Cities of the Twin Rivers:
— Gen 10:8-11
Just over 225 years passed between the Flood and
To us the most obvious historical entity of
It is at this point that the two world views collide, modernist with biblical. Up until now, what I have been saying has been more or less cut loose from the conventional understanding of man's past, and could be dismissed as religious, mythical or legendary — in any case, mere dogma. But once we start dealing with the provence of the historian, there is no room for compromise: either there was a literal Babel, which implies a literal Flood, which implies that the Bible is technically as well as spiritually accurate — or else the Bible is just another collection of legends and religious musings, no more valid in an empirical sense than the Greek or the Norse myths.
Precision of understanding is not aided by the fact that, of the more than 6500 identified Mesopotamian archeological sites, well over 6000 have not been explored. But let's learn what we may from the information which we have. In terms of archeology, we find that such cities as
Now, the agreement between archeology and ancient historians is very poor. This is so, first, because the very earliest dynasties were grossly distorted, in terms of the lengths which individual kings ruled. The Sumerians preserved the names of the ancient kings of
It is nigh-on impossible to synchronize the kings of
Even granting that these kings had some historical reality, Berosus would have it that the first post-Flood dynasty at
Again, Berosus gives
It is debatable as to how useful all this recalculation is; it most likely demonstrates how easy it is to be clever with numbers. What is certain is that
The primacy given to the "city of Cush" by the pagans is revealed by the fact that the Sumerian King List speaks of five cities having kingship before "the flood" — after which kingship again "descended from heaven," upon 10 or so kings of Kish who ruled for fantastic lengths. Now, the "pre-flood" cites were, I would think, pre-Confusion cities — the Confusion being accompanied or followed by a local flood.
It is important to remember that not every flood was the Flood of Noah. The comparatively insignificant flood-deposits associated with the ruined cities of
The original settlement of
The period just prior to
Beneath the foundations of the earliest city, deep burial pits of royalty revealed artifacts crafted with great skill and artistry, with "remarkably advanced" casting, carving and filigree. ‟The contents of the tombs illustrate a very highly developed state of society of an urban type, a society in which the architect was familiar with all the basic principles of construction known to us today. The artist, capable at times of a most vivid realism, followed for the most part standards and conventions whose excellence had been approved by many generations working before him. The craftsman in metal possessed a knowledge of metallurgy and a technical skill which few ancient peoples ever revealed . . .” Woolley notes that no religious figures, nor any object of a religious nature, appear in these tombs.
We read in Gen 10 of Nimrod as a "mighty hunter before the Lord"; this is taken to indicate, first, his renown among men, and second, his rebellion against God. He played a key role at
The ancients remember Nimrod as a conqueror and tyrant, and we read that after the disruption, probably extending out from the base of
The ancient rabbis said that Nimrod chose Terah as his general. Whether or not this is true I cannot say, but the timing works, since Terah was born 4 years before the Confusion at Babel, and died at age 205 in 1991 bc, the year in which Abram first descended into Egypt (Gen 12:10). Terah may have been just over age 60 (c. 2130) when he was Nimrod's agent in
Both pre-Dynastic Ur, of Terah, and Nimrod's Uruk IV were destroyed by a local flood — correlated to the Sodom catastrophe — followed by the Jemdet Nasr culture (1967 bc / *3100). We will look at the relevant details later.
Uruk IV (-1967)Contemporaneous with
We find evidence of early trade with Syria, Persia, and the Indus Valley, but the high culture of the Uruk of Gilgamesh came to an abrupt end. ‟The reason for the assumption is a marked break in both artistic and architectural traditions: cylinder seals were replaced by others with an entirely new style; the great temples were abandoned . . . and on a new site a shrine was built on a terrace . . .” The city continued as Uruk III, which had a culture which archeologists call "Jemdet Nasr", after a settlement 18 miles NE of Kish. It is this social revolution which marks the political and historical advent of the Sumerians. I propose that the cause of the change may be found in the book of Genesis, as we shall discuss shortly.
The kings of Erech are the heros of the earliest Babylonian epics, which were written long after the actual events — this is self-evident from the fact that it was only toward the end of Uruk IV (c. 1970 / *3100) that the first pictographic writing appears. Ruling in the age of legend, there is small wonder that ‟until relatively recently Lugalbanda, Dumuzi, Enmerkar, and Gilgamesh of Uruk were considered to be wholly legendary characters. Now they are known to have been historical people who led armies in battles long ago.” Not only is archeology discovering the historicity of these kings, but the Bible speaks of them as well.
From The Sumerian King List of the ancient historians, the kings of Uruk IV are known as the dynasty of Erech I. Now, to correlate these names with those familiar to us from the Bible is a tenuous process, and such conclusions must generally be treated gingerly. However, there is sufficient evidence to make some identifications.
