The Sumerian Eridu Genesis
1 CHRONICLES 1 First Chronicles opens with historical genealogies that provided needed continuity for the royal and priestly lines. Many of the individuals included had been prominent in their time, looked up to as rulers of specific areas and as builders of early cities (1:43; cf. Ge 10:8-12).
The Eridu Genesis, reconstructed from various fragmented texts dating from as early as the sixteenth century B.C., likewise deals with ancient rulers and cities. This important ancient Near Eastern writing constitutes the Sumerian version of creation, the first rulers, the first cities and the great flood.
According to this unique perspective on ancient history, after the gods had fashioned humankind the mother-goddess Nintur some-how sent down intact from heaven the institution of kingship (in the form of scepter, crown and throne).2 Each king was entrusted with advising people, overseeing their labor and leading them as a cowherd does his cattle. He was expected to perform services for the gods and to found cities, for which endeavors he was to be economically rewarded. Each city was assigned its own patron deity to protect it.
The Eridu Genesis cuts off at this point, but other versions indicate that what originally followed was an account of the rulers who had lived before the flood and the story of how the clamor of their people had so irritated the gods that they had decided to destroy humanity in a great deluge. The text resumes when Enki, the god of waters, revealed the gods' intent to the mortal king Ziusudra, instructing him to construct a large boat and to load it with pairs of animals. When the waters subsided, Ziusudra disembarked from his ship and offered lavish sacrifices to the gods, who in turn bestowed upon him eternal life for having safeguarded the future of humanity and the animal kingdom.
Sumerian Scribal Education
1 CHRONICLES 2 In the ancient world scribes held a position of high prestige, and select young men attended scribal schools to learn the trade. Several pieces of Old Babylonian literature tell us about Mesopotamian scribal schools. From at least two sources We learn that older, more advanced students, called "big brothers," supervised younger pupils and assisted them with their lessons. Students were taught not only how to read and write cuneiform signs but also to speak Sumerian, the scholarly language of the day (the people's first language was Akkadian).2 Students repeatedly copied works of literature and "lexical lists" (bilingual dictionaries covering both Akkadian and Sumerian words, similar to today's English-Spanish dictionaries) until they had mastered signs and their meanings. Mathematics, weights and measures, budgeting and business management were all included in the curriculum. Such an education taught the aspiring scribe how to prepare contracts (for adoptions, sales, marriages, wage agreements, etc.).
No parallel literature outlining Israel's educational system is known. We are aware that specific clans of Kenites were closely associated with the Israelites and trained in scribal art (1Ch 2:55). The Levites, as keepers of the Biblical texts, appear to have served a scribal function as well. Regardless of the lack of texts related specifically to scribal training, we know from Biblical references to scribes, as well as from abundant evidence of their work, that the scribes of ancient Israel were highly trained and took pride in their work, as was the tradition throughout the ancient Near East.
1 CHRONICLES 6 A Levitical city on the southern border of Ephraim's territory (Jos 21:21),' Gezer's strategic position made it a difficult city for either the Israelites or any other nation to hold for any length of time., Adjacent to the all-important coastal route and astride the main road leading eastward into the hill country, Gezer was the scene of important events and battles both before and after the arrival of the Israelites.
Although Gezer was occupied during the Chalcolithic, and Early Bronze Ages, the city grew significantly during the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1900-1500 a.c.). It was at this time surrounded by a massive wall of roughly dressed stones.
Egypt's Thutmose lH,on an inscription at Karnak, claims to have captured Gezer (c. 1482 e.c.), and the demise of the Middle Bronze city may be correlated to that event. During the first part of the Late Bronze Age, Gezer was thus subservient to Egypt. Indeed, during the time of Amenhotep IV (aka Akhenaten; c. 1352-1336 e.c.), the kings of Gezer sought Egypt's assistance in dealing with Canaanite conflicts. The Amarna Letters' contain their correspondence with Egypt and demonstrate that, although Egypt was nominally the overlord of the Canaanite cities, it was losing its grip on Canaan. However, Gezer was destroyed around 1210 B.C. by a later pharaoh, Merneptah. In his victory stele he claims to have captured Gezer, and indeed a cartouche of Merneptah was discovered at this level.
At the beginning of the Iron Age Gezer was occupied by the Philistines. Examples of the distinctive "Bichrome ware" Philistine pottery (decorated in two colors) have been found there, and the city at this time (corresponding to the late judges period and the reign of Saul) appears to have been relatively prosperous. By the time of Solomon, however, it had declined considerably, as indicated by a poorer material culture.,in terms of architecture and pottery. First Kings 9:16 states that an unnamed pharaoh captured the city, burned it and presented it to Solomon as his daughter's dowry on the occasion of their marriage.
