Damien F. Mackey
“After surveying previous attempts to identify an “historical” Nimrod, the author then suggests that the biblical figure is modeled after the combined traditions
about Sargon of Akkad and his grandson, Naram-Sin”.
Dr. Yigal Levin
Hunting him amongst the Akkadians
Yigal Levin, when referring to “… “The Table of Nations” recorded in Genesis x”, has described as “arguably the most fascinating passage in the Table – the Nimrod story recounted in verses 8-12” (Nimrod the Mighty, King of Kish, King of Sumer and Akkad“Nimrod the Mighty, King of Kish, King of Sumer and Akkad”, VT, Vol. 52, Fasc. 3, July 2002, p. 350). Vol. 52, Fasc. 3 (Jul., 2002),
Vol. 52, Fasc. 3 (Jul., 2002), pp. 350-366 (17 pages)
Reasonable historical candidates who have been proposed for the imposing character of biblical Nimrod are Enmerkar (Uruk, c. 4500 BC); Gilgamesh (Early Dynastic, Uruk, c. 2900 BC); Sargon of Akkad (c. 2330 BC) and Naram-Sin of Akkad (c. 2250 BC).
Enmerkar (Enmer “the hunter”) was David Rohl’s choice; whilst Dr. David Livingston favours the semi-legendary Gilgamesh for Nimrod.
Despite the one and a half millennia time gap between these two kings by conventional reckoning (which is mostly wrong), the fact that Enmerkar was, Gilgamesh was, a mighty man of renown, a hunter, and, more specifically, a builder of the walls of Uruk (in Enmerkar’s case, ‘a wall to protect Uruk’), it may be worthwhile (at some later stage) to test whether we are dealing here with just the one mighty king – and, possibly, with Nimrod himself.
David Rohl has also linked the famous Narmer, perhaps of non-Egyptian origins, with Nimrod – a connection I, too, would seriously consider being a possibility.
Sargon of Akkad is Dr. Douglas Petrovich’s (amongst others) choice for Nimrod; whilst, regarding Naram-Sin, Dr. Yigal Levin has – as I, too, have recently favoured in:
Assyrian King Sargon II, otherwise known as Sennacherib. Part Three: Akkadian King Sargon I, otherwise known as Naram-Sin?
– identified Nimrod with a combined Sargon/Naram-Sin, though, in Levin’s case (not in mine), Sargon and Naram-Sin remain separate historical entities. Thus he has written:
After surveying previous attempts to identify an “historical” Nimrod, the author then suggests that the biblical figure is modeled after the combined traditions about Sargon of Akkad and his grandson, Naram-Sin. Nimrod is the son of “Cush”; Sargon began his royal career at Kish right after the flood. The Sargon–Naram–Sin traditions reached the Levant during the second millennium BCE, being combined by time and distance into a composite personality.
[End of quote]
Or, perhaps “time and distance” have caused to be split in twain he who was originally just the one Akkadian potentate.
From a combination of data such as Dr. John Osgood’s archaeology for Abram (Abraham); the tradition of Abram’s having been a contemporary of Menes of Egypt; Dr. W. F. Albright’s argument for this same Menes having been conquered by Naram-Sin of Akkad; Narmer (possibly = Naram-Sin) being archaeologically attested in Palestine at this time; Albright’s and Anne Habermehl’s location of Akkad (in Shinar) in NE Syria; biblical Amraphel of Shinar a contemporary of Abram’s; and the tradition of Nimrod’s having accompanied Chedorlaomer of Elam against Syro-Palestine at the time of Abram, then I can ultimately arrive at only this one conclusion:
Sargon of Akkad (in Shinar) = Naram-Sin (= Nimrod) must be
the biblical “Amraphel … king of Shinar” (Genesis 14:1).
The name “Amraphel” may, or may not, be a Hebrew name equating to a Shinarian one.
Abarim Publications appears to have trouble nailing it:
Unclear, but perhaps: One That Darkens Counsel, or The Commandment Which Went Forth
Unclear, but perhaps from (1) the verb אמר (amar), to talk or command, and (2) the verb אפל (‘pl), to be dark.
