MISSING LINKS IN ASSYRIAN TABLETS #2
The original home of the Semites was probably Arabia. The
Semites may have coveted the rich alluvial soil on which the
Sumerians were living. They invaded from the south, coming from
the neighborhood of the Persian Gulf. They came in several waves
and under different names. One of the earliest groups were the
Akkadians. Having been desert wanderers, they had never learned
discipline and drill like the Sumerians. Instead, they depended
on their skill as archers, and fought at a distance wherever
possible. If they came to closer quarters, they fought
single-handed, each man leaping about the fray as he pleased.
Thus, they were no match for the massive phalanx of the
Sumerians, heavily armed with shields and spears.
The Akkadians settled, for the most part, in the narrow
strip of land between the Tigris and Euphrates, where the two
rivers are only some twenty miles apart. The northern portion of
the plain of Shinar was finally called "Akkad." Akkad occupied a
very strong commercial position on the main road from the two
rivers to the eastern mountains, and its trade always brought
About 3800 B.C., a Semitic king, Alusharshid, was successful
in establishing a recognized kingdom in Babylonia. At Nippur,
some sixty-one fragments of vases (bearing the king's name) were
found. The signs are written as "URU-MU-USH" and reads as
"Alusharshid." (Old Babylon Ins., Hilprecht, part 1, p.19). From
the fragments of these vases, a complete inscription has been
constructed which reads: "Alusharshid, king of the world,
presented (it) to Bel from the spoil of Elam when he subjugated
Elam and Bara'se."
At the same period in history, we find evidence of another
land under Semitic influences. This land was not in Babylonia,
but in Guti, the mountain country of Kurdistan, from which the
Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow down to Assyria and Babylonia.
Here reigned a king whose words read: "Lasirab (?) the mighty
king of Guti...has made and presented (it). Whoever removes this
inscribed stone and writes the mention of his name thereupon his
foundation may Guti, Nina, and Sin tear up, and exterminate his
seed, and may whatsoever he undertakes not prosper." (Zeitschrift
fur Assyriologie, Winckler, iv, p.82)
Yet another Semitic kingdom existed that was ruled by King
Anu-banini. His was the kingdom of Lulbi, on the mountain
borderland between Kurdistan and Turkey. The king's carved image
was found with an inscription calling down curses on "whomsoever"
should disturb "these images and this inscribed stone." (Receul
de Travaux relatifs a la Phil, et Archeolol - Morgan)
About 2800 B.C., there arose in Akkad (Agade) a Semitic chieftain
named Shargani-shar-ali (also called Shargina) and is best known
to us as Sargon I. Much of what we know of him is from a
legendary text, but a historical basis exists. The text (of which
two mutilated copies exist) belongs to a much later date than
that of the king's reign. It is believed to have been written in
the eight century B.C. The text, known as the "Tablet of Omens"
is found translated in "Revue d' Assyriologie, iv, No, III" and
contains records of Sargon's expedition and subjection of Elam.
Under the leadership of Sargon 1, the Akkadians succeeded in
scattering the compact phalanx of the Sumerians spearmen. They
captured the old Sumerians city-states, making their kings
subject to Sargon as lord of all the "Land between the Rivers."
Sargon was the first great leader in the history of the Semitic
Race and the founder of the first great nation in Western Asia.
Under his successors, especially, Naram-Sin, the empire grew as
far as the Persian Gulf and from Elam to Asia Minor, even as far
as the Mediterranean Sea.
Although legend designates Sargon's mother as being of
"noble" (poor?) birth and his father as "unknown," it is quite
possible that Sargon was the Nimrod of the Scriptures. The 10th
chapter of Genesis states: And the beginning of his (Nimrod)
kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land
of Shinar." (Gen.10:10) Shinar is an ancient name for Babylonia.
Three of the cities mentioned can be identified; Erech as ancient
Uruk, (present day Warka) Babel as Babylon and Accad as the
ancient Akkad, not yet located on the ground, but known to be
located in the region between Babylon and Gahgdad. Some
authorities suggest modern Tell ed Der is ancient Akkad.
