Shalmaneser III not of
the El Amarna [EA] era
Damien F. Mackey
Re-stating the Assyrian problem
The problem is that, according to the revised system that I follow, the long
reign of Shalmaneser III, conventionally situated as it is in the mid-C9th BC,
must coincide with the revised El Amarna period of Egyptian history
of pharaohs Amenhotep III, Akhnaton, (Smenkhkare) and Tutankhamun.
Shalmaneser III was without a doubt a truly mighty king of Assyria, able to rally an army of 120,000 men. Conventionally, this king is dated to c. 858 – 824 BC. And, conventionally again, he is thought to have fought against Ben-hadad of Syria and king Ahab of Israel, and later to have taken tribute from king Jehu of Israel and to have overcome king Hazael of Syria.
Since all four of the above-named opponents of Shalmaneser III, according to convention, were biblical kings (Ben-hadad; Ahab; Jehu; Hazael), then it would seem that we have here a most rock-solid and indisputable biblico-historical foundation.
The problem is, however, that, according to the revision – at least the system that I follow – the long reign of Shalmaneser III, situated as it is in the mid-C9th BC, must coincide with the revised (downwards from the C14th BC) El Amarna [EA] period of Egyptian history of pharaohs Amenhotep III, Akhnaton, (Smenkhkare) and Tutankhamun.
Well established, I believe, is Dr. I. Velikovsky’s identification of the Syrian succession, from the Bible, of Ben-hadad and Hazael, with EA’s Amurrite succession of Abdi-ashirta and Aziru.
So, as far as I am concerned this fixes EA to the biblical mid-C9th BC (conventionally dated).
But now, most worryingly, nowhere in the extensive EA correspondence to and from these pharaohs is there mention of a king Shalmaneser of Assyria.
The only contemporary Assyrian king to be found in the EA correspondence is one “Assuruballit [Ashuruballit] … king of Assyria”, he being the writer of EA letter no. 15, addressed: “To the king of the land of Egypt”, and EA letter no. 16 addressed: “To Napkhororia … Great King, king of Egypt”.
Napkhororia was the praenomen, Nefer-khepru-re, of pharaoh Akhnaton.
Many ingenious attempts have been made by the best of the revisionist scholars to account for “The Assuruballit Problem” [TAP].
I, myself, have considered various different approaches and combinations in articles, including the following introductory piece in my postgraduate thesis, where I wrote.
“The Assuruballit Problem”
According to the Velikovskian revision of the El Amarna [EA] period, which I accept in general, though by no means in all of its details, the vast correspondence of the EA archives belongs to the mid-C9th BC period of the Divided Kingdom of Israel and Judah.
Whilst Dr. I. Velikovsky managed to lay down a set of biblico-historical anchors that have stood the test of time, e.g., the sturdy synchronism of EA’s Amurrite kings with C9th BC Syrian ones, he also left unresolved some extremely complex problems.
At the beginning of Chapter 3 of my thesis (Volume One, p. 52):
A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah
and its Background
I named what I then considered to be:
… the three most problematical aspects of the [Velikovskian] matrix: namely,
(i) ‘The Assuruballit Problem’ [henceforth TAP];
(ii) where to locate Ramses II in the new scheme; and
(iii) the resolution of the complex [Third Intermediate Period] TIP.
And I think that I can fairly safely say that these are still amongst the three most vexing problems. Here, though, I am concerned only with (i) TAP, towards the resolution of which difficulty I dedicated an Excursus: ‘The Assuruballit Problem’ [TAP], beginning on p. 230 (Chapter Ten) of my thesis. Whilst I did not shy away from discussing in detail any of the above (i) – (iii) in my thesis, I do not claim to have provided perfect solutions to any of them. However, I am hopeful that my revision has laid down some sort of basis for a full resolution of these problems in the future.
On p. 230 of my university thesis, I re-stated TAP that had already been well addressed by other revisionists, such as P. James (“Some Notes on the “Assuruballit Problem”,” 1979): http://saturniancosmology.org/files/.cdrom/journals/review/v0401/18notes.htm).
TAP is this:
If EA is to be lowered to the mid-C9th BC, as Velikovsky had argued, why then is EA’s ‘king of Assyria’ called ‘Assuruballit’ (EA 15 and 16), and not ‘Shalmaneser’, since Shalmaneser III – by current reckoning – completely straddles the middle part of this century (c. 858-824 BC)?
[End of quote]
Velikovsky’s part solution to the problem was to identify Shalmaneser III, as ruler of Babylon, with EA correspondent and Kassite ruler of Babylonian Karduniash, Burnaburiash (so-called II). At the time of writing my thesis, I had considered that suggestion of Velikovsky’s to be quite plausible.
I no longer do.
There is no doubt that the Kassites, albeit most powerful kings, are so sorely lacking an archaeological culture within conventional history as to demand alter egos.
And, regarding EA’s Assuruballit, James (op. cit.) told of:
…. Velikovsky’s Unpublished Solution.
Although he has yet to publish in full his own answer to the problem, Velikovsky does consider, like Courville, that the differences in the paternities of the el-Amarna Assuruballit and Assuruballit I cast doubt on their assumed identity and relieve the problem – there must have been another Assuruballit in the mid-9th century who wrote to Akhnaton. Velikovsky stressed this point in a letter to Professor SAMUEL MERCER, author of an English edition of the el-Amarna letters, as long ago as 1947. He has also considered the possibility that Assuruballit was not a king of Assyria, but a Syrian ruler, perhaps an Assyrian governor of Carchemish, albeit one not mentioned in the contemporary records . Such a solution would have to explain the usual reading “King of Assyria” in EA 15 and 16 , and how, “within the ethics of that day”, an Assyrian governor could write to the king of Egypt on equal terms and describe himself as a “great king”. ….