Before concluding: “The name Amraphel can mean One That Darkens Counsel, or in the words of Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names): One That Speaks Of Dark Things”.
There may be needed at least one further Akkadian addition to my equation: Sargon of Akkad = Naram-Sin = Nimrod, and that relates to my earlier hint of an identification between:
Sargon and Shar-Kali-Sharri
given the same apparent meaning of these two names, but more especially that the name “Sargon” (Shar-Gani) is actually included in a presumed version of the name, Shar-kali-sharri.
E.g. compare this: https://dinromerohistory.wordpress.com/tag/sargon
“Sargon of Akkad (also known as Sargon the Great, Shar–Gani–Sharri, and Sarru-Kan, meaning “True King” or “Legitimate King”) …”.
with this: https://nl.qwerty.wiki/wiki/Shar-Kali-Sharri
“Shar-Kali- Sharri (shar–Gani–Sharri ; rc 2217-2193 BC …”.
Hunting him amongst the Sumerians
The biblical Nimrod has, at least as it seems to me, multi historical personae, just as I have found to have been the case with the much later (Chaldean) king, Nebuchednezzar.
The historical Nebuchednezzar – as he is currently portrayed to us – needs his other ‘face’, Nabonidus of Babylon, for example, to complete him as the biblical “King Nebuchadnezzar” (or “Nebuchadrezzar”); Nabonidus being mad, superstitious, given to dreams and omens, statue-worshipping, praising the god of gods (ilani sa ilani); having a son called “Belshazzar”.
The biblico-historical Nebuchednezzar also needs Ashurbanipal to fill out in detail his 43 years of reign, to smash utterly the nation of Egypt – Ashurbanipal also having a fiery furnace in which he burned people.
But Nebuchednezzar also needs Esarhaddon (conquering Egypt again) whose mysterious and long-lasting illness is so perfectly reminiscent of that of Nebuchednezzar in the Book of Daniel; Esarhaddon especially being renowned for his having built Babylon.
Nebuchednezzar has other ‘faces’ as well, he being Nabopolassar, the careful archaeologist (like Nabonidus), fussing over the proper alignment of temples and other buildings, and as the so-called Persian king, Cambyses, also named “Nebuchednezzar”, again quite mad, and being a known conqueror of Egypt. And we need to dip into Persia again, actually the city of Susa, to find Nebuchednezzar now in the Book of Nehemiah as the “Artaxerxes king of Babylon” reigning in his 20th to 32nd years (cf. Nehemiah 2:1 and 13:6).
Extending matters yet still further, our necessary revisionist folding of ‘Neo’ Babylonia with ‘Middle Kingdom’ Babylonia has likely yielded us the powerful (so-called) Middle Babylonian king Nebuchednezzar I as being another ‘face’ of the ‘Neo’ Babylonian king whom we number as Nebuchednezzar II.
In similar fashion, apparently, has our conventional biblico-history sliced and diced into various pieces, Nimrod the mighty hunter king.
I have already ventured to re-attach Nimrod to his Akkadian personae as (i) Sargon of Akkad; (ii) the deified Naram-Sin; and (iii) Shar-kali-sharri.
And to the biblical “Amraphel … king of Shinar” (Genesis 14:1).
Other possibilities being Narmer, and those semi-legendary names, Enmerkar and Gilgamesh.
Now here, in Part Two, I shall be looking to test whether Nimrod can ‘boast’ of having further identification amongst one, or more, of those mighty Sumerian kings of the dynasty of Ur III, who claimed to have ruled both “Sumer and Akkad”.
In my recent article:
Assyrian King Sargon II, otherwise known as Sennacherib. Part Three: Akkadian King Sargon I, otherwise known as Naram-Sin?
I wrote, regarding my thesis identification of Sargon II with Sennacherib:
“Other factors seemingly in favour of the standard view that Sargon II and Sennacherib were two distinct kings may be, I suggest, put down to being ‘two sides of the same coin’.” And I went on to liken that situation to Sargon of Akkad and Naram-Sin, two sides of the same coin.