Sargon's conquests forced his nomad tribesmen (the Akkadians) to
make a complete change in their life-style. The once wandering
shepherds were obliged to drop their unsettled life and take to
fixed abodes. Settled communities required what we call
governmental administration and record keeping for ownership of
property and trade. At first, they did not know how to write and
as they began to record their Semitic tongue they used the
Sumerian wedge-form signs for the purpose. The result of this was
an amalgamation of Sumerian and Semitic elements. Thus, for the
first time, the Semitic Language began to be written. This gained
a national name for the Akkadians. They were called 'Summer" and
Akkadian rule was challenged in 2750 B.C. when several
Sumerian cities of the south rebelled against Sargon and regained
control of their own lands. The rebellion was short lived. This
struggle for independence was preserved on a tablet written in
the neo-Babylonian period. The inscription reads: "Afterwards, in
his (Sargon) old age, all the countries revolted against him and
they besieged him in Agade. But Sargon made an armed sortie and
defeated them, knocked them over, and crushed their vast army.
Later on Subara rose with its multitudes, but it bowed to his
military might. Sargon made sedentary this nomadic society. Their
possessions he brought into Agade." (Ancient Near East Texts
Relating to the Old Testament-1955-James B. Pritchard).
Sargon was a patron of literature as well as a warrior. He
established a library at Akkad where standard works on astronomy
and astrology were kept. Numerous scribes were kept constantly at
work translating Sumerian books into Semitic; commentaries were
written on the older literature of the country and dictionaries
and grammars compiled. Sumerian words were put into Semitic form
and the Semitic people expressed themselves in Sumerian idioms.
For several centuries the new united states of Sumer and
Akkad prospered and the kings who called themselves, "Kings of
Sumer and Akkad," were both Sumerians and Semites. Sargon was
followed by his grandson, Naram-Sin whose likeness is preserved
in a bas-relief found at Diabeka, in northern Mesopotamia.
NaramSin's son and successor was Bingani-sar-ali under whose
reign the dynasty declined in power.
A second Sumerian dynasty arose when the Akkadian empire was
overrun by barbaric hordes known as the "Gutuim." (Guti) One of
its kings, Ur-Bau, was a great builder and restorer of the
temples. Under his son and successor, Dungi, a high priest by the
name of "Gudea" governed the city state of Lagas. Gudea' s
monuments and statue (of hard diorite from the Sinai Peninsula)
are now in the Louvre in Paris. The library of Gudea has been
found almost intact, with over 30,000 clay tablets or "books"
arranged in order on its shelves and filled with information of
the period. (cir. 2600 B.C.)
East of Babylonia were the mountains of Elam, inhabited by
non-Semitic tribes. Among them were the Kassi or Kossaeans, who
maintained a rude independence in their mountain fastness. At one
time, they actually overran Babylonia and founded a dynasty (cir.
1746 B.C.) that lasted for several centuries. The capital of Elam
was Susa or Shusha. At one time, an Elamite prince, Kudur-Mabug,
proclaimed himself the "Father" or "Governor of the land of the
As the power of the "Kings of Sumer and Akkad" slowly
weakened, new tribes of Semites began descending on the "land
between the rivers" just as the men of Akkad had done under
Sargon 1. These newcomers were the Semitic Amorites of Syria by
the Mediterranean Sea. Sometime between 2100 - 2000 B.C., they
seized the little town of Babylon, which at that time was an
obscure village on the bank of the Euphrates River. There, the
Amorites founded a Semitic Babylonian dynasty under Sumj-abi,
(Shem is my father) a name which we cannot fail to recognize as
the Shem of the Old Testament. Sumj-abi's descendants had some
difficulty in maintaining and extending their authority as they
met resistance from the native city-states of southern Babylonia
and the Elamites who harried the country with fire and sword.
However, for several centuries, the Amorite kings of Babylon were
successful in fighting the neighboring Semites for leadership of
Sumer and Akkad.
It was during this period in time that Abram (the son of
Terah) was born in Ur of the Chaldees. He was of Semitic ancestry
and a descendant of Heber (the Hebrew). Abram was, also, a great
great grandson of Shem. It is possible that he belonged to one of
the groups of nomadic peoples wandering around the fringes of the
settled areas of the Fertile Crescent (an area of Mesopotamia,
through Syria and Palestine, to Egypt). These people are
mentioned in various Oriental texts as "Apiru," "Abiri,"
"Habiru." They were connected with the Amorite invasion into
Mesopotamia and Syria.