[End of quote]
Quite a new approach now, I think, is needed.
Meritaten not Shalmaneser III
The phrase, “Servant of Mayati”, which name Velikovsky took as being Shalmaiati,
hence Shalmaneser III, is generally considered to be a hypocoristicon reference to
an Egyptian princess, to Meritaten, a daughter of pharaoh Akhnaton.
TAP (see next section) would have been well on the way to being solved had Dr. I. Velikovsky, as he thought he had, actually found the name “Shalmaneser” in the EA archives, as “Shalmaiati” (Ages in Chaos, I, pp. 318-322).
Returning again to TAP, or:
“The Assuruballit Problem”.
Ideally, a revised El Amarna [EA] – with the Egyptian Eighteenth dynasty rulers for this period
lowered on the time scale from the C14th BC to the C9th BC – would feature an Assyrian king, “Shalmaneser”, ruling contemporaneously with pharaohs Amenhotep III and Akhnaton, etc.
But, as we found out, it doesn’t. The Assyrian king at the time was, instead, “Assuruballit”.
For this particular pattern of revision (based on Dr. I. Velikovsky’s Ages in Chaos) to survive, either the significant Shalmaneser III must be found somewhere in the EA series; or, the revision must take the further step of shifting Shalmaneser III right out of the middle of the C9th BC where he is conventionally fixed. As we learned in Part One:
this Great King of Assyria does appear to be firmly fixed there on the basis of his apparent contemporaneity with at least four biblical potentates: Ben-Hadad; Ahab; Jehu; and Hazael.
Dr. Velikovsky had a few tricks up his sleeve for ‘finding’ Shalmaneser III in EA.
One was, as we read, to identify him with the powerful Kassite king, Burnaburiash (Burraburiash) II, who claimed to have some control over Assyria.
Dr. Albert W. Burgstahler tells of this in “The El-Amarna Letters and the Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia”: http://mikamar.biz/Pensee%20V/0503-el-amarna-letters.htm
In the closing chapters of Volume I of Ages in Chaos (Doubleday, 1952), Velikovsky presents extensive evidence and arguments to support his view that the famous el-Amarna tablets or letters date not from the fourteenth century B.C., as is commonly believed, but rather from the ninth century B.C. These remarkable clay tablets, written in cuneiform, were discovered by accident in the late 1880’s at Tell el-Amarna in Egypt, lying buried amid a portion of the ruins of ancient Akhet-Aton, the ill-fated capital of the Eighteenth Dynasty pharaoh Amenhotep IV (Akhnaton).
Within this framework, Velikovsky also correlates various conquests and military exploits of the ninth century Assyrian monarch Shalmaneser III with information contained in the letters. He suggests, moreover, that Shalmaneser himself sent a number of letters to Egypt under the name “Burraburiash [Burnaburiash], king of Karaduniash” (Babylonia), after his occupation of Babylon, which occurred about 850 B.C. in the ninth year of his reign.
However, despite the many items of evidence for such ninth century identifications of persons, places, and events in the letters, there remain a number of unresolved difficulties, especially in connection with Babylonia and Assyria. In fact, one of the major obstacles to a more favorable reception of Ages in Chaos undoubtedly stems from independent available evidence indicating that certain fourteenth century B.C. rulers of these lands were actually contemporaries of Akhnaton and/or his father, Amenhotep (Amenophis) III, in the Amarna period.
…. From King Burnaburiash (Burraburiash) of Babylonia, six letters (Nos. 6 -11) have survived in the el-Amarna collection.
In addition, there are two extensive gift or tribute lists: one (No. 13) evidently from Burnaburiash to Akhnaton (text badly broken) and the other (No. 14) to Burnaburiash, apparently from Akhnaton. Moreover, there is a short Babylonian letter (No. 12) from “the daughter of the king,” commending the safety of her lord to “the gods of Burraburiash.”
Because it refers to an earlier time when the addressee (name no longer legible) and Burnaburiash’s (fore)father “were on good terms with one another,” letter No. 6 is considered to have been sent to Amenhotep III, whose long reign appears from hieratic dockets found at his palace area in Thebes to have lasted at least 38 years (4). The other letters, with the possible exception of letter No. 9, are directed to Akhnaton (Naphuria). Letter No. 9, addressed to “Ni-ib-hu-ur-ri-ri-ia” may not have been intended for Akhnaton (written as “Na-ap-hu-ru-ri-ia” in the other letters from Burnaburiash to Akhnaton) but rather for his youthful successor, Tutankhamon, whose throne name is transliterated as “Nibhururiya” (3). Although quite conjectural and open to considerable doubt (5), this interpretation is consistent with the fact that a contract of Burnaburiash is known which dates from the 25th year of his reign (6). ….
In EA letter no. 9, Burnaburiash writes to pharaoh of Burnaburiash’s “Assyrian vassals”.
[End of quote]
We also read in Part One of “Velikovsky’s Unpublished Solution”: “Velikovsky … also considered the possibility that Assuruballit was not a king of Assyria, but a Syrian ruler, perhaps an Assyrian governor of Carchemish, albeit one not mentioned in the contemporary records”.