Now here, when considering the so-called Ur III dynasty in relation to the Akkadian dynasty, but also, when considering Ur III’s Ur-Nammu in relation to Shulgi, I think that the “coin” maxim may continue to apply.
Taking, firstly, the supposedly two dynasties, we find that the Akkadian one, very rich in legend, is quite poor in documentation. But might that surprising lack be supplied by the super-abundant documentation to be found with Ur III, as M. Van de Mieroop tells (A History of the Ancient Near East ca. 3000 – 323 BC, p. 72):
Virtually no period of ancient Near Eastern history presents the historian with such an abundance and variety of documentation [as does Ur III]. Indeed, even in all of the ancient histories of Greece and Rome, there are few periods where a similar profusion of textual material is found.
[End of quote]
On the other hand, whilst the Akkadian kings were greatly celebrated down through the centuries (ibid., p. 68): “There was no doubt in the public imagination that Sargon and Naram-Sin had been the greatest kings who ever ruled. They became the paradigms of powerful rulers and were the subjects of numerous detailed stories, created and preserved for almost two millennia”, this was by no means the case with the Ur III names (ibid., p. 72): “Remarkable is the lack of interest in this period by later Mesopotamians when compared to how the Akkadian kings were remembered. …. In later centuries, only a handful of references to the Ur III kings are found”.
And this, despite the massive volume of Ur III documentation!
On p. 73, Van de Mieroop will make a further distinction between Akkadian and Ur III: “The Ur III state was indeed of a different character than its predecessor: geographically more restricted in size, but internally more centrally organized”.
However, the full extent of the geography of Akkadian, of Ur III, has not been properly grasped, I would suggest, with Akkadian being incorrectly centred in Sumer, and Ur III ruling, not only Sumer, but Akkad as well. (Van de Mieroop, p. 71): “Ur-Namma … he could claim … a new title, “King of Sumer and Akkad”.”
Despite the apparent differences, there are also plenty of similarities.
(Van de Mieroop, p. 60): “A new system of taxation was developed …. In the reign of Naram-Sin, a standardization of accounting is visible in certain levels of administration in order to facilitate central control”. [Recall Ur III: “… internally more centrally organized”].
(P. 73): “The central administration [Recall Akkadian: “… administration in order to facilitate central control”] established a system of taxation that collected a substantial part of the provinces’ resources”.
Also Akkadian, Ur III, military and trade expansions were widespread.
(Van de Mieroop, p. 60): “[Sargon] claimed that he captured “fifty governors and the city of Uruk”.” P. 63: “The Akkadian kings focused their military attention on the regions of western Iran and northern Syria … east … Elam, Parahshum and Simurrum. In the north … Tuttul … Mari and Ebla”.
(P. 74): “In the Persian Gulf, Ur maintained the trade contacts that had existed since [sic] the Old Akkadian period. P. 76: “In the Ur III sources … we find references to people from the Syrian cities of Tuttul, Ebla and Urushu …”.
(Van de Mieroop, p. 63): “Ships from overseas areas, such as Dilmun … Magan … Meluhha … are said to have moored in Akkad’s harbor …”.
(p. 76): “Already Ur-Namma claimed to have restored trade with Magan …”.
(Van de Mieroop, p. 61): “[Akkadian] introduction of an annual dating system …”.
(p. 74): “… Shulgi may have attempted to introduce a standard calendar throughout the land”.
(Van de Mieroop, p. 64): “[Naram-Sin] After crushing a major rebellion … took the unprecedented step … of making himself a god”.
(P. 76): “Before his twentieth year of rule Shulgi was deified”.
(Van de Mieroop, p. 64): “[An Inscription in Iraq refers to] “Naram-Sin, the strong one …”.
(Brit. Museum cylinder seal, no: 89131): “Shulgi, the strong man … [shul-gi nita kala-ga]”.
This description of Naram-Sin, of Shulgi, could easily remind one of the biblical Nimrod (גִּבֹּ֖ר), gibbor, “a mighty one”, “a strong one” (Genesis 10:8).