By the time of Abram (Abraham) the Semitic race was no
longer homogeneous. This was due to intermarriage with the other
races, in particular, the Sumerians, whose language and culture
were absorbed by the Semitic Babylonians and Assyrians of later
history. Later, as the Semites spread to the coast of the
Mediterranean Sea they mixed with the non-Semitic inhabitants of
the coastal towns.
Haran, where Abram spent some twenty-five years, was an
Amorite settlement. It is significant that ancient towns in the
area had names that in Biblical tradition are credited to Abram's
relatives; Pelig, Nahor, Terah, Haran. Also, Amorites had
personal names such as Benjamin, Jacob-el, and Abram (Abraham).
While not necessarily referring to Biblical characters,
themselves, the names certainly point to a common Semitic
Hammurabi, the fifth king (about 1792 B.C.) of the Amorite
dynasty of Babylon, succeeded in uniting most of Babylonia under
his rule. He assumed the title, "King of Sumer and Accad, King of
the Four Quarters of the World" as well as the title, "King of
Babylon." We know very little about the government of the country
which Hammurabi organized, other than he established petty
princes or viceroys under him. Various letters and dispatches to
such officials fail to give a complete picture of his
relationship to them.
We do know that Hammurabi displayed extraordinary care in
the development of the resources of the land, and in doing so,
increased the wealth and comfort of the inhabitants. The greatest
of his achievements is best described in his own words:
"Hammurabi, the powerful king, king of Babylon ... when Anu and
Bel gave unto me to rule the land of Sumer and Accad, and with
their scepter filled my hands, I dug the canal Hammurabi, the
Blessing-of-Men, which bringeth the water of the overflow unto
the land of Sumer and Accad. Its banks upon both sides I made
arable land; much seed I scattered upon it. Lasting water I
provided for the land of Sumer and Accad. The land of Sumer and
Accad, its separated peoples I united, with blessings and
abundance I endowed them, in peaceful dwellings I made them to
live." (The Louvre Inscription, Col. I, 1, II, 10)
Hammurabi is best known for his great Code of Law. In its
prologue he listed twenty-four major cities that were subject to
him in the last years of his reign. Among his subjects were the
Hittites (or people of Hatti) listed in the Scriptures as
"Canaanites." These people were descendants of Canaan, a son of
Ham. (Gen. 9:18)
The name "Hittite" comes from the Old Testament, in which
the Hittites (Hebrew-hittim) figure in two different roles.
First, as one of the pre-Israelite nations of the land of Canaan
to which certain individuals, such as Ephron, Uriah, and
Abimelec, are said to belong. Second, as a group of kingdoms
situated to the north of Israel in what is now Syria. Their kings
entered into relationships with Solomon and the Pharaohs of
Egypt. Late Assyrian records called the whole of the area,
"Hatti," clearly the same word, but its inhabitants were not at
that time a single nation and were of mixed origin and speech.
Their identity could be said to be political and cultural rather
than a single tribe or nation.
From intermarrying with the Sumerians, the Hittites acquired
the prominent aquiline nose, erroneously considered by many today
as the mark of the Semite, especially of the Jews. However, it
is really a feature belonging to the non-Semitic Hittites, who
left this mark on the Semitic nomads from the desert-bay region
who mingled with the Hittites, "The original Jews ... blended at
an early date with the Amorites, Philistines, and Hittites, from
whom they acquired the so-called 'Jewish' nose."
(Haddon-Hammond's Library World Atlas, 1954, p.266).
After the death of Hammurabi, the Babylonian empire began to
disintegrate. A group of invading people called "Kassites,"
descended upon the Babylonian plain from the east. By gradual
migrations, they filtered into Mesopotamia. Hammurabi's
successors seemed unable to evict them. The Kassites were soon
followed by another invading host - the Hittites, once dominated
by Babylon. From their home in the northwest parts of
Mesopotamia, under their king Mursilis I (in 1595 B.C.) they
marched down the Euphrates River and captured Babylon itself.
However, they did not remain. After plundering the city, they
returned to their own territory. Thus weakened, the Babylonians
were unable to resist repeated raids and soon the Kassites made
themselves overlords of Babylonia.