Thirdly, Dr. Velikovsky thought that he may have actually found the name “Shalmaneser” in the EA archives, as “Shalmaiati” (Ages in Chaos, pp. 318-322). The name “Shalmaiati” appears, for instance, in EA no. 155, which is a letter from king Abi milki of Tyre. The phrase found therein, “Servant of Mayati”, which name Velikovsky took as being Shalmaiati, hence Shalmaneser III (= Burnaburiash), is generally considered to be a hypocoristicon reference to an Egyptian princess, to Meritaten, a daughter of pharaoh Akhnaton.
Comments: In line 41 (Mercer, line 44 others) the cuneiform transliteration is given as “ù àš-šù mârti-ka mimma i-ia-[a-n]u ki-i eš-mu-ù”. The form in red is also given as “ma-i-ia-[(a)-ti]mi” which Albright translated as Mayati to be read as Meritaten, daughter of Akhnaton, and Velikovsky as ‘Shalmaiati’ to mean `Shalmaneser III’.
Velikovsky’s lack of expertise in the Egyptian language would sometimes vitiate his sincere efforts to construct a more accurate ancient history.
With the benefit of hindsight, I think that none of these ingenious efforts by Dr. Velikovsky is really convincing. Shalmaneser III of Assyria is just too large a king, and too long-reigning, for him to be hidden behind such lesser known male rulers (as above), and he was certainly not an Egyptian queen (Meritaten).
Perhaps the better approach for handling the difficulty that is Shalmaneser III of Assyria is to follow what Emmet Sweeney has done in his article, “Shalmaneser III and Egypt” (http://www.hyksos.org/index.php?title=Shalmaneser_III_and_Egypt) and that is, to remove Shalmaneser III entirely out of the EA period.
This further unconventional move will mean that, considering our determination to retain Velikovsky’s Ben-hadad and Hazael as, respectively, Abdi-ashirta and Aziru of EA, the traditional link connecting Ben-Hadad; Ahab; Jehu; and Hazael to Shalmaneser III must now be ruptured.
Emmet Sweeney’s bold solution
“We see that, without exception, the Mitannian levels are followed immediately,
and without any gap, by the Neo-Assyrian ones; and the Neo-Assyrian material
is that of the early Neo-Assyrians, Ashurnasirpal II and his son Shalmaneser III.
Now, since the last Mitannian king, Tushratta, was a contemporary of Akhenaton,
this would suggest that Ashuruballit, who wrote several letters to Akhenaton,
was the same person as Ashurnasirpal II, father of Shalmaneser III”.
Emmet Sweeney, who never takes a backward step, had come up with this interesting solution to TAP, archaeologically based as he had thought:
… Ashuruballit seems to have been a great builder, and we hear of many new monuments raised by him and many old ones renovated. Strangely, however, none of these structures have been found by excavators. What they have found, right on top of the monuments built by the last of the Mitannians, are the monuments of Ashurnasirpal II, supposedly five and a half centuries after the destruction of Mitannian power.
[End of quote]
Emmet’s hopeful solution to TAP was to identify EA’s Ashuruballit with the powerful neo-Assyrian king, Ashurnasirpal II, whose son (conventionally speaking), Shalmaneser III (the root of so many revisionist problems), would then be eased out of the EA era.
I very much like Emmet’s idea of revising that king right out of the El Amarna [EA] period. Indeed, I had already once attempted this, though differently from Emmet – and unsuccessfully at the time. As one of my options for solving TAP I had tried to shift Shalmaneser III down a full century, to merge him with his Assyrian namesake Shalmaneser V (who was also, I believe, Tiglath-pileser III).
I am now strongly re-favouring that earlier idea.
Let us read what Emmet Sweeney had to say on this in the flowing article:
Shalmaneser III and Egypt
…. Immanuel Velikovsky argued that roughly five and a half centuries needed to be subtracted from New Kingdom Egyptian history to bring it into line with that of Israel; and indeed in Ages in Chaos (1952) he demonstrated many striking synchronisms between the two histories once these extra years were removed. In line with that system he suggested that Ahab of Israel and Jehoshaphat of Judah were two of the correspondents of the Amarna documents who exchanged letters with Amenhotep III and Akhnaton.
He also argued that Shalmaneser III of Assyria, a contemporary of Ahab, was the “King of Hatti” who threatened northern Syria in the time of Akhnaton. This part of his reconstruction however was not well received, and always remained problematic. We know, for example, that the King of Hatti named in the Amarna Letters was Suppiluliumas I, whilst the King of Assyria at the time was called Ashuruballit, a man who was very definitely not the same person as Shalmaneser III.
For all that, a host of other evidences suggest that Velikovsky was broadly correct in his demand for a five and a half century reduction in Egyptian dates, and that the errors he made in his reconstruction of the Amarna period were errors of detail. What was needed was fine tuning, not complete rejection.
All attempts at historical reconstruction must be based firmly upon the evidence of stratigraphy; and it so happens that the stratigraphy of Assyria fully supports Velikovsky. A whole series of sites in northern Mesopotamia show the following:
Neo-Assyrians and Neo-Babylonians (860-550 BC)
Mitannians (1550-1350 BC)
Akkadians (2350-2250 BC)
We see that, without exception, the Mitannian levels are followed immediately, and without any gap, by the Neo-Assyrian ones; and the Neo-Assyrian material is that of the early Neo-Assyrians, Ashurnasirpal II and his son Shalmaneser III. Now, since the last Mitannian king, Tushratta, was a contemporary of Akhenaton, this would suggest that Ashuruballit, who wrote several letters to Akhenaton, was the same person as Ashurnasirpal II, father of Shalmaneser III.