Now, as in the case of the Akkadians with Sargon, and deified Naram-Sin, and Shar-kali-sharri, at least, all having been merged into the one king – different sides of the same coin, as I said – so may it possibly be with the Ur III dynasty, Ur-Nammu, and deified Shulgi, and Amar-Sin, to be merged together, but also, now to be interlaced with the Akkadians.
In other words, our composite biblical Nimrod-Amraphel now to become, all at once:
Sargon = Naram-Sin = Shar-kali-sharri = Ur-Nammu = Shulgi = Amar-Sin
Already mentioned has been “Remarkable … [the] lack of interest in this period [Ur III] by later Mesopotamians …”.
And I have read somewhere that later generations tended to focus their attention (when they did actually refer back to the Ur III kingship) upon Shulgi to the exclusion of the other names.
There is perhaps no ancient king who so resembles the Nimrod of the Bible and traditions in his strength and heroic deeds as does the long-reigning Shulgi. To give just this one description:
Shulgi Boasted Much About His Abilities And With Good Reason
As the most influential ruler of Ur III king, Shulgi was native Akkadian speaker who was fluent in five languages like Elamite, Sumerian, Hurrian, Amorite and even Meluhhan (Dravidian). He was trained as a scribe and organized schools for scribes. He was a self-confident ruler who declared himself a divinity and established a tradition of royal praise for himself in many hymns.
“Shulgi boasts that he hunts lions and serpents in steppe…. without the aid of a net or enclosure… He claims to be so fast on his feet he can catch a gazelle on the run..” (Kramer N. S.)
Usually people wrote hymns for the gods, but Shulgi wrote a hymn to honor himself.
In “The Sumerian World,” Harriet Crawford writes that “by some accounts, in 2088 BC, during what is known as the King’s Run, documents show that Shulgi claimed that during a celebration of eshesh, he ran the distance of the parade (200 miles round-trip) from Nippur to Ur and back.
“That my name be established until distant days and that it leave not the mouth of men, that my praise be spread wide in the land; I, the runner rose in my strength… and from Nippur to Ur I resolved to travel…”
“My black-headed people marveled at me” he wrote.
The problem is that Nippur was at the distance of 100 miles from Ur. Shulgi claimed that he run 100 miles and then he run back home again. All that happened in one day and during a storm. Did Shulgi really run 200 miles in the stormy weather or was it only a way to glorify himself? ….
[End of quote]
Works begun by Ur-Nammu, such as the great ziggurat of Ur (a replica of the Tower of Babel?), are thought to have been completed by Shulgi.
Ur-Nammu’s Law Code is attributed by some to Shulgi instead.
Two sides of the same coin?
And, just to include briefly (and to conclude with) Amar-Sin, I have previously written:
Normally one will find that, prior to, say, the C8th BC approximately, the conventional history is well out of kilter with the biblical history. In the case of the Ur III dynasty, however, which some consider to be contemporaneous with Abraham, the unusual situation may actually be that these two histories are in fact closely synchronous. Revisionist scholar, David Rohl – presumably following Herb Storck (see below) – has accepted this syncretism between the two and has proceeded to identify Abraham’s contemporary, Amraphel of Shinar, with Ur III’s Amar-Sin (c. 1980 BC, conventional dating).