During the 15th century B.C., the Egyptians became
aggressive in their relations with Asia. They progressed from
being the invaded to becoming the invaders. They overran
Palestine and Syria and extended their authority to most of Asia
west of the Euphrates River and south of the Taurus mountains. At
this same time in history, the Arameans were moving into
Mesopotamia from Arabia.
The Arameans were a Semitic people, traditionally regarded
as descendants of Shem (Gen. 10:22-23) or of the family of Nahor.
(Gen. 22:20-21) Other peoples appearing in Mesopotamia during
this period were the Suti pressing in from the east and the
southwest, and the Amorites (dislodged from their former
habitations by the Hittites) from the north.
The Tel el Amarna letter (tablets) have thrown much light on
this period, when the Egyptian-Asiatic empire was beginning to
decay. They reveal the existence, in Syria and Palestine, of
numerous small city-states subject to Egypt. The letters also
show us that the language spoken at that time, through all these
regions, was Canaanite. This is the Semitic dialect or language
which we find later in use among the Phoenicians, Moabites and
Hebrews. The word "Hebrew" appears to be identical with "Habiru"
(they were the "Abiri" or "Apiru" of the Tel el Armarna letters)
and not to be confused with the Hebrew people that later came
into existence as an independant nation.
To add to this period of confusion and turmoil, the
Hurrians, (referred to in the Bible as "Horites," "Hivites," and
"Jebusites") whose original home was probably in the Aramean
mountains, swept across northern Mesopotamia. They reached as far
west as the Syrian coast and influenced the petty states of
Palestine. The Hurrians spoke a language that was neither Semitic
nor IndoEuropean. Apparently, the Hurrians acquired Indo-European
leaders. These leaders introduced horse-drawn chariots for the
first time in Mesopotamia . When Mitanni emerged into history as
a centralized Hurrian state, names of Mitanni kings are found to
be derived from Sanskrit (classical old Indic literary language).
The Alien divinities they introduced into the SumerianSemitic
religions bore names well known from the Vedic literature of
By the end of the 15th and for a part of the 14th century
B.C., Mitanni was the dominant force in Mesopotamia. The kings of
Chaldea were no more than her vassals. However, a renewed Hittite
expansion caused Mitanni to fall even more swiftly than she had
risen. By the middle of the 14th century B.C. the kingdom ceased
to exist as a great power. Yet, the Hurrians did not disappear
from history. Away to the north, in their Armenian homeland, they
entrenched themselves and built up the kingdom of Urartu. Here,
something of their culture and an Urartian language very close to
the Hurrian of Mitanni was preserved.
In the Tigris valley, in the north of Chaldea, lived the
Assyrians. These people belonged to the same race as the
Chaldeans, but were generally noted for being a violent people
whose profession was war. Although originally Semitic, they
blended with the Hurrians and Mitanni (Indo-Iranina) and the
Horites. They were ruled over by priests of their god Ashur (El
Assar). For many years these priestkings owed their allegiance to
the great kings of Babylonia. When Mitanni collapsed, the
Assyrians were quick to assert their independence and annexed
what remained of the Mitannian kingdom.
It was from the Mitanni that the Assyrians learned to train
horses for war. In battle they coupled the horse with the war
chariot. They organized an army of foot-soldiers who wore a
cuirass of leather panels which protected their body. Their heads
were protected by a metal helmet with a crest on top. When in
battle, they used a round shield. Their weapons were a highly
curved javelin, and a small sword which they rarely used. The
Assyrian cavalry rode small broad-tailed horses, with neither
stirrups nor saddle, although they sometimes laid a small rug
over the horse's back. Like the infantry, their main weapon was
the bow and the lance. The king and a few of the nobles went into
battle standing up in a very light, twowheeled chariot. The
chariot was open at the back only, and was drawn by a pair of
The Assyrians mastered the art of siege warfare. They
developed the use of machines, also the ram and the mobile tower.
The ram was a huge suspended beam, usually ending in a monster's
head. They would swing the ram to and fro, so that the head would
smash into the base of the ramparts and open a breach in the
wall. Their mobile tower was a square wooden tower, standing on a
wheeled platform, high enough to look over the top of the
ramparts. Warriors were sent up inside the tower which was rolled
forward to the wall of the besieged city. The warriors stationed
inside would then shoot arrows and hurl stones down at the
Every spring, the king of Assyria assembled his troops and
moved against a neighboring area. They often met with resistance.