The end of the Mitannian kingdom is documented in a series of texts from the Hittite capital. We are told that Tushratta was murdered by one of his sons, a man named Kurtiwaza. The latter then fled, half naked, to the court of the Hittite King, Suppiluliumas, who put an army at his disposal; with which the parricide conquered the Mitannian lands. The capital city, Washukanni, was taken, and Kurtiwaza was presumably rewarded for his treachery.
The region of [Assyria] … was a mainstay of the Mitannian kingdom. A few years earlier Tushratta had sent the cult statue of Ishtar of Nineveh to Egypt. So, if Kurtiwaza was established as a puppet king by Suppiluliumas, it is likely that his kingdom would have included Assyria. We know that immediately after the overthrow of the Mitanni lands we find a supposedly resurgent Assyria reasserting itself under King Ashuruballit. The latter’s domain included the Mitanni heartland, for we find him plundering the Mitanni capital of Washukanni and taking from there various treasures with which to adorn his own monuments in Nineveh and Ashur.
Indeed, Ashuruballit seems to have been a great builder, and we hear of many new monuments raised by him and many old ones renovated. Strangely, however, none of these structures have been found by excavators. What they have found, right on top of the monuments built by the last of the Mitannians, are the monuments of Ashurnasirpal II, supposedly five and a half centuries after the destruction of Mitannian power.
Strange as it may seem, Ashurnasirpal II was also a great builder. He too raised monuments throughout Assyria. These included a new capital named Calah. In Calah archaeologists found numerous [artifacts] … of Egyptian manufacture. There were, for example, many scarabs of the latter Eighteenth Dynasty, especially from the time of Amenhotap [Amenhotep] III. (See Austen Layard, Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon (London, 1853) p. 282)
So, just in the place where we would expect to find the monuments of Ashuruballit, who was a contemporary of the latter Eighteenth Dynasty, we find the monuments of Ashurnasirpal II, whose buildings are full of artifacts of the latter Eighteenth Dynasty. This would strongly suggest, even demand, that Ashuruballit and Ashurnasirpal II are one and the same person. Furthermore, since Ashuruballit, the new king of Assyria after the death of Tushratta, seems to be an Assyrian alter-ego of Tushratta’s parricide son Kurtiwaza, this would imply that Ashurnasirpal was yet another alter-ego of Kurtiwaza, and was himself the murderer of Tushratta.
Is there then any evidence to suggest that Ashurnasirpal II was a parricide?
The Babylonian Chronicle tells us that a “Middle Assyrian” king named Tukulti-Ninurta was murdered by his own son. The name of the murderer is given: it is Ashurnasirpal.
The “Middle Assyrians” were a mysterious line of kings who ruled Assyria before the time of the Neo-Assyrians and supposedly after the time of the Mitannians. Yet we know of no Assyrian stratigraphy which can give a clear line from Mitannian to Middle Assyrian to Neo-Assyrian. On the contrary, as we saw, the Mitannians are followed immediately by the Neo-Assyrians of Ashurnasirpal II and Shalmaneser III. This can only mean that the Middle Assyrians must have been contemporaries of the Mitannians, and were most likely Mitannian kings using Assyrian names. We know that ancient rulers often bore several titles in accordance with the various nations and ethnic groups over which they reigned. Since the Mitannian royal names are Indo-Iranian, and therefore meaningless and probably unpronounceable to the Semitic speakers of Assyria, it is almost certain that they would also have used Assyrian-sounding titles.
That the Middle Assyrians were in fact contemporary with the Mitannians is shown in numberless details of artwork, pottery, epigraphy, etc. (See for example P. Pfalzner, Mittanische und Mittelassyrische Keramik (Berlin, 1995)
Thus it would appear that Tukulti Ninurta, who was murdered by his son Ashurnasirpal, was one and the same as Tushratta, who was murdered by his son Kurtiwaza. This latter, upon being appointed king of Assyria by Suppiluliumas, first used the Assyrian name Ashuruballit, but later changed it to Ashurnasirpal. Such adopting of new titles to mark different stages in one’s life and career was by no means uncommon in ancient times.
The kings who followed on the throne of Assyria, from Shalmaneser III onwards, all bore typically “Middle Assyrian” names, and these are the rulers who were contemporaries of the Egyptian Nineteenth Dynasty. It was thus Adad-Nirari III (Shalmaneser III’s grandson), and not Adad-Nirari I, who exchanged letters with the Hitttite Hattusilis III during the time of Ramses II.
All of this helps us to place the reign of Shalmaneser III fairly precisely within the context of Egyptian history. We know that the parricide Ashurnasirpal (Ashuruballit) became gravely ill and incapacitated in some way (a plaintive prayer to the gods of his exists) in the ninth year of his reign, and that after this time he associated his son with him on the throne, who then became sole ruler in all but name. Since Ashuruballit wrote his first letters to Akhenaton about midway through the latter’s reign, this would suggest that Ashuruballit became ill near the end of Akhenaton’s life, and consequently that Shalmaneser III must have assumed power in Assyria within a year or two of the accession of Tutankhamun in Egypt. Since Shalmaneser III reigned thirty-five years, he would then have reigned contemporary also with Ay, Horemheb and Seti I. ….
[End of quote]
No doubt Emmet Sweeney is broadly on the right track here in his laudable attempt to shorten the archaeological and chronological gap between the Mitannians and the neo-Assyrians.