Solomon strongly fortified Gezer, together with Hazor and Megiddo, in order to guard the main entry points into his kingdom (1Ki 9:15). These cities all provide examples of the fortification style developed by Solomon's engineers. Notable features include an elaborate, four-entryway gate with guard chambers and a kind of double wall known as a casemate wall. The workmanship at Gezer during this era attests to the prosperity and sophistication of the Solomonic era. There were relatively few private homes, however, suggesting that in Solomon's day Gezer was primarily a governmental center.
This city was violently destroyed near the end of the tenth century B.C. in an event that was probably the work of Pharaoh Sheshonk I (the Shishak of 1Ki 14:25). Important archaeological discoveries at Gezer, encompassing various time periods, include a series of ten large, standing stones from the Middle Bronze Canaanite settlement, the city gate that Solomon constructed and the Gezer Calendar, a text inscribed on limestone describing the yearly agricultural cycle.
1 CHRONICLES 7 The city of Taanach ("Map 5") is located about 5 miles (8 km) southeast of Megiddo in the foothills above the Valley of Jezreel.1 It guarded one of the major passes inland from the coastal trade route known as the Via Maris. The king of Taanach was one of the many Canaanites whom Joshua defeated during the conquest (Jos 12:21). The city was assigned to the tribe of Manasseh, although its members found themselves unable to dislodge the Canaanite inhabitants (Jos 17:11-12; Jdg 1:27; 1Ch 7:29). First Chronicles 6:61 tells us that the Levites were given ten cities;3 Joshua 21:25 identifies one of them as Taanach from the territory of Manasseh. Deborah and Barak led the Israelites against Sisera "at Taanach by the waters of Megiddo" (Jdg 5:19).
That the city lay in a swampy area of the valley assisted in the Israelite defeat of Sisera's army, since his chariots could not have traveled efficiently in the swamp. Taanach is again mentioned in Solomon's delegation of administrative centers (1 Ki 4:12).
This city also appears in extrabiblical texts. The Egyptian Thutmose Ill cited Taanach in his description of the battle against Megiddo and the surrounding area in the mid-fifteenth century B.C. It is listed on a temple at Karnak with the names of other nearby towns that Pharaoh Shishak conquered in the tenth century B.C., during the reign of Rehoboam.4 The church historian Eusebius recorded a large population there in the fourth century A.D., but by the four-teenth century Taanach had been reduced in size to a small village.
Archaeological investigations have revealed occupation layers at Taanach dating back to the Early Bronze Age., At that time (mid-third millennium B.c.) the city already had a protective wall and glacis. Later the wall was widened and larger stones incorporated into it. Because there is evidence of metalworking, as well as of the presence of scribes, scholars have suggested that Taanach served as a production center during the Iron Age. Others have posited that it may have been a chariot garrison. Several dwellings and a tower (all dating from the twelfth to ninth centuries B.C.) have yielded loom weights, tools, pottery and an earlier Akkadian archive, as well as two cult stands.6 After this period the site seems to have been inhabited only intermittently until the third century B.C., when it once again became a thriving city.
1 CHRONICLES 11 The Jebusites were a Canaanite, people (Ge 10:15-16), many of whom lived in the hills in the vicinity of their city, Jebus, better known as Jerusalem. Jerusalem is mentioned in the Egyptian Execration Texts (as Uru-shalim), the Amarna correspondence (as Urusalim) and Assyrian texts (as Urusillimmu). We know the names of two of the city's kings: The Amarna texts mention Abdi-Hepa, and 2 Samuel 24:18 speaks of Araunah.
The Jebusites led the southern confederation of city-states within the region against Joshua and the Israelites (Jos 9:1-2) and also participated in the northern confederation of city-states under Jabin, king of Hazor (Jos 11:1-5; "Map 5"). Jerusalem fell between the tribal allotments of Judah and Benjamin. Al-though Judah set the citadel on fire,Jebusites continued to inhabit Jerusalem into the period of the judges, since neither tribe succeeded in driving them out (Jdg 1:8,21). David was able to wrest the city from Jebusite control and use it as his religious and political capital. However, some Jebusites remained there until the days of Solomon, who conscripted them to forced labor along with other Canaanites (1 Ki 9:20-21).3 They were eventually absorbed into the Israelite population.