I have identified Mes-Kiag-Gasher as Shem, primarily because this king is said by the ancients to have been the son of the Flood hero Utu, who clearly corresponds to Noah. That Mes-Kiag-Gasher is Shem, and not Jepheth or Ham, is supported by the fact that he is called a high priest — Shem is given preeminence over his brothers in Genesis; we will see that Shem also played a role in Egyptian history, and, as one of the pharaohs of Dynasty I, his hieroglyph depicts an Asiatic high priest.
The ancient text records that Mes-Kiag-Gasher traveled to the
The second king of Erech I was E-Mer-Kar, son of his predecessor. If we look to the sons of Shem, the most likely candidate to be E-Mer-Kar is Assur, who like Nimrod was a builder of Erech (Mic 5:6). What we are to make of the length of his reign, I cannot say — but it may be that for some reason later pagan scribes multiplied it by the all-important number, sixty, in which case he would have ruled a mere seven years; if they multiplied the years by the sarah of 18.5, he would have ruled just over 22 years. Be that as it may, this king was said to be the father of Semiramis.
The next king was Lugal-Banda (meaning ‛King-Little’). The ancient texts call him "a god" and "a shepherd". This claim to divinity suggests that he was a self-deified pagan, which would identify him as Cush, the architect and prophet of the apostasy at
There is no doubt as to the identity of Dumu-Zi — he is Tammuz, who is Nimrod. The ancient sources are equivocal as to the duration of his rule, but by correlating various accounts I have estimated that it ended c. 2075. The Sumerian King List records that Dumu-Zi, like his father, was a pagan "god" and a "fisherman". There need be no specific religious connotation in the fact that Cush is called a shepherd and Nimrod a fisherman, even given the biblical uses of these symbols — but the association of Tammuz with the sea is very strong, in his aspect as a sea-god in the Mysteries. Dumu-Zi was said to have been married to Semiramis, who was both his wife and his "mother".
It is Nimrod who is credited with inventing warfare, and so it is logical that he should also be credited with having been the first to build a city wall, around the primal
The conquests of Nimrod were the stuff of epics in the ancient world, and he was the very prototype of a despot. In his effort to reunify mankind by force after the unity of the culture of
Semiramis ruled next, after the precipitous execution of Tammuz. The King List is silent as to details, but ancient texts abound with particulars. I have already discussed them elsewhere, and here it is enough to note that Semiramis left an utterly indelible mark in the history and culture of
The next king of Uruk was Gilgamesh, who lived around the time of Woolley's famous pre-dynastic royal tombs of
The military endeavors of Gilgamesh (c. 2020 /c. *2680) are further emphasized by the fact that it was he who defeated Akka, last king of Kish I (c. 2060-2020); Gilgamesh won this victory in alliance with a king of Ur, as we shall learn. According to a strong Akkadian tradition, Gilgamesh was the first to build the defensive walls of Uruk. This tradition fits the biblical view, since the cities of Nimrod's empire did not need walls. It also fits the archeological evidence, but is inexplicable according to the standard paradigm, since evidence demonstrates the early prevalence of military conflicts, which were ‟one of the most characteristic phenomena in the history of Mesopotamia; and it makes it all the more surprising that the [earliest] Mesopotamian cities at the beginnings of the *3rd millennium bc [c. *3000] were not walled. The earliest city wall so far known, that of Uruk, dates only to” about 400 (‼600) years before Sargon, or just under 200 years after the
The Bible supports this timing, in the fact that when
The political career of Gilgamesh is rather mysterious, in that he abandoned his throne in
The dynasty of
Abram was age 75 at his father's death (1991 bc), when he left
There has been some fundamental confusion as to the dynasties of
We have a rare inscription from this period. When Woolley was excavating Tell al `Ubaid — a suburb less than five miles west of
The penultimate king of
As for the final king of Erech I, he bore the vainglorious name of Ur-Lugal — 'Great King'. Because of the implications of my revised chronology, it is clear that Ur-Lugal is that very king known to us from Gen 14, under the personal name of Amraphel. We will look at Amraphel in detail in a while; here I will just note that a few years after his death in his battle with Abram, Amraphel's father Gilgamesh reappears (c. 1980 bc) to conquer the third king of
After the death of Ur-Lugal / Amraphel, a great political and social upheaval brought an end to the culture of Uruk IV, which was then replaced by the Jemdet Nasr culture of Uruk III. The shift from the Uruk to the Jemdet Nasr period is marked by "major changes" in the architecture of Uruk. The older culture was damaged by the death of its kings, and the coup de grace was delivered by the catastrophe at
The war of Chedorlaomer and Abram
The first war of which we are given significant historical details was that in which the kings of the east conquered the west. Specifically, we read in Gen 14:1 of an alliance of ‟Amraphel king of Shinar [Erech], Arioch king of Ellasar [al-Larsa], Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations . . .” All of these kings can be identified from archeology.