My own view, though, would be that the gap between EA’s Tushratta of Mitanni and the likes of Tukulti-Ninurta, Shalmaneser III and Ashurnasirpal, is somewhat wider than what Emmet has proposed. Tukulti-Ninurta I, for instance – who I think will almost certainly turn out to be Tukulti-Ninurta II – is to be found quite a bit later than Emmet’s alter ego for him, Tushratta.
See e.g. my article:
Can Tukulti-Ninurta I be king Sennacherib?
And that radically revised setting would seem to support my earlier view (now re-visited) that Shalmaneser III must have been, not an EA potentate, but a later neo-Assyrian king (such as Tiglath-pileser III = Shalmaneser V).
King Ahab unlikely at Qarqar
“The bible does not provide any information at all regarding
Ahab’s involvement in the coalition against Shalmaneser III”.
- P. BenDedek
The solution to “The Assuruballit Problem” that I now tend to favour is the type of model adopted by Emmet Sweeney – irrespective of whether or not Emmet has properly re-located Shalmaneser III – and that is, to remove that mighty Assyrian king from his conventional location in the mid-C9th BC, where he heavily congests a revised El Amarna [EA].
As already argued, I am not prepared by now to try a different era for a revised EA, I being fully satisfied that it belongs to the C9th BC (conventionally estimated).
Now, as apparent from what has gone before in this series, to shift Shalmaneser III away from this era will have enormous biblico-historical ramifications, considering that the Assyrian king is conventionally considered to be tied to those four biblical kings as previously pointed out – the one of particular interest here being Ahab of Israel (c. 871-852 BC, conventional dating). It is common to identify him with the A-ha-ab-bu Sir-’i-la-a-a of Shalmaneser III’s Kurkh Stele recording the Battle of Qarqar.
There are some scholars, however, who are emphatic that king Ahab could not have been present at the Battle of Qarqar. One of these is he who goes by the pseudonym of BenDedek, to be considered here. He will give a strong legal case for this.
Most telling of all though, I find, is the argument regarding the size of Ahab’s armies by contrast with that assigned to A-ha-ab-bu Sir-’i-la-a-a.
Here is a relevant section of R.P. BenDedek’s lengthy argument as provided in his article, “King’s Calendar Legal Challenge to Archaeologists and their Evidence”:
- AN EXAMINATION OF THE EVIDENCE:Shalmaneser’s Monolith Inscription – Kurkh Stele records that:
- a) Shalmaneser III defeated the coalition, which included Ahab of Israel – AND –
- b) It records the size and composition of the individual armies. Ahab provided 2,000 chariots and 10,000 foot soldiers.
- a) Ahab’s Involvement in the BattleAhlstrom (1993, p.578 Footnote 2) points out that a second record of this battle recorded on Shalmaneser’s throne base fails to mention Ahab, indicating that he was not one of the leaders of the coalition. [He refers readers to Aharoni.Y. (1966) & Burns and Oates. p 336 and Bright. J.(1981) p. 243.]He makes the assumption that the failure to mention Ahab on the Throne base inscription indicates that Ahab was not a leader in the coalition, without considering the possibility that Ahab was not in fact there. This is what happens when ‘Assumptions’ take the place of ‘facts in Evidence’.
However the important point in law is that this failure to mention Ahab in the duplicate copy, indicates from a legal viewpoint, that there is no legally acceptable corroboration between the two documents with regard to Ahab’s identity. [Refer to Bates, (1985, p.82) for an elaboration on the legal implications in ‘corroboration’.]
Corroborating testimony must be independent.
This is not the case in relation to these two Assyrian Records.
Corroboration must directly indicate or implicate a direct relation to the issue in question.
In the case of the Throne Base inscription, its’ record in relation to Ahab, does not corroborate.
Irrespective of this however, is the fact that even if it did corroborate the Kurkh Stele’s assertion, it could still not be considered corroboration, because corroborative testimony must be independently sourced.
- In Short, of the Two Documents presented in evidence, only one mentions Ahab.
- A matter may not be decided on the basis of only one witness – and –
- A matter will be thrown out of court if two witnesses disagree with respect to basic facts.
- b) The Size of Ahab’s Army
The size of Ahab’s army as recorded in the Kurkh Stele is incompatible with the Archaeological evidence, particularly in relation to the number of his chariots. Its’ numerical claim indicates that Ahab ‘alone’, had an army of equal size to that of the Assyrians. This is assumed to be a scribal error.[Ahlstrom (1993, p.578 Footnote 1, Citing Na’aman.M. 1976 pp89-106) ]
Not only do the two documents disagree with each other, but ‘the State’s’ own ‘independent’ evidence is, that the testimony of their witness is either deliberately or accidentally erroneous. [Ref: http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/fre/rules.htm#Rule902 : Rule 902. Self-authentication : Extrinsic evidence of authenticity as a condition precedent to admissibility in relation to both authenticity and accuracy of documents]
Under these circumstances, the legal requirement would be to throw out ‘the evidence’, because it is neither effective as evidence nor effective as a witness to an event.
In this case, if errors exist in one section of the evidence, then the defense counsel can claim that errors exist in other sections of the evidence. It can then be asserted that not only is the size of Ahab’s army incorrect, but Ahab’s identity as well. The legality of the evidence is called into question.
Another thing to bring to your attention in relation to legal evidence, is that sometimes, third parties are called in to give their ‘expert opinion’ on the reliability of certain evidence.
When it comes to expert opinion about the content of the Kurkh Stele, the experts have differing opinions. [Ahlstrom, citing Aharoni and Bright, maintains that Ahab was not a leader in the coalition but Miller and Hayes (1986, p.270) disagree.]
