Hebrew Bible and ANE History Lists Commentary

News and Comments that relate to the Hebrew Bible and to my posts on various ANE and Hebrew Bible related mailing lists - Yitzhak Sapir

Thursday, March 02, 2006

More on Jerusalem, Solomon, and the Amarna Letters

Jerusalem in the Amarna tablets?
Photo source:EA 287 in Instituto de Filología
Duane Smith has commented on my post in his blog. Reading it suggested to me that I better explain myself on my earlier post on the subject.

Duane noted a lack of clarity in my post. So I'll try to explain further. My current study embraces many more subjects than simply Solomon and Jerusalem. It deals with the Amarna period, the early Iron Age periods, and much more. At one point I use the common element "Shalem" in the names of Solomon and Jerusalem to suggest that the Biblical statement that "Solomon came from Jerusalem" is accurate and useful as historical evidence.


As the term "came from" is actually a wide term in English, even Niels Peter Lemche's essay on the issue could be considered to say that "Solomon" came from "Jerusalem" because Solomon is essentially a personification of Jerusalem, according to Professor Lemche. In the ANE-2 list, John Croft suggested that Solomon's and Jerusalem's names were "suspiciously theophoric". This generated a lot of conversation, and we may say that even scholarship was furthered as Robert Whiting corrected Niels Peter Lemche on that small point mentioned earlier. At the end of all this discussion, I feel that we don't know from the Amarna cuneiform whether the name "Jerusalem" was then linked to the diety Shalem or the word-component Shalem, which would suggest a connection with Solomon. But we know the identification was made a little over a thousand years later in attested Biblical manuscripts. The earliest such clear attestation is possibly the Genesis Apocryphon which was composed possibly in the 2nd century CE but dated paleographically to the first half of the 1st century CE or late 1st century BCE. Around column 22, line 13, it says "When the king of Sodom learned that Abram had brought back all the captives and all the booty, he came out to meet him; and he went to Salem, which is Jerusalem." Professor Lemche notes this in his article too. But what about earlier times? At what point did the Judaeans or Canaanites start identifying Jerusalem with the diety/word Salem? This is unclear. But if the late 1st Millenium Judaeans felt this way, the earlier inhabitants, even the Canaanite or Hurrian Abdi-Heba of Jerusalem, may have felt so too.

As I was working on this post, Blogger was having problems continuously. I used this time to try to figure out where in EA 287, one of the Amarna tablets sent by Abdi-Heba of Jerusalem, was the word "Jerusalem" written. Using Duane's post which contained a nice concordance of the word, Shlomo Izreel's online work, "The Amarna Tablets," and John Heise's pages on Akkadian cuneiform, I tried figuring out where it was written. It turns out, that a first important step was when I realized that EA 287 (2) was in fact the beginning of the letter and EA 287 (1) was the end, seen by matching Izreel's transcription which includes the missing lines around 8-9 on EA 287 (2) and the horizontal lines on EA 287 (1) which seem to be indicated in Izreel's transcription towards the end. Now I counted so many lines down and tried to figure out where's what. I think, that the cropping I have attached displays the word "Jerusalem," although I'm not sure. I read the left three downward wedgemarks as KUR. The next mark to its right would perhaps be URU. Then to the right of that, I see two horizontal lines intersected by three downward wedges. This seems to be ú. Then we have two signs that I couldn't locate in Heise's table and a mark that seems to match Heise's mark for "lim" at the rightmost corner of the above photo. So if those two unclear marks are "ru" and "$a10", respectively, then that would give us "KUR URU ú-ru-$a10-lim" as in Izreel's transcription.

Finally, a little note on Velikovsky. How did Velikovsky come into this? He comes in because the CIAS website has a glowing endorsement of his views. Originally, I linked to their website via the "Photo source" link as I normally try to link the photos to their site of origin so interested readers can look up more related information to the specific subjects. However, because I believe in furthering proper methodical scholarship, I don't see any reason to point readers to a pseudo-science site that would misinform them. This is why I had removed the "Photo source" link under the picture I took off their site as soon as I understood that they endorse him. If you want to read about Velikovsky, I suggest Henry H. Bauer's Beyond Velikovsky: The History of a Public Controversy (1999). In college, an earlier version of this book proved to be very useful for me and provided me with an objective review of his views. There's no need to spend any more bandwidth on him.



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