Saturday, March 22, 2014

Nimrod and Babel identified Part 1

First I want to say I'm skeptical of the common assumption that Nimrod was the instigator of the Babel project. Extra Biblical traditions, both Jewish and Christian, have been making this assumption since at least as far back as Josephus. But The Bible itself doesn't really say that. And I feel that sometimes the more nearly unanimous an extra-Biblical assumption is the more likely it is it's completely wrong.

Babel is discussed in the first part of Genesis 11, which is in fact the Prequel to what's discussed in Genesis 10. Genesis 10 tells us about how the different nations divided, 11 then goes back and explains for us why.

The city of Babel is cited as one of Nimrod's cities, it's mentioned first, but that doesn't mean it was Nimrod's capital. Genesis 14:1 also lists the King of Shinar first, but it's later made clear the King of Elam is the leader of that alliance. Shinar/Babel is a focal point from the Biblical view of History, so The Holy Spirit will often list it first, whether by the contemporary secular reckoning it should be or not. Genesis 11 clearly implied Babel is the only City in existence at this time, so this project in my view can't be the result of Nimrod's Imperialism.

Another detail about Babel I want to point out. "may reach unto" is not in the Hebrew text, the popular view of the Babel Tower and it's intent is entirely wrong. What they where making was their own heaven at the Top of the Tower, it's the birth of Idolatry, not merely an engineering feat. Nor was it a portal or "Stargate" or any other Sci-Fi concept you want to read into it.

 The Tower of Babel was the first Ziggurat, since new Ziggurats where constructed later, I do think it's possible that when Nimrod was ruling Babel later that he may have restarted the project.  Or maybe not, we don't know.

Many mistakes are made in trying to identify Nimrod historically by Christian scholars wanting to make countless ancient mythical heroes connected to Nimrod. And their attempts to identify a verifiable figure from the ancient history and archaeology of Mesopotamia are always trying too hard to pick someone very well known and so often wind up too late.

He's certainly not Hammurabi, or the same person as Genesis 14's King of Shinar (who I don't think was Hammurabi either, but that theory is popular). He's not Sargon of Akkad, though I myself was attracted to that theory before I was more informed. Nor is he Gilgamesh, though I believe Gilgamesh is at least in the right basic historical context.

And he did not have a wife named Semiramis. Semiramis comes from Hellenistic Greek historians giving their very confused mythologized account of Mesopotamian and Syrian antiquity. The name is a Hellenization of Shammuramat or Sammu-ramat who was a Queen of Assyria between 811 and 808 B.C. The Greek mythologizing of her begins with Herodotus, but he doesn't do any of the major exaggerations yet, if anything his implied chronology made her more recent, not more ancient. Latter Greek sources make her sometimes contemporary with the Fall of Troy (1182 B.C.), but others would try to place her supposed husband Ninus over 2000 B.C.

Ninus was the supposed founder of Nineveh, so he probably does have attributes of ancient memories of Nimrod added into him.. Modern Christian scholars get obsessed with Semiramis, Hislop's scholarship was very flawed, and people like Hunt have followed him with little adjustment.

Is Babel the same as the Babylon we know today? The name is the same, but lots of times new cities are built with older names, and the Babylon of Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar seems to in fact be basically one of the younger major cities of ancient Mesopotamia.

Historical tablets (like the so-called "Weidner Chronicle" ) state that Sargon of Akkad (23rd century BC) dug up the original "Babylon" and rebuilt it near Akkad, though some scholars suspect this may in fact refer to a much later Assyrian King Sargon (there were two).  The exact location of Akkad isn't known either, but it's assumed it was basically near Hammurabi's Babylon but on the Tigris, possibly by were Seleucia and Baghdad would be built later.

Simplicius of Cilicia (ad Arist De Caelo. ii. 503A) recorded that Callisthenes in the 4th century BC traveled to Babylon and discovered astronomical observations on cuneiform tablets stretching back 1903 years before the taking of Babylon by Alexander the Great in 331 BC. This makes the sum 1903 + 331 which equals 2234 BC as the founding date for Babylon.  A similar figure is found in Berossus, who according to Pliny (Natrual History vii 57) stated that astronomical observations commenced at Babylon 490 years before the Greek era of Phoroneus, and consequently in 2243 BC. Stephanus of Byzantium, wrote that Babylon was built 1002 years before the date (given by Hellanicus of Mytilene) for the siege of Troy (1229 BC), which would date Babylon's foundation to 2231 BC.

Each of those dates is during the reign of Sargon of Akkad (2272-2217 BC)) according to the Short ChronologyCtesias, who is quoted by Diodorus Siculus and in George Syncellus's Chronographia, claimed to have access to manuscripts from Babylonian archives which date the founding of Babylon to 2286 BC by Belus who reigned as Babylon's first king for fifty five years.  Sargon reigns 56 years.  The date is only 14-16 years before his reign.  The middle chronology would have Sargon reign begin in 2334 BC.  My views on revised chronology do not change the Mesopotamian Kings Lists, I favor the Short Chronology.

Dalley Stephanie, Oriental Institute SAOC, pp. 25–33 discusses the well-known interchangeability of "Babylon" and "Eridu" in ancient texts, and proposes a hypothesis that the name "Babylon" was also applied to many other cities in Mesopotamia at times.

The Sumerian Kings list has Eridu as the oldest city, but the much later Greek version of the King-list by Berossus (c. 200 BC) reads "Babylon" in place of "Eridu" in the earlier versions, as the name of the oldest city where "the kingship was lowered from Heaven". The Ziggurat ruins of Eridu are far older than any others.