Some excavated remains from Jerusalem are attributable to the Jebusite period.These include a fortification wall, bastions, gates and a water tunnel from the Gihon spring with a deep cistern to collect the water.
The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers
1 CHRONICLES 18 The Tigris and Euphrates are the two principal rivers flowing through ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), and it is to them that the region owes its viability. In fact, the name Mesopotamia means the "land between the rivers." The Tigris and Euphrates cradle a fertile plain bordered by mountains to the east and north, desert to the west and southwest and the Persian Gulf to the south. This alluvial plain (its soil consists of clay, silt, sand, gravel or similar material deposited there by the running water) provided the necessary environment for the emergence of humanity's first civilization, Sumer,, and for the subsequent rise and flourishing of the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires.
The Tigris and Euphrates trace their sources to the mountain ranges of Armenia and Turkey. The Tigris, to the east, runs 1,146 miles (1,848 km) before it joins the Euphrates from the west for 68 miles (nearly 110 km) before emptying into the Persian Gulf. Capital cities of the ancient Assyrian Empire, such as Nineveh,' Calah and Asshur, once dotted the shores of the Tigris. The modern capital of Iraq, Baghdad, stands today on this river. The Euphrates, the largest river in the region, often referred to as simply "the River" in the Old Testament (e.g., Dt 11:24; the Hebrew does not contain the name "Euphrates"), runs for 1,780 miles (2,871 km); most of its course is navigable by boats and ideal for trade and transport. The ancient cities of Carchemish, Mari,3 Babylon, and Ur (see"Map 1" for all of these sites) were situated on its banks.
The great rivers of Mesopotamia intersect with Biblical history as early as Genesis 2:14, which cites the Tigris and Euphrates as two branches of the river flowing from the Garden of Eden., The Euphrates additionally marks the eastern boundary of the territorial allotment promised to Abraham and his descendants (Ge 15:18; cf. Jos 1:4). Yet it appears that for most of Israel's history this border was unrealized. Only for a brief period during the reigns of David and Solomon did Israelite control ever extend to the Euphrates (1Ch 18:3)
1 CHRONICLES 20 Rabbah (see"Map 5"), the Ammonite' capital, situated along the King's Highway at the desert's edge, con-trolled north-south commerce in ancient times., Its plentiful water supply,fertile surroundings and defensible position afforded the city security, and a thriving caravan trade maintained its prosperity. Artifacts excavated from tombs demonstrate contact with Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, Phoenicia, Midian and Babylon from the Middle Bronze Age, to the fifth century B.C. A crematorium (or possibly a temple) discovered on the current site of the Amman airport suggests the presence of Hittites' there during the fourteenth—thirteenth centuries B.C.
The iron bed of 0g, of Bashan was located at Rabbah (Dt 3:11). Centuries later David conquered the city after its king had humiliated his ambassadors (1Ch 19-20), and it was during the siege of Rabbah that he arranged to have Uriah the Hittite killed in battle (2Sa 11). David literally took the crown of the Ammonite king (thereby figuratively subduing him) and consigned the inhabitants to forced labor. Archaeological evidence of defensive wall reconstruction in the tenth century B.C. may be attributed to David's campaign.
After the fall of Israel (722 B.c.), Ammonites annexed Gilead (the region where Rabbah was located). The site prospered, as evidenced by a seventh-century B.C. residence excavated in the center of Amman. It included four rooms, a courtyard and numerous costly artifacts. Recently discovered inscriptions and seals specify the names of 11 Ammonite kings from 1000 to 581 B.C., when Rabbah was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar 116 of Babylon.Though uninhabited during the Persian period, the city was restored and. renamed Philadelphia during the Hellenistic period. It then became one of the cities of the Decapolis under the Romans.
The Threshing Floor
1 CHRONICLES 21 The threshing floor was an essential part of agriculture in the ancient Near East., Typically round, with a diameter of 25-40 feet (7.6-12.2 m), it was usually located near a village in an area exposed to wind. Once the farmer had selected the location, he cleared the ground of stones and compressed the soil until a firm surface resulted. When thelloor" was ready, he laid recently harvested sheaves of grain on it for threshing.The farmer then used large animals, such as oxen or donkeys, to pull heavy threshing sleds over the grain, separating the kernels from the stalks and husks.When the threshing was complete, a winnowing fork was used to toss the grain into the air. The wind blew away the lighter stalks and husks (chaff), as the heavier kernels fell back to the floor. The farmer sifted the kernels through trays to remove any dirt gathered in the process and then temporarily stored the grain in heaps on the floor or sealed it in jars for later use.
