severy, National Geographic, May 1991 and Marion Steinmann, Smithsonian, December 1988, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, BBC, Encyclopædia Britannica, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “History of Warfare” by John Keegan (Vintage Books); “History of Art” by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated September 2018