From this academic disagreement, we learn an important lesson; that academics, and especially experts, often differ in their opinions concerning the same material presented them. ….
The only evidence that places King Ahab of Israel at Qarqar in 853 BCE, comes from the Kurkh Stele of Shalmaneser III. This Stele finds no support in the Syrian record, is repudiated by the Biblical Chronologies and Narratives, and finds no corroboration in the Throne Base Inscription.
[End of quote]
The First Book of Kings tells us just how paltry was the size of king Ahab’s army by comparison with the massive host of which his arch foe, Ben-hadad I, could boast (20:13-15):
And behold a prophet coming to Ahab king of Israel, said to him: ‘Thus saith the Lord: Hast thou seen all this exceeding great multitude, behold I will deliver them into thy hand this day: that thou mayest know that I am the Lord’.
And Ahab said: ‘By whom?’ And he said to him: ‘Thus saith the Lord: By the servants of the princes of the provinces’. And he said: ‘Who shall begin to fight?’ And he said: ‘Thou’. So he mustered the servants of the princes of the provinces, and he found the number of two hundred and thirty-two: and he mustered after them the people, all the children of Israel, seven thousand ….
This biblical scenario makes it extremely unlikely, to say the least, that a (twice) badly-defeated Ben-Hadad, formerly Ahab’s most inveterate enemy, would now have aligned himself with Ahab, with Ben-hadad leading the coalition, against all the might of Assyria.
“According to Shigeo Yamada, the designation of a state by two
alternative names is not unusual in the inscription of Shalmaneser”.
Whatever variation from the conventional model one may choose to adopt, one will inevitably have to explain also the “Hazael” to whom Shalmaneser III refers:
“After briefly describing how he had defeated a coalition led by one “Adad-idri” of Damascus (probably Ben-Hadad II), Shamaneser III recounted how “Hazael the son of a nobody” (i.e. usurper) had taken the throne. Shalmaneser then claimed to have defeated Hazael in battle, to have pursued him back to Damascus and to have laid waste his orchards”.
And one will also need to account for the Ya-u-a, or Iaui mar Humri (‘son of Omri’), traditionally identified as Jehu king of Israel, of Shalmaneser III’s Black Obelisk.
Hazael and Ben-Hadad II
One suggested alternative is that the Syrian participant at Qarqar to whom Shalmaneser III refers, Adad-idri, may be the significant Ben-Hadad II (var. III), rather than I (var. II). In favour of this identification is that this powerful biblical king was the son of – but also fought contemporaneously with – Hazael, the same long-reigning king traditionally identified as Shalmaneser III’s foe.
- Rossier writes in 2 Kings: Meditations on the Second Book of Kings, regarding the name, Ben-Hadad: http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/rossier/2KINGS.html “… we must not forget that Ben-Hadad is a generic name for the kings of Syria …”, and he there reminds the reader that a king of this name had preceded Hazael, whilst another of the same name, Ben-Hadad, had succeeded Hazael.
So, mention of the name alone as a participant in the battle of Qarqar does not guarantee that Shalmaneser III was fighting against Ben-Hadad I, the contemporary of king Ahab of Israel. But, beyond all that, the name of the Damascene ruler given in the Kurkh Monolith account of the battle is Adad-idri, or, preferably, the Assyrian version (ilu) IM-idri.
Some render this as “Hadadezer”.
And, though this Assyrian name is generally just assumed to be a proper match with the name Ben-Hadad – it being common to read, e.g., as at Jewish Virtual Library https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0011_0_10762.html
“… 20,000 [foot-]soldiers of Adad-idri [Hadadezer = “Ben-Hadad II”]”, a detailed analysis by D. Luckenbill (https://www.jstor.org/stable/528766?seq=11#page_scan_tab_contents) firmly concludes that: “…. Benhadad of I Kings, chap. 20 is not the same person as the Adad-’idri of Shalmaneser’s inscriptions. The fact that the names cannot be equated was shown by the first part of this paper”.
Luckenbill, for his part, thinks that this Adad-’idri must have been a Syrian king ruling for a time between Ben-Hadad and Hazael.
Re Ahab’s supposed participation at the Qarqar, we read about the lengthy and contentious history of this proposed identification at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurkh_Monoliths
“Ahab of Israel” ….
The identification of “A-ha-ab-bu Sir-ila-a-a” with “Ahab of Israel” was first proposed by Julius Oppert in his 1865 Histoire des Empires de Chaldée et d’Assyrie.
Eberhard Schrader dealt with parts of the inscription on the Shalmaneser III Monolith in 1872, in his Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament (“Cuneiform inscriptions and the Old Testament”). The first full translation of the Shalmaneser III Monolith was provided by James Alexander Craig in 1887.
Schrader wrote that the name “Israel” (“Sir-ila-a-a”) was found only on this artifact in cuneiform inscriptions at that time, a fact which remains the case today. This fact has been brought up by some scholars who dispute the proposed translation.
Schrader also noted that whilst Assyriologists such as Fritz Hommel had disputed whether the name was “Israel” or “Jezreel”, because the first character is the phonetic “sir” and the place-determinative “mat”. Schrader described the rationale for the reading “Israel”, which became the scholarly consensus, as:
“the fact that here Ahab Sir’lit, and Ben-hadad of Damascus appear next to each other, and that in an inscription of this same king [Shalmaneser]’s Nimrud obelisk appears Jehu, son of Omri, and commemorates the descendant Hazael of Damascus, leaves no doubt that this Ahab Sir’lit is the biblical Ahab of Israel. That Ahab appears in cahoots with Damascus is quite in keeping with the biblical accounts, which Ahab concluded after the Battle of Aphek an alliance with Benhadad against their hereditary enemy Assyria.”