While the primary focus of the threshing floor was agricultural, the separation of the wheat and chaff became a natural and fitting symbol of judgment in the Old Testament (1Ch 21:15; cf. Mt 3:12). Because the floor was often the largest open area within a village, town elders were typically present to oversee the threshing of the year's crops.The threshing floor was a suitable locale for legal transactions, criminal trials and public decisions. Alternatively, public proceedings were often carried out at the city gate.
Solomon's Temple and Other Ancient Temples
1 CHRONICLES 29 Temples were the first monumental structures ever erected in the ancient world. Viewed as the abode of deity and, frequently, as in Israel's case, called "the house of God" (cf. 1Ki 9:1),a temple was designed to function as a royal palace for the gods. No other institution of ancient Israel enjoyed the prominence of the Jerusalem temple. It was the heart of the nation's religious life, as well as the emblem of dynastic rule under Yahweh (2Sa 7:13 — 14). This temple might be described symbolically as architecture in the service of declaring God's kingship on Earth.
Most temples were constructed on heights, to be accorded physical prominence in accordance with their social eminence. Accordingly, Solomon's temple was erected on the highest point of Jerusalem (Ps 121:1; 122:4). Originally the site of a threshing floor' (2Sa 24:18-25),the mount was identified as Moriah, thought by many to have been the place at which Abraham had been called to offer up his only son (2Ch 3:1).
Since there are no archaeological remains of Solomon's temple following the Babylonian destruction of 586 B.C.and Herod's extensive building projects on the site of the temple mount in the first century A.D.,, its figurative reconstruction is dependent upon the testimony of the Bible (1Ki 6-7; 2Ch 2-4) and the analogy of other temples contemporary to it. Solomon hired Phoenician artisans to engineer and build the Jerusalem temple (2Ch 2:11-14). Its architectural design reflects the long-room, tripartite temple plan typical of Syro-Phoenician construction (1Ki6:2-10),the closest parallels of which are the temples of Ain Dara (tenth—ninth centuries B.c.) and Tell Tayinat (eighth century B.c.) in northern Syria.
The tripartite plan consisted of three courts representing an inward movement from least sacred to most sacred space. The outer court served as the site of the sacrificial altar. temple was entered from the east through a porch supported by two pillars.Tell Tayinat's monumental columns featured a pair of lions for their bases, while Israel's 270-foot (82.3-m) bronze pillars bore names: Jakin and Boaz (1Ki 7:21). The forecourt opened into a main hall, at the back of which stood the innermost sanctuary. Multistoried side chambers, used as storerooms for offerings and tribute, sometimes surrounded the structure (1Ki 6:5 —10). The Jerusalem temple complex was about 165 feet (50.3 m) long by 84.5 feet (26 m) wide.
Quarried rock, hewn in rectangular blocks, or ashlars, was dressed off site. Every stone was cut in advance so as to fit together perfectly: "No hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built" (1Ki 6:7). The interior was paneled in cedar wood from Lebanon (1Ki 6:18) and the inner sanctuary overlaid with gold from ceiling to floor and adorned with two 15-foot (4.6-m) tall, freestanding cherubim carved of olive wood and overlaid with gold (1 Ki 6:20 —28).Their outstretched wings spanned the room, creating the seat of a colossal throne (Ps 99:1; Eze 10:1-19).
The decorative motifs of Solomon's temple were symbols of fertility and abundance: Palmettes and blooming flowers were carved into the cedar paneling and embellished with gold; pomegranate and gourd wreaths were fashioned onto the bronze column capitals (top, ornamental pieces of the columns; cf.the leafed structure of a Corinthian column);5 and buds and calyxes formed the cups of the ten golden lampstands. These were designed to recall the paradisiacal garden of God's first dwelling place with humanity (Ge 2:8-9), as were the gold and precious stones adorning the temple's interior (Ge 2:12; 2Ch 3:6). The furniture was modeled after that of the tabernacle, only on a grander scale (1Ki 7:23 - 50).
The inner sanctuary ("Most Holy Place") is the point at which Solomon's temple departs from its ancient Near Eastern counterparts. Whereas other sanctuary niches housed the god's idol in order to represent the deity's presence, the Israelite temple contained no image of God. The ark of the covenant alone served as a symbol of Yahweh's enthronement over his people. The temple was Yahweh's palace on Earth, the Holy Place his his Place i st throne room.