But, being better organized than most of their adversaries they
usually overcame opposition. When a battle was over, they would
chop off the heads of the dead and put the prisoners in chains to
be carried home as slaves. Then they laid siege to the capital
city and if they were successful, looted everything within before
putting the whole city to the torch. Furniture, rugs, statues,
clothes and weapons, they carried away as they withdrew.
One obstacle that threatened to block the westward expansion
of Assyria was the Arameans, who by 1200 B.C. had established a
group of flourishing kingdoms in the west, particularly in Syria.
Here, under the influence of the Hittite civilization on one side
and Egyptian on the other, the Aramean kingdoms of Syria built
royal cities and luxurious palaces. The Arameans were a highly
civilized people. Their energetic merchants extended their
business far beyond their own kingdoms. They pushed their
caravans all along the Tigris and at one time controlled the
commerce of Western Asia.
Out of the struggles and confusion that prevailed in
Babylonia, there arose powerful new civilizations in Asia Minor.
The Phrygians established themselves in the central plateau while
the Lydians became dominant in the southwest. It is probable that
the Lydians were a fragment of the great Hittite Empire. Their
home in the western part of Asia Minor was highly favored by
It embraced two rich valleys - the plains of the Hermus and
the Cayster. From the inland mountains, they sloped gently to the
island-dotted Aegean Sea. The mountains were rich in precious
metals which eventually led to the invention of the art of
coinage. The Lydian kings are believed to have been the first to
coin gold and silver; that is, to impress a stamp upon pieces of
these metals and thus testify to their purity and weight. (Holm,
History of Greece, Vol. 1 p.214 - 1899).
In the extreme western part of Asia, a people known as the
"Phoenicians" moved in from the east (perhaps as early as 1500
B.C.) and colonized a series of harbor-cities along the Syrian
coast north of Mount Carmel and the Bay of Acre. The Phoenicians
were a part of the great Chaldean civilization that migrated
westward over the centuries. Their original home was in Central
Asia; probable site being the area known today as the "Tarim
Basin" in Eastern Turkestan, where Noah's Flood occurred around
3145 B.C. (Septuagint chronology) Earlier migrations of these
Adamic peoples, centuries before the Flood, had established
colonies in various parts of the earth and introduced culture
into the Tigris, Euphrates and Nile Valleys.
The Phoenicians, generally, were tall men with red hair and
blue eyes - not a Mediterranean people. Although modern
historians refer to them as "Canaanites," they were of the same
Semitic stock as Abraham. They were not "Jews" as we know the
word today, but a "Celtic" people. According to Manetho, an
Egyptian priest, the Hyksos Dynasties in the later period of
their rule in Egypt were of Phoenician origin. Phoenician was not
the name they called themselves. Rather, it was a nickname
because the word "Phoenician" means "red- headed men."
The name "Phoenician" seems to have been used by the
Achaeans and other Hellenes to denote the sun-tanned seamen of
the Aegean, and appears to have been especially applied to the
Cretan Cadmus. (son of Phoenix or Agenor, king of Phoenicia) He
was traditionally spoken of as a Phoenician, yet he was a cousin
of Minos. (semi-legendary king of Crete) Cadmus brought the
Cretan linear syllabary to Boeotia (a district of central
Greece). In the period following the Trojan War, the name
gradually became attached to the merchants from Tyre and Sidon
and other ports on the Syrian coast, and these are the people
known by that name in historic times.
It is believed the Phoenicians were the inventors of the
alphabet sometime around 1200 B.C. Before that date, all Syria
and Palestine used the cumbersome Babylonian cuneiform script.
About the 10th century B.C. we find the Phoenician alphabet
in use throughout Syria as well as Greece and southern Arabia.
Simultaneous with the spread of the alphabet, the name "Hebrew"
came into existence. The name "Hebrew" designated several groups
of people, out of whom grew the kindred nations of Ammonites,
Moabites, Edomites and Israelites.
Under the powerful rule of Tiglath-pileser I (Tukulti-apil-
Esarra I -1114-1096 B.C.) Assyria became a truly mighty nation -
the dominant force of the civilized world. The Assyrian army
became the almost invincible machine, splendidly armed and
equipped. With cavalry now beginning to supplement the weight of
the chariotry, Tiglath-pileser I attacked and defeated nations on
all sides that had rebelled after the death of his father.