The identification was challenged by other contemporary scholars such as George Smith and Daniel Henry Haigh.
The identification as Ahab of Israel has been challenged in more recent years by Werner Gugler and Adam van der Woude, who believe that “Achab from the monolith-inscription should be construed as a king from Northwestern Syria”.
According to the inscription, Ahab committed a force of 10,000 foot soldiers and 2,000 chariots to Assyrian led war coalition. The size of Ahab’s contribution indicates that the Kingdom of Israel was a major military power in the region of Syria-Palestine during the first half on 9th century BCE.
Due to the size of Ahab’s army, which was presented as extraordinarily large for ancient times, the translation raised polemics among scholars. Also, the usage of the term “Israel” was unique among Assyrian inscriptions, as the usual Assyrian terms for the Northern Kingdom of Israel were the “The Land of Omri” or Samaria.
According to Shigeo Yamada, the designation of a state by two alternative names is not unusual in the inscription of Shalmaneser.
Nadav Neeman proposed a scribal error in regard to the size of Ahab army and suggested that the army consisted of 200 instead of 2,000 chariots.
Summarizing scholarly works on this subject, Kelle suggests that the evidence “allows one to say that the inscription contains the first designation for the Northern Kingdom. Moreover, the designation “Israel” seems to have represented an entity that included several vassal states.” The latter may have included Moab, Edom and Judah.
[End of quote]
As I have already commented, I find it extremely difficult to imagine that the heavily defeated (by Ahab) Ben-Hadad I of Syria, long a foe of Israel, could – in the short window of time allowable by this very tight chronology – have so raised himself up as to have been capable of leading this impressive collation against the might of Shalmaneser III.
Moreover, the Bible provides absolutely no indication at the time of Ben-Hadad I and Ahab of a rampant Assyria in the region of Syro-Palestine. This further inclines me to think that Shalmaneser III was not contemporaneous with this phase of Israel’s Divided Kingdom, which – in a revised context – belongs contemporaneous with the EA era of 18th dynasty Egyptian history.
Another historian who has great difficulty with the identification of Shalmaneser III’s Qarqar opponent, A-ha-ab-bu Sir-ila-a-a, with Ahab, is James B. Jordan, who has written along similar lines, asking “Was Ahab at Qarqar?”:
Ahab and Assyria (Chronologies and Kings VIII)
Was Ahab at Qarqar?
Allis writes: “According to his Monolith Inscription, Shalmaneser III, in his sixth year (854 B.C.) made an expedition to the West and at Qarqar defeated Irhuleni of Hamath and a confederacy of 12 kings, called by him `kings of Hatti and the seacoast.’ Qarqar is described as the royal residence of Irhuleni. It was there, not far from Hamath, that the battle took place. Irhuleni was the one most directly concerned. But in describing the allied forces, Shalmaneser lists them in the following order:
He brought along to help him 1,200 chariots, 1,200 cavalrymen, 20,000 foot soldiers of Adad-’idri of Damascus; 700 chariots, 700 cavalrymen, 10,000 foot soldiers of Irhuleni from Hamath; 2,000 chariots, 10,000 foot soldiers of A-ha-ab-bu Sir-’i-la-a-a.
These three are probably mentioned first as the most important. It is rather odd that Irhuleni’s troops are mentioned only second in the list, inserted between Adad-’idri’s and Ahabbu’s. Then follow in order the contingents of Que, Musri, Irqanata, Matinu-ba’lu of Arvad, Usanata, Adunu-ba’lu of Shian, Gindibu’ of Arabia, Ba’sa of Ammon. Most of these countries were clearly in the distant north, Syria and Ammon being the nearest to Israel, and both of them Israel’s bitter enemies. Among the eleven listed (he speaks of twelve kings), only five brought chariots; and most of them brought fewer troops than the first three, though some of the figures cannot be accurately determined, because of the condition of the inscription.
“In view of the make-up of this confederacy of kings, the question naturally arises whether Ahab, who had been recently at war with Ben-haded [sic] and was soon to renew hostilities with him, would have joined a coalition of kings of countries, most of which were quite distant, and the nearest of which were bitterly hostile, to go and fight against a king with whom he had never been at war,–an expedition which involved leaving his capital city and taking a considerable army to a distance of some 300 miles and through mountainous country, and, most questionable of all, leaving Damascus, the capital of his recent enemy Ben-hadad in his rear (thus exposing himself to attack), in order to oppose a distant foe whose coming was no immediate threat to his own land or people.
…. Such an undertaking by Ahab, king of Israel, seems highly improbable to say the least.
Jordan then proceeds to query:
“The name Ahab (Ahabbu), while uncommon, is not unique. We meet is as the name of a false prophet, who was put to death by Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 29:21).
The name appears to mean `father’s brother,’ i.e., `uncle.’ It may possibly be shortened from Ahabbiram (my uncle is exalted) or a similar name. But it is to be noted that the name Ahabbu might be read equally well as Ahappu and be an entirely different name than Ahab, quite probably Hurrian, which would accord well with the make-up of the confederacy.
“The name of Ahabbu’s country is given as Sir’ila-a-a. The reading is somewhat uncertain, since the first character might also be read as shud or shut. Even if sir is correct, the name is a poor spelling of Israel; and it is double questionable because nowhere else on Assyrian tablets is Israel given this name. On the monuments it is called mat Humri, the land of Omri. It is perhaps not without significance that although the battle of Qarqar is mentioned in several of Shalmaneser’s inscriptions, Ahabbu is mentioned on only one of them. The Assyrian kings were great braggarts. Israel was quite remote from Shalmaneser’s sphere of influence. If Ahab of Israel were referred to, we might perhaps expect more than this one slight mention of him.