As we know, Amraphel ("powerful people") is the biblical name of Ur-Lugal of Uruk IV, son of Gilgamesh. It is doubtful that ‛Shinar’ was the Syrian city of Shankhar or Sangar, known from Akkadian records and mentioned in the Amarna letters. More likely it was the area around
In the Assyrian king lists, king Arius is found as the son of Ninyas, who was Gilgamesh; thus Arias was a brother of Amraphel. His reign ended right around this time, and it is reasonable to suppose that this is the Arioch of the Bible. On the other hand, Arioch of Ellasar may be identified as Eri-Aki of Larsa, who was an Elamite prince, the maternal nephew of Chedorlaomer. Indeed, Ariaka means "Honored One" in Old Persian —
Assyrian tablets tell us that the Mesopotamian coalition was headed by Chedorlaomer, king of
Finally, king Tidal is known to us from the cuneiform tablets, where he was called Tudghula, who assembled the ‛gentiles’, the Umman-Manda — fierce tribes in the Kurdish mountains. It is further noted that he "did evil" to the
For 12 years, Chedorlaomer and his allies (vv. 2,4) subjugated ‟Bera king of Sodom . . . Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar.” The name of Bera may mean "Splendor", and has been found in inscriptions in northern
In the 13th year of their oppression, these five western kings cast off the yoke of
After defeating these races, the Mesopotamians assaulted (Gen 14:6-7) ‟the Horites in their
Then the eastern kings met the forces of
Abram went to rescue his nephew, and with only 318 men he defeated the Elamite forces and slew Chedorlaomer (vv. 14-17). As for how such a small band could defeat the might of
Related to this is a final observation, which recognizes the intervention of God, who many times has caused a smaller force to destroy a greater. The ancient rabbis affirm that Abram had divine help. It is said that Abram defeated the kings on ‟the fifteenth of Nisan, the night appointed for miraculous deeds. . . .His victory was possible only because the celestial powers espoused his side. The planet Jupiter [Zedek] made the night bright for him, and an angel, Lailah by name [the Angel of Night], fought for him.” Again we read that ‟God moved, for Abraham's sake, the star Jupiter from the west to the east.”
The theory of resonant planetary orbits says that highly elliptical orbits cyclically bring about celestial catastrophes. The rabbis are here supporting this idea. However, while there was a naturalistic agent, it takes no effort to see here the providential hand of God. That the Bible is silent about such an intervention is irrelevant, since the Bible never purports to say everything, but rather only that which is deemed important for its specific didactic intent.
We are not given the details in the Bible, but we know for certain that Chedorlaomer was slain by Abram. I assume Arioch and Amraphel were also killed, since they did die around this time. As for Tidal, he seems to have lived to harass
In terms of the geophysical effects of the cataclysm which befell
The cities were founded only twenty years before the first invasion of Chedorlaomer. They would have been built to exploit the mineral wealth of the region, and also the lush pasture land. Zoar ‟had been founded a year later than the other four; it was only fifty-one years old . . .” But the region was unstable, and the rabbis remember that there had been upheavals in the region for decades, before the final judgement. ‟For fifty-two years God had warned the godless; He had made mountains to quake and tremble . . .”
When the perversion of the Plain Cities had surpassed all bounds, God sent catastrophe from the heavens. ‟With nightfall, the fate of
In Uruk IV, the subsequent cultural revolution seems to have been a religious one since, in direct opposition to later custom, the old religious sites were abandoned. The ideological nature of the revolution is supported by the continuity and progress of the newly appearing system of writing, which tells us that it was probably not an alien population which brought the changes, but rather a people familiar with Uruk IV, though with ways of their own. This fits well with the idea that it was
Whatever the human-interest details — of which there are few — in terms of the archeology for the century following the
A survey of the archeological artifacts which have helped set the relative chronology of Mesopotamia reveals either that very little or nothing happened, during each of these standard "centuries" — or else that a reasonable amount of change and innovation occurred, each 20 years or so. I am shamelessly over-simplifying this discussion, simply because one's interpretation of the data is dependant so greatly upon one's axioms. I will simply assert here that my interpretation is correct, and refer any interested reader to the source material — most notably, the chapter entitled "The Relative Chronology of Mesopotamia, Part 1: Seals and Trade," by Edith Porada, in Chronologies in Old World Archeology.
If you know that Mesopotamian history gets started just a bit before Egyptian history, and you have added up Egyptian dynasties so that they start around *3000 bc, then you have to stretch out Mesopotamian history, so that it fits what you "know". Thus, the archeological periods called "Early Dynastic I and II" take up ‼400 years, during which nothing happened: they are filler, invented to inflate the chronology so that it meets the demands of the modernist theory. A "dark age" was invented. In effect, the evidence did not fit the requirements of theory, so the evidence was ignored or altered. We are not talking about a conspiracy, however — just about the dangers of using a false paradigm. The upshot of deflating the "centuries" into mere decades is that ED I & II effectively disappear into the beginning of "Early Dynastic IIIa" — the time of the "
This brings us to the end of the "Proto-literate" period. We have looked at the legendary wars of Nimrod and Gilgamesh, and the biblical wars of Amraphel and Abraham. We are going to be looking at the history of