Saturday, March 1, 2008

Adam, the Flood & the Tower of Babel

Turning just a few pages into the Bible, we
read about the first cities known to man after the
global flood of Noah’s day.

One of Noah’s descendants was a man by
the name of Nimrod, whose kingdom included the
cities of Babel, Erech, Akkad, and Calneh, in the
land of Shinar. Asshur went forth and built
Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah and Resen in the
land of Assyria.

These first cities lay in a land modern historians
call ancient Mesopotamia, which means “the
land between two rivers.” The two rivers it refers to
are the Tigris and the Euphrates. This land would later
be the staging ground for two of the world’s most
feared Empires: Assyria and Babylon. That
land is what we refer to today as Iraq.
I remember during my college days taking a
class in Western Civilization, and the very first cultures
mentioned in the history book we were assigned,
was that of the ancient Akkadians and
Sumerians who lived in Mesopotamia. This
should come as no surprise, since the city-state
of Akkad, as well as the cities of Sumer, were mentioned
in Genesis 10:10-12, long ago.

One of the most amazing finds uncovered in
Akkad was that of a seal, which possibly shows that
the Akkadians knew of the story of the temptation
of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. George
Smith, of the British Museum, who lived during the
middle 1800's, wrote: “One striking and important
specimen of early type in the British Museum has
two figures, sitting one on each side of a tree, holding
out their hands to the fruit, while at the back of
one (the woman) is stretched a serpent. We know
well that in these early sculptures none of these
figures were chance devices, but all represented
events or supposed events, and figures ... , thus it
is evident that a form of the story of the Fall, similar
to that of Genesis, was known from early times
in Babylonia.”

Akkadian “Temptation Seal”
From 2,300-2,200 B.C.


The first city mentioned in the Bible as being
among the cities of Nimrod is Babel. And in fact,
the city’s name, as well as the Tower of Babel account,
is recorded outside of the Bible.

Fragments of an Assyrian tablet were discovered
at Nineveh by Austen Henry Layard, during the
middle of the 18th century, that closely parallel the
Biblical Tower of Babel account. The artifacts now
reside in the British Museum (registration number
K.3657) and reads as follows: “his heart was evil
against the father of all the gods . . . Babylon was
brought into subjection, small and great alike. He
confounded their speech . . . their strong palace
(tower) all the days they built; to their
strong place in the night He completely made an
end . . . In His anger His word was poured out . . .
to scatter aboard He set his face, He gave this
command, and their counsel was confused . . .
He saw them and the earth. . . of stopping not . . .
Bitterly they wept at Babi.”

Sumer’s oldest and most important capital
city was Uruk (biblical 'Erech'). Present day Iraq
possibly derived its name from this ancient city.
Uruk is recorded on an artifact known as the
‘Sumerian Kings List’ which also mentions the
Elamites. These are the same Elamites who descended
from Elam, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, as
listed in Genesis 10:22.

Sumer’s capital was later moved from Erech
to UR, the same city which Abraham later left to
go to the land of Canaan. The Bible calls this city
"Ur of the Chaldeans" in Genesis 11:31. An Inscription
from Argistis near Van verifies this title. It
states, “This is the spoil of the cities I obtained for
the people of the Khaldis (Chaldeans) in one
year.”

One fascinating archeological find at Ur is
that of a temple tower which the Akkadians called a
ziggurat. This tower found at UR was later rebuilt
by king Nabonidus of Babylon, who reigned between
555-539 B.C."

Ziggurat ruins at Ur


On inscriptions found at this ziggurat,
Nabonidus states that he had rebuilt the structure,
which he learned was originally constructed by two
kings who lived 1,500 years prior to himself. One
inscription also bears the name of another Biblical
Babylonian prince by the name of Belshazzar, who
would live to see God’s handwriting on the walls of
Babylon as recorded in Daniel chapter 5.

The ziggurat, which resembled a four-sided
stepped pyramid, was probably similar to that of the
Biblical tower built at Babel. Other towers in Mesopotamia,
such as the one at Ur, have been found at
Calah (Nimrud), Assur, Akkad (Sippar), Uruk,
Cush (Kish), Borsippa, Aqarquf, Khorabad and
Eridu, a city near Ur.

Inscriptions from various Babylonian kings
also record the construction of these temple towers,
which they say reached to the sky, with similar
wording to that found in the Bible’s 'tower of Babel'
account.

Hammurabi, who ruled nearly 2,000 years
before Christ, states: “He restored the temple
Emeteursag ... and built the temple tower
...whose top is sky high.”

Much later in the sixth century B.C.,
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, wrote: “I raised
the summit of the Tower of stages at Etemenanki
so that its top rivaled the heavens.”

We also know from Babylonian inscriptions
that these towers reached heights of up to 300
feet."


Archaeology in this region has also uncovered
one of the earliest accounts of the flood. It is
listed on an artifact known as the 'Sumerian Kings
List,' dating back to 2,170 B.C. The inscription
reads: “The flood swept over (the earth). After
the flood had swept over (the earth) (and)
when the kingship was lowered (again) from
heaven, kingship was (first) at Kish (Cush).”

What is interesting about this statement is
not only that the flood is mentioned, but it also mentions a
city founded by Cush (who was "the son of Ham, the
son of Noah"). The Bible, in Genesis 10:8, states that
Nimrod descended from Cush. The city of Kish
(Cush) was located in the area very close to Babylon.