And also Adad-’idri:
“Adad-’idri was apparently Irhuleni’s chief ally, being mentioned first. If this Syrian king was the enemy-friend of Ahab, we might expect him to be called Hadad-ezer, which is the Hebrew equivalent of the name and is given to the king of Zobah of David’s time. The name Adad-’idri may stand for Bar (Hebrew, Ben)-Adad-’idri (Heb., ezer), and so be shortened at either end, to Ben-hadad or Hadad-ezer. So it may be, that the Ben-hadad of the Bible and the Adad-’idri of Shalmaneser’s Annals are the same king.”
But not necessarily, says Allis. Assuming that Adad-`idri is the same as Ben-hadad does not tell us which of many Ben-hadads this was. “Ancient rulers often had the same name. We now know of three kings who bore the famous name Hammurabi. There were 5 Shamsi-Adads, 5 Shalmanesers, 5 Ashur-niraris among the Assyrian kings. Egypt has 4 Amenhoteps, 4 Amenemhets, 12 Rameses, 3 Shishaks, and 14 Ptolemies. Syria had apparently both Ben-hadads and Hadad-ezers. Israel had 2 Jeroboams; and both Judah and Israel had a Jehoash, a Jehoram, and an Ahaziah in common. It may be that Ba’sa king of Ammon who fought at Qarqar, had the same name as Baasha king of Israel. Names may be distinctive and definitive; they may also be confusing and misleading.
Finally, as already mentioned, the Bible gives not the slightest clue about the movement, at this time, of significant military forces:
“There is no mention of the battle of Qarqar in the Bible. It is generally assumed that it was fought several years before Ahab’s death, though Thiele claims that the battle of Ramoth-gilead took place only a few months after Qarqar.
“In the account which Shalmaneser gives of this battle, he claims a glorious victory. On the Monolith Inscription, which gives the fullest account of it, we read: `The plain was too small to let (all) their (text: his) souls descend (into the nether world), the vest field gave out (when it came) to bury them. With their (text: sing.) corpses I spanned the Orontes before there was a bridge. Even during the battle I took from them their chariots, their horses broken to the yoke.’ We are accustomed to such bragging by an Assyrian king and to discount it. But this certainly does not read like a drawn battle or a victory for the allies; and if there is any considerable element of truth in the claim made by Shalmaneser, `even during the battle I took from them their chariots, their horses broken to the yoke,’ this loss would have fallen more heavily on Ahabbu than on any other of the confederates, since Shalmaneser attributes to him 2,000 chariots, as compared with Adad-’idri’s 1,200 and Irhuleni’s 700.
If Ahab had suffered so severely at Qarqar, would he have been likely to pick a quarrel with a recent ally and to do it so soon? The fact that Shalmaneser had to fight against this coalition again in the 10th, 11th, and 14th years of his reign does not prove this glorious victory to have been a real defeat for Shalmaneser. Yet, despite what would appear to have been very serious losses for the coalition (all their chariots and horses), we find according to the construction of the evidence generally accepted today, Ahab in a couple of years or, according to Thiele in the same year, picking a quarrel or renewing an old one with his recent comrade-in-arms, Ben-hadad, and fighting a disastrous battle against him (1 Kings 22); and a few years later we find Ben-hadad again fighting against Israel (2 Kings 6:8-18), and even besieging Samaria (vss. 24ff.). Is this really probable? Clearly Ben-hadad had no love for Israel!
“The biblical historian describes the battle at Ramoth-gilead together with the preparations for it, in considerable detail (1 Kings 22), as he later describes the attack on Dothan (2 Kings 6:8-23) and the siege of Samaria which followed it. Of Qarqar he says not a single word. Why this should be the case if Ahab was actually at Qarqar is by no means clear. It was not because the Hebrew historian did not wish to mention a successful expedition of wicked king Ahab, for he has given a vivid account of Ahab’s great victory of Ben-hadad (1 Kings 20:1-34) which led even to the capture of the king of Syria himself. And, if Qarqar had been a humiliating defeat for Ahab, we might expect that the biblical writer would have recorded it as a divine judgment on the wicked king of Israel, as he does the battle at Ramoth-gilead, in which Ahab perished.
“It is of course true that the record of Ahab’s reign is not complete (1 Kings 23:39). His oppression of Moab is mentioned only indirectly in connection with an event in the reign of Jehoahaz (2 Kings 3:4f.). It is the Mesha inscription which gives us certain details. Yet in view of its importance the omission of any reference to a battle with Shalmaneser in which Ahab took a prominent part would be strange, to say the least.” (Allis, pp. 414-417).
In my opinion, Allis’s arguments settle the question. There is no good reason to believe that the Ahabbu or Ahappu of the Shalmaneser Monolith Inscription is the same as the Ahab of the Bible. All evidence is against it. Accordingly, the alleged synchronism between the Assyrian Eponym Canon and the Biblical chronology does not exist, and there is no reason to try and shorten the chronology found in the books of Kings and Chronicles. ….
[End of quotes]
I would tend to agree that arguments such as the above “settle the question”.
It is highly unlikely that King Ahab of Israel could have fought alongside Ben-Hadad I of Syria, the latter as the leader of a large coalition against Shalmaneser III, a Great King of Assyria.