One name of Eridu in cuneiform logograms was pronounced "NUN.KI" ("the Mighty Place") in Sumerian, but much later the same "NUN.KI" was understood to mean the city of Babylon. If they had this name in common, they certainly could have had others.

In Sumerian mythology, Eridu was the home of the Abzu temple of the god Enki, the Sumerian counterpart of the Akkadian water-god Ea. Like all the Sumerian and Babylonian gods, Enki/Ea began as a local god, who came to share, according to the later cosmology, with Anu and Enlil, the rule of the cosmos. His kingdom was the waters that surrounded the World and lay below it (Sumerian ab=water; zu=far).

The stories of Inanna, goddess of Uruk, describe how she had to go to Eridu in order to receive the gifts of civilization. At first Enki, the god of Eridu attempted to retrieve these sources of his power, but later willingly accepted that Uruk was now the center of the land. This seems to be a mythical reference to the transfer of power northward.

Babylonian texts also talk of the creation of Eridu by the god Marduk as the first city, "the holy city, the dwelling of their [the other gods] delight".

Uruk, which was mentioned above, is the city the Bible refers to as Erech, another of Nimrod's core cities.

I think Babel was originally just a nickname for the City, a Hebrew name meaning "confusion" but the pagans reinterpreted it to mean "gate of the gods". It wasn't until the new NUN.KI was founded by Sargon that Babylon became a city's official name.

The Sumerian Kings List has the beginning of Post-Flood kingship at Kish. Kish is a name clearly derived form Cush. But the King-lists itself I feel is trying to create a more ancient kingdom then it ever had, and I think this city was originally a Democracy of some sort, which also technically Genesis 11 implied Babel/Eridu was as well. The first listed ruler of Kish was Jushur (also transliterated Jucur, Gushur, Ngushur, Gishur, etc) which could also be derived from Cush. Second is Kullassina-bel, the name seems to be an Akkadian phrase meaning "All of them (were) lord". The following kings of Kish on the list preceding Etana are all names of animals. I will return to Etana later.

Since an earlier referenced myth has civilization traveling from Eridu to Uruk not Kish, I think Uruk's earliest Kings where in fact the first. It's first ruler was Mesh-ki-ang-gasher (Mèš-ki-áĝ-ga-še-er, Meš-ki-aĝ-gašer; also transliterated Mes-Kiag-Gasher, Mesh-Ki-Ang-Gasher, Meskiagkasher, Meckiagkacer and variants) you can clearly see there connection to the variants of Jushur and to Cush.  He is also refereed to on the King's list as the son of Utu, The Sun.  His son and successor was Enmerkar. But besides the Kings List Enmerkar himself seems to be treated as the son of Utu and founder or first king of Uruk.

The myths above do also seem to treat Eridu as having been a Pre-Flood city, but the same is true of Beorsous referencing Babylon as the first city.  The Bible only mentions one city in the Pre-Flood world, in Genesis 4:17.

The face value assumption is that Cain founded the city and named it after his son.  But Cain was also told he'd be a Vagabound till he died before this.  That the very end of the verse gives Enoch (Cain's son not the Genesis 5 Enoch), is the only reason we think Cain was the one who founded a city and named it after his son.  The text could just as easily otherwise be read as saying Enoch founded a city and named it after, or to more properly represent the Hebrew according to the name of his son.

Looking at my Greens Masoretic Text based Interlinear-Bible that one occurrence of the name Enoch at the end of verse 17 is different from the others, there is something added after it.  Maybe we've misunderstood what it really says.  Maybe it was called Enoch temporarily but he also planed to change it once he had a son and the son was named.  Most of the time in Biblical custom the mother names the child at birth, so Enoch may not have known in advance what his son would be named.

The name of Enoch's son we're told in verse 18 was Irad.  The name Eridu could possibly come from Irad.  Maybe Babel was also thought of as being a Post-Flood refunding of the great Pre-Flood city.

 The Bible doesn't always list the actual real names of the foreign rulers it refers to, but often gives them names that are Hebraic puns on their names. Nimrod is refereed to as a Mighty Hunter, the element 'kar' in Enmerkar was the Sumerian word for 'hunter'. Thus the king of Uruk's name consists of a nomen plus epithet - Enmer 'the hunter'. Ancient Hebrew was originally written without vowels, in early copies of Genesis the name Nimrod would simply have been written 'nmrod' or 'nmrd'. The name Enmer could also have been transcribed into Hebrew as 'nmr' (the En prefix is only one symbol in cuneiform) - identical to Nimrod but for the last 'o' and 'd'. The added 'od' at the end I can't guess the meaning of now.

Eusebius of Caesarea in the early 4th century cited the Babylonian historian Berossus in the 3rd century BC as stating that the first king after the flood was Euechoios of Chaldea, and identified him with Nimrod. George Syncellus (c. 800) also had access to Berossus, and he too identified Euechoios with The Biblical Nimrod.

More recently, Sumerologists have suggested additionally connecting both this Euechoios, and the king of Babylon and grandfather of Gilgamos who appears in the oldest copies of Aelian (c. 200 AD) as Euechoros .  Later more commonly cited copies of Aelian have Sacchorae in place of Euechoros.  Gilgamesh was called the son of Enmerkar's successor Lugal-Banda, so Alien could have assumed him to be his grandfather regardless.  Looking at how some Egyptian names got transliterated into Greek, I could easily see Enmerkar becoming Euechoios or Euechoros.

I'm going to continue this and discus Enmerkar in more detail in the next post.

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