Another artifact from the Sumerians was
found at Nippur (biblical 'Calneh') which states: “A
flood came over the cities to destroy the seed
of all mankind . . . all the wind-storms,
exceedingly powerful attacked as one. At the
same time, the flood swept over the culture
centers. For seven days and seven nights, the
flood had swept over the land. The huge boat
had been tossed about by the windstorms on
the great waters.”


Another fascinating artifact was found at
Nineveh, which was one of the cities of Asshur mentioned in
Genesis 10:11. It gives an account of the flood,
somewhat similar to the Bible’s account, showing
they also had a knowledge of the great flood of
Noah’s day:

“...build a ship, seek thou life . . . aboard the
ship take thou the seed of all living things . . . All
my family and kin I made go aboard the ship. The
beasts of the field, the wild creatures of the field . . .
I made go aboard . . .”Board thou ship and batten
up thy entrance!” That stated time had arrived: He
who orders unease at night, showers down a rain of
blight. I watched the appearance of the weather.
The weather was awesome to behold. I boarded the
ship and battened up the entrance. With the first
glow of dawn, a black cloud rose up from the horizon.
. . . Consternation over Adad reaches the
heavens, Who turned to darkness all that had been
light . . . For one day the south storm gathered
speed as it blew, overtaking the [people] like a battle.
No one can see his fellow . . . Six days and six
nights blows the flood winds, as the south-storm
sweeps over the land . . . On the seventh day the
flood subsided in battle . . . the flood ceased.
I looked at the weather; stillness had set in. And all
of mankind had returned to clay. . . . On mount
Nisir the ship came to a halt. . . . When the seventh
day arrived, I set forth a dove. The dove went back
and forth, but came back; since no resting place for
it was visible. Then I sent forth a swallow. The
swallow went forth, but came back; since no resting
place for it was visible. Then I sent forth and
set free a raven. The raven went forth and, seeing
the waters diminished, he eats, circles, caws and
turns not around. Then I let out (all) to the four
winds and offered a sacrifice. I poured out a libation
on the top of the mountains.”

Tablet number 11 of the Gilgamesh
Epic, dated to the 7th century B.C.,
found at Nineveh, gives an account of
a flood, with some similarities to that
of the Bible.



Another of Nimrod’s cities was Calneh which,
according to the Talmud, is associated with the site
of Nippur. According to Genesis 11:1-9, Nimrod’s cities,
which included the region of Babel, Erech, Akkad
and Calneh, was known as the land of Shinar.
The name 'Shinar' is found in Egyptian records
from Pharaoh Amenhotep II, who wrote: “Now
when the prince of the land of Naharin, the Prince
of Hatti, and the prince of Shinar heard of my
great victory, . . . they asked me to spare their
lives.”

To the Northwest of Shinar lies the cities
founded by Asshur, who was a descendant of
Noah’s son, Shem. His first city was named after
himself: Assur. And just like the ruins from Akkad
and Sumer, a ziggurat has also been uncovered at
Assur.

Another one of his cities mentioned in Genesis
10:11 is Calah. The existence of this city has
been found on a royal inscription from Assurnasirpal
II, an early king of Assyria, who states “I
took over again the city of Calah.”

The Biblical city of Resen, mentioned in Genesis
10:12, is believed to be the city known as Larissa
(Al-Resen or 'City of Resen'). In Hebrew, 'Resen'
means “fortified place." The historian Xenophon
recorded that Larissa was a great fortress located
between the cities of Nineveh and Calneh.

The city Rehoboth Ir is associated today
with the Assyrian city of Khorsabad.
And of course, last but not least is the great
city of Nineveh, which later became the capital of
the Assyrian empire.

http://www.biblehistory.net/Flood_Tower_Babel.pdf

6 comments:

thekingpin68 said...

Jeff, thanks for the useful historical/archaeological article.
It is interesting how the flood story is well supported.

Archaeology in this region has also uncovered
one of the earliest accounts of the flood. It is
listed on an artifact known as the 'Sumerian Kings
List,' dating back to 2,170 B.C.


For my PhD I looked at some of the information concerning similarities between Genesis stories and those of nearby cultures.

Jeff said...

Thanks for your comment, Russ.
Your PhD paper must have been quite interesting. Do you have it posted on your blog site?

satire and theology said...

Cheers, Jeff.

I have taken some of the PhD ideas and posted them in various articles, some of which you have commented on. God willing, once I pass I will post the thesis and the questionnaire results.

Jeff said...

Cool, thanks for letting me know.

Anonymous said...

In the last sentence of the second paragragh you probably meant to write Nimrod instead of Asshur. Asshur is Assyria

Jeff said...

Anonymous,

Interesting that you were astute enough to notice that.

But actually, the Hebrew text of Gen. 10:11 is somewhat ambiguous in its wording, concerning this point. There was a person named Asshur (also spelled Ashur or Assur; the second son of Shem, who was the son of Noah); but the name Asshur can also refer to the country of Assyria, as you pointed out. Nimrod was the son of Cush, grandson of Ham, and great-grandson of Noah. According to Hebrew traditions, Nimrod expanded Asshur (Assyria), which he inherited. Some modern translations interpret "Asshur" in the Hebrew of this verse as the country "Assyria" rather than a person, thus making Nimrod the builder of Nineveh, as you noted. Others, like the King James Version, credit the person Asshur with the building of the city. Again, the Hebrew in that verse is a bit unclear as to whether it is referring to the place or the person, so we're not 100% certain which it is referring to.