(Assur-resa-dasi 1) He marched his armies through difficult
terrain and crossed rivers on rafts of inflated skins to subdue
the neighboring nations. He penetrated as far west as the shores
of the Mediterranean Sea. On one excursion, he recorded slaying
one hundred and twenty lions and many other animals as he
journeyed through the Lebanon forests and mountains.
Following the death of Tiglath-pileser 1, a succession of
kings ruled Assyria of which little is known other than their
names and the doubtful number of years each reigned. At about 967
B.C., Tiglathpileser II began to reign in Assyria and from his
time to the end of the Assyrian empire, we possess an unbroken
history of the kings. One of the most important rulers was
Ashurnasirpal II.(883-859 B.C.) He built up the mighty capital at
Calah (Nimrud) on the banks of the Tigris River. The gates of his
vast palace were guarded by gigantic man-headed winged bulls -
the first of their kind. At a later date, the capital of Assyria
was moved to Nineveh. This new capital was separated into two
equal parts by the River Khosar, which flows from east to west.
The mounds of ancient Nineveh, "Kiyunjik" and "Nebi Ynis" are
opposite the modern city of Mosul. The city of Nineveh may have
derived its name from "Nina," the Babylonian goddess.
Ashurnasirpal's successor, Shalmaneser III (859-825 B.C.
continued the expansive policies of his predecessors by leading
uninterrupted wars against Assyria's northern neighbors, from the
first year of his reign. (860 B.C.) One major objective was the
subjection of the kingdom of Urartu, (Armenia) a small state in
the mountainous regions northeast of Assyria around Lake Van. The
inhabitants were originally called the "Nairi." They settled in
the area in the ninth century B.C. This kingdom had been a thorn
in the side of many Assyrian kings. Tiglath-pileser I failed to
annex it to Assyria. In his first campaign, Shalmaneser conquered
part of the kingdom. In 857 B.C. a second attempt resulted in the
capture of Arzashku, its capital. But, Arame, the king of Urartu,
managed to escape. After killing thousands of Arame's troops,
many impaled on stakes in the ruined capital, Shalmaneser
returned home content with heavy spoil.
Despite this opposition, the Urartean state continued to
grow in power to extend its rule over a wide area. In alliance
with other small states in northern Syria, the Urarteans took
possession of the lands down to the western bend of the Euphrates
River. In this way, they gained control of a main route to the
Mediterranean Sea from the southern Caucasus. Simultaneously,
they started to subjugate the southern Caucasus itself, including
the fertile valley of the middle Araxes River and the mountains
In 853 B.C. Shalmaneser III marched his army westward to
subjugate the small city states along the Mediterranean coast. He
was met at Qarqar by a coalition of forces that included Ahab,
king of Israel. The Bible does not mention this encounter.
However, a large stone slab (now in the British Museum) was found
in 1861 which provides us with the details. The inscription says
that Ahab contributed 200 chariots and 10,000 foot soldiers to
meet the Assyrian invasion. Although Shalmaneser's inscription
goes on to recount a decisive victory for his army, claiming they
killed 14,000 men, it appears the coalition forces were able to
forestall any further intrusion into the area, at least for the
In the tenth year of his reign (850 B.C.) Shalmaneser III
again invaded Urartu. The only achievement of the expedition was
the taking of the fortified city of Arne and the ravaging of the
surround ing countryside. The record of this campaign is found on
the Black Obelisk (lines 85-87) erected by Shalmaneser III to
commemorate his victories. (Found by Layard in 1846 at Nineveh)
Shalmaneser III never again invaded Urartu in person. Urartu
managed to remain an entirely independent kingdom through a
succession of Assyrian rulers, periodically being invaded by
tribute collecting and plundering expeditions.
Shalmaneser III led several campaigns against Damascus, the
most serious in 841 B.C. when the city was besieged but not
conquered. During this same campaign, the Assyrian army again
reached the Mediterranean coast and took tribute from the
seaports and from Jehu, king of Israel. The expedition was little
more than a military raid, but it foreshadowed the shape of
things to come.
It was to establish a buffer between Assyria and Urartu that
the Assyrians transplanted conquered people to their northern
borders, including the ten northern tribes of Israel between
To be continued