Despite the likes of Kenneth Kitchen arguing that the Genesis 14 coalition of kings would have to have occurred at a time in Mesopotamian history when, in the words of McClellan “no individual dynasty had complete control over the region” (Kitchen wrote on this):
However, by contrast with the Levant, this kind of alliance of eastern states was only possible at certain periods. Before the Akkadian Empire, Mesopotamia was divided between the Sumerian city-states, but this is far too early for our narrative (pre-2300). After an interval of Gutian interference, Mesopotamia was then dominated by the Third Dynasty of Ur, whose influence reached in some form as far west as north Syria and Byblos. After its fall, circa 2000, Mesopotamia was divided between a series of kingdoms, Isin, Larsa, Eshnunna, Assyria, etc., with Mari and various local powers in lands farther north and west. This situation lasted until the eighteenth century, when Hammurabi of Babylon eliminated most of his rivals. From circa 1600/1500 onward, Assyria and Babylon (now under Kassite rule) dominated Mesopotamia, sharing with none except briefly Mitanni (ca. 1500 to mid-thirteenth century) within the Euphrates’ west bend, and the marginal Khana and Sea-land princedoms were eliminated in due course. Thus, from circa 2000 to 1750 (1650 at the extreme), we have the one and only period during which extensive power alliances were common in Mesopotamia and with its neighbors (Kitchen 2003, p. 320) [,]
I think it is quite possible that this coalition could have consisted of two dominant rulers,
Amraphel and Chedorlaomer of Elam, and two of their governors.
Did not the neo-Assyrian kings later boast that their ‘governors were all kings’?
Thus the two other coalitional kings listed in Genesis 14:1, “Arioch king of Ellasar”, and “Tidal king of Goyim”, were likely of secondary status by comparison with Amraphel and Chedorlaomer, and may thus have been only local rulers, e.g., ensi-governors.
Herb Storck has made some potentially important observations regarding these two characters, Erioch and Tidal, in his article, “The Early Assyrian King List, The Genealogy of the Hammurapi Dynasty, and the ‘Greater Amorite’ Tradition” (C and AH Proceedings 3, 1986).
Here I reproduce a summary I made of the relevant parts of this article back in 2002:
Storck’s identification of the name 16 [in Assyrian King List: AKL], Ushpia (Ishbak), with the “Ushpia … known to have built at Ashur, according to a later tradition by Shalmaneser”, and his dating of this Ushpia “as a later contemporary of Abraham … [to] the later part of Ur III dynasty” now encourages me to try to identify members of the Mesopotamian coalition of Genesis 14 during Ur III, at the time of Abraham. Since Storck has already dealt with these four kings in part, I shall begin where he does, with Arioch of Ellasar [p. 45. Storck had already noted, with reference to Poebel, that the name Azarah might be composed of a Western Semitic (WS) form, “to come forth” and WHR “moon” (month)]:
A certain Arioch of Ellasar, furthermore, is cited as one of the four kings against five. This Arioch may provisionally be identified with Azarah if “WRH” moon (month) is closer to the original etymology. Ellasar has received various treatments over the years: Larsa al sarri or “city of the King”, Til Assuri, “the country of Assyria” and/or “the city of Assur ….The connection between Ellasar is explained as a derived form of A LA-SAR, an ideogram denoting the city of Assyria” …. That “Assur” is meant here may receive further support if the connection with Arioch-Azarah is defensible. However, to the best of our knowledge A LA SAR is not an attested reading for Assur. We therefore suggest that it was heard as “alu Assur” and “Ellasar” is an attempt to render this, based on oral transmission.
Now in the later part of the Ur III dynasty era – the era for Abraham according to Storck’s view – at the time of Amar-Sin of Ur (c. 2046-2038 BC, conventional dating), we read of an official of Ashur who may well be this Arioch/Azarah. He is Zariqum. I quote regarding him from the Cambridge Ancient History [Vol. I, pt. 2 (3rd ed.), p. 602]:
“From Ashur itself comes a stone tablet dedicated by Zariqum, calling himself governor of Ashur, ‘for the life of Amar-Sin the mighty, king of Ur, king of the four regions’, whereby it is certain that Ashur was a vassal-city of Ur under its next king”.
The name Zariqum contains the main elements of both Arioch (ariq) and Azarah (zari), thus supporting Storck’s view that these are the same names, and further linking the king lists and the Bible. But this quotation may tell us more with regard to the coalition. It in fact gives us the name of the Sumerian ruler whom Zariqum served: Amar-Sin (var. Amar-Su’en).
[End of quotes]
I think that there is an excellent possibility that Amar-Sin – with whom in this article I have merged Akkadian as well as other of the Ur III king names – was likewise the biblical Nimrod-Amraphel (in league with Arioch-